Traveller

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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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2019-10-01 Fantasy Traveller

In the vein of How about 2d6? I was recently reminded of the Traveller variants that are not based on a Science Fiction setting.

All I knew was games such as Mercator. It’s a free game by Paul Elliott:

MERCATOR is a Roman Empire setting for Classic Traveller. Marc Miller has read it and given it his seal of approval!

I also knew that the Cepheus Engine existed as a free Traveller variant, but @lskh discovered that Zozer Games has some low tech supplements:

Low Tech Weapons provides you with a huge number of new melee weapons that can be added without fuss directly into your Cepheus Engine or 2D6-based SF RPG.

Fast Magic offers a complete, improvisational magic system.

As it turns out, Zozer games is Paul Elliott, so Mercator comes from the same source. The Cepheus Engine is by Jason “Flynn” Kemp via Samardan Press.

The only other such product I know is Worlds Apart, which exists both as a free game and as a fancy game on DriveThru RPG, by Expeditious Retreat Press.

Another find by @lskh are the many dozens of products offered by Micheal Brown on DriveThru RPG, including Magic and Martial Art.

Another 2d6 fantasy game might be Fenris but when you start skimming it, it looks a lot more like a d20 system with the d20 replaced by 2d6. Just to give you an example, attributes are still 3d6. There are character levels and hit dice and all the things we know and love from D&D variants, so I’d say this is not a game in the Traveller vein.

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Comments on 2019-10-01 Fantasy Traveller

There’s another one in the works as well: Sword of Cepheus.

(By the way, how exactly does your subscription system works? I don’t think I’ve been receiving e-mail notifications of comments to posts I subscribed to.)

Ynas Midgard 2019-10-02 06:00 UTC


Hm. Perhaps there’s a bug somewhere. Check your subscriptions. It should list “Comments on 2019-10-01 Fantasy Traveller”, for example. Once a day a cron job is supposed to compare these subscriptions to the list of recent changes and send mails as appropriate. Looking at my outgoing emails, it seems to be working.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-10-02 06:20 UTC


Aldreth was done for Megatraveller.

And I misremembered Wanderer as an actual game and not simply the brilliantly done mock-up with some relevant threads...

– Simon 2019-10-02 22:55 UTC


A half-step away there is also the excellent science fiction game Stars Without Number by Kevin Crawford. It is an OSR/TSR-era D&D class-and-level game with Traveller’s 2d6 skill system attached. It works very, very well. (And the GM tools/setting creation chapters are also great.)

– Blunder 2019-10-02 23:17 UTC


That blog post sounds sweet, Ynas!

Yeah, Simon, that fake fantasy Traveller The Wanderer drove me nuts back then. 🙂

And the link to Paladin in a Citadel led me to this Orcus picture that I like so much! My favorite.

I had forgotten that Stars without Number used 2d6 for skills, Blunder. Kevin is not afraid to mix and match!

– Alex Schroeder 2019-10-03 05:43 UTC


FYI I’m not getting any emails for my comment subscriptions either.

– Björn Buckwalter 2019-10-04 14:05 UTC


Hm. I just checked my mails and cron seems to print no errors:

Date: Fri, 04 Oct 2019 07:08:36 +0200 Sending Comments on 2019-08-15 Deep Carbon Observatory Day 1 to bjorn... using kensanata@smtp.gmail.com

Perhaps Gmail changed something about all that?

– Alex Schroeder 2019-10-04 14:38 UTC


Hm, when I setup a test and remove all the safeguards, I do in fact get an error:

invalid SSL_version specified at ... IO/Socket/SSL.pm line 698.

Gah!

– Alex Schroeder 2019-10-04 14:49 UTC


Wohoo! Back in business. Thank you for the heads up.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-10-04 16:31 UTC

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2019-07-08 Square Traveller

OK, square maps instead of hex maps, for Traveller, right?

This is the sort of map the Traveller Subsector Generator creates. It’s pretty good, I like it.

Original map

If you use the same data and rewrite it somewhat, you can use Text Mapper to generate the same map, but now with rounded communication and trade lines:

Hex map

And since Text Mapper recently got the ability of creating square maps instead of hex maps, all I had to do was fiddle a bit with the data, move the black frame around, move the labels into the correct positions, and we’re nearly there:

Square map

There are still so many things wrong: the symbols overlap the coordinates and the labels; the lines intersect the labels, so basically everything is terrible and unreadable at a second glance. But it will have to do for the moment. Perhaps if square Traveller maps make a breakthrough one day! 🤪

The map generated uses a separate map, Which in turn uses a separate library. If you want to regenerate, you need to put the following in the text area:

include https://campaignwiki.org/contrib/traveller-square-example.txt

Result.

Or take a look at the map and modify to taste.

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