Traveller

There’s a Mastodon bot that regularly posts example maps: @traveller!

2021-03-27 Blogosphere

Yeah, another list of links to blog posts I liked, inspired by the read through of @jmettraux’s End of Week Links 13. Like John, I get my links from the RPG Planet. Please join us, if you haven’t already.

Since I’m running a Traveller campaign, I was interested in some Traveller-related blog posts.

Classic Traveller skills are more like professions at The Viking Hat GM: «An inclusive rather than exclusive view means shorter skill lists in a game - you don’t need to list every trivial thing humans can do when you can handwave most of it as basic life skills - and also on the character sheet. You will see too a difference in play at the table. When every possible skill is listed, as the GM says, “And what do you do?” everyone looks down to their character sheet … RPGs are a social way to be creative with friends, and shorter skill lists and briefer character sheets encourage more creativity among players, and more socialising. They talk to each-other rather than looking at their character sheets. Play becomes more interesting.»

I can see it working both ways: either you use as few skills as possible, specially not for social interactions. But I know this is a controversial area. In my blog post Role Play, not Wish Fulfilment I argue that if you’re not a charming player, I think it’s OK for you not to play a charming character. In other words, just like a fearful player who wishes to play a courageous hero by cannot bring themselves to put their character into the front rank cannot be the thing they wish because they are not acting their part, a monosyllabic player who wishes to be a socialite cannot be the thing they wish because they cannot bring themselves to play the role. In this way, the role-playing I like is a bit like an acting skill: over the years, I hope you’ll get better at it. I hope I get better at it. Of course, the line is drawn arbitrarily. There’s no reason for the fantasy to be sexist and cruel, and that is a kind of wish fulfilment, of course. There’s no reason for the player of a fighter to be a good fighter, and that’s a kind of wish fulfilment. The reason I think I’m OK with it is that first of all, most of us are not good fighters, and second, if their descriptions of fighting is lame, we can at least roll dice and move on. But if we do this for all interactions as well, then we’re going to roll more and more dice until I just don’t enjoy the game anymore. So yeah, that line is going to be different for everybody. I’m just saying where my line is. And just because I favour this kind of play doesn’t mean I’m opposed to all other kinds of play. I really liked Sean Nittner’s and Judd Karlman’s Actual Play podcast (see 2021-01-19 Listening to Burning Wheel Actual Play) where they use Burning Wheel. There, the Duel of Wits is a way to resolve social conflict using dice, and it works in the context of a game where every roll ties into advancement, into your beliefs, your traits, and so on. Here, immersion is achieved not by forgetting the rules and just talking at the table but by using the rules to suffer setbacks and defeats (and triumphs, eventually) in areas your characters care about.

The Viking Hat GM has more, though: “But as with so many game systems, the author got it more-or-less right the first time. And so we play Classic Traveller. Classic Traveller, most especially Books 1-3, like AD&D1e, RuneQuest 1e and the like, is a good system because not despite the fact that it is incomplete. You fill in the blanks.” – CT: Books 1-3 - You fill in the blanks!

Together, these two posts reminded me of something I had recently posted myself: the skills these Traveller characters have are based on their past careers: Electronics, Mechanics, Computers, and a ton of weapon training, and some obscure things like driving tracked vehicles or acting as a forward observer for orbital artillery, and then they are dropped into a world of crooks, smugglers, narcs, and they are absolutely unprepared for a life of crime in a deadly world where well aimed shots can take you out.

This is underscored by yet another post I liked by The Viking GM, Conflict: Surprise & Initiative: “The unfortunate truth is that there really only three kinds of combats: Ambush! - all of you live, all of them die. Ambushed! - all of you die, all of them live. Stand-up fight - everyone dies.” What a summary!

That, in turn, led me via The Wandering Gamist’s Truer Combat as War and Chocolate Hammer's Boot Hill Campaign to Rutskarn’s Boot Hill and the Fear of Dice: “You want players to be prudent, ambitious, ruthless, calculating, paranoid. You want them to respect their enemies and balance alliances carefully. Above all you want the constant, thrilling tension wrought by a high-stakes duel of wits: a deadly game where a single misstep in a dark alley could end an entire dynasty.” Isn’t that what it’s all about? If the game is deadly, and combat is a mistake unless you’ve rigged the stakes to favour you as much as possible, then that’s what I like: I like to make the decision of when to fight, now the minutiae of how to fight. As far as I’m concerned, I’m happy if combat ends in two rounds. Yeah, picking up old threads from 2021-03-10 Blogosphere, again.

At the same time, the end effect of that ends up being that the players talk to everybody and prefer not to shoot, and after a while you realise: they’re not fighting because everything is dangerous, they’re not rolling dice for talking because there are no social skills in the game, so that’s it. It’s all talking.

And that in turn reminded me of some older blog posts at the Tales to Astound blog, like Casual and Improvisatory Nature of Early Traveller Play: “More talking than shooting – The session does feature some combat, but it occurs near the end when, after interacting with the natives for some time, the players finally realize that the natives are cannibals and see the PCs as a new source of protein. What the players don’t do is waltz into the caverns with FGMPs, battledress, and itchy trigger fingers ready to slag anything that moves. Even when the encounter with the natives slowly deteriorates, the players prefer to Jaw, jaw, jaw rather than War, war, war. The guns – and the dice – only come out when the players need to secure their retreat to the surface and then, rather than burn the caverns to the ground, they only use enough force to escape.”

There’s more in this follow-up post from the same blog, An Improvised Classic Traveller Convention Game. This time it’s not about the need to avoid combat in a lethal system but in how improvised a lot of the game is. I guess that’s the direction I want my own gaming to move towards: my goal is to “daydream” about the setting, write down some notes, names, some forces ready to clash as soon as the player characters appear, and that’s it. Almost no prep is also almost no wasted prep. 😁

That “Classic Traveller Out of the Box” blog post series is great. Just recently, one of my players sent me a link to An Approach to Refereeing and Throws in Original Traveller (Part I). «Keep in mind that I don’t think Classic Traveller has a Skill System. It has a Throw system (throw 2D6, equal or beat a number, add DMs from a variety of sources (skills, characteristics, and circumstances). Not everything Throw has a Skill DM. … Because it we have a system for Referee saying, “I don’t know what’s going to happen here. Roll these 2D6 and we’ll find out what happened.” All sorts of modifiers can come into play depending on what the roll is about. It is a universal system that looks like it has not system!» Note that the blog post also discusses the “Free Kriegsspiel” idea. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

Anyway, all that Traveller talk reminded me of old blog posts in Richard’s Dystopian Pokeverse, like The implicit game in original Traveller’s ship loan rules: “the entry level offer for a high-performing merchant captain is a shipyard loan on a new-built Free Trader: capital cost 36-37 MegaCr at 6.2% interest, working out to a monthly payment of 150,000 Cr – roughly equivalent to room and board for 500 average Imperial citizens or 6 mail contracts to different systems, meaning you’d need a 6-week month to break even as a mail carrier.” Which is how you end up with a ton of mercenary work, narcotics, weapon smuggling, and so on. The honest way of life doesn’t pay in Traveller.

All of this then had me ready to think about other games. @jmettraux had me covered, linking to Links for Designing PbtA TTRPGs (where “PbtA” means “Powered by the Apocalypse”, usually referring to rolling something like 2d6 with very high results meaning a success, medium results meaning a complication, and low results meaning bad stuff heapens, and “TTRPG” meaning “Table Top Role-Playing Games”), which in turn linked to Simple World, which is a PDF that looks like a game but is actually a document telling you how to customise the basic rules to create a “Powered by the Apocalypse” game. It’s a super cool procedure to customise a procedural game! 😁

And John also has a post about Hnefatafl, and Freies Kriegsspiel in real life, and a link to cave maps, and a link to How the Germans Defined Auftragstaktik: What Mission Command is - AND - is Not in the Small Wars Journal, and a follow-up for readers of French, Ensemble tout devient plus lent, at La voie de l’épée, on ordering people around.

The Simple World post also reminded me of a super basic B/X document without spells, monsters, or classes – just people, if I understand it correctly. A foundation for your own game, perhaps. Quintessential BX, David Perry, at Lithyscaphe.

More cool links… Wow, this post is long.

“It is about characters’ inner struggles, and interpersonal struggles, and societal struggles, and that is broadly encoded in the Karma mechanic, but not by genre. It is about problem-solving, but less so in the sense of logic puzzles and resource management, and more in how you confront these weird and inexplicable circumstances- it’s more a creative challenge. I guess it’s more of a life challenge, if again I may be so pretentious.” It sounds weird. 🤔 Tabletop RPGs as Performance Art, at Weird & Wonderful Worlds.

Grymlorde quotes from Scientific American Supplement No. 586, 1887: “Torches consist of a bundle of loosely twisted threads which has been immersed in a mixture formed of two parts, by weight, of beeswax, eight of resin, and one of tallow. In warm, dry weather, these torches when lighted last for two hours when at rest, and for an hour and a quarter on a march. A good light is obtained by spacing them 20 or 30 yards apart.” – Torches through the editions & Real World

A blog post about reviews. I didn’t read it all, it was very wordy, but I found the comments very interesting: What's Broken: Reviews. As for myself, I stopped doing reviews when I realized that they were always hopelessly out of date as I wanted to run all the adventures before reviewing them. And people convinced me that talking about the things we don’t like is a waste of time. Life is short. Talk about the things you love. Do we need “a review culture to guide consumers”? Maybe not. But then again, I’m on the record with claiming that we also don’t need much of a market… For the controversial take, see 2020-02-14 Unprofessional.

Anyway, back to links…

«Everything can speak and understand Common. That’s Everything with a capital “E”, in the sense that everything a person could interact with (vegetable, animal, and mineral) can talk. Anything can have a discussion. … Caves of Qud, which allows you to attempt to talk and trade with most things, plants and pond fish included. They make poor traders and conversationalists. Still, being able to say: “Live and drink, aquafriend.” is a pretty significant bit of worldbuilding.» Everything Can Listen, But Nothing Wants to Talk, Goodberry Monthly.

“The game is well written and has a lot of charm. It has the level of complexity I was looking for. It is a great game to play with children and I think my children would also be able to play it on their own.” Playing Das Schwarze Auge after 37 Years, by Herr Zinnling. It’s what I started with! 😀

As an interesting tidbit circling back to social skills and my example with the fearful player and the courageous character: Das Schwarze Auge has a Courage attribute which might force your character to charge or accept a challenge even though the player might not want to. A bit like those traits in King Arthur Pendragon: knights have multiple traits that come in opposing pairs such as just vs. arbitrary and usually whenever you increase one, the other decreases; these traits sometimes get used to determine what the character does in spite of what the player might wish.

Comments on 2021-03-27 Blogosphere

I think the best example of Classic Traveller’s “do it yourself” nature is the conspicuous absence of laser pistols. There are even laser carbines which are, if I’m not misremembering, just a worse version of the laser rifle, barely cheaper and at the the same tech level - as if to say “You want a laser pistol? Have useless stats for a laser carbine instead! Let’s see if you can put two and two together and repurpose them.” Because in my experience, once you’ve hacked the rules once, it becomes easy to do it again and again - which I think is the whole point of CT.

– Malcolm 2021-03-28 08:08 UTC


Haha, yes! I guess Marc Miller thought: how is poking holes into people using lasers different from poking holes into people using metal slugs?

“While technology will certainly progress in the centuries that come, it will also remain a fact that one of the surest ways to injure or kill an adversary is to subject him or her to a large dose of kinetic energy; the simplest way to deliver that energy to someone is with bullet impact.” (The Traveller Book, p. 48)

I guess the only benefit would be lack of recoil.

“Virtually all weapons have recoil (except laser carbines and laser rifles) and in a zero·G environment this recoil can disorient or render helpless individuals not trained to compensate for it.” (ibid)

Then again, I don’t remember a single zero G scene in all of Star Wars… 😀

– Alex 2021-03-28 09:29 UTC


Thanks for these lists. I really love these curated and commented links! 😍

There is so much interesting content floating around waiting to be found.

– Ludos Curator 2021-03-31 08:16 UTC


Thanks! More at Seed of Worlds.

– Alex 2021-03-31 12:31 UTC

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2021-03-04 Classic Traveller is a Go!

We played our first session of the new Classic Travller campaign in the Tau Subsector. We’re using The Traveller Book (1982) for rules. Maybe @wandererbill will occasionally provide us with ideas based on the Traveller 5 books he recently bough. 😄

All in all it went well. We used my provider’s Jitsi instance. I used the Jitsi Meet app on the tablet. We rolled our own dice. There was not a lot of dice to roll.

We ran into the question of tech levels: @pfh’s character has Medic-1 and Electronic-2 skills, we’re on a tech level 5 world, and the price list for the Merical Kit and the Electronic Tool Set says it’s a tech level 7 thing. We decided it makes sense that the skills the character learned are still relevant for a tech level 5 world, and that the kits and tool sets are simply appropriate for the level. Treating a superficial wound just takes longer than on a tech level 7 world with a tech level 7 kit.

Comments on 2021-03-04 Classic Traveller is a Go!

Another interesting question was about technology developing. It seems to me that compared to our days, technology has achieved a sort of steady state. The tech available is not limited by research unless you’re at the very top. All the tech is already known, it’s only a question of whether your system can afford it. If the system is poor, or goes to war and impoverishes, the tech level goes down.

People still “know” about it, like people these days in remote areas of the world “know” about high high tech places like CERN, or public transportation that runs on time. Except that it’s far, far away.

– Alex 2021-03-05 07:51 UTC


There was a supplement for the second edition of Traveller, MegaTraveller, that used that model of technology in Traveller to great effect. The idea is that after the Imperium collapses, interstellar trade becomes much riskier and more expensive - so thousands of worlds suddenly can’t afford or simply aren’t able to buy the replacement parts for their higher-tech devices, and experience tech fallbacks and a general dark age.

By the way, how did you recruit people for your game?

– Malcolm 2021-03-05 08:47 UTC


I wonder about that Traveller background. Looks like many Science Fiction settings imply a past and glorious empire, a golden age, followed by a collapse. A very Platonic point of view, haha.

Personally, I think it would also work if small groups of settlers arrive, and the colony grows, but they don’t have the means to maintain their tech level. Like people these days preferring a simpler life in the outback somewhere, happy to know that dentists and hospitals still exist if they need them, but otherwise happy to do subsistence farming and hunting. Maybe? I don’t actually know anybody who does that.

As for recruiting: B. sent me an email saying he was interested if I ever started a game; P. was looking for a game on Mastodon; I asked L. whether he was interested since we had talked about 2d6 games multiple times; and finally I sent F. an email because I knew he was playing in a Traveller game already and I had played with him before. Looks like I simply leveraged my existing network.

– Alex 2021-03-05 09:56 UTC

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2021-03-03 Animal encounters for Classic Traveller

The animal encounter tables for Traveller are hard to translate into random tables for Hex Describe, but not impossible. It’s not yet 100% there, but I feel we’re close.

I can use it to generate the following, for example:

There’s joint called Green Heron. If you recently arrived with a ship, travel clerk Amarachi Konkwo is looking for help: “I’ve been contacted by Law Ju bent on visiting 「nearby backwater system」. They have the necessary credits, but I don’t have a ship and crew to spare. Would you be willing to take them off me?” The rich tourist is Law Ju, eager to get going, 635897, Streetwise-1. The mission mainly consists of getting there and back, and keeping Law Ju safe. At one point, there’s an animal encounter: typical crater chaser, 12 kg, H: 5/6, jack armour, W: 7, as pike, A: if more, F: 9, S: 3, “Ji Dog”.

And you can create entire encounter tables, too. Here’s one such use:

The Indigo Hyena is on a xenobiology survey mission, here. Ship captain Gerald Clift would appreciate any help in finding, capturing and describing any of the following local fauna.

Desert animal encounter table.

  • grazers (9), 12 kg, H: 12/10, no armour, W: 5, hooves and teeth, A: 5, F: 2, S: 2, “Desert Sheep”
  • siren, 6 kg, H: 3/6, battle armour, W: 11, as broadsword, A: if surprise, F: 7, S: 0, “Kevadim Siren”
  • grazers (7), 200 kg, H: 14/7, no armour, W: 17, horns, A: 6, F: 2, S: 4, “Thugatahew Deer”
  • gatherer, 1 kg, H: 5/0, jack armour, W: 1, thrasher, A: 9, F: 8, S: 1, “Wuxiyin Hamster”
  • grazers (18), 50 kg, H: 16/6, jack armour, W: 5, hooves, A: 7, F: 4, S: 2, “Spotted Antelope”
  • grazers (3), 1 kg, H: 1/0, no armour, W: 1, horns and teeth, A: 6, F: 1, S: 2, “Wruf Moose”

Let’s talk about the things that still don’t work quite as I want them.

In terms of tables, the system of random tables does not take planetary size into account. The planetary size ought to affect animal size. I have a pretty good idea of how this needs to be implemented, but I still need to do it.

The animal names are not always cool. As an example, in the list above, there is a small grazer, a mere 1 kg of weight, that is given the name “moose”. That’s weird because the moose suggests a big animal. Right now, the Earth-equivalent names ignore animal size.

I am also missing Earth-equivalent names (or other cool base names) for many of the types. These are the types I have tables for. It’s not easy, unfortunately.

  • grazer
  • gatherer
  • hunter
  • eater
  • pouncer
  • chaser
  • trapper
  • siren
  • killer
  • hijacker
  • intimidator
  • carrion-eater
  • reducer

There’s also the problem of generating cool adjectives or prefixes. I think I’m doing some part of it (“desert” sheep, “spotted” antelope, or fantasy names using the same Elite-like name generator I’m using for system names), but there’s more that could be done, I think.

I also don’t pick appropriate tables given a system, so I’m not yet ready to generate an encounter table. For example, right now the tables would happily generate an animal encounter table for a vacuum world. I guess that means those animals live inside the structures? Perhaps… Or you could get “hill” or “forest” animals on a water world.

Ah, and that brings me to the last part: the tables I use don’t generate fliers, or swimmers, and therefore all the water biomes are currently not served. These are the terrains I know how to handle:

  • clear
  • plain
  • hill
  • badland
  • mountain
  • forest
  • jungle
  • river
  • swamp
  • marsh
  • desert
  • shore
  • ruin
  • cave
  • crater

It’s a start, but it’s not finished, yet. I just need to focus on some actual adventure writing before spending any more time on this.

Anyway, check it out: a few animal encounter tables.

Comments on 2021-03-03 Animal encounters for Classic Traveller

While your tinkering has a way to go, as you say, I still find it helpful when my brain refuses to come up with ideas and I have a game to run in 2 days or 2 hrs time. It gives me something to hack, which I think for many is much easier than starting from scratch. The world building tools in Traveller are pretty good, but sometimes I don’t have the time to roll the dice: or I do, but using one of your example outputs does the trick and gets me so much further. Thanks.

– Alistair 2021-03-24 03:21 UTC


Thanks for the encouraging words!

– Alex 2021-03-24 07:39 UTC

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2021-02-11 Transporting suspects

I’ve been thinking about Traveller and Hex Describe again. I’d like to add more “quests” – or patron encounters, as Traveller would say. People that provide some adventure. And I decided upon the following: on a small starport, they are looking for a ship to bring a murder suspect to a nearby big starport.

This is what it looks like:

0403: This is Cov, UWP D99A356-8. There is a gas giant in this system.

Cov is larger than Earth, with a diameter of about 14400km. The atmosphere is very dense. The high levels of carcinogenic nano particles make filter masks mandatory.

A few thousand people live around the Cov starport. The settlement was originally a penal colony for Wifema (_0204_) and gained independence 50 years ago. The resentment is still strong among the locals.

When terrorists on Wifema (_0204_) turned out to be locals, it didn’t take long before the navy showed up, overthrew the old order on Cov, and installed a puppet government, currently led by Lan Gen. Curfews, patrols, interrogations, allegations of torture, and occasional revelations thereof provide fertile grounds for more shootings, more bombs, more assassinations. These are bad times.

Cov has a class D starport. All you can see is the toll house. The harbour master’s office is probably there as well. A bunch of clerks look up as you enter.

The harbour master Tajeddigt Tonui greets any new arrivals in person; they’re taciturn and grumpy. Currently, they’re holding murder suspect Alimah Khatibi, but capital crimes are usually judged in Wifema (_0204_) and the harbour master needs a ship to transport the suspect there. This is a case of domestic violence with the suspect accused of murdering their partner. The body has been found and the evidence is overwhelming. “This case is as good as decided!” says Tajeddigt Tonui. In truth, however, the deed was done by a close relative and Alimah Khatibi is being framed. “I’m innocent, I swear!” they say.

The locals are rich and well off. Economic refugees from neighbouring systems are welcomed for the internal labour marked needs plenty of new hands. At the starport, various agencies are trying to enlist all who came with low passage. The biggest of these agencies is the office of Ishizu Banking, run by Baron Ji Xiaodan.

I think I like it. I have a bunch of “murder case” templates, and these don’t show up too often. I like it. It’s a good model, I think.

Comments on 2021-02-11 Transporting suspects

This is very cool!

The results are very gamable 😀

Again this is bias here but I really like the bullet point format Winters Daughter by Gavin Norman uses.

Could the output emulate that at all

For paragraphs I really like Guy Fullertons The Hyqous Vaults as an example. Its free to download and he has a great way of using short snappy sentences. The length never feels too long to get into your head at the table.

– Oliver 2021-02-11 20:51 UTC


Using bullets would be no problem at all, for Hex Describe. I think the problem is me: are bullet points very important if you have bold, italic, underline, and paragraph breaks to work with? I fear that the information for the quest broken up into three paragraphs (or bullet points) makes them “as important” as some of the other info. And I’m not sure how well that works for the reader.

Let’s try and compare it, though. @wandererbill also mentioned that he’d differentiate player info from referee info, somehow.

0403: This is Cov, UWP D99A356-8. There is a gas giant in this system.

Cov is larger than Earth, with a diameter of about 14400km. The atmosphere is very dense. The high levels of carcinogenic nano particles make filter masks mandatory.

A few thousand people live around the Cov starport. The settlement was originally a penal colony for Wifema (_0204_) and gained independence 50 years ago. The resentment is still strong among the locals.

When terrorists on Wifema (_0204_) turned out to be locals, it didn’t take long before the navy showed up, overthrew the old order on Cov, and installed a puppet government, currently led by Lan Gen. Curfews, patrols, interrogations, allegations of torture, and occasional revelations thereof provide fertile grounds for more shootings, more bombs, more assassinations. These are bad times.

Cov has a class D starport. All you can see is the toll house. The harbour master’s office is probably there as well. A bunch of clerks look up as you enter.

  • Patron: the harbour master Tajeddigt Tonui greets any new arrivals in person; they’re taciturn and grumpy.
  • Quest: the harbour master needs a ship to transport the murder suspect Alimah Khatibi to Wifema (_0204_) because capital crimes are usually judged there
  • Case: This is a case of domestic violence with the suspect accused of murdering their partner. The body has been found and the evidence is overwhelming.
  • “This case is as good as decided!” says Tajeddigt Tonui
  • “I’m innocent, I swear!” says Alimah Khatibi
  • Referee: In truth, however, the deed was done by a close relative and Alimah Khatibi is being framed

The locals are rich and well off. Economic refugees from neighbouring systems are welcomed for the internal labour marked needs plenty of new hands. At the starport, various agencies are trying to enlist all who came with low passage. The biggest of these agencies is the office of Ishizu Banking.

  • Patron: the boss of Ishizu Banking is supreme director Baron Ji Xiaodan
  • Quest: ...

I don’t know.

– Alex 2021-02-11 22:37 UTC


I dig the bullets!

  • Patron:
  • Quest:

These are super helpful to my eye!

– Oliver 2021-02-12 04:00 UTC


Compromise: using the sidebar?

Patron in the sidebar

– Alex 2021-02-12 21:16 UTC


I dig it Sidebars ftw

– Oliver 2021-02-14 20:23 UTC

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2021-02-10 How much generated information?

In 2018, I started Hex Describe as “a tool that would generate both a map and a description of said map”. It has grown quite a bit in this time, and so the promise of fractal nature has caught up with me. If you can generate a description of a hex, you can generate the description of a town in the hex, you can generate the people in the town, you can generate the character’s equipment, their stats, some words about their personality, possible missions they’re on, quests they might be willing to hand out, their friends and enemies… where does it stop?

These days I’m mostly busy writing random tables for a Traveller subsector. There’s the universal world profile (UWP) to provide a starter, and bases, but I also generate ships, and ships have crew, and I generate characters for the crews, they have names and characteristics, and appropriate skills… where does it stop?

@wandererbill recently said that “hex descriptions are the haiku of adventure writing”, and I agree. At the same time, I’m the author of a lot of random tables, assembled by programs into endless documents, a fire-hose of information you might never need… So… I dunno. I recently added patrol cruisers.

The Silver Gazelle is a type T patrol cruiser (400t, streamlined). The pilot of this ship is Dame Matsuo Shuko. B45B6B Pilot-1 Electronic-1 Mechanical-1. The navigator is Dawit Zinga. 9B3A87 Navigation-2 Ship’s Boat-1. The first engineer is Mashiba Fukashi. 429845 Engineer-2 Foil-2 Jack-o-T-1 Vacc Suit-1. The second engineer is Muraoka Minako. 9786A3 Engineer-1 Admin-1 Fwd Obsvr-1 Gunnery-1. The third engineer is Laura McCauley. 84A8A7 Engineer-1 Mechanical-1 Gunnery-1. The medic is Dai Xueman. 3947B8 Medical-1 Electronic-1 Jack-o-T-1. The first gunner is Adannaya Oyiakwan. 797C84 Gunnery-3 Vacc Suit-1. Their turret has a pulse laser mounted. The second gunner is Pallaton. 436976 Gunnery-1 Vacc Suit-1. Their turret has a pulse laser mounted. The third gunner is Ayashe. 8488A8 Gunnery-1 Shotgun-2 Laser Rifle-1 Cutlass-1. Their turret has a missile racks mounted. The fourth gunner is Yaw Sayyid. BB58A2 Gunnery-3 Vacc Suit-1 Ship’s Boat-1. Their turret has a missile racks mounted. The ship also transports a navy squad of eight: lieutenant Catherine Hattersley. 27C6A9 Navigation-2 Ship’s Boat-2 Electronic-1 Engineering-1 Admin-1; ensign Betty Farrow. 754676 Engineering-1 Ship’s Boat-1 Bayonet-1 Gunnery-1; private Táng Xiaobo. 657387 Gunnery-1 Electronic-1 Vacc Suit-1 Fwd Obsvr-1; ensign Bruce Boulton. 356876 Laser Rifle-2 Gunnery-1 Engineering-1 Fwd Obsvr-1; private Tokura Sadatoshi. 477368 Engineering-1 Cutlass-1 Electronic-1 Mechanical-1; ensign Kayla Seabaugh. 675784 Ship’s Boat-2 Jack-o-T-1 Gunnery-1 Vacc Suit-1; private Baron Mpho Gnabry. C7A69C Ship’s Boat-2 Gunnery-1 Vacc Suit-1; private Wakino Takafumi. 7B4866 Vacc Suit-1 Engineering-1 Jack-o-T-1 Gunnery-1. The Silver Gazelle is currently looking for pirate 「nearby crime boss」.

I mean, it’s impressive. It’s cool. I can start reading. The pilot is of knightly rank! The name is cool. Engineer Fukashi is good with the foil. Did he compete? The ship has two pulse lasers and two missile racks mounted. Yikes! And those gunners. Gunner Ayashe is quite the weapon master. And then eight navy personnel!

I guess it’s cool if one day the part has to board one of them? Or join one of them as they assault a crime lord’s safe house?

But also… that’s a lot of text. A veritable wall of text.

If I knew that the target was a book, then I’d think about little icons to help the reader orient themselves. Better skimming! If I knew that the target was a browser, then I’d think about little CSS and JS tricks to fold stuff up, you’d see ship type, pilot, and mission; “show me more” gives you the crew positions and ship weapons, and the existence of a navy squad, with the lieutenant; a second “show me more” gives you the details of either crew stats or navy squad stats?

Or… it’s all too complicated anyway?

Comments on 2021-02-10 How much generated information?

Really good posts! I like the show me more idea, but you are right.

My favorite table tools are short lists of tables and NPCs.

Maybe keep the default short or and this is more complex, limit the amount of text generated and only display the extremes of the results. For example a Traveller character death. You could see more if you want it but the unique things are highlighted?

For example you could see the NPCs favorite color is red if you want but his dog having magic laser eyes is highlighted by default.

Good logic here, its an interesting question.

– Oliver 2021-02-10 16:44 UTC


Hehe. Perhaps I need some sort of highlighting, indeed!

The Silver Gazelle is a type T patrol cruiser (400t, streamlined). The pilot of this ship is Dame Matsuo Shuko. B45B6B Pilot-1 Electronic-1 Mechanical-1. The navigator is Dawit Zinga. 9B3A87 Navigation-2 Ship’s Boat-1. The first engineer is Mashiba Fukashi. 429845 Engineer-2 Foil-2 Jack-o-T-1 Vacc Suit-1. The second engineer is Muraoka Minako. 9786A3 Engineer-1 Admin-1 Fwd Obsvr-1 Gunnery-1. The third engineer is Laura McCauley. 84A8A7 Engineer-1 Mechanical-1 Gunnery-1. The medic is Dai Xueman. 3947B8 Medical-1 Electronic-1 Jack-o-T-1. The first gunner is Adannaya Oyiakwan. 797C84 Gunnery-3 Vacc Suit-1. Their turret has a pulse laser mounted. The second gunner is Pallaton. 436976 Gunnery-1 Vacc Suit-1. Their turret has a pulse laser mounted. The third gunner is Ayashe. 8488A8 Gunnery-1 Shotgun-2 Laser Rifle-1 Cutlass-1. Their turret has missile racks mounted. The fourth gunner is Yaw Sayyid. BB58A2 Gunnery-3 Vacc Suit-1 Ship’s Boat-1. Their turret has missile racks mounted. The ship also transports a navy squad of eight: lieutenant Catherine Hattersley, 27C6A9 Navigation-2 Ship’s Boat-2 Electronic-1 Engineering-1 Admin-1; ensign Betty Farrow. 754676 Engineering-1 Ship’s Boat-1 Bayonet-1 Gunnery-1; private Táng Xiaobo. 657387 Gunnery-1 Electronic-1 Vacc Suit-1 Fwd Obsvr-1; ensign Bruce Boulton. 356876 Laser Rifle-2 Gunnery-1 Engineering-1 Fwd Obsvr-1; private Tokura Sadatoshi. 477368 Engineering-1 Cutlass-1 Electronic-1 Mechanical-1; ensign Kayla Seabaugh. 675784 Ship’s Boat-2 Jack-o-T-1 Gunnery-1 Vacc Suit-1; private Baron Mpho Gnabry. C7A69C Ship’s Boat-2 Gunnery-1 Vacc Suit-1; private Wakino Takafumi. 7B4866 Vacc Suit-1 Engineering-1 Jack-o-T-1 Gunnery-1. The Silver Gazelle is currently looking for pirate 「nearby crime boss」.

I hesitate somewhat because I feel like “highlighting” is the kind of manual markup a reader would perform as part of making the text their own. At least when thinking of it as a printed object. It’s overstepping bounds between author and reader, somewhat?

– Alex 2021-02-10 17:24 UTC


Old school underlining?

The Silver Gazelle is a type T patrol cruiser (400t, streamlined). The pilot of this ship is Dame Matsuo Shuko. B45B6B Pilot-1 Electronic-1 Mechanical-1. The navigator is Dawit Zinga. 9B3A87 Navigation-2 Ship’s Boat-1. The first engineer is Mashiba Fukashi. 429845 Engineer-2 Foil-2 Jack-o-T-1 Vacc Suit-1. The second engineer is Muraoka Minako. 9786A3 Engineer-1 Admin-1 Fwd Obsvr-1 Gunnery-1. The third engineer is Laura McCauley. 84A8A7 Engineer-1 Mechanical-1 Gunnery-1. The medic is Dai Xueman. 3947B8 Medical-1 Electronic-1 Jack-o-T-1. The first gunner is Adannaya Oyiakwan. 797C84 Gunnery-3 Vacc Suit-1. Their turret has a pulse laser mounted. The second gunner is Pallaton. 436976 Gunnery-1 Vacc Suit-1. Their turret has a pulse laser mounted. The third gunner is Ayashe. 8488A8 Gunnery-1 Shotgun-2 Laser Rifle-1 Cutlass-1. Their turret has missile racks mounted. The fourth gunner is Yaw Sayyid. BB58A2 Gunnery-3 Vacc Suit-1 Ship’s Boat-1. Their turret has missile racks mounted. The ship also transports a navy squad of eight: lieutenant Catherine Hattersley. 27C6A9 Navigation-2 Ship’s Boat-2 Electronic-1 Engineering-1 Admin-1; ensign Betty Farrow. 754676 Engineering-1 Ship’s Boat-1 Bayonet-1 Gunnery-1; private Táng Xiaobo. 657387 Gunnery-1 Electronic-1 Vacc Suit-1 Fwd Obsvr-1; ensign Bruce Boulton. 356876 Laser Rifle-2 Gunnery-1 Engineering-1 Fwd Obsvr-1; private Tokura Sadatoshi. 477368 Engineering-1 Cutlass-1 Electronic-1 Mechanical-1; ensign Kayla Seabaugh. 675784 Ship’s Boat-2 Jack-o-T-1 Gunnery-1 Vacc Suit-1; private Baron Mpho Gnabry. C7A69C Ship’s Boat-2 Gunnery-1 Vacc Suit-1; private Wakino Takafumi. 7B4866 Vacc Suit-1 Engineering-1 Jack-o-T-1 Gunnery-1. The Silver Gazelle is currently looking for pirate 「nearby crime boss」.

It’s subtle in my browser. 🤔

– Alex 2021-02-10 17:41 UTC


Could be sidestepping the readers role.

I read too much Ten Foot Pole, so take this with a Bryce sized grain of salt. Bryce always says its always better to give less first.

Its easier for the mind to fill in the vanilla, the spice is the GM fuel 😀

Defining GM fuel is an interesting question I don’t have an answer to.

It must have something to human psychology

– Oliver 2021-02-11 20:45 UTC


It’s true. Sometimes the words have to be pruned. I’ll just say that when I run a game, all the things I should look up, all the individual characters I want to create, but never do, because I’m at the table and I’m under a lot of pressure, all these things that I also don’t want to prep because they’re boring, I can now generate. So the thing is: what will I actually make use of at the table, even if it isn’t very original.

Compare the pirate base:

There is a naval base called Superior Warlocks in the system under captain Lokni, 47788A, Body Pistol-3 Ship’s Boat-2 Pilot-2 SMG-1 Admin-1 Electronic-1 Engineering-1 Jack-o-T-1. There are about 140 people at the base right now. If you need individuals, pick from the following squad led by lieutenant Jian Duyi, 93B492, Cutlass-3 Mechanical-1 Admin-1 Vacc Suit-1 Fwd Obsvr-1; private Chike Dudzai, B395B5, Revolver-2 Fwd Obsvr-1 Gunnery-1; ensign Unathi Diallo, A54689, Navigation-2 Shotgun-1 Computer-1 Vacc Suit-1; private Sù Qianfan, 9ACA78, Gunnery-1 Ship’s Boat-1 Mechanical-1; ensign Dame Yafiah Pachachi, B2739B, Gunnery-2 Navigation-1 Electronic-1 Mechanical-1; private Kou Lì, B66983, Vacc Suit-1 Fwd Obsvr-1 Ship’s Boat-1 Jack-o-T-1; private Ashley Buckby, B797B8, Laser Rifle-1 Engineering-1 Electronic-1 Auto Rifle-1; private Huang Wen, BA4658, Ship’s Boat-1 Fwd Obsvr-1 Engineering-1.

And this naval base:

There is a hidden pirate base in the system. The pirate captain is Abeytu, 384497, Dagger-1 Medical-1 Gambling-1. Their right hand is Baroness Fuchizaki Shuko, 8B632C, Forgery-1. There are 6 more pirates in the building, 777777, Shotgun-1.

I find the former much more interesting. I start thinking about the navy crew as the people on the Nostromo, or the Rocinante. The later pirates read like … cannon fodder. I’m not sure that’s how I’d like to run the game. I can’t replace orcs and goblins with pirates. This is what disturbs me about Star Wars these days: all the stormtroopers dying left and right, the senselessness of all the massacres. So I’d definitely not want my game to go there.

Just today @wandererbill mentioned Traveller combat and mentioned how it was complicated and perhaps it could be replaced by an opposed 2d6 roll. Perhaps. Perhaps it could. But then again, perhaps I need more experience. If the end effect is that for most situations violence is a 50% chance of a one-shot death (or at least heavy wounds that take a long time to heal), then we can use that for role-play: everybody is afraid of a fight and ready to negotiate. For that to work, the world must react appropriately to people in full body armour moving around the setting, though. And then having individual squad members might make the game more interesting. Also, potential allies are more interesting they are individualised, so perhaps spending space on navy seals is better than spending it on pirates. Or perhaps rogues would appreciate interesting casinos and thieves’ dens, too? For that Han Solo campaign?

– Alex 2021-02-11 22:25 UTC


I do totally get what you mean.

I like the details to keep NPCs human.

I think the largest feedback I can give here is that the 2nd example stuck in my head more.

With the first example my eyes got lost in the details and drifted.

Maybe some sort of click to expand function?

That does limit Hex Describes ability to export those super sweet PDFs though...

Maybe with PDF export have the details moved to a footnote section of the PDF

You do raise interesting points

– Oliver 2021-02-12 04:09 UTC

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2021-02-06 Governments for Traveller

Traveller has a subsector generation system where about half the hexes have a system, then you roll 2d6 for the characteristics of the various worlds, with the numbers influencing each other, generating a list of Universal World Profiles (UWP).

You end up with data like this:

Xushi            0101  C69A595-6     SG   Ni Wa
Stengo           0103  E610679-7      G   Na Ni
Shudro           0104  D345876-2      S  

It provides starport class, planetary size, atmosphere, hydrographic percentage, population, government, law, and tech level, plus the presence of other aspects: in this case S stands for a Scout base and G stands for a gas giant, and the trade codes are based on the characteristics already determined with Ni standing for non-industrial, Wa for water world (the A in fourth place means it’s 100% covered in water), and Na for non-agricultural.

I mean, cool, right? Government-7 means “Balkanization. No central ruling authority exists; rival governments compete for control.” But a few more words wouldn’t hurt, I’d say. It’s a bit too raw for my kind of prep.

The system has fallen apart into multiple polities: each urban centre claiming sovereignty, involved in border disputes, internal squabbles, unable to deal with the imperial order in the subsector. The starport falls within the sphere of influence of Laifo. It’s a mess.

I like this much better. And so I’ve been spending my time describing all sorts of things using random tables for Hex Describe to generate an entire subsector description. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m already happy with the governments.

It’s a bit tricky because in theory some of these descriptions interfere with each other. Very small systems have microgravity. Some have no atmosphere. Some systems are water worlds and have no significant land mass. So you can’t write descriptions assuming normal gravity, atmosphere, or land mass. That’s hard.

But even with all these problems, it’s still great. It generates small ships with crews, their characteristics (but no equipment), it sometimes generates a little backstory for small settlements or some government types, and so on.

Comments on 2021-02-06 Governments for Traveller

There are so many things to consider. The Traveller system allows systems to have a population of 0 (less than ten people) and a government type up to 5. If you look at the first result of the government-5 table, however, you see that it doesn’t make sense:

The entire system has been divvied up between a handful of tech giants that provide civil full services for their customers. Entire families and buildings “belong” to their [with company name], [and company name], or [and company name]. Their homes, their schools, their transportation, it all belongs to one of these companies. It’s a feudal technocracy.

So now I’m writing specialised government descriptions for systems with no populatin. Like this one:

0107: This is Fleflu, UWP 200032-7. There is a gas giant in this system.

Fleflu is a small planet, about the size of Luna, with a diameter of about 3200km.

The mining opportunities favour the construction of underground settlements.

While unsettled, there’s an old satellite system still in operation that provides a forum for visitors. A bunch of ship captains calling themselves the Friends of Fleflu uses the forum to deliberate on rare policy decisions and enforces them, using the surveillance systems of satellite network to identify trespassers. No hunting on Fleflu!

Fleflu has a class C starport. A small frontier style Galactic Corporation installation is here for small repairs. A bunch of water tanks nearby tell you all there is to know about the fuel situation. Unrefined fuel only!

OK, cool. And “no hunting” seems to make sense. But check out the UWP: 2000 means a small size, no atmosphere, no water, and no population. What now? Do I need to special case this as well? Or rewrite all the special case to make sure it doesn’t refer to an atmosphere? Or do we assume that there is some sort of underground life form that is adapted to the vacuum. Headache!

– Alex 2021-02-07 11:39 UTC


Just interpret it liberally. “No hunting” could also mean “no bounty hunting of fugitives.”

Sean Conner 2021-02-07 19:50 UTC


Ouch, cruel! But it does make me want to add a scene where the party follows a well known criminal to the system…

– 2021-02-08 07:48 UTC

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2021-01-30 Traveller Subsector Description

On paper, it’s a match made in heaven: Traveller subsector generation, a well established practice, easily translated into a program, and I implemented it once or twice. Once such app is hosted on Campaign Wiki. It was based on Mongoose Publishing’s Traveller 1st ed., because that’s what I was using at the time. Then somebody asked for Classic Traveller, and then somebody else asked for the Merchant Princes extension. Sure, why not.

The problem is that the map is based on the Universal World Profile (UWP) list, and the UWP list is pretty austere. When running a game, the information can be used to infer some information, but it takes some familiarity. It’d be great if we could “expand” these codes into something that can be used at the table. And by that I don’t mean to say that we should expand the following to “Starport class A, 3200km diameter, no atmosphere, no water, a few ten thousand people, representative republic, weapons of a strict military nature are forbidden (machine guns, automatic rifles).” The trade codes are derived from the numbers given. In the example I’ve been using, those dry stats result in the trade goods “high Tech, non-industrial, vacuum.”

And of course, there are the bases and the presence of gas giants: in the example given, we have “an imperial consulate, an establishment by the Travellers’ Aid Society (TAS), a naval base, and a gas giant.”

Sogeeran          0502 A200443-14  CT N G  Ht Ni Va
                       ||||||| |    |
Ag Agricultural        ||||||| |    Bases     In Industrial
As Asteroid            ||||||| +- Tech        Lo Low Population
Ba Barren              ||||||+- Law           Lt Low Technology
De Desert              |||||+- Government     Na Non-Agricultural
Fl Fluid Oceans        ||||+- Population      Ni Non-Industrial
Ga Garden              |||+- Hydro            Po Poor
Hi High Population     ||+- Atmosphere        Ri Rich
Ht High Technology     |+- Size               Va Vacuum
Ic Ice-Capped          +- Starport            Wa Water World

Bases: Naval – Scout – Research – TAS – Consulate – Pirate – Gas Giant

All of that we could surely turn into a “hex description” … but I had a problem: Hex Describe doesn’t parse the UWP – it parses the output of Text Mapper. So either I had to adapt Hex Describe so it parses the UWP of my Traveller Subsector Generator (and other UWP generators), or I’d change Text Mapper to produce output I could use in Hex Describe.

I chose the second option: Text Mapper already has various algorithms, and I already had an experimental “Stars” algorithm based on some Stars Without Numbers ideas, but it hadn’t gone anywhere. I started making another effort.

It is all work in progress, but here’s the current state of affairs.

Text Mapper now has an algorithm for subsector generation, based on Classic Traveller. As I wrote previously, I have bought all this old stuff on PDF. So now I’m using the info in The Traveller Book (TTB) and in Merchant Prince (MP). Ironically, the Traveller Subsector Generator I linked to above also generates Sector maps. 🙄 The code in Text Mapper does not. Furthermore, the Traveller Subsector Generator also generates multiple colour-coded “spheres of influence” with their own “languages”. The current Text Mapper code does not. The current Text Mapper code also doesn’t generate the kind of routes I’m looking for, but I’m going to work on it.

With that in place, I could turn to Hex Describe, at last. I started a new proof of concept set of random tables, beginning with starports. I went back to Text Mapper and tweaked the output so that the textual representation of the map also included suitable tokens for Hex Describe (such as “starport-A”) which I could then refer to. And soon I was really into it. A starport must have some buildings that indicate the presence of fuel tanks and refineries, shipyards where new ships can be constructed, dockyards where ships can be unloaded, landing panels, names of companies involved, a building for the administration, be it a harbour master or a toll station, security, and so on. And all of those need new tables!

If you want to give it a try:

  • visit the Hex Describe site
  • click the link to load random Traveller data (which gets the from Text Mapper)
  • click the radio button to use the Traveller tables
  • click the submit button at the very end

Better routes is done! I indicate good trade routes based on what it says in Merchant Prince. The text description is a bunch of paragraphs like the following but I’m just using the table on page 37: if there’s a positive modifier, it’s a trade route, independent of direction, for distances 1–2.

Agricultural: The world has climate and conditions which allow extensive farming and ranching. It is a producer of relatively inexpensive foodstuffs. Agricultural goods market well t o worlds which cannot produce their own agricultural goods (Desert, Fluid Seas, Poor, Water Worlds, lndustrial Worlds). Agricultural worlds are good markets for goods from lndustrial worlds, other Agricultural worlds, Barren worlds (for new plant and animal strains), and Rich worlds.

I also connect all the class A starports and navy bases. I remember working out that minimal spanning tree based on a Wikipedia article. What a nightmare! But I still use it, so it was time well spent!

Things I want to work on: more tables. Things I’d like to add is naming the actual products for sale. I’d like to have a table that generates actual ships, with crew and loads. I’d like to have a character generator. I’d like to have a patron generator. I’d like to have plot ideas using the above. “Find the Blue Heron and bring it back. They’ve been missing their payments.” Whatever. Start simple, as always. 😇

I also need to get the name and UWP from the map into the hex description itself. Some more programming required, I guess.

If you want to help out, here’s how to do it:

  • get a copy of the tables (see above)
  • make changes
  • return to Hex Describe
  • click the link to load random Traveller data (which gets the from Text Mapper)
  • click the radio button to “only use the data provided below”
  • paste your modified tables into the text area
  • click the submit button at the very end
  • send me the modified file by mail

Or just work out your own random tables.

Comments on 2021-01-30 Traveller Subsector Description

Adding a little bit more to system descriptions. Adding random ships (no details, yet), naming captains. So much stuff to think about: randomly equipping ships, randomly creating non-player characters for crews.

– Alex 2021-01-31 21:52 UTC


Working on crews:

The Rose Crane is a type A free trader (200t, streamlined). The pilot of this ship is Sisika. A76376. Vacc Suit-1 Pilot-1. The engineer is Kusakawa Masuo. 8958B8. Electronics-1 Medical-1 Engineer-2. The medic is Eguchi Kotomi. 5BA875. Gunnery-1 Medic-4. The steward is Kalila Shariq. 979A96. Jack-o-T-1 Vacc Suit-1 Steward-1.

I like it!

– Alex 2021-02-01 21:17 UTC

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2021-01-24 Traveller missions for solo adventuring

I’m sorry to say that this blog post has more questions than answers because I’m trying something new. It’s my semi-solo Traveller campaign. I’ve been reading “Solo” by Zozer Games, but I’m not yet convinced. There, Paul Elliot uses “the Plan” as the mechanism: the player considers the adventure situation, formulates a plan, writes it down, and makes two rolls, one depending on the estimated chances of success, the other depending on the estimated risk.

Right now, that’s a bit too abstract for me. So I’m using the regular Traveller rules. I roll for surprise, for encounter distance, I roll for all the things, trying to learn the system as I go. It’s slow but I don’t mind. Occasionally I’ll ask my wife for a roll. She’s sitting next to me, reading a book, and humours me. Or I’ll ask her about her character’s opinion. It works for me. 😁

What remains unsolved in either system is the generating of adventures. Having adventure ideas, and imagining their outcomes, to then resolve either using abstract rolls or the complete system, remains a problem. I guess I’m just good at imagining a calm afternoon at the spaceport, where nothing happens.

Perhaps this resolves itself over time as the people and ships reappear. And I need to roll for reactions more often, clearly. And I need to imagine more adventurous ideas, more drama, more action.

Perhaps using the Burning Wheel technique of writing down three beliefs would help drive the story?

Like, for my Louis character:

  • I believe I’m the better pilot than Lux and I will prove it to her.
  • I believe that hunting animals for sports is terrible and I will free all the animals kept on the Tiktok (whose hunter we just supported)
  • I believe that we really need to make a lot of money and will take any job, even if illegal

Then, for my wife’s Lux character I’ll write up three other beliefs. And then we go to town, less interested in the “simulation” of this backwater class E starport but as two characters driving the plot forward with their beliefs.

Hm. This Burning Wheel mindset is growing on me. It’s that two player game I’m listening to as a podcast. It’s influencing me. I get the feeling that if a player writes down beliefs, it presupposes some form of negotiation at the table. What’s the game going to be about? It is framed in terms of things the characters believe in, but it’s no different that agreeing on a set of scenes when starting to play Western City, for example. What’s the game going to be about. And then, during the session, we’re all interested in pushing the story towards these beliefs. Again, it’s framed as fighting for or challenging beliefs, but it could also be thought of as everybody trying to stay on topic. We don’t need the exact words to have similar effects.

So, for this Traveller game, where the two scouts, Lux and Louis are stranded on a backwater planet with a starport in a jungle, with dense and tainted atmosphere, I’m thinking… OK, so here are my thoughts as a referee, based on what’s been happening on the planet, in another campaign, and what the current situation might be.

A lost generation that grew up in a mine that broke down, now resettled to this backwater planet. What would the effect be? I’d say, rampant xenophobia. So that’s one “front” that’s building, if we’re talking tools imported from other systems. I’d say: tensions are rising. The lost generation is lacking skills and thus cannot be put to work immediately. Education is costly and nobody wants to do it. So the original settlers are blaming the immigrants for their lack of education and the new settlers are uprooted and angry. Soon, there will be fighting in the streets.

Simerik Firik is a cult leader among the new settlers. He’ll ride the violent storm, for sure.

Gehen Aam is the regular strong arm guy, fitness, self defence, security, that’s his business. It’s small, it’s local, but he’s a rallying point for the unhappy old settlers, that is: poor farmers.

Bron Banta represents business interests. He’s interested in peace and programming, “not interested in politics,” meaning he’s interested in things staying as they are, but quiet.

I also have some names, family heads that control various business branches. The settlement is so small that none of them have competition. Their only problem is getting space on ships to export their goods. Hm. Visius controls the spice, Schneid controls liquor production, Viktoriana controls the laquer, Limbus controls the wood.

So how to make money? Banta might be interested in a security operation against Firik’s cult, and Aam’s angry mob. Visius and Limbus might be having problems in one of their outposts. In fact, if this is another “front”, then we should perhaps write it up as follows: two wood and spice transports have been disappearing and the clans are angry. Who is sabotaging their work? Nobody is making any demands. Therefore, this isn’t somebody who’s out to change business practice, it’s somebody who’s trying to drive them out of business. Already they are stepping up their security. Soon, there will be firefights, and eventually these people will leave the system, resulting in this backwater system to drop off the radar entirely.

Vibes of the Mandalorian, season 2, and of the storming of the capitol on January 6, 2021.

Comments on 2021-01-24 Traveller missions for solo adventuring

Do you have Stars Without Number? I bet some of the tables and resources in there would be helpful for this type of solo play. Lots of generative content.

Derik 2021-01-25 19:54 UTC


Good point!

– Alex 2021-01-26 07:50 UTC


I’ve run into many of the same issues. I like both Traveller and SWN, and the worldbuilding is fun, but I just can’t transition to solo play with characters.

Sax

Saxinis Kion 2021-01-26 15:10 UTC


Let’s see. I still hope that it will be like a calm first season: lots of new characters being introduced, but then after a while the connections between the events start to build up and a plot emerges in retrospective.

– Alex 2021-01-27 08:52 UTC

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2021-01-18 Traveller Solo Text Based

I revived an old Traveller campaign wiki of mine and started creating two characters, and asked my wife to create a character… I’m excited!

The existing wiki is mostly in German because I was expecting to run a Solo campaign. I’m not opposed to mixing languages or using English if my wife isn’t there (as we like to say in the German speaking parts: “Denglish”, haha). So English could be OK.

At the same time, I guess I’m also looking for a smaller game. Fewer people. I’m hoping this makes the game more intense; perhaps that makes for more satisfying remote gaming sessions. I wonder. These days I’m a player in two D&D 5 games, and I’m feeling ambivalent. It’s nice to play with friends, but I’m not enjoying the mechanics and the fighting and the Roll 20 aspect too much. We use Roll 20 in just one of the games and it does invite a lot of token pushing. That’s OK, too. When these games started, we had all agreed to focus on fighting and dice rolling when we meet and to focus on character interplay via posting on the wiki between games. The writing on the wiki has sometimes been fantastic, deep, moving, a whole new level! Then again, I also feel it’s one player in particular that’s pushing me to join in. Mutual inspiration at its best!

So now I’m finding myself moved in two directions:

On the one hand, the online sessions aren’t intense enough. I’m easily distracted. The presence of actual people at the table took care of that, for me. The monkey brain is easily engaged when people are there. So perhaps, mediated via the screen and the Internet, fewer people is better for me.

On the other hand, I’m starting to appreciate the writing between sessions. Sometimes things happen, and we know there must be consequences, the soul sighs and is weary, the mind suspicious, the friendship deepened, the courage shaken, the triumph glorious, the epiphany blows our mind – and that’s hard to go into at the table, but we can work on it in our writing. I used to say: none of us is an author. True. But we could be. We could be working on it. I’m finding myself enjoying that part.

So here’s what I’m thinking. I’m going to start with some solo stuff. Creating characters was a good start. Think of an adventure, roll some dice, write it up. Maybe ask my wife to join. Again, roll some dice, and write it up. Short games, perhaps 1–2h games with just one or two players might be key. And then a lot of writing on the wiki. Perhaps chatting on the phone when we’re not gaming, via Signal, or Threema.

Playing via a wiki and maybe an instant messenger with a chat group is a possibility I’m willing to try.

Comments on 2021-01-18 Traveller Solo Text Based

Interesting, never been one for such games myself.

– cosPgSKkiPM 2021-01-19 05:43 UTC


Yeah, me neither. But given the pandemic, and given that I’m in two games via video chat already, I’m willing to try new things.

– Alex 2021-01-19 09:27 UTC

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2021-01-15 Traveller Madness

Yikes, in a moment of madness I bought the two Bundles of Holding for Classic Traveller. I’d say I’m set for life when it comes to Traveller, now. 😅

Maybe I should think about running a game. Slowly my itch to run games is coming back. I’m thinking that perhaps I’d like to try smaller groups, and something other than Halberds and Helmets for a bit.

Option 1, of course, is Classic Traveller. I still have an old Subsector lying around. The benefit of reusing old setting material is that you get an in-game setting history and plenty of non-player characters for free, buried in the campaign wiki.

Option 2, as is often the case, would be something like Burning Wheel, mostly because Judd Karlman keeps mentioning it in his podcast. There are many clunky bits I don’t particularly look forward to, but sometimes I remember elements of that one mini-campaign I ran, and I really liked those: rolling for contacts using the circles attribute; rolling to buy stuff using the resources attribute; one-roll conflict resolution, also known as Bloody Versus.

Then again, when I look at the list of things I enjoyed, perhaps it’s actually not in the rules per se, but in the approach to the game… I keep thinking that a way to play it using Just Halberds should be possible.

Perhaps the first thing to do is to find two people willing to play a game with, via a conference call, and then get excited about something via mutual inspiration.

Comments on 2021-01-15 Traveller Madness

Have you listened to the podcasts with Sean Nittner and Judd as they play Burning Wheel? It’s been wonderful listening to how they use the rules of BW to facilitate the conversation of the game.

In the first four sessions there are two dual of wits and one circles test. Most of it is conversations at the table.

Jeremy Friesen 2021-01-15 21:59 UTC


No, do you have a link?

– Alex 2021-01-16 00:19 UTC


It’s at: https://anchor.fm/actualplay

The Shoeless Peasant is the BW campaign. There’s also a Youtube or Twitch stream for this.

Jeremy Friesen 2021-01-16 15:01 UTC


Thanks!

In the mean time, I’ve started creating two characters, and my wife created a character for me – I’m not sure she really wants to play a 1:1 campaign with me, but at least she’s interested, and I’m interested, and I can use it for some Wiki-based semi-solo play. At least that’s the idea right now.

– Alex 2021-01-17 20:47 UTC


Started listening to Shoeless Peasant episode 1.

– 2021-01-18 22:14 UTC


See 2021-01-19 Listening to Burning Wheel Actual Play.

– Alex 2021-01-19 22:51 UTC

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