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Should the PCs try and capture the NPC starship?

The NPC ship has arrived in orbit about Enlil just as the PCs were about to jump to the NPC's base i

  • Should the PCs jump to Olyx while the NPC ship is in another system?

    Votes: 1 20.0%
  • Should the PCs try and capture the NPC ship while it is away from its base?

    Votes: 4 80.0%

  • Total voters
    5

pemerton

Legend
Here is a summary of the current situation in our Classic Traveller game:

The PCs are trying to gain intelligence about, and possibly take down, a bioweapons manufacturing conspiracy. The leader of the conspiracy is Li, a Lieutenant in the Imperial Marines. The PCs don't know if she has gone rogue, or is running some sort of black op. But they have been recruited by an Imperial official to find out what she is up to.

Lt Li is based on a small planet called Olyx, which has little on it but a Scout base that is currently off-line. The PCs' cover is that they are part of an Imperial inspectorate investigating the breakdown in the processes at the base.

The PCs are currently in orbit about Enlil, a world one jump from Olyx that is the source of the bioweapon virus. They were about to make the jump to Olyx when they became aware of a patrol cruiser arriving at Enlil. They intercepted its communications, and learned that it had jumped in from Olyx. They figure it must be the flagship of Lt Li's operation, right under their noses.

And here is the question:

Shoud they jump to Olyx while most of its spacefaring firepower is in orbit about Enlil?

Or should they try and take the ship? That will require some sort or stealth/infiltration plan, as the PCs' ship has zero chance of taking out the cruiser (2 pulse lasers compared to 6 beam lasers and 6 missile racks). "Hi, we're from the Planetary Rescue Systems Inspectorate and need to have a quick look over your ship" may work, but equally it may not! (The PC party is 13, with 7 fight-y types compared to the NPC crew of 17, including 6 troopers.)

Which choice would you make?
 

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Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
The decision should always be to take a ship if there is a decent chance of success. After all, if they decide to sell their old ship or keep this one they'll be making quite a profit. That's like asking whether or not PCs should slip away from a handful of hostile dragons that are searching for them, or take a chance and steal one of their dragon hordes while the dragons least expect it. Whether in fantasy or in futuristic space, most PC parties are going to take a chance on the big score.
 

Eltab

Hero
Do the PCs know enough about the base to make "raid the base while the ship's away" a meaningful option?
If not, they should try to get aboard the patrol cruiser - or play ECM-type games with its computer during a cover conversation - with the purpose of acquiring enough information to make intelligent decisions.
Do any of the not-fight-y PCs have lots of Computer and/or Comm skill?
 

MarkB

Legend
What else did they learn from eavesdropping on the comms? Do they know the ship's intended schedule, whether it's taking on cargo at its current location, whether it's carrying any of this bioweapon?

If they believe there are bioweapons aboard, and the local authorities have some decent firepower, then all they need to do is tip off local customs that it's worth making a close inspection of this vessel, and then watch the fireworks.

If it's going to be taking on cargo, that's a potential vulnerability - if they can get to the cargo undetected beforehand, they could use it to either smuggle themselves aboard, or plant an EMP device to detonate once loaded onto the ship, making it a sitting duck.

If it has no obvious vulnerabilities, but its planned route will include additional systems, then they know they'll have ample time to get in and out of Olyx before it returns.
 

Derren

Hero
Storming the ship is imo a bad idea. First getting on it in space undetected (or rather so that is it not seen as an attack) is very unlikely as they can always check back with Enlil about your story.
Second unless you have some heavy and high TL gear you might be rather outgunned, especially if it turns out that you are dealing with a Black Ops operation.
Third, you are the aggressor against the Imperium. That not only means that you have to deal with any reinforcements from Enlil, depending on Lis connections you might be catapulted into the list of the sectors most wanted. Unless you find any convincing evidence on that ship you can forget setting foot on Enlil and any average or higher law level world. Until you find some very good proof about the bioweapons you would basically be outlaws (And if Li is Black Ops and not Rogue even evidence would not save you)

The better question would be what the ship is doing there in the first place? Military ships usually have a higher Jump rating. Do they still have to go there to refuel or did they go there on purpose? Is it a simple supply run (possibly allowing you to smuggle things into the base)? Do they intend to deliver the bioweapon to Enlil? Has Li decided to abandon Olyx and is transfering to a new site?
If they dock you might be able to infiltrate the ship quietly, access their computers or get some crewmen to talk.
 

pemerton

Legend
Do they know the ship's intended schedule, whether it's taking on cargo at its current location, whether it's carrying any of this bioweapon?
The better question would be what the ship is doing there in the first place?
The players' conjecture (which is also the PCs' conjecture) is that the vessel is at Enlil to pick up more test subjects/virus specimens. Enlil itself is Tech Level 3 (the starport is a fairly modest Class C orbital facility maintained by the Imperium), and so local authorities aren't going to be able to provide a whole lot of resistance.

There was a branch of the bioweapons project on a third planet, Byron, which is one jump from Enlil in the "opposite" direction from Olyx. But the PCs disrupted that aspect of the operations pretty thoroughly, and handed all those involved over to the Byron authorities. In the climax of that episode (session report here) one group of bioweapons conspirators were trying to blow up the PCs from their orbiting starship - the Byron air force were dispatched (following a call for help from the PCs) and so the conspirators fled (presumably to Olyx, although that hasn't actually been confirmed yet in play).

There were test subjects and samples from Enlil on Byron, but following the just-mentioned disruption, the conspirators might want/need new ones. I think the players are assuming that any such samples/subjects will be taken back to Olyx, given that the Byron situation has become a bust from the conspirators' point of view.

Storming the ship is imo a bad idea.

<snip>

If they dock you might be able to infiltrate the ship quietly, access their computers or get some crewmen to talk.
The PCs wouldn't try an overt storming - they would be trying an infiltration-then-hijcack/capture.

you are the aggressor against the Imperium. That not only means that you have to deal with any reinforcements from Enlil, depending on Lis connections you might be catapulted into the list of the sectors most wanted. Unless you find any convincing evidence on that ship you can forget setting foot on Enlil and any average or higher law level world. Until you find some very good proof about the bioweapons you would basically be outlaws (And if Li is Black Ops and not Rogue even evidence would not save you)
There has been some discussion of this - the players are banking heavily on Li being rogue and hence their actions (if they do try and take the ship) being retrospectively justifiable!

Do the PCs know enough about the base to make "raid the base while the ship's away" a meaningful option?
It's more that they know they aren't militarily that powerful, and their ship is not very well-armed (a single turret with two pulse lasers), so if they turn up and a patrol cruiser is present then they can be pretty easily destroyed - so the cruiser being away makes their chance of surviving arrival on Olyx a bit better.

Do any of the not-fight-y PCs have lots of Computer and/or Comm skill?
They have a PC with Commo-1 and Computer-2 (but INT 2 - he's not that bright, but has read all the manuals - EDU 10). The diplomat/spy PC has Commo-1, Liasion-1, Interrogation-1 (among other skills). And they have a NPC ally with them who has Computer-4 and Electronics-2 (though no Commo).

The PC with Commo and Computer was crucial to intercepting the communications (he is a recently discharged Imperial Navy Lieutenant, and so is familiar with Navy codes and signal practices). And any plan to take the cruiser will probably involve the hacker NPC trying to take some sort of control of the ship's computer.

The decision should always be to take a ship if there is a decent chance of success.
This is the main argument in favour, yes. The prospects of success are a bit uncertain, though.

(Also, if its unclear: I'm the referee, but started this thread to get advice/ideas for my players - and also for fun, because I like talking about RPGing!)
 

Derren

Hero
Buying and selling ships usually doesnt happen in Traveller much and a patrol cruiser raises so many red flags that it is more trouble than what its worth it unless the PCs go pirate and/or leave the Imperium. Otherwise every time they approach a spaceport or even enter a system their transponder would reveal that they are in a AWOL military ship.
Also if they want the help from the authorities eventually they would have to turn in the ship anyway. They could use it to approach Olyx unnoticed for a while though. Altough its still risky as they likely miss important informations and the ruse will be discovered as soon as they prepare to dock or land. And that assumes that Olyx is otherwise empty. If not it gets more complicated (but also offers other infiltration options)
And just because the cruiser is away doesnt mean that there are no other ships and ground based defenses ehich make a raid impossible.
So for now information gathering and possible sabotage of the cruiser would be the smartest thing to do imo. Especially to find other co conspirators. Large scale bioweapon manufacturing is a bit above a simple lieutenant. You need scientific expertise and a lot of funding. And you need to have a very good reason to spend all this ressources to create a bioweapon. What do they want it for?

Hacking military grade computers to take over an imperial ship would be extremly hard anyway and success would depend a lot on GM fiat. They might be able to successfully assault some of the gathering teams on the ground if that is indeed what the cruiser is there for. Just make sure that their mission is not to perform a large scale test on a backwater planet instead. Although the proximity to their base makes this unlikely. On the other hand as the weapon is based on DNA found in that planet its more easy to cover it up as a local mutation.
Will their cover as inspection team be blown if they delay? Not that I put much fate on their cover story. Inspectors dont arrive in a yacht.

As the bioweapon research has been exposed on Byron are the authorities informed? Something like this normally registers quite high on the imperial "dont do it" list and in a few weeks elements of the subsector fleet could pay Olyx a visit, not to mention remove any protection and support Li has within the ranks of the navy (assuming that he is not black ops).

By the way, based on the crew size and armament, I assume this is about a 400-600 ton vessel with a fancy name and nothing even close to a cruiser.
 
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pemerton

Legend
Not that I put much fate on their cover story. Inspectors dont arrive in a yacht.
They haven't worked out an answer to that yet.

By the way, based on the crew size and armament, I assume this is about a 400-600 ton vessel with a fancy name and nothing even close to a cruiser.
It's a Type T Patrol Cruiser (which is in the revised edition of Book 2 and also The Traveller Book) - the hull is 400 tons. It's not a Kinunir-class Battle Cruiser.
 

chaochou

Adventurer
If I was going to try and get aboard the cruiser it wouldn't be through violence, and probably not stealth either.

I'd be looking to broadcast a distress signal and claim to have a life support malfunction and multiple system failures - throw the ship into a slow awkward spin to make it look convincing. Something to get you on board the target ship with a credible reason to be there and as little suspicion as possible.
 

Derren

Hero
If I was going to try and get aboard the cruiser it wouldn't be through violence, and probably not stealth either.

I'd be looking to broadcast a distress signal and claim to have a life support malfunction and multiple system failures - throw the ship into a slow awkward spin to make it look convincing. Something to get you on board the target ship with a credible reason to be there and as little suspicion as possible.
Imo that is not likely to work.
First its not even sure that they will respond instead of leaving the rescue to the starport. A rating C port isnt that small after all. And even if they respond they will only send the launch over so you will never set foot on the real ship.
 

chaochou

Adventurer
Imo that is not likely to work.
First its not even sure that they will respond instead of leaving the rescue to the starport. A rating C port isnt that small after all. And even if they respond they will only send the launch over so you will never set foot on the real ship.
You don't know any of those things. It's simply your own dismal naysaying. A dreary fun-sucking attempt to impose your own vision, despite absolutely no entitlement to do so.

So in a similar spirit, your contributions are a paragon of tediously over-cautious non-play. Hundreds of empty, lifeless words which amount to a proposal to 'gather information'.

Every last thing you've added to this thread amounts to a GM laying the groundwork for their railroad, atttempting to shut down as many immediate options as possible and keeping the players as passive and disempowered as you can.
 

pemerton

Legend
If I was going to try and get aboard the cruiser it wouldn't be through violence, and probably not stealth either.

I'd be looking to broadcast a distress signal and claim to have a life support malfunction and multiple system failures - throw the ship into a slow awkward spin to make it look convincing. Something to get you on board the target ship with a credible reason to be there and as little suspicion as possible.
Interesting. So far, the players' deception planning has relied on their "credentials" as Planetary Rescue Systems Inspectorate officers. They haven't speculated about introducing a new dimension of deception into the situation.

EDIT: I'm expecting there are going to be some opposed checks - eg computer vs computer to hack into the Cruiser computer and shut the troopers into their staterooms.

I'm thinking requiring the PCs to beat the NPCs is a reasonable call for these - with equal levels of skill expertise, that makes the odds of success (by my maths) 575/1296, which is slightly better than the 15/36 of 8+ on a 2D throw (575/36 is just a touch short of 16).
 
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Derren

Hero
You don't know any of those things. It's simply your own dismal naysaying. A dreary fun-sucking attempt to impose your own vision, despite absolutely no entitlement to do so.

So in a similar spirit, your contributions are a paragon of tediously over-cautious non-play. Hundreds of empty, lifeless words which amount to a proposal to 'gather information'.

Every last thing you've added to this thread amounts to a GM laying the groundwork for their railroad, atttempting to shut down as many immediate options as possible and keeping the players as passive and disempowered as you can.
Traveller is, compared to most other modern SciFi games, rather hard. That means to keep the tone of the setting that NPCs would act more intelligently than James Bond/Austin Powers villains.

According to the stats I found a Type-T has a Ship Boat as troop transport and boarding craft. Especially if you are dealing with military they would never dock their ship to an unknown vessel to prevent exactly what the PCs are planning. That is standard protocol. The boat can also accelerate with 6G, so it can deliver them faster to the starport than the cruiser in about 2 hours assuming a earth like 100d distance. So no need to get strangers on the main ship. The last thing you want is having civilians on board while you are involved in illegal bioweapon research.
Someone can pretend to have a medical emergency but you run the risk of being separated from the rest and shoved into a low berth or drugged with fast. They probably also have enough scientists on board to discover the ruse quickly.

If the NPCs are run as bumbling idiots so that everything the players do succed then there is no need for this thread.

EDIT: I'm expecting there are going to be some opposed checks - eg computer vs computer to hack into the Cruiser computer and shut the troopers into their staterooms.

I'm thinking requiring the PCs to beat the NPCs is a reasonable call for these - with equal levels of skill expertise, that makes the odds of success (by my maths) 575/1296, which is slightly better than the 15/36 of 8+ on a 2D throw (575/36 is just a touch short of 16).
Just remember that if you make this too easy the players will use this over and over again to take over ships.
You should also ask yourself what kind of safeguards a military ship would have against this type of attack.
 
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pemerton

Legend
A rating C port isnt that small after all.
A Class C starport has unrefined fuel and reasonable repair facilities. That's all. It can't build vessels (starships or non-starships) and, in this particular case, has no bases.

So it needn't be that big, and in the case of the orbital facility about Enlil I don't think either the players or I envisage it being especially big or well-staffed.

Traveller is, compared to most other modern SciFi games, rather hard. That means to keep the tone of the setting that NPCs would act more intelligently than James Bond/Austin Powers villains.

According to the stats I found a Type-T has a Ship Boat as troop transport and boarding craft. Especially if you are dealing with military they would never dock their ship to an unknown vessel to prevent exactly what the PCs are planning. That is standard protocol.

<snip>

The last thing you want is having civilians on board while you are involved in illegal bioweapon research.
The PCs could wait until the Ship's Boat has landed on Enlil to implement a distress-related plan - and a G-carrier (the other ship's vehicle) can't operate in space as such.

If the NPCs are run as bumbling idiots so that everything the players do succed then there is no need for this thread.
Well, I'm the OP and I already stated the reason for this thread:

I'm the referee, but started this thread to get advice/ideas for my players - and also for fun, because I like talking about RPGing!)

[MENTION=99817]chaochou[/MENTION]'s contribution fits with that purpose.
 

pemerton

Legend
Just remember that if you make this too easy the players will use this over and over again to take over ships.
You should also ask yourself what kind of safeguards a military ship would have against this type of attack.
Well, the real constraint on taking over ships in a RPG is (i) the amount of playing time, and (ii) the number of ship encounters that take place within that time.

But ingame, the most obvious defence is the Anti-hijack program. As well as the challenge of actually accessing the ship's computer in the first place.
 

Derren

Hero
The PCs could wait until the Ship's Boat has landed on Enlil to implement a distress-related plan - and a G-carrier (the other ship's vehicle) can't operate in space as such.
Unless they are in such a hurry to send the boat ahead this would mean that the cruiser entered orbit or docked on the highport and they used the boat to descent onto the surface. But in that case you cant be sure that the cruiser responds to a distress call and not the highport itself which sends a boat over. They might also recall the boat from the ground. After all it is faster than the cruiser and assuming 1,2 mil distance would reach them about 1 hour earlier. Or there might be other traffic in the system which might be closer. A class C starport usually indicates that there is at least some traffic in the system to justify a highport and repair facilities.
It might also look a tad suspicious to loiter at the 100d for a few hours till the cruiser has docked.

You might also get some problems with the captain as missusing a distress call most certainly incurs a fine, if not worse. And depending how far you get with the deception there might also be towing and/or repair fees if you sabotage something on your ship. Not to mention the lost time and money.

Returning to the highport and trying to access the computer from there sounds a lot less risky. And depending on the law level on the planet you might be able to assault one of the ground teams (with archaic weapons if possible) to interrogate prisoners. Alternatevely, try to get some of them drunk. A secret base certainly doesnt has much recreational facilities
 
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pemerton

Legend
Unless they are in such a hurry to send the boat ahead this would mean that the cruiser entered orbit or docked on the highport and they used the boat to descent onto the surface. But in that case you cant be sure that the cruiser responds to a distress call and not the highport itself which sends a boat over.
Well, if the cruiser is trying to bring Enlilians on board, it pobably won't dock with the starport. So the distress plan would (presumably) involve making the call while it is close and the starport is far.

They might also recall the boat from the ground. After all it is faster than the cruiser and assuming 1,2 mil distance would reach them about 1 hour earlier.
They might. But might not, given that the boat is (we're assuming) on the planet, waiting for its crew to return with captives/bodies for experimentation purposes.

It might also look a tad suspicious to loiter at the 100d for a few hours till the cruiser has docked.
It might. Presumably you'd pretend that there's been some sot of drive/power issue, then head back towards the planet (for repairs, fuel intake or whatever) and fake your disaster at the appropriate moment.

A class C starport usually indicates that there is at least some traffic in the system to justify a highport and repair facilities.
It's a TL 3 world with a disease-ridden atmosphere. Presumably the starport is to ensure that Imperial interests are protected. There's not likely to be a lot of traffic, though, I wouldn't think.

In any event, these are all points of detail which dpened on elements of the situation that haven't been established yet one way or another.

You might also get some problems with the captain as missusing a distress call most certainly incurs a fine, if not worse.
Well, if you're planning on taking control of a ship, presumably you're prepared to risk these consequences.

Returning to the highport and trying to access the computer from there sounds a lot less risky.
I don't follow. What is the point of accessing the computer, except as part of an attempt to take the ship?
 

Derren

Hero
I don't follow. What is the point of accessing the computer, except as part of an attempt to take the ship?
Information gathering.
Logs, flight plans to discover additional bases, scans from Olyx it has made, infornation about any ships that are considered friendly and thus likely part of the conspiracy. Bios from the crew for eventual blackmail, communication logs with Olyx, etc.
Get creative.

You might also be able to corrupt the system to ground the ship for a few days or a week to have it out of commission when you go to Olyx yourself or just want more time to squeeze the crew for any information.
 

chaochou

Adventurer
Traveller is, compared to most other modern SciFi games, rather hard.
I bought my Classic Traveller in about 1982. I know plenty about how it's run. I know what it says. And I also know what it doesn't.

Cite me the rule that says 'When the players propose something fun, tell them it fails.'

Traveller is, compared to most other modern SciFi games, rather hard.
That means to keep the tone of the setting that NPCs would act more intelligently than James Bond/Austin Powers villains.
You brought up Austin Powers and James Bond. If you can't let players propose and resolve actions without the game becoming slapstick, that's not the game's fault, the players or mine. But to be completely clear here - you're not the tone police. Just self-righteous enough to think you are.

Especially if you are dealing with military they would never dock their ship to an unknown vessel to prevent exactly what the PCs are planning. That is standard protocol.
No. It's not. It's your lame excuse for pre-judging outcomes. cf railroading.

The boat can also accelerate with 6G, so it can deliver them faster to the starport than the cruiser in about 2 hours assuming a earth like 100d distance.
The boat missed its last three maintenance checks - one of the hazards of a tight schedule running illegal operations and a bureacratic mix-up the last time they docked. Currently grounded except as a last-ditch lifepod. See, I can make up fiction too.

The problem with mine, clearly, is that it's actually interesting.

The last thing you want is having civilians on board while you are involved in illegal bioweapon research.
Oh, I see. Now you've packaged up the motivations, ideas and personality of an entire crew and used it as yet more tragic rationalisation for pre-judging outcomes. cf railroading

Actually the Captain was once in an emergency situation himself as a young boy and vividly remembers his own rescue. He may be researching bio-weapons, but he'll take a distress call seriously. There's no honour amongst thieves though, and three or four of the other senior crew lost patience the last time they went out to a distress beacon. This one could easily push them over the edge.

Oh sorry. Couldn't possibly be true. I made that up as I typed it, but it required some basic imagination and personality and opens the possibility for dramatic, unexpected play. We don't want that. We want to pacify the players into doing nothing more than 'collecting information' - your lame euphimism for asking to be railroaded.

If the NPCs are run as bumbling idiots so that everything the players do succed then there is no need for this thread.
Oh sure. Shutting down any player input as a failure before it's even been attempted is so much more compelling than creating dynamic situations and npcs with flaws, weaknesses and motivations and letting the players play.
 

Derren

Hero
Oh sure. Shutting down any player input as a failure before it's even been attempted is so much more compelling than creating dynamic situations and npcs with flaws, weaknesses and motivations and letting the players play.
You might only be able to run games with mustache twirling villains who are so stupid that everything the players attempt succeed, but in any other game there are better and worse choices for any situation.
The players can of course attempt your simple trick, but that is risky as it depends on the crew of the other ship to be stupid (without any evidence to support this) or on thr boat to be damaged, again without any evidence that this is the case. And while failure will not be life threatening it will make them look suspicious and close off some option how to exploit this situation like offering transportation along their trade route which gets them past Olyx, if the sector map makes this possible, and the engineer a problem with the cruiser so that hopefully they get hired to transport the speciment back (but that is a very long shot and would require Hiver level intrigue to set up).

Sure, the enemy captain might have exactly the flaw you describe. But do the PCs know that? Thats why information gathering is so important. You find out who you can bribe, blackmail or turn and then act on that knowledge. You do not make plans hoping that people you have no information of have the exact flaw that you need.

I also missed the note where the players have to do what I say. I present options what I think would and would not work (and an explanation why, which is more than what you have done) but the players still decide what their character would do based on their personality.
 
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