Traveller Interstellar Wars - Episode 2

(man, I really need to get these out faster...)

Start: Tuesday (late) 2070.06.19, Duriim System

The Crew:

  • Captain Thomas Logan
  • Pilot Josh Naxon
  • Chief Engineer Kit Malloy
  • Navigator Dennis Ross
  • Comm/Sensor Officer "Skip" Karbuga
  • Chief Steward/Cargomaster Khalekshii Sadaka
  • Chief Medical Officer Dr. Svetlana Batsoev

Other Characters:

  • Falk - Terran expat that lives on Duriim and helps Free Trades get around the restriction on trade (for a cut of course).
  • Mizikhi Larsharlum - First born child of the local iishakku. She has rejected the life of Vilani nobility and now runs a small smuggling operation.
  • Ammim Larsharlum - Third born child of the local iishakku (and by law the heir to that title). He does not adhere to the kimashargur philosophy and is looking to strengthen ties to to non-kimashargur nobles.

Vilani words:

  • kimashargur - Virtue of the Foremost. Vilani culture that rejects the ban on technological advancement and exploration.
  • iishakku - Governors


The party met with Mizikhi Larsharlum, where she asked them several questions almost like an interview. She explained that her brother, Ammim, was being groomed by by her father to take over as one of the three ruling iishakku on Duriim. In order to flex his political weight, he has been clamping down on trade with Terrans. This both endears him to the hard-line Imperial Vilani, but also gives him some power over the other iishakku.

Mizikhi explains that Falk has been able to get around most of these controls but is limited in the amounts of trade he can deal with at any one time. She also states that she could get the crew's cargo "bumped up" the line if they help her out. She's looking for some leverage over her brother. This could also lead to long term gains for the crew, if she can get her brother to loosen the trade restrictions.

Then she asks the crew to look into a missing ship that her brother had kept off the books. It arrived in the system a couple of days ago, sending the standard arrival and location message and confirmation of approach vectors. But then a few hours later the ship send a second, garbled signal. A search was ordered, but then called off. And to seems that Ammim had all record of the ship wiped.

She wants the party to find what happens to this ship and try to bring it, the crew, and the cargo to her. Or which ever of those still remain.

The crew begin to search out what information they can about this ship. The public records seem to be mostly purged, other than confirming that a ship sent a signal on arriving in the system. They also learn that the ship was not listed on any arrival lists, and that it was set to land at a private landing location.

After the initial search they decide to hit up Falk, to see if he can give them some direction. He does a lot better than that, as he keeps tabs on all incoming ship transmissions and has a copy of the missing second message. It is encoded, but the crew think they can break it. They take a copy of the message to the ship and are able to decrypt it. It's an SOS signal with a location.

They move the ship's cargo into the spaceport's warehouse, and leave Sadaka on the planet to continue to work on making trade contacts. Then they take off towards the location in the SOS signal. Once there, they find no sign of the ship, but after some scan, realize that the ship may have been heading to a nearby moon (based on where it can arrived, and the second location).

As the Ziggy Stardust approached the moon, they saw a ship launching from some sort of facility hidden on the moon. The Captain hailed the ship, and learned that this was "The Shop", a space "chop shop" where pirates and smugglers get ship upgrades, and presumably where they might drop off a captured ship. The pirate captain mistook the Terrans for some new smugglers in the area, and gave them the pass phrase needed to get entry (and not get shot out of space).

The crew then hailed, gave the phrase, and were on their way to "The Shop".

To be continued...


Mini-Review of Pyramid 3/104

I don't normally do reviews, but I really enjoyed the latest issue of Pyramid and thought I'd share my feelings on it.

First off, I never read a full issue of Pyramid, at lest not at the same time. I cherry pick the articles that most appeal to me, and maybe skim through the rest. Later, I might revisit that issue and read other articles, but this issue kept me reading. It was even more focused than the typical issue (being one of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG issues).

Now for the articles:

From the Editor - As always, a good set up for the rest of the issue.

Trapped in the Living Tomb - A solo-adventure! Yes! I love solo adventures, and think they are a great tool for introducing folks to a game. This one is pretty solid and a lot of fun. I'd love to see more of these in the pages of Pyramid (or anywhere really).

The one thing that I think could have made it better, is if there was a bit more variety in the skill checks. A full character sheet is provided (yay), but it would have been nice if more of the listed skills could have come into play. 

[To be fair, I didn't read every entry after playing through, so I don't know if I just "missed" them, but they were not on the "critical" path as far as I could tell.]

It's a Quest! - I wasn't so sure about this system going in. I already try to tie loose plot threads together when my games start to feel like random disconnected events. But my results are somewhat mixed.

This systematized way of turning episodic type play into something a bit more "meta plot" is interesting, and I think I'm going to give it a try.

Heroic Background Generator - Ha ha, this is great! At first it seemed a bit goofy to me. Tables to generate a backstory? But after looking at it, I see a lot of cool use.

I've been wanting to come up with something like a "life path" system to use in GURPS for awhile, but I didn't want to rob players of the choices that GURPS offers with its point buy character creation. Even DF has plenty of choices on the templates.

But this system isn't a character creation life path system. It just generates a loose background that the players can use to inform the choices they make in character creation! I can also see lots of uses for generating interesting NPCs.

The State of the Dungeon - Nice recap of where things are, and what's to come.

Preparing for the Hero's Journey - This could be called: Just Good Advice. It is.


The Problem with GURPS (a response)

Every once-in-a-while I search GURPS on YouTube and see if there are any interesting videos. About a week back, I found such a video with the title, "The Problem with GUPRS".

At first I was going to pass on this video, figuring it to be another GURPS hater that just wants to beat up on a system he doesn't like. But I decided to give it a look and see what exactly this guy thought was wrong with GURPS.

It is a pretty good video so, give it a watch.

In short, he likes GURPS, but will choose setting specific rules over using it. GURPS is the "backup plan" in his mind. That's fine, but the tone is very much one of universal acceptance, and I wholeheartedly disagree.

My "problem" with GURPS is quite the opposite. I don't want to use any other rules, even when there is a (non-GURPS) set of rules for a setting I want to run. I've tried, but by the time I get into the "meat" of the rules my mind just starts to think, "I could do this better with GURPS." (There is a whole other topic on that bit that I could go into.)

In fact when I first got into GURPS, I immediately started writing conversions for some of the games that I had picked up and loved the setting of, but was very turned off by the rules. (I wonder if I still have the notes for converting Cybergeneration to GURPS 3rd edition somewhere...)

I'll hack, alter, house-rule, and modify GURPS all sorts of ways depending on the type of game I want to run, but the core stays the same. It is still "roll 3d6 under attribute/skill".

So, every gamer is different and that's fine. But for me, GURPS is my "Plan A" almost every time... even if someone else published a set of rules for the setting I want to play.


Traveller Interstellar Wars - Episode 1

Here is a quick recap of the first session of my Interstellar Wars game.

The Ziggy Stardust set out from Nusku on Friday, May 4th. Making minimal time stops to refuel and avoid any Imperial patrols, continued across the the Dingir sector. Then on Tuesday, June 19th they arrived in the Duriim system.

Landing at the main spaceport, the crew got their first taste of a dense atmosphere planet. Suiting up, they headed out and got the ship registered. Then sought out the local bar to see if they could make some contacts and see what was going on.

At the bar the crew tried a few Vilani drinks and met up with a few other Terran's who were on another free trader and were waiting to hear back from their captain. During this time the crew also got a call from steward Sadaka letting the player know that the duties on any goods sold were very high and that they wouldn't be making any profit this way. The crew asked the other Terrans if they had to pay the high dues, and were told that if they wanted to trade on Duriim, they needed to speak to Falk.

The party got directions and went to find Falk, in a little shop near the spaceport. Falk was a Terran expat who helps Terrans sell goods by listing those goods as his property. The only issue is that he's only allowed so many sales listed at a time. If they players wanted their goods sold, they would have to wait... or find a way to help Falk get more listings.

He told them that the two people that might help him get this are Ammim Larsharlum, son (3rd born) of the iishakku and heir to the title, and Mizikhi Larsharlum his older sister. It was implied that Ammim was the "proper" route, but that it might not be easy to win him over. Mizikhi, on the other hand, would be more approachable but getting her help might be less than legal.

So, after a short discussion, a dissension was made and Falk set up a meeting with Mizikhi.

Soon, the party found themselves entering a building that looked like a cross between a warehouse and a dance club. Some of the toughest looking Vilani they had ever seen were hanging out playing some card and dice games. In the center or the room was a raised platform and there stood a tall (especially for a Vilani) woman with a naval-like uniform and a patch over her eye. With a big, wolf-like smile she said, "Terrans!"

Yeah... kinda like that.


We ended there for the night. Things were a bit slower than I wanted for the kick-off game, but I didn't want things to get too chaotic. Everyone is pretty new to the setting and I wanted to ease things in a bit. I probably too that too far and things never got exciting. We'll see if the second session picks things up a bit... or a whole lot.


Traveller Interstellar Wars - Episode 0

I decided to run a "episode 0" session for my group before they had characters draw up. They had ideas of who they wanted to be, but this gave them a chance to get into character and figure out the characters. I'm not sure how well it went, but it was a fun.

I like to think of this session as the "unaired pilot". It sets up the backstory, but if characters need to change or be alter, it doesn't really matter. Continuity hasn't started yet. ;-)


New Campaign!

I've been busy lately prepping and working on a new campaign. We're going to be running Traveller Interstellar Wars!

We're going to be using the "default campaign" with group of Free Traders setting out from the Terran Confederation in 2170. Trade, exploration, aliens, war... what else could you want?

As far as rules, I'm using GURPS (of course), but instead of the ship design rules in IW, I've opted to use the GURPS Spaceships rules and combat. I've been working through converting the ships in Interstellar Wars. I've posted them to the SJGames Traveller forums, and will be posting them here soon.

Characters will be 150 points. I've already run an "episode 0" where the players didn't yet have characters built, but we ran through some background and some roleplay to set the stage and let them get a feel for their characters and the world.

So... Hang on travellers.


5th Realm Session 27 Recap


Picking up where we left on last week, the party backtracked through the keep, then zig-zagged through some alleyways toward the sounds of battle. When they emerged, they were behind a female "rat-thing" that was commanding the rat-things, skin-suits, and rat swarms to climb up the wall to the inner keep.

Solders were on the walls firing crossbows down and battling any thing that made it all the way up.


The party didn't wait long, and charged in. They headed straight towards the "rat queen". She turned her attention to them, and sent out a blast of magical energy toward Penelope, who failed to dodge. But then Kaz cast Deflect Missile on Penelope and caused the blast to smash into the ground.

Then the party surrounded the queen and all make hits against her. The other creatures began to pull from the keep, and surround the party, but after a few more hits the queen was dead, and the others were killed or fleeing.

Knight and Lord

Moments later the inner gate was opened and knights came out to secure the outer keep. One approached the party and thanked them for the help. His name is Amadeus and is captain of the Red Blades. He took the party to Lord Bedrahm.

The lord thanked the group and asked what he could do for them. They learned that his own lands were hit by the upheaval and he and the Red Blades were securing the keep for his people.

The party told him about Mistwood and the refugees, and he said that if the people of Mistwood were willing to help rebuild the keep, that he would welcome them.

Return and Rejoice

The party decided to travel back and meet up with the traveling group, and a day later had found them. They let them know about what had happened at the keep and about the Lord and his people. The sheriff let them know that he didn't trust the Red Blades (they are former criminals that became "un-landed" knights to fight in the war instead of going to prison), but that he saw little choice.

The group moved to the keep and began to work on a new home.


This was a pretty quick session, as it was just the tail end of what I had planned for the previous day. I didn't want to tack on extra events that left the party in a middle of something else.

The "boss" fight was over super quick, before the boss had any real chance to use some of her "tricks" which is fine... I'll file those away for another day. I also hadn't realized how close the party would be if they took the exact route they did, so a bit of (real world) luck added to that.

Overall it was fun and completed the mini-arc of getting the game transitioned to the new location.


Fifth Realm: Session 26 - A New Beginning


Several weeks ago, all the known lands were hit with various floods, quakes, shifting land, rising mountains, and other dramatic events that have reshaped the landscape and destroyed many towns.

Refugees from Mistwood have been looking for a new home. A scout returned to camp injured by a wolf attack, but reported that he had spotted an old keep that might still be in good enough shape to house the survivors.

The sheriff (who the survivors have turned to for leadership), has asked that a group follow the scout's direction and see if the keep can support the survivors.

Setting out

The party decided to get some information from the scout (Alec) who was lounging about near the healer's tent. He claims that he was attacked by a huge pack of wolves, but the heroes got the feeling he was exaggerating quite a bit. He was able to provide the group with a detailed map through the forest to where he saw the keep.

Before leaving town the sheriff found the group and told them that we was going to have the people start packing up for the journey as soon as possible. He gave the party two bundles that when burned would create smoke to signal to the town if the keep was safe or not.

An Odd Gnome

The path to the keep was pretty clear, but as the group emerged from the dense woods, they spotted the keep and a small camp along the way.

When they got close to the camp the meet a Gnome who was busy building and hammering and moving about his camp.

He didn't have much useful information for the group, but did offer to sell them various tools he had invented such as a crossbow converted to a "fly swatter" (bolts had flat mesh attached), and mouse traps (which were tiny bear traps).

The party decided to pass on these and continued on to the keep.

Dead Wolves and Broken Bridge

On the path up to the keep the players found the bodies of several wolves, being fed on by large (not giant) rats. An examination didn't yield the cause of death, only that they had been devoured by these rats.

Further up the party found a chasm between the path and the keep, and the drawbridge was broken and hanging by one chain.

Kaz was able to move the end of the broken chain across the path, where the party secured it, and crossed over.

The Keep's Inhabitants

Inside the party found the keep's structures intact but worn and in disuse. While looking around, William heard sounds from around the corner and the group snuck up to check it out.

Unfortunately, they weren't very stealthy and when they got to the corner a group of strange people, in tattered clothes, turned to face them.

The party tried to identify what these "people" were, as something was clearly "wrong" with them. They didn't seem to be zombies, but had some zombie like aspects.

While this evaluation was going on, they began to shift and contort till something that resembled a cross between a man, a skinless dog, and a rat appeared. Then they charged.

These rat-man-monsters rushed the group, but Kaz through down a Grease spell and the others held their ground. The monsters began to fall one by one as they approached, the few getting around the corner were dealt with quickly.

When most have bunched together, Kaz hit them with an explosive fireball. Then dispelled the grease and the party finished off the others before they had a chance to stand.

Further in the party saw a figure dart around a corner, and also heard sounds of conflict from another direction. They decided to follow the figure they saw to an open area further in.


The group managed to be a bit more stealthy this time and managed to spot the man they saw before, who was having a coughing fit.

In the open area near him were four large persons that seemed to be malformed and bloated. And at the far end was a thin man in a cloak and speaking in a strange language.

The sick man then vomited... a rat, before collapsing onto the ground.

From there concealed position, the group took aim and fired (fireball wand and sun-bolt). Which destroyed two of the bloated men... but then they exploded into swarms of rats. The fireball burned enough of the rats that the ones remaining scattered.

Before the creature had time to reach the party, another set of blasts (and a crossbow bolt) took out the other two and the rats of the other swarm. But this left 2 new swarms and the thin man charging in.

The rats swarmed William and Penelope but were quickly sliced through and dispersed. The thin man was also hit with a powerful attack and fell down.

The party rushed him and as he recovered they finished him off before he could cast whatever spell he was preparing.

From his neck Kaz took a magical amulet that has some sort of animal control magic on it (and a picture of a rat). But he was persuaded to not put it on just yet.

We wrapped up there for the night. Next week we'll pick up still in the town.


This session went really well. First session awkwardness and a new player (new to GURPS as well as the group), didn't seem to cause any troubles. Things moved along at a good pace and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun.

One thing that I've been working on is "[The GM] should feel free to drop out of combat time whenever dramatically appropriate, and to resume combat time when noncombat action gives way to more fighting." (B362). This as speed up the "lulls" in combat when no actual trading of blows is happening (Readying, closing distances, long actions). 


Rule of Cool

... or "Crazy Plans are More Likely to Work"

A couple of things occurred to me the other day as I was reflecting on my last game session: 1) When players ask lots of questions, the the odds of doing something "cool" decrease. 2) If something sounds cool, it is more likely to work in my games.

I don't really think about these things during the game. They are not rules that I created... but this is just how things work out in play with my games.

Here is an example. In the last session, the party arrived at the cliff that separates the road from the keep. The drawbridge was damaged and only one of the two chains were holding it up. Someone asked if they could see the wench that held the remaining chain, and I replied that it was on top of the keep's wall between the two towers on either side of the bridge/gate. Then someone asked if the wizard flew up there would he be able to release it, and would the bridge land properly across the gap. I said he could probably release it, but that because the bridge was askew and damaged, it might break and fall. They ended up going with another plan.

But, had someone said, "I want to blast the wench with a fireball so the bridge falls and we can cross", I'd probably allow that to work (assuming they made the roll to hit).

Thinking about this, I realized that when I GM, lots of "technical" questions get the simulations part of my brain working. So, the answers I give are likely to be based on what makes the most logical sense for that situation. But, if someone states some crazy plan, the more creative side of my brain gets going and I want that to happen.

Of course the players need information before they can formulate crazy plans, so there's a bit of a catch-22 going on. But I think recognizing the ways that I GM and what some of the factors that lead to it helps me and my players.


Fifth Realm: The Story So Far...

The Fifth Realm is the setting I've been running my Fantasy games in for awhile now. It follows the standard fantasy tropes and uses most of the races from Dungeon Fantasy 3. I've run games that are somewhere between the full on Murder-Hobo-re that is Dungeon Fantasy and something closer to "serious" fantasy. The latest world events might just start shifting things a bit towards "dark fantasy" but we'll see how things develop....

Here is a recap of some of the events that have happens leading up to the current events.

The Turning Island Indecent

A few years back a group of adventures arrived in Port Destiny on Turning Island. They were commissioned by the leader of a group of "concerned citizens" to look into a strange temple found deep in the islands jungles. Soon they discovered a cult of a banished god were looking to open a gate way for that god to return to this world and bring about the end times.

They raced across the island seeking to five stones that could heal the magic seal that prevented this dark god from returning. Eventually they were able to defeat the cult and seal the god away, but at a high cost. Each of them lost one of the "elemental" essences.

Mistwood's Troubles

About a year ago the goblins started to attack the remote town of Mistwood. A (new) group of adventurers defended the town, tracked down the goblin hideout and defeated a group of mercenaries and a woman bent on using demonic powers to destroy the town.

Later the adventures chased off a black dragon that was making it's home in some nearby ruins. While there they met a group of orcs and had an unusually friendly experience. They also found a door marked with a seal they had seen before (on an amulet they had sold) and a carving that might have been been left by one of the adventurer's long lost uncle.

They tracked down the amulet, opened the door and found a vast underground realm that had been sealed off for thousands of years. Later they learned that this area was sealed off by a cabal of seven races to prevent crossing worlds as this "under realm" was a boarder land to other dimensions. They also discovered that the uncle had used a necromancy ritual to enter the land of the dead (still intact) in order to escape. The party had to find a lost relic, "The Returning Bell" to rescue him from the land of the dead.

After retrieving the bell, the party found Mistwood occupied by the Inquisition. These were suppose to be the King's most loyal who were tasked with upholding the law. But they betrayed the king and were going to hang the Mayor. The heroes ended up breaking the Mayor out of jail, just in time to learn that the town was in danger of total destruction.

The next morning the party had to get as many people out of town while avoiding the Inquisition. In the middle of the evacuation, the ground began to rumble, split, and rise. Soon it was a mad dash out of town, avoiding sinkholes and land slides.

When the day ended, only a scattered group of refugees were left at the banks of the river nearby. In the following weeks those that remained salvaged what they could. Mistwood was no more, but the troubles for it's people were not yet over....


Awhile back I stopped posting my regular game recaps, thinking that these were taking time from posting on other topics. But, as it turns out, without something regular to write about, I don't end up posting anything at all!

So, I'm going to try and get back into the swing of things, and that means resuming my regular game recaps! And hopefully that will lead to more non-recap posts too.