Rules Options for Domain Level Play

In my recent post Plotting Grand Campaigns, I’ve written about domain level, or patron style play at length. Here are some references to rules systems one might want to consider to support domain level play. They’re mostly rules for large scale conflict simulation, war games in other words.

Now, before I go on, let me say this: “war game” is a term, I abhor. While I’m obviously mighty fascinated by the derivatives of war games, I consider myself a pacifist. “Conflict simulation” sounds innocent and sophisticated, academically interesting, but let’s face it: we’re talking about armor values and damage potentials and violent death.

Especially at the time of this writing, even thinking about war games feels utterly wrong. There is a real war going on in Ukraine right now. I wish nothing more than the fighting to stop at once! Then again, most of the time we’re playing there’s is some violent conflict going on in the world somewhere. We should always be mindful of this.

If setting up conflict in games teaches us one thing, it’s the fact, that it’s actually quite hard to construct credible reasons for armed conflict. Motives we come up with, are either criminal or corrupt, often both. So, let me say this: reaons to go to war are always made up, they’re always messed up! Reasons to go to war are always fabricated, messed up bullshit, driven by the interests of few corrupt individuals in their criminal pursuit of power.

As H.G. Wells put it in his adendum to Little Wars: “You have only to play at Little Wars three or four times to realise just what a blundering thing Great War must be.

Rules for Political Scheming

This would be the place to link to the original Braunstein rules. But as I already said in my previous blog post, there seem to be no published rules. The best documentation I’ve found is on Ben Robbin’s blog Ars ludi: https://arsludi.lamemage.com/index.php/106/braunstein-memories/

The Adventurer, Conqueror, King System, might be useful here, but I can’t claim any experience with this game.

If you have any other suggestions, please do add them to the comments.

Rules for mass combat and large scale conflict

Basically crude mass combat rules can be achieved by simply lumping together a certain number of combatants into one larger “meta-creature”. For example 20 “normal men” in OD&D with one hit die each, dealing one die of damage each, might become one unit with 20 hit dice dealing 20d6 of damage to an opposing similar unit. Only one to hit roll is performed for each unit. Armor class and bonuses remain the same, as for single characters. Combined with the usual rules for morale. This simple scaling of figures might do all that is needed.

Actually the importance of morale can’t be overstated, since in any larger scale conflict, the question is not only survival or death, but whether one side prevails, routs, gains or loses ground.

If anything more is needed, here are a host of various rules sets.

  • Chainmail by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren, published in 1971 by Guidon Games, and later by TSR. A rules set for medieval miniatures games. It’s “Fantasy Supplement” is considered to be the predecessor of Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Swords & Spells, and amalgam of D&D’s “alternative” d20 based combat system and Chainmail, published by TSR in 1976
  • Daniel “Delta” Collins’ Book of War
  • Alex Schroeder’s Mass Combat Rules
  • Robin Stacey’s Mass Combat Rules
  • Don’t give up the ship, a rules set for naval fleet combat in the age of sail, published in 1972 by Guidon Games, and later by TSR.
  • Warriors of Barsoom, a rules set for war games set on Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ John Carter of Mars Setting. While it’s available on archive.org, it’s copyright status seems to remain unclear.
  • War Machine, a set of mass combat rules described in the D&D Companion Rules.
  • Battle System, mass combat rules designed for use with AD&D 2nd edition.
  • Classic Traveller’s Book 4 Mercenary for a rather abstract, sort of birds eye view approach on infantery mass combat.
  • Classic Traveller’s Book 5 High Guard, for battles of large space fleets.
  • Full Thrust by Ground Zero Games, for even more detailed fleet battle in space.
  • Striker, the rules for modern day to far future miniatures combat accompanying Classic Traveller, available from Far Future Enterprises on the Classic Traveller CDROM.
  • GURPS Mass Combat, another abstract system somewhat similar to D&D’s War Machine and Traveller’s Mercenary.

Plotting Grand Campaigns

So I took a deep dive into this rabbit hole for the last couple of weeks. Over on Mastodon user phf pointed me to a blog post by Jeffro on how to play Original D&D. Now, while somewhat polarizing, what Jeffro writes is intriguing. After I commented on one of his earlier post on How do you do Patron Style play in D&D, he answered with yet another blog post on the subject, clarifying some questions I had. So thanks Jeffro for this great inspiration! Consequentially these ideas led me to expand our current Traveller5 campaign to include High Level PCs (post in german).

Basically Jeffro suggests, that in a fantasy campaign, as it was originally conceived, experienced and played by the gaming groups of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, the players do not only assume the roles of individual characters going on dungeon excursions, but also the roles of leaders, potentates and antagonists, with “the patrons”, i.e. the players who play these high level characters, given free hand to develop their dominions, and to make up their own agendas and strategies. Thus regular character parties will actually receive quests from, act on behalf of, or against high-level characters, who are in turn also controlled by players. In this kind of game the game master will act much more as a true referee than as a one-man-show puppeteer.

Recapitulating how the Old School Renaissance ventured to repopularize 1970s gaming style, Jeffro states:

“1:1 timekeeping with multiple independent domain-level actors is the fundamental axiom we have been missing.”

He goes on to describe, how by applying these two fundamental principles to his campaign, Jeffro observes how factions begin to act much more consistently and driven by intention, than could be simulated by a single game master, even with the help of various source materials and random tables. The reasons why this should work seem to be quite obvious and convincing to me.

Jeffro anticipates:

“your campaign will immediately begin spontaneously generating SECRETS as soon as you turn it on.”

And as from what I’ve experienced since adding patron style play to our Traveller5 campaign, I think I can confirm this expectation, and I will report on how this turned out in a future blog post.

If all of this sounds convincing to you, and you want to give it a go, I suggest you read Jeffro’s post The “Always On” Campaign, it’s a good place to start.

EDIT: Ben Milton of Questing Beast hast put out a great video about the same ideas.

EDIT 2: in the meantime I saw several videos about Robert Wardhaugh’s enormous D&D campaign. It’s been going on for 40 years. Apparently Robert also has domain level play going on. He refers to it as a macro component using war gaming rules, where players get to control tribes, realms and even whole nations and empires.

While “researching”, I’ve looked at quite a number of rules options to support domain level play. They’ve made it into their own blog post.

If you’re interested in my further thoughts on this subject, read on.

Domain-Level Play in the Original Games

After reading all those blog posts, I went back to the original 1974 rules of the game. If domain level play should be the original assumption, the rules surely must contain some clue about it. Certainly there is a clue, but it’s not easy to find.

While there are rules about constructing castles and strongholds, ruling over baronies, cost of men at arms and so forth, I could not find any obvious mention, of what would be considered “patron style play” … not until I actually leant back, closed the booklet and looked at it’s subtitle: “Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns” … there it is, hiding in plain sight.

Considering all of the above, I think it fair to take said subtitle as an indication, that those rules were originally conceived as rules to be part of the set up, not necessarrily it’s only defining element. It has often been stated, that one reason, why the original three booklets seem to be difficult to understand in some places, is due to the authors being war gamers, writing for an audience of experienced war gamers. So it’s probably safe to say, that the basic assumption was the war game. And war games, naturally, are games of conflict simulation, in which players take up the roles of conflicting parties.

The first fantasy campaign, widely known as the Blackmoor campaign by Dave Arneson, and considered by many to be the origin of fantasy role playing games, started out in 1971 as a Braunstein game, set in a medieval fantasy setting. Braunstein in turn is a losely defined style of game, conceived by David Wesely in which players take up the roles of various allying or conflicting parties across a broad range of power levels from peasants to generals. Players are supposed to get information from the referee and act by giving written orders. As long as their characters are in the same location, their players may also communicate directly. While there seem to be no pubilshed rules for Braunstein, a lot can be inferred from published play reports and handouts.

In Secrets of Blackmoor, a documentary on the Blackmoor campaign, Stephen Rocheford, one of the original Blackmoor players states: “Yes, I am the High Priest of the Temple of the Frogs“. Clearly you don’t start out as a High Priest when you do conventional character creation in D&D. Obviously this was a patron player character, on which “Rocheford and Arneson [had] worked together to create this character as a humanoid alien with ties to extra terrestrial forces and technnology”.

The fact that in two of D&D’s most famous adventure modules B2 – Keep on the Borderlands, and T1 – The Village of Hommlet, not just the “monsters”, but also the “good non-player characters” are fleshed out with complete combat stats, has been commented on with some amusement, but in the light of an adversarial game being the default, this seems to actually make a lot of sense.

So, these findings seem to indicate, that domain level play might actually have been the default assumption. But there is more, if we look at games and adventure modules published after D&D hit the market.

Antagonistic play in other games

In the canon of Classic Traveller, there are two adventures, which I find quite remarkable with respect to patron style play. Namely Adventure 5 – Trillion Credit Squadron (1981), and Adventure 7 – Broadsword (1982). The former offers an elaborate frame work for setting up a game of conflicting space navies, with missions for individual characters mentioned only as a secondary possibility. The latter is a collection of scenarios designed around the crew and troops of a mercenary ship. The referee is given the advice to have some players play the antagonists, and instructions to stage the scenarios on large scale terrain maps. Similarly in Adventure 5 – Leviathan the referee is advised to have “the player party preferably […] occupy command posts”, giving the game a wholly different perspective, than that of the usual struggling adventurers.

Interestingly also the basic rules set of the Generic Universal Roleplaying System (GURPS) by Steve Jackson Games, contains rules and suggestions about adversarial players, albeit with the notion that an adversarial player will play adverseries ultimately designed by the game master.

And then, there is also Fate, a modern character focused, “story telling” game which, by treating every important story element as a character, offers rules and examples to play on a, possibly adversarial, faction or domain level. There are examples in the Fate Toolkit, as well as in the Burn Shift and Mindjammer settings by Sarah J. Newton.

I’m sure one could find many more examples. If you know of any, please add them to the comments!

The gentle but seldomly trodden path to domain level play

Of course I am perfectly aware, that Dungeons & Dragons’ actual rules put forth in the three brown booklets of 1974 do fokus on characters starting at low level, going on dungeon expeditions as the default setting. This primary focus of the game is again repeated in the paragraph THE FIRST DUNGEON ADVENTURE, in Gary Gygax’s 1979 Dungeon Masters Guide. And it has become the assumed standard ever since, with domain level play only starting once characters reach the lofty, so called “name level”.

Similarly in Traveller, patrons are usually considered to be non-player characters, who might offer jobs or quests to the player characters. And while Marc Miller writes “With time and a growing knowledge of the universe, the players themselves will develop their own missions and become for a time, their own patrons.”

From an educational perspective this gentler path to domain level play appears to be an easy, little demanding way to do it, but achieving patronage through play seems to happen rarely enough, and if at all, only after many sessions have been played.

While in this light, games which never reach domain level play might seem to be missing out, I don’t believe wargame like, adversarial, domain level play to be the end all and be all. Since the days of the old war gaming grognards, a lot of great developement has happend, and character driven role playing games have developed into a multitude of intersting genres and sub genres. Playing a well scripted 1920s pulp adventure may be a phenomenal experience, telling relationship driven stories in a postapocalyptic dystopia might be all you’ll ever want from this hobby. And heroic high fantasy as embodied by todays 5th edition of the original fantasy role playing game has become a whole genre of it’s own. If you like it, there’s nothing wrong with playing the game by it’s modern rules.

All this post is really about, is just say, that playing the game by it’s original rules, might offer an experience much more immersive, than you ever thought. And clearly those original rules sets contain those rules aimed at domain level play. They may just as well be applied right from the start — when you begin to plot your Grand Campaign!

More food for thought

  • http://wanderinggamist.blogspot.com/2021/07/current-11-timescale-campaigns.html
  • https://bdubsanddragons.blogspot.com/2021/07/acks-session-24-croc-whisperers.html
  • https://waterdeeposr.blogspot.com/2021/06/real-time-play-braunstein-effect.html

Finally, be sure to watch Secrets of Blackmoor!

Quick Traveller5 Characters

So our Traveller 5 campaign is 12 sessions in, with two independent player groups roaming the Rhylanor Subsector. So far the story has been very consistent and player attendance has been almost 100%. Of course eventually players will need to have to skip a session once in a while. Also, new players might want to join, and players might want to roll up a second (or third?) character on short notice, as developments in the campaign might demand. I’m a huge fan of very traditional campaign setups and open table sandbox gaming (1:1 campaign time, multiple characters per player, all the good stuff).

But then character creation in Traveller 5 is very detailed and takes some time. Up until now we’ve done characters in one-on-one sessions, which took from about 20 to 90 minutes. And right there’s a rub, obviously. Lengthy character creation is nothing I would even want to think of, two hours before a session starts, let alone after the session has started. So this does not seem to be ideal for a traditional campaign.

So what do we do? We need quick character creation!

The following is what I’ve come up with:

The fast and loose method

  • Roll six attributes with 2d6.
  • Pick a name.
  • Let’s talk (or chat or post online) about the kind of character you want to play.
  • Take 5 skills to fit your character idea (the referee will give you suggestions).
  • Roll 1d3 for the level of each skill.
  • Optionally, trade in skill points to increase low attributes (5 or less).
  • Haggle about the gear and credits your character might reasonably have acquired up until now (again the referee will give you suggestions).
  • Done, you’re ready to play!
  • Optionally, some time in between sessions, retrofit a homeworld and a career to your character.

I know it relies heavily on the suggestions, advice and ultimately impartiality of the referee. But if you don’t trust your GM, why play at all, right 😉

This approach to character creation already has precedent in our campaign. When one first time role player asked if she could join the game — literally an hour before we were going to start — I asked her to give me a rough idea of what kind of character she wanted to play. She imagined an adventurous, sort of roguish young woman who had been travelling for quite some time already, sometimes as a working passage, sometimes as a stowaway. Then we did some dice rolling and chatting and came up with this:

UPP 796947 (age 22)

Streetwise-2, Stealth-3, JoT-1, Blades-2, Fighter-1

Dagger, Heavy Coat, 500 Credits

Here you go, a playable character. In between sessions we added some backstory, but basically that’s the whole process.

Recently we found another option, which was actually used while we were already half way into a session. A character was needed really quickly.

The online generator method

A lot of folks know and use Paul Gorman‘s Classic Traveller Character Generator. While characters generated for Classic Traveller (CT) are sort of playable according to Traveller5 (T5) rules, their skill values tend to be quite low. I think I remember suggestions to multiply CT skill values by 3 to use them in T5, but we’ve come up with a different method, leading to a much more detailed skills set. Here’s the character the generator gave us:

Lt Colonel UPP 7765CB (age 30)

3 terms army

ATV-1, Air/Raft-1, Dagger-2, Electronics-1, Fwd Obsvr-2, Rifle-1, SMG-1

Now instead of just increasing those skill values, we looked at the career. Survival of three terms in the army, commission, promotion in every term. In Traveller5 the soldier career yields 4 skill points per term plus 1 skill point for a commission, and 1 skill point for each promotion. So in T5 this characer should have 12 skill points for careers, plus 4 skill points for his promotion to officer rank 4, a total of 18 skill points. Add to that possible home world skills. Nine of those 18 points have already been allocated, and they were translated to T5 rules thus:

Electronics-1, Fwd Obsvr-2 (no conversion needed)

ATV-1 and Air/Raft-1 ⇒ Driver-0 (Wheeled-1 Grav-1)

Dagger-2 , SMG-1 and Rifle-1 ⇒ Fighter-0 (Blades-2 Slug Throw-2)

The remaining 9 skill points were allocated by taking automatic skills by rank and randomly rolling on table C Soldier Skills of the soldiers career for the remainder. Finally, after picking a home world, we added home world skills, too. I know this might sound a bit complicated, but it actually went much faster then doing a full on character generation according to T5 rules. Now the character looks like this:

Army Reserve Major, UPP 7765CB (age 30)

Admin-2 Fighter-2 (Slug throw-2 Blades-2) Forward Observer-2 Electronics-1 Leader-1 Medic-1 Stealth-1 Steward-1 Streetwise-1 Tactics-1 Driver-0 (Wheeled-1 Grav-1) Hvy Wpns-0 (WMD-1)

Now, this looks like a playable character to me, generated on the fly, expanded to T5 stats in between sessions.

I must say I like both methods, and would always let player preference be my guide. Finally I guess both approaches can be viewed as rules as written if you consider this quote from the Traveller5 rules books:

“Create the Character you want to play with friends. Pick and choose abilities that are important and interesting. Use randomness for the rest.”

I’ve nothing to add to that 😉

High Level Spielercharaktere für die Octagon-Kampagne

Die Octagon-Kampagne ist eine Traveller-Kampagne, die ich seit nun sieben Sessions leite. Ich liebe Komplexität und parallele Handlungsstränge, und daher freut es mich sehr, dass sich zwei Spielergruppen gefunden haben, die beide unabhängig voneinander in der gleichen Kampagnenwelt spielen.

Kürzlich wurde ich dann auf einen Blog Post über das Kampagnen-Spiel mit High Level Charakteren aufmerksam gemacht. Spieler übernehmen dabei im Hintergrund der “normalen” Spielrunden die Rollen hochstufiger Charaktere, die auf politischer Ebene handeln, oder sich strategisch gegenüber stehen. Während ich finde, dass Blogger Jeffro etwas gnädiger mit uns Normies sein sollte, finde ich die Ideen hinter dieser Art zu spielen äußerst faszinierend. So faszinierend, dass ich dann auch gleich noch etwas über die Braunstein Spiele von Major Wesely gelesen habe und ein weiteres Mal die Doku Secrets of Blackmoor geschaut habe.

Ergebnis: High-Level Charaktere für die Octagon Kampagne! Dabei handelt es sich z.B. um Adelige mit Hohheit über einen gesamten Subsektor, stinkreiche Oligarchen, denen subsektorweit agierende Konzerne gehören, sowie die Patriarchen traditionsreicher Trader-Familien, die über ganze Flotten an Handelsschiffen verfügen. Solche Charaktere ziehen nicht selbst auf Abenteuer aus, und kommen auch nicht mal als normale Auftragegeber in Frage. Nein, ganz klar, die Fürsten der Space Lanes, die oberen Zehntausend der Spinwärts Marken lassen machen!

Das ganze läuft so: Im Hintergrund der Abenteuer der zwei “normalen” Spielergruppen läuft ein Play-by-Post Spiel dieser hochrangigen Charaktere. Einmal in der Woche erhält jede:r “High-Level”-Spieler:in schriftlich aktuelle Nachrichten — Infos, die von Geheimdiensten, Informanden, aber auch den imperialen Network News mitgeteilt werden könnten. Als Reaktion wird dann eine schriftliche Order an die Spielleitung zurück geschickt, welche die Effekte in der Kampagnenwelt umsetzt.

Per Order könnte alles mögliche veranlasst werden: es könnten diplomatische Missionen oder Agenten entsandt werden, Truppen zusammen gezogen werden, eine Party der Reichen und Schönen ausgerichtet werden, was auch immer. Und selbst wenn jemand den Krieg erklären sollte, die Kampagne kann dadurch gar nicht kaputt gehen. Es würde nur alles dramatischer werden.

Dabei kann/darf/soll es gerne zu Interaktion mit den Spielergruppen kommen. Die Beauftragung einer Spezialeinheit, die Industriegeheimnisse stehlen soll, könnte so unmittelbar in ein Abenteuer für eine der Spielergruppen münden — Ausgang ungewiss.

Zwei High-Level Spieler sind schon gestartet und grübeln über ihren ersten Schachzügen. Den Dritten werde ich hoffentlich noch dieses Wochenende mit seinen Infos bestücken. Zwei High-Level-Charaktere wären damit noch vakant. Ich denke fünf ist eine gute Zahl für dieses “Domain Level Spiel” im Hintergrund.

Die Informationen welche die High Level PC Spieler zu Beginn bekommen würden, sähe ungefähr so aus:

Basisdaten

  • Name, Alter
  • Eigenschaften
  • Hintergrund
  • Aktueller Standort

Resourcen

  • Wie ist der politische Einfluss? im Subsektor? im Sektor? im Imperium?
  • Befehlsgewalt über militärische Einheiten?
  • Agenten? Geldmittel?

Ziele/Motivation

  • Was ist das Ziel des Charakters?
  • Was will sie/er erreichen? Was will sie/er verhindern?

Kürzliche Ereignisse

  • Was ist der aktuelle Hintergrund in der Spielwelt

Aktuelle Nachrichten

  • Was gibts neues?
  • Was berichtet die Zeitung?
  • Was berichten die Geheimdienste oder sonstige Quellen?

Dann geht es los. Was auch immer die Order des High-Level Charakters ist, es wird Auswirkungen auf die Spielwelt haben. Die Nachrichten “reisen” dabei nach den üblichen Traveller-Regeln. Dass heißt, wenn zum Beispiel ein Raumschiff welches 6 Sprünge weit entfernt ist, zum Standort des Auftraggebers kommen soll, dann ist mit seiner Ankunft nicht vor Ablauf von 12 Wochen zu rechnen. Denn 6 Wochen (6 Sprünge) braucht die Nachricht, um beim Raumschiff anzukommen, und 6 Wochen braucht das Raumschiff dann selbst um den gleichen Weg zurück zu legen. Und ach ja, die Kampagnen-Zeit läuft in Echtzeit, 1:1. Das sollte man bei der Strategie berücksichtigen.

Unser “Spielbrett” sind die Spinwärts Marken des offiziellen Traveller Universums. Die aktuellen Handlungen spielen im Rhylanor-Subsektor. Kampagnendatum heute ist 014-1106 Imperialer Kalender (14.01.2022).

Falls jemand Lust hat mitzuspielen, oder sonst allgemein an der Kampagne interessiert ist, gerne auf dem Grenzland Discord-Server im #sabbel-kanal melden 😉

Octagon Campaign – Session 1

The Initial Situation

After seven calm days in jump space aboard the sleek, jet black yacht Dark Moon, it’s crew of five are awaiting the iminent exit to normal space, heralded by a familiar low rumble.

There is Carmen Marshall, 35 year old captain and owner of the Dark Moon and Van Dex, Carmen’s 39 year old “first officer”. The two have been business partners for a while. So far Van Dex didn’t notice anything unusual or even illegal about Carmen’s business practices. After a prior career in the employ of his home world mega corporation Tremous Dex, he’s used to the ins and outs of space trading. Carmen has never told much about her home world Raschev, why she left, and never went back home. Carmen and Van Dex are non-imperials, they’re from independent worlds far on the spinward edge of the sector.

There are also three passengers: the young and wealthy scientist Suri Brown, who specialises on psionicology, and two imperial veterans, medical doctor Edward Phila and army captain Walter Kemp, they both served in the army and have known each other since they met during the infamous Siege of Gitosy.

Over the last few days in jump space some tension has been mounting aboard. A week ago, mere seconds before the jump, the Dark Moon was almost hit by a rocket. The crew realized they were being persued only moments before and couldn’t make much from the sensor readings. After reviewing the recorded visuals of the other ship, all Walter could tell was: “they’re not imperial and they’re not from Gitosy, that’s for sure”. Carmen seemed tense at first, but shook off her nervousness quickly. Then they came up with a plan: “as soon as we exit to normal, we divert from our course to Vanejen, power down and wait if anything pops out of jump behind us, everyone put on vacc suits!”.

They spend some hours “lying doggo”, passive sensors show nothing. Then they power up again, do an active sweep some 500.000 km around, still nothing. Soon enough they get hailed: “Dark Moon, this is the Tortuga Heritage, stand by for boarding”. There is some commotion aboard the Dark Moon, “damn, why didn’t we sense them, not even a jump flash when they emerged”.

But now they’ve got a reading on their screens. The Tortuga Heritage is closing in, obviously. They know they’ve still got hours to prepare. As time passes sensors show, that the other ship is a modified far trader, it’s fast and about the same size as the Dark Moon. It sports the emblem of a blindfolded skull on it’s fins. They hail the Tortuga Heritage and ask for their objective.

Surprisingly it’s captain, one Benjamin “Quicksilver” Turkin, is quite frank about this: “see, there’s this bounty of 50.000 Credits on Carmen Marshall’s head – it’s dead or alive, so you might as well eject her from your air locks for us to pick up, but wouldn’t that be a pity? Besides, nice ship the Dark Moon, almost pathetic to see her in our cross hairs”.

Walter Kemp turns to Carmen angrily “why, surely there’s something about you we should have known, not a bad idea to cycle you through the air lock and be done with it”, but Suri takes a stand “no one is going to take anyone of us”. Van Dex is puzzled. Carmen snarls “I bet there’s more bounty on Quicksilvers head then mine!”

After some discussion Walter Kemp picks up the comm: “Tortuga Heritage, this is Captain Walter Kemp. I’ve seized control of the Dark Moon, we’ll be awaiting your docking maneuvre, and will exchange Mrs. Marshall for an immediate payment of 10.000 Credits” and Quicksilver seems to bite: “Copy, Captain Kemp, stand by”.

The Tortuga Heritage slowly closes in, both turrets aimed at the Dark Moon, Van Dex has manned the Dark Moons turret aiming at the air lock of the other ship and watches the tubular boarding gantry slowly extend across the gap. Carmen is still in the pilots seat and programs her ships computer to keep a close boarding distance to the Tortuga Heritage.

Suri and Edward take up position in the Dark Moons Airlock, ready to cover Walter, who’s preparing to meet the bounty hunters. All are in Vacc Suits and armed with rifles. Walter has secured himself with a long multifilament, EVA-security chord, tied to the air lock and pushes Carmen’s black, custom made vacc suit in front of him. They’ve filled her vacc suit with some scrap metal for mass and filled it up with hydrogen. Carmen whined at the plan, but gave in. They’ve tied the arms of Carmen’s vacc suit behind it’s back and tied the boots together to make it appear like she’s bound up.

“Ok, this is Captain Kemp, I’ve got Mrs. Marshall tied up and will meet you half way between our ships in the gantry. Have 10.000 Cr ready for the exchange.”

He slowly moves out into the gantry. On the other side he notices a woman in combat armor with head lights and a dark visor accompanied by a small combat droid. He knows these droids all to well, and mentally prepares to aim for it’s vulnerable control circuits. Then after a pause:

“Negative Kemp! We’ll meet you on our ship. Make no mistakes!”

Walter moves on carefully, everyone on the Dark Moon get’s nervous.

Suddenly Suri can’t hold it anymore, she jerks on Walters security line, tries to pull him away from danger, Walter shoves the empty space suit away from him, as he get’s pulled back. Van Dex hears the commotion and fires pulse laser at the other ship, Edward fires at the prepared space suit. Both ships get pushed appart from the explosion, the woman in combat armor and her droid spin out into space lifeless. Walter dangles on the security chord in between the ships surrounded by debris and finally get’s pulled back into the safety of their air lock. Carmen face palms.

Walter says “they’re not getting away with this, now we’re going to board, we can have the Tortuga Heritage! I’ve done this many times while in service”. He jumps, drifts some 150 meters and lands right next to the outer hatch of the Tortuga Heritage. The security line reels out to maximum length. As he manages to successfully open the hatch from the outside (a bunch of amazingly successful Vacc Suit and Electronics rolls), he feels something bump into him from behind. Suri has attached herself to the security line and cable cared accross. Edward follows quickly thereafter. Through the view port of the inner hatch they spot four mercenaries in combat suits, aiming sub-machine guns at them. Now everyone has had enough of this:

Quicksilver panicks and orders his gunner to fire rockets at the Dark Moon, despising the dangerously short distance, Van Dex fires recklessly at the Tortuga Heritage, a couple of explosions ensue, Suri gets blinded by laser reflections from the Dark Moons protective coating. Captain Quicksilver dies from a direct hit to his bridge. One mercenary goes down in the cross fire. The Dark Moon suffers hits to her fuel tankage and the cargo hold, damaging Van Dex’s Air/Raft badly. They’ll still be able to land.

Finally the Dark Moon’s Crew takes four surviving mercenaries captive, secures ten brand new SR-5 Survival Rifles and four HES-6 Hostile Environment Suits from the Tortuga Heritage’s cargo hold. They manage to restore control of the Tortuga Heritage just enough to put the badly damaged ship on a trajectory for a safe orbit around Vanejen. Then they make for Vanejen Space Port.

Vanejen is a bit larger then Mars, has standard atmosphere, still breathable without protection in spite of some notable industrial pollution. About 60% of the surface is covered with oceans and there are large ice caps on both poles of the planet. The local tech level is similar to Terra’s early twentieth century, and a feudal technocracy maintains a rather permissive law level.

Down dirtside, the crew discovers that the old navy facilities of the class C space port have been deserted more then a century ago. There are no repair facilities, and only unrefined fuel. Seems like they’re stuck on Vanejen for some time. The mood get’s worse as Van Dex finds that his calulations we’re off by some degrees. The Tortuga Heritage’s orbit is decaying …

About the rules

This has been the first time i’ve played and refereed a game with Traveller5 rules. Writing this session report, I’m surprised how much actually happend in this first four hour session. I had to look up a few things during the session, especially the space combat range bands. And some weapon stats for space combat.

Things I liked:

  • the base mechanic is super simple, roll 2d6 under target number. Basically that’s all a casual player would have to know.

  • optional granularity of the system seems to scale well. The rules allow to include technical details to various degree – as long as it’s fun.

  • Range Bands are great, they facilitate realistic narrative without bogging down the game by having to count squares or measuring distances on the gaming table.

  • ablative armor and the “10 hits put any NPC out of action”-rule, speed up combat resolution nicely.

Things I struggled with:

  • Calculating numbers of dice to roll and modifiers in combat, there are a lot of variables to take into account: distance, cover, rate of fire, is the combatant firing cautiously or snap firing? I guess I’ll get used to it.

Things to look up in the rules

  • Rules for sensor actions. I thought them less important while reading the rules but found them to contribute quite a bit to the narrative and set up of the situation, even in the first session. I hand waved this for now. Fair enough I think.

Movement and Combat Rounds in OD&D

User Tegres over on Discord asked, how I handle movement in combat rounds in OD&D. And what about shooting bows?

Surely, when it comes to OD&D, these are the most commonly discussed rules questions.

What’s in the rules?

The original rules contain various hints at how movement and combat rounds should be adjudicated, and all of them seem to be somewhat contradictory. On page 15 of Vol. I Men & Magic we learn:

Light Foot Movement12″
Heavy Foot Movement9″
“Armed” Foot Movement (shouldn’t it read “armored”?) 6″
Movement categories in OD&D

So e.g. a Heavy Footmen, that would be a fighter in chainmail with sword and shield, has an assigned movement of 9 inch – 9 inch on the tabletop that is. But 9″ per what? In what time? Once per turn? … but wait, yes! Further down the page we’re presented with the example of an Armored (sic!) Footman moving 6″/turn. It’s per turn! … so that seems settled.

On page 8 of Vol. III The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures the reader is informed that:

“In the underworld all distances are in feet, so wherever distances are given in inches, convert them to tens of feet

So 9″ would be 90 feet in the dungeon. Alright, sounds familiar, especially if you know your B/X rules.

“Movement (distances given in Vol. I) is in segments of approximately ten minutes … ”

and

“Two moves constitute a turn.”

Wow, moves/movement, segements, turns … I’m confused. But let’s note: 1 turn is approximately 10 minutes. Now let’s close in on the combat round:

“Melee is fast and furious.”

Hell yeah! let’s get to it!

“There are ten rounds of combat per turn”

Ah, here it is. From this statement it’s commonly derived that one combat round would thus be one minute long. But do the authors explicitly say so? Single combat rounds could be much shorter than a minute, or much longer, only on average ten combat rounds amount to one turn, or ten minutes – at least that’s the freedom I’d like to take in this case. Surely everyone needs to catch his breath after 10 rounds of combat …

Regarding distances in the wilderness we finally find on page 17 of Vol. III:

“inches convert to tens of yards for the wilderness”

And that’s it. Other than that, when it comes to combat rules, OD&D refers to Chainmail, a miniatures rules set published in 1971. There simply is no clear statement what distance a character might cover within one combat round.

How about Common Sense?

How far can a human move within one minute? A quick search gives me these estimates:

Pacekm/hm/smeters/minute (“combat round”)
walk41.160
jog82.2132
run164.4264
commonly achievable speeds of human-sized bipeds

O.k., wait … so while a real world human walking at a leisurely pace will cover 60 meters per minute, the hero of our beloved fantasy realm – even when unencumbered – will only cover little more than half the distance? – given that 12″ should convert to 120 feet or 36 meters by OD&D standards … this is kind of embarassing.

So no way could movement per combat round (1 minute?) be meant as one 10th of the movement per turn (10 minutes). It has to be one “move” per combat round. But even that is slow, as we just figured out.

On the other hand, provided we’re using the common scale of 5′ or 1.5 m per square, if the distance covered in one combat round would actually be 36 meters, that would convert to 24 squares per round. Since my battlemap is 21 x 25 squares large, an unencumbered character could essentially cover all of the battlemap within one round of combat. How does this even make sense?

Let’s face it: one minute combat rounds are ridiculous!

But then again, 10 minutes for a fight of some 10 combat rounds? with all the give and take, readying of weapons, short breaks of combatants circling each other, panting with exhaustion, wounded combatants being taken care of, spells prepared and cast … Isn’t that, what the original rules really intent?

So what do I make of this? (TLDR)

I think the most essential information on movement in OD&D is in the values given in tabletop inches! It’s the first information given in the rules, and I’m convinced it should be read as the principal information.

A heavy footman moves 9 tabletop inches per combat round. period.

So combatants move some 6 to 12 squares on the battlemap. That’s playable and thus – for me – makes sense.

How far said distance actually is narratively, depends on the scale that’s currently in use. In narrow dungeon hallways, characters might be moving a couple of meters per round, in the outdoors a heavy footman might cover almost 100 meters per combat round – still well within the bounds of real world human speed. In an aerial combat, flying mounts might cover hundreds of meters. It depends on the scale that narratively makes sense.

After 10 combat rounds about 10 minutes will have passed. That’s that. Stop worrying!

Now, what about the bows?

OD&D gives us no clue about this. In fact it gives us no information about the structure of combat rounds at all, not even about initiative.

I’ve written about the structure of combat rounds before. Basically, I interpret the rules given like this: in each round a character may move it’s designated move in tabletop inches and have the chance to achieve one relevant success pertaining to the combat. That is: one roll to hit. For archers I rule, that they may roll twice to hit, if they decide to forfeit their movement. Casting magic takes time. Wizards may not move in any round they’re casting a spell.

Finally, while in our recently finished campaign we consistently used group initiative, since being a player in a Classic Traveller campaign, I have grown fond of simultaneous initiative. That is: no rolls for initiative at all, it’s a non-concept. There might be rolls for surprise (those are actually mentioned in OD&D!), then everyone rolls to hit once (or twice) per round, and even a dying character might still deliver a last damaging blow to his opponent. How cool is that?! Fast and furious!!

Getting to know Traveller 5 – Part II

Sir Rengwo bad-Jerzal gets in trouble

In an earlier post I tried a simple hand to hand melee between two characters. This time, I’ll try a melee fight between a competent fighter and a beast — a rather traditional situation when it gets to role playing games.

I’m presently reading The Queen of Zamba by Lyon Sprague de Camp, the first novel in his Krishna series. So, to flesh things out a bit, let’s say the short scenario I am about to play out happens on Planet Krishna.

The setup

Our Hero is Sir Rengwo bad-Jerzal (997ACB). He’s a highly educated, very intelligent noble of above average physical condition. His strength and dexterity are 9 each, and his endurance an average 7. Above all he’s very well trained with his rapier. His skill fighter-6 and his knowledge blades-6 reflect 12 years of experience with fencing weapons.

It’s a warm sunny day with few friendly clouds in Krishna’s beautiful emerald sky. Rengwo pensively strolls along some lightly wooded hills ahead of his squires, as he suddenly gets surprised and ambushed by a Yeki. Rengwo immediately draws his rapier, ready to defend himself since his jack, a lightly protective coat, won’t help him much.

Yekis are described as six legged minks the size of a tiger. They are fierce, dangerous pouncers, significantly larger and heavier then men — or krishnans for that matter.

So let’s try to define a Yeki in terms of Traveller 5 rules. I imagine a Yeki to be around 3 to 4 meters long, including the tail. That would be size 5 (large). It’s got typical strength for it’s size, and is a predator: 3D * size (the uppercase D is traditional Traveller shorthand for 1d6 — one six sided die). I roll a seven, so the final strength will be 45 … that’s a lot I think, but that’s just what the rules say. Let’s see how it works out. The Yeki fights with fangs and claws, doing 3D points of damage. It also has got a furry pelt, giving 2D-2 points of armor. I roll a 9, so the Yeki’s pelt provides armor=7. Because of it’s strength and lack of any defined skills, it’s melee number (MN) is 45. This melee number will become important in just a moment, bear with me.

To quickly recapitulate Rengwo’s stats, with his strength of 9, fighter-6 and blades-6 gives him a melee number (MN) of 9 + 6 + 6 = 21, his jack has armor=5, and his rapier does 2D of cutting damage.

The Fight

Now on to the fight. To attack in a close quarters hand-to-hand fight, one needs to subtract the defenders melee number (DMN) from the attackers melee number (AMN) and roll 2D under the resulting target number.

Round NumberYekiRengwo
1The Yeki attacks. It’s target number is AMN-DWM, so 45-21=24. The yeki needs to roll 2D under 24. Well, actually no roll is needed, since that’s an automatic success. I roll 3D for damage, and get a 12. Since 5 points of damage are absorbed by Rengwo’s armor, he suffers 7 points of damage.Rengwo suffers 7 points of damage and deducts them from his strength. He’s down to 2 points of strength, but still has got his full dexterity and endurance. He’s somewhat shaken but still up. Wisely he decides, that there’s just no point in trying to fence with this formidable foe, so he tries to climb a tree. He needs to roll his half dexterity: a 4 (rounded down from 9/2). He rolls a 5 and fails to climb out of reach at the first try.
2The yeki claws after Rengwo, does an automatic hit again, and causes 6 points of damage. Rengwo’s jack absorbes 5 points.Rengwo suffers another point of damage, and deducts it from his dexterity. He tries again to climb to safety, and rolls a lucky 3 this time. Let’s assume he’s out of reach for now.
3The yeki tries to get at Rengwo. It doesn’t even notice, how it gets hit by a crossbow bolt, for 9 points of damage. I treat the yeki as an NPC. 10 points of damage would take it out of action immediately, but anything less than that just get ignored.Alarmed by Rengwo’s shouting and the growls of the beast, one of his squires rushes to the rescue. He cocks a heavy crossbow and dares a shot at the yeki from 40 m distance. Assuming the squires dexterity at 7, and his skills fighter-4 and crossbow-3, the squires shooting number (SN) is 14. Forty meters of distance is range 2 in rules terms, so I need to roll 2D under SN 14 + 3 (thats size 5 of the yeki minus range 2), so 17. Again thats an automatic hit. I roll 3D for damage and get a 9. Considering the yekis protective pelt, that’s far from enough to take the yeki out of action.
4The yeki begins to climb up the tree, ripping and clawing at the trunk. It tries to get at Rengwo.Rengwo tries to climb higher yet, but now rolls a 5 on his half-dex check, and thus fails his climb. I decide that he tumbles down from the tree. Assuming that he’d impact on the ground with speed 2 (at least 10 kph) he would normally suffer 4D of damage (impact speed squared). But there’s a chance yet: to avoid falling damage altogether, a character is allowed to do a dex check with a number of dice corresponding to the falling height, and that’s 1D, since Rengwo’s falling height is within range 1. To roll 1D under Rengwo’s dexterity of 8 is once more an automatic success, so the fall will just stun Rengwo. All that remains to do, is roll 1D to determin the number of combat rounds Rengwo will be stunned. I roll a 6, so he will be out of commission for about six minutes.

The Aftermath

I assume that more of the knights men close in on the scene and do some more crossbowing at the yeki. So in order to focus on our heros fate, I decide to be done with the fight, and roll for some Behind the Screen Damage (BTSD). A roll on the BTSD table indicates only slight injury for the yeki, but since it has exhausted it’s endurance during the fight, I decide, that it will retreat, albeit with yet some fearsome growling.

Now, what happend to Rengwo? The rules say that damage suffered in combat is just a placeholder until after the fight. Now we’ll find out how bad things really got, by applying the Battle Damage rules.

The rolls for damage severity and diagnosis difficulty are modified by number of attacks after the first. I decide, that I’ll count the fall as another attack, so this modifier will be +2. For damage severity I roll a 3, +2 thats a staggering severity of 5D, and for diagnosis difficulty I roll a 2, adding +2 thats a formidable difficulty of 4D. So, what does this mean? Well, properly diagnosing Rengwa’s injury would be a formidable task, to be rolled with 4D under intelligence + medic skill. And to treat the injury would be a staggering task requiring a roll of 5D unter intelligence + medic skill.

Assuming one of the Rengwo’s retainers to be somewhat versed in first aid and of average intelligence I decide that the target number for those rolls would be a 9.

I fail the diagnosis roll with a 17 on 4D, the squire has no idea what’s wrong as he tends to the stunned and wounded Knight, and haphazardly patches him up. But there’s still hope: the Immediate Action Damage Control rule, allows a roll under “double medical” with 2D to lower the damage severity to “easy” (1D). Assuming a skill of medic-2 that would be a target number of 4. I roll 2D and get a lucky 3. What ever the squire did to help Rengwo, save him it did. Rengwo comes to and says “Thanks squire, it’s just a scratch, I’ll be fine”. He’ll recover within a days rest.

Lessons learned

Once again, Traveller 5 surprised me. This turned out to be a fun little solitaire adventure. I deliberately made this a borderline case with the opponent so much stronger than our hero. And I must admid, that I used rather high stats for Rengwo, to kind of get to a somewhat fair fight. Also the 3D damage for a crossbow might be a bit much. I just made it up, there is no crossbow in the Traveller 5 core rules. In the end however, this didn’t make much of a difference. After all it probably is ridiculous to try to melee with a six-legged tiger. Realistically, there’s just not much of a chance to succeed — and survive — at all.

It was interesting to note how quite a few rolls were automatic successes. The fight proper did take no more than 8 dice rolls, with quite a bit of action covered. Also, the BTSD rule and the Battle Damage rules help to focus on role playing an interesting story, and puts the focus on the characters. Every dice rolled seemed to make a difference in a sensical way. After beeing rendered out of action, it really does matter what any supporting characters choses to do. A well trained medic can be crucial to decide between quick recovery, severe injury with prolonged healing time or even death. The oracle of the dice guides the story as to how difficult diagonsis and treatment of an injury might be. Lot’s of prompts and opportunities for interesting role playing.

On the other hand it took quite some page flipping through the rules, to work the whole thing through. Something I would like to avoid at the table as much as possible. I feel just to recapitulate what was going on rules wise seems to be somewhat complicated, even at second glance. Traveller 5 uses some unusual mechanics, and I hope to develop some kind of intuitive feeling for when rolls are just not necessary. Be it because they would be automatic successes or simply wouldn’t matter much for a fun experience. After all Traveller 5 author Marc Miller advises his readers about the ROARN rule: Resolve Only As Really Necessary.

In Sprague de Camp‘s novell by the way, the yeki is caught and rendered out of action not by hand to hand combat, but by setting up a large net trap — by ingenuity rather than brute force. At the table, this kind of resolution would require planning and old school style negotiation in the first place, not some tedious dicing duell. And as in old-school games, in Traveller 5 one should try to avoid fights as much as possible, unless sound planning literally provides for automatic success. I like that!

I’d be happy to receive some comments by those experienced with Traveller 5 who might happen to read this post.

46.656 Psychedelic Landscapes

So here’s a table you might want to use in your next science fiction or plane hopping campaign.

I came up with this while starting to prep for a science fiction campaign I’m planning to run some time soon. It’ll use the Traveller5 rules set, but that’s just a side note.

So right now I try to read as much science fiction stuff as I manage, things like Dune of course, various stories by Poul Anderson, Jack Vance, parts of the Darkover Series by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I also binge the original Star Trek series for inspiration, and I marvel at pictures of imagined futuristic and psychedelic landscapes. Do an image search for “science fiction landscapes” or “psychedelic landscape” … see what I mean?

I adore those retro-futuristic, quite possibly substance induced visions of the future, conceived in our own 1960ies to 1980ies.

d66 The land … The sky … Over the horizon …
11 coagulated caramel greyish purple a spherical station
12 spined blood colored hills color of thick dark blood a majestic dragonlike flyer
13 blockish hills like colorful toffees a deeper blue the hazy view of a ringed planet
14 green rolling hills foggy anthrazite dust a distant tubular structure
15 lush tropical forrest a freakish green myriads of tiny insects
16 endless patterns of industrial structures a gradient of cobalt blue to sparkling cyan a moon that appears too close
21 endless waves of industrial waste the color of sulfur shuttles trafficking
22 flat with occasional polyhedral shapes monotonous light blue a disk shaped station
23 like the rendering in an 8 bit computer game sepia colored with feathery pink clouds some batlike flyers
24 a rough desert like colored inks bleeding into each other foreboding dark clouds
25 swampy with occasional cone shaped hills almost white the cube like silhuette of the high port
26 a sea of turquois doted with myriads of steep hilled islands a crisp blue with floating ice crystals egg shaped pods traveling silently along invisible lanes
31 an endless storm beaten ocean a cold blue mist a distant air ship
32 a sprawling metropolis hazy red large birdlike creatures, homing in on their nests for sun down
33 wavey hills of reflecting metal eternally black, an endless starfield streaks of toxic industrial smoke
34 oddly peaceful rural idyll overcast with dense clouds a massive globular structure
35 a maze of deep gorges and canjons purple with yellow clouds a perfect rainbow
36 hills like burned sienna and a meandering river of quicksilver a wierd multicolored haze a strip of green light
41 a lattice of multilayered longitudinal structures a perfect gradient of blues two disks of setting suns
42 a decaying primordial forrest soaked with moisture the waning crescent of a close moon
43 vast yellow steppe smelling of creosote a turmoil of reddish clouds and gases silhuettes of floating islands in the far distance
44 iridescent vastness of transparent foilage filled with floating seeds the bright shining of the galactic core
45 an endless plain of fine white sand purple and black a veil of rain in the distance
46 hills of purple grass dotted with hulking grazers a canopy of stars colorful reflections
51 rust colored steep mountains a foggy purple to dark blue gradient feathery floating particles that reflect a distant light
52 towering pillars piercing through the mist scatterd grey clouds and beams of sun light a hazy premonition of what might be tomorrow
53 dusty rubble and harsh craters a perfect gradient from dark blue to almost white some fog far in the distance
54 dunes of colorful sands like ground marble a dull grey multicolored clouds bathed in sunlight
55 a sea of white dunes a gradient of light blue to almost black the plume of a space ship, rocketing into the sky
56 seemingly organic bulging formations a dazzling bright yellow looming cubic masses of floating habitats
61 semi-liquid multicolored plains swirls of multicolored gases chromium reflections of a ship passing by at low altitude
62 vast terrasses of grey slate a low haze of blue the notion of deep space
63 floating islands of rock on a sea of lava a dull, monotonous light blue some pink reptilian flyers
64 a large coastal delta, with mangroves and occasional villages a gradient from orange to red the hazy silhuette of a close by artificial world
65 a semi-liquid oily surface a gradient from sulfuric yellow to cobalt blue towering stalagmites of the arcology
66 monumental ice capped mountains criss-crossed with red stripes the shining swirl of the galaxy

Just in case you don’t know what d66 stands for: this is a random table to be used with two six sided dice. Roll once for each collumn, and just roll two regular dice and read the first one as tens (a 5 becomes 50 for example) and the second die as ones (just read as is). You could use differently colored dice, so you can tell which one denotes the tens. I simply roll which ever two dice I can grab and read the one that lands more leftish of the other as tens.

Have fun spacing out!

Satans World

Eine GURPS-Kampagne basierend auf einem Roman von Poul Anderson

Hintergrund

Weit draußen, 240 Lichtjahre von Sol entfernt, ist ein Rogue Planet detektiert worden, ein interstellarer Einzelgänger, der nur alle paar Jahrmillionen in die Nähe einer Sonne kommt, um dann für einige Jahrzehnte aus seiner ewigen Nacht aufzutauen. Jeder weiß, Rogues bergen absurde Mengen an Rohstoffen — Reichtum für Generationen. Kein Wunder also, dass Euer Geldgeber, der alte Nicholas Van Rijn, hoch erfreut ist, als ihr die Triebwerke eurer treuen Muddlehead zündet. Es ist ja auch nicht viel Zeit, denn Ihr seid nicht die einzigen im Rennen um “Satans Welt”.

Die Geschichte beginnt damit, dass die Charaktere sich in Lunograd treffen, der von einer riesigen Kuppel überdachten, in den Plato Krater eingebauten City auf unserem Erdtrabanten. Neben Amüsierviertel und schicken Hotels gibt es dort auch die anonyme Datenanalyse- und Beratungsfirma Serendipity Inc., wo die Charaktere hoffen mehr zu erfahren. Doch dann ist es mit den glücklichen Zufällen auch schon vorbei, denn da draußen braut sich mehr zusammen, als nur ein Rennen um Rohstoffe.

Als Orte der Handlung kommen neben futuristischen Mondhotels, klaustrophobischen Raumschiff-Interieurs, und den wundersamen Welten uralter Zivilisationen auch van Rijns Motoryacht, die irgendwo in der Sonne der südost-asiatischen Inselwelt vor Anker liegt, in Frage — und natürlich die höllische Oberfläche des lebensfeindlichen Rogue Planet.

Spielercharaktere

Die Spielercharaktere sind kompetente, erfahrene Sci-Fi-Abenteurer. An Fertigkeiten ist alles gefragt, was in einer pulpigen Space Story gefragt sein könnte: Rocket Science und Raumschifffertigkeiten, Handgemenge und Laserkanonen, und natürlich ist Geheimnistuerei und Investigation ebenso gefragt. Neben normalen Menschen sind als Charakterspezies auch Wodeniten möglich: sanfte zentaurenartige Drachenwesen mit einem Faible für Philosophie und Spiritualität, oder Cynthianer: an irdische Katzen erinnernde Haudegen, die mit ihrem Greifschwanz so gut klettern wie Affen.

Kampagnenregeln

Als Spielsystem nutzt diese Kampagne GURPS 3. Edition, welches als Light-Version kostenlos erhältlich ist. Das System könnte simpler nicht sein: mit 3 Würfeln muss unter einen Zielwert gewürfelt werden. Hat ein Charakter zum Beispiel die Fertigkeit Astrogation-13 so müsste er mit 3W6 eine 13 oder weniger würfeln, um den Kurs von Luna nach Proxima centauri korrekt zu berechnen. Um eine verklemmte Automatiktür aufzubrechen, wäre vielleicht eine Stärkeprobe erforderlich: bei Stärke 11 müsste entsprechend auf 3W6 eine 11 oder weniger gewürfelt werden – easy as pie. Den Ruf kompliziert zu sein hat GURPS zu unrecht.

Obwohl ich auch dieses Spiel grundsätzlich mit vielen freien Handlungsoptionen einrichten würde, ist diese Kampagne eher ein Point Crawl. Sie geht eindeutig in Richtung geskriptetes Abenteuer. Daher wäre sie auch nicht als Open Table geeignet. Satans World ist was für 3 bis 4 Spieler, die Lust haben gegelmäßig über vielleicht 8 bis 10 Sessions an einer kontinuierlichen Kampagne teilzunehmen.

Appendix N

Poul Anderson tauchte mit seinen drei Fantasy-Romanen Three Hearts and Three Lions, The High Crusade und The Broken Sword übrigens an erster Stelle in Gary Gygax berühmtem Appendix N auf … wollte ich nur noch sagen … um die Verbindung zu D&D herzustellen 😉

Die Geheimnisse der Spinnwärts-Marken

Ein Open-Table/Sandbox-Kampagne mit Traveller5

Hintergrund

Diese Kampagne beruht auf den Classic Traveller Abenteuern 2, 3 und 12, dem klassischen Abenteuerpfad durch die Spinnwärtsmarken. Die Spinnward Marches sind das ikonische Standardsetting für Traveller, rund 250 Parsec kernwärts von Terra entfernt.

Der alte Händler David Dakkokki hat den Spielercharakteren seinen bewährten Klasse A2 Far Trader Empress Nicholle zur Verfügung gestellt, um damit Handel entlang der Handelsroute Spinwards Main zu betreiben. Die Empress Nicholle ist lange abbezahlt, aber auch ganz schön in die Jahre gekommen. Der Sprungantrieb müsste eigentlich getauscht werden, und Dakkokki verlangt natürlich seinen fairen Anteil am Geschäft.

Aus dieser Startsituation heraus, kann sich die Kampagne frei entwickeln, und die Charaktere können unternehmen, wonach auch immer ihnen der Sinn stehen mag: durch Handel Geld und vielleicht sogar ein eigenes Raumschiff verdienen, sich bei einem der geheimen psionischen Institute ausbilden lassen, bislang unbekannte Welten entdecken, oder politische Karriere machen.

Im Laufe der Kampagne allerdings werden nach und nach Hinweise auf uralte Relikte in den endlosen Weiten des Weltalls auftauchen, und am Ende werden die Charaktere vielleicht sogar das Geheimnis lüften, wie die Menschheit zu einer multiplanetaren Spezies wurde.

Der Abenteuerpfad durch die Spinnward Marches

Diese Kampagne eigent sich gut für einen offenen episodischen Kampagnenstil ähnlich der alten Star Trek Serie, bei dem es mal um existenzielle Fragen gehen kann, mal um fantastische Entdeckungen, oder auch schlicht darum, seine Haut und seine Credits heil durch den Sprungraum zu bringen. Es kann klassische Abenteuerepisoden mit Überfällen durch Raumpiraten, aber auch Kriminalfälle oder Horrorszenarien geben. Schließlich plane ich auch, ein paar Abenteuer aus anderen Spielsystemen – an das Traveller Setting adaptiert – als Episoden unterzubringen; Abenteuer die ich schon immer mal spielen wollte, wie zum Beispiel Durch das Tor der Welten oder den Bund der schwarzen Kapuze.

Die Charaktere

können einfache Bürger des Imperiums sein, Wissenschaftler oder Adelige, die das Abenteuer lockt, Veteranen des imperialen Scout-Dienstes, der Interstellaren Marine, der Handelsmarine, sowie vielleicht auch ehemalige Kriminelle und sonstige Lebenskünstler. Die Charaktererschaffung erfolgt nach den Regeln von Traveller5. Damit ist eine detaillierte Charaktererschaffung beginnend mit der familiären Herkunft, der Schulbildung, der weiteren Berufsbildung oder vielleicht einem Studium möglich. Außerdem können die Charaktere militärische Karrieren absolvieren, oder schon als erfolgreiche Händler aus der Charaktererschaffung hervorgehen. Und ja, auch in Traveller5 können Charaktere während der Charaktererschaffung sterben. Ein Traveller5 Charakter könnte so aussehen:

Esther Ortega, 29 Jahre, UPP 5AB9A8
Herkunft: Regina (Zentralwelt des Regina Subsektors)

Attribute: 
           Stärke 5
 Geschicklichkeit 10
         Ausdauer 11
      Intelligenz 9 
          Bildung 10
     Sozialstatus 8

Fertigkeiten: 
Planetologie-4, Händler-3, Steward-3, Sophontologie-2, Sensoren-1

Esther hat nach der Handelsschule an der All-Regina University Planetologie und Sophontologie studiert, und mit einem Bachelor of Arts abgeschlossen. Anschließend arbeitete sie für 4 Jahre als Kontakterin bei der Spedition Miller Orbital Express. Als es Probleme mit einem Kunden gab, stieg sie mit einem Schiffsanteil als Entschädigung aus. Schließlich rief sie ohnehin das Abenteuer und die Neugier auf fremde Welten und Lebensformen.

Die Spielmechanik

Traveller5 beruht auf einer simplen 2W6 Mechanik. Um eine Probe zu schaffen, muss auf zwei Sechserwürfeln der Zielwert oder weniger gewürfelt werden. Will Esther z.B. über einen T-Träger ballancieren, um vom Dachstuhl aus einen guten Überblick über die Szenerie zu haben, muss ihr:e Spieler:in mit 2W6 eine 10 oder weniger würfeln – entsprechend Esthers Geschicklichkeitswert von 10.

Proben auf Fertigkeiten werden in der Regel mit einem passenden Attribut kombiniert. Hat sich Esther zum Beispiel vorgenommen, während eines Linienflugs einem mitreisenden Politiker ein Geheimnis zu entlocken, könnte eine Probe auf ihre Fertigkeit Steward-3 kombiniert mit ihrem Sozialstatus 8 die Situation klären. Da der Politiker ein abgebrühter Kerl ist, der mit allen Wasser gewaschen ist, wird das allerdings nicht leicht. Es muss mit 3W6 (erschwerte Probe) eine 11 oder weniger gewürfelt werden (Sozialstatus 8 + Steward-3 = Zielwert 11)

Ein ausführlicheres Beispiel zur Traveller5 Spielmechanik findet sich hier.