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Classic Traveller session

pemerton

Legend
We played a session of Traveller today, which is our second for the year and the second since I last posted Traveller actual play.

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The PCs were in two main groups: one in the Novus system, on the research vessel St Christopher; the other on the ice world Zinion that orbits a gas giant in its system, with the alien vessel Annic Nova in orbit about Zinion.

In the previous session, the St Christopher had survived an Alien attack while in jump space (the attack being the result of the experimentation of Leila Lo, a space captain and surgeon and former owner of the St Christopher when it was part of a bioweapons conspiracy) before arriving at Novus. On Novus the Imperial Navy Commander Lady Askol had (i) lodged a first contact report detailing events on Zinion, and (ii) learned that an Imperial Scout Service X-Boat had recently crossed the galactic rift that separates our two starmaps with news that an Imperial Navy armada is en route, in pursuit of the St Christopher (which had run the Imperial blockade on the psionic world of Ashar).

Meanwhile, on Zinion, the PC von Jerrel - who had been left in command by Lady Askol - had been disabled in an attack by alien creatures (and had to have an implanted proto-Alien surgically removed). In response, Toru von Taxiwan, the leader of the NPC team on Zinion, had asserted command. During the night, the PCs Alissa and Bobby ("the robber") had tried to sneak into the NPCs' pinnace to take their air/raft but were captured instead: Bobby switched allegiance (a decision made by his player given Toru von Taxiwan's Leader-1) and Alissa had been taken prisoner.

Today's session picked up both strands of the action. We started with the group on Novus and the St Christopher. There was some book-keeping, as the PC owner of the vessel sold the cargo of assault rifles that had been carried for some time (Leila Lo served as the broker, and the roll on the resale value table was not too bad). And there was quite a bit of discussion about how the armada would cross the rift, and what might happen when it arrived. (It was agreed that Lady Askol had communicated this to the crew of the St Christopher.)

This was getting a bit bogged down, so (as GM) I switched the focus to Zinion.

When morning came, the PCs other than Alissa and Bobby noticed that those two were missing. And a call came in on their communicator, from Toru von Taxiwan, announcing that Alissa and Bobby had been apprehended breaking into their pinnace. The PC Methwit (a diplomat/spy) did the talking, and placed all responsibility back on the Taxiwanians. The result of a reaction roll was 7 - non-committal - and I decided that Toru would try Alissa without extending her hostility to the rest of the PCs. Around this time , Alissa's player established that she had not been body-searched and so still had her single hand grenade on her person.

The trial commenced, narrated by me (as GM). Alissa asked Toru what the sentence might be, and was told up to 6 years imprisonment. Alissa's player asked about the circumstances of the trial - I said that Toru stood at the bridge of the pinnace while the others (3 NPCs, Bobby and Alissa) sat on the couches. Alissa's player then asked (as Alissa) to be allowed to speak in her defence. So she went to the bridge while Toru went to the couches. Alissa then used her psionic cloaking/blurring ability to obscure her reaching for her grenade: she pulled the pin and threw it at Toru. In the rules we're using a grenade does 6D to its target and 3D to adjacent characters. Hits and damage were rolled, and all the NPCs and Bobby were knocked unconscious more-or-less severely (but none was killed outright). The question was then asked, I think by one of the other players, whether the pinnace itself was damaged in a major way. So I looked up the vehicular combat rules (which I've written up, adapted extremely loosely from the rules in the Mission to Mithril double adventure), and called for the appropriate checks: the roll to hit was high indicating damage to the pinnace, and then the next roll indicated a hull breach. Alissa's player made the roll for Alissa to don a vacc-suit (I used the Book 2 explosive decompression rules), and then she pulled a survival blanket over the NPCs to try and stop them freezing immediately from the intense cold of Zinion's atmosphere.

Alissa broadcast a distress call on her vacc-suit communicator, and the ex-pirate PC Xander came to her assistance wearing his battle dress. The surviving NPCs, in orbit about Zinion in their laboratory ship, also enquired (via communicator) what had happened. "An accidental explosion on board the pinnace" was Alissa's reply. There was no more communication from the NPCs.

The players debated what to do next: Alissa's player as (the rather immoral) Alissa; Xander's player as (the rather amoral) Xander; Methwit's player as the voice of reason and consequences (which when I think about it was probably Methwit in character); and Vincenzo's player as the voice of morality and decency (his only character on Zinion was Tony, who had no strong views of his own). Alissa's player's other character on Zinion, von Jerrel, was no more sympathetic to the NPCs than Alissa, given that Toru wanted to have him punished and perhaps executed for the use of psionics.

Various options were canvassed, from reviving the unconscious NPCs and perhaps handing over Alissa, to launching the pinnace into space with the NPCs on board. In the end it was decided to load all the spare blasting dynamite into the pinnace and blow it up (with the unconscious NPCs, and Bobby). The roll to avoid demolitions mishaps succeeded, and so about half-an-hour after the first explosion the pinnace was blown to pieces. A message was broadcast to the NPCs in orbit reporting an unfortunate "secondary explosion", but no reply or acknowledgement was received.

A small group of PCs - pilot, engineer and computer/comms operator - was on board the Annic Nova and they saw (as narrated by me) the NPC lab ship flying to the gas giant to refuel. This was relayed down to the ground, and the order was given to shoot the NPC ship. The engineer is more of a henchman type and so doesn't really count, but the reaction of the other two characters to this order was considered. The pilot, Sir Glaxon, is established as a somewhat chivalrous type. But he is also owed a heap of money by Alissa and von Jerrel, and so accepted the need to act ruthlessly on this occasion. The other PC, Blaster, is an ex-navy officer with Int 2 and Education A - which is to say that he is not bright and is excellent at knowing and applying the procedures - and so he ran to one of the turrets as instructed. The Annic Nova has no manoeuvre drive - it relies on its two pinnaces as tugs - and so in space combat is essentially stationary. My quick calculation told me that the PCs had about one hour, or seven shots, before the NPCs could get out of effective rage. Two hits were scored, one damaging the hold and another damaging the manoeuvre drive, but not enough to cause disablement. I made a morale check for the NPCs, which failed, and so they decided to try a risky jump - less than 100 planetary diameters from the gas giant; no pilot but only a computer training entrepreneur with Jack-of-all-Trades-1; no navigator; and only one engineer with two required. Looking at our rules for drive failure and jump success (based on a combination of the 1977 rules, the slightly different rules in the 1981 revision, and a few tweaks including to make Navigation skill relevant) indicated that they needed to throw a 12 on two dice to avoid a misjump, and a 9+ to avoid blowing up. My throw was a 9 - and so the NPCs entered jump space. The misjump rolls indicated 3 weeks in jump space with a jump of 2 parsecs, which is what they had been attempting in any event, though not guaranteed to be in their intended direction.

The players decided that the time had come for them (as their PCs) to leave Zinion and go to the agreed rendezvous point in the Novus system, namely the gas giant moon. But first they had to finalise the obtaining of information from the alien pyramid complex.

It had already been established that the pyramid complex was tracking or targeting, in some fashion, the rendezvous moon. But that was 2 billion years ago. The players wanted their characters to calculate the exact target point now. This was a check to be made by Zeno Doxa, the PC computer expert who is pretty clever, assisted by the also-rather-clever navigator and xeno-archaeologist Roland. I set a check required of 10+ (my default for fairly hard stuff) to do it fairly quickly, with +1 for Roland's support, specifying that every point short would add a week required. That check had been made successfully - Zeno and Roland were down in the pyramid complex, Zeno plugging his hand computer into the alien system and working with Roland on their astronomical tracking data.

(It was never quite established at the time how this fitted into the drama with Alissa and her grenade - but on reflection I think it must have been afterwards.)

With this now being the constraint on when the PCs could leave, "fairly quickly" needed to be made more precise and so I set a new check of 7+ per day to get it done. The first check was made, and so by the time Sir Glaxon flew a pinnace down from the Annic Nova to Zinion Roland and Zeno had sorted out their data and models and everyone was ready to take off.

Unfortunately the PC crew was short a required engineer, meaning that the check for drive failure would fail on a roll of 2. Which is what the player of Tony, the chief engineer, managed to roll! In my prep for the session, which had consisted of (i) sorting out my NPC lists, and (ii) calculating various possible travel times across the galactic rift, I had decided that it might be a good time for the return of the Imperial Navy patrol vessel Iota, which - if it fills most of its hold with a fuel storage tank - can just make the distance across the rift, from Akaisha outstation to Zinion (total jump-4). And so now was the time to announce that another ship arrived in the neighbourhood of Zinion, and made contact - it was looking for the renegade research vessel St Christopher. Methwit mixed truth with lies, telling the Iota that the St Christopher had attacked the Annic Nova and jumped out of the system. The reaction check had a +2 for Methwit's Liasion-2, but I imposed a -1 penalty for the lying. The roll was a 10 or 11, I think, and so a strong response after the modifications. So the NPCs accepted the story. A broadcast came up from the starport authorities on Zinion but this didn't contradict Methwit as all they reported was that the St Christopher had last been seen at the starport some weeks ago (ie before heading to the pyramid complex).

The Iota then went down to the surface while the PCs undertook repairs on the Annic Nova. It had already been established that von Jerrel was psionically "attuned" to the ship, and when this was raised in the context of repairs I said that this would give a +1 bonus to Tony's check to do the repairs. I asked Tony's player what Tony's view of psionics is. At first he reflected that this hadn't yet been established and wondered; then when he heard there was a +1 available he decided that Tony didn't care! So von Jerrel helped Tony sort out the jump drive wiring and guidance systems, and the repair check was a success. The Annic Nova made it's jump on the second attempt. And I told the players that just as they were entering jump space, they could see the Iota in their rear-view mirror also ready to jump out of the Zinion system.

We switched the focus back to Novus. We established that Vincenzo had had the St Christopher’s drives flushed (ie to cleanse them of unrefined fuel) and had refuelled with refined fuel. I explained that, given the questions around her earlier departure from Novus, while Lady Askol had not been demoted it had been determined that she had to have all her orders countersigned by her adjutant, a relatively junior Imperial Marines officer. I also told the players that said officer had Intelligence 3 (whereas Lady Askol is Int 5). Lady Askol's player (who also plays Alissa and von Jerrel) made a roll of one die, declaring that on a 3+ Lady Askol saw her future with von Jerrel rather than the navy. The die came up 6: and so Lady Askol then persuaded her adjutant to release her superannuation at its present value (which another roll indicated to be Cr 32,000 rather than the already-established Cr 40,000 in 2 years). She then had herself flown up to the St Christopher by the cutter Modiphius to conduct an inspection. She told her adjutant she did not need to be accompanied; and told the cutter pilot that the inspection could take a while and so there was no need to wait.

The St Christopher then flew to the rendezvous gas giant moon. Looking at the information I had generated for this moon - an orbit barely more than 100,000 km above a small gas giant, with a rapid orbital period - suggested severe "tides" that would make it highly volcanic. I had also generated a population in the neighbourhood of 10,000 people. So I explained to the players that the moon is populated by miners engaged in mineral-extraction-from-magma operations, a bit like oil wells but using complex ceramic structures.

There had already been discussion of purchasing an earth-mover for use on Zinion, and - whether out of inertia or taking care not to use knowledge his character wouldn't have - Vincenzo's player worked out the details of this transaction with me even though, in his capacity as Tony's player, he knew that there was not going to be any more work taking place on Zinion for a while. The check was made on the resale table, with a bonus for Leila's Broker skill but a penalty of 2 because it is expensive to ship equipment to this moon, and so a second hand digger cost a bit more (Cr 48,000) than the standard price for a new one (Cr 40,000).

The Annic Nova then arrived in-system. There was some discussion of whether to try and recharge it, which requires opening up its huge sail-like solar panel, giving away its alien design. There was also speculation, fostered by me, that the Iota might soon arrive - it is a jump-3 ship, and Novus is jump-3 from Zinion and has a naval base - and what to do about the St Christopher in anticipation of that eventuality. But we had to end the session before any decisions were made in respect of these matters.

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This session started a little slow, with recaps and wondering about the coming armada. Which made me worry that something (ie the armada) I had introduced to try and promote a bit of action might have the opposite effect! But it turned out I needn't have worried, because Alissa's player got things moving, and then the action flowed pretty solidly. I thought the players might make a bid to capture the NPC lab ship (worth around MCr 150), but they didn't. And I was a bit shocked by the ruthlessness - in the lead up to Alissa's grenade attack I was describing the melee combat abilities of the various NPCs and I thought that she was going to make a cutlass-driven break for freedom. So the grenade caught me by surprise. And then the subsequent murder and destruction compounded things.

I feel this campaign will be resolved in a session or three. Vincenzo's player has stated his clear win-condition - namely, getting the Annic Nova to his homeworld of Hallucida (which is jump-5 across the rift from Zinion) so that Hallucida can exploit its technology for commercial advantage. I'm not sure about the other players/characters. But with Leila Lo's Alien experimentation close to fruition, and the return of the Iota, and the pending armada, there are not that many loose ends left - the last one, I think, is for the PCs to learn what the aliens were looking for on the rendezvous moon.
 

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pemerton

Legend
I do not plan on starting a Traveller campaign until my group can meet face-to-face. I'm thinking it won't be until September or October at the earliest.
Fair enough. We did some Zoom sessions last year - Prince Valiant, Traveller, Cortex + LotR and Wuthering Heights.

This year we've been able to meet in person.
 

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