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.

 

Prepping for my Classic Traveller Convention Game–A Character Sheet and 24 Pregen Characters

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This Labor Weekend I’ll be running two sessions of Classic Traveller. To get ready, I’m not only planning out the adventure (based off material I found in Chris Crawford’s Hard Light setting for Stars Without Numbers).

To prep for the game, I wanted to create Pre-Generated Characters for the Players. I love the character creation process for Classic Traveller, but it can take time for new players and in a four hour slot, time is precious.

I thought about going an easy route and writing up the characters on index cards–the way it used to be done! But I wanted something a bit fancier to pull the Players into the game. I also wanted clear labels for the “pieces” of the Player Characters, so the Players could know what each one was easily. (Simply running the six characteristics into a string wasn’t going to do. I’d have to keep telling them what each number meant.)

So I decided to build something similar to the Character Sheets that GDW created to look like TAS Forms. However, I wanted something simpler and stripped down.

Here’s the original character sheet from GDW:

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The sheet fits on a single page of the digest sized pages of the original Traveller books.

There are a lot of boxes on that sheet that we would not be dealing with: Birthworld, Dischargewold, Psionics, and the deeper military histories available through the advanced character generation rules of the later Traveller books. Moreover, in the style of play I like for older RPGs, I don’t want too deep a backstory or too much information about the Player Character’s past. The focus of play is the adventure in front of the Player Characters. Their “back story” is the first sessions of play. (I write more about this here.)

My thinking was, “Even if I leave the boxes empty, there’s just all this stuff lying around that character sheet that will beg questions from the Players.” I wanted something streamlined and to the point, so that the Players would have an idea of what they needed to focus on for the next few hours. To that end, I ended up making this character sheet:

And here’s what I ended up making:

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It has more breathing room and a little more clarity on what pieces are needed for play than the original sheet.

You’ll notice I did keep a couple of the bells and whistles: Noble Title and Retirement Pay. These elements probably won’t come into play proper. But they are par to both the setting and the background of the adventure for the characters for the following reason:

In the scenario I’m building, the Player Characters are all formers members of various branches of the military. They’ve struck out on their own (for whatever reasons) and ended up at a dead end star system where a small mining station collects and processes dense metals from a massive asteroid belt. As the scenario begins the Player Characters are just scraping by. Whatever dreams they have had about finding a fortune or settling into a more comfortable life have come to a close. But each one of them has picked up clues about a possible ruin of an ancient civilization within the asteroid built. Recognizing each other as men and women of capable qualities, they have set up a side project on the space station, comparing notes, doing more research, and building a plan. Securing an spacecraft used for repairing drones in the asteroid belt under false pretense, they head off for the location they think a fortune might wait…

So, for me, the fact that there is a noble society–but they are not part of it, that there are people with comfortable lives living on retirement–but they are not part of it… I wanted these elements on the character sheets, staring at the Player Characters the whole time. Because it is part of why the adventure is happening.

Finally, I created 24 pre-generated characters, six each from the branches of the Marines, Navy, Army, and Scouts. I took them from Traveller Supplement 1: 1001 Characters and wrote them on the character sheet. I’ll set them in four groups on the table and say, “Which branch do you want your character to have served in? Pick one from the respective pile.”

Here’s what one of the character sheets looks like filled in.

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For my convention game, I’m assuming the Player Characters are down on their luck, have no cash, posses a weapon corresponding to any specific weapon skill they have, and tool sets corresponding to any specific skill they have. Other than that, I don’t want a lot of footing with buying gear. What they have is what they have. That’s why they’re going on an adventure. (Think of Bogart at the start of The Treasure of Sierra Madre, and you’re all set!)

I think (I hope!) the sheet will be easy to read, allowing the Players to glance down at the sheet and find whatever information they need easily and quickly. The idea was to build a character sheet that lets the Player think, “I’m this kind of guy. How do I see the world though the qualities of my guy. How does this guy choose to solve problem?”

For me, the Classic Traveller system is less about a hard and fast skill system than it is a collection of pieces for the Referee and the Players to end up making rulings (often without die rolls) based on the character concept and the information on the character sheet. This weekend I’ll be taking this view of the game out for a spin!

If you’re interested you can find the PDF with the blank character sheets and all the Pre-generated Characters here. (The blank sheets are on the last page of the document).

 

Referee Screen Sheets for Classic Traveller and a Smart Referee Screen

Over Labor Day I’ll be running two sessions of a Classic Traveller at the Gateway game convention in Los Angeles.

As is my way, I’m putting together the tables for the Referee Screen. I’ve always found that building a screen helps me learn the overall rules and see now little details fit together in ways I hadn’t noticed before.

For my Lamentations of the Flame Princess game, I got myself a Savage Worlds Customizable GM Screen from Pinnacle Entertainment. (Currently on sale at Amazon for 20% off!)

I think the Savage Worlds Screen is brilliant. It’s trifold, black vinyl landscape job, with six pockets (three in the front, and three in the back) that let you insert sheets of paper. Although it’s more expensive than a single cardstock screen, I can use it again and again for different games. Also, to repeat, they’re landscape… so I don’t feel like I’m barricading myself against my players. But I do get to hide secret things for them to find–which I think is important for the style of play I’m playing. It’s part of the magic show.

For the front pockets, I made a collage of images from LotFP products and ended up with this:

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(I no longer see the value of putting tables on the front of the screen toward the players. They’re always too far away and can’t reference the information easily.)

Then in the back I placed one reference sheet of rules tables in the left pocket.

The rules tables are things for reaction rolls, combat, and movement… the stuff that I always have to look up because it’s all little wrigley numbers that I can never remember and never want to look up because that stuff is always used when things are most interesting, intense, and exciting. (“Why not make it up?” someone is asking from the back. “Well,” I reply, “because this is the stuff that puts constraints on both myself and the Players. By using specific and set rules and numbers everyone knows what the risks and advantages are of different choices. And I like that.”)

The other two  pockets facing me are notes for the specific adventures I’m running. Again, things that I want to just be able to glance at and move on without having to pick up a book and flip through pages of material: names of NPCs, random encounter tables, and so on.

Here’s what the back looked like for The God That Crawls:

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And here’s what it looked like for Better Than Any Man:

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You can click on either of the above images for a better look at the information on each sheet.

So, for example, that Better Than Any Man has seven key NPCs, each with a name, a nickname, a key spell, and a familiar. I had read through the material several times, but the entire scenario swirls around them and I new I’d never keep them all straight. The PCs can visit or confront them in the town of Karlstadt in any order. They can try to dig up dirt on them, cast spells to learn more about them, and so on, bouncing back and forth between them. So having that central sheet in front of me meant I had the key details ready to roll at a moment’s notice.

Meanwhile, the second page covers the vital timeline of the adventure so I don’t lose track of that. And I’ve got the random encounter table in front of me, which is checked once a day as the PCs travel the landscape.

Also, I have a picture of my dog Coco ready to rock the house from behind the screen just before game time, so now you have to look at that.

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NOW FOR THE TRAVELLER STUFF

Below are the two sheets I made, pulling information from The Traveller Book. (I did a little bit of reformatting and condensing.) On these two pages I’ve got everything I need to handle rolls for Surprise, Random Encounter rolls,  Encounter Ranges, Combat details, Morale, Ranges, and more.

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Again, this is the stuff I want right in front of me when I’m running the game so I don’t have to stop and look something up just as the PCs are on the verge of getting into a dustup with some outlaws looking for the same treasure they’re after.

You’ll notice this is all Player Characters on straightforward adventure stuff. There’s nothing about Trade rolls, nothing about Starship battles. That’s because I’m not going to be dealing with that stuff next weekend. This is me getting my bearings on a game that I’ve been taking apart for a year, but haven’t really dug into in play.

If and when I get my Traveller campaign going (work and lots of other games already in progress might keep that at bay for a little bit), I’ll start with these sheets and some straightforward PC adventures to get things rolling. Then, if it looks like we’re heading into directions that will require rolls for Trade or Starship combat, I’ll make up those sheets and slip them in as needed. I’ll be able to switch back and forth to have at hand whatever kind of information I want to focus on for a given night.

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If you like what you see, here’s the link to the PDF version of the two sheets above.

And if you catch any errors, please let me know!