Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Solo Traveller - Aloin's Saga Backgrounder #5

In the last instalment of Aloin’s adventures, the crew of the Iridium Queen encountered another Celephaizon merchant ship as they approached Miazan Highport. From the reaction of Miska Ilurin, the Iridium Queen’s Navigator, Aloin was able to gather that there was little love lost between the Iridium Queen and the incoming ship, the Guard Amethyst, Captain Venhrait.

This was the first time in this game that I had attempted to use both the starship encounter table and the reaction tables from the Classic Traveller rules.

The Starship Encounter table appears on Page 36 of Book 2: Starships and is a simple little 2d6 affair. With a range of results from 8 or less (no encounter) through to 18 (patrol), the 2d6 result is modified by the starport type of the system main world, +6 for an A Class port down to -4 for an X Class port. This means that in a system with an A Class starport, the only time that there won’t be a starship encounter is on a roll of 2 – this, perhaps, indicates the expected traffic volume in such a system. Encounter types are given as three types of free trader, two types of patrol, two types of subsidised merchant, two types of yacht and one pirate. Results of patrol and pirate can generate a Type-S armed scout, a Type-C armed cruiser or a Type-Y armed yacht. The assumptions evident in this encounter table are that starships are usually unarmed and that Traveller takes place in a “small ship” universe. Given that the starship construction rules in Book 2 seemed to max out at around 5000 tons then we’re looking more at Andre Norton’s Solar Queen than David Webber’s Honor Harrington series.

The starship encounter table from the Classic Traveller Starter Edition pdf essentially reprints the encounter table from The Traveller Book. This expands upon the Book 2 encounter table with the result spread now running from 2 – 15, and with each Starport type having its own column and selection of results. The presence of a Naval or Scout base grants positive dice modifiers and the ship encounters can also generate small craft encounters as well. All ship and small craft encounter types are now detailed and include all the standard ship and craft types that appear as “off the peg” designs in the rules. While still a “small ship” universe, this encounter table has both more detail and less freedom for the Games Master in that the ships are defined by class rather than primary function.

Standard 2d6 Bell curve
I had been considering expanding the Book 2 encounter table myself – perhaps by putting in a loading for location within the RimWorlds. With a standard 2d6 encounter table, one gets the standard bell-curve distribution. Dice modifiers simply move the bell curve along the X-axis which allows one to have different results or result ranges while using the same 2D6. On the other hand, an alternative would be to retain the basic encounter table and have a series of sub tables cascading off each result type – these sub tables would then be modified by DMs for location (frontier, Imperial interior, Outrim Space, Rimward Void, etc), starport type, Naval Base, Scout Base, and so on.

+2 modifier on 2d6 Bell curve moves the range to 4 - 14
This sounds like a project for a long, wet, Sunday when there’s nothing on the telly.

And on the third hand, I could just stick with the basic table, assume that any encounter rolled was significant to the characters, and play Interrogation to discover the What and the Why of it. Interrogation is a little thinking-assist brain-storming game I used to play where I would use a series of dice rolls to map out a story idea or plot.

In the situation where the Iridium Queen encounters the Guard Amethyst in the Miazan system, I rolled a Free Trader encounter type on the Book 2 encounter table. On the Reaction Table, I rolled “Hostile. May Attack.” Very interesting – who was this Free Trader and why was it hostile? I then posed a series of Yes/No questions and rolled 2d6 – 7+ for “yes”, 6- for “no”. Were they rivals? Yes. Trade rivals? No. Family rivals? Yes. From the same homeworld? Yes.

These answers told me that the Guard Amethyst was also from Celephais, and that the bad blood between the two ships was more of the nature of a feud between two families. This, in turn, gave me some insights into the nature of Celephaizon society (clannish). And also, by implication, it would appear that Captain Lukk, rather than owning the Iridium Queen herself, may actually be acting as agent for, and on behalf of, her family as Captain. With this revised ownership scheme, I was able to worry less about whether Lukk was meeting the mortgage payments on her ship and more about her meeting her running costs.

The naming of the rival ship, the Guard Amethyst, and her captain, Captain Venhrait, gave me two more plot hooks to begin hanging more story bits on, and an archenemy for the crew of the Iridium Queen to focus upon.