Using Original TRAVELLER Out of the Box–Symera Subsector at Dragon’s Breakfast

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The premise of the Traveller: Out of the Box series is that the original Traveller rules were a framework to allow a Referee to create his or her own settings to share with friends. Here’s an example of this in action:


From the blog Dragon’s Breakfast Chris S. has posted information Symera, a Classic Traveller subsector.

There is more information on the post. But here is a sample:

BACKGROUND

The “Edge of Night” sector includes over 400 star systems and marks the furthest spinward expansion of humanity from The Earth Before. The name refers to “The Night”; a vast of rift of dust and gas, devoid of star systems, and much too wide to cross with existing jump technology. No one knows what lies beyond “The Night”; likewise, many of the sectors’ inhabited systems are largely unknown to those in more civilized space.

The Symera subsector sits near the centre of the sector. Its 32 systems exhibit a technological and population pattern typical of those regions of space devastated by the Nanite Epidemic. The high tech planets tend to be depopulated and struggle to maintain existing technology levels, while lower technology worlds have higher populations, as they were either unaffected by the epidemic and/or absorbed a great number of refugees fleeing it’s devastation. Even 400 years later, this pattern is evident. Although, as always, some individual systems are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Politically, the subsector is roughly divided between a mix of independent systems and the allied worlds of the Triple Concordance (which lies completely within the subsector).  In addition, polities from outside the subsector intrude to trailing (Hegemony of Aeo), while to spinward in the Xiaochen subsector are the worlds of the Technocratic Union.

POLITICS

Hegemony of Aeo
“The Hemegeny has no need for fanaticism; cold practicality and logic will guide us to our destiny.”
— Special Inquisitor Sivara Tizen

In the aftermath of the Fourth Interstellar war, several new and radical polities arose among the shattered remnants of the old republics.  Spinward of the old core of civilized space, the theocratic and militaristic  Hegemony of Aeo became the dominant state. In the century since the rule of “The One” began, the Hegemony has gradually but relentlessly expanded outward, swallowing independent systems and pocket empires alike. The Hegmony first appeared in the Symera subsector 30 years ago, absorbing several independent planets on the trailing border of the subsector. Though not actively expansionistic in the subsector at the moment, it continues to push its influence and policies when prudent.

The Triple Concordance
“From many comes one; though the one must never forget who comes first.”
— Chief Executive Administrator Galvin of Antigone

Faced with the threat of the Hegemony of Aeo to the trailing and the Technocratic Union systems to the spinward, several of the previously independent worlds at the core of the Symera subsector grudgingly accepted cooperation over capitulation. The three most advanced systems  (Rastafar [0207], Tortuga [0506] and Antigone [0606]) initially joined in an alliance, and then dragged in the adjacent  lower tech and less powerful systems to provide resources and buffer zones against the threats surrounding them.  The three founding worlds rule as the Tri-Council, while the other ten systems sit on a General Council which can provide advice and feedback, but has little say in decision making. The Concordance has held up well when there is a clear and immediate threat, but in less hazardous times, relations are shaky and worlds act more in their independent self interest.

Technocratic Union
“Those who rule their technology need not fear it, but may rule by it.”
— Councillor Gaius Ralu

A very loosely confederated group of high technology worlds, the Technocratic Union uses its technological advantages to gain influence over less advanced systems. It is surrounded by a loose network of client systems which gain advantages in high technology and trade from the Union. In the Symera subsector, both Vordenhaven (0104) and Symera (0205) have close ties with the Union.

Notice that three major political players are all in one subsector. Remember that in 1977 edition of Traveller Book 3 the game assumed that one subsector would be enough to keep a game going for months, if not years. (The term “sector” does not appear at all in the 1977 rules.)

Is this true? Well, looking at the power struggle sketched in just a few paragraphs it seems to me that countless schemes and conflicts are already in motion–plenty of grist for any RPG session. The first few sessions, if not months of play, could take place on one to three worlds depending on what the Player Characters focus on.

Moreover, look at the clever conceit Chris has concocted for the subsector: The Nanite Epidemic. As the text says, “The high tech planets tend to be depopulated and struggle to maintain existing technology levels, while lower technology worlds have higher populations.” This offers unexpected situations, needs, and conflicts in the Symera subsector. He has a central conceit tied to a past that could possibly be a threat in the future. (I honestly don’t know.) But it feels like something science-fiction-y is going on here.

As the high tech worlds struggle to regain power they possessed pre-Epidemic, it seems to me there will be deep motives for lots of conflict and adventure. Even in one subsector with 32 worlds there is going to be plenty for the Player Characters to do!

Remember, you don’t need a whole empire’s worth of material to engage Players in game of Classic Traveller. Build an interesting subsector worth digging into and they’ll have a fine time right there.

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Fallen World Campaign [LotFP]–Twenty-Fourth Session

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We picked up the game with the Player Characters leaving earth via a magical ship and heading off the shore of the Qelong Valley on an alternate earth. As the approached the city of Qompang on the mouth of the Qelong River they saw other three masted ships, each flying flags of nations they knew from Europe.

But each flag was slightly altered: The flag of England, for example, had the red cross on white field that they knew, but in its center was the silhouette of a knight jamming a lance though the neck of a dragon. The flag of France had the flowers on a field of blue, but each appears to be in a crystal ball. The flag of the Holy Roman empire showed the double-headed eagle, but its talons held a bleeding serpent.

They anchored in Qelong Bay and took one squad of ten men (out of their company of ten squads) by rowboat to investigate the city. They saw fisherman around them in sampans, men and women of dark to peach colored skin, and saw before them the city was built of stonework with spires and odd towers. The Southeastern feel of the land came quickly into focus.

They arrived at the Factory — the section of town controlled by European merchants — and began doing research in the town, looking for clues about the valley beyond the city walls.

They befriended several merchants (one from Germany, one from France) as well as an Elf who had joined the French entourage. (The elves of this world live apart from men… but a few are curious about the way of humankind, adopt their customs, and live among them).

The elf gave them a look to suggest he knew they were more than travelers from Europe and might suspect they were from another world. He later confronted them, not out of aggression but from curiosity, and they exchanged a few theories about the nature of alternate realities. (Whether or not he has another agenda regarding them, the Lamplighters (which is what the Player Characters call themselves) do not know.)

They also explored the overcrowd city beyond the walls of the Factory. Ending up in a teahouse they met a slave in her early twenties who had one of her hands cut cleanly off a few years earlier. (All of this was clear from observing the stump.) They wanted to talk to her about it, but she said she could not. So they bought her from her owner, and she joined the group. She explained that sometimes, out in the Qelong Valley, people can get sick and the only way to stop the sickness from spreading is to cut off the left hand.

As they encountered and spoke with NPCs I rolled on the rumor table included in the Qelong book and they learned about The Mine of the Elephant, the fact that the land seems to be poisoned (from the slave, for example), that another wizard was looking for the same canister they were looking for, that the capital city of Xam had not been heard from for decades, and that a company of mercenaries from the lands of the Holy Roman Empire had taken over a town up river.

This led to a discussion between the Players about what options to pursue.

Armed with this information they headed out on a riverboat, traveling up the Qelong River to investigate the mercenaries. Their slave traveled with them along with a German who had been up and down the river for years and would serve as a guide.

Using Original TRAVELLER Out of the Box — Rick Stump’s The Clash of Stars

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The premise of the Traveller: Out of the Box series is that the original Traveller rules were a framework to allow a Referee to create his or her own settings to share with friends. Here’s an example of this in action:


Classic Traveller Campaign the Clash of Stars: Setting Details

Over at Don’t Split the Party Rick Stump is setting up a setting for play with the Classic Traveller rules.

Here are notes on the general setting. A sample:

General Setting

  • The Terran Confederation is so long collapsed no one in the sectors of space near the game setting is certain in which *direction* Man’s homeworld may be found.
  • No intelligent aliens, at all.
  • 80% or so of inhabited worlds are ‘stand alone’ and have no interstellar government
  • Interstellar trade is almost ubiquitous and mainly of three sorts
    • run by local planets out 1-3 parsecs
    • trade guilds and co-ops on runs between 3-8 worlds
    • independent freighters running either their own routes or wandering about
  • General tech level for independent worlds  is 7-9 with 9 a pretty hard ceiling and 7 a soft floor
  • There are scattered interstellar nations of 2-7 inhabited worlds. Almost all are Tech 9
    Although most planets have a Dorsai universe median (meaning that while some worlds are heavy into farming, others into manufacturing, some into arts and soft science, etc. they all are still close enough to each other culturally for it to not interfere with communications and trade) some worlds have gotten very strange.

Then Player Characters will start in the Lanxing Comity…

… an alliance of 3 inhabited worlds all within Jump 1 of each other. The worlds have a mixed Chinese/Spanish heritage with a relatively strong class structure and their economy and culture based upon a Manorial system. The blending of Catholic religion and Confucian social ideas led to them weathering the long centuries the Cycles of Collapse with a strong social cohesion, positive outlook, and a commitment to charity and justice.

This post drills down into greater detail about the Lanxing Comity:

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The Lanxing Comity
The Lanxing Comity is centered around 3 worlds that all have TL9 and the capacity to build and maintain FTL craft. These planets are ruled by a single King (Catalan) and a web of nobles spread over the 14 worlds of the Comity. Alongside the nobility is the Interstellar Bureaucracy which ensures that the far-flung worlds run smoothly despite such things as communications lag, death of a noble, invasion, etc.

Beyond the Comity is the Twelve Moons Trade Cooperative that operates among 5 TL6-TL8 planets nearby and uses their wealth to purchase FTL craft from the Comity (and have them repaired). The various worlds of the TMTC have a variety of governments and cultures, have no truly coherent “outside diplomacy”, but act as a trading bloc.

There are also independent worlds beyond the Comity and outside the TMTC. TL4-TL8 with a wide range of governments and cultures the ones closest to the Comity often have trade with independent merchants from the Comity.

Lanxing Itself
The core worlds of Catalan, Biscay, and Fujian appear to have originally been settled by groups intent on ‘recreation’, a term for those elements of the Terran Diaspora that wanted to emulate specific periods of Terran history and territory in space. In this case, Late Medieval Spain, the Spain of the Age of Sail, and a stylized Classical China. The interaction of these three forces over time developed into the Lanxing Comity.

The primary language is Spatha which is Spanish with a number of Mandarin loan words (pronounced in the Spanish manner). The primary religion is Catholic (using Ecclesial Latin), although a number of Chinese holidays are secular festivals. The currency is the real.

The government is feudal technocratic with a blending of Spanish nobility, Imperial Chinese bureaucracy, and European civil service.

People use Spanish conventions for personal names with a tradition of “translating” non-Spanish names into Spanish (Rob Roy would become Roberto Rojo or even Roberto Ruiz; Tom Swift would become Tomas Vencejo; etc.). Initial introductions tend to use the full name so that if you met Tom Swift for the first time he would introduce himself as ‘Tomas Alberto Vencejo y Nestor’.

Through religious traditions almost all adults have 2 given names – one granted at birth and a second at confirmation. By cultural tradition a person receives more given names as their social status increases beyond a certain point so for each level of SOC above 8 the character will have an additional name (increases to SOC as an adult do not count!) so a character that begins with a SOC score of A will have 4 given names (their ‘first name’ plus 2 given names for social status, plus a Confirmation. There is also a tradition of using the names and titles of Saints as given names leading to people of high status among the Lanxing Comity having names that appear stunningly long to people used to Anglo-saxon names, such as ‘Pedro Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Rodriguez’.

Rick then breaks down the noble structure in the Comity.

Nobles
Following the ranking scheme of traditional Spanish nobility there are both titles or nobility and the three levels of Grandes de Lanxing, or Grandees.

The titles and their SOCs:
Don/Dona*………………..SOC 9 +
Senor/Senora**………..SOC B

Baron/Baronesa***….SOC C
Conde/Condesa………..SOC D
Marques/Marquesa…SOC E
Duque/Duquesa……….SOC F

*’Don’ or ‘Dona’ can be applied as an honorific to anyone above SOC 8 except the royal family.
** While courteously applied to almost everyone as titles of nobility roughly equal to ‘Lord’ in English they are not omitted when speaking to nobles.
***The titles of Vizconde/Vizcondesa are usually (but not always) used by the children of Condes and above and are equivalent to Baron in precedence.

The levels of Grandee are simply third (lowest) through first (highest). Only about 60% of Lanxing nobles are also Grandees; of Grandees 70% are Third rank, 25% are Second rank and only 5% are First rank.

Within levels of Grandees (none, third, etc.) noble rank determines authority but levels of Grandee are more important. For example, Duque de la Cruz has no grandee rank, Conde Ruiz is of Third rank, Baron Rodriguez is of Second rank, and Senor (the lowest rank that can be a Grandee) Diego is of First rank.  In social precedence (seating, introductions, entrance into a room, who bows to whom, etc.) de la Cruz is top. But in matters of political and military decision making Senor Diego has the greatest level of authority.

Not only am I fond of this in Real Life it really works with Traveller, doesn’t it?

“Bob, my character started with a SOC of C and I got a +1 from service and another +1 from mustering out, so I am a Count. Shouldn’t I be rich and rule, like, a solar system?”

“Frank, you have a high SOC but you aren’t a grandee. So you get invited to all the parties, the end.”

On a related note, in my campaign if a character with a high SOC score takes the Noble profession and gets a Promotion (pretty rare) if they are already SOC B or better they can shoose to stay the same SOC but become a Grandee!!

And then Rick goes into more details about the function of government in the setting.

Bureaucrats
The Lanxing Bureaucracy originated in the recreated Confucian bureaucracy of the founders of Fujian modified by their exposure to European and other civil services. Entrance into the lower levels of the bureaucracy are based upon education and performance on standardized entrance exams. Promotion is based on passing more advanced exams, performance evaluations, and job performance. The Bureaucracy is a complex maze of departments, committees, boards, projects, and independent managers and overseers with an interplay of jurisdiction, precedence, rank, and mandates that makes the complexity of noble and Grandee titles appear dead simple.

How Governance Works
The King has ultimate authority, although this is rather limited by tradition. The Stellar Navy and the standing Army answer only to the King, for example, while local militias are raised by Nobles. Grandees control specific territory and are responsible for administering those territories in accordance with Royal Law but can also pass their own territorial laws if they do no clash with Royal Law.  Local police report to the local grandee but each police force has a senior officer (usually not the commander) appointed by the King in charge of oversight. Tax collection, regulatory enforcement, etc. are all also local with one or two royal appointees as oversight.

The Bureaucracy has three levels; local, regional, and royal. Each department monitors for graft, corruption, criminal activity, gross incompetence, etc. Grandees have a senior Bureaucrat appointed to their staff that exists to both provide advice on things like royal law and regulatory compliance and to watch for corruption and treason.

Other departments of the Bureaucracy watch the Bureaucracy itself for collusion, corruption, graft, etc. and those departments are, in turn, monitored by Grandees appointed specifically to check the power of the Bureaucracy.

In order to prevent this from turning into a massive war of intelligence agencies and secret police the ultimate authority (the King and Royal Family, the Royal Guard, and the Royal Advisors, collectively called the Crown) have two strict policies in place; transparency and transition.   Transparency means that the results of all investigations must be made public, no transaction that do not involve Intelligence can be kept from the public, and that the jurisdiction, background, etc. of all Bureaucrats be accessible. There are exceptions for undercover work, intelligence agents, etc. but these have their own oversight.

Transition means that no bureaucrat can remain in a particular position for too long. The average tenure is 3 years but can be as short at 4 months but no longer than 5 years. Bureaucrats are generally prohibited from working on their hometowns/districts, with family members, etc., and usually do not work with the same team more than once. Bureaucrat Tom, currently in charge of oversight on Joe, may find himself working for, or under oversight by, Joe in just a year or two. Combined transparency and transition are meant to prevent the creation of ‘bureaucratic fiefdoms’ and networks of influence.

Lastly, all payroll costs of the Bureaucracy are paid directly from only the King’s accounts, meaning the more Bureaucrats the bigger the personal expense to the King. At the same time, the King is usually held responsible for graft and corruption among his subordinates. As a result the King is very invested in making sure the Bureaucracy is as small, agile, and efficient as possible while still eradicating graft and corruption.

With Grandees performing local leadership and the Bureaucracy providing oversight the Comity functions fairly smoothly despite having an administrative class only a fraction the size of those familiar with 21st Century Europe.

Trade and Diplomacy
To Lanxing trade and diplomacy are intimately connect to each other and to the nobility. Members of the diplomatic corps are often of high social status, even including non-Grandee nobles. Trade from outside the Comity usually faces stiff tariffs and other customs fees but with sponsorship by a grandee or the Crown these fees can be reduced significantly. Since non-Grandee nobles are themselves subject to reduced customs fees a fair number of them go into interstellar trade. Also, very successful merchants can be elevated to the nobility because of the wealth their trade brings to the Comity.

Some nobles (usually not Grandees) also use their wealth, personal training, etc. to work for the Crown as unofficial diplomats (this is a fair amount of the Noble profession) within and without the Comity. They may travel with merchants, in their own yachts, as leader of a small mercenary company, or otherwise as they ‘Tour’ outside the Comity, but their underlying goal is to improve the reputation of the Comity and its King. A nobleman with his own merchant ship may very well be pursuing the multiple goals of corporate commerce, interstellar diplomacy, personal wealth, and family advancement all at once.

Culturally and politically the Comity is dedicated to service. While their trade with nearby systems does seek overall profit to the Comity and the Crown diplomats, nobles, and even merchants also strive to help the sick, the poor, and the lost wherever they go.

Please note that all of the above is for only a section of the subsector mapped above! Other portions of the subsector will have their own cultures and governments.

I quoted the description of the Lanxing Comity at length to make two points:

First, look at how Rick has made is own setting. He is clearly using the Classic Traveller rules, but he is working from the rules to make his own setting. Which is exactly what the Classic Traveller rules are there to do: help you to create a cool setting you wanted to share with your friends. (Or, in Rick’s case, his sons.)

Second, one of the things I really liked about what he’s posted is his section on nobility. Keep in mind that if you look on line you’ll find lots of people dithering about the Social Status rules in Classic Traveller and saying, “Oh, my gosh, the rules don’t tell me what Social Status means!”

But Rick doesn’t do that. Instead, he looked at the rules, saw there was a thing called Social Status, and said, “Oh, there’s a thing called Social Status and I get to decide that that’s going to mean for my setting.”

And, again, I believe that’s what the Classic Traveller rules were designed to do! The three original Traveller Books (1, 2, and 3) offer a collection of “playing pieces” the Referee gets to pick up and use as he sees fit to build the kind of environment he wants to share with his friends.

The same holds true, in my view, of how to define the various definition of government type, what jumpspace is, what psionic powers are, exactly how the Traveller Aid Society works. All if it is mentioned in passing in the rules, but grist for the mill for any Referee to use as he sees fit for his or her setting.

When I asked Rick about this he replied:

Yeah! I remember when I joined the Traveller Mailing List about 20 years ago and there was a long argument about “What does Feudal technocracy’ mean?” And all I could think was “Make it up, change it, remove it, or whatever, why the fighting?”

Exactly.

Using Original TRAVELLER Out of the Box — E. Tage Larsen’s Alien Legion Inspired Setting

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The premise of the Traveller: Out of the Box series is that the original Traveller rules were a framework to allow a Referee to create his or her own settings to share with friends. Here’s an example of this in action:


Over at G+ E. Tage Larsen wrote up some notes about a Traveller game he ran. The picture above shows a collection of items and notes he used for the game.

He wrote:

Reffed my first Traveller (in a few decades) game on Saturday night and had a great time! Used my own universe, rolled up a subsector, stuck to the ’77 books and went with an ‘Alien Legion’ comic book theme.

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For those of you note familiar with Alien Legion, here’s a description from Wikipedia:

“The original concept was the ‘Foreign Legion in space’ and all the legionnaires were human. … Then I created the humanoid/serpentine design that later became Sarigar and decided that the Legion should include a wide variety of species. This was in the early ’70s. By the time I got around to developing the idea further in the early ’80s, Star Wars obviously became an influence. The Alien Legion universe is a giant extrapolation of the American democratic melting-pot society where different races and cultures work together for the common good while dealing with the pluses and problems that the nation’s diversity creates.”[1]

Larsen continues…

I had the players all roll from “The Metamorphica” to create aliens. The +Johnstone Metzger book is wonderful and I’d been itchign to use it. It’s pricey though even on sale at Lulu. I almost went with the generative tables from Maze Rats which would have worked really well too. Also, tons of love on this coast for the TRAVELLER: Out of the Box Weapon Cards… I’m not the only one. I almost flagged you in this post but wanted to keep the fan boy to a minimum.

The Metzger book is enormous. So, first i had to sort of put the brakes on the tables and decide how much stuff i wanted to leak into play. I settled on letting them roll if they were mutations or more animal type creatures. Gave each player two body mutations and I think one additional physical and mental modifiier. I was running an additional Corruption mechanic that modified the Saves so they could buy into addl mutations for added Corruption.

The Metamorphica can be used in countless ways, but Larsen used it to build out aliens from countless species. Here is a sample table…

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And here is a couple of tables devoted specifically creating aliens…

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You can find a thorough video review of The Metamorphica here.

Larsen continues…

Character 1 rolled up: Birthmark, Bug Eyes, Super Charisma. Character 2: Big; Gaseous; Long legs: Multiple Personalities. Character Three: One eye; Cilia; speech impediment.

These were all friends and hardcore Story Gamers for a one-shot. Mostly we just used the Alien factor for color. Though the gaseous form and multiple personalities of Character 2 had a lot of show time. If I’d been doing a campaign or thought this through better, I’d have given them some sort of auto-success or something 1x per game on their powers. One time the charisma came up and I gave the player a dice modifier but it wasn’t a very successful resolution.

The second character had no problem losing the final conflict and narrated losing a contest as getting a hole in his vacc suit and his gaseous form being vented out into space.

Larsen pulled his game together using G+’s RPG Roulette.

So, in the tradition of the early days of the hobby, Larsen started with the kind of setting he wanted, then kit-bashed the rules to create rules that would support what he wanted. He didn’t limit himself to Traveller Books 1, 2, and 3, but grabbed material that was even outside the Traveller line to help inspire and support the kind of setting he wanted.

 

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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– Or –
The Characters Finally Head Off to Qelong

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…

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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The Sandbox vs the Railroad… or Spontaneous Story Creation vs. Pre-Plotted Story

Elsewhere I’ve talked about the casual, improvisational nature of early Traveller play, the value of random rolls and random encounters in Old School play, and what we mean by “encounters” in Old School play.

I’ve also touched on how the nature of modules and adventure design changed from the early days of the hobby to what publishers produces in the 1990s. (In short, adventures were once more situational and lightly sketched (as in the early Classic Traveller Adventures) and later became more focused on pre-plotted stories (The Traveller Adventure, the Dragonlance modules). In the first random rolls and random encounters are the Referee’s friend because they offer more opportunity for the Players to make choices and create more adventure material on the fly. In the second they random encounters are a problem because they distract players from “what the story is supposed to be.”

Someone pointed me to this lovely video which does a bang-up job of giving examples of two different kinds of play. In one campaign found as the Referee responses to the interests and desires of the Players and makes up material as needed. In the other the Referee knows exactly how he wants things to go and forces the Players along certain paths to make sure the story is awesome.

I really think it is worth a look…