[Traveler] My First Time As Referee

Started by Kevin Vito, November 07, 2011, 02:30:51 PM

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Kevin Vito

I got to play facilitate a game of old-school Traveler the other day.

I generated a sub sector the day before. I also indexed them in my notebook and wrote a few descriptive details for some of them (there was 'steampunk' world, 'amish' world, 'nazi' world, etc.) In hindsight, I probably should have written up some more details though. I rolled a d10 and a d8 for coordinates and started the players out on a random planet: Shax, the 'owned by SAMSUNG' world.

Character creation was fast enough. There were two players: Micah, and Wade.
Micah is into old school gaming. He had played Traveler before, but he never DM'ed it. His character (can't remember the name, and I let the players keep their character sheets) enlisted in the Army and stayed in for several years. The Army discharged him just before he could get promoted to General. I let Micah decide why this was the case. "Because I knew too much" he said.
Wade has never played Traveler. His character got drafted into the Army after the Navy refused to accept him. He did not stick around for a second term. He decided that his character had served under Wade's character, and for some reason the two guys became friends and business partners at some point.
I told the players that their characters were veterans of some sort of interplanetary war. I handed them the index of planets and let them decide. They decided: "We fought space-Nazis."
After character creation, they decided to go to a desert planet for some reason. They bought a huge tank of water and decided to transport it to the planet Vual for trade.
I didn't have any special details written for the planet, so I decided on the spot: 'Like Shariah law, but in referse; the men wear burqas.'

I tried to come up with obstacles for every decision they made.
"We are going to sell water to the people of the desert planet."
"Sounds good:
1) The people of Vual recently received contaminated water from off world merchants. They are really angry about it.
2) Men aren't allowed to trade on Vual without the supervision of a woman."
"Looks like we need to find a woman!"

They went to the Shax embassy to try and find a woman to help them trade. The embassy was on fire and surrounded by an angry mob when they got there. They decided to try someplace else.
Eventually they were able to find a female officer of the imperial navy who was willing to help, but she was in kind of a hurry to get back to base.
After some intense haggling (no dice involved, just pure RP), they were able to sell the water for a 20% profit (they were hoping to get a 100% profit).
Then they followed the female officer back to her base to apply for a job.
They ended up working as mercenaries providing additional security on base for one night.

They worked for nine hours. I rolled a random encounter each hour, and let the players decide how they wanted to react.
They bought mammoth fur from some off-world merchants (from 'barbarian' world), allowed a group of male convicts from a nearby prison to escape, and ruthlessly pacified two groups of hostile protestors.
At the end of their shift I decided to test the players by having a group of suspicious looking men offload a metallic cylinder from a black truck. They decided to shoot the cylinder with a plasma turret. The cylinder exploded and sent out an EMP that disabled the plasma turret. A big battle was about to break out, but the players decided to take their money and scram. I was okay with this.

They left Vual with cash and a shipment of furs and decided to go to the planet Focalor (the most highly advanced world in the subsector) to trade. On the way back they turned on a TV and saw themselves on the news. War broke out on Vual shortly after they left. Thus concludes our game of Traveler.

I asked them for a critique afterwards so I could improve my GM'ing skills.
They said I did alright. Sandbox games. especially ones like Traveler, pretty much run themselves. They did suggest coming up with more cultural details for planets though. The water and atmosphere stuff is fun, and it's useful to know the tech level, government type, and law level (in regards to weapons) of each planet, but it's also important to know something about the lives of your average planetary inhabitant.

Marshall Burns

Hi Kevin,

I'm not really familiar with Traveler, so tell me: the whole merchant, traveling-the-galaxy-to-play-the-markets thing, is that standard Traveler fare? That's strangely alluring to me, for some reason.

Mel White

Sounds like a fun game.  I especially like the part where the PCs were required to have a female agent to conduct the sale.  It's a small piece of improvisation and detail yet it became crucial to the adventure.  I've been playing a bit of old-school Traveller over the past few years.  Most of the games are unplanned.  Regardless of who will GM, we often will start the game by rolling up the sub-sector together.  That can help identify and differentiate the cultures in the different systems, since there are more players thinking about it.  The flip-side is that when many systems have really cool-sounding cultures or situations, the players want to visit them all!   
And, Marshall, there certainly is the possibility for a merchant oriented campaign, with lots of rules for generating cargo, purchase prices and sale prices.  Tastes will vary on how much of that is too much. 
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Kevin Vito

Rolling up the subsector together?
I hadn't thought of that...
That would probably help the players get more invested in the various worlds.

Marshall Burns

Procedurally generated products and market forces? Ok, I'm really fascinated. Where can I find out more about this? Which version(s) do you recommend? Is it available in an affordable format?


I don;t recall it being that sophisticated.  Better than average in terms of named, enumerated commodities, with some "randomly rolled shortage" stuff at best.  Some kind of entertaining asbtraction of trade networks is still a gap in RPG IMO.

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Mel White

Quote from: Marshall Burns on November 09, 2011, 09:45:20 PM
Procedurally generated products and market forces? Ok, I'm really fascinated. Where can I find out more about this? Which version(s) do you recommend? Is it available in an affordable format?
Classic Traveller is owned by Far Future Enterprises.  They have sold reprints of the books; and probably sell cd-roms.  Or you can find the 'little black books' (as they're called) at various resellers.  Book 2 has the trade customs and cargo rules.  To find out more, there are many Traveller fan-websites.  I like Freelance Traveller because they printed my article on the X-Boat courier network in the November issue ;-)
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