Traveller Ideas

My other plan for what to run next on Roll20 is a Traveller game. Last time I ran Traveller, I did so using my own game system, and apart from a single one-shot using Traveller 5th even longer ago, I haven’t actually run anything using the actual Traveller rules.

Traveller has been a fascination of mine since I came across it about 20 years ago, and I have many different versions of the rules. However, my interest in it has been mostly theoretical, so it’ll be interesting to give it a try again.

Since I’ve picked up a number of adventures for Mongoose Traveller, my plan is to run these in an episodic format, which will allow me to get used to the rules without getting sidetracked too much by trying to support a sandboxed campaign setting.

My biggest problem with running Traveller, is that I have a strong tendency to write lots of computer aids to flesh things out, which distracts me from the actual running of the game. Keeping to the core rules as much as possible, and some set adventures, should hopefully help solve that problem. Though I’m having to fight very hard not to build proper models of each star system, so I can calculate jump shadows and flight times correctly.

I’m looking at running some of the Great Rift Adventures, starting with Islands in the Rift. This is set in a reasonably secluded part of charted space, just outside the Imperium. There are several small stellar nations to add flavour, and the directions players can go is limited (without a Jump-4 capable ship).

Islands in the Rift

The Mongoose Traveller system itself is a simple 2D6 roll over mechanic, much like classic Traveller. Character generation is a random affair – roll stats, then roll for professions in 4-year chunks. It means that you’re unlikely to get exactly the character you want, but you have some control in the direction they take and get to build an interesting back story as you go along.

Whilst I’m not keen on random character generation, one thing I do like about the Traveller system is that you are unlikely to have a party of 18 year olds who go on to become highly skilled professionals before their 19th birthday. If you want to be vaguely skilled, you’ve got to take your character into the 30s at least, possibly older. Progression in the game itself is slow, and isn’t done with the usual gaining experience for overcoming foes.

I’m thinking of allowing players to roll 9 stats and then select from the best 6. That should reduce the changes of getting a bad character, and since we only have three players extra abilities may come in useful. For the first adventure, I may give them some NPCs to choose from as well, to help round out some skills.

One aspect of the Islands in the Rift adventure that seems unusual is that the payoff for completion seems quite huge – Cr250K each. It could well take two or three months (game time) to complete, but even so it seems a bit much, especially since they also get expenses. However, they could immediately put it towards a ship once the first adventure is over. Given the nature of the adventure, I’m inclined for them to not start with a ship. If they get one (or shares in one) from their background, then they can pick it up afterwards.

Traveller is often about travel (strangely enough), and that’s another interesting aspect. FTL is by Jump space, and each ‘Jump’ can cover from 1 to 6 parsecs (most ships are only capable of the lower end of that) and always takes a week. The background to the adventure is very vague about when things happened, so I created a spreadsheet and worked out when ships got to what worlds. It took about six months for a message about an event to reach someone who could make a decision, and then get a message back to tell someone to put together a response (the PCs). Even most fantasy games tend to have faster communication and travel. Well, okay, most fantasy games are only covering thousands of miles, not parsecs, but it’s the time between points of interest that matters.

I’ve also picked up the Pirates of Drinax campaign setting, which seems like a much more complicated sandbox. If this one goes well, I might give the larger campaign a try once we’re back to face to face gaming.

My players seem interested in the idea, so I’m fleshing out the adventure details, sticking data into Roll20 and playing a bit with Blender to model some of the ships.

Samuel Penn

Samuel Penn