Pitch

Welcome, Travellers!

Theme song: The Lord Weird Slough Feg - Traveller - High Passage / Low Passage

You are Travellers, the rag-tag crew of a scrappy little ship, up to your eyeballs in debt. You don’t have much, but it’s something.

You make a living flitting around the sector transporting cargo and passengers, trying to beat the interstellar market with speculative trading, and doing odd jobs for whoever will pay—sometimes legal, sometimes not.

Setting

We’ll use the Official Traveller Universe, specifically starting in the Trojan Reach sector (see also its Traveller Wiki entry and Traveller Map booklet), probably the Sindal subsector.

I think this is a fun sector to play in because it’s got a good mix of powers:

So there’s lots of opportunity for tension, conflicts, and crime.

You could possibly move into one of the adjacent sectors, but a sector is big. A subsector is 10x8 hexes, and a sector is 4x4 subsectors, so crossing a sector top-to-bottom would take 40 weeks with a Jump-1 engine, 20 weeks with a Jump-2 engine, etc, plus any time needed for maintenance and refuelling. Even the fastest ships, the Imperium’s X-Boats with their Jump-6 engines, would take 7 weeks to cross a full sector.

I’ll make some effort to stick to the published setting, but will make stuff up or change things when I need to, and I won’t worry about being totally consistent. One change I’m making is no psionics. I don’t like them. Go play a fantasy game if you want magic. There might be mind-reading technology, but it’ll be a device you have to put your head in, not someone thinking at you.

Party

I’d prefer for this to be a majority-human campaign: you can have one alien PC if you want, but since most of the planets in the region are human, they’ll stand out a bit (and possibly be assumed to be spies).

The two most suitable alien races would be Aslan (lion people) or Vargr (wolf people).

I want aliens to feel alien, so here are some constraints:

  • If you’re a human raised in the Third Imperium you have a basic knowledge of the alien cultures, but probably not much detail.
  • If you’re an Aslan or a Vargr raised in the Third Imperium you have a good understanding of and tolerance for human culture. You also have a good understanding of your traditional culture, but it doesn’t necessarily influence your behaviour (e.g., an Aslan raised in the Third Imperium is unlikely to challenge a human to a formal duel over a matter of honour, unless raised in a very traditional family).
  • If you’re an Aslan or a Vargr raised in your traditional culture, it influences your behaviour a lot. You have a basic understanding of human culture and have some tolerance for humans acting in the wrong way (to your eyes).

Regardless of your species, there’ll be opportunities to get involved with intrigue and politics in all of the cultures in the Trojan Reach. Though, Aslan politics is likely to come up more frequently with an Aslan from the Aslan Hierate in your crew.

A ship will generally need:

  • a captain
  • a pilot
  • an astrogator
  • an engineer
  • a sensor operator
  • a medic

You might also want:

  • a steward, if you plan to take paying passengers
  • a gunner, if you have ship weapons
  • a marine, if you’ll be getting into fights

These don’t all need to be separate people, not every ship needs each of these positions filled, and you can hire NPCs to fill any gaps; except in space combat where you need a separate pilot and captain, and have to have both of them, and is it any fun if an NPC is the captain?

Campaign style

At least to start with, this is going to be a pretty episodic job- or planet-of-the-week style game, where you’re doing whatever job you can get. For inspiration, think Firefly.

I plan to have a mix of genres: maybe one session it’ll be horror as you investigate a distress signal from an isolated research station; and the next session could be a heist, with you doing some job for a local crime boss; and the session after that might be a mystery, as you try to clear your names of a crime you’ve been framed for by finding out what really happened.

Once we’ve done a few of these games and you know what sort of game you want, we’ll specialise:

The Traveller Campaign

We can just carry on as we have been, with you doing a little bit of everything: exploring ancient alien ruins in one session, and punching crime bosses or running from government agents in the next.

See the random mission and encounter tables in the rulebook for ideas of what you might get up to.

The Career Campaign

We’ll focus the campaign around one or more of the careers used in character creation. You don’t all need to have done that career, as any organisation will have staff in a variety of roles. For example:

  • Agent Campaign: we’ll focus on espionage, counterespionage, assassination, and investigation; likely to have a lot of stealth.
  • Colonist Campaign: we’ll focus on setting up new colonies and making them self-sustaining; likely to have more of a soap-opera feel.
  • Marine / Navy Campaign: we’ll focus on war, crime, and piracy; likely to have a lot of combat.
  • Scholar / Scout Campaign: we’ll focus on exploration, alien artefacts, and the unknown; likely to have a lot of macguffins.

There are lots of other careers, this list isn’t exhaustive.

The Space Pirate Campaign

Mundane jobs don’t have the thrill you’re looking for, you want to do crimes. Space crimes. And what’s the most fun sort of space crime? Space piracy.

A space pirate campaign will focus on smuggling, blockade running, ship-to-ship combat, dealing with crime lords, and actually a lot of the sort of stuff you’d get up to in a Traveller Campaign, just more illegal.

There are two ways we could flavour this:

  • You arrange for a crime lord to buy out your mortgage. You’re free men! Well, except for the favours he expects from you, indefinitely.

  • You join with one of the small states dreaming of having a glorious interstellar empire as a privateer. You’re issued with a letter of marque and have a safe home base, so long as you regularly commit acts of piracy against the enemies of the state.

Being a pirate doesn’t mean you’re always on the run from law enforcement and can never interact with non-criminals. If you adopt fake names and identification then you’ll be able to pass as law-abiding citizens when needed, and so do other jobs too. But be careful nobody finds out your true identity!

Capes and dramatic gestures are mandatory. Space pirates are larger-than-life.

Long-term goals

While I am planning to run a fairly episodic game, there is definitely scope for long-term plotlines and character goals.

For example, you could:

  • hire other ships and crews to work for you, forming a mercantile (or criminal) empire
  • overthrow your patron and take over their organisation and underlings, becoming the new boss
  • create a base of operations by hollowing out and building in an asteroid, or setting up your own space station
  • be elevated to the nobility

You don’t have to commit to a long-term goal from the start of the campaign, but think about it. When we specialise on a campaign style, it’d be a shame if nobody had any long-term goals.

Rules

In addition to these rule changes listed below, I’ll draw upon things from other sourcebooks which aren’t rule changes as such, but more rule elaborations, which go into more detail for how to deal with a specific situation: like starvation, hazardous terrain, laying and dealing with space mines, hiding inside the atmosphere of a gas giant, or ship transponders. These are all situational so I’ll use my judgement to decide when they apply.

We might also bring in some rules later in the campaign, for example if someone decides they want to become a noble, we might bring in the Effective SOC rules from page 9 of the Traveller Companion. We can talk about those at the time.

Rules we are going to use

I’m not interested in running a campaign where these aren’t the case.

  • Human Focus. There can be at most one non-human PC, and they must be Aslan or Vargr.

  • No Psionics. There is no psionics in this universe. At all. Neither PC nor NPC.

Rules I think we should use

I could be persuaded not to use these, but I think they would improve the game.

  • Alien Upbringing (Aliens of Charted Space: Volume 1). An alien PC may be created using the standard rules, in which case they were born and raised in the Third Imperium, or created using the species-specific rules.

  • Allies, Contacts, Rivals, and Enemies (Traveller Companion chapter 3). We’ll flesh out NPCs introduced in character creation with Affinity, Enmity, Power, Influence, and Special Characteristics.

  • Boon Dice. In character creation, for two characteristics of your choice, roll 3d6 and discard the lowest.

Rules we might want

Here are some rules which I think would be fun, but let’s talk about them.

  • Additional Wound Effects (Traveller Companion page 49). Rather than being killed outright when all their physical characteristics are reduced to 0, Travellers and important NPCs make a roll modified by the circumstances of the injury to determine whether they die, suffer some crippling injury, or miraculously survive.

  • Luck (Traveller Companion page 4). A new characteristic which can be used to do better on skill checks.

  • Misjumps (Traveller Companion page 143). The standard rules for misjumps are pretty boring, let’s use the variant rules. This does mean that a really bad misjump could destroy the ship instantly or send you 36 parsecs in the wrong direction.

Player characters

Orcan March

  • Age: 38
  • Homeworld: Dolberg
  • Connections:
    • Theresa Sprout (ally, marine corps, love interest, member of an opposing organisation): 2 (positively inclined) / 0 (no enmity) / 1 (weak) / 6 (kingmaker)
    • Walden Springs (ally, drifter): 1 (vaguely well inclined) / -1 (mistrustful) / 0 (powerless) / 2 (some influence)
    • Wallace Triker (enemy, drifter): 0 (no affinity) / -4 (hatred) / 1 (weak) / 0 (no influence)

Lynette Hershey

  • Age: 34
  • Homeworld: Orsasch
  • Connections:
    • Felix Vazquez (contact, merchant marines): 2 (positively inclined) / -2 (negatively inclined) / 1 (weak) / 1 (little influence)

Ilijah Veryn

  • Age: 42
  • Homeworld: Tanith
  • Connections:
    • Crayg (enemy, merchant marines, old coworker): 0 (no affinity) / -6 (blinded by hate) / 1 (weak) / 2 (some influence)

Astraea Filipovna

  • Age: 34
  • Homeworld: Dostoevsky
  • Connections:
    • ? (enemy, rogue, police force): 0 (no affinity) / -1 (mistrustful) / 0 (powerless) / 5 (extremely influential)
    • Xavier Echithilei (ally, scavenger): 4 (loyal friend) / 0 (no enmity) / 0 (powerless) / 4 (highly influential)

Ships

Ilijah’s Type-S Scout / Courier

  • Hooks:
    • Scout Services will call in favours
  • Quirks:
    • Ship is a bit old and banged up: DM -1 to all repair attempts
    • Library computer contains secret or unusual information
  • Upgrades:
    • 2x pulse lasers

Astraea’s Type-A2 Far Trader

  • Upgrades:
    • An ion cannon

Factions

General Development Corporation (GeDeCo)

GeDeCo does a bit of everything:

  • It built and operates many of the class C and B starports in the sector,
  • It operates bank branches in its starports, and all the class A starports in Imperium space,
  • It has cargo and passenger fleets, both within the Imperium and beyond,
  • It’s an arms dealer to the Imperial Navy and other lesser human states,
  • It does research and development into all sorts of things.

The mortgage for the Far Trader is through the GeDeCo Bank, and they may allow late or missing payments to slip by in exchange for questionable favours.

Missions

In Progress
  • Take a research team to 971-852 and pick them back up a month later. No steward required.

    Reward: fuel credits for four J-2s, plus Cr 250,000 (half in advance, half afterwards; a bit more than middle passage for 4 people for 4 parsecs, twice).

Scout Services

Ilijah was a scout for four terms, and has a ship on loan from them.

At starports with a Scout Base, they can receive

  • Free maintenance for the Scout / Courier Type-S
  • Information, rumours, missions (etc)
  • Rewards for completing scout missions

Missions

  • Survey non-Imperium worlds in the Reach, confirming or denying current survey data.

    Reward: fuel costs and salaries, with proportional rewards for discovering discrepancies.

  • Explore empty regions of space and report any newly-discovered systems.

    Reward: MCr 1 for each confirmed discovery.

Done
  • Take some secured cargo to the scout base at New.

    Reward: fuel credits for the J-2, plus Cr 5,000 each.

NPCs

Xavier Echithilei (Crew member, outcast minor noble)

Xavier is from a noble family which makes their money from operating a large interstellar trading firm (as many of them do), but the family keeps a fairly hands-off approach to management: the company know they have to follow any edicts passed down from the family, but mostly it’s up to their competent administrators to run the thing.

Xavier took advantage of this to direct several of the largest ships in the fleet to help with evacuating human slaves from worlds liberated from the Glorious Empire, and resettling them elsewhere in the Dpres and Sindal subsectors. This would likely have gone unnoticed, and indeed did for some months, until their intel was wrong: the fleet jumped into an active warzone, and got destroyed. Xavier couldn’t cover this up, and the family was outraged: he had cost them hundreds of millions of credits for the lost ships, the crews had perished, and, even worse, he, a member of Imperial nobility, had been actively interfering in a conflict between two other interstellar empires, which could have provoked a war. They had to make a big show of casting him out to avoid consequences for the rest of the family.

So, Xavier found himself with no money, no resources, and not really any skills beyond administration. He ended up becoming a drifter, signing on to work on whatever ships would take him, eventually becoming a competent engineer. The family still hate his guts, the other nobility and influential players treat him with amused condescension, but there are still some who think of him as a hero, who risked it all to save people.

  • Connections:
    • ABR (Albe–Boronu Route) Shipping Incorporated: a shipping business mostly operating between the Imperium and the Florian League, founded and majority-owned by the House Echithilei.
    • House Echithilei: a noble family with holdings on Albe and Realgan in the Sindal Subsector.
    • Duke Verner Echithilei of Albe: Xavier’s first cousin twice removed.
  • Roleplaying notes:
    • Equally comfortable in high society and with the common folk.
    • Holds a grudge against the Imperium, saying that he was only cast out because the family needed to make a show of loyalty.
  • Competencies:
    • Admin
    • Advocate
    • Diplomat
    • Engineer
    • Mechanic
    • Steward
    • Vacc Suit
    • plus any other skills that fit his noble upbringing and spacer background.

Hooks

Missions

  • Weird space-themed cult want transporting to a starport in a nearby system, and will pay very well for basic passage, but demand evidence that the Traveller’s ship hasn’t touched the surface of a planet.

  • A naval officer would like the Travellers to transport some supplies to a warship patrolling the system.

  • A merchant with ties to the underworld needs to secretly transport computer data to a contact on a ship hiding at one of the Tobia gas giants.

  • A researcher wants the Travellers to capture a whale calf from Dolberg, and deliver it to a lab ship in orbit.

In Progress

  • An Aslan would like transport to Vume, to see the Ancient artefacts.

Rumours

  • Pirate attacks on the trade route between the Imperium and the Hierate have increased lately, both sides are having to send larger escort fleets.

  • The Florian League has made a formal complaint to the Ya’soisthea about ihatei raiding bands. The Aslan response was, essentially, “boys will be boys.”

  • Retired naval officers are being encouraged to colonise the world of Empire.

  • The civil war on Simok shows no signs of ending. The Duke of Tobia has given the two sides a year to sort ouf their differences: if they don’t, he’ll send in the fleet.

Known

  • The Hierate has taken the Glorious Empire worlds of Keawoaw and Alr.

  • There have been protests by the human population of Hradus against the Imperium’s technology restrictions, claiming that the Aslan population have proven themselves honourable and trustworthy time and time again over the centuries. The Aslan themselves have not become involved.

  • The royal house of the Sindalian Empire never went extinct. The current Emperor of Sindal and Protector of the Reach still lives on the old capital world of Noricum and gives the Imperial Blessing of the Star Dragon to all who perform a service for him.

  • A new archaeological site has been found at Vume, it seems to be some sort of Ancient factory.

Resources (for use in-session)

Online

Books

  • Patrons and missions:
    • Traveller Core Rulebook, page 88
    • Traveller Core Rulebook, “The Sindal Subsector” chapter
  • NPCs:
    • Traveller Core Rulebook, pages 86 and 87
    • Traveller Core Rulebook, page 209 (passengers)
  • Starport encounters:
    • Traveller Core Rulebook, page 89
  • Planetary encounters:
    • Traveller Core Rulebook, page 89 (rural)
    • Traveller Core Rulebook, page 90 (urban)
  • Space encounters:
    • Traveller Core Rulebook, pages 145 and 146
    • Drinaxian Companion, “Ship Encounters” chapter
  • Quick lore:
    • Traveller Core Rulebook, “The Sindal Subsector” chapter
    • The Trojan Reach, subsector chapters
    • Aliens of Charted Space vol 1, “Aslan Glossary” chapter
    • Aliens of Charted Space vol 1, page 12 (Aslan words)
    • The Glorious Empire, “Glossary of Aslan Words & Terms” chapter

2021-10-10 — Session 0

Welcome to session zero of Traveller! Today we’ll talk a bit about the sort of campaign we want to play, and then dive into character creation. The actual game will begin next session. I’ve written a campaign pitch, which I think you’ve all read, but we’ll cover all the points in it, and some more, now. We might overrun today, as character creation can take a while.

Prep

Pitch

  • Sandbox, with scope for long-term goals
  • Official Traveller Universe, starting in the Trojan Reach sector (Tobia subsector, not Sindal)
  • I’ll make some effort to stick to the published setting, but won’t necessarily be totally consistent
  • No psionics
  • Majority human party (or one species), one alien PC (Aslan or Vargr) if you want

Alien Travellers

Aslan
  • Alien lion warrior race
  • Live into their 60s
  • Bigger than humans on average (average male is 2m tall, weighs 100kg)
  • Sleep for about a third of every 32-hour period
  • Almost exclusively carnivorous, preferring freshly-slaughtered prey
  • Can’t digest Earth-derived meats without special pills (or permanent treatment)
  • Social structure: families form prides (ahriy), which form clans, who may owe fealty to more powerful clans
  • Spiritual but not religious, most Aslan carry some keepsakes or heirlooms, and obey the traditions of their ancestors
  • Very proud and honourable, with formal duels in response to insults
  • Careers and skills are gender-segregated: females go for more intellectual or educated careers, males go for more combat or diplomatic roles
  • Males have little understanding of money and find it hard to grasp, as finances are a female affair
Vargr
  • Genetically-engineered Earth wolf people created by the mysterious Ancients (and they’re very proud of this)
  • Live into their 70s
  • Smaller than humans on average (average male is 1.6m tall, weighs 60kg)
  • Sleep several times in a 26-hour period
  • Mostly carnivorous, also eat fruit
  • Social structure: group / pack based, with most Vargr being in multiple packs, lead by charismatic leaders; Vargr are loyal to the pack, but seek to compete to improve their own charisma and standing in it
  • Most Vargr are not especially religious, but they do venerate the Ancients. Organised religions are just another pack.
  • Where charisma alone cannot determine dominance, they will duel: the motivation is different to Aslan (charisma & loyalty vs honour & pride).
  • Packs with charismatic leaders fall down over a certain scale, so Vargr do not have megacorporations or an interstellar government. They do have a lot of corsairs, lead by charismatic pirate-captains though.
  • Vargr eyesight is less colour sensitive than humans so, to human eyes, all their clothes, art, and decorations are bright and garish

Discussion

Scheduling
  • Session time & frequency
  • What happens if someone can’t make a session?
  • Campaign length
Characters
  • Changing characters / characters leaving the party
  • Character death
  • PvP (PvP isn’t necessarily combat)
  • Character secrets vs player secrets
Rules
  • I expect you to know how your character works
  • I have made cheatsheets for common rules
  • Some parts of the game I will off-load entirely to you (eg, trade)
  • Alternative rules:
    • No psionics
    • Character creation:
      • Alternative character creation rules for alien PCs raised in their native cultures
      • Luck (Traveller Companion page 4)
      • Boon Dice (Traveller Companion page 11)
      • Allies, Contacts, Rivals, and Enemies (Traveller Companion chapter 3)
    • Mechanics:
      • Additional Wound Effects (Traveller Companion page 49)
      • Misjumps (Traveller Companion page 143)
        • whatever situational rules I think should apply
    • Was going to use exp point rule, but training is fine actually
Metagaming
  • Reduction of “planning in-character actions out-of-character, when there’s no opportunity in-character to do so” (discussing combat strategy in the middle of a round, or talking about what to say to an NPC when they’re right next to you, or sharing information when the characters are not together — rules questions, clarifying character knowledge, etc, are all fine)

Notes

  • Schedule: 3 hours fortnightly is ok
  • Player absences: handle case-by-case
  • Campaign length: no preference
  • PvP: handle case-by-case (eg, combat is fine if both players agree to it at the time)
  • Secrets: no preference
  • Wounds: try it out, maybe revisit later
  • Misjumps: ok
  • Metagaming: we’ll try to police it

To-do (players)

  • Spend up to Cr2000 (out of your own money) on whatever you want.
  • Make decisions for benefits:
    • Weapon: get a free weapon weapon with a limit of TL12 and Cr1000.
    • Armour: get a free piece of armour with a limit of TL12 and Cr10,000.
    • Free Trader: pick whether it’s a Free Trader (Type-A) (High Guard p120) or Far Trader (Type-A2) (High Guard p118)

To-do (me)

  • Review character sheets
  • Review NPCs
  • Figure out the initial location & mission
  • Create story seeds for future endeavours
  • Figure out how a campaign with two ships will work

Next time

  • Both captains receiving their ships
  • Some sort of introductory adventure

2021-10-17 — The Beginning

Prep

Receiving the ships

  • Scout Ship:
    • Tors Mallier, a Scout captain slouching back in his chair in a messy office in the naval base, hands over the key fob and explains the quirks.
    • He jokes about how up-tight the Navy are compared to the Scouts.
    • “Say hi to any other Scouts on Detached Duty you see out there. Some of them haven’t come back to a base in years, but we still think about them.”
    • Give missions.
  • Far Trader:
    • Claire Waynhim, a bureaucrat from the GeDeCo Bank, hands over several key fobs in a busy hangar next to the ship.
    • She explains the mortgage and running costs, where the mortgage can be paid, the transponder, and to arrange beforehand if needing to delay payments.
    • Politely inquires what Astraea’s plans are, and says that GeDeCo has a small task that needs doing right now, and may be able to offer more work in the future.

Notes

  • Tobia:
    • Take the Scout mission
    • Take the GeDeCo mission
    • Get a leaflet for the Church of Starry Wisdom
  • New:
    • Complete the Scout mission
    • Blow up an asteroid for the Scouts
  • Imisaa:
    • Learn rumours:
      • The Emperor of Sindal still lives on Noricum
      • There’s unrest on Hradus
      • The Hierate have conquered Alr and Keawoar
    • Find new jobs:
      • Ktuarlaiaoaei (male) and Hwawyouayu (female) (those are the simplified-for-humans names) to Vume
      • A noble son in his yacht went missing on the way to Vume, Cr100,000 reward for information, Cr200,000 for finding and returning it
  • 971-852:
    • Calm down one of the scientists who was panicking about giant sea monsters
    • Drop them off for their month-long research expedition

Next time

  • Come up with more faction missions, random missions, and rumours
  • Figure out how to pronounce Aslan names
  • At Hradus
  • Deal with freight and mail
  • A few small jobs in the local area, as they need to return the scientists in a month