Classic Traveller: Making a World from the Universal World Profile

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After playing around with Classic Traveller’s system for generating Main Worlds and subsectors, I have decided to add the Tags system from Stars Without Numbers as part of the process.

Here’s why:

I think the Classic Traveller Main World generation system is compelling as all hell. It offers the Referee a tool to make him go… “Hmmm… what crazy-SF-themed thing is going on here to justify these numbers?”

The weakness in it, if it is one, is that it might suggest to people, “Roll up these numbers, slap on some obvious high-tech explanation for any obvious inconsistencies, and you’re done.”

But I think that’s doing the system a disservice. The trap is that, like the Original Dungeons & Dragons rules before it, at the time of the game’s publication the game assumed that people who would pick up a game about “Science-Fiction Adventure in the Far Future” would be deeply read in the science fiction stories preceding the game’s publication.

If we turn to the stories that inspired Marc Miller when he was writing Traveller we find the works of E.C. Tubb, Jack Vance, Poul Anderson, Jerry Pournelle, H. Beam Piper, Andre Norton, and others. And in these tales we find that the worlds and SF premises of countless worlds that would be considered outlandish by the standards of today’s science-fiction.

I bring all this up to say, if one roll up the UWP numbers, slap on some obvious high-tech explanation for any obvious inconsistencies, and call it done, one is missing the next step… which is to create the weird, the unexpected, the spectacular, the strange, the exotic, and the unique worlds that would be at home in the science-fiction tales and novels from the 40s through the mid-70s. These are the qualities that these stories from the 40s, 50s, 60s, and early 70s traded in.

The problem is that the Classic Traveller Main World generation system doesn’t necessarily lead to the qualities. It is presumed. But if one assume the underlying quality of the setting is being “realistic” or “hard SF” one can easily iron out these presumed qualities. And if one hasn’t read the books that inspired the game, or even know about them, it might seem that the string of numbers is enough. (One might even be confused as to why the randomly rolled values are so strange!) But it isn’t. The string of numbers is a jumping off point for creating a world.

Later Classic Traveller material, as well as later editions of Traveller, would drill down deeper into astronomical detail when generating world and systems. I would offer this is the wrong direction — at least the wrong direct from the original concept of the game. (If that’s the sort of game the Referee wants AWESOME! I am simply talking about the core conceits and purpose of the game as originally written.)

Marc Miller was not only an Army Captain but also got a B.A. in Sociology. Combined with the compelling conceits about countless societies found in the books by Tubb, Piper, Vance, Bester, Norton, Anderson, Pournelle, and all the other SF authors that inspired Classic Traveller, a compelling case can be made that the focus of the game is not actually Hard SF and astronomical detail, but rather all the interesting cultures and societies the characters the Player Characters get to encounter, puzzle out, and interact with.

Certainly that’s the argument I’m making in this post.

So if we roll up a string of numbers that give us facts about a world, do we necessarily end up with compelling societies and cultures for the player character travellers to interact with? Not necessarily.

The strength of adding the Tags from Stars Without Numbers into the mix is that it immediately colors the world being created with culture, society, factions, conflicts, and NPCs. It encourages the Referee to make something extraordinary that the Player Characters can encounter and interact that is new and fresh and unexpected.

Recently I started nailing down a subsector of my own.  I rolled up the locations of the worlds in the subsector, their respective spaceport types, and the space lanes from the 1977 rules. I made notes for the kind of setting I wanted for the subsector.

Then I chose a cluster of stars for the beginning of a campaign. (For a variety of reasons I like to “Star Small” when working up a subsector. Here on some thoughts on that.) From that cluster I picked the first wold I would begin with: the world in the middle of the cluster with an A class starport. This is where the PCs would begin.

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For that world I rolled a UWP of A-210989-B. So we have a world only 2,000 miles in diameter, with a very thin atmosphere, and a population of billions. “Exactly,” I thought, “how would this work?”

I then thought of an O’Neill Cylinder in orbit around the sun near the planet, which the colony used for mining. But then I realized that an O’Neill Cylinder wouldn’t hold billions. Some quick research and some math told me I would need about 1000 O’Neill Cylinders in orbit to hold the population of the system.

That’s kind of over the top, right? But AWESOME. The image of A THOUSAND O’NEILL CYLINDERS glittering in the sun as a ship approaches would be an astounding sight. And the world itself, small though it is, would be lit up with millions of bright lights as the entire surface of the plane is part of a mining operation that has been going on for a hundred years. Other ships blink in and out of existence as they Jump within the system to gather resources from other worlds within the system.


— Sample Tags from Stars Without Numbers. You roll two Tags to flesh out a world.

I then rolled on the SWN Tags and got Civil War (!) and Restrictive Laws. The Restrictive Laws was an easy fit with the Law Level of 9 that I had already rolled. But the notion of a Civil War raging across these islands in space really caught my imagination. I want the setting to be at the fringes of an ancient, failing interstellar empire. I wanted a noble of the empire to rule the star system. And now I saw that noble’s grasp on the system failing. More importantly, a 1,000 O’Neill Cylinders are fragile. There would be many laws restriction munitions and conflict. The Restrictive Laws would fold neatly into a culture of many rules and customs that keep conflict from spilling out of control and literally tearing the ground out from under the feat of the citizens.

I have no idea yet what the Civil War is about, or whether it has even started. But already I have conflict and action coming to bear in a unique culture driven by the SF details of the setting. This also all works within the Government Type: A Civil Service Bureaucracy mired in tradition. I’m seeing lots of robes with bright colors and elegant patterns that denote one’s station in the hierarchy. The institutions of the system keep generating new rules to sustain their sense of power and order even as they fail to see that discord is brewing below their elegant and elaborate customs and laws.

All of this seems worthy of a setting of a story for Vance or Anderson and the other authors listed above. And three things:

  1. I am clearly not taking the UWP literally (which I don’t think is the point of the UWP, so I don’t)
  2. I do want to spend some time figuring out what it means to fight a war amid islands that can shatter and kill millions if things get too hot, so how does one “fight a civil war” in this kind of terrain. But won’t it be awesome to find out?
  3. I’m not worried about it being fully “realistic.” That is, it will need to have a layer of verisimilitude and self-consistency to feel real. But ultimately there will be awesome adventures, action, puzzle solving, and more… all from rolling 9 pairs of dice and discovering images that excited me from those rolls.

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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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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TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–Start Small

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One Planet Can Be a Whole Lot of Adventure

Traveller presents a specific, terrifying possibility for the Referee based on two facts.

The two facts are:

  1. Space is big
  2. The Player Characters can go anywhere

The terrifying possibility is that the Referee will be responsible for creating literally hundreds of worlds before proper play can begin.

I would offer something else: Start small.

“But,” you might say, “space is big. The Third Imperium is big. How can you be playing Traveller if you start with something small?”

Since the Third Imperium is big we’ll use that setting as an example. I’m not saying this is the only way to set up a Traveller setting. But I do think is both efficient and sanity preserving for any Referee who wants to get a game of Traveller up and running.

THE ORIGINAL DESGIN OF THE GAME
Part of the lure of the Official Traveller Universe is its immense size.

It stretches across countless subsectors. Contains 11,000 worlds. Has politics back at the Core as well as on the frontier of the Zhodani borders. There are 16 subsectors in the Spinward Marches alone. It’s vastness and immense scope is part of its glittering appeal.

And yet, I am going to suggest you don’t get lured by all that glitter. The key is to ask, “How much do I need to get going?”

Here is what the 1977 edition of Traveller Book 3 said about the matter:

Initially, one or two sub-sectors should be quite enough for years of adventure (each sub-sector has, on the average, 40 worlds), but ultimately, travellers will venture into unknown areas and additional subsectors will have to be charted.

The text above was written two years before GDW published any material abut the Third Imperium.

Let’s assume for now that the text is valid even if we are setting a game in the Third Imperium. Let’s assume further that the rules and text and the implied setting details of Books 1-3 and why a starting in a setting of limited scope makes perfect sense.

TRAVEL
It is possible to start the game without a ship. Not only might the Players not end up with a character with a ship, but also you as Referee might simply declare that the PCs can’t start with a ship.

There are several good reasons for this. First, getting a ship serves as a terrific carrot for the PCs. They might get one for services rendered on the behalf of a noble, a planetary government, a corporation, and so on after several adventures.

Second, it keeps the movement of the PCs somewhat limited at first. Not because you are forcing them or railroading them into particular situations and trapping them… but simply because in the implied setting of early Traveller makes traveling between the stars a big deal.

For example traveling between the stars is expensive.

If we look at the average expenses per Book 3 we find…
Ordinary Living thus costs Cr4,800 year.
High Living is Cr10,800 per year.

Meanwhile, this is how much it costs per jump to travel…
High Passage: Cr10,000
Middle Passage: Cr8,000
Low Passage: Cr1,000

Most people can’t afford to travel, and for those who do it will each up an incredible amount of the resources. And, again, those travel rates are per jump. If you are planning on traveling three or more jumps then you are spending years of living expenses.

This means that if the PCs don’t have a ship yet and want to travel, they’ll need to earn money on high risk/big payoff adventures. (This is one reason why they’ll want to get a ship of their own!)

Second, the ships available to PCs at first will be Jump-1 ships. This means that even if they can Travel they won’t be able to shoot all over the galaxy at first. Moreover, most ships in Book 2 have jump capabilities of Jump-1, Jump-2, or Jump-3. Even getting across a subsector is a big deal.

Moreover, the quality of fuel limits the ease and safety of travel as well. Ships can only acquire refined fuel at A and B class starports. And those are not that frequent. Unrefined fuel can be skimmed from gas giants. But using unrefined fuel means there is a 3% chance of both drive failures and misjump for each jump. To go too far and too long from the well established A and B-class starports means risking those failures time and time again… and that is not a risk most captains or crews are willing to take.

Which brings us to…

GEOGRAPHY
Once upon a time someone had Traveller Books 1-3 (and maybe Book 4), Supplements 1 (1001 Characters), 2 (Animal Encounters), and 3 (The Spinward Marches)… and that was it. And it was fine. People played the game and it was fun.

In Supplement 3: The Spinward Marches one found several about eight pages worth of text describing the background of the Third Imperium and the sixteen subsectors of the Spinward Marches. I would suggest going smaller than that.

Pick one subsector to start with. Let’s look at the Regina subsector:

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The 1977 edition of Book 3 said one or two subsectors would be enough for years of adventure

Let’s assume, as the book itself suggests, that you start on the world of Regina, where the PCs have gathered and meet after arriving in the Spinward Marches.

Notice that there are several worlds clustered around Regina within Jump-1 of each other. (Other worlds, while nearby, are two parsecs away… out of reach for J-1 ships at 2 parsecs.)

This is by design. The game is built for a Referee to sketch out a subsector and have that subsector be useful for many sessions of play because of the mix of ship types and jump drives available. (The 1977 edition of the rules stated: “Initially, one or two sub-sectors should be quite enough for years of adventure (each sub-sector has, on the average, 40 worlds), but ultimately, travellers will venture into unknown areas and additional subsectors will have to be charted.”)

So I would recommend zooming in on a subsector rather than the whole of the Imperium.

And I would recommend zooming in even further… to Regina and the cluster of worlds around it:

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The Regina Cluster: A Solid Start for Your Traveller Campaign

Imagine this is the map for the start of your campaign.

Notice how this map seems manageable. (As opposed to the map of The Third Imperium.) But see also how much potential is there. Fourteen worlds, all of which can be reached by a Jump-1 ships. Yet traveling from one end to the other (Knorbes to Yori) will take five months… and longer if adventures take place along the way. (And adventures should take place along the way!)

Moreover, the area is full of hotspots: three Amber Zones and one Red Zone.

Still, a single world (let alone fourteen!) can be daunting. Which brings us to…

STARK AND SIMPLE
In Stars Without Numbers* Kevin Crawford suggests that a Referee should never prepare more than he needs for the next session, or if more, only things he’s having fun preparing.

I think that’s a good benchmark. Which means we’ll be doing a lot less prep for the setting than we might at first think we have to.

For example, yes, we need details of politics four our world. But how much politics? After all, I can watch the first season of 24, an adventure-driven tale of a Counter-Terrorism agent trying to protect a Presidential candidate… but I’m going to learn very little about the United States government during those 24 hours of television!

In his article on Planetary Governments in Traveller, Marc Miller wrote this about the interpreting the Government number in a Universal World Profile:

It is important to remember just what purpose the government factor is meant to serve. Traveller players and characters are rarely involved with governments on the international and interplanetary level. That is to say, they do not deal with kings or presidents or heads of state; they deal with individual members of broad government mechanisms , they deal with office holders and employees whose attitudes and actions are shaped by the type of government they serve. As a result, travellers are rarely interested in the upper reaches of government; they want to know what they can expect from the governmental structure at their own level. For example, if a group of travellers were to journey across the United States from coast to coast, they would be interested in the degree of responsiveness they could expect from local governments, in how easy the local court clerk would respond to information requests, or in the degree of difficulty that could be expected in obtaining certain licenses. As they moved through Nebraska, the fact that that state has a unicameral legislature would be of little or no importance….

I think in this quote Miller is warning against becoming obsessed with details beyond the scope of the concerns of the Player Characters. Yes, we want context for our worlds. We want consistency. But those qualities serve our needs for an adventure-driven evening of roleplaying.

Miller later writes in the same article:

For this reason, among others, labels such as monarchy have been eliminated. Calling a government type “monarchy” would conjure up images of a king and his retinue, but still leaves a lot of information unrelated. Within the Traveller system, such a government could be classified as a self-perpetuating oligarchy (hereditary monarchy), representative democracy (constitutional monarchy), feudal technocracy (enlightened feudal monarchy), captive government (puppet monarchy), civil service bureaucracy, or any of several others. The simple term monarchy becomes nonsense when one attempts to apply it to a widespread classification system.

Another reason for the labels that are provided in the government classification system is as an aid to imagination. The unaided imagination of even the most inventive referee can go dry after generating a few simple worlds. Using die rolls to create the individual factors for planets jogs the imagination, forcing the referee to think of rationales for the combinations that occur. The use of too familiar terms (such as monarchy) can stifle imagination by allowing the referee to settle into old lines of thought.

Notice here what Miller is making clear: The UWP system was never meant to be comprehensive as a tool of categorizing a planet. Moreover he is making it clear the UWP is not about the fictional “reality” of a world. Instead, the UWP is a game tool for the Referee to prod his imagination into unexpected results.

The text of Book 3 also makes it clear the Referee should not be beholden to the results of the UWP and, in fact, he should not even bother rolling them up if he knows that a specific world to be.

Extending this logic to the Official Traveller Setting I would offer the following:

Scratch things out. Re-write the UWPs as you see fit. Don’t get trapped by the details as published. If you know what you want don’t let the UWP get in the way. Come up with what you can’t wait to share with your players and then make your worlds that.

And what do you want? You want details the Player character can interact with.

Which bring me to…

PLAYER FACING

I think of the term “Player Facing” when I’m thinking about this stuff. Player Facing is all the stuff (the places, the objects, the people, the organizations) the PCs can interact with. The merchant who wants them dead. The secret organization that is trying to steal the thingamabob. The patron who wants them to find his daughter.

Think about the images and factions and characters you want to present to the Players. (Remember what I wrote about using index cards in a previous post.) Make the images and ideas bold and strong. Make them things that the PCs can interact with.

This city has clothing woven by strange spiders in amazing patterns that glitter as the large red sun sets. The spider factories are at the north end of the city and compete in an annual festival. There’s an industrial haze in the distance where massive mining vehicles cut their way across the landscape and often stop as troops battle swarming creatures. At night the prayers of the religious faithful echo across the city’s towers — sung by members of religious people who settled here centuries ago and are now a smaller and smaller percentage of the population and seem are rumored to be growing in anger at their loss of power.

Okay. I have enough there to make things happen. All of that is stuff the Player Characters can interact with.

Do something like that for fourteen worlds and you’re good to go.

THE SETTING AND THE SETTING OF PLAY
In a post called The Setting and the Setting of Play I wrote in part:

I have two phrases I use for Traveller now:

The Setting and The Setting of Play.

The “Setting” might involve an 11,000-world empire that has existed a thousand years. But none of that matters.

What matters is “the Setting of Play” — where the PCs are, where the game is set.

The “Setting” involves all the things that happen “back that way,” toward the remote, centralized government the Player Characters came from.

The “Setting of Play” is the focus of the campaign, especially at the start of play. The Setting of Play might expand. But no matter what remains focused on the locals the Player Characters might adventure in.

An example:

Tolkien’s Middle-earth is a whole world, with many peoples and many lands. That is “The Setting.”

But in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings we see only see a portion of that world. That portion that we see is “The Setting of Play.”

So yes, the Third Imperium extends in all directions from the Regina system. But where we will be playing, are those fourteen worlds. That is our setting of play.

We might well move beyond those fourteen worlds. But with those fourteen worlds we can get going with the game. We will have weeks (if not months) within those closer of worlds. We’ll get our sea legs for the game. We’ll come to understand what the Players want to pursue, which in turn will let the Referee set out opportunities and obstacles in alignment with those interests.

And how do we help stay focused on those fourteen worlds at the start of the campaign?

PATRONS AND RUMORS
The original Traveller rules contain rules for Patrons. As the rules state “When a band of adventurers meets an appropriate patron, they have a person who can give them direction in their activities, and who can reward them for success.”

Patrons also focus the attention of the Players on star systems that you want them focused on. That is, when a Patron approaches the Player Characters with a job, that job will be on one of the worlds in the zoomed in section of space you have decided to start in. In our example, the first dozen or so Patrons will have work on Regina or the thirteen nearby system.

Remember, this isn’t railroading the Players. The Players can always refuse a job. It’s simply that because the Player Characters are starting on Regina, most of the jobs they find on Regina or the surrounding worlds will involve Regina and the surrounding system. After all, most people on Regina or the surrounding systems will have concerns on these worlds. (Remember: most people apart from Travellers don’t travel between worlds that often. The things a Patron cares about (a loved one, a business venture, an enemy, a political complication and so on) will usually be on the same world he or she is standing on, or a few systems away at most.)

Second, we have the option of Rumor Tables.

Here is a Rumor Table from The Traveller Book.

The idea is that each Letter corresponds to a specific Rumor you have established for specific worlds, or for a general cluster of stars, or the subsector you are starting in.

I give each character starting play one randomly rolled rumor. And if the party spends a week on a planet trying to find rumors, another (single) roll is made.

Rumors feed the Players things you are already interested in (the Rumors, of course, lead to situations, NPCs, and places you already care about and what the PCs to encounter). But more importantly they give the Players focus and choice (just like Patrons).

Here is the big thing about Rumors:

A large sandbox like Traveller can be overwhelming–even if we are focusing on only fourteen worlds at the beginning.

When the Players are told in the first minutes of play “You have arrived on Regina…” they have no clear direction and not enough information at the start to make any valid choices.

By giving the Players a selection of Rumors about the planets and systems off the bat, you are offering them a selection of items to prioritize and pursue as they wish. You are winnowing down the massive amount of possible pursuits (that they don’t even know about yet!) into something they can mull and manage.

Moreover, your Rumors can create mystery and agendas. If the Rumors don’t just provide facts, but tantalize with being somewhat incomplete, it can lure the Players toward those things because they want to know more.

All of this is great stuff as it tells you what (off the list you created) they are most interested in, and thus what you should begin prepping as a priority. In other words, from the list you offer, what do they care about? What do they want to pursue? What intrigues them?

Instead of you trying to jam them into one scenario or another, or having NPCs rushing upon to them with missions, the PCs are now in the driver’s seat. There’s no railroading, just opportunities. (The Players are free to blow off the Rumors as they wish!)

Here’s an example of the rumor table I used to kick of the fantasy game I’m running. Not only did it establish lots of mysteries and intrigue for the Players to pursue, it also did a lot to establish the kind of setting we’re playing in.

Rumors will inform the PCs/Players as to what the political situation is, who the players are, what the mysteries that people talk about on their down time. The Rumor Table is the buzz of “what everyone is talking about” and so can establish the setting without a huge info dump on the Players.

  • Remember that the mechanics and implied setting details are your friend. They limit the mobility of the PCs at the start of play.
  • Feel free to focus in on one patch of geography of a cluster of worlds rather than thinking you are responsible for mastering all sort of information scattered across countless books written over forty years.
  • Focus on what you need to play: The people, places, organization, creatures, environments that you can’t wait to share with your players that the PCs can interact with.
  • Make it yours. The early materials of Classic Traveller were there for you to have a good time with as you made them your own. You own nothing to the setting. The setting material is there for you.
  • Use Patrons and Rumors to impart information to the Players about the setting without depending on huge info dumps, as well to as to keep the Players and adventures focused on this patch of space you are ready to play in.
  • Finally, remember a patch of interstellar space seven parsecs across and containing fourteen star system isNOT SMALL.
    Fourteen worlds is fourteen entire worlds, full of society, economics, politics, opportunity and obstacles. And then there might also be mysteries and adventures on other worlds beside the Main Worlds.
    Ultimately, this is a matter of perspective. If you look at a map of the Third Imperium, then fourteen worlds will look small. But if you look at the that map showing Regina the stars clustered around it and really imagine the gulfs of space between those systems and imagine each world as its own stunning spot for adventure, then those fourteen worlds take on a huge significance.
    Found as they are at the edges of the Imperium, they are beyond the reaches of civilization proper. They are, by definition, places of mystery, intrigue, and adventure, with parts not yet expired, societies not yet stabilized, and opportunities still waiting.

* Stars Without Numbers is a sandbox SF game set among the stars and very much like Traveller. The book has really solid Refereeing advice for running sandbox style games. The link above leads to a free PDF version of the game.

 

Der Entdecker: An alternate-reality sailing ship found by the Player Characters in my Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign

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My game is on hiatus right now, allowing me time to sort through some bookkeeping and prep for further adventures.

As noted previously, my players tracked down a sailing ship that can travel between alternate earths. Here’s a writeup for the Players, using the rules from Rules & Magic and the ACKS Guns of War.

I built the sheet above to hand the players so they’ll have a sense of ownership of this piece of equipment. They’ll be tracking supplies and more.

When we left off they had used the ship for the first time, using the ship’s wheel to steer a course for an alternate world where two arch-mages fight a decades long battle and the the peaceful Qelong Valley has been shattered by the fallout.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess Spell Booklets for Clerics and Magic-Users, Levels 1 & 2

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Jeff Rients notes:

One of my few gripes with the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Rules & Magic book is the spell section.  I hate, hate, hate getting all the spells as a single long alphabetical list.  For too long my neural pathways have been charred into a configuration based upon the organization of spells by class and level.

And frankly, I think that the old way of organizing spells was a lot more friendly for newbies.  Imagine playing a cleric for the first time and needing to search through 200 spells to find the ten you have to choose from.

I concur.

A year ago, when I started my LotFP campaign, I thought the same thing. I made spell list pamphlets for my LotFP Players, ready to be printed out as little pamphlets.

Include both 1st and 2nd Level spells. Since Player Characters won’t need 3rd Level Spells until 5th Level, I knew this would mean they’d be useful for several months of play!

LofFP M-U Spell Booklet, Lvl 1&2

LotFP Cleric Spell Booklet Lvl 1&2

They are formatted as A5 pages, but they’ll easily squeeze into a 5.5″x8.5″ sheet for booklet printing.

Free Traveller 5 Deck Plan Set

126973.jpgGame Designer Workshop is offering the Traveller5 Starships & Spacecraft-2 FIVE Deck Plan Set for Free (normal list price is $19.99)

Inspired by Judges Guild’s classic Traveller deck plans: Starships and Spacecraft. This new Deck Plan Pack re-imagines classic Traveller starships and adds new spacecraft and charts to the mix.

Five 22 x 34 inch black and white deck plan sheets for Traveller5 starships:

Scout/Courier, Express Boat, Free Trader, Corvette, and Colonial Cruiser. Sheets are 1:120 scale (1 inch = 10 feet; 1.5 meter square = one-half inch). Colonial Cruiser is 1:180 (1 inch = 15 feet; 1.5 meter square = one-third inch).

Plus, a sixth sheet: the Astrogator’s Starchart of the Spinward Marches: perfect for plotting voyages through the most famous of the Traveller sectors. Map scale is 1: 1,645 quadrillion (one three-quarter inch hex= one parsec).


Also: Welcome new visitors! (Apparently lots of people are stopping by to see this post!)

I thought I’d mention I’ve written a lot of posts in a series called TRAVELLER: Out of the Box.. The premise is simple:

I examine Books 1-3 of the original Traveller rules found in the original boxed set (both the 1977 edition and the 1981 edition) and see what sort of game and play is found within.

This means excluding the later books. It also means no concern for the Third Imperium (which is not mentioned in any way in the first three Books). And it means looking specifically at Books 1-3 and not The Traveller Book or Starter Traveller, which both contain different text than Books 1-3 and which change the nature of the implied setting found in Books 1-3.

If you’re interest, take a look around!

Making Traveller Subsector Maps with the Awesome Poster Maker

For Subsector Maps, use the awesome Poster Maker from The Traveller Map.

By entering data in the proper format you can create lovely, colored subsector (and sector) maps.

Here’s a sample of one I made:


To make it:

1) Go to the linked Poster Maker Page from the awesome The Traveller Map.

2) Use the Header line and the dotted lines I’ve pasted below. (You can also get the header by selecting a subsector from the stored Traveller Map and copying the header from that.)

3) Enter your data, system by system, like the example below. Note that you have to enter the data under each heading, space by space. So, four hex numbers, and then a space, and then the name of the system, and them add spaces (NOT TABS) until you get to the UWP spaces, enter the UWP spaces. (Not every column needs to be entered (for example, Stellar can be left blank) but you must have spaces under for each “column” of space, and dashes where you see dashes.)

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4) You can get a good handle on what the columns/codes mean and what features are available by looking at the Data Categories on this page.

5) You can make Space Lanes using this tool. (The default will be green. If you go inside the coding, you can change the colors up.)

6) When printing it out, you can make it color on black, color on white, black and white, a draft version that looks like the rough notes of the original notes from GDW’s Spinward Marches, and the old FASA. (If you’re only doing one subsector, select subsector A and that will produce that data as the sole subsector).

Like I said, it’s pretty awesome.

As an example of formatting, here is the Data and the Metadata I used in Poster Maker to create the subsector pictured above:

The Data

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The Metadata

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Prepping for my Classic Traveller Convention Game–Weapon Cards

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 2.45.51 PMThis is another post in a series of tools I’m building to make running Classic Traveller easier for me. Although an upcoming convention has put a deadline on these tools, I’ve been meaning to do them for a while as I would use them in any Traveller play.

This third installment is perhaps, for people who really love Classic Traveller, the boldest and most interesting.

As we all know, when attacking with a weapon, one makes a Throw for an 8 or higher on 2D6. This roll is modified by several factors:

  1. The character’s weapon expertise
  2. Modifiers due to the character’s Strength or Dexterity not being high enough to handle the weapon properly
  3. Modifiers due to the character’s Strength or Dexterity being high enough to provide an advantageous DM
  4. A DM produced by cross-referencing the weapon with the armor the weapon is being used against
  5. A DM produced by cross-referencing the range of the particular weapon to the target
  6. A character may use his expertise level in his brawling or blade weapon weapon as a negative DM when engaged in brawling or blade combat
  7. Characters suffer a DM when the number of rounds they’ve used a Brawling or Bladed Weapon exceeds the value of their Endurance
  8. DMs based on conditions (darkness; shooting at a target firing from cover) and so on.
  9. Any other DMs the Referee chooses to apply.

That’s a lot of modifiers to add up!

It’s especially tricky in regard to the Weapon/Armor matrix and the Weapon/Distance matrix. There’s two tables, lots of rows and columns, and even though the DMs might not change very much in a given combat, lots of people end up checking them on each roll because there’s no clever place to log combat DMs for a given combat.

A while back I read a post from a poster named Supplement Four at Citizens of the Imperium in which he described how he wrote out the DMs for a weapon on an index card. If a character picked up a new weapon, he got a new card. If a character handed off a weapon to a compatriot, the player handed that card over.

I loved that idea.

I also know that dealing with the Weapon/Range Matrixes and the Weapon/Armor Matrixes can be a bear and slow down combat. I know that the the old Judges Guild Traveller Referee Screen did a great job of combining these two matrixes into one table to get a throw number, like this:

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Which seemed like a great idea, but still was a pain in the neck in terms of lookup, as the table was so big. (The section above only covers Blade weapons and animals weapons. The whole table includes firearms and three more ranges.)

So I decided to combine Supplement Four’s idea with the Judges Guild screen. I went in whole hog and made up a complete set of Classic Traveller Weapon Cards. That link will lead you a PDF with every weapon from Traveller Book 1, as well as the bows and crossbow weapons from Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium.

If you look at the card, you’ll find the information to determine:

a) the Throw required for the weapon based on target armor and distance
b) the DMs for the weapon based on the character’s Strength or Dexterity.
c) a space for the Player to write in his character’s “Personal DM.” (Personal DM is the DM based on the PC’s weapon expertise added to the DM for Strength or Dex.) See the handwritten element in the upper left cell as an example.

[Note that while the DMs for minimum and advantageous characteristics are listed at the top right, you don’t need to calculate them for every Throw. They are already added into the Personal DM. They are there for reference if characteristics drop from combat or rise due to training. For this reason, the Personal DM cell should be marked in pencil. It can rise and fall because of characteristics.]

This is an example card for a Player Character called Mattos, one of my convention pre-gens. Mattos has an expertise of Blade-5.

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If he gets near you, he is going to manhandle you and drive that thing right up into any soft spots in your armor. (Soft spots he has studied and knows quite well.)

When it comes to the brawling and bladed weapons, a PC can use his weapon expertise as a -DM to parry the attackers blows, so the expertise should be placed after a slash in the Personal DM cell. (See example above.)

So, to do damage to an opponent
1. The Player rolls 2D6
2. Addes the DM from the Personal DM cell
3. Sees if the total value is equal to or greater than the value found by cross-referencing the armor and range.

There might be situational DMs (cover, darkness), DMs due to exceeding Endurance for the number of Blows, or DMs the Referee adds. But certainly having the cards above makes even these additional elements much easier to sort out.

The PDF has four of the same weapon per page, with most weapons repeated across two pages (for a total of eight cards per weapon). I did this so I can print them out in one printing and have enough for the whole group if everyone is carrying the same weapon, and have one for the Referee as well.

I know many people prefer coming up with news systems or using Striker or Snapshot for their rules. I am intrigued, however, with the notion that different weapons are better against different types of armor and that you want the right tools for the job. I also like the fact that certain weapons drop dramatically in effectiveness at different ranges. (If someone gets right in your face while you’re carrying a Rifle, that Rifle is not as effective as his dagger, for example.)

There’s lots of info I could have added to the cards: Ammo capacity, weight, and so on. I tried all of this, in different permutations. I even tried placing the information on the back. Ultimately each of these designs became too unwieldy. I opted to keep it streamlined and simple. If you need to know what you need to roll with the base DMs, this is what you look at.

To track ammo, I suggest a scrap of scratch paper or index card. I also suggest using something like the Gear Sheets I linked to in this thread. In this way, all the book keeping of weight and ammo is on one sheet, and you look at that when that’s what you want to check. And you look at the Weapon Card when you want to find out what you need to hit.

Other people will design such tools in different ways. This is how I decided to make these.

So, if these are of use to you, print them, cut them into quarters, and you’re good to go!

The idea is that if the Player has this:

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And this:

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And this:

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In front of the player he should be able to have any information he needs for play at the tips of fingers at a moment’s notice.

Prepping for my Classic Traveller Convention Game–Gear Sheets

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The other day I posted the character sheets I’ll be using for the game this weekend. The idea is to strip the game down and keep things clear. Because of the limited time for the convention, I want to have as many of the tools of play ready to go and easy to read for the players. But if I were starting a new Traveller campaign I’d probably do the same thing.

Classic Traveller uses old sensibilities and tools, which lots of people might not be familiar with. It is, for example, a game of limitations. Different weapons are more or less effective against different types of weapons. Do you have the rights weapons for the enemy at hand? If not, what are you going to do about that? Do you have the right tools for the problem at hand? If not, what are you going to do about that?

Encumbrance rules, which are not features in many contemporary games, are part of the sensibility and tools of the game.

  • Characters can only carry a weight in kilograms equal to the value of the Player Character’s Strength before they become encumbered. A Strength of 7 allows the character to carry 7kg.)
  • A character can carry up to double the value of his Strength in kilograms, but lose 1 point off of his three physical attributes while carrying the extra weight.
  • A character who is part of a military force (mercenary unit; combat unit; troop unit) may carry up to triple his or her strength in kilograms, subject to a reduction of 2 in strength, dexterity, and endurance.

Keep in mind that the values of Strength and Dexterity affect how effective a character is with blade weapons and firearms, respectively. So, as these values go down, the character might lose Advantageous DMs for weapons, or might even suffer penalties for falling below the required value to handle a weapon efficiently. The penalties will also affect how well a character handles himself in combat, allowing an effective shot to take a character down more quickly.

Notice that Traveller provides choices. It is not that there is an absolute limit the character is working with. A character can carry a heavier load, but at consequence. These kinds of choices are, I think, very much part of the feel of the game. You don’t always get everything you want in Traveller, but you are given choices about what you need the most.


The gear sheets are set up to match the pregens I posted, with one card per Player Character. (See the name at the top of each.)

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The gear sheets are already filled in with the weapons the character starts with, along with the weight of the weapon, weight of the ammo.

The table also includes what I call the “Personal DM” of any particular weapon. I’ve defined Personal DM as the value of any Skill the Player Character might possess added to whatever value should be factored in from the Minimum or Advantageous values for Strength or Dexterity for a particular weapon.

So, for example, in the gear sheet above:

  • Moynahan has a Revolver-2
  • With his Dexterity 7 he has the minimum to use the Revolver without a penalty DM, but not enough to gain and advantageous DM.
  • Thus, we add the DM of +2 from his skill, and a DM of 0 due to his Dexterity and end up with a Personal DM of +2. (I hope I got all the values correct! There were lots of little numbers!)

By adding this pre-calculated value to the Weapon Cards I’ve made we get a Throw value very quickly.

The idea is to have these as many values percolated so the Players don’t have to worry about this stuff at the start of play. And if they pick up new weapons there is a template in place for theme to sort out the calculations and fill in the blanks with a little bit of instruction.

Note, too, that if the characters take damage, the values for the personal DMs might drop (either losing the advantageous DM, or acquiring a -DM for failing to have the minimum value require to use the weapon efficiently.)


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I created the second table with the same agenda of making place simple and efficient for the convention game.

The logic of the setup is that the Player Characters are at the end of their ropes in a mining colony at the end of a series of jumps. They have no money left and little of person value. Simply to get back to an A or B port in the hub of commerce and trade would cost Cr16,000 to Cr24,000  (depending on the Jump Drive of the ship for two or four jumps). And that is not money they have.

I’ll be handing out a list of things like communication gear, electric torches and stuff that the players can draw from for routine gear. If they want it, they can have it. Bu it will start adding to their load out. But no weapons, no armor, no expensive stuff. So the gearing up phase at the start of the session won’t be about shopping. It will be, “How much stuff do I want to have vs. how effective do I want to be?” That’s an interesting choice.


If I were to start a campaign I would probably make each of the tables longer for each list. But I think having these details worked out as part of each Player Character’s load out helps the Players get in the minds of their characters and makes the minutia of Traveller gear–which is crucial part of the game–easy to track and reference as needed.

Here are the gear sheet sets that matches the Player Character pregens I previously posted. You’ll find the blank sheets at the end of the doc.