Thursday, January 31, 2013

Grand Prize

The Boy made this for me last night on his old Crayola Color Explosion Glow Board.

I am very honored to receive such prestigious award.

For a while now, I think the Boy hasn't been having the best of times gaming.  I mean, he's there and he interacts and he has some fun - but beyond that - not much.  But he's been interacting a lot less than he used to - you know - he's been in that kind of 'spectating' zone.

Our gaming group has some big personalities.  I mean big.  When The Boy was younger, his self awareness was much lower - so he blasted out his personality for all to see.  That pre-pubescent hormone rush stage has gripped him lately, so he's a lot more self-conscious and cautious in social situations.  Trying to find your place in a pack of loud ne'er-do-wells can be difficult.

Add to that the fact that his characters just haven't been working out.  He's been crafting warriors and assassin types, while the group has been moving away from combat-centric play into more cerebral stuff.  Despite his and my efforts, his character concepts haven't meshed will with the other characters or the adventures.

I've tried giving him advice and pep talks.  Nothing I could think of was really helping.   But then I took a look at his shotgun cop Traveller character using the Traveller Skill Matrix.  In comparison with the other characters, none of his abilities stood out except his abilities with a shotgun - and the last session had contained exactly 6 seconds of combat - the session before that 12 seconds.

But the matrix showed that the party was missing things like stealth and recon and generally sneaky kinds of stuff.  I sat down with the Boy and mentioned that if he shelved shotgun cop and made some sort of thief-type, he might enjoy that better.

The Boy was resistant, but I explained my reasoning, and then I think it clicked and he began to smile.  We began rolling up his Traveller thief.  One term, two terms, three terms - his character was looking good and then suddenly - WHAM - he was betrayed and had to leave the thieves' world.  I became somewhat worried, but he changed tact and became a secret service agent.

He was brimming with excitement.  "I'm just like Slippery Jim DiGriz!"  I smiled.  Yup - he was turning out to be quite a stainless steel rat.  But his character dug too deep in the wrong place and was kicked out of the service.  Both of us became worried.  What was he to do?

I thought for a bit.

"Well, he's had quite a run.  Perhaps he should take all of his experience and figure out how to take advantage of it," I said.

"How?" he replied.

"There is a Merchant path called a Broker.  They sell stuff - directly.  If you are running around stealing stuff, knowing how to sell it might not be a bad idea."

He got it and smiled.

Last night, The Boy's new character was a tour de force.  In a sale of illicit anagathics, his character not only rolled well, but Tim, Adelaide, Merwyn, and Kaye taught him how to role play bargaining techniques to squeeze out as much money as he could from me.  He - even with a low computer score - hacked the recipe computer in the kitchen of a mansion and acquired unexpected secret blueprints.  His fast talking to security guards saved half the party from incarceration and torture, and he even convinced the security guards that they were in the wrong for starting trouble.  And he pro-actively swept a concert area for potential dangers, providing security for the group's Legendary Singing Idol.

I think that was the most fun he's had role-playing in a while - and he didn't fire a single shot.

So, I'm very happy with my prize. Not necessarily the flashing glowboard - though that is very nice.  My prize is his ear-to-ear smile.

- Ark

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Traveller Skill Matrix

Below is a skill matrix for the current characters in the Traveller campaign - in the same format as I had set up in the past for Stars Without Number.

There are a lot more skills in Traveller, though, creating quite a list.  That has it's positives and negatives.  But since, typically, the player does not have to agonize over which skills to pick - they come out pretty randomly in character creation - it's not too bad.

Player Tim Adel Merwyn Kaye The Boy
Name Elias Neva John Guenhwyvar Cade
Strength 6 3 4
Dexterity 6
Endurance 6 6 4
Intelligence 9
8 7 9
8 6 6 6
6 6 5
Admin 0 - - 1 -
Advocate 0 - 0 - -
Animals - - - - -
Animals (Farming)  - - - - -
Animals (Riding) - - - - -
Animals (Training)  - - - - -
Animals (Veterinary)  - - - - -
Art 0 - - - -
Art (Acting)  - 1 - - -
Art (Dance)  - 1 - - -
Art (Holography)  - - - - -
Art (Instrument)  - 4 - - -
Art (Sculpting)  - - - - -
Art (Writing)  - - - - -
Astrogation  1 - - - -
Athletics - 0 0 0 -
Athletics (Co-ordination)  - - - - 2
Athletics (Endurance)  - - - - -
Athletics (Flying)  - - - - -
Athletics (Strength)  - - - - -
Battle Dress  - - - 1 -
Broker  - - - - 3
Carouse  3 3 0 - -
Comms  0 0 - 1 -
Computers  - - 0 - 0
Deception 3 1 0 - 0
Diplomat 0 - - - -
Drive - - - 0 -
Drive (Mole)  - - - - -
Drive (Tracked)  - - 1 - -
Drive (Wheeled) - - - - -
Engineer - - - - -
Engineer (Electronics)  - - - - -
Engineer (J-Drive)  - - 1 - -
Engineer (Life Support)  - - - - -
Engineer (M-Drive)  - - - - -
Engineer (Power)  - - - - -
Explosives  - - - - -
Flyer 0 - - - -
Flyer (Grav)  - - - - -
Flyer (Rotor)  - - - - -
Flyer (Wing)  - - - - -
Gambler - - - 0 1
Gun Combat - - - - -
Gun Combat (EnergyPistol)  - - - - -
Gun Combat (Energy Rifle)  - - - 1 -
Gun Combat (Shotgun)  - - - - -
Gun Combat (Slug Pistol)  - - 4 - 1
Gun Combat (Slug Rifle)  - - - 2 -
Gunner - - 0 - -
Gunner (Capital Weapons) - - - - -
Gunner (Ortillery) - - - - -
Gunner (Screens) - - - - -
Gunner (Turrets) - - - - 1
Heavy Weapons - - - 0 -
Heavy Weapons (Field Artillery)  - - - - -
Heavy Weapons (Launchers)  - - - - -
Heavy Weapons (Man Portable Artillery)  - - - - -
Investigate  0 0 1 1 0
Jack of All Trades 1 - - - -
Language 0 - - 0 0
Language (Anglic)  - - - - -
Language (Aslan) - - - - -
Language (Oynprith)  - - - - -
Language (Vilani)  - - - - -
Language (Zdetl)  - - - - -
Leadership - - - 1 -
Life Sciences - - - - -
Life Sciences (Biology) - - - - -
Life Sciences (Cybernetics) - - - - -
Life Sciences (Genetics) - - - - -
Life Sciences (Psionicology) - - - - -
Mechanic  - - 1 - -
Medic  - - - - -
Melee 0 - 0 - 0
Melee (Blade)  - - - - -
Melee (Bludgeon)  - - - - -
Melee (Natural Weapons)  - - - 2 -
Melee (Unarmed Combat)  - - - 1 -
Navigation  - - - - -
Persuade  3 1 1 - 0
Physical Sciences - - - - -
Physical Sciences(Chemistry) - - - - -
Physical Sciences(Electronics) - - - - -
Physical Sciences (Physics)  - - - - -
Pilot - - - - -
Pilot (Capital Ships)  - - - - -
Pilot (Small Craft)  - - - - -
Pilot (Spacecraft)  1 - - - 1
Recon  - - 1 1 2
Remote Operations  - - - - 0
Seafarer - - - - -
Seafarer (Motorboats)  - - - - -
Seafarer (Ocean Ships)  - - - - -
Seafarer (Sail)  - - - - -
Seafarer (Submarine)  - - - - -
Sensors  - - - 1 -
Social Sciences 0 - - - -
Social Sciences (Archeology)  - - - - -
Social Sciences (Economics)  - - - - -
Social Sciences (History)  - - - - -
Social Sciences (Linguistics)  - - - - -
Social Sciences (Philosophy)  - - - - -
Social Sciences (Psychology)  - - - - -
Social Sciences(Sophontology)  - - - - -
Space Sciences - - - - -
Space Sciences (Planetology) - - - - -
Space Sciences (Robotics)  - - - - -
Space Sciences (Xenology)  - - - - -
Stealth  - - 1 - 1
Steward  - 2 1 - -
Streetwise  1 0 1 - 3
Survival  - - - - -
Tactics - - - - -
Tactics (Military Tactics)  - - - - -
Tactics (Naval Tactics)  - - - - -
Trade - - - 0 -
Trade (Biologicals)  - - - - -
Trade (Civil Engineering)  - - - - -
Trade (Hydroponics)  - - - - -
Trade (Polymers)  - - - - -
Trade (Space Construction)  - - - - -
Vacc Suit  - - - 0 -
Zero-G - - - - 0

- Ark

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Death of a Campaign

Redshirts died this week.

The Stars Without Numbers campaign had a pretty good run.  I had designed it as an FLGS episodic drop-in pick-up game with a cast of freeze dried, replaceable PCs scouting the unknown horrors of my mind.  It morphed into something quite different.

The first oddity was PEOPLE KEPT ON COMING.  I finally had to cap the game at nine players.  That's enough people in a room yelling at me.

Second, instead of a pick-up game, our schedule became very specifically timed, rotating around the players INSTEAD of me.

Third - we were kicked out of the FLGS by the Chess Club.

Instead, we played every week at Merwyn's house.  He has a large table.  That table wasn't quite big enough so another table had to be attached.  Something like a kiddie table at Thanksgiving.

So what the hell happened - you ask.

Well, I read Kevin Crawford's Stars Without Number supplement Scavenger Fleets.  It's a great, free supplement detailing the bands of nomadic star-farers who dig through the trash of the previous civilization.

I got to thinking - what if one of these Scavenger Fleets got too big for its britches?  What if they stopped just scavenging dead planets, and began to *harvest* living ones.

Thus, the RECTIFIERS were born.  The Rectifier Fleet was comprised of 70+ ships, their tech level passed any in the area, and their habit of implanting all of their 'recruits' with wi-fi brain pain technology made their sufficiently Borg like to scare anyone who met them.

I figured I had a pretty good bag of villains to harass the freeze-dried scouts.

The Redshirts were passing through a system they used 'space highway' when they stumbled on the fleet.  Sensors indicated that the sleepy little planet they knew as Tunguska was being invaded, and the gas giants in the area were under lock-down.

I figured . . . well - you know what happens.  A DM goes through every thing they could think that would happen and plans accordingly.  Players always figure a way around all of that, though.

I made it clear that these dudes were billy-bad-asses and not to be messed with.  The mission was clear - find a way to refuel, jump the hell away, and warn the boys back home.  Since the CO position was being filled by Crazy-Ass Tim who was playing Professor Ramaputi - a guy who dislikes violence and wants to SCIENCE everything - I figured we were in for some interesting stealth operations.

Yeah, right.

They see a Rectifier Frigate nearby, but are cloaking really well, so it doesn't see them.  Rather than GTFO, they teleport a mirror outside of the ship and start bouncing LIDAR communications off of it, taunting the Frigate.

It went downhill from there.

It their little stealth shuttle they . . . they attacked the frigate.  They had pulled off ship assaults before.  Two - if I remember correctly.  But those assaults had always been against ships with much crappier tech.

Most of the PCs got to the hull of the Rectifier Frigate, while Ramaputi and two psychics did a halfway planned, halfway accidental maneuver where they simultaneously rammed the shuttle into the Frigate at full speed and smashed the hull with Telekenetic Ram.  At the same time, Merwyn's character faked out the ship's AI and nabbed controlled of the jump drive and maneuvering systems.

They blew a hole into the Frigate.  Nice going, yes.  But the other ships in the area were closing fast.  The crew of the Frigate was still alive and not in a great mood, however.

Meryn decided that, since he was in control of the jump drives - that they should jump the Frigate to another star system and deal with the crew later.  However, after a few minutes of paper-shuffling - it became horrible apparent that not a single member of the party had the Navigation skill to jump the ship.

At that point, Merwyn decided to accelerate to ramming speed and slam the Frigate into the nearest Cruiser.


The party found life pods to evacuate.  However, they were easily picked up by the Rectifiers.


Rather than role-play their lives as mind-slaves of the Rectifier Fleet, we decided to leave it there and let the Redshirts campaign sail off into the horizon, smoke billowing from the water-borne funeral pyre.

I would guess that the following events would happen:

  1. Capture.
  2. Torture.
  3. Integration.
  4. And then the Rectifier Fleet - with full knowledge of the Aquila Union now, would commence an invasion and the player characters would be a party to the destruction of their own civilization.

Good times, good times.

The Boy, however, is currently writing a story in which the characters escape the Rectifiers and everybody wins.  I am eagerly waiting to read that story, since it sounds a heck of a lot more upbeat then what I charted out above.

So, I salute the nine players of the Redshirts campaign for valiantly putting up with all of the horrific things that I threw at their poor, ill-equipped characters - and for the most part surviving.    But the campaign was named Redshirts - so it was really just a matter of time. :)

- Ark

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

NSFW Hat Girl

Just a not safe for work cartoon girl in a hat.  Nothing game related.  Move along.

- Ark

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pity's Long-Broken Urn

Pity's Long-Broken Urn is an Escritoire-class yacht registered out of the Bellange system in the Spindrift subsector. Originally commissioned by the Marquis Elais de Sainte-Marie, it was soon transferred to the Carpe Consortium, a limit liability corporation on which Elais was a board member. Marquis Elias' dream of making the Urn a for-profit party barge have thus far failed - the profit part. Not the party part. The owners of Pity's Long-Broken Urn are listed below:

Marquis Elais de Sainte-Marie - 6669BD
     Carouse-3, Deception-3, Persuade-3, Astrogation-1, Pilot(Spaceship)-1, etc.
Elias is a noble dilettante from Sainte-Marie.  He has spent his life acquiring money, land, and titles he didn't deserve - creating a long list of people who want him harmed or dead.  Recently, he decided to explore new worlds - worlds free of people trying to kill him, that is.

Legendary Idol Neva Bloomberg - 3B6E8D
     Singing-4, Carouse-3, Steward-2, Dance-1, Acting-1, Deception-1, Persuade-1, etc.
Hailing from the subsector capital of Champaigne, Neva became a pop idol at a young age, which was followed by a stellar career and sector-wide singing tour.  She crossed the wrong power-broker, however, and now is retired off-world, failing miserably at being low-key.

Lt. Max Guttman - 687A76 
     Shotgun-4, Slug Pistol-2, Blades-2, Medic-1, Pilot(spaceship)-1, etc.
Max was born on the desolate planet of Dustbowl, learning to survive by his wits and his shotgun at an early age.  To escape, he joined the Imperial marines, transferred into the navy, then settle down until retirement as a cop for Space Port Authority at Champaigne.

Lt. Matthew John Gattis - 4A4866
     Slug Pistol-4,  Engineer-1, Mechanic-1, Persuade-1, Investigate-1, Recon-1, etc.
Matthew's sad story starts with his failure to become a merchant and joining the Space Port Authority as a cop.  His carreer destroyed for digging too hard, he became a free trader, but was run out of business.  He then toyed with being a pirate, but his ship was destroyed.

Guenhwyvar - F6C766
     Medic-2, Slug Rifle-2, Dew Claw-2, Energy Rifle-1, Comms-1, Sensors-1, etc.
Guenhwyvar is an Aslan from a Hierate colony in the Trojan Reach.  He served a long, illustrious life in a mercenary company.  He now searches the Imperium looking for ways to bring his clan back to power.

So, that makes up the characters for the Traveller game we are playing right now.  I'll get into more detail about what has happened - and all of the bad smelling fall out - very soon. :)

- Ark

Friday, January 18, 2013

Player Portraits: Adelaide

Adelaide has been playing with the group for a while now - Labyrinth Lord, Stars Without Number, and now Traveller.  She's typically the most level headed of the group - not poking any great big red buttons that say "DON'T POKE ME" and ducking behind something large and heavy when the rest of the party does something stupid.  Her sanity seems to be wearing off, however.  In Traveller, she's playing an interstellar pop-star who has a habit of pissing off Planetary Contessas for fun.  Obviously, Adelaide has been hanging around the wrong people. :)

I've been working diligently to learn some new drawing techniques over the last few month.  I've been unhappy with my progress, but this one of Adelaide didn't come out too bad.

- Ark

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Campaign Fanfic

All Traveller nobles shop for clothes in Austria, circa 1854.
In the past, I've written a lot of what I call Interludes - short little fiction pieces that showed events between gaming sessions.  I like to get inside the PCs' imaginary little heads and have them talk and act exactly the way their players would have them act.  It takes time to understand the characters, and portray them properly.

The high body count style of play we've been going with over the past two years is rather counter-productive to writing in-depth, character-based fiction.  Characters tend to be archetypal, and even if they are interesting - it's hard to imagine they'll last for more than a few more game session.

However, we are about to embark on a Traveller campaign - and the life path character creation system spits out wonderfully developed character histories.  Add to it that over half the players involved would be just as happy to see no combat at all and, well, these guys are just screaming out for PROSE.

For instance, the character that Crazy-Ass Tim is playing - Marquis Elais de Sainte-Maire, is an upper class dilettante, spoiled and useless beyond all recognition.  But he's found himself in a state where he has lots of enemies and not enough cash to maintain his lifestyle.  The other players so far ended up as gritty policemen or ex-soldiers.  Scratching my head, I wondered how these guys would even meet, much less adventure together.  After some character motivation discussions with the players, a scene popped into my head between the black Sheep Elias and his uncle - who manages Elias' father's household.

* * *

Uncle Dietfried tossed the bag at Elias' feet.  The crimson stained canvas landed with a wet slap on the white carpet.  Something was in the bag - something about the size of a head.

"That's the third one this year," Dietfried, dressed in a crisp uniform with golden epaulets, motioned to the bag.  "She's not going to run out of money or people."

Marquis Elias wanted to back away from the bag, but simply stared wide-eyed at it as the the red stain in the white carpet seeped from where the bag had landed.  "Um . .  thanks."

Dietfried grunted.  "I won't have you embarrassing your father any more with this.  It's time you take that ill-gotten title and go find your fortune elsewhere."

Elias looked up from the bag.  "I'll need some seed money."

"You had seed money last year.  And the year before.  And the year before that," the uniformed man barked.  "Go to the space port.  You can get credit for a starcraft on your name alone.  Take it and leave.  Go to the capital and sponge off those friends of yours."

"A loan?" Elias looked as if a bad smell had entered the room.

"Yes.  A loan.  That you have to pay back.  Like in the real world."

Elias looked confused, then outstretched his hands with a boyish smile.  He was, however, far from a child.  The Marquis had seen at least four decades.

"Uncle . . uncle, there has been a misunderstanding.  I . . ."

"No.  You understand me perfectly clear.  Leave, or your father will learn certain little known things about you . . ."

Elias' face grew harsh and he tilted his head angrily, but Dietfried continued.

" . . . certain little things about you that he'll find out if I tell him, or if I should mysteriously die, will be told to him by a program that scans the newspapers for word of my demise."

Elias gasped and touched his chest.  "Uncle!  You wound me."

"I will if need be," Diefreid stared icily at his nephew, his hand on the hilt of the sword at his side. "Your father's position is too important to be compromised by your lack of judgment."

Elias looked down at the bag and sighed.  "It's not my fault."

"It never is," Dietfried grumbled, took a breath, then sighed.  His eyes softened.  "Don't forget, she's still a tad cranky and will remain so for a long, long time.  You are going to need some hired guns as bodyguards.  Ex-soldiers are good, but ex-law enforcement know better what they can get away with legally.  And when you've finished drowning your sorrows with those wastrels at the capital, you should probably go check into that fief the Emperor awarded you.  You've never paid any attention to it, and it's barely turning a profit.  I hear that Sainte-Marie is nice this time of year anyway."

"Very well, Uncle."  Elias said coldly, snapping to attention.  "I'll be off."  He turned to go, but stopped and glanced back.

"Christmas at Rouge Et Noir?"

"Of course," his uncle nodded curtly.  "Your aunt would lapse into hysterics if you missed Christmas dinner.  Idiot boy.  And come back with a good story - a story of entrepreneurship and profit to tell your father."

"Yes Uncle," Elias walked out, but didn't let the smirk show until he was long out of camera range.

* * *

It seems to fit the bill.  So, anyway, the players should be expecting a lot more fiction from me in the coming weeks. :)

- Ark

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Spindrift Subsector

Click to embiggen.
(These are places that the players in the upcoming Traveller game would have some knowledge about.  Hint hint. -Ark)

Systems of Interest
Bellange C764887-5
Bellange is an idyllic garden world brimming with life.  A quarter of a billion people are scattered over the planet, in a somewhat primitive state, relying on ethanol for power and transportation, with agricultural being the main industry.  A small, unobtrusive civil service manages the planet.  The lush, quiet lifestyle has attracted the wealthy, and many of the smaller noble fiefs are located here.  A gambling and pleasure town has built up around the fiefs, called Rouge Et Noir.

Champaigne A85A989-B
Champaigne is the Imperial capital of the Spindrift subsector.  A billion people live on the oceanic world, which is run by a ganglia of AI that automate the economy and assign human governors to manage daily affairs.  Champaigne is named after the glowing, spherical habitats that proliferate around Capital Dome, giving the appearance of bubbles.  The planet boasts both an extensive highport complex with shipbuilding facilities and an Imperial naval facility, as well as a lowport that dominates the largest collection of landmasses, approximately the size of New Zealand.

Dustbowl E360635-8
Dustbowl is a very small desert world.  The breathable atmosphere is generated by huge, pyramid shaped machines left by the Ancients and scattered all over the planet.  Originally settled by archaeologist, nothing more of interest was found on Dustbowl.  The three million inhabitants are spread out over the many oases near the equator, each ruled by a warlord or strongman who is a member of Dustbowl's Ruling Council.

Kilimanjaro C124101-A
Kilimanjaro is a tiny, thin-aired rock blessed with a large amount of water ice.  While the Imperium maintains a small starport and a scout base here, there are few, if any inhabitants on the rock.  Some trade goes though the system, but rumors abound of missing ships and cargoes.  The Traveller's Aid Society deems that the scout base here is enough deterrent to potential lawlessness, but others disagree.

Sainte-Marie E665241-6 
Sainte-Marie, while small, is still a garden planet with abundant native flora and fauna.  An old style representative democracy thrives here - its citizens seeing no need for a more stable, centrally managed system.  Sainte-Marie has been the home of more recently awarded fiefs in the Spindrift subsector, and many of the nouvelle aristocratie call it home.

Trade Routes
La Route Petite Ambre
A cluster of 23 systems with Jump-1 accessibility, stretching through three subsectors.  Low population, as well as a lack of systems that can manufacture starships, relegates the trade route to minor status. Where it passes through the Spindrift subsector, the Lesser Amber Road is economically dominated by trading houses out of the distant Honingraat system, who often wield power comparable to the Imperium in this backwater. In Spindrift, the Road is comprised of Byōdō-in, C-S875, Klimt, Kongens Have, Lucrezia, Marrakech, Medici, Tortuga, and Serengeti.
The Etruscan Way
This stretch of 27 Jump-1 accessible systems is the economic backbone of three subsectors.  Four major powers sit along the route - two of which lie in the Spindrift subsector.  Trade companies out of Champaigne clearly dominate the area, while traders from Honingraat are more apt to link the Etruscan Way with the Lesser Amber Road trading route.  most of the systems in the Spindrift Sector are within the Etruscan Way.

Etruscan Trailing
The trailing end of the Etruscan Way, located trailing and rimward from Champaigne, is a backwater region.  Trade exists, and a naval base keeps the peace, but low populations and lack of huge economies prevent the larger trading houses from doing much business here.  Etruscan Trailing is ripe for entrepreneurs and new trading ventures to make an easy credit.  Pirates do, however, ply the jump-ways, so honest businessmen need to be careful.

- Ark

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Don't Hand Me Map Colors

Back in elementary school, they'd give us colored pencils with the sole purpose of coloring maps - and they called them map colors.  I don't know if they still call them that, but I discovered that when I started to use my colored pencils on subsector maps for Traveller, they suddenly became map colors again.

And yeah, don't hand me map colors.  I will use them.

In working on my latest Traveller maps, I took a hint from Flynn and started looking on the quadrant level, getting a good feel for a region before zooming in on a particular subsector.

After dorking around with dice, I realized that I needed bigger guns, and used automated generators to build my quadrant.  Heck, it even made up randomized names.  I figured those names would be ancient names from original surveys of the First or Second Imperium, and that by the Third Imperium, they'd have names that the players could pronounce. :)

So, armed with my trusty map colors, I printed out multiple copies of the quadrant, combed over my world data, and began thinking.

First I looked at Tech Level, with an eye for high population areas.  The colors indicate a star-faring level of technology, the letters indicate capabilities of the starport, and a line around the star's hex indicate billions of inhabitants - all of which can be used to indicate the level of hustle and bustle in a system.

Tech Levels
Next, I broke down population.  The hot colors, yellow orange and red, indicate a good, sustainable population.  The cool colors indicate a planet with not much going for it, so no real reason for there to be scads of people.

For my next map I didn't use so many colors.  Outlined hexes indicate systems of particular interest or value to the Third Imperium.  Class A starports, Imperial Naval bases, and Imperial Consulates are indicated.  Then the blue lines show where Imperial travel would most likely occur - which indicates the probably X-Boat (snail mail) routes.  Actually, I refined the X-Boat routes a bit, but this map is good for describing the places the Emperor would care about - and places that he doesn't so much - and how they would interconnect.

Communication Routes
Then I tackled trade using the suggested method in Mongoose Traveller.  They use a pretty simple algorithm that doesn't get too messy, and delineates between industrial traffic and agricultural and general raw material flows.  It also show really well where BFE is.

Trade Routes

The next map I call the Law and Chaos map.  Purple and pink with purple lines indicate the really big interstellar powerhouses of the quadrant.  These are additionally highlighted with a black line around the hex.  Then, I determined the zone of influence of these powerhouses using the jump drive rating from their technological profile, and created 'borders' showing how far their cultural influence would dominate, modified by their neighbor's proximity.  Yellows indicate colonies and greens indicate corporate held territory.  Systems outside of the zones of influence would typically be on their own, as far as culture is concerned.  Red areas indicate lack of government, or zero level law enforcement, so those are the really wild areas.  Those would definitely be Amber Zones.  Like I said - Law and Chaos.

Law and Chaos
The last map here indicates cultures that, from their law levels, are not too fond of outsiders.  Either they ban outsiders completely, or try to keep contact to a minimum.  Those systems are also very good candidates for Amber Zones.

The 'Go Away' Club
After going through all of that, I figured that the subsector in the lower right hand region would be the best place to start, as it had enough immediate diversity and backwater areas to facilitate some easy Traveller style adventures in as few hops as possible.

I need some new map colors, though.

- Ark

Monday, January 7, 2013

Traveller Map Making

That copy of Mongoose Traveller that I got for Christmas has kept me very busy for the last several weeks.  I sat down and generated a lot of subsectors, worlds, and characters.  I guess I am easy to entertain, - just me, two six sided dice, and some hex paper.  Heck, it's even kept me away from the Internet quite a bit - which is saying something.

Some of my Stars Without Numbers players took offence to me saying they couldn't handle a game without character advancement, so they are wanting to play Traveller.  (Actually, I discovered that Mongoose Traveller does allow for skill advancement, but I'm tossing that rule.)  So, I decided to run a bit of this new Traveller to see what it's like.  Which meant A LOT MORE WORLD CREATION.  Woo!

I did, for a bit, think of running a standard Third Imperium Spinward Marches game, since I've read so much of the setting over the decades.  And the galactic map here is just so awesome.  But, in the end, Creating the subsectors myself provides me with a much more intimate knowledge of the region I'll run.

I found a bunch of nifty tools on the internet for mapping.  My favorite subsector creator so far is at  Oh, and somebody made a really need randomized world mapper from world codes over here.

After you've got your subsector or sector generated the way you want, there are lots of ways to map it, but I found a nifty backdoor api in the Traveller Map site, and the POST page here.  It take a bit of getting used to, but it's pretty powerful once you get the hang of it.  It does image files, as well as PDFs.

Below are some examples of what you can do, followed by the simple dataset I used.

Poster 128

Print 128

Atlas 128

Candy 128


@SUB-SECTOR: Spindrift SECTOR: Frontier

#PlanetName   Loc. UPP Code   B   Notes         Z  PBG Al LRX *
#----------   ---- ---------  - --------------- -  --- -- --- -
Byōdō-in      2511 E887999-6    Ga Hi              323 Im
Jōruri-ji     2514 C574953-B    Ga Hi In           325 Im
Yoruba        2517 D3009EF-A  S Hi In Na Va     A  423 Im
Cesare        2612 B67667C-8  N Ag Ga           A  102 Im
Pollock       2613 D4668AB-6  S                    311 Im
Fontainebleau 2614 B548521-A  S Ag Ga Ni           110 Im
Daikaku-ji    2616 C69688A-3  S Lt Ga              323 Im
Lucrezia      2711 C313620-7    Ic              A  902 Im
Bellange      2714 C764887-5    Ga Lt Ri           700 Im
Champaigne    2715 A85A989-B  N Hi Wa Cp           100 Im
Sanaa         2718 C421545-B    Ni Po              100 Im
C-G711        2720 E744210-7    Ga Lo Ni           124 Im
Medici        2811 C3008DA-8    Na Va           A  502 Im
Kongens Have  2812 X669663-3    Lt Ri           R  815 Im
Purgatory Rho 2814 C7C3637-8    Fl                 725 Im
Sainte-Marie  2815 E665241-6    Ga Lo Ni           300 Im
Atlantis      2816 C98A433-A  S Ni Wa              912 Im
Dürer         2817 D462541-5    Lt Ni              421 Im
Gehenna Tau   2818 B9E3889-7  S Fl                 402 Im
Zanzibar      2820 C537357-A    Lo Ni              101 Im
Tortuga       2911 C200542-8  S Ni Va              720 Im
Serengeti     2912 E87AA87-B    Hi In Wa           122 Im
Honingraat    2914 B10078A-B    Na Va              121 Im
Audubon       2916 E763631-6                       904 Im
Dustbowl      2917 E360635-8    De                 324 Im
Blue Prairie  2920 C444789-4    Ag Lt              404 Im
Klimt         3012 A52858D-E  N Ht Ni              400 Im
Dogon         3015 B410650-B  N Na              A  702 Im
Vegaspan      3020 BA7A201-E    Ht Lo Ni Wa        414 Im
Marrakech     3113 A321300-B    Lo Ni Po        A  325 Im
Kilimanjaro   3116 C124101-A  S Lo Ni              114 Im
Okavango      3118 E5298AD-7                       404 Im
Carousel      3119 A000363-C    As Ht Lo Ni        302 Im
Velázquez     3120 D310200-8  S Lo Ni           A  212 Im
C-S875        3212 B314211-8    Ic Lo Ni           303 Im
Triplehorn    3214 D97A546-6  S Ni Wa              302 Im
C-D467        3219 E123210-A    Lo Ni Po           501 Im


<Subsector Index="H">Spindrift</Subsector>
<Route Start="2413" End="2612" />
<Route Start="2612" End="2714" />
<Route Start="2714" End="2914" />
<Route Start="2914" End="3012" />
<Route Start="3012" End="2911" />
<Route Start="3012" End="3113" />
<Route Start="2714" End="2715" />
<Route Start="2715" End="2616" />
<Route Start="2616" End="2517" />
<Route Start="2517" End="2416" />
<Route Start="2914" End="3015" />
<Route Start="3015" End="3119" />
<Route Start=3119"" End="3319" />

For this particular set of maps, I used a scale of 64 for the little map up top, and a scale of 128 for the larger maps.  The particular subsector shown is H, though you can map a whole sector.   The rest should be self-evident.  Well, mostly.

If you have any questions, I might could answer them.  Or maybe not.  We'll see.

Happy mapping!

- Ark

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

DCC Goes to Town

Continued from Florence and the TPK . . .

We got to play DCCRPG again on Saturday!

It was decided - by me, mainly - that my character Florence the Witch was just the kind of person to sneak out of the wretched dungeon from last game and leave her captured party members behind to rot.  So Florence did just that, hooking up with her NPC lackey Clarissa, who had been watching the horses outside of the dungeon, and traipsing off to parts unknown.

I should add here that when playing an asshole character, it's best to have buy-in from the rest of the players.  They were really quite ready to roll up new characters, so this gave them an excuse to start fresh, and gave me the enjoyment of role-playing a quite horrible person.

Kaye rolled up a cleric, but The Boy and Merwyn wanted another slew of zero-level funnel characters.

Have I mentioned that around here people love the hell out of the Funnel?  Even a Funnel in Space?  They most emphatically do.

I was curious how Crazy-Ass Tim was going to pull off a funnel with half of the party.  He did it quite well, actually.  The zero level horde and the cleric joined Florence since they were travelling in the same direction after their village was destroyed by orcs.  As they continued along, they saw a large wall bisecting the valley they were traversing, and an absolute ton of people that looked like peasants and refugees.

The party continued on through the crowds of peasants to the wall, but the peasants were getting uppity.  Florence happened to have a cart full of food, but had put one of the zero level characters in charge of it.  He was Lev the Tax Collector, and he wasn't about to hand over anything to anyone no way.


The hungry peasants began to shred the zero level characters.  The party began hacking them to pieces in return, but also throwing copper pieces into the crowd to distract.  Eventually the peasants were disbursed, but alas, Florence's lackey Clarissa was murdered.

Then Crazy-Ass Tim let us do something odd - replenish our fallen with the very peasants who attacked us.  They, um, liked the cut of our jib?  Or maybe just knew who had the food and weapons and wanted in.

Florence found a starving peasant girl named Veronica and made the girl her new lackey.  Florence renamed Veronica to Clarissa #2, though.  It was too much a bother to remember a new name.  Veronica didn't seem to mind, as long as she was fed.  Florence decided to rename the next lackey Clarissa #3 when this new one dies.

Is it dawning on you that I am taking the 'YOU ARE NOT A HERO' blurb from the back of the DCC book seriously yet? :)

Eventually, the party learns that beyond the wall lies a city, the wall prevents them from leaving the valley, and that the valley, their town, and everything they ever knew was simply the prison where criminals from the city were exiled to.

Sounds about right, actually.  Kind of like Death Valley Free Prison.  (Thanks Kyrinn!)

The party eventually met someone from inside the city that said he could get them in if they agreed to . . . well . . . they weren't exactly sure what they agreed to - indentured servitude or something like it - but they got out of Shanty Town and into the city proper.

Apparently, Crazy-Ass Tim has been making sweet love to Les Misérables lately, so the city turned out to be a Magically Electric 19th Century Paris where everyone was . . . miserable . . . oddly enough, and had either French or Cardassian names, wore cloaks, and lived in palafitte.  The party met their new patron/owner, who was some rich dude with multiple wives, and he set them up in a shack on the poor side of town and told them to sit around and wait for him to assign them jobs to do.

Sound like a campaign hook generation system to me! :)

So, this is where it gets odd.  DCC has Mercurial Magic - which means that each spell a magic user can cast has something odd about it - rolled randomly.  Well, Good old Flo the Witch has Magic Missile, but every time she casts it, something random nearby turns to lead, and something else turns to gold.  The other players clench their sphincters in dread every time she pops off a magic missile.

Florence thinks it's really nifty, but everyone else gets stuck with useless gold and lead weapons at critical times during combat.  Or gets a bag full of lead coins - which is what happened during the Peasant Gauntlet.

Well, the party was wandering around the city and a thief snagged one of their money bags - a bag of copper coins that had been turned to lead.  They never did catch up with the thief, but felt that he deserved the bag of lead and didn't think much about it.

Next day, they receive a visit from some mafioso types that were HIGHLY interested in the lead coins, as they clearly were struck from the royal copper coin dies, but were lead, so clearly someone was producing counterfeit money and they wanted in on the profits.

Talk about awkward.  It's bad enough they think the party has a counterfeiting device.  If the mob discovers that Flo is the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg, then she'll end up kidnapped and locked in a dank dungeon, where she will spend the rest of her life casting magic missile until she is nothing but tentacles brought on by blown casting rolls.

Not good.  Luckily they got a job from their patron.  They have to stop a ship from leaving port in a few days.  They know nothing else about the job.  But Florence figures that if they can convince the Mafia that the Ship's captain knows where the coins come from, and is part of some larger conspiracy, then they can kill two birds with one stone.

Or spend the rest of her life in a dungeon casting magic missile.  Talk about pressure.  Some might call it karma.


- Ark