Sunday, November 14, 2021

S.S Ethics 4 Once

  So, I got a call last week from an old Navy buddy and gamer, asking if I'd be interested in starting a Traveller campaign with his group.  After unearthing - and repairing - the old GDW Deluxe Edition boxed set with the Spinward Marches and tracking down my "Classic Games" reprint with Snapshot, Azhanti High Lightning and Striker etc (it was down at the eldest's farm); I agreed and whipped up a quick salvage and bug hunt scenario.  By quick, I mean two pages of notes - half of which is a drawing of how the pods on a dispersed structure starship connect, and lot of good intentions and half-way remembrances of how the system works.   

  I picked up two additional resources to add to my Books 1-6.  Book 7, Merchant Prince and, on a recommendation from Eric at Swords and Stitchery, the game Hulks and Horrors for adventure ideas.  The eldest, after I helped him clear brush and get the snowblower attachment on his tractor; joined in and contributed Supplement 7 Citizens of the Imperium along with his presence at the table.

    We had a chaotic time trying to get five people to generate characters at once.  Personally, I'm a fan of having the players generate their characters themselves, not at the table waiting for me to tell them what their die rolls mean.  What should have taken each of them twenty minutes working in parallel took better than three hours in sequence.  Since four of them were complete newbies to Traveller, but experienced in computer RPGs and D&D we ended up with a set of characters both too over powered (all of them had done five terms to max out their skill rolls) and not balanced at all.  They had two scouts with ships; two retired Navy officers (one a Duke and one a Marquis), a retired enlisted Merchant and a retired Diplomat.  No one had better than Computer-1 and only one had any combat skills, no Electronics skills either as I recall.  I'll admit I screwed up on some of the character generation; missed the paragraph on Merchant enlisted advancement, so that character is owed five skills.  Oh well, blew the rust off at least.

    Because of the imbalance I made some quick changes, declared that while they were officially retired, they were actually on a clandestine Imperial diplomatic mission in District 268 and had been issued a Free Trader to use as cover and transportation.  This of course made them want to find some cargo to ship so they could make extra money.  As they were first jumping to Tarsus, an Agricultural, Non-Industrial world they found a broker who could line up a few tons of that specific cargo, along with a number of other cargo loads to carry.  Ignoring that the group has two or three characters with Admin-2 or Liaison-2 and trying to shave the fee; they offered the broker full time employment in exchange for 5 tons of cargo space.  He wasn't interested, but he had a cousin just breaking onto the business who would be.  She negotiated not only the 5 tons cargo, but also retained the 5% fee she would have charged for her Broker -1.  Essentially, they've agreed to carry her around while she hones her skills and make contacts, while paying her full fee and allowing her to trade for herself.

   At this point the Diplomat, who's player tends to run excessively Chaotic characters, got worried that some of the cargo they only carrying in sealed containers might *gasp* be illegal to ship.  This lead to the naming of the ship 'Ethics for Once'.

   With the ship straight from a maintenance availability and refined fuel, there was no chance for a misjump - but they didn't know that.  Coming back into N-space, they found themselves surprised to be close enough to something that they had a radar contact.  (They asked me what it looked like.  Drawing on a dozen years of watching radar screens on ships , I deadpanned "A blip".)  They now realized it would be nice if someone had some sort of skill with shipboard sensors; but eventually one of the Naval officers figured them out and was able to tell it was a ship massing about 800t, built as a Type 7 Dispersed Structure in a series of linked oval pods.  It was also tumbling through space, giving them a pretty broad hint it was in trouble.  The duty pilot rolled box cars and chose not only to match course and speed, but also frequency of rotation to simplify going across in vacc suits.  Another discussion occurred when they determined they had no characters to act a muscle in a potentially hostile situation.

     After one failed attempt, one of the scouts reached a pod they thought might contain small craft, connected a tether between the ships and found an emergency airlock.  They found writing on the hull near the airlock, in form of eight armed asterisks.

   As each arm has three possible value, not present, normal length, double length - this gave up to 512 different meanings for each symbol.  Sending imagery back, they again struggled to figure out how to connect feed the visual input into the ship's computer to identify it.  Someone with say Computer skill would have been useful at this point.

Succeeding eventually, the computer could only tell them that it matched the script used by a minor race near the Solemani Rim - the Ahoggya, who are 1.5 meters tall and broad, with trilaterally symmetrical bodies and a grumpy disposition.  Further information wasn't available.  The Merchant's player did some research and found a nice picture of them (not this one from the original publication).  I reminded them that while every race from from a future with space faring I never said they would all be from Traveller.

Because I have a soft spot for Tekumel

   My inspiration for the Ahoggya star script is the remembrance knots I recall them being described as using in lieu of a written record.

    Entering through the emergency lock, they found a passage painted in muddy greens and loud hooting, screeching and rhythmic stomping coming from the every speaker in the ship.  WHen they asked the compueter what it might mean, it threw up the guess an alien version of WAP by Cardi B.  (I'm given to understand this is a song currently considered to be uplifting music using sexually explicit lyrics to shock old grognards like me.  Never listened to it, haven't listened to much of the music recorded since Reagan.)   They found a couple of small craft, with seats that lookedlike they would be for a trilaterally symmetrical lifeform.  A maintenance bay with all of the tools welded into a sculpture of a double helix and the crushed bones and carapace of a lifeform they assume to be an Ahoggya.

    Moving on they figured out how the ship's door access controls worked, moved to another pod full of cargo and then found a passage into the control section.  They managed to figure out how the controls worked, and even though they were built for three hands the scout managed to stop the tumbling using thrusters, but also determined the main drive was offline.  Another skeleton was present along with a snub pistol (snapped up by the Diplomat; pity he didn't ask if it was loaded.)  All attempts to get information out of the Ahoggya's ship's computer were stymied by their inability to translate the language, even after they found the main menu.  Of course, no one checked if the Ahoggya had a translation program loaded.  They also noticed a floor level vent was lying on the deck and the console around it seemed to have been shot at by the snub pistol.  One of the characters/players figured out at this point they were in a bug hunt scenario, with something in the air system.  (Another place I screwed up, I'd brought Gamma World to use the Artifact Charts for understanding alien technology and forgot to break them out).

    Continuing to the next pod, they found crew quarters, deserted but for a couple more skeletons and they heard a ventilation cover being pushed out behind them.  The character who figured it was a bug hunt, also happened to be the only one with gun combat skills - and had brought his rifle over.  Even though nothing could be seen by the vent cover moving - but not in a direct line from the vent itself - he opened fire and was rewarded with a loud screech, a spurt of purple blood and the sound of something large going back into the vent.

   We broke here, they're discussing venting the Ahoggya ship to space to kill the thing (a wingless Blight from Gamma World) - although they haven't searched half the ship for survivors.



  1. I do like the name "Ethics for Once" as most games players tend to, well, not be particularly ethical.

    Sounds like a fun game so far!

  2. Interesting. I look forward to further write-ups. I don't think I've seen an actual campaign of Traveller, so this will be new to me.