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


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


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.)


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


The Metadata


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:

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 6.50.19 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 7.24.04 AM

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:

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 6.28.09 PM

And this:

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 6.28.30 PM

And this:

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 7.24.04 AM

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

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 12.14.59 PM

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.)

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 8.12.31 PM

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.)

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 8.12.41 PM

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


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:

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 9.58.37 PM

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:

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 7.47.02 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 9.20.10 PM

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:


(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:


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


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.

15 - 1.jpg


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.

Traveller ref screen horizontal Combat-Encounter Pages_Page_1

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.

Traveller ref screen horizontal Combat-Encounter Pages_Page_2

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!


TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–More On the Value of Tables, Improvisation, and Lack of Plot


In this post I discussed what “Encounters” meant in 1970s RPGs.

I later came across this post at Dispatches from Kickassistan called Dynamic Hexcrawl Required Reading: Yoon-Suin & Philosophy.

While the post is primarily about Yoon-Suin‘s amazing tables and design philosophy for presenting an RPG setting, it also addresses the value of randomization and tables in general.

I believe that such syntactical weight should be given to the improvisation, innovation and creation processes. Charts and tables can give you elements to play with, but it is through a conscious, creative action of building interrelations between those elements that details become facts and that facts are given life at the game table. We must interpret the data given to us and it is in that act of interpretation that data-gathering becomes synthesis, where we create something new out of the raw “A, B, C” of our data source.

This is why I love tables.

The best things that tables can be are (a) inventive (introducing new things I might not have thought about otherwise) and (b) useful. Yoon-Suin’s tables do these things on nearly every page. The book focuses more on creating interesting and useful social structures than stuff like terrain and lairs because, let’s face it, there’s enough stuff out there in other resources (or already in our brains) that reinventing the wheel isn’t always the most practical thing an author can do. But what is practical? Taking the “here, make it yourself” a few steps further than I’ve seen it done before and instead of telling me “this kingdom is like this, this other kingdom is like that,” author David McGrogan gives us different series of tables to let us figure out for ourselves what each place is like. In essence, he provides an aesthetic, you and I fill in the blanks when set about using the material. He provides the words, you and I supply the syntax.

One only has to keep the logic of this post in mind and see the value of Classic Traveller’s Main World Generation system and the use of its Random Encounter Tables. (Traveller‘s random encounter tables range from NPCs, to Patrons, to Starship Encounters, to Legal Encounters, to Animals.)

I should add that the Kickassistan post and posts like it are a corrective to folks who say, “I don’t like the crazy worlds Traveller‘s Main World Generation system offers.”

Tk Ben fair, the people who complain about the results of the Main World Generation System are  usually the folks trying to map entire an Traveller sector. That’s 16 subsectors, which averages 560 worlds! And sometimes they are trying to map multiple sectors(!), so drilling down for imaginative gold for so many planets might well prove frustrating if not impossible.

But if one remembers that in original Traveller one was supposed to develop one, maybe two, subsectors, the use of randomly generated Main Worlds as “a prod to the imagination” makes perfect sense. The system produces results that demand extraordinary justifications–and thus settings worthy of pulp adventure science-fiction.


I think expanding the Random Patron table in Classic Traveller with some lessons from Yoon-Suin might be interesting.

Here are example tables from Yoon-Suin. In these tables the Referee determines what group the Player Characters encounter or know:

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 6.46.48 AM

One of the results is 6. Noble House.

Here is the table for Noble House:

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 6.46.12 AM

One could create such tables for a world, a cluster of stars or a subsector, to create a specific feel of culture and place. Many elements on the tables could be design as “open sets,” so instead of “Nobility” it might be “Ruling Class”–a term translatable to any kind of government system or world culture.

For something far less involved one could expand on the Traveller Patron Encounter table, modeling it on this table from Yoon-Suin:

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 6.53.43 AM

In this case, one would roll on the Patron Encounter from Classic Traveller, then roll on the middle column above, and then once more on the Classic Traveller Patron Encounter table. In this way the Referee doesn’t find himself simply staring at a noun (“Arsonist”). Instead, the table helps prompt action and situation in the Referee’s imagination.

Also note that in this method which NPC is looking to hire the PCs is not specified. The Referee, once he brainstorms up the situation, is free to have any of the NPCs he concocts wth this method approach the NPCs. An Arsonist might be the first NPC rolled, but it might be the Noble who hires the NPCs, knowing their is an Arsonist on his tail.


Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.05.04 PM

Over at Citizens of the Imperium (membership required to read threads past the first post), Mike Wightman wrote up another interesting method of using the Patron Encounter table to help generate interesting results:

Easiest way is with an example (note that this is using the 81 version of LBB3 – Starter Edition and The Traveller Book actually have much more comprehensive tables)

I roll on the patron table and get:

rumour, avenger, army

next I roll on random person encounter

workers, animal encounter (a roll of 6,n I take as animal or alien) and ambushing brigands.

I pick the starting encounter:

Lets say the players encounter some workers who are obviously agitated, discussion with them reveals that the industrial plant they have been operating has been closed due to rumours of some violent native beast, and that some hotheads are thinking of going to hunt the animals down. There is a rumour that the animals in question have highly valuable (insert whatever you want here – anagathic glands, valuable fur, expensive blubber – whatever).

Players may or may not join the hunt, but they have been seen talking to the workers.

Next encounter depends – if they go on the animal hunt then they may encounter the ambushing brigands who are also after the animals, or they may encounter the army patrol guarding the industrial site and containing the animals.

If they don’t go on the hunt they are approached by the avenger who has lost (family member, best friend, whatever will pull players in) and offers to guide the players past the workers/army guards to get to the animals.

If they went along with the workers they may still encounter the avenger being attacked by the brigands/army patrol.

It’s fairly organic – I may decide to change the encounter order in response to player actions, and reaction rolls may make things more tense than they need to be.

And at some point I have to generate the animal stats…

By making several rolls on the Patron Encounter table, and letting his brain mull how they might be connected, he creates situations (not a linear adventure) for the Player Characters to wander into.

This kind of thinking–create situations for the Player Characters to wander into through the use of random tables–is often poo-pooed these days. But it was the bread-and-butter of RPG play in the 1970s.

The shift occurred when the model of publishing changed. At first, games were self-contained, with tables offering Referees and players a toolset method for creating situation, setting, and play. When you bought OD&D or Original Traveller, you really didn’t need anything else to have countless hours of play.

But, of course, that led the creators of these games with nothing else to sell. Moreover, consumers, being consumers, wanted to buy more things. Publishers obliged the consumers  by creating detailed setting and pre-built adventures.

cropped-big_thumb_5cd94fac8a576ffacd5c650d9754f745.jpgBACK IN THE OLD DAYS: SITUATIONS, NOT PRE-PLOTTED STORIES

A distinction has to be made here. The early adventures of Dungeons & Dragons were environments. That is, they had no plot and were not linear in their expectation of play. They were situations scattered around a map. What the Player Characters chose to pursue, in what order, whether to fight them, outsmart them, avoid them, exploit them, were all matters left to the Players to decide for their Player Characters.

So, as a modern example, I ran the module Death Frost Doom from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. (You can read all about my LotFP campaign if you are so interested.)


The module is a terrific dungeon scenario. But it is structured in an interesting way:

The quest-item the PCs seek is at a “chock-point” in the geography of the dungeon, which basically divides the dungeon in half, and thus the adventure. The Players, upon having their characters find the quest object, can elect to grab the object and get the hell out of the creepy place. Or they can continue on, dealing deeper into the weirdness.

Importantly, the second half of the dungeon is where things get particularly bat-shit crazy. Even more importantly, there are events waiting in that back-back have what can have a cataclysmic, apocalyptic effect on the game’s campaign setting.

I ran the scenario knowing of two things would happen: An undead priest ruling an army of thousand of undead would rise and march on 17th Century Europe — or he would not. That, clearly, is a big fork in the road for any campaign. And I played it without any concern or expectation as to which way it would go. The Players would make choices and take actions on behalf of their PCs… and the fallout of those choices would dictate the direction of the campaign. I had no big plot, no agenda, no “right way” I wanted the “story” to go. I had no story, I had no expectations for the campaign. The campaign would, in fact, be exactly what it turned out to be, found through play, not in planning.


If one reads the Adventure 1: The Kinunir for Classic Traveller one finds four situations, not a “story” or a campaign of any kind. The book is basically a list of suggestions for scenarios that the Referee will have to flesh out.  Adventure 1 does not assume any sort of straightforward plot. Rather, Adventure 1 assumes the Referee will be using both the material contained within its pages and all the Random Encounters Tables found in Traveller Books 1-3. These tables would be used to flesh out situations and an evening of play, adding unexpected details and situations and filling out the environment in unexpected ways.

But module design would change drastically within the first few years of the hobby.

By 1980 what I think of as “Old School” was already shifting and becoming lost. The needs of publishers are in many ways the antithetical to the promise of the early years of the hobby. Call of Cthulhu, for example, published in 1981, was firmly in the camp of very linear, very “Your Players Will Experience This” modules.

I don’t think the folks first playing D&D from 1974 to, say, 1978 would ever have imagined such a structure as the Dragonlance modules. And, I would argue, the folks first playing Traveller would have looked at The Traveller Adventure and not quite known what to make of it.

Many people enjoy these very plotted adventures–and I would never begrudge those people their pleasure. My only point is that such designs gut the original spirit of play of early RPGs.

Tightly structured adventure scenarios fall apart with too much randomness or too much freewheeling agency on the part of the PCs. Rather than find out where the campaign goes based on the mix of the PCs actions and randomly rolled details, later RPG design expected PCs to follow the paths of the adventure “correctly”–or render the investment of the module useless. Whether such play is better or worse, it is certainly different.

One of the joys of the OSR is bringing back a trust and expectation of randomness, and a love of discovering where the campaign will go through play.

“Monday Night We Awake in Yoon-Suin”

Following up on last night’s post, I sent my gaming group the following email this morning.

I gathered up the images from the Monsters and Manuals blog, which is where you can find links for Yoon-Suin in both PDF and Print form.


Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 10.11.45 PMThe people of the Yellow City are many and varied, but they are united in their love for three things: opium, knowledge, and tea…

The city at the mouth of the God River has many names. The City of Topaz, the City of Gold, the City of Gods, the City of Whores. The Old City, the First City, the One City. The Grand Lady. The Great Stink. But this humble author will call it the Yellow City, which is what the people of his home call it, because of the way it glows in the light of hot sunny days…

First, the inhabitants. It never fails to impress a visitor to the Yellow City that its citizens are by turns the wealthiest, most refined, and most educated people in all the world, yet at the same time capable of the most malicious cruelties and licentious depravities. Like all those whose societies are ancient and rich, they are also cynical and filled with ennui. 

The most singular feature of their life, which strikes any visitor the moment he arrives, is their strict hierarchical stratification, which all inhabitants obey without question. In the highest strata are the slug-people, the race who built the city’s first buildings, founded its great civilisation, and who have lived there since, they say, the dawn of time. They alone are permitted to own fixed property, to import and export goods, and to attend many of the city’s libraries, archives and madrassas. They are a pompous and effete people, fascinated by clothes and fashions and the decoration of their own appearances, though they love learning and study and pursuits scientific, aesthetic and sorcerous.

Below the slug-people are human beings, who are themselves separated into castes. Some are warriors in private employ (for there is no public military in the Yellow City), others are shopkeepers or sailors, while others fight for money or sell their love (the whores in the Yellow City being notable for their beauty and skill). Their lowest rank is called the ulufo, the people who herd giant cockroaches in the darkest alleyways. These cockroaches eat the city’s litter and are in turn eaten by their herders, a sight which can be seen on any street corner around the docks and the river side. The scent of the roasting insects seemed to the humble author to resemble chestnut, though he did not eat the meat.

Lowest of all are the crab-people, who live outside the city in the mangroves and the rocks called the Topaz Islands, and are not permitted to enter the city proper except in servitude. They are unintelligent things, but strong and tough, and they are sometimes forced to do manual labour or simple tasks, on pain of death or torture and for scant reward. They are undoubtedly unfortunate and pathetic beings, very meek of character, though the people of the city think of them as the reincarnated souls of criminals and breakers of taboo, and deserving of their miserable lot. They do not generally have names, though those in employment are often daubed with paint to signify who is their master.

The humble author saw one goaded into executing a criminal: it severed the man’s head from his neck with one movement of its claw, without showing any emotion on its arthropod countenance…

I’ve been getting my notes together for the resumption of our LotFP FALLEN WORLDS campaign.

But as I’m knee deep in that tone (and we’ll be in it for a while once we start up again) I’ve decided to switch things up on Monday nigh for my own enjoyment. (Like I said I’ve got so much I want to share with you all!)

So, Monday, we’ll be in the lands of of Yoon-Suin
Inspirational Images of the Landscape…

Some thoughts on Player Characters…
A Warrior
A Magician
A Clever Thief
A Holy Man