Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Traveller Tuesday, Band on the Run

I'm in the process of writing up a proper debriefing document for my players, but we finished "Death Station" a few weeks ago, and I thought I'd put up a report about it.

The players had just finished defending themselves from a mad scientist and his rat-like minions, and were pretty beat up. They decided to let the medic do some first aid on the most wounded members of the party while the others went to the nearby engine pod to attempt to restart the ship.

The engine pods themselves were dark and scary, but ultimately not useful. The players had a tense moment as they broke into the nearby auxiliary bridge, a task made more difficult by the fact that the power was off, the iris valve was stuck, and their strongest character was undergoing first aid. Nevertheless, with a combined effort and a make-shift crowbar, they got the valve open only to find the room deserted. They reactivated the ship's power and gravity in time to make the communications window with their employer. After a few tense moments of their patron not understanding that they were all in serious danger and that almost everyone else was dead, ("What do you mean 'dead'? Put Larssen on, right now!") the patron agreed that it would be wise to evacuate the ship with as many survivors as they could carry. (In this case, three.)

As the players made their way back to the docking ring, their antagonist, still at large, came on the intercom and chided them about their foolishness, crowing that it would all be over soon, and it was too late to escape his friends. The players at first believed he meant the rats, but then remembered the evidence they had found that a Solomani mercenary company was interested in the lab's work. They hurried to the boat, but the small elevator and the need to ferry up the immobilized survivors slowed them.

The scout went up first and began warming up the ship. Each turn, I had him roll his Piloting skill to advance to the next level of ship's preparedness. When the ship's sensors came on and calibrated, they detected an incoming ship on an intercept vector. As the players got the last of their number onto the little pinnace, the comms channel came on in a loud voice demanding that their ship stand down, cease rotation and prepare to be boarded. "The Package" was to be handed over as arranged. The players faked their way through the conversation while the pilot finished his launch preparations.

As the pinnace slid out of the docking ring, the hostile ship opened fire. (Here, I used the "Ship's Boat" skill suggested roll sequence - roll once to avoid damage, roll again to escape. But instead, I rolled 1D to determine how many "escape" successes they would need before getting away, and each "hit" was rolled on the standard combat damage table, rather than just destroying the ship as suggested.) The little pinnace didn't have any offensive or defensive equipment, but had speed on its side. The ship lost its comms early on, but the ex-Navy tech was able to repair them enough to get landing clearance (necessary on the last "leg" of the escape), and the ship took two hits to the engine, making subsequent "escape" rolls harder, I mean, forcing the Pilot to fight for his life as his compatriots feverishly tried to get their vacc suits on in case of a hull breach.

The pinnace "landed" at Gadden's excuse for a space port, and the Solomani mercenaries, deciding they didn't want to show their hand to the mining company's management, broke off their attack.

We broke there, and called the adventure over. I'm working on a few news reports and memos about the incident, and once I have them composed and distributed to my players, I'll post 'em here too.

All in all, a good game. It took me a few sessions to get the hang of Refereeing Classic Traveller, but I think I have a reasonable grasp of it now. As long as I don't think of it as so much of a turn-based board game, things go better. Though it does make things harder for the players, since they don't have as consistent a framework to hold on to.

I would run another CT game if people wanted to, though I don't know if I'd go for a "bite sized adventure-a-week" format, a sprawling "Firefly" type game or what. The "One night stand" adventure format, like Death Station, doesn't work so well when you can only play for an hour at a time, and then only every week or two. It was hard for me to keep continuity going between sessions, and I suspect even harder for the players, since none of them grew up playing Traveller, and had very little cultural reference to the factions involved.