Episode 8 The Traveller Adventure

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“Don’t mess with me, I’ve been corrupted by Space Monkeys”

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Wednesdays 21:00 – 23:00 Fortnightly, between Sept 15 and July 16 was Traveller Time. During this period we played Traveller online using Roll 20.

INTRO: I put out an advert for players on the site to play the classic 1983 adventure from GDW.

OPEN BOX: 4:27 We discuss some of the benefits and pitfalls of playing online

POTTED HISTORY: 31:57 A run down of the history of the supplement and the characters and players.

GAMESMASTERS SCREEN: 38:22 Blythy and Dirk discuss some of the highlights and lowlights of the adventure

ED’S SHED 01:26 Not bargain hunting this time, instead he offers his views on the adventure.

POST BAG 01:30 Other players offer their views and thanks to new Patreon backers.

9 thoughts on “Episode 8 The Traveller Adventure

  1. Hey! We’re in the middle of The Traveller Adventure and were playing last night in the pub. This was the group’s fifth outing in the pub after work. We meet every other month for 4 hours or so.

    We tackled the first section of Pysadian Escapade last time and got as far as stepping off the train in Itzeny. So this was it… we were into blowing up howood trees and the infamous anolas! (Much disliked by some referees as almost literal rail-roading.) I’d decided we’d play it straight and trust that the one player who’s actually played Traveller (or any RPG for that matter) would either play along or actually, as claimed, hadn’t read TTA in detail.

    First up, while we waited for the pub to serve up food, we caught the Captain up on the events of the last two sessions. The player had been away over the summer and he’d missed:
    – his ship getting upgraded to a sort of Jump-2 (the fuel tanks)
    – a seafari on Natoko
    – the rescue of the Prospector
    – the death of the one of the crew (the Army guy) in a random accident playing fussball dockside
    – the hiring of not one but *two* replacement crew wanting to work passage
    – the three days on the train out to Itzeny

    so not much! We had fun winding him up about being distracted by his (woeful) love life or just doing ‘captainy’ things… (ummm, that’s winding up the Captian character, not the player – a respected university academic!)

    Then as we still had a bit of time before the meal arrived, I got them all to tell me what they remembered about the 3 day train journey out to Itzeny which we’d only role-played fairly briefly. i.e. I was inviting them to Make Stuff Up. (See my FT note: http://www.freelancetraveller.com/features/columns/nubiref/genius.html for why I was doing this and thought it might be fun). It turned out really well. I started with an emailed paragraph from the player who couldn’t make it due to a trip to Thailand which I guess is a fair enough excuse, and that seemed to inspire the others to really be creative. We had all sorts of things from a new crew member sneaking off to slake their gambling addiction in a card game several carriages down the train, to Gvoudzon finding and getting absorbed by a ton of magazines in a baggage van. (No! not those kind of magazines. Fashion. It was fashion he told us.). To the medic getting into a conversation with an elderly couple and doling out some advice on vitamins to the husband whose leg sores weren’t healing very well. More usefully for the game, the Captain met a pair of Productionary (i.e. the local church) folk who could tell him some ins and outs of howood lumbering which would stand them all in good stead. Even the taciturn player, playing a taciturn engineer, told us about the space romance he/she was reading for much of the trip.

    This bit seemed to really engage the players and I was taken with their imagination. Especially as I rather put them on the spot. I shall be interested in two things:
    – can I fold back some of the above into the adventure (I mean aside from the howood advice obviously). I’ll give it a go and have some ideas already.
    – will the players recall the train trip in more detail than they might have done ordinarily next time we meet in January?

    (One of my reasons for doing this experiment is because of a two day train trip I experienced in Africa many years ago. I vividly recall some – not all – details of that trip all these decades later and I was hoping to capture something of that of for what I’ll bet most referees running TTA gloss over. We’ll see.)

    Then onto the mining – sorry, lumbering of howood. One of my goals is to do better with NPCs which are not my strong point. Baraatsu, out on his homestead, really came alive with an Irish accent – not to mention his monosyllabic teenage son and I-can’t-do-enough-for-you farmer’s wife. For once I managed to get the accent close enough [1] *and* keep it up – although it wandered off into northern Irish at one point – and managed to role-play much of his speech rather than report it which was fun. It should hopefully nicely contrast with his attitude when he sees the anolas next time! (Another gem of a moment was when he offered each of the PCs a polished carving from all the stuff he had lying around and I got the players to describe their gifts. I believe some will really have their PCs treasure these small items!)

    Off they went to blow up the howood and I had feared that this might be rather tedious and brief, but in fact they had a blast…. literally! That seemed to partly down to the animals I created for the scene.
    There’s a wonderful (?) line in TTA (p.53 of the Mongoose book, p.52 of the classic version) that says “the forest is alive with animal life – roll on the animal encounter table once every three hours”. Fine. BUT WHAT ANIMAL ENCOUNTER TABLE??!?! There isn’t one. I’VE LOOKED. THREE TIMES. Ok, so maybe it means the Core Rulebook or maybe the animal supplement, but why not say ‘a’?! Anyway, I grabbed one from Supplement 11 for temperate woods and having only bothered to prepare the day before (what do I tell students about leaving it till the night before??), I couldn’t do much more than quickly name half of the 2d6 table, give them a line of description and chuck in the anolas. (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone but actually I fudged the rolls so the animals kind of started gentle, climaxed, and the incidents with the anolas and the carnivore/chaser happened at sensible times. Thanks to the die rolling and general liveliness of the animals (and players) this really brought the forest alive and made the anolas seem just another ‘random encounter’ which worked brilliantly.)

    When I say ‘my’ animals though, I should credit the players. One I simply described as a kind of owl with a vole’s face, a vowl if you will. No more thought than that. But it wasn’t long before one (usually quiet!) player was demonstrating its call: Aaaa-Eeeee-OOOO of course! And telling us that naturally they were common, that’s because there’s a consonent supply of them. That halted proceedings for several minutes while we sploffled cider/guinness/whatever all over the pub. (of the course the babies aren’t proper vowls but half formed Ys) Yes, it was a joke that kept on giving especially as their mating calls could be heard every sunset. As ever, the memories were being made of not so much anything published in the adventure, but with the fun we were having with it. Even something simple like a fungus they’d been told to avoid (with waving triffid like fronds) became a major detour every time they passed it. Yes, just five sessions in with newbies and I have *properly* paranoid players! (It was quite fun seeing *them* make up fears/problems and “so this is it, we’re going to die” moments which had never even occurred to me, or were moments where I was trying to be nice and give them nice things!)

    Speaking of which, you should have seen them with the explosives. (Oh and who the heck thought it would be a good idea to have a key scene involve explosives skill which NONE, NOT ONE, of the PCs as given actually has?!?) (Fortunately we’d fixed that at a rather opportune moment with our new archaeologist working passage having Explosives 2). Electronic ignitions attached to the fuses so they could retire to *really* safe distances, extra care, long waits when the mishap table was invoked. And good rolls all round. 20 trees in a couple of days – no problem.

    The one snake eyes that was rolled was when the captain was searching for the path up the cliff to the trees. I decreed he couldn’t find it at all (hidden perhaps behind a deceptive bit of rock or whatever). So when one of the PCs looked at their skills and with Athletics and Strength decided to climb the cliff, and seriously risked life and limb making the climb, you should have seen both the player’s face and the PCs face when s/he gets to the top and gives the captain I right verbal kicking as the path is so ‘obvious’! (There was also a priceless expression on the player’s face when, having roped up and 10m into the climb, she asks what the rope is for exactly (they have no pitons or anything). “Well if you get stuck we can pull you back down,” comes the straight-faced reply.)

    The carnivore attack (a pooma they’d seen take down a plainsbeast when passing a herd on the train) went well except as it sliced open a PC with its claws I realized that I had NO plan for how they’d defeat it given they had no weapons. However, the players came to the rescue when one of them (the 7ft tall ex-military guy played by one of our mild-mannered lady cataloguers!) not only started making a lot of noise but waving as well. I immediately thought to link the waving to the waving fronds of the fungus which I’d made a bit of a thing about and which (I reasoned) the pooma might have previously encountered and not want a second experience with. Phew!

    Much to my relief (although there was a Plan B) the players took to the anolas as much as the anolas took to them. Although by the end of the session – just about arriving back at Baraatsu’s homestead – they were beginning to have suspicions. We’ll see next time… it will be a long wait till January and the whole rescue-from-Itzeny-church (WHICH STILL HAS NO DRATTED STAIRS…).

    Anyway, for those who have doubts (and I can quite understand them), don’t dismiss The Traveller Adventure out of hand. There’s a lot of fun to be had and as I say, we had a blast…

    [1] My out of game explanation being that *of course* he doesn’t speak with an Irish accent yer eejits, but yer man speaks with the kind of accent that gives you feelings of warmth and hospitality and friendly neighbours that might not stop talking for half an evening given half a chance.

    PS I STILL think the old simple world map of Pysadi in the classic version of the adventure is streets better than the new version. And I have a university map librarian as a player to back me up… 🙂

  2. Funny how you mentioned that you had a player fall asleep on you. I used to have a DM that would fall asleep while running our AD&D game. He sometimes would nod off even during combat. And this was around the gaming table not online.

  3. Great episode as always. I really enjoyed listening to your views on online gaming. As a person who (feels like he) lives in the hinterlands of Canada, I’ve found Skype and Roll20 to be my gaming saviours. Without them, I would be hard pressed to find anyone who would like to game, let alone who wants to game the systems I like. On Traveller, I’m sure we played this as kids, but all I remember is rolling up characters. Thanks again for your wonderful work. I look forward to every episode no matter what the topic.

  4. Definitely enjoyed this episode. Traveller has it’s pwn sort of paradigm that I think a number of games have tried to emulate, but never quite managed to do. I sadly have never played or run this particular campaign but I absolutely want to.

  5. Have to admit I have mixed feelings about the news that the new episode will be about Imagine magazine. I am pleased, because it promises to be a very interesting podcast, but I am vexed, because it is now sometimes possible to pick up copies of Imagine on ebay at a reasonable price, and I suspect the podcast will put an end to that.

  6. Ha! Just seen the tweet.

    I sometimes listen to books podcast, Backlisted, and on one episode they apologises about putting the price of some out of print book they had discussed through the roof. You might have more influence than you think- the world of people interested in old British roleplaying magazines is a fairly small one, I would have thought.

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