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.

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!

Die Geheimnisse der Spinnwärts-Marken

Ein Open-Table/Sandbox-Kampagne mit Traveller5


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)

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

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.

Getting to know Traveller 5

A simple Brawl

So, I recently got the Three Big Black Books on ebay. The precious package arrived last week and I’m slowly starting to get a grip on the huge amount of information and the organization of these three mighty tomes – together they’re almost 700 pages of Sci-Fi goodness.

So to get a feeling for the system, lets quickly whip up two characters and have them face off in a brawl. I spared the regular character creation system for now and just rolled up two Universal Personality Profiles or UPPs and gave equal skills in unarmed combat to both contestants.

Here’s Roy Red: 37A578, Unarmed-2, Fighter-0

Roy’s pretty weak with a Strength of only 3, but then he’s quite tough with an Endurance of 10 (that’s the “A” in his UPP). Interesting … maybe he suffered some kind of handicap during his prior career but thereby learned how to live through adversities.

Gary Green: 755B59, Unarmed-2, Fighter-0 is of average Strength, but much less enduring then Roy (Endurance is 5 versus Roy’s A). Also Gary is somewhat less dexterous than Roy (Dexterity 5 vs. Roy’s 7).

Let’s see how this will work out in the fight. Note, that I’ll not take into account any of the other stats. Just for the sake of an example, I assume that Gary and Roy got into an argument, and finally Gary started to attack Roy physically.

Unarmed combat uses the melee rules found on page 203 of Book 1 “Characters and Combat”. First thing to do is figure out each characters “melee number”, shortened “MN”.

Roy’s MN is Stregth 3 + Figther-0 + Unarmed-2 = 5, whereas Gary’s MN is Strength 7 + Fighter-0 + Unarmed-2 = 9.

Now in order to effectively attack an opponent each of the two needs to roll two dice (2D) under a target number derived as attackers MN (or AMN) minus defenders MN (or DMN). So Gary would need to roll 9 – 5 = 4 or less on 2D to hit Roy, while Roy would need to roll 5 – 9 = -4 on 2D to hit Gary. Obviously the latter is not even possible.

But now consider this little gem of gaming rules: the target number can be modified by Dexterity, which can be spent as bonus points until it is used up. So Roy still can have a chance to hit Gary if he spends Dexterity Points to increase his chances to successfully hit Gary. Also each combatant can only engage in a number of combat rounds equal to his Endurance. After that he’ll only be able to continue attacks at a significant penalty (with regard to this penalty, there unfortunately seems to be an error in the rules, so let’s skip this for now).

But let’s see how this brawl will play out:

RoundGary 755B59 MN 9Roy 37A578 MN 5
1– starts the brawl punching Roy: AMN 9 – DMN 5 = 4. The Target number gets bumped up by using up 2 Dexterity Points thus making it a 6. Gary rolls a 4 and lands a blow causing 7 points of damage (that is damage equal to Gary’s Strength of 7)
– Roys blows do no harm
– takes 7 points of damage, his Endurance is now down to 3.
– Roy is panicking and invests all his 7 Dexterity Points into his attack. Also, since Gary started the brawl, Roy gets a +1 to hit back: AMN 5 – DMN 9 + 7 +1 = 4. But alas, he rolls a 6 and thus fails to retaliate.
2– Gary, now even more angry at Roy tries to punch him again: AMN 9 – DMN 5 = 4. He almost seems to go berserk and invests his remaining 3 Dexterity Points. So he’d need to roll a 7 or less on 2D. But he rolls an 8 and fails to hit Roy this time.– Roy, having spent all his Dexterity Points in the first round can’t do anything but try to avoid Gary’s incoming punches. No roll needed or possible.
3– Gary, tries to hit again but now he rolls a 7 against his target number which is now an unmodified 4.– Roy evades Gary’s attacks. No roll needed or possible.
4– Once more, Gary tries to land a blow, but again rolls a 7 against a 4.– Roy evades, but his Endurance, which was lowered from A to 3 in the first round, is now spent. He staggers. No roll needed or possible.
5– Finally, before Gary is exhausted, he tries to head butt Roy, but again fails his roll with a 6 versus 4.– Roy can hardly keep to his feet, but dodges once more. No roll needed or possible.
6– Gary is exhausted just as Roy is, the fight stops.– Roy slumps onto a bench, wiping his bloody nose.

Now, while it felt somewhat odd, that Roy could only effectively roll dice in the first round, I find this little experience quite interesting and a refreshing change from your usual D&D roll down the hit points fights.

First, there is this unique strategy option with allocating Dexterity Points to individual attacks. Do you spent them all at once? little by little? Only as things seem to turn against your favour?

Second, I very much like the exhaustion rules. This inhibits fights becoming endless non-sensical dicing duels.

Third, and I think that’s the one I like best: This fight is technically over after 5 rounds without anyone beeing killed, not even unconscious.

Obviously violence just can’t settle this conflict: time for role playing!

Also, as a finishing note for this post, I love how those utterly frugal stat blocks of the two characters are used to maximum effect. And I can totally see how some Traveller enthusiasts have put it: Traveller 5 comes round full circle to it’s Classic Traveller roots!

PS: in fact on page 127 of book 1 there is a rule on “Spectacularly Stupid” rolls when the target number is lower then the number of dice to be rolled: Roy’s player could have decided to try to roll a 3 on 3D every round after the first (that is a one on each of the three dice). Thus fishing for “Spectacular Success” would be highly unlikely with a probability of < 1%, but I’d surely add to the fun. I also like the witful diction …

Hanse Agents Inc.

Idee für eine Classic TRAVELLER Open-Table Kampagne

Hintergrund: Die Hanse Agents Inc. ist eine Agentur für Privatdetektive die alleine oder in kleinen Teams im Dienste diverser Auftraggeber arbeiten. Typische Tätigkeitsfelder sind Kurierdienste, Aufträge von Geschäftsleuten zur Beobachtung von Konkurrenten, oder z.B. Schutz von Betriebsgeheimnissen, Bereitstellung von Personenschutz und Eskorten für Adelige, aber auch gelegentliche kriminalistische Nachforschungen im Auftrag imperialer Stellen. Oberstes Gebot ist absolute Diskretion.

Lucio Persson, 58 Jahre (687BC9), Geschäftsführer der Hanse Agents, zahlt seinen Leuten ein Grundgehalt von 2000 Credits im Monat, zuzüglich einer Provision und Spesen je nach Auftrag.

Spielercharaktere: Charaktere werden nach den Standard-Regeln von Classic Traveller (Book 1, Characters and Combat bzw. deutsches Traveller Regelbuch) erschaffen. Es handelt sich also um Veteranen des imperialen Scout-Dienstes, der Interstellaren Marine, der Handelsmarine, ehemalige Soldaten, sowie vielleicht auch ehemalige Kriminelle und sonstige Lebenskünstler, die sich nun bei den Hanse Agents in „ruhigere Fahrwasser“ begeben haben.

Startdatum: 001-1105 (entspricht dem 1. Januar 5625 AD alter terranischer Zeitrechnung)

Hauptquartier: AECO Hiport, eine mächtige geostationäre Raumstation über Nordafrika, Terra, Sol Subsector, Solomani Rim, rund ein Jahr Reisezeit randwärts von Zentral, dem Sitz des Imperators entfernt.

Der Solomani Rim ist insgesamt technologisch hoch entwickelt, es gibt jedoch auch abgelegene Welten mit niedrigem technischem Stand, etwa vergleichbar mit dem irdischen Mittelalter. Nanotechnologie, und die offiziell verbotene Psionik, ermöglichen „Wunder“ die Hinterweltler an Magie glauben lassen. Die wissenschaftlichen Grundlagen dieser Phänomene sind jedoch seit langem geklärt. Während der Solomani Rim ganz überwiegend von Menschen bevölkert wird, trifft man gelegentlich auch auf fremde Sophonten wie Weganer, Hiver und die gefürchteten Aslan.

Kampagnen-Regeln: Open-Table, am Ende jeder Sitzung sollte der jeweilige „Auftrag“ abgeschlossen sein, zumindest sollten die Charaktere einen sicheren Raumhafen erreichen. Die Kampagnenzeit verläuft in Echtzeit.

Lucio Persson fungiert fürs erste als Standard-Auftraggeber. Die Charaktere sollten aber eine eigene Agenda entwickeln, und ihre eigenen Ziele verfolgen.

Es gibt keinen vorgegebenen Plot. Die Geschichte entwickelt sich aus den Aufhängern in Verbindung mit Zufallsbegegnungen, Gerüchten und eigenen Zielen der Charaktere.

PS: Starter Traveller gibts als kostenlosen Download.

2d6 – the original tabletop role playing dice mechanic

Is 2d6 a hype? I see it everywhere. It’s in games Powered by the Apocalypse like Dungeon World, it’s in Maze Rats and Stars without Number.

Powered by the Apocalypse games introduce three possible outcomes to a roll of 2d6:

10 or more: you succeed

7 to 9: you succeed, but there’s a problem

6 or less: the game master gets to make a move, probably introducing even more complication.

That’s cool, it drives the story forward.

The B/X edition of Dungeons & Dragons (1981), which has become sort of lingua franca in the OSR scene, has morale and reaction rolls based on 2d6. In the lack of persuasion skill rolls like deception, fast-talk or savoir-faire, reaction rolls are an important, and actually quite universal mechanic to adjucate non-combat encounters. It goes like this:

2d6monster reactionretainer reaction
2 or lessimmediate attackoffer refused;
reaction -1 on the next roll
3 – 5hostile, possible attackoffer refused
6 – 8uncertain, monster confusedroll again
9 – 11no attack, monster leaves
or considers offers
offer accepted
12 or moreenthusiastic friendshipoffer accepted; morale +1

Quite a lot of role playing opportunity stuffed into this table. Especially the 6 – 8 range should prompt for some interesting social interaction. Of course the GM can liberally count in charisma modifiers and bonus points for good role playing, bribes offered, or penalties because of overall bad behaviour.

Then 2d6 is the principal die roll in many iterations of the Traveller rules up to Mongoose Traveller and Traveller 5. Classic Traveller was released in 1977. And by the way, there is also the Cepheus Engine, an OGL’ed science fiction system based on Mongoose Traveller 1st edition. There are many supplements for Cepheus, also for non-sci-fi genres, turning it into something like generic universal 2d6 based role playing game system.

But it goes further back. Just look at Chainmail, D&Ds supposed predecessor, published in 1971. The man-to-man combat table uses 2d6 against armor class, just like Classic Traveller.

Blackmoor obviously was the first ever tabletop role playing fantasy campaign. Some time ago, I discovered a post on the gaming experience in Blackmoor. Guess what kind of die rolls were done most of the time? Some character sheets from the Blackmoor campaign have been preserved. Isn’t it suggestive, that attributes and skills had numbers mostly in the range of 2 – 12? The Secrets of Blackmoor documentary released recently is well worth a look if you’re interested in the history of geek culture.

Now I find this quite intriguing. Most people think of a d20 when it comes to role playing and iconic images of dice, but rather likely the original role playing dice were 2d6. In one of my recent posts on reddit I asked how the Classic Traveller rules might be related to the Blackmoor campaign. An interesting discussion ensued and of course the answer is obvious. The designers of Blackmoor, Chainmail, D&D and Traveller knew each other, probably exchanged ideas on game mechanics, 2d6 was commonly used in war games, even before Blackmoor, and after all, d6s were much easier to get at then those funky dice D&D demanded.

Just as a reminder, 2d6 result in a simple bell curve (well, more of a roof top curve actually). Here are the odds:

2d6absoluteat least
22.78 %100 %
35.56 %97.22 %
48.33 %91.67 %
511.11 %83.33 %
613.89 %72.22 %
716.67 %58.33 %
813.89 %41.67 %
911.11 %27.78 %
108.33 %16.67 %
115.56 %8.33 %
122.78 %2.78 %

Finally let my cite this awesome catch all 2d6 based roll playing mechanic found on Norbert G. Matauschs blog, the post is called Back to really simple role playing:

we both roll 2d6; if I’m higher, I say what happens, if you’re higher, you say what happens; if we’re close, we negotiate

What more do you need?