Saturday, July 26, 2014

Classic Traveller, The Love Boat part 2 - session report

Our heroes continued their Casino fight!

Two more bearded bag guys appeared from out of the smokey corridor. The PC-controlled robot hefted another slot machine and threw it at the bad guys but it crashed to the ground in front of them. The beardies opened fire at the robot with one of them getting a lucky shot in that must have caught some hydraulics because in the ensuing battle the robot was having trouble hitting anyone.

The other PC opened fire with his laser from behind the counter. The injured beardie had had enough and was struggling towards the staircase at the far side of the casino. The fight continued until it ended with all of the bearded men dead and the blood of the last splattered all over the robot.

The PCs advanced to corridor and found the surviving beardies (injured during the last session) down there ready to keep shooting. They soon solved that with another grenade (8+ to hit and 8D damage!).

Shots came at them from out of the smoke, these coming from the people they were here to rescue. With a bit of effort they managed to win their way into the strong room at the end of the corridor. There they found Lady Sadalla and her five bodyguards. A hand held radio belonging to one of the beardies was still operating but the PCs did not speak the language, the radio was handed to one of the bodyguards who said he could understand it.

After a tense moment Sadalla agreed to allow the PCs to escort her to their ship. The trip back through the liner included passing through the hall where they previously left a large number of civilians. After handing out some of the captured weapons to more of these civvies they headed back to the busted airlock and thus to their own ship. More bearded bad guys appeared and opened fire into the crowd. Many were killed and some ran off before another grenade settled the issue.

The bulk of the passengers were sent down to the cargo bay with Sadalla and the impertinent Ambassador getting to stay in staterooms. At this point the bodyguard reported that he'd heard on the radio that the beardies were going to blow up the Pacific Princess' engine, hoping to get Sadalla in the process. The PCs quickly put some space between the two ships.

Sadalla wanted to go back to daddy on Gefar. This was the main planet in the system. They arrived at the station two days later after conning some of the cargo-bay passengers out of a whole load of credits to get their own staterooms.

There was an unexpected reception at the station. They would not have been let off the ship if Sadalla had not been with them. When they tried to off-load the rescuees, they were denied. When they suggested they take them down to the surface, they were again denied. This was a private planet, visitors not welcome!

It turned out that Sadalla is the daughter of a very well off mega-corp CEO, Cyrak Janny. She and the PCs were transported down to a domed city belonging to Cyrak. When they entered the dome, instead of seeing a city, it turned out to be a single massive Earth-like environment with green fields, woods, artificial sky, and a single kick-ass palace in the centre.

Inside the palace daddy was very grateful for the safe return of his daughter and gave the PC's various letters of introduction and (without getting so crude as to mention money) a great reward.

Back on their ship they refueled and headed for the sub sector capital, Tircesoe with a Cyrek-provided letter of introduction to the planet's dictator.

The session ended with some discussion of where the players want to go next. With the aid provided by Cyrek and 45MC in the bank they were thinking about creating a mercenary company. Time to start reading book 4.
I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Classic Traveller, 1001 Characters, a review

CT-S01 1001 Characters

This product is 52 page PDF made up of scans from the original published book which was put out in 1978. Therefore the text is a little blurry although readable throughout even on my 7" tablet. There is no art at all.

The introduction to this book says that it presents a number of pre-rolled characters for the main five services, Navy, Marines, Army, Scouts, and Merchant that are suitable for use as PCs. Interestingly enough it says that the provided characters for the "Other" service are not considered suitable as PCs. When you get to the "other" section it explains that they used a modified system for the "others" that differs from the base game rules.

The provided characters are grouped by service. Sadly there's not a lot here. Each character is a simple list of the six stats, skills,  service/rank-achieved, and the mustering out benefits. That's it. No names, no background, just raw data.

For the Navy you get 136 sets of stats.
For the Marines you get 136 sets of stats.
For the Army you get 136 sets of stats.
For the Scouts you get 136 sets of stats.
For the Merchants you get 136 sets of stats.
For the Others you get 136 sets of stats.

The skill system they used for "Others" allowed the characters to gain any skill listed not just those from the core rules' "Other" list. This means the characters here are a bit all over the place skill wise, but that does suit the category.

The next section in the book is what they call "Chance Encounters" and here a series of characters are provided for you to pull from when in a hurry for an NPC. Sadly, again there is no "character" to any of these, they are a list of stats, age and weapon skill. No names, background or skills.

44 Army
44 Police
44 Thugs (law level 6)
44 Thugs (law level 7)

The next untitled section lists nine further characters. The book says they are based on characters lifted from science fiction, but sadly it doesn't give you any reference. You can guess of course and as number 1 is described as good with pistol and sword and an uncontrolled interplanetary teleportation ability, I suspect he might be that "Carter" chap.  Apart from this guessing game, I found the single descriptive paragraph given to each rather uninspiring.

Well, all of this does add up to 1001 characters but is it worth it? I'm not sure but I would tend more to the "no" side.  I'm not sure what use this book is. Sure it's got a lot of pre-rolled characters, but that's half the fun of the game so I wouldn't deprive a player of that.

As a ref' I can grab the stats as the starting point to making a character, but it's not really worth buying for that. I might change my mind "if" I can find a use, but right now I find the whole book very disappointing.

The pre-generated stats for the services, possibly useful, the latter four lists are pointless, and the last nine characters possibly a half minute of amusement.

I give it a thumbs-down, only for the completist.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Playing Zooloretto solitaire

It's a little known secret but you can play Zooloretto on your own, singular-mode, Titus Onyourownicus, solitaire. In this video I show you how.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Classic Traveller book review - 76 Patrons

CT-S06076 Patrons

This is a PDF made up of scans of the original product which was released in 1980. This it’s not a fully featured PDF.

The stated aim of the product is to provide a referee with 76 Patrons. My first thought on seeing the title of this product, was that it was going to detail 76 N.P.C.s who could become campaign level patrons for the players. But, a Patron is someone who is offering a job/mission to the players for remuneration.  If this book was produced today it would likely have been called “76 Adventure seeds”, therefore looking with the modern gamer in mind the title is a little misleading, but not much.

There are 76 seeds presented, varying in size from half a page to a full page in length.  Each sets out, the number of players that it’s designed for and any equipment or skills that are required to complete the mission presented.  These numbers are a useful guide as the missions vary in “size” from “go meet that guy”, through to the players acting as part of a body guard team. However a versatile referee can happily disregard these requirements and improvise. In fact, picking a seed with a requirement the players don’t possess could make the game even more interesting.

In most cases the seed is split into sections, player’s information and referee’s information. The player is usually presented with a person who needs, help, or who is willing to pay for services. The subject of the seeds vary tremendously, I found every one interesting.

Within the referee’s section it a really neat addition. There are usually three possible variants of the mission, you’re supposed to roll a die and consult these options to see which one applies.

For instance, suppose there is a mission to escort a bride to another planet. One option might be that she doesn’t want to get married, another that her lover (not the husband to be) is sending mercenaries to rescue her, or indeed that the ship being used to transit to the other planet is hijacked.  These additional options allow the referee to spice up the mission, or indeed reuse it by changing a few names here and there and adding a different twist.

After these 76 seeds come 16 mercenary tickets. These are adventure seeds for larger military groups varying from squad right up to battalion. The stories hinted at in these tickets are just as interesting. They don’t have the variants listed, but most military situations don’t need additional complexity as they are always complicated!

I really liked what I got in this product. There is a lot of inspiration in here, that will keep my traveller game going for years. I’ll play some of these missions as written, others I’ll twist into the existing campaign by taking the idea and fitting it in with existing patrons I already have.

But what’s wrong with it?

These are introductions, just seeds, germs of ideas or plots, there are no details, no maps, no stats. As a referee you will not be playing through a printed module, you’ll be making up pretty much everything.

Well worth the money I gave to DriveThru.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Traveller Session - The Love Boat

Last night's Traveller session started off with a quick rules investigation in order to find the cost of refuelling their starship at the last port of call. Turns out it was 10,000 creds. I decided to start tracking the team's money as they are currently wallowing in a bundle of 45 million and with that kind of money in the bank I feared they might lack motivation. As it turns out I don't think I need have worried.

They emerged from jump into the Gefar system (A325489-E) and immediately had to take evasive action as a huge ship by the name of "The Pacific Princess" came tumbling towards them, apparently out of control. As the ship passed they picked up the transmission of a hand held radio. The man calling identified himself as a body guard for Shadalla Tie, he and his fellow guards were defending her but were backed into corridor. Then the signal faded as the ship roll on by.

After a rules clarification about the standard Imperial policy towards salvage the PCs decided to close on the ship, board it, and go about saving poor Shadalla.

I should point that the players each have two PCs on board ship. One as part of the home team (bridge crew), and one part of the away-team. Thus after a nifty bit of piloting to get the ships locked together and an air-lock across, we had an amusing moment one player had a conversation with himself, having to convince himself to go on board the other ship.

The away team stood bemused outside the Princess' airlock as it failed to open. An engineer was called who took apart the lock and sadly only managed to leave it in smoking ruin. Pry bars were used to no avail and eventually the PCs gave up. They decided to move the ship to a different air lock. A piloting roll failed and a minor collision with the Princess stove in the PCs observation deck. A second attempt went better and soon they were standing at the new airlock.

Once again they failed to open it, but decided to fall back on a different type of brute strength. They donned the Aslan-Robot-Control-Helmet (ARCH) and brought up one of the highly advanced Aslan robots they had captured. The robot started pulling fist sized lumps out of the door until a hole big enough to crawl through had been made. The away team ducked through and had the robot climb into the hole and lock itself into position thereby blocking the exit.

In the airlock they spotted an angry bearded man on the other side of the door. Threatening him with a laser sent him on his way. They opened the lock and emerged in a corridor. The beardy, was at the far end of the corridor and sent a hail of lead ineffectually towards them before disappearing round a corner.

They followed him up but found that he was beyond the corner with a buddy, laser beams and lead stopped them from making progress. Rather than just stand around looking cool they opted to raid a stateroom and found to their joy a small table. As an experiment this was lobbed around the corner and immediately shot to pieces!

They were wishing they had grenades when lo and behold another angry beardy gentleman appeared behind them...with grenades! He ineffectually threw one, and was shot for his trouble, but now the good guys had the grenades. They threw one around the corner and heard a lot of screaming when it exploded. Popping round the corner they found the had taken out two bad guys and one civilian (the Pacific Princess being a cruise-liner after all). There was a crowd of civvies here, all cowed by the bad men and now rather scared by the good guys turning up. One of the crowd emerged and claimed to be an Ambassador, and promptly tried to force the PCs to get him to safety. They eventually drew a cutlass and he backed down. A volunteer was found amongst the crowd to take the bad guys weapons and defend the civvies.

Now it was time to find the people who had called them on board. They called him up and he reported himself and his friends as being trapped in a corridor on deck B behind the casino. A ship map was ripped from the wall and PCs headed down that way.

As they descended the plush staircase into the casino they spotted a bad guy patrolling behind the slot machines. They both took aim and one of them got a hit, knocking him down. Noise and smoke identified the corridor where their target was to be found, so they crossed the casino. The shot that had missed the bad guy happened to have cracked open a slot machine so of course one PC helped himself. :)

At the corridor they could make out a bunch of bad guys half way along it but beyond that there was too much smoke. Bullets were flying to and fro through the smoke. In went a grenade, knocking three fellows to the ground. Then shots were exchanged with both of the PCs taking multiple hits. At that moment they spotted the beardy bloke they had sniped at from the stairs, climbing to his feet behind them. It seemed like a good time to bail, so they ran for the cashiers desk and took cover. Bullets started punching through their cover and things were looking grim when they remembered the robot and donned the ARCH.

Minutes passed with the PCs playing dead, or at least remaining very quiet. A beardy bad guy crept up to the counter and was just peering over when the robot came crashing down the stairs. A PC tried to shoot the bad guy in the back of the head (rather unsportsman-like) but found his rifle cumbersome and missed.

The robot didn't have the same problem. The bad guys shot at the robot but missed, or hit, but didn't do any damage. The robot hefted a slot machine as it charged across the casino. It threw the machine at the bad guy, crushing him underneath but not killing him. He lay there choking as the coins poured out and into his face. (Death by money!)

Thus we ended the session. Who are the angry beardy bad guys? Why have they taken control of the Pacific Princess ( ) ? Who is Shadalla? Will they be forced to skewer that upperty ambassador? Tune in two weeks from now for the next exciting episode of ..."The Bastards ran away from my campaign and it still burns."

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Traveller Session - The Aslan attack

The last session ended with the PCs bursting into the bad guys office in the midst of a hail of lead. We picked up right where that ended.

The bad guys were shooting from behind the soft furnishings. One good guy was in the office returning fire and the other popping his head around the door to let fly with his laser rifle. The dice were rolling poorly and the shots were all going wild. In fact it was so bad that Hake once again gave up on his rifle and decided to use his axe. He ran for the head bad guy, was saved from a point blank shot by a misfire and got his axe to the throat of the head bad guy.

Conversation ensued. The axe threat had both bad guys throwing their guns to the floor. Then they  forced the henchman to go fetch Alboor and meet them at the front door to the club. Off went the henchman. As the PCs were leaving, sirens were heard in the distance. By the time they got to the front door they could hear the cops pulling up out front.

When the henchman brought Alboor (with a bag over his head) he had one last trick to play. He pushed Alboor at the PCs and pulled out another pistol. His shot went wide (again!) and in retaliation the axe all but took off his head.

Alboor was unmasked and rather than being a grateful rescuee he was a somewhat panicked, scared rescuee who was horrified by all of the blood and violence. The dead man at his feet, those across the dance floor and the blood, oh my god, the blood! 

The head bad guy was left with bullets in the kneecap as the PCs dragged the kicking and fighting Alboor towards a side door.  He was struggling so bad that he got a broken arm for his trouble, after which he calmed down a little.

From here, things became a little less horrific. They escaped out of side door, dodging the cops and dived once again into a garage. While in there they could hear copper choppers overhead. They decided to use a dodge they'd used very recently. They found a lot of womanly clothing being stored in the garage and again engaged in a cross-dressing disguise.

Once suitably attired they made their way back to the university to gather the help of the secretary they met there last time they visited. She recognised Alboor and even our cross dressed heroes. At their bidding she tried to put through a call to the Navy to get a pick-up but the line was cut just as she started to get somewhere. That meant they had to make their own way to the Navy base. The only car available was the secretary's two seater. With one in the boot(trunk), one on the roof, and two in the seats they drove towards the Navy base. But the poor little car couldn't handle the extra load very well. Very kindly they dropped off (abandoned) the secretary and drove the rest of the way themselves.

The road to the Navy base was blocked by abandoned, burning vehicles and in front of the gate and fence were protesters. The PCs tried to talk their way through the protesters but things didn't go well and soon guns were drawn and  a path won through to the gate.

Very quickly they found themselves transported to the space-side Navy base and delivered Alboor safely into the hands of the waiting Admiral. Alarms sounded, claxons blared and battle stations was called.  The Aslan war fleet choose that moment to arrive in system.

The Navy was going to war. As our heroes boarded their own ship(s), they saw the Imperial Battle Fleet moving forwards to engage the Aslan invaders.  The PCs powered up their own ships, pushed the drives to maximum and bravely soared off in the opposite direction. A quick jump to a nearby system allowed them to dispose of the lesser of their two ships. Thus with 45MC to their name they ended the session cruising towards more civilised space.

Alas I let the side down at this point. Although we had a sector map I had not prepared myself to deal with the PCs going gallivanting across space, thus the details of the space they were entering were not set out and I ended the session a little early.

It is almost a mantra to say that if you prepare something, the players will go the other way, and that happened here. The campaign had been building to this point. The PC's had discovered and battled with the Aslan. It had become clear that a massive invasion force was coming, and as a referee I had mapped out the fight. The loss of the planet. The PCs leading the rebellion from a secret asteroid base, or dirtside leading freedom fighters in vicious attacks against the forces of occupation...and then they go the other way.  Doh!

I now have a good deal of prep' to do before the next session. I have to detail the stats for the ship they are currently piloting, and provide rationales for each planet in the subsector. Then come up with some plot hooks.  It's going to be awesome!

Playing Carcassonne on your own

Good 'ole Carc' is designed for multiple players but here's a suggestion for playing it alone.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

FATE Core - Session report

I played in my first session session of FATE: Core last night, using a post apocalyptic setting. It was the second session of the game, I missed the first, so my character had that awkward introduction thing.

Creating my character was a half hour session with the referee. We talked back and forth over my character, its possibilities. My initial idea for an ex Alaskan Dog Sled champion slowly morphed through a series of strange inexplicable steps into the travelling con man modeled after Matthew Hopkins the Witch Finder General, but in this case proclaiming the evils of technology and selling the unlikely skills of smelling out the evil tech-doers. Quite a turn-around.

My character entered this particular play by waking up gagged and bound to a table. During sleep a ten year old survivor decided he wanted to play doctor and had bound up my sleepy character. Unfortunately he also had a robot doc' with plenty of pointy and sharp attachments.

He was soon rescued by the PCs but then through a series of unfortunate events ended up duct-taped to another angry robot with glowing red eyes. Have no fear, the PCs would save my
guy ... by shooting an arrow into his butt!

So it was back to the boy and his medical bot to get the arrow removed. Things were not going well. When the robot popped a panel and started blowing smoke. A spare panel was forcibly removed from another broken robot and inserted, unfortunately this made the doc bot's eyes go red...

So as I said this was my first play of FATE Core, and it played exceptionally well. It was a good game, and the dice rolling was fun. I loved getting to use the ladder to determine results, it's so evocative and aids the narrative.

After the game we discussed how things had gone and I realised that I had not tapped any scene level aspects. That's a feature of FATE that has always intrigued me and I missed the opportunity. Dang!  I'll correct that next time!