HALLOS SUBSECTOR: Notes for a Setting for Classic Traveller

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The subsector I’m working up is part of an empire in decay. The empire’s power is slipping away, both politically and economically, as civil wars across different sections of the empire have drained its focus. The influence of the empire on the subsector as a political or social entity is non-existent.

Instead, three noble families which have rules potions of the subsector are now scrambling to exert influence and exploit resources of worlds not yet explored. The families see themselves as both standard-bearers for the rich tradition of the imperial past, but also cut off from its support and making their own way forward as best they can.

Trade has been limited and focused on about on third to one half of the worlds in the subesctor. There are many “fly over” worlds, with ships focused on wealthy and high population worlds. Mortgages are backed by the noble families, with fealty and history with the families being a primary consideration for getting a charter on a ship, trade route, or resource exploration rights. A-class spaceports are owned by the noble families. Industrial espionage and sabotage is on the rise between the noble houses, affecting both starships and spaceports.

Common Noble House Tech Level is 9. Average Noble House Tech Level is A-B. Exceptional Noble  Tech Level is C. This, of course, limits the practical size of starships to less than 5,000 dTons. Higher tech levels may well be scattered around the subsector for the PCs to discover, interact with, and puzzle out.

There are many worlds with indigenous, native aliens, as well as settlements of humans. Some of the humans are settlers from the empire either invited by the noble families or seeking better opportunities. Others are from times before a previous rise and fall of interstellar society cycle and thus cut off socially and culturally from each other. (Again, trade has been limited to and focused on a few key worlds. Space lanes, jump cassettes, and other limiting factors from early CT rules are in effect.)

There is an indigenous and ancient faith revolving around psionic powers that has been isolated and quiet. It existed from the time before the last rise and fall cycle of civilization in the subsector (centuries ago). As a power vacuum opens up in the subsector the cult begins to make itself known. It begins recruiting from both the common populace and tries to insinuate itself in the noble houses as well. The teachings promise peace (of course) and a chance to avoid the coming possible crisis of an all out war by uniting the worlds of the subsector under one banner. Obviously none of the noble houses want this. But how to use the faith to their own ends, or stamp it out completely, all the while not being influenced by it is part of the stress the rules class is under.

I haven’t decided yet if the Player Characters will be centered on worlds from one of the ruling houses or have arrived from beyond the subsector. If they have already have served in the noble house’ military or services and have easy access to patronage and get us going. (Whether they remain loyal to the noble house over time is their business.) On the other hand I am tempted to have all PCs arrive in the subsector fresh. This makes the entire environment open to exploration and allows them to find their own way in terms of loyalty. I think this will be something to bring up with the players and ask them what they want.

Adventures will be a mix of political conflict fought out over resources, cold-war espionage and sabotage, as well as expiation and adventure on backwater worlds where all sorts of aliens, alien civilizations, and cultures can be found. (I should note that each of the three noble houses also has their own specific cultures as well.)

Most worlds are politically isolated, with no law enforcement between the stars apart from the efforts of the three noble houses protecting they limited influence on several star systems each. PCs will have varying degrees of safety from the law in illegal activity, depending on where their activities take place and who is backing them and providing cover. (Noble patronage can be very helpful in some circumstances.)

The tone and feel is a softer SF than I think many people expect from Traveller, with the SF elements serving as a backdrop and as McGuffins for adventure rather than and end in and of itself. Think Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure and The Demon Princes books, E.C. Tubb’s Dumarest Books, Herbert’s Dune (just the first book), and a bit of Game of Thrones.

That’s the basic sketch I’m working from.

QELONG: Aakom Poison Tracker (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)

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My Players’ characters are heading off to the Qelong next week and I’ve spent my break from Refereeing by working up notes and prepping details for the expedition.

As I’ve noted before Qelong is dense and complex. I’ve taken some time to “unfold” the material in the book and prepare for an easier time running it.

One of the complex parts of the setting is the threat of Aakom Poisoning. If you’ve read the module you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t read it you don’t know what I’m talking about–but don’t worry because its too complicated to go into.

For those of you have an interest in running Qelong for your players but who have thought, “How the hell am I going to track the Aakom Poisoning?” I offer this following tracking sheet.

The deal is this:

I will print out several sheets, using one sheet per day the Player Characters travel through the Qelong valley. Each day of travel I will mark down any actions that incur Aakom points. (Each column heads notes the number of Aakom Points accumulated for different events.) At the end of the day I total the Aakom points for that day and then total the to the Aakom points for the entire expedition thus far.

The spreadsheet itself was sort of a no brainer. But I imagined what a mess the sheet would become after several days of adventure. (Truly, tracking Aakom Poisoning is a pain in the neck.) It was only after I realized I should have a new sheet for each day that I thought, “Okay, I can now track this and use the threat of the poison in a reliable and organized manner.”

I bring this up because my players are smart players and they love to have new problems and puzzles. I don’t want to hand-wave the effects of the poison. If the application of “scoring” the Aakom points is consistent and understandable they will figure out the patter and they will take action to solve the problem. Hence this detailed solution to tracking the poison.

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Fallen World Campaign [LotFP]–Twenty-Third Session

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The Characters Finally Head Off to Qelong

Months have passed since we’ve played my Fallen Worlds campaign. I’m slammed with work and prepping my notes for the group’s journey to the Qelong Valley on an alternate Earth.

Other players have picked up the slack in the intermediate months, and I get to be a player for a while. We’re played a kick ass in short campaign set the world of The Last Airbender. We’re now playing in the world of Shadowrun using the HeroQuest rules.

But here’s a recap of the last session we played months ago!


Having cleaned out Graupher’s Keep of the creatures that had escaped from the menagerie and the interplaner creature that Graupher and his men had brought back in their travels to research and destroy, the Lamplighters took some time to sort through gathered treasures and magic.

The magic-user researched spells and set up a new lab in the keep. Two of the characters experimented with the power suits that they had retrieved from the slaughtered Carcosans they found dead in the remains of Death Frost Doom. One power suit was still locked, but they had a weekly chance to find the combination and finally pulled it off. Each power suit had unique abilities I had randomly rolled using the tables from Carcosa.

Carcosa describes the alien technology of the world in the style of Jack Kirby style art. So the players in 17th Century Europe have suits of armor in the style of the image above.

The Lamplighters also hired in workers to clean out the mess left over from the thousands of undead in the Turning Tower, as well as fortifying and repairing the compound as a whole.

Now, in the Session #22 recap I noted that I thought once the Players had found Graupher’s ship they would be heading off to the world of the Qelong Valley to find the Aakom they needed to free their friends who became trapped in Null Space while exploring the ancient Duvan’Ku catacombs under Munich. (It’s a long story… but if you read all the entries you’ll get the details. I realized I can’t keep recapping everything in every recap. It’ll just take too long! Short version: They need to go the Qelong Valley in an alternate dimension, recover the Aakom leaking from a cylinder that is poisoning the valley, travel to Carcosa using The World Stone, get to and enter the Spatial Transference Void in the city of Carcosa which will let them enter Null Space, rescue their friends, and use the Aakom to escape Null Space and return to earth!)

Instead, they decided to return to Bergenzel and clean it out once and for all. Okay, I thought, and then next week Qelong!

But no. After experimenting and cleaning up the keep they decided that since some of the spider cult members of Bergenzel had fled the town, the most likely place they would have gone to would be the Insect Cult located north of Karlstadt. They didn’t know about the Insect Cult, really, but months earlier they had found a map of Europe on the inside of a dead knight’s flesh marked with:

  • the death symbol of the Duvan’Ku which marked the temple from Death Frost Doom
  • an insect symbol which marked the Insect Cult from Better Than Any Man

The Players had decided back in the seventh session that they would be traveling to the bug mark on the map. You might recall that I prepped for Better Than Any Man, the Player Characters stopped in Munich while traveling north to Karlstadt, found out rumors of ancient Duvan’Ku catacombs under the streets of Munich, researched further, and stumbled intoThe God That Crawls. (Which I had moved from England to Munich.) In doing all this they promptly forgot about heading to Karlstadt, my prep was scrapped and they entered a terrific module that took us three sessions to clear out.

More things happened and their focus turned completely from the events to the north and they headed west in an effort to find an adventurer rumored to have a ship that could travel to different worlds so they could go rescue their friends trapped in Null Space. (Again, the recaps keep looping around. In part it is because I have remember for myself how all this stuff went down!)

The point is: Once they Players had declared they were going to Karlstadt I started the countdown that is a core element of Better Than Any Man. The Swedish Army was going to sweep down from Denmark across the Holy Roman empire whether the Player Characters went north or not… because it started and it was up to them to get back up there in time to find all sorts of treasures and adventures or not.

Well, they never went back. And the catalogue of events listed in Better Than Any Man took place as described over the ten days of the adventure–even if the Player Characters were not there to participate in the adventure!

The Players, of course, knew nothing about any of this. Nor did their characters who had spent that last two months in shrines and catacombs built by the Duvan’Ku or traveling through the time-distorted swamps of Bergenzel. By the time they headed back to Munich to see the treasures they had recovered they heard about the onslaught of the Swedish King but did not realize that the adventure that had been waiting for them had been wiped out. (I try to be honest about how the world is moving forward around the Player Characters, whether the Players are aware of it or not. This was one of those times!)

So: We gather for Session #23 and I’m thinking: “Okay, here we go to Qelong!” And the Players decided to go to where they saw the insect symbol on the map. And they had no idea the Insect Cult was wiped out by the Swedish Army (along with the witches of Karlstadt and so on.)

So I pull out Better Than Any Man. Because even though the main adventure sites have been destroyed by the Swedish army Better Than Any Man has a whole list of awesome random encounters I can use to generate content for tonight’s session. Since the area will still be war-torn and ruined almost every one of the encounters will still be viable.


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THE SIGN IN YELLOW

The Player Characters travel to Munich as they head for the Insect symbol on the map. They ask about rumors of the war, of the invasion by the Swedes, of anything to do about insects.

The find out that the Swedes sacked Karlstadt, sacked Würzberg, and killed many witched. They destroyed a tower that no one could see and the rivers ran with blood. They attacked a compound filled with monsters. Few men came out so they used explosives to seal it all up. The details are sparse. It is told more like exotic rumors and tales… but it is all true! This is the aftermath of Better Than Any Man–and the Lamplighters missed the party.

But, more pertinent, the Players hear rumors of dreams that have been haunting the citizens of Munich for weeks. People have been unable to sleep–or, rather, have been sleeping but do not feel as if they have slept. A figure in yellow robes haunts them. The Players begin to notice a strange symbol in yellow scattered on the walls of Munich. People feel that something is coming. That while they had feared what might happen once the Swedish army sacked the Catholic cities, this would be worse.


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THE WITCH’S HEAD

The group continues north. They pass Würzberg and see corpses of “witches” that hang from trees. And hear tales of the witch trials taking place. They travel on and I make a random encounter roll. They hear rumors of war elsewhere. But a large portion of the Swedish army has been disbanded after the cities were sacked and mercenary troops took their loot and went home.

They reach Karlstadt. They see the heads of the witches on pikes on the city’s wall. Again, this is the aftermath of Better Than Any Man. They have missed all the events. And yet, by playing out the events as they occurred we have new chances for unexpected adventures.

For example, the adventures decide they want to examine one of the witch’s heads. Why? I do not know exactly. But can I blame them?

Since their journey south along a road to investigate fallen meteorite–upon which they came across a corpse that was later revealed to have been killed by a doppelgänger from another planet come to study the human race–and all the things they had seen from that moment onward until now, would it be truly unreasonable to assume that investigating the decapitated head of a witch on a pike might not yield interesting information? Certainly it was a possibility that such a thing should be looked into. And so they did.

Note several things:

I had no idea the players would want to investigate a decapitated witch’s head. I put it there as a bit of color and to make clear that whatever had happened had happened and the situation had wrapped up.

It is not my place to tell the players there is nothing interesting to be found by investigating a decapitated witch’s head over a city gate. If this is something they want to do I let them do it. Remember, in this game I have no plot, I have no story. There is no place we are trying to get to, no climax I need to guide them toward. Whatever they choose to pursue is the story.

At this point they are providing material for me to use. Again: I have no story. The Players make rolls as they sneak around and try to investigate the head of a decapitated witch.

So they get to the head. It seems to be, I explain after they examine it, a decapitated head and nothing more.

They decide to steal it.

James Raggi once stated there was no need for a Call of Cthulhu insanity-style mechanic for Lamentations of the Flame Princess because after a while the Players would be having their characters do all sorts of crazy things with the characters all of their own volition. Guess he was right!

The group slips the head into one of their sacks and makes their way back out of the city before they are caught with the witch’s head.

They decide to head back south, making plans to travel to Italy to find sailors for their ship and their journey to one of the worlds Graupher discovered. And so they travel south, this imposing group of fifth level adventurers…

  • Werner, Prock a German mercenary
  • Adrian MacBride, a Scottish cleric
  • Vilfolk, a specialist noted for his facility with languages and knowledge of architecture
  • D’Antonio, a warrior from Spain
  • Rauk Bork, a specialist from Germany noted for his sneak attacks and tinkering
  • Anika, a magic-user who has gathered strange spells and items during her adventures

As the group travel the sack with the head begins to move. They open it and the head is speaking. They talk to it, and the witch’s head is trying to warn them.

“I made a pact with the Insect Gods,” the decapitated head says, “because I knew something far worse was coming.”

“What?” the characters ask.

“The gods of Carcosa,” the decapitated head says.

Anika, the group’s Magic-User, decides to place the head upon her staff as an imposing decoration. And so they continue south in this fashion. Because this is, after all, Lamentations of the Flame Princess

Some Thoughts on the Witch’s Head
I want to note here that I simply made up the head talking on the spot. I wanted to crank up the growing tension about the Carcosans and their invasion. I thought the dead witch would spit out a warning and that would be that.

In retrospect I would not have done it this way. I should have let the Players have their characters cast a spell of some sort or come up with some magical shenanigans to get information from the head if that’s what they wanted. I was excited to talk about what I was excited about. And certainly I’m allowed to share what I’m excited about.

But given that they stole the head of their own volition with no expectation it would provide information, I should have let them decide to press the matter further.

Not a big deal… but I did think about this after the session. A lesson learned.

But more: now that Anika has placed the head on her staff it is kind A Thing for me to deal with. Does it just keep talking? Spitting out omens? Or what?

I have decided the head will be an artifact of sorts. It actually isn’t the witch that spoke to them, but an avatar of the Insect God that hopes to manipulate the characters to its own desires. It will pose as the witch as long as it can to deceive them. It will have some powers it will offer to Anika to make its presence more palatable. But I haven’t worked those out yet.


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THE MERCENARIES

The group continues south, but is still with the territory of Better Than Any Man. I roll on the encounter table from the book. I roll an Encounter!

I roll on the Encounter Table to see what sort of encounter. I roll a 21. Rogue Mercenaries! Interesting! I hadn’t expected that!

I roll again to see if they are foreign mercenaries. 50% chance. They are! I read the description quickly:

these men are simply foreign mercenaries stranded in a strange land trying to survive with no idea how to get home through hostile territory…

Again, unexpected!

I decide these are Swedish Mercenaries who came over for the fight, pillaged, broke off from the army when payments came late. I roll to determine how many. 150 troops!

Huh. I have no idea how this is going to go.

I have each side roll for surprise. No one gets surprise.

I decide the Player Characters spot a patrol of Swedish Mercenaries–and the Swedes spot them. Rather than try to skirt the patrol the Players have their characters walk up to the patrol. Because here is a thing: The Player Characters are like Fifth Level now. In the setting we’ve built that is a big deal. They simply carry themselves differently. They are bad-asses who have seen the shit and when they approach a bunch of Level 0 Swedish Troops on patrol the troops take a step back. Because this strange crew of soldiers and specialists, as well as the strangely powerful looking cleric and the woman who is dressed in sturdy travel clothes but carries herself with the confidence of a woman who has looked the devil in the eyes and lived to tell about it walk like they are the last people you want to fuck with if you want to see another day.

I make a Reaction Roll, per the rules. I give a +2 to the roll since a) the mercenaries are without food or income and in no need to get into a fight they don’t need to get into, and b) the Player Characters look like bad-asses–so they probably won’t want to get into a fight.

The roll (if I remember correctly) was somewhere around the middle. The members of the patrol and the Player Characters trade pleasantries and trade doleful comments on the state of the war-torn world. The mercs explain their circumstances.

One of the Player Characters, Werner, asks to speak to their captain. The mercs are wary of this. But when Werner says it might involve employment they perk up and lead the six travelers to the camp.

Now, Werner is played by Eric. And Eric is a clever guy who comes up with clever plans. (Eric loves puzzles. He takes notes all the time and then goes back to them to put two or three pieces of clues together to make some solution unspool in dungeons.) So I can’t wait to see what is going to happen.

I check Better Than Any Man for more details about the mercenary company they are about to meet:

There will be 10d20 soldiers in all, with as many camp followers (cooks, wives— or “wives”, and children, etc.) in any such band, and the initial encounter will be with either a patrol of 3d6 soldiers (50% chance), 1d6 camp followers (40%), or with the main camp itself (10%).

Officer: Armor 16 (breastplate), Fighter Level 1d6, Movement 90’, 1 musket or sword attack for 1d8 damage, Morale 1d6+5.

Sergeant: Armor 14 (jacks or buff coats), Fighter Level 1d4, Movement 90’, 1 musket or sword attack for 1d8 damage, Morale 1d6+4. Has Strength 15.

Rest of the Troops: Armor 14 (jacks or buff coats), Level 0, Movement 120’, 1 musket or sword or pike attack for 1d8 damage, Morale 8.

Horses: Armor 14, 5 Hit Dice, Movement 240’, 1 hoof attack for 1d6 damage, Morale 8.

Camp followers: Armor 12 (unarmored), Level 0, Movement 120’, 1 dagger attack, Morale 6.

I roll a d20. A 15! So there is a large camp of 150 troops with as many followers.

The patrol leads Werner and the other Player Characters to the mercenary leader, who I quickly name Captain Boris Johansson. I roll the Reaction Roll secretly and tuck it away for later. I know how Johansson will react… but I want to wait until Werner makes his offer.

Werner offers the following: “Your men have no employer, no way to get home, and currently no food or work. We have need of soldiers. More than that, we have a keep that needs troops. And we have a village nearby that is deserted, but with home and lands that you could call your own. We’ll grant you the land and you can settle there and live there as long as you are under our employment.”

At first I didn’t know what Eric meant by all of this. And then I remember that the group had cleared out the village of Bergenzel not only of the spider cult but also the mist caused by the Time Cube that had held it frozen for decades. No one lived in the village anymore. And now it was a small village with buildings, land that was no longer a swamp, a church already built, and so on. He was offering them land that they had cleared. And silver for working for them. And I thought, “Okay! Good offer!”

On top of that I had already rolled a natural “11” on 2d6 on the Reaction table (“Talkative.”) So Captain Johansson is willing to at least entertain the idea.

Negotiations took place using the Hiring Retainers rules. We added up the modifiers, rolled 3d6 and the group got a 16 on the roll. Which meant a Loyalty of 10. (Very good!)

The company began packing up to head down to the Alps and the town of Bergenzel.


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THE INVASION OF EARTH BY CARCOSA

So, the next day the Player Characters and the Mercenary Company head off. The players are now in good shape. They thought they might be going to Italy to get sailors to man Das Forscher, but I decided the merc company would have a good number of men also familiar with sailing and could serve as marines.

As they traveled they discussed which world they might go to next. They had not yet told the merc company all the details of the adventures or plans, waiting until the right time. But they had made it clear their adventures would be wild and extraordinary… and that at the same time the rewards would be great. This pleased there mercenaries. And more than that, because of the rolls I had made I decided Captain Johansson was quite taken with the group. He could tell they were survivors and a hardy bunch and he was willing to hitch his fate to theirs.

Now what the Players did not know was that every day since they had left Graupher’s Keep I had been making a secret die roll to see when the invasion of the earth by the Yellow King of Carcosa would begin.

I mean, we knew this was going to happen sooner or later.

Kar-El, the Carcosan they had befriended months earlier had spelled it all out. And they had gotten enough information to know the Carcosans had been working on a method of expanding and re-working the Spatial Transference Void to allow a direct connection between Carcosa and Earth that would allow two way travel. (Currently the Spatial Transference Void only goes from Carcosa to Earth. This is why one needs the World Stone to go back to Carcosa.)

So…

The Players Characters and the merc company are heading south. They hear an amazing rumbling through the air. The ground trembles under their feet. It is something like an earthquake. And here I asked which characters might have experienced earthquakes before. Several Players describe when their characters have experienced earthquakes.

“This is something more,” I say. “Something different. It is as if the whole world has been touched. As if something has shifted in the earth itself, and not just under your feet.”

The look to the east and they see that there is a tear in the sky about a hundred miles away… the bright blue sky TEARING OPEN as a strange swirl of colors is visible. And from within it a MASSIVE BRIDGE OF STONE extending from the tear in space down toward the earth.

Upon the bridge they see, small but visible in formation, AN ARMY walking down the stone bridge.

And visible within the army, glowing with a presence that makes him more visible than he should be at this distance. He is a figure in yellow. He is, in fact, the King in Yellow, one of the avatars of Hastur of Carcosa. Some of the Players recognize this, others do not. I say no more on the matter.

I also do not add that Hastur is imprisoned under Carcosa and needs the sacrifice of millions to free himself. He has come to earth to make this happen. The population and means of war and execution exceed those of Carcosa and it here that he will found the altar that will free him–the planet earth itself.

Everyone is stunned by this sight. Many of the mercenaries drop to their knees and pray.

Werner says, “This is the enemy we fight. Come with us and we will defeat this army in their own kingdom before they can take our world.” Their plan is the same as it has been: To go to another world to find the Aakom, go to Carcosa, and manipulate the Spatial Transference Void. But now the stakes are bigger… not just to rescue their friends, but to destroy the Spatial Transference Void and seal the gap between Earth and Carcosa.

Now, Captain Johansson gets it right away… that this is a big fucking deal and if he can help he’s going to help. And he trusts the Lamplighters because of that Loyalty roll, so he’s all in. And he rallies the troops as best he can.

Eric says, “You know, given what they’re seeing they might not all want to come.” And I think, “True.”

So I make a roll to determine how many men Johansson can keep loyal to the company. And he is able to keep two-thirds of them on board to deal with this new, impossible threat. So the Lamplighters head off with 100 soldiers and their camp followers.

It is a several days walk and I make a roll each day. The Players do not know what the roll is for.

They make it back to Graupher’s Keep without incident. But on that day I roll again and I tell them, “You hear a sound like a terrible trumpet. A wind that rushes across the landscape rushes toward you. It rushes across the whole earth from east to west. You know this to be true as you know you own hands. And as the wind passes by both the Magic-User and the Cleric are uncertain about something. For it seems your sense of your magic in your thoughts and your god in your heart have been lost.”

They try to use their spells. Nothing happens.

The power and logic of Carcosa is exerting itself. The world is changing as the armies of the Yellow King march upon Europe.

The Player Characters and their mercenaries, which I have decided to dub Lantern Company, make haste and prepare to leave earth on their journey to another world and discover the means of stopping the invasion.

They have the coordinates from Graupher’s notes. Inside the underground lake in the Alps they turn the ship’s wheel per the combination written on the page of Graupher’s dream-induced drawings. There is a strange sound as the winds and waters of countless worlds rush by them…

And they are gone…

“What Everybody Forgets About the OSR…”

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A solid post from Bat in the Attic

I think everybody needs reminded of this aspect of the OSR. That in the end it the OSR is not about one vision, not even about Gary Gygax’s and Dave Arneson’s vision. It about the freedom to take the pieces that existed at the beginning of our hobby and assemble them into the form that YOU judge best not what some what publisher or author says is best. And it is perfectly fine that you wind up agreeing with what a particular author says like Gygax, Arneson, Mentzer, Gonnerman , Proctor, Finch, Raggi , etc.

The whole thing is worth a read.

While the focus is on “OSR as D&D” I would, of course, suggest that many of the thoughts can be applied to playing Classic Traveller as well.

TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–Marc Miller Talks about the Development of Traveller

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E.T. Smith was at the recent GaryCon and had an opportunity to talk to Marc Miller during a quiet Q&A with a few other attendees.

He begins:

Friday morning at Gary Con IX, I attended a seminar hosted by Marc Miller, lead creator of Traveller. It turned out to be a modest affair, fewer than ten people, so Marc had us all pull in close and provided rare opportunity to ask him direct questions. In particular, since I’ve been reading the “Out of the Box” series on Tales to Astound, I was curious about the evolution of Traveller from a generic sandbox generator to a game specifically about the Third Imperium setting, and was able to put the matter to him directly a couple times.

There are plenty of interesting nuggets scattered through the post, so if you’re interested in Traveller and its history I would definitely check it out.

I found this passage interesting in particular:

Buyers demand expansions they’ll never use, so designing for the market is not the same thing as designing for actual play. “They want thirty pages of combat rules, but will never run more than a brawl using five of them.”

I suppose part of the love I have found for OSR style play in recent years is based on the notion that I want as few rules as possible, and I’ll add more later if  need them. My focus is on actual play… not buying more material.

From TRAVELLER: Out of the Box to the Third Imperium

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One of the main themes running through the the TRAVELLER: Out of the Box series is that the original Little Black Books contained lots of implied setting details that run counter to the setting details four in The Third Imperium.

Now, his makes sense. The original purpose of LBBS 1-3 (expressed on the back cover box of the original Traveller rules) is that the Referee is supposed to build his own setting with the rules provided in Book 1-3. This was required when the game first came out, of course, because there was no setting in the original rules. The Third Imperium is an application of the rules by Marc Miller and the gang at GDW to create a specific setting from the implied setting details found in the LBBs. But to do this they added new details, removed detailed, and altered details to make their own setting.

In the same way one can begin with the LBBs and easily create a settings based on the Dumarest books, the Demon Princes books, the Flandry books, the Solar Queen books, the Co-Dominion books, The Space Vikings, and others. This is a testament to the strength of the game Miller wrote. It was built to handle many settings built by many referees–and it does.

But each of these settings is obviously distinct. And my simple point is that the Third Imperium and the Official Traveller Universe is only one application of the rules to create a setting.

In this post I want to walk through what original rules and early products and look at the implied setting found within them. Many of these early books suggest a setting very different than the OTU.

The ideas it to make the implied setting details in different products clear so you can make choices about what books and rules to use to make the setting you want.

This is not authoritative, and I am no authority. The following is how I see thing, filtered through my interests and obsessions.

Let’s go:

I dived the Classic Traveller line into three broad categories or “phases”:

  1. Original Traveller
  2. Proto-Traveller (a term developed by the gang at Citizens of the Imperium)
  3. The Official Traveller Universe

Each grows from the one preceding it, but each is (in my view) distinct.

Original Traveller is playing without any concern for GDW’s house setting at all. That means playing with:

  • Books 1-3 (Either 1977 or 1981 editions. There are differences between the editions, but one can cobble together elements from each of them to taste. The real differences setting-wise are the Communication Routes and Travel Zones found in the 1981 edition but not the 1977 edition. Those two elements are concrete parts of the The Third Imperium I prefer to play without them. Meanwhile, the 1977 edition of the rules has Jump Routes, which I prefer.)
  • If you want you add Supplements 1 & 2 (Setting agnostic and helpful for the Referee!); Supplement 4 (for people who like those new prior services and bow weapons); and maybe Book 4 (though I think this starts pulling the game away from it’s rag-tag adventure paramilitary roots and makes it more straight up military game. I also think the expanded skill list and service generation is bloated and unnecessary. But whatever.)

Proto-Traveller is playing with Books 1-4, Supplements 1-4, and Adventures 1-4, using these for the rules and the sum total of what you know about the Spinward Marches and the Third Imperium. As noted below, the Imperium in the early Traveller materials was a long-lived political power in decline. It committed dark deeds, the distances between the Spinward Marches and Core mattered more, and all in all it is not the bright, shiny competent Third Imperium that came as it was developed in later decades

When I talk about the Official Traveller Universe in this post I’m talking about the Classic Era history that was developed again and gain over the last 40 years in different editions of the game. Each iteration removed the shadows that were part of the early Classic Traveller. Travel became easier and travellers were just any old tourist hopping onto starships. What started as a “large (bordering ultimately on the infinite) universe, ripe for the bold adventurer’s travels” (Traveller Book 1) felt pretty much like First World 20th Century Europe by the time GURPS was done with it.

A note: Keep in mind I’m all for people making up their own settings and tweaking to their hearts content. I’m not trying to trap anyone in any cannon issues. All of my rooting around in Traveller materials was my effort to see if there was still a game called Traveller if you took the Third Imperium out. There is! But it’s amazing many people are utterly convinced that Traveller is the setting and I actually got confused enough after talking with them I thought I’d look into it.

A second note, and an important one I think: Until Book 6: Scouts (1982) not a single one of the Traveller Books mentions a specific setting or any details of the Imperium. All of that material is inside Supplements and Adventures. Thing change with Book 6. With Book 6 the implicit message is if you are playing with the Traveller rules it is assumed you are playing in OTU.

Finally, the OTU was an ad hoc creation. There was no plan to published more Traveller books, and certainly no plan for a grand 11,000 worlds. The fact that things had to be retconned over the years as ideas rubbed each other the wrong way isn’t something I care about. My point is I preferred the way things worked in the Traveller material before the changes that required retcons came along.

So, working product by product, here is my text-flowchart showing the shift in the material from 1977 to 1983…


ORIGINAL TRAVELLER
TRAVELLER BOOKS 1-3 (1977)
GDW publishes the book with no intention of publishing any more material for the game. Marc Miller and the GDW assume people will build their own settings and make adjustments to the game as they need for those settings. (Gary Gygax assumed the same thing about OD&D, for the record.)

General Notes:

  • No mention of The Imperium or any specific setting
  • “Generic” to the degree the Traveller draws on the countless 1950s- 1970s SF adventure novels and short stories Miller has read (Thus there are implied setting details drawn from these many sources)
  • A few named details (Psionics Institute; TSA)

Pertinent to this discussion:

  • Jump Routes rather than Communication Routes (Jump routes are concerns of PCs; Communication routes will rarely, if ever, be the concern of the PCs)
  • No Travel Zones (In the implied setting of play the power and influence of the centralized government is weak)
  • Play is assumed to be centered on one or two subsectors created by the Referee
  • Ship size capped at 5,000Dtons
  • Travel for civilian and commercial ships limited in part by the need for refined fuel, which is limited to A and B-Class starports
  • Starship Critical Hit Tables have no “Explode” result (Space combat is a game of resource management for RPG play; ships can be horribly damaged, but not blown up. Later editions will move space combat toward the feel of a board game with “Explode” result
  • The Starship Encounters tables suggest a very different dynamic in the implied setting than one would find in the 1981 edition of the rules and beyond:

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As one person at Citizens of the Imperium commented:

In 77, pirates are the bane of populated systems, but are absent in the backwaters. The mains are dangerous for lack of services, not hostiles…

In 81, pirates are the scourge in the fringes – desperate men choking the lifeblood out of minor trade. Meanwhile, the major ports have no pirates, but plenty of law. And patrols are EVERYWHERE.

The “empire” of 81 leaves E and X alone, and to the pirates, but patrols the A and B systems, and the pirates only match with them in the C-ports.

The “empire” of 77 patrols everywhere, but is outgunned by pirates in the systems with good ports…

One is effective, the other not…

The implied setting of 1977 is a freewheeling frontier beyond the reach of the law in most areas, and a struggle for order in the civilized areas. This is a very different kind of setting than one finds in the later Traveller materials when the rules and the setting become one thing.

—————————

SUPPLEMENT 1: 1001 CHARACTERS (1978)
Setting agnostic material to aid the Referee in using the Traveller rules

SUPPLEMENT 2: ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS (1979)
Setting agnostic material to aid the Referee in using the Traveller rules


A BRIDGE TO PROTO-TRAVELLER
BOOK 4: MERCENARY (1978)
Setting agnostic expansion of the Traveller rules
Pertinent to this discussion:


THE IMPERIUM ARRIVES: PROTO-TRAVELLER

SUPPLEMENT 3: THE SPINWARD MARCHES (1979)
Concrete details about The Third Imperium, including government structure, history, and alien races of the setting
A maps and quick-sketch details of the sixteen subsectors of the Third Imperium

SUPPLEMENT 4: CITIZENS OF THE IMPERIUM (1979)
Setting agnostic expansion of rules and new prior service paths for Player Characters

Pertinent to this discussion:
The information is sparse, with an enormous about of room (and expectation) the Referee will fill in details

  • The Imperium in described as “in decline”
  • In many respects the Marches can be seen as a Frontier
  • There are no Jump Routes (using rules established in Book 3)
  • There are Communication Routes belonging to the Imperium
  • The Imperium imposes Travel Zones to prevent travellers from reaching certain worlds

ADVENTURE 1: THE KINUNIR (1979)
Scenarios set in the Spinward Marches

Pertinent to this discussion:

  • The Battle Cruiser described in the book use the High Guard rules for design, but is 1,200Dtons, keeping it within the ship size range found in Book 2
  • The Library data and Rumors Matrixes describes a darker Imperium than what is later portrayed, with abuse of power against citizens of the Imperium and even members of the government
  • In many respects the Marches is still a Frontier

ADVENTURES 2-4: (1980)
Scenarios set in the Spinward Marches and beyond

Pertinent to this discussion:

  • Ships are built using the High Guard rules, but tonnage remains withing the range established in Book 2
  • The Library Data and Rumor Matrixes continue to paint a darker, less powerful Imperium than what was portrayed later

DOUBLE ADVENTURES 1-6: (1980-1982)
Scenarios set in the Spinward Marches

Pertinent to this discussion:

  • The Imperium remains dark and more dangerous that later material would suggest
  • Ship sizes remain within the scope found in Book 2

A BRIDGE TO THE OFFICIAL TRAVELLER UNIVERSE
BOOK 5: HIGH GUARD (1979 – 1st ED.; 1980 2nd ED.)
Almost setting agnostic expansion of the Traveller rules. “The Imperium” as a term is introduced exactly as in Book 4, but details of naval structure are made explicit

Pertinent to this discussion:

  • In Book 2 only military and scout vessels could use unrefined fuel without penalty. Book 5 introduces Fuel Purifiers that can be installed on any ship. This makes civilian travel and trade much easier for any interstellar civilization unrefined fuel can now be acquired at any C or D-class starport or any gas giant
  • New rules for constructing ships that increase the possible size from 5000Dtons to 1,000,000,000Dtons
  • Significantly, though the rules are supposed to be generic tools for any Referee to build ships of whatever size he wants, The Official Traveller Universe introduces ships of sizes well beyond those found in Book 2. In this way, the “Battle Cruisier” found in Adventure 1: The Kinunir clearly no longer makes sense due to its now relatively small size and limited armaments. (Countless years of retconning will be spent trying to explain why The Kinunir was ever called a “Battle Cruiser” in the first place.)
  • The above point is tied to another important point:
  • A shift away from Player Character driven play to a focus on the large scale strategic concerns of running an empire of 11,000. In other words, a shift from an RPG focused setting to a setting ready made for board games and large scale tactical deployments. (We can see this in the shift from Jump Routes to Communication routes; we can see this in the addition of “Destroyed” results for starship combat; we can see this the larger ships and ease of travel (and thus communication) introduced in Book 5.)
  • The text introduces and formalizes the naval structure at the world, subsector, and sector level. The nature of The Imperium as an explicit setting is for the first time built into a Traveller Book.

THE OFFICIAL TRAVELLER UNIVERSE
SUPPLEMENT 5-LIGHTNING CLASS CRUISERS (1980)
A 60,000Dton Cruiser is now part of the . We have left the “small ship” setting of original Traveller behind. The 1,200 “Battle Cruiser” found in Adventure 1 now officially makes no sense.

TRAVELLER BOOKS 1-3 (1981)
A new edition of the rules almost identical to the 1977 edition, cleaned up and better laid out.

However, in this new edition the Communication Routes and Travel Zones introduced in Supplement 3 are now a standard assumption. And, as noted above, there Starship Encounters Tables reveal a much more civilized setting.

My only issue with these items is that they make the default “remote, centralized government” a Traveller setting more intrusive and more involved with the setting of play — even though the original, implied assumption was to put the PCs at the edges of the government (you know “remote”). There’s nothing inherently wrong about these two items. But they do shift the dynamics of the setting of play.

So technically the 1981 edition mentions nothing about The Third Imperium and so is still setting free (apart from the implied setting details). But it adjusts the text to reflect certain elements of the OTU.

THE TRAVELLER BOOK (1982)
The rules are (essentially) the same as those found in Traveller Books 1-3.

Of course, this edition of the rules end with an entire section on the Third Imperium and adventuring within it. As the book is structured one reads the rules to learn how to play in the Third Imperium. This is a drastic change from the earlier, setting-free editions of the rules.

BOOK 6: SCOUTS (1983)
For the first time details about the Third Imperium (of the sort that had only appeared in Supplement 3 and Adventures (proper nouns, dates, and specific details of The Third Imperium)) are now in a Traveller Book. If you are playing with the Traveller rules, you are playing in the Third Imperium.

And here we are.


Additional thoughts…

Parallel to all of this are the board games running in parallel in the development of the Official Traveller Setting and the Classic Traveller game line.

GDW tended to cram things together (again, ad hoc). They had been working on a much larger board game for interstellar war and used that game’s background (involving the Vargr, the Aslan and so on) to create the background for their Traveller RPG. From everything I’ve read all of this was built up on the fly… which is why you can find Traveller mailing lists and forum boards filled with people arguing about how to make all the contradictory bits of the setting make sense.

But as this happens you can see how the Classic Traveller’s game line shifts focus from RPG support to being more about a board game, whether shifting from RPG-driven para-military personal combat to skirmish combat; PCs on board a ship starships combat to flee combat (Adventure 5: Trillion Credit Squadron); and the shift of away for material focused on the concerns of adventuring PCs to generating fluff about the politics and concerns of running an interstellar Imperium.

Given the original premise of Traveller (ex-military with a particular set of skills head off to worlds beyond to carve their own fate and fortune) this shift is, in my view, pronounced.

TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–The Rules are Not Your Friend

Petra-Spaceport-OutlanderThere is no comfort to be had in the Basic Traveller rules as written.

For years people have pointed out that making a profit with a freight hauler in Traveller is hard if not impossible. They claim the rules are broken since people should be able to regularly and safely make a profit.

Here’s a thought: What if that isn’t true? What if given the setting implied by the rules found int Books 1-3 making a profit is supposed to be very hard, if not impossible? What would happen then?

Lots of things!

For example, a crew of Player Characters might end up with a ship. The ship might have a mortgage. There are rules for paying the mortgage. But if the crew isn’t making a profit, they can’t pay that mortgage. Does this mean the rules for trade are broken?

Not if we remember that this passage has been part of the game since 1977:

Skipping: Most starships are purchased against a mortgage or loan, and the monthly payments required against the multi-million credit debt are staggering. The owner or captain may decide to steal the ship himself instead of remaining under that load. Passengers have no way themselves of determining if a specific ship is in such a status. The referee should throw 12 exactly to determine that a commercial ship is of this type.

Ships which have skipped are subject to repossession attempts if they are detected by the authorities or by collection agencies. Such attempts may range from the formal service of papers through legal injunctions to armed boarding parties. A repossession attempt will occur under the following conditions: On each world landing, throw 12+ to avoid such an attempt, apply a DM of +1 per 5 hexes distance from the ship’s home planet, to a maximum of +9. If the ship has called on the same world twice within the last two months, apply a DM of –2. This procedure also applies to ships owned by player characters who have skipped.

See, the underlying assumption of the Basic Traveller rules is that things go wrong. The rules for skipping make this assumption explicit. Your business venture as a tramp freighter crew might well go south. Why else have rules devoted to skipping out on your mortgage?

But this is only part of the pain the rules offer.

The rules of Books 1-3 dwell on combat, animal encounters, run-ins with the law, hijackings, pirates, hostile encounters in space and on planets, ship holds that don’t fill up, jump drive failure because of being unable to find refined fuel, and the fact that many worlds lack the parts or technology to repair anything from firearms to starships.

This doesn’t mean that any given setting has to be like this. Everyone should make the setting they want. If you want a setting where everything is clean and shiny, refined fuel is plentiful, and ever ship leaves port with a full cargo hold… go for it!

But the implied setting found in the actual rules of original Traveller assumes that things fail, that things go bad, and that things are always on the cusp of turning into the next disaster.

The implied setting of play assumes that travellers deal with trouble regularly. Traveller by definition put themselves in harms way, go to extraordinary places, and live lives most people would not risk. The rules make this clear.

When it comes to starship economics, the rules assume play will take place in a patch of space defined by depressed population levels and worlds with sub-starship technology. Profit margins will be narrow if not nonexistent. All of this is by design.

So, yes… if the crew of a ship can make their mortgage payments that’s great. It will be one less source of trouble if they don’t have people after them to repossess their ship. On the other hand, the rules take the time to explain how one bolts from the responsibility of paying that mortgage. The rules then explain how one can get into trouble for this choice and avoid that same trouble.

The soil of the Basic Traveller rules is science-fiction adventure fiction. The rules of the game are designed to create stress, conflict, and trouble. This helps drive the player characters to bold choices. It means taking high risk/high reward jobs. It means coming up with bold schemes to get contracts or find treasures. It means doing deeds for powerful patrons to get hold of better resources. The PCs might even skip the mortgage payments or become pirates. This is all part and parcel of the implied environment of the game fostered by the rules themselves.

No interpretation of the rules demands that trade in the implied section of space created by the rules works efficiently. In fact, if one looks at the expectations of the rules one finds the opposite.



Please note there is a discussion of these ideas taking place in the comments. Make sure to check them out. The points you want to make might already be under discussion!

TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–Making a Character, Playing to Find Out

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Obviously, it is possible for a player to generate a character with seemingly unsatisfactory values; nevertheless, each player should use his character as generated.
–Traveller Book 1

I think the Classic Traveller character creation system does a lot of other neat tricks that I discuss in this post. (It teaches the mechanics of the game (the 2D6 bell curve, DMs for rolls based on characteristics, the honest risk of death (which is how I play) in pursuit of what you want, the basics of suboptimal choices (“Do I call it quits after one term? Or risk death?”) which in many ways is baked into the implied setting, working with the hand you are dealt (choosing the career based on potential characteristic DMs.)

And let us remember as well, it doesn’t happen that often. Odds are good (especially with DMs) that characters will make it alive through terms. The risk is there.

But for me, just as important, is that the roleplaying begins here. In the rules rolling up those six characteristics is called “Initial Character Generation.” Those six die rolls are the character creation process. Once you have those six characteristics written down on a scrap of paper the game begins.

Notice the phrasing here from Book 1 (emphasis added):

A newly generated character is singularly unequipped to deal with the adventuring world, having neither the expertise nor the experience necessary for the active life. In order to acquire some experience, it is possible to enlist in a service.

The rules make it clear that entering a service is, in fact, optional. You could. You might not. Your choice in these matters is part of play. Character creation is already over. You are playing right now.

Of course you’re going to try to get into a service . You want those skills.* And so you try to enter a service. But still, it is a choice. Your character’s life is underway. His life of risk has started. We are learning who is he as we play out his life.

And this is the fascinating thing. As we do this process, we build a character.

Is my guy the kind of guy who chose to leave after two terms? Got kicked out? Pushed his luck and went for a fourth or fifth term voluntarily? Wanted to get out but got drafted?

These questions, along with “Why did my guy never get promoted?” “What the hell happened during his service to make him so skilled in Blade combat?” and more, along the with answers the Player creates, add up to define character even before “play” begins. (My thesis is play begins the minute you pick up the blank character sheet, btw. Make of that what you want.)

But the biggest of these questions is the relationship the character had with a dangerous career. Why did he stay? For how long? Why? Why did he get out?

Given that all of the original Traveller characters would be characters heading off onto worlds remote from the centralized government they once served, their relationship with risk, danger, and death is part and parcel to getting a hold on them.

For all the reasons listed above, I love the Classic Traveller character system and its risk of death.


Significantly, the Classic Traveller character generation system really isn’t set up for the Player who wants a specific kind of character type. The system is designed more about the “play the cards your dealt” in which the Player rolls characteristics and then makes decisions about how much he’s willing to risk to get an soldier from the Army (if that’s what he wants) even though he’s got characteristics that are better suited for the Merchant Marines.

The game wasn’t designed for the Player to always get what he wants. You make your six characteristic rolls and then you decide where his best odds are in a system full of suboptimal choices. (A character might have better odds of survival in one career, but his odds of promotion will be lower; while his odds of promotion might be better in another career, but the odds of survival lower. The Player has to weight these DMs and odds, and then make a choice and see how it goes.)


You can also put him in a service that you think will kill him, be surprised when he survives, musters out with some interesting skills, and wonder “Who is this guy?”

And then follow him into play to find out what will happen and how he’ll conduct himself in order to survive while pursuing wealth and power on the fringes of society.

How he will conduct himself will, by definition, provide interesting roleplaying and memorable moments that can’t be gained by simply plowing through circumstances with an average and powered up PC.

The game was built to provide a range of kinds of characters, inspiring roleplay through both strengths and weaknesses. Again, Classic Traveller is built on a “play the hand you are dealt philosophy.” Let us say you roll up characteristics of 222222. Your guy, until he dies, has characteristics of 222222. Okay, now what are you going to do with that?

The answer to that question is part of what Classic Traveller is about.



* A Note: First, one could bypass the services, start at 18, and use the Experience rules to train in two weapons (a blade and firearm). It’s possible!

And hers is another thing I never see people do, but the rules would allow. You blow off enlistment and seek a Psionics Institute. This would allow better odds for more power and versatility in psionics than one would get at a later age. By using the Experience rules, one could choose two weapons (blade and firearm) and have them at an expertise of 1. Not something most people are going to do. But I think it’s worth noting!

TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–A Subsector Map and a Cluster

A Subsector Map:

FullSizeRender-10The lines between worlds are charted space lanes generated with the 1977 rules. These are navigational routes allowing a starship to travel safely from one system to another without the Generate program. The charts are encoded on self-erasing cassettes that can be purchased from starports within jump range of the destination world.

A charted space lane does not guarantee regular traffic. Only that the route is traveled enough, and the information updated frequently enough, to make it safe to travel there without the Generate program.

You’ll notice I erased a few of the lanes. This is in part to clean up the map. If there is a route that extends from A port to a B port and the B port connects to a C port, one can assume there is a route from the A port to the C port without having to directly connect the A to C port.

The other reason is that I’m still futzing with the subsector and deciding about how many worlds in that lower right corner already have space lanes routes. I’m pretty sure that the B starport world in 0708 will still connect to the E starport world in 0709. But many of those fainter lines will take a bit of work on the part of the players to reach them. They’ll have to scrape together enough money to get the Generate program, or charter a flight, and so on.

Notice that the two worlds with E-class starports next to 0708 do not have gas giants. The 1977 rules require gas giants for skimming unrefined fuel. This means that if one arrives in jump-1 ship one cannot leave again unless one carries extra fuel in the hold. Other methods of reaching these worlds and returning involve chartering ships, working one’s way up to a jump-2 ship (and using half the fuel one way and half the fuel the other way.) In short, these two worlds will really not have been visited much, offering a terrific sense of “journeying into the unknown” — which is very much the feel I want to offer to the Players.

I’ll be focusing on a cluster of star systems at first:

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Six worlds, one of them being a high tech level world with an A-class starport.

From these worlds a series of lesser starport worlds trail off to the lower corner. And then we can head to another A-class starport in the other direction. But generating enough details for these first six worlds will be enough to get me going.

The subsector is beyond the edge of the empire the characters have come from. If they have a Scout ship or Free Trader then they have sailed that ship a great distance to arrive at this section of space.

The subsector is not ruled by any  central government; it has no shared culture; the worlds are culturally and technologically isolated . Trade is sparse, though a few world governments and charter companies do have ships established for trade between a few key worlds. Not many ships ply the darkness between worlds.

Per the 1977 Ship Encounter rules pirates and government ships cluster around A and B starports. The D and E starports see little if any trade. The danger at the these worlds off the beaten path is isolation and the environment itself. Tensions exist between higher tech worlds with A class starports. The conflicts are often fought on other worlds as natural resources become a point of contention. There will be an underground mystical order with psionic powers trying to unseat these powerful governments and instal their faith as the ruling order.

The worlds of the setting will have for the most part an exotic and even archaic spirit and aesthetic to them. The player characters will be from a more “conservative” (cultural, not political) and recognizable society that the Players can easily identify with. I want a sense of each culture being a bit different and unique. The player characters will definitely be “outsiders” finding their way amid these new worlds.

The fictional inspiration points are the E. C. Tubb’s Dumarest books, “The Beyond” from Jack Vance’s Demon Princes books, Frank Herbert’s  Dune with its raw and dangerous environment, as well as movies like The Man Who Would be King, The Wild Bunch, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, which focus on ex-military who head off into conflicts and lands uncivilized to find their fortunes.

Notes for My First Session of My Lamentations of the Flame Princess Campaign

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I just came across the pages shown in this post. This is how my Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign began, with three people I knew, and three others I found off of Meetup.

I started my campaign with a brief adventure called Stranger Storm from the original LotFP Referee Book and the notes pictured above. (You can get the PDF of the LotFP Referee Book for free at RPGNow.)

The Player Characters started on a road, at night. They had each rolled a rumor from the World Rumor Table I made, as well as rumors about meteorites that had fallen to the south a few nights earlier.

They were looking to find the meteorites, but would encounter the situation of Stranger Storm along the way.

The adventure Stranger Storm has no maps. I grabbed some maps from other RPG books to help me out.

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So, I started with:

  1. Rumor Table (which focuses the players, but lets the choose what to do)
  2. Stranger Storm (With a few alterations of the creatures to fit my campaign. Specifically I altered the nature of the Changelings to make them into arcane spies of sorcerers of Carcosa.)
  3. A stack of LotFP adventures that the Rumors on the Rumor Table point to
  4. The notes I have attached in photos
  5. A map of an inn and of a small keep I cribbed from elsewhere (they never went to the keep)

We’ve been playing for over a  year, alternating games on occasion, for a solid six months of play so far.

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