One of the main themes of my posts about Classic Traveller is to look at the rules found in the box and to focus on how to play the game. (This is in contrast to not looking at the rules and how to play, and focusing instead on years of yammering about a setting and how it doesn’t make sense but could make sense if only everyone argued about it for another 40 years.) It is has been my belief that Classic Traveller has an excellent system for running loose and fun RPG sessions–independent of anything to do with starships or the implied setting found in the basic rules.
Recently, at a local convention, I had a chance to give this notion a test drive.
I decided to run an RPG session one evening on the fly. I hadn’t planned to run Classic Traveller but two of my friends and one of their friends who had never played an RPG all wanted a game and I volunteered to run something. I had a dice bag, index cards, and whatever PDF I had posted on this blog.
I decided to use the Classic Traveller rules as my framework. They are simple, flexible, and crazy easy to run if Old School Referee-driven-adjudication is your thing.
I established a setting: A mythic kind of place in Eternal Winter and Eternal Night. The Sun had been taken away generations ago. The PCs would be from a village along the coast where fishing still took place. A few scattered communities existed across dark, snow-covered lands. Trade existed, as well as marriages across communities.
I handed out an index card to each player for characters: “Assign the values 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 to STR, DEX, END, INT, EDU, and Social Status. Add +2 to two of those, or a single +4 to one. Give yourself a profession and write that on the top of the card. You character can do all thing things that that profession can do. Then add three more skills, the things you are really good at, which might tie to your profession or be something else. Assign a +1, a +2, and a +3, respectively to each of the skills as you see fit. Tell me who your character cares about in the village. Tell me about the god your character pays homage to. Give your character a name.”
We ended up with the chieftain’s bard, the chieftain’s thane, a whaler who loved his sons, and a witch who lived outside the walls of the town with her ailing sister.
I came up with a situation: There had been a kin-killing on the seas when two clans fought over the kill of a whale and The God of the Deep had stopped sending fish up to the surface from the ocean’s bottom. The village would die.
The PCs ended up going to the underworld to find the dead man who had not been given proper burial and returning him to the mortal world. While they were in the land of the dead the PCs saw the sun in the sky (for it, too, had died long ago) and brought back new hope to their village that the sun might return.
I ran the game a little bit like HeroQuest in that a single roll generally handle a full conflict and then we moved on to fallout and new choices. (We had only four hours and had spent some time creating the setting. I wanted to keep things moving along.
I didn’t use a single rule book or reference anything but some notes I scribbled while the Players made characters.
It was kind of RPG Convention Gold. We had a blast.
In essence, I approached resolving situations as I’ve outlined in two posts I wrote a while back. As I discovered while running my Improvised Classic Traveller Convention Game at the previous convention, my assumptions about how robust and effective the Classic Traveller are seems to be paying off for fun times at the gaming table.
This is outstanding. I wonder if it would work in an investigative horror setting? Probably need more skills than that.
Actually, it was a post at ODD74 site I read a while back that sent me down this path:
Here’s the post, in which someone uses the CT rules to run a game of Cthuhlu World War II in a one-shot with his son:
Not necessarily, to my mind. I’ve run a variety of horror-mystery-twilight zone like stuff using Over the Edge (which uses 2d6, 3d6, and 4d6 rolls) that has less developed skills than the above system. I’ve been toying with running a merged game of OTE and classic traveller 2d6 style mechanics just to provide a little bit more granularity than OTE’s rules do. Emphasis on ‘a little’. I think the CT 2d6 mechanics provide a sufficient broad brush approach to keep things simple and fast. I really like the example above and think it shows the strentgh of the CT mechanics very well. And, as written, it provides the spec for a Cthulhu-esque implementation. You assign stats as described. Since you have Social Status I’d go for an 1890s or 1920s Cthulhu setting myself. And I’d look up the professions listed in my Cthulhu rules and suggest them as examples – but not limited to that. If I had time I’d maybe brainstorm a few deliberately outside the normal set that seemed reasonable just so the players would get the hint. And as you’re using a character’s profession plus background story as developed by you with the player to determine their overall competence, developing the requisite 2d6 roll target no. and DMs shouldn’t be too hard.
Good to see you back! Great post and proof again that Classic Traveller is timeless once people break their rigid thinking.
Classic Traveller is timeless regardless of whether people break their rigid thinking…
Great post. Interesting use of Traveller. It does seem like it has all you need as a base to build on for pretty well any genre you might want to play.
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