Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sing A Traveller Song

I have not done any real play reports for our Traveller campaign here on the ol' blog and honestly, at this point, doing so would feel like a huge undertaking.

I do want to talk a bit more about the campaign however and give you all an overview of what the game has been like.

Here goes nothing... *


We've had 14 sessions at this point, each about 8 hours long and featuring between 5 and 7 PCs on average. (As noted here) It's been an absolutely amazing experience and indeed one of the best campaigns I've run in close to 3 years (maybe more).

For one thing, it has a good number of players and I am definitely of the 'more players is better' mindset. I've mentioned on the blog before (though perhaps not in a long while) that I have more difficulty running games with fewer players than more players. A campaign with two or three players is bare minimum for me and a constant challenge to keep myself from getting bored and a lot of work to make it entertaining overall.

Another element that really makes this campaign fly is that the players and their PCs are very different from each other. This also causes a good deal of PC (and even Player) friction, but so far its all worked out to the campaigns advantage and the group is loving it.

Perhaps the single most interesting thing for me is the way the different players have adapted to the extremely open-ended nature of the campaign.

Basically, after starting out on the space station 'Bussard Reach', you are free to go and do whatever you want, however you can. This means players (and by default their PCs) adopt an attitude that best serves the way they like to play. Or, they don't, and as a result find the game somewhat more challenging to enjoy.

This too is interesting however, as I as Gamemaster get to watch players find their way and get a handle on how to make the milieu function in a way that works for them.


Will as Belarus Hosta is very proactive. The character began with a background story, an agenda and immediately went to work solving her problem. To that end she hired the other PCs to help her complete her goals. She continues to be a major driving force in their business arrangements but prefers battles of wits, words and information over anything even remotely physical. Where as most PCs in most games end up doing something stupid just to generate 'action', Will plays Hosta as too smart to gallivant around the galaxy getting into unnecessary trouble. She prefers her action to occur in the offices and board rooms of the MegaCorps and the Imperial government.

Hosta is the PC who interacts the most with the various NPCs of the setting and has a small entourage of characters that tend to orbit her nearly all the time. This is not only awesome for me as the GM (since I love developing and playing NPCs), but also creates a resource for the entire party if they know how and when to use it and stay on good terms with both Hosta and the NPCs in question.

AMARO Highport - Aequine II
(Amaro Highport will be played by the space station from Elysium)
Ray's character, Dr. Emil Fujikawa, has some great pathos behind it but hasn't done a lot over the span of the campaign so far. He is an excellent supporting character and might, perhaps, get a nomination for 'Best Supporting Actor' if this were a film or TV series. At the same time, he has (reluctantly) been the only one to investigate and engage the campaign's meta-plot, a big story going on in the background that has yet to (apparently) effect the PCs. Ray tends to almost 'anti-play' some of his characters. It is not the first time I have seen this rare phenomenon but it seems rather strong in Ray. He creates interesting characters who, by and large, sit it out, not really engaging in the activities around them. There is proactive, reactive and Ray, quietly passive with the exception of a few choice moments. Fujikawa shed this image a bit in the last few sessions, but it remains to be seen what mark, if any, the PC makes on the campaign or whether he simply watches and cheers from the bleachers.
Concept for Maria, Dr. Fujikawa's 'Assistant'
 Hans' character Amaya Takeda, relatively new to the group, has a seriously interesting background, though so far only tiny bits of it have been revealed. The only two relatively significant things we know about Amaya is the she fought in 'The Client State Wars' (which in our variant of Traveller canon is sort of like a several star system wide 'Vietnam') and that she has, as some point in the recent past, been involved in criminal career. What exactly happened to her during The Client State Wars and what criminal activity she partook in is unclear at this time. She was also involved with something called 'Project: Arrowhead' while she was in the Imperial Navy but the rest of the crew doesn't really know anything about this or what this is. Hans is fun to watch as he changes his approach over time. He tends to start hesitant and passive, moves to reactive and then suddenly surprises you with a proactive approach at a major moment in the story. Very exciting.
Ivan Petrovo, played by Andy, is also a late entry to the team (the latest actually) and has so far been run in such a way as to seem reactive in a 'typical gamer' style. The traditional approach of 'wait for someone to hire you for an adventure' works (which is why so much RPG gaming is based on it) and it is a great way for a new player to get his or her bearings. I am finding a lot of people here in New York aren't accustomed to a sandbox experience on this campaign's level. Having Ivan start his journey through the campaign in a more conventional way eases Andy the player into our style of play.

Amanook, Adlult Female

Solitary Arctic Carnivore/Hunter - Leighton IV

 Last but not least, Marcus and his character Rex Kincaid, had a little trouble finding their niche at first. Marcus began with the  traditional reactive approach, taking the first job offered by his NPC contact on the space station. When that job came from another PC, Marcus was surprised, then a little resentful that another PC was his 'boss' and finally envious/jealous that he didn't think of it. Moments like this tend to make Marcus want to one-up the other PC but he held off doing that and really got into what was going on in the story.
Later, in an attempt to exert Rex's importance to the campaign, Marcus took a more proactive approach and simultaneously began to interact more with both the NPCs and new PC Amaya Takeda. Unfortunately, this led to a series of activities which, while fun, took the group a long time to resolve. The ended up with fuller credit cards because of it but wasted time in other areas (the repercussions of which will be felt very soon). Finally, when information came Rex's way from a friend in the Imperial Scouts, Marcus went full blown Crazy-Player-Character-Scheme, suggesting the team back him up on an idea he was A) not going to be able to accomplish on his own, B) he doesn't have the skill set for, C) is in direct opposition to government forces both Imperial and alien (in this case Hiver) and D) wasn't thought out pretty much at all.
Proactive means creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.
In this case, Rex is being proactive by being the one to suggest he and the group react to some incomplete snippet of information he was told about a subject which he has not investigated in a place they can not easily or quickly reach.
When in the history of RPGs has such a scenario gone well?
Barking Alien

*It sometimes worries me how often I say this.


  1. Sounds like a great group. I'm glad it has been chugging along so well.

  2. It is a great group, though I have to admit it's the newer members that really keep it moving forward but under control at the same time.

    This illustrates the problems I've been having prior to the inclusion of the latter additions. Imagine trying to run the game with just Ray and Marcus' entries.

  3. Sounds like your group is about optimum size - a couple of ideas-people, a couple of wind-up-and-point players and a couple in the middle. Drop in a hint or clue and the adventure will practically write itself.

  4. David, you win the prize, and I mean 'The Prize', straight out of Highlander. The Key to All The Knowledge in The Universe.

    The very nature of this campaign, the thing that makes it great, is that I don't have to write any adventures at all. I only need to know what exists in the places the PCs go to. The 'adventure' is generated by the players. They decide where they're going and what they are doing. I, as the GM, am the reactive one.