Planning for Deepnight

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This was a very ‘meta’ session of Traveller, much of which was spent discussing how we were going to do the Deepnight Revelation campaign. There were two questions which I needed answers to (or at least some thoughts about) to help in my planning, so I started off with those. After that, we went through the list of upgrades the players wanted for their ship. Since they’re the easy ones, I’ll start with the ship.

The It’s A Sex Thing is a 200t Far trader, and at the end of the previous session there was talk of wanting to upgrade it. This session we went through High Guard to see what the options were. They had about MCr20 to spend, so settled on some Holographic Controls and some software – Virtual Gunner/0 and Virtual Mining. I assumed the latter was to help in asteroid mining, but it turns out it’s Bitcoin Mining, and is so cheap it pays for itself in a short period of time. Al of this could probably be fitted in a few days at New Colchis.

The rest of the plan was for some High Efficiency Batteries, an Enhanced Signal Processing system and a second turret. We figured that the first two could probably be fitted into one of the staterooms, and they would also upgrade their sensors from Military to Improved.

Not entirely certain where the second turret would be fitted – probably on top with the other one otherwise it will get in the way of the cargo ramp. These last things will be fitted when they get to the Imperium, since the ship will need something of an overhaul for this rework, which will probably take a couple of weeks.

The final upgrades are to be some anti-personnel weapons for defending the ship when it’s landed. The choice is probably for four PGMP weapons. Up to four 250kg weapons can be fitted, but there’s very few options in the rule between ~20kg and 250kg. Useful options are either < 20kg, or 0.5 tonnes+.

Deepnight Command

So back to the planning. My first question was about how to run the exploration ship. The players aren’t aware of the full details of the upcoming campaign yet, other than it’s going to involve a big ship and a long distance mission over several years (the characters know even less). It’ll be a big ship, with a big crew (about 500), and the current PCs won’t be the command staff (they’re neither Imperial Navy, nor Deepnight employees, and though they’ve demonstrated competence, it seems unlikely that they’ll be given command roles).

Since I want the players to have lots of agency on decisions, I want them to have considerable input to the running of the mission. I could make them part of a ‘special advisory team’ that isn’t officially part of the command staff but who are consulted in the decision making process, but for various reasons I’m not too keen on this option. It seems a bit forced, and still ends up with the PCs not actually the ones making the decisions unless we assume that the command staff always follow the recommendations of the team.

After some discussion, what we decided on was something akin to Ars Magica troupe play. For those who haven’t played Ars Magica (one of my favourite RPG systems, and a game most of us have played a lot), the PCs play magi in a mythical version of medieval Europe. Each player has a magus character, plus a ‘companion’ character. The magi are very powerful, but often have good reasons to stay in their lab and not go out on adventures. The ‘companions’ are mundanes (mostly non-magical) characters who aren’t as powerful as the magi, but who do tend to be quite highly skilled and are useful to take out on adventures. Then there are the ‘grogs’, who are less skilled almost-NPCs who act as men-at-arms and servants.

When PCs go out on an adventure, the idea is one player might take their magi, the others would take their companions, plus a group of grogs will go with them. Grogs may be played by the GM or by a player. It’s a lot easier to justify within the game world and allows players to chop and change their character based on the situation.

For a ship crew, I think this would work well. The plan is for the players to generate some new characters who will be members of the command staff, so they have considerable input into the running of the ship. The ship’s captain will probably remain as an NPC. Players can then decide who they want to play depending on the situation – surface expeditions will probably be their existing characters (though they could take on other characters as well, if they want some variety) with some ‘red shirts’ as expendables or to fill out skills they don’t have.

This will allow them to have command over the mission, making the big strategic decisions, but also allow them to believably go off on side missions and get their hands dirty.

And I really want the printed versions of the campaign books to come out, so I can start reading through them properly (I don’t find PDFs that great to sit down and read, though they’re useful for reference).

Deepnight Navigation

The second question was how to do navigation on the campaign. For most groups this is probably a non-issue – just point the players are TravellerMap and let them work it out themselves. One of my players though is blind, so just looking at a map isn’t too easy for her. I’d like her to have useful input into the mission, so we discussed some of our options on making the information accessible in a way though would enable her to contribute to planning navigation across sectors.

One of the first options we discussed was somehow printing the maps out in a way that would be readable to her (using some form of braille printer or other tactile feature). The problem is, you’re probably look at an A0 map for each sector, and there’s going to be a lot of sectors. Fitting system position, and UWP data, onto the maps would not only be tricky (though my original TravellerMap-like application I did ~15 years ago managed to fit a lot of info into one hex as icons), it could get expensive.

The later part of the missions will also require the crew doing the mapping themselves, so maps will be partially complete and get updated over time – printed content isn’t great for being updated. So we decided to drop that idea.

The next option is seeing what we can do with TravellerMap itself. Fortunately it has an API, which allows the data to be pulled out in text format. That gives us a lot of options, from sticking it into a spreadsheet to having it in a CSV file, database or just plain text. A database would allow queries, and maybe lookups to see what systems are nearby. Spreadsheets aren’t very positional (unless each cell is treated as a hex, but then you have a lot of data in a single cell).

The current plan is that the player is going to take a look at the APIs and see if she can do anything useful with them. Possibly I can pull the data out and put a more suitable API on front of it so it automatically fetches the data in just the right format.

I do need a way to generate my own data and stick that into a database – and I have that with WorldGen, though it’s in a slightly different format and doesn’t use Traveller UWPs. However, it does allow the creation of unique worlds and star systems, so may be my preferred choice over doing things manually. Whatever I do there, I can ensure that the data can be fetched with an API in a similar way, so that it’s easily usable by someone using text readers.

Next week we should be back to the adventure itself, though the trip back to the Imperium will probably be reasonably uneventful.

Samuel Penn