Yes, Even MORE on That Ferry…

The NYTimes article is just asking for a re-write into an epic Traveller adventure, complete with a truly nasty end for the bad guy (who would be a shoe-in for an uber-corrupt Noble, who finally crossed one line too many.)

Among the nifty details, you ge:

  • an overloaded starship, leading directly to the deaths of hundreds of children (in a society with a very poor birth rate);
  • the raw rage over this incompetence directly threatening the government of a high-tech/high-pop world;
  • disastrous ship refits directly ordered by the Noble owner;
  • worthless art that is gamed to look expensive, and shown in the Louvre the greatest museums in the Imperium;
  • a household cult (to insure a completely loyal “inner core” of corporate/family leadership) that conveniently removes the need to repent of any sin (I wonder just how many Imperial Nobles are ready & willing to sign up…);
  • rampant looting of the mishmash of hidden and open businesses, all for his personal wealth;
  • a mysterious mass suicide of a splinter group of his personal cult…
    • The Referee can rewrite this into his enemies finding a sudden, mysterious need to gather together and commit mass suicide… which may or may not have involved either
      • an extremely powerful psion wanted across the sector, or
      • a Hiver working hard to pull off the perfect manipulation – and earn a tidy sum of credits, as well…

and finally

  • “The police said his corpse was too badly decomposed to determine the cause of death, leaving unanswered whether he committed suicide, died a natural death or was a victim of foul play.”

So… did the PCs find him this way, or did they provide a little assistance in his final moments? Some questions are best left hanging in the air, and left for a PC Ministry of Justice agent, mercenary, or bounty hunter to answer.

“Character is what you are in the dark.”
– Attr. to Dwight L. Moody (American Evangelist, 1837-1899)

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Thoughts on Travellers

The Face & The Mask

Due to the nature of the game, most players tend to be social & imaginative boys & men, looking for a fight, a challenge, or to do something new. A good-sized proportion just want to be part of an interesting story. A minority are interested in resolving abstract challenges, and there are those who just like building ships, worlds, and societies.

But, the men – young & old – who tend to play Traveller are different from the most likely kind of people in-universe who want to go on an adventure. Most likely, they are going to be soldiers of some type, adventurers looking for new experiences, or money-makers (legal or otherwise) in search of the next deal. A minority will be researchers, looking to uncover a mystery or get to the heart of an enigma. There are diplomats out there, but few games centre around social situations.

(Very few Traveller players are going to be artists of any sort: an artist needs an audience, and it’s hard to sing/create/write for a non-existent audience, which can’t give any feedback.)

Action & Reaction

The Referee should primarily cater to the players: they are what makes the game go after all. If possible, match the player with a suitable character: mercenaries, spacers, soldiers, and traders are quite popular. (Researchers, diplomats, and rulers, not so much.) Give the PCs the challenges they crave…

…but the Referee shouldn’t forget that the universe doesn’t revolve around the PCs. The players should be able to predict to a fairly good extent what will happen if they do A instead of B, and modelling the NPCs on known human behaviour (with predicable exceptions) is the best way to do so.


Most people, including players, understand reality through the prism of stories. Even when the game is mainly freeform with little or nor railroading, the very action of the players will tend to write a story. The goals and the means, the roads and the choices of the PC, will bring its own drama.

The main decision of the Referee then is to decide how humorous, how heroic, or how realistic the game should be. This should be decided in conference with the players, so they can enjoy the game.

Every Tale Has An Ending

I tend to be harshly realistic, but that’s me – how you do things in your game is up to you. Also, even grim and realistic games should allow heroic acts to shine, for the good guys to sometimes make their mark, and for the occasional joyful moment to grace the game, if only for a while. I’ve been always partial to the Earn Your Happy Ending trope, myself: but the Players have to have confidence that the Referee won’t act like a prick, string them along, and then cheat them out of it.

Now, sometimes the PCs will do something that will cheat themselves from the goal. So long as they are still alive and able to try again, I would let the consequences of their actions stand. If they are dead, or if they can argue their way to a different characters with a better chance of winning, I would permit them to build/roll a new set of characters and try again.

I dislike ignoring or rewriting the past, myself: actions should have consequences, and it is our history and our choices who shape who we are. But that depends on the game, the Referees and the Players, who may well feel differently, desiring more fun and flexibility than a fairly harsh and grim storyteller does.

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Flight Time

NEW! Soar above the clouds and watch the incredible force of nature from the flight deck of a B 737.

It doesn’t have to be a starship, to fit in Traveller: there are plenty of planes, jets, gliders, air-rafts, etc that the view can be used for…

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Plague Time

More lunatic adventure seeds for Travellers who don’t value their lives too highly…

Radio stations in Freetown broadcast the appeal on Friday to locate a woman who tested positive for the disease that has killed 660 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since an outbreak was first identified in February.

“Saudatu Koroma of 25 Old Railway Line, Brima Lane, Wellington,” the announcement said. “She is a positive case and her being out there is a risk to all. We need the public to help us locate her.”

Koroma, 32, a resident of the densely populated Wellington neighborhood, had been admitted to an isolation ward while blood samples were tested for the virus, Health ministry spokesman Sidi Yahya Tunis. The results came back on Thursday.

The family of the patient stormed the hospital and forcefully removed her and took her away,” Tunis said. “We are searching for her.”

Oh joy.

There are quite a bit of Traveller lessons here:

  • A large percentage of the sector residents don’t trust some outsider doctor. They’d rather treat their own people their way.
  • In the Quarter, the locals will arm themselves and storm hospitals, if they are sufficiently angered. Even Charity LIC – the famous medical company – can get into trouble here…
  • The 90% fatality rates are going to be ugly.
  • Back in the day – when things were even more violently tribal than today – there was a good deal of biological warfare going around. PCs should be careful when investigating ships and long-lost strongholds and facilities. That long-lost treasure – art, information, an alien artifact, legal evidence, even a crate of gold – could well come with a very high price…


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Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner?

Dining Etiquette: Interacting with Guests

Upon occasion, the PCs will actually have to meet their real patron…

The Avengers TV Intro – Season 5 – 1966

…and not her tidy, well-spoken, surprisingly lethal, and dangerously well-informed squire. (…valet, batman, adjutant, agent, manservant, counsel, etc…)

PCs from an upper-class background (or with solid acting/liaison skills) will be able to fit in well with the patron rather quickly; but things will be a lot easier for him – with less loss of face – if he can get the rest of his crew to not act like working-class peons on their first trip off-world.

A good percentage of Imperial Citizens will get intensely intimidated in the presence of a genuine ruling Noble — “Why yes, that tea cup she is sipping from is worth three times your annual salary!” — and start making a fool of themselves. Nobles have been dealing with forelock-tugging peons for ages now, and the vast majority can set such people at ease – if they choose to.

Then again… that pesky sense of entitlement keeps on cropping up, in the most unexpected of places.

Study Finds Upper Class Behaves More Unethically Than Lower-Class

Most PCs in Traveller games are starfarers, and often ship owners as well. This alone would put them in the upper classes in the Six Subsectors, where personal computers remain an expensive novelty item for most.

This does not make them nobles – but they are not too far below them. Especially as Nobles in the Imperial Empty Quarter know that they have to fight to keep every less-than-scrubbed free trader coming back to his world, if he’s ever going to grow his economy properly. Properly understood, this can give a sharp-eyed trader a good bit of leverage before the local Baronial Court.

Advanced Negotiations Part1

Remember: Negotiating with a Noble or a Corporation…

Tips on Bargaining in China

Is different from Negotiating in the Bazaar…

…but not that different.

(Things are rather different when it comes to the criminals, underground groups, etc. For one thing, they are much more likely to ‘forcefully renegotiate the agreement’ than the above-ground groups, which have a reputation to protect…)

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Cynicism… and it’s Limits

Casablanca gambling? I'm shocked!

Humans are often amazingly corrupt …

Casablanca La Marseillaise

But they can still surprise, from time to time.

In Traveller, PCs should see both sides of the coin.


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Trader Problems

“Ripped from the headlines”

Among the initiatives the DOT proposed Wednesday is a plan to address concerns that crude oil drilled out of the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota, today one of the most productive oil fields in the world, is a particularly dangerous form of crude. “It has become general public knowledge that Bakken crude is proving particularly explosive,” said Anthony Swift, a staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. – Time

Every Referee now knows which starship is going to have a very special cargo to handle…

“The money is so good – and it’s just this one time!”
“Just don’t tell our insurance company, or they’ll have a fit…”

 The ebola virus is ruthless, with a mortality rate of 90%. Transmitted through direct contact with the body fluid, blood and infected tissue of victims, ebola can easily spread to the health workers working hard to fight it.

“Health workers are prone to the disease because we are the first port of call for somebody who is sickened by disease. Even with the full protective clothing you put on, you are at risk,” Khan said in an interview with Reuters, before displaying the illness. – Time

Plague ports are definitely unusual – especially when they’re under strict quarantine, and there’s a client who is willing to offer big bucks to break quarantine to set someone/something in or out.

“Strange – it’s as if all they saw was the money, and never asked why no one else wanted the job…”
The Imperial Navy tech poked at the waving, shivering fronds, growing out of the skull of the corpse in the pilot’s seat.”…I guess they know now.”

Or, the PC’s can always be an Imperial Navy patrol ship, sent to investigate a ship that’s 1) behaving very oddly, having somehow altered its orbit to refuel at a gas giant even though 2) the ship is as cold and dead as space itself…

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Ending Manhunts

Quite a number of Traveller PCs are bounty hunters… but some of their bounties escape.

This may be via disguise, or high-level protection. Or, they may be found dead – perhaps a vengeance-seeker found them first, or they committed suicide, or even die in their hidey-hole behind a cabin wall, with 160,000 Credits in a bag, a pile of empty alcohol bottles, and some religious literature from the church they founded.

Referees should consider how bounties are verified, how deaths are recognized (as pictures can be faked), and how travel expenses are handled when the bounty pulls off an escape, one way or another.

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Problems with high-level AI

Rick and Morty – You pass Butter

I sense an ugly robot revolution in the near future…

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Terran Trade Authority RPG

For old guys who still remember the TTA books, there is an online copy of the RPG. It’s a drastically smaller universe than the Traveller one, with the three conflicting races coming from Alpha Centauri, Proxmia Centauri, and Terra.

Now, while the universe is a good deal smaller at the start, it is rapidly expanding. A major war has ended, and massive settler ships are preparing to head out. A lot of the military & utility vessels of the war are being retooled for peaceful purposes.

There are two styles of play provided: Heroic or Gritty. Of course, I am strongly of the Gritty persuasion, but I have a soft spot for genuine heroes. What you like is determined by the group, as usual…

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