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  1. #1

    Looking for advice for Semi-new Gm (Campaign ideas and ship combat)

    Hello,


    Basically I am looking for advice, sources, and/or ideas from GMs who have ran a traveller campaign for a group of people who for the most part come from a DnD 5e background, and are some what new to concept of a more roleplay focused system (this includes me to!). Everyone plays role-playing games differently and I wanted some ideas from people who might have experienced a transition like this before.

    While I have played a little bit of MTG2e before and know how to play it for the most part. There are some areas where I felt I missed the mark as a GM and would like to hear from someone who has put more time into the system then I have. For the sake of tldr, I am just going to list my questions in point form:

    - What is the best size to run a traveller campaign? I currently have four people who are interested in playing, but I know at least 6 who would want to play. Is running a traveller game with 6 people feasible? My concerns is how long this will make combat, and if this gives enough people meaningful content in ship to ship combat.

    - For ship combat, when to come to 20kt ships vs 20kt ships, do people usually roll each individual weapons one at a time to determine hits or misses? Or is there a faster way to determine hits with a 10+ turrets with the same weapons? Similar to Warhammer tabletop where one just mass rolls all the dice for every same weapon attack on units.
    My concern here is that my players have told me before that ship combat tends to slow the pacing of the session down. And I am wondering if others have experienced any issues with ship to ship combat with their players, or maybe my group is just impatient .

    - I have seen many recommendations about pirates of Drinax being great official content for GM's to run, and I do plan to run that if my group likes playing traveller. However as an appetizer, in my head I have a starting cannon idea for my group to start on some crime infested megacity, trying to earn scraps they need to survive the streets. And their first adventure being them getting a lucky break to pull of the heist of the century. But is it too good to be true? Anyone know any location in the lore that I could use as a setting for this adventure? Or any other great adventures that has a mixture of everything but doesn't have the players start off with a ship?

    -And lastly, any house rules or extensions anyone uses for running traveller that they think would be really helpful.

    Thanks for reading my long spiel, and congrats if you got this far .

  2. #2
    GregRex's Avatar
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    I've been running a campaign on FG for a little over a year now, here's some of my insights:

    -Party size should probably be 4 minimum if you are spacefaring. You are going to want a crew that can manage most stations during spacecraft combat. They also need to be well-rounded enough to complete other jobs other than managing a ship. Sure computer software can make up for a lot but it should supplement PC's, not replace them imo. On the other hand if you have a large party some players may be idle for too long distracting them from the game. I think my ideal table size for my style of play is 5 players.

    -Ship combat can be a slog. If you are standing off at extreme ranges taking pot shots at each other it will take a full session to resolve. As a Ref you may need to figure out ways to close the gap and speed things up. Not all space combat is a zero sum game. NPC's dont have to stick around to the bitter end as well.

    -If you know you want PoD but want to start playing now I recommend starting with the Reach Adventures already available. It puts your crew in the same sector of space with familiar system names and plot tropes that will be revealed in PoD. Those books are very flexible on how you run them. They are more of a blueprint, it's up to the Ref on how to manage how quickly those books get played out. They are nothing like a DnD 5e hardcover. I've spent whole sessions trading/exploring/random encounters with just a Reach Adventure as a backdrop.

    Hopefully that helps a little. I'd be interested in hearing more from other folks.

    Cheers,

    Greg
    Last edited by GregRex; June 4th, 2021 at 20:04.

  3. #3
    Thanks for the advice!

    Okay i am glad I was not the only GM facing issues with the pacing of space combat.

    I will check out the reach adventures. Are they meant to be played in order (eg 1-6)? Or can you pick up and play? And lastly can the same PCs grow through all the adventures with the same characters and start them in Drinax?

    Thank you!

    Addy

  4. #4
    GregRex's Avatar
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    Order doesn't matter. There is no overarching storyline. And I don't see any reason why the characters can't be used in PoD if the players want.

  5. #5
    You may want to consider starting the crew on Drinax. It's an apocalyptic wasteland with one mega-city. The city is mostly populated with "nobles" struggling for scraps with hopes of gaining status.

  6. #6
    I'm kind of new at FG, but I'm a long-time veteran player/ref for Traveller, and I mean a long time, going on 32 years.

    There are three basic campaign types in Traveller. The first, as you know, is the Trader Campaign, where the PCs are just a bunch of guys and gals trying to make a living in the Black. Think Firefly, and there you go. The second is a Military Campaign, where the PCs are members of a military force, either a navy, an army, or marines, and there are so many ways you could go with this, from a Star Trek kind of game to Battlestar Galactica to Babylon 5. The big appeal of the military campaign is all the neato toys your PCs will have access to that most traders won't get because either their scarce or they're highly illegal for them to possess. The third is the Explorer Campaign, where your PCs are either Scouts or Scientists out there exploring new systems and worlds and getting into some sort of trouble.

    I have one extra that sort of combines them all: Law Enforcement. The PCs are Star Marshals and Deputies, and they are the Thin Blue Line in space. As Marshals, your players have to do a wide variety of missions, from patrols to inspecting ships for contraband or fugitives, hunting down fugitives, bringing them either to a trial or a prison, protecting judges, investigating crimes, and help people out if they can. Your players get access to a lot of cool toys and equipment that they might ordinarily not see in a Trader game, or wouldn't bother with in a Military game because odds are you're not going to be playing with Stunners and Magcuffs. Ideally your players will want to take fugitives in alive and in one piece, but things happen. I don't ordinarily recommend this one for new Referees if they don't know much about the game, or about how law works in the Third Imperium, and some things can be kind of complex starting out, so I usually recommend either the Trader or the Explorer Campaigns for new Refs.

    Ideally, you want 4-6 players in a game, but you can throw in NPCs. One NPC type that I will often give my players is a Ship AI or a Robot that has a rank or two of Jack-of-all-Trades. This is nice because you use this to give out some pertinent information to your players, such as local information, local and sub-sector or whole sector news, big news like wars and such, and other things that the players ought to know about. You don't have to make the AI or Robot complex or anything, and there are some you can get out of the Central Supply Catalogue to use for this purpose. I do not recommend having that Jack-of-all-Trades skill higher than 2 because you don't want it too good at everything.

    Ship-to-Ship Combat, especially the big stuff, can take quite a bit of time. It depends on what's going on, but in your scenario where you're pitting the biggies against each other, you can do whatever you have to do to keep things moving at a good pace. I usually will link weapons to specific arcs and have one or two PCs handle aiming and firing solutions, and I prefer to go with a base damage number instead of a roll because that can really bog down the game. I usually will have a generic average damage value, and if the N/PCs roll particularly well I'll ramp up the damage as I see fit, and if the characters only want to cripple a ship to conduct a boarding action or something, then depending on how well they rolled I can adjust the damage downward accordingly. But you have to be prepared for a battle like that before going in.

    When I run my Law Enforcement game, which I hope to be putting on FG soon, most of the ships will be 1,000 tons or less, and to start with the PCs will likely be in something at the 100-300 ton range, so space battles won't be so much of an issue. I have plenty of pre-generated NPC ships for my Marshals to chase down, so it's easy.

    As to your suggestion on how you want your players to start out, with no ship, on a crime-infested megacity, there are plenty of options in that regard, but here's the thing: The Traveller setting itself is wide open to a lot of your own interpretation. You don't have to start out your players on the fringes of the Imperium or in the Imperium if you don't want them to, and you will find worlds that are unaligned to any faction that will have the kind of locale you're looking for. You can just make it up if you want. Make up an entire sub-sector if there's none you like (go to www.travellermap.com). There's the Solomani areas that would have what you're looking for. I would not recommend starting out anywhere in the heart of the Third Imperium, like on Capital, because that's a bit more important for the setting and it's best to kind of leave that area alone.

    There are lots of published adventures out there where the PCs don't have to start out with a ship. There's High and Dry, where your PCs can just find a ship that they can keep. There's the classic Annic Nova, if you can find that, where the PCs get to board an old alien vessel that's rather interesting in design. There's Flatlined, where your PCs start out being captured by a Skill-Jacking Ring (what these guys do is find people with valuable skills, like Mechanic, Medic, Pilot, etc., and they jump them, drug them, stick them in a low-berth chamber, and then sell them off into slavery).

    (In my humble opinion, and you can take it or leave it, most players who want to play Traveller want a ship of their own, and whenever I've ran games where the PCs do not start with a ship of their own, it's, well, kind of a let-down. It's part and parcel of Traveller to have your own wings and just go where you want. But, go with your instincts here. If your PCs don't mind earning a ship during the course of an adventure, great.)

    Whatever you do, I always advise people starting out reffing this game to start small. Pick one or two sub-sectors, and stay there. You don't have to go far for adventures. The longer your players inhabit this little area of the galaxy, and the more you present the same systems to them, the more they will like it. If they're darting all over the whole Sector and it's a new world every other session, while that can be cool, a lot of players like having familiar haunts with familiar faces they get to interact with on a more regular basis.

    Anyway, I hope that helps!

  7. #7
    Welcome to Traveller.

    I'm fairly new to Traveller myself, I started hosting my campaign a year and half ago, with a murder mystery adventure. Other than pausing for a few months to get another game up and running, this campaign has continued on a regular basis since. Some great advice already been given in the previous posts, which I won't repeat, but I will add a few things you might like to think about before you start playing Traveller.

    To start off with, don't get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of material out there, particularly if you're using the Third Imperium setting... it's mind blowing. Enthusiasts have been adding to this game for decades, and there is so much stuff available. Once you get into it, you will likely disappear down rabbit holes and not see the light of day for hours, coming back up again with fresh understanding of particular things and a whole bunch of new ideas. But at the beginning, I would say, only take what you need. After a little while the main concepts which hold the setting together fall into place. If you're homebrewing the setting though, well then you can make it as complicated or as simple as you want. You could also pick and mix with the 3I setting as much as you want. In my own experience, the constraints of using the existing 3I helps me evoke a warts n' all, living, breathing universe. It has helped me build a convincing sense of reality that envelops the players. It frees me up to spend prep time thinking about how these particular characters fit into the world/setting, and focus on preparing the 'touch points' where they connect with and interact with that setting.

    Coming from D&D to Traveller, and I think it was alluded to in one of the previous posts, you will likely find the published adventures are structured differently. If you use published adventures I would advise not only a careful read through, but a careful think through whilst prepping. The adventures provide a lot of background material to help situate your game, but can leave a lot of information lacking, and whilst some of this can be enjoyable to improvise, it will make your life a hell of a lot easier if you can prepare some the information you will likely need, before hand - so you have it at your fingertips when the time comes. Sometimes this can be making a chronology, to understand events, places and dates, or a few notes about NPCs so you have a handful of well defined people for the crew to interact with, maybe it's just finding a logo to give an identity to a group they come into contact with, or sometimes it can be pinning notes on a map to take you quickly to useful references, you get the idea. The prep will take a lot of stress out of running the game and free you up to enjoy it more. Maybe also, prepare of a couple of alternative events or small branching storylines that appeal to each of your players/PCs. For if the group go off in a completely different direction than the main one you have planned, or the written adventure assumes.

    I started a second group last month and they are playing the highndry scenario, which I hadn't played with the first group. I think this can be a really good starter. It will challenge you all to step away from the D&D mindset a little. The whole thing can be run with no combat at all! Or you can throw in some bar room brawls, or have an enemy of one of the players turn up if you're getting combat withdrawals. I will say that in Traveller, combat doesn't need to be the meat of the session, as it can often be in D&D. Highndry starts off at a relatively slow pace, which will give you a bit of breathing room to get everyone familiar with the game, and if they survive this adventure they can walk away with the use of a small starship. This is great if you want to start the kind of campaign where they are some sort of ragtag troubleshooter crew. I've found the crew naturally get tangled up in all sorts of things and before you know it they have to be part diplomat, part spy, part bounty hunter, part merchant... the beautiful thing about the Traveller system is that it allows the players to approach problems from all different angles.

    One last thing I will mention. We've played a year and a half and had one ship combat, which consisted of them scrambling to plot a jump whilst fleeing from the approaching craft. They jumped, just at the moment the enemy craft was coming into firing range... Unless you specifically want spaceship combat to be a big part of the game, it doesn't have to be.

    Hope it goes well!
    Last edited by rcruk; June 12th, 2021 at 23:56.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by rcruk View Post
    Welcome to Traveller.

    I'm fairly new to Traveller myself, I started hosting my campaign a year and half ago, with a murder mystery adventure. Other than pausing for a few months to get another game up and running, this campaign has continued on a regular basis since. Some great advice already been given in the previous posts, which I won't repeat, but I will add a few things you might like to think about before you start playing Traveller.

    To start off with, don't get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of material out there, particularly if you're using the Third Imperium setting... it's mind blowing. Enthusiasts have been adding to this game for decades, and there is so much stuff available. Once you get into it, you will likely disappear down rabbit holes and not see the light of day for hours, coming back up again with fresh understanding of particular things and a whole bunch of new ideas. But at the beginning, I would say, only take what you need. After a little while the main concepts which hold the setting together fall into place. If you're homebrewing the setting though, well then you can make it as complicated or as simple as you want. You could also pick and mix with the 3I setting as much as you want. In my own experience, the constraints of using the existing 3I helps me evoke a warts n' all, living, breathing universe. It has helped me build a convincing sense of reality that envelops the players. It frees me up to spend prep time thinking about how these particular characters fit into the world/setting, and focus on preparing the 'touch points' where they connect with and interact with that setting.

    Coming from D&D to Traveller, and I think it was alluded to in one of the previous posts, you will likely find the published adventures are structured differently. If you use published adventures I would advise not only a careful read through, but a careful think through whilst prepping. The adventures provide a lot of background material to help situate your game, but can leave a lot of information lacking, and whilst some of this can be enjoyable to improvise, it will make your life a hell of a lot easier if you can prepare some the information you will likely need, before hand - so you have it at your fingertips when the time comes. Sometimes this can be making a chronology, to understand events, places and dates, or a few notes about NPCs so you have a handful of well defined people for the crew to interact with, maybe it's just finding a logo to give an identity to a group they come into contact with, or sometimes it can be pinning notes on a map to take you quickly to useful references, you get the idea. The prep will take a lot of stress out of running the game and free you up to enjoy it more. Maybe also, prepare of a couple of alternative events or small branching storylines that appeal to each of your players/PCs. For if the group go off in a completely different direction than the main one you have planned, or the written adventure assumes.

    I started a second group last month and they are playing the highndry scenario, which I hadn't played with the first group. I think this can be a really good starter. It will challenge you all to step away from the D&D mindset a little. The whole thing can be run with no combat at all! Or you can throw in some bar room brawls, or have an enemy of one of the players turn up if you're getting combat withdrawals. I will say that in Traveller, combat doesn't need to be the meat of the session, as it can often be in D&D. Highndry starts off at a relatively slow pace, which will give you a bit of breathing room to get everyone familiar with the game, and if they survive this adventure they can walk away with the use of a small starship. This is great if you want to start the kind of campaign where they are some sort of ragtag troubleshooter crew. I've found the crew naturally get tangled up in all sorts of things and before you know it they have to be part diplomat, part spy, part bounty hunter, part merchant... the beautiful thing about the Traveller system is that it allows the players to approach problems from all different angles.

    One last thing I will mention. We've played a year and a half and had one ship combat, which consisted of them scrambling to plot a jump whilst fleeing from the approaching craft. They jumped, just at the moment the enemy craft was coming into firing range... Unless you specifically want spaceship combat to be a big part of the game, it doesn't have to be.

    Hope it goes well!
    Agree on all points.
    we started up a brand new campaign about a year and a half ago- me as GM, with two friends playing. None of us had any prior experience with Traveller. So far, they've adventured through the following stock modules in this order.
    1. RA1 - Marooned on Marduk
    2. RA2 - Theories of Everything
    3. MA1 - High and Dry
    Marooned on Marduk was a great way to begin the adventure- slow, some small ground combat. Theories of Everything was a natural stepping off point which sequed really well into High and Dry. My players now have the High n' Dry (now the Warg) have just finished up with a complete refit at a small shipyard in the Glisten system and are beginning their journeys as a high profile transportation/delivery service, potentially slipping into the Pirates of Drinax campaign.
    A year and a half has gone by- zero ship combat, and only a ground combat in their initial module- the rest has been roleplaying, roleplaying, roleplaying. We were chatting about it last session and it's been mind boggling- just pure fun. I will echo the above advice though- give your material a thorough read-through and be ready to prepare some in advance. There is an excellent resource, not specifically Traveller, that i've found handy- the Return of the Lazy Dungeonmaster - I've not read the original, but this one was very handy- esp for Traveller. Prep, but don't overprep- as its a big galaxy and there is no knowing (unless you railroad your players, which no one likes)what direction your players will move in.
    Last edited by greyseasunder; June 15th, 2021 at 15:54.

  9. #9
    Thanks for all the great advice gentlemen! I have decided I am going to run the high and dry scenario with some changes here and there. We had session 0 for character creation, and it was a blast, also surprisingly long haha. For now I will avoid space combat like the plague, I am looking forward to a role play focused game. Once again, thank you for everything guys!

    Addy

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