Friday, December 18, 2009

A Writer's Block

I'm suffering from a writer's block/blackout regarding this campaign.

One side of the problem is that I don't know where to start or what, exactly, should I prepare. If I had a to-do list I would've be able to start working on it right away; but I don't know what to prepare for such a campaign. For a regular trader, exploration or even mercenary game I'd know exactly what needs to be prepared (mostly adventures and world-based adventure hooks), but this kind of high-level play is quite difficult to prep for, especially as its a roaming high-level campaign (so there isn't a permanent cast of NPCs as would be in, say, a palace).

Another side of the problem is that I'm not sure about the overall plot. Ideally this should probably be a political "sandbox", but on the other hand I don't seem to attach very well to the this setting's hooks.

And yet another side of the problem is the general GM burnout I appear to be suffering from in the last few months or so. So far it's mainly affecting our D&D game, but I fear that this burnout is causing problems with the preparation of this campaign.

Any advice for overcoming this burnout and this writer's block would be welcome.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Prep Considerations

A question which arises is "what should I prepare for such a campaign". A 'normal' trader campaign requires a starmap, UWPs, some plot hooks and passengers/patrons; but this one would be a political sandbox, so things would be different.

I was thinking about making one or two important NPCs per world, contacts if you will; each would have his or her motivations and his or her interests. Other than that, detailing the governments of each world using both Path of Tears and the MGT Factions/Cultural Quirks tables would probably also be useful.

Any additional suggestions about what I should prep would be welcome.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Writer's Block

I've run up to a relatively big problem.

I'm trying to build up a good enough political background to allow my player (who is, by the way, my lovely spouse) to have interesting political adventures in a sandbox of sorts. However, I'm both a little scared of getting into such big politics in the game AND I'm not sure that the ORV can provide the right amount of opportunities for such a game, with its many low-pop backwater worlds and little actual politics (except for competition between the megacorps, that is).

I'm also unsure about my ability to provide enjoyable high-level political intrigue of the kind my spouse would like to have in play.

I'll warmly welcome any advice about setting up high-level politics that will allow the players to adventure more in the diplomatic way of things rather than in the exploration/stealth/frontier-work that I'm more comfortable in running...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I might be using the following stuff from the old JTAS magazine in my campaign:

Tree Karkens (JTAS #1) are cool critters - I think I'll place them on Gollere.

The Model 317 Pressurized Shelter (JTAS #6) seems to be quite useful in general as an outpost, though I might prefer more interesting shapes.

Springers (JTAS #9) are interesting and might fit the same planet I'll set Safari Ship on.

Bwaps (JTAS #11) are a bit far from their home in the ORV, but a few will be present, especially in the Imperial administration.

Miniphants (JTAS #16 are quite an interesting example of genetic engineering.

Luugiir (JTAS #18) are very cool critters; I think I'll place them on some of the Vilani-colonized worlds.

JTAS #20 has Aslan Phylosophies - perfect as background to this campaign!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Plot Thoughts...

As an overarching plot, I'm thinking about a secret deal between the Belgardians and the McClellan Factors. McClellan provides "below the counter" trade with Belgard (especially in fields such as military technologies) and acts as a front for them, and in return they get exclusive trading rights for Belgardian goods (including their pirate swag).

This agreement will go even further, as Belgard intends to expand and try to take under its control a sizable chunk of the Trailing part of Egryn; McClellan intends to use Belgard as a tool to remove its rivals (Barracai Technum and the Aslan) from various worlds and get exclusive trade deals with them.

To this mess enters our Aslan factoress, out to build a commercial foothold for her clan. Thwarting the Belgardian pirates will probably allow her to get her own contracts on several worlds...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

One Crowded Hour

I'm considering One Crowded Hour (by Avenger) as a the first adventure in this campaign, as the Aslan PC will take a Human liner on her route to the main ship (where her husband is already present, taking care of the military sides of preparing their trader-explorer). This looks like very fun adventure...

I'm also considering making a few... changes... to this adventure. A sabotage (by the McClellan Factors?) will probably fit this campaign better than just an accident, plus it will start the plot running...

However, I have several concerns about using this adventure:

1) My spouse (the player in this campaign) wants the campaign to heavily revolve around diplomacy, with exploration taking a back seat; I'm not sure if this adventure will fit in to this theme. Swapping the accident for a deliberate sabotage might solve or mitigate this issue.

2) The PC will probably have strong interpersonal (and trading) skills, but she's less likely to have technical or medical skills... Would that be a problem in this adventure?

3) Would that adventure fit a single PC instead of several?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Minis are On Their Way!

I've ordered a bunch of minis which, among other things, will be useful for this campaign: ten Aslan, several sci-fi lizard-men (which could be Droyne), a few robots, 12 armed human civilians, 24 armed thugs (and three more thugs with a heavy machine-gun) and a good number of high-tech soldiers.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Adventure Thoughts

Regarding Project Steel, I've had a conversation with my spouse about this game, and she said that she wants to focus on diplomacy and politics, with exploration taking a back seat. So I'm thinking about skipping some of the exploration in the first two parts of the adventure and dealing more with looking for trade contacts (maybe a mining town on the outback) and then encountering the [i]ihatei[/i] (whom I'm going to use instead of the 'Swordies) and the Belgardians (the pirates). The player's ship will then encounter the pirate ship in orbit and combat will ensue, in which the pirate ship will lose and have to land to make repairs; the third part of Project Steel will probably be triggered not by the lost contact with the observation tower but rather by going after the crashed Belgardian "Cruiser".

By the way I might let my spouse also play her character's husband (the Captain and thus the supreme commander of the Aslan ship troops) in combat so that we could have a "minigame" of F.A.D. (I'm going to buy her some minis as a birthday present :)) in big combats like the one with the raiders in Project Steel.

I might also add a remote planet in the Egryn subsector to transplant The Night of Conquest to - too much politics in this adventure to ignore :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This campaign will be the first time we'll use miniatures in an RPG (prior to that we used markings on a paper map, counters, or improvised counters such as D20). I think that the 15mm scale would be idea for this purpose as would allow me to play dynamic ranged combat on my 100x60cm (about 3 by 2 feet) table.

I think I've found good 15mm miniatures to represent Aslan here. Sure, they're supposed to be "bear men" but they do look somewhat feline (or, at least, leonine), and with a little bit of paint-work they'll probably be good for Aslan.

For the human crew (and semi-civilian human opposition), I might use the GZG Armed Civilians or Free Trader Crews - which do you think will be better?

I'm also looking for a good (GZG or something with a similar price-tag) 15mm set of figures to use as generic human military or paramilitary opposition.

The Aslan-Looking minis from Stan Johansen Miniatures:

The Free Trader Crews from GZG:

ATV from GZG:

Armed Civilians by GZG:

I'll probably end up ordering 10 "Balards" (i.e. Aslan), either 12 Free Trader crew or a Platoon (24 figures) or armed civilians, an ATV and maybe a platoon (24-32) or so of Human military opposition.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Of Aslan Humans and Tolerance

I think that in areas outside the Hierate proper (such as most of the Trojan Reach), Aslan will have a lot more contact with humans who aren't culturally Aslan [i]per se[/i], but who know how to properly behave around Aslan. The same will probably be with a lot of Aslan who'll have high Tolerance skills and thus know how not to be unintentionally offended by humans in most situations.

Aslan born and raised in the Reach (especially at the edge of the Hierate and beyond) will probably get one additional level of Tolerance for free. The main exception, of course, will be characters coming from the Glorious Empire...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

So far it's just me (the Referee) and my spouse (playing an Aslan); so it'll probably be an Aslan ship, though a BT-Aslan joint-venture is also a possibility to keep the recurring cast interesting.

Anyhow, I was thinking about her character coming from a minor Tsekho ("progressive") clan from somewhere in the Trojan Reach, which would make contact with humans a little bit more easier (especially when the matters at stake are the females' business), though, of course, cultural differences between Aslan and the alien "apes" will still show up to a certain degree. There would also be a fair bit of Aslan politics involved and probably competition with Glories under the Claw, as well as cultural differences and conflicts between traditionalist Heirate Aslan and less traditional Trojan Reach Tsekho.

As this is a single-player game the focus will be more on diplomacy, politics and the "big picture" than on the small details, though from time to time I intend to inject a more hands-on adventure into the mix to keep things interesting.

Friday, August 7, 2009

An important decision...

I now have an important decision to make regarding the Leviathan adventure. I have two options in front of me:

1) Use the Baraccai Technum as presented in A4: Kinunir and have them hire the Aslan PC (which should be an experienced manager) as the Leviathan's owner onboard (actually ship's manager and the Technum's representative on board).

2) Replace the Baraccai Technum wholly or in part by an Aslan clan (probably the PC's clan), which should be a clan with a strong trading tradition.

Which do you thing should work better?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Draft Starmap

Attached is the draft referee's starmap for this campaign.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Second Thoughts about the Scale

I'm having second thoughts about the campaign's scope; I want to develop each world and make it a whole setting (as in Path of Tears) rather than an encounter, so the 33 worlds in Egryn and Pax Ruling will be more than sufficient, especially if I add a world or two to fit the adventures I'm using.

At worst, we can always expand into the other subsectors later on.

A Short(ened) History of Known Space

I always thought that the 'canonical' history of the Official Traveller Universe (OTU) is way, way too long. Everything took millenia; everything changed so slowly; the vast scale of both time and space made attachment to the setting difficult.

As I'm using a smaller Imperium in this campaign (a few sectors in size and about 1,100 worlds at most rather than 11,000 worlds), I've also decided to use a shorter version of Imperial history, "shrinking" everything by a factor of 5.

So, here's what we're looking at:
  • Ancients (circa -60000; 57,370 BC)
  • Long Silence (-60000 to -2000; 57,370 BC to 630 AD)
  • Rise of the Vilani (-2,000 to -809; 630-1821 AD)
  • First Imperium (-809 to -486; 1821-2144 AD)
  • Interstellar Wars (-486 to -441; 2144-2189 AD)
  • Rule of Man (-441 to -355; 2189-2230 AD)
  • Long Night (-355 to 0; 2230-2585 AD)
  • Imperium Established (0 Imperial; 2585 AD)
  • Spinward Marches first surveyed by the Third Imperium (20 Imperial; 2605 AD)
  • Pacification Campaigns (15-24 Imperial; 2600-209 AD)
  • Solomani Hypothesis proposed (20 Imperial; 2605 AD)
  • Vargr Campaigns in Corridor (42-70 Imperial; 2627-2655 AD)
  • Imperial-Aslan Border Established (76 Imperial; 2661 AD)
  • First Imperial Survey completed (84 Imperial; 2669 AD)
  • Easter Concord absorbed by the Third Imperium (85 Imperial; 2670 AD)
  • Terra absorbed by the Third Imperium (118 Imperial; 2703 AD)
  • First Frontier War (119-121 Imperial; 2704-2706 AD)
  • Civil War (121-124 Imperial; 2706-2709 AD)
  • Second Frontier War (123-124 Imperial; 2708-2709 AD)
  • X-Boat Network established (124 Imperial; 2710 AD)
  • Zhakirov marries Antiama; Solomani fall out of favor in the court (136 Imperial; 2721 AD)
  • Solomani Autonomous Zone established (140 Imperial; 2725 AD)
  • X-Boat Network covers the entire Imperium (144 Imperial; 2729 AD)
  • Psionic Suppressions (160-165 Imperial; 2745-2750 AD)
  • Solomani Confederation established (174 Imperial; 2759 AD)
  • Solomani Autonomous Zone dissolved (188 Imperial; 2773 AD)
  • Third Frontier War (196-197 Imperial; 2781-2782 AD)
  • Solomani Rim War (198-200 Imperial; 2783-2785 AD)
  • Second Imperial Survey completed (213 Imperial; 2798 AD)
  • Fourth (False) Frontier War (216-217 Imperial; 2801-2802 AD)
  • Fifth Frontier War (221-222 Imperial; 2806-2807 AD)Bulleted List
  • Present - 222 Imperial/2807 AD

Decisions, decisions...

I think I'll use the Egryn, Pax Rulin, Dpress and Sindal subsectors as the quasi-quadrant setting for this campaign; enough worlds to support more than a year of play. and a lot of frontiers to explore, pirates to fight off and new markets to exploits.

I'm also leaning toward the "vague Imperium" option in regard to the "big picture" - that is, focus on the Outrim Void and only hint at the rest of the OTU (there is an Imperium; it is a few sectors in size at most; the largest Imperial ship you'll probably ever see in the ORV is a 5,000-ton battlecruiser as part of the Pax Rulin garrison).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Lovely Spouse (and the player in this campaign)

If you wondered how the Referee (me) and the main player in this campaign (my spouse Hani) looked like, here's a photo of us both:

The Big Picture

I'm trying to think of how to present the Imperium (and the rest of the Official Traveller Universe) in this campaign. The thing is that a huge, millennium-old Imperium probably means a lot of military and administrative budgets and naval capabilities, and thus a very big nose to poke into backwater places such as the Outrim Void. I'd prefer the Imperial involvement to be more limited, as given in CT's A4: Leviathan, where a single 1,200-ton Kinunir-class cruiser and two 300-ton Gazelle-class cruisers would be considered a whole "task force", rather having a squadron of several multi-K-ton battleships roving around Pax Ruling and Egryn and making the Belgardian (for example) far less of a threat.

The possibilities I'm toying with are:

1) Be vague about it. The main player, my spouse, is pretty much new to Traveller, so I can present the OTU to her in a less canonical manner. I probably can avoid giving a whole overview map beyond the local quadrant or so, and hint at a Proto-Traveller-sized Imperium (very big, but not THAT HUGE).

2) A proto-Traveller map such as this:

This essentially means using a smaller Imperium, with the entire OTU filling a 4x5 sector grid. The spinward side of Core and Diaspora will contain the Rift, and there would be some frontier sectors around this map (such as rimward of the Solomani Rim). The advantage is that things are kept at a more manageable scale. The disadvantage is that it looks a bit... uncomfortable to me in terms of spatial relations between the various sectors.

3) "Shrink" the OTU, so that eachsector becomes a subsector, such as this:

A few subsectors were moved, removed or merged to create a more coherent overall setting. In total it will be composed of four sectors, named Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta and centered around Capital. This way I can keep most interesting words while getting rid of the various repetitive "filler" worlds.

The main problem with this approach is that it will mean merging Egryn with Pax Rulin, losing some of its worlds and placing it only a few jumps away from the core of the Marches. I'm not sure if this will work well for this kind of a sandbox...

Leviathan and the Outrim Void

A year or so ago I was planning to run a Traveller campaign for my spouse, set in Canopus 1248. The campaign was supposed to start late in 2008 or early in 2009. Anyhow, eventually we decided to continue our Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game campaign another year instead and postpone the Traveller one.

Last week we discussed our gaming and decided that we'll switch over to Traveller at the end of 2009. Both due to our conversation (she wants a game with a lot of politics, trade and exploration, especially looking for new market opportunities and political ties) as well as me liking the brand-new Mongoose Aslan book and the Trojan Reach sector set in it (as well as re-reading CT's A4: Leviathan and loving it), I've decided to run a modified (expanded) version of Leviathan for her.

Regardless of this, I will continue my work on Canopus, of course, both as a long-range investment (I might run it in the future) and to eventually publish it as free fan-material (with CT stats) in Stellar Reaches or any similar fanzine.

My spouse wants to run a female Aslan noble (from one of the more "progressive"/teshko (sp?) - clans), involved in political and corporate intrigues and looking for new markets for her clan or her corporation. I'm thinking about making her the decision-maker (purser? factor?) onboard the Leviathan or an equivalent vessel trying to get an economical foothold in the Outrim Void in general and Egryn in particular. She's an avid role-player so I guess that a major part of the game will revolve around dealing with various political factions on various worlds to get freferrential deals for her corporation or clan.

There would be, of course, other kinds of adventures. I'll also try to adapt some of the CT and MGT stuff I have to this campaign. One adventure I have in mind is Project Steel, which I'm going to move to some world in the Outrim Void (possibly adding another world to the map) and replace the Sword-Worlders with Aslan [i]ihatei[/i] (the pirates will probably be Belgardian). As a horror/action diversion from political play I'll also possibly add a mix of A1: Kinunir and the Chamax adventure, with a derelict Kinunir-class vanguard cruiser floating around some god-forsaken world in the Outrim Void after it misjumped from Foreven (about two subsectors away) after being infested with Chamax.

I'll go through all the adventures I can access and look what I can adapt. This time, unlike my BFRPG game, I want to be heavily prepared for the game to make my improvisations more coherent and the games more frequent.

I'll also do some changes to the subsectors involved, both to remove glaring problems (such as tiny worldlets with thick atmospheres) and to better fit the campaign and the adventures.

I'm not sure about the scope I want it to encompass. The minimum is Egryn and Pax Ruling (as in A4: Leviathan), but I'm thinking about adding two more subsectors (either to the Coreward like Glisten or to the rimward like Sindal). I'm also not so sure about the variant of the OTU I'm going to use, though Cyborg IM1's 16-sector variant looks pretty much appealing.

I'll possibly also create a blog for this campaign.

The game will start December 21, 2009, which will be my spouse's 25th birthday. I intend to make that game memorable; I might also buy her some Aslan miniatures as a birthday present.