Recap and Game Notes: Traveller, 4.16

The TL;DR outline recap can be found here if one doesn’t want to listen to just over 3 hours.

As stated in the outline recap, we were down to three players for this session and, since we’d missed the previous two – first one due to me, CommJunkee & Gigermann being unavailable due to CJ’s son’s wedding and then second one due to me being ill – I felt like we had to have a gaming session of some sort but there were too few to continue the main narrative.

So that led me to thinking about something CommJunkee did during his run of Traveller where we were similarly down to just a handful of players thanks to some scheduled absences. In that, those of us who were present played a team of soldier badasses – naturally, we used avatars from Aliens – on a rescue op that had developed out of the campaign’s previous events. If you’re interested in watching that one, the YouTube of it is online as well.

With that in mind, I decided that the active PCs would be 150-point Scouts – see my previous game prep post regarding their stats – and rather than get bogged down on any setup, I just started in media res with the team getting shot down. Beyond this really being a death match – PCs get to fight to the death versus vargr piratey types who have the high ground, good cover and the like – I didn’t have a lot planned. I established early on that the crashed dropship was a ticking time bomb and would inevitably explode … then mostly forgot about that once the bullets started flying. I even had a rudimentary mechanic in play that was basically using a frequency of submission check – a 9 or less meant a small explosion, a 6 or less meant a medium-sized explosion and if I rolled a 3, the whole dropship went up. (In retrospect, this last one was a terrible idea. What if Fantasy Grounds decided to screw me early one & I rolled a 3 at the beginning of round 1? That makes a pretty short fight!) The one time I did remember this mechanic, I rolled a 6 and decided one of the thrust engines went boom which threw one of the characters ten yards or so.

Something else I sort of established to the players – not as well as I could have, in retrospect – was that any damage they dealt out to the vargr pirates would affect when the normal PCs eventually moved to secure the corsair. I’ve kept good notes about the numbers of available vargr and their statuses, and expected the PCs to take out two or three of the attackers.

Instead, the PCs ended up taking out all of the junior crew, lightly injuring the vargr commander, and critically injuring his XO. This means, to my chagrin, that when the real PCs assault the corsair, they’ve only got three hostiles to deal with and one of them is already at -9 or so. (Although … do the survivors have First Aid (Vargr)? Need to check that. That guy may be at -2 instead … which still kind of sucks for him.)

Gigermann ultimately had it worse during the game. His character was on the roof of the crashed dropship when the engine went boom. We quickly determined that he wouldn’t take any real damage – he was wearing a combat hardsuit, after all – but it did throw him clear of the crashed vessel. Unfortunately for him, that put him in a spot where he had four different hostiles with a line on him, including the vargr XO who was acting as a sniper with a portable railgun. This soldier effectively lost a leg right there as well as taking some shots to the chest by the other vargr that put him past the second death check threshold. As this was pretty early in the session, I was concerned that it was going to end up just being a slaughter with the PCs not accomplishing a thing; unexpectedly, Giger’s PC managed to cling to consciousness until the very end.

Ronnke’s PC actually did the most damage with his rifle, dropping … three, I think? He managed to nail the XO in the face with a round that crippled the vargr’s ear & caused him to stay down, which removed the portable railgun from play. In the course of that, though, he did eventually get nailed so he dropped to the negatives. At the tail end, when Herodian was putting his plan into action, Ronnke’s PC managed to take out the only vargr who could have stopped him … but then passed out. Now, according to RAW, you’re supposed to roll consciousness checks at the beginning of the round, but we’ve sort of gotten into the habit of doing it at the end which was more entertaining narratively here.

And then there was Herodian. He’s more familiar with the Traveller lore than I am so when the firefight quickly started turning south, he pulled out some of that lore by arguing – persuasively, I thought – that the Scouts primary mission (which is basically a sort of Prime Directive thing: protect fledgling civilizations from exploitation – should require a way for them to self-destruct their gear to ensure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. We decided that this required a six-step process that basically amounted to six Ready actions (normally) though the first one was unnecessary in this case. When he was done, the entire dropship blew up, killing all of the vargr mooks.

The most interesting aspect of this encounter is that it has sort of fueled our desire to dial back on ‘plot points’ or ‘character points used for flesh wounds’ – since the stakes were higher, when a PC took a round, it was a legit threat and something to worry about. I’m probably too far along in season 4 to implement that now, but right now, I’m leaning toward changing CP expenditure during play for season 5 (which is likely to be adventure 5 and on until I stop) to “no use during combat.”

Next week, we get back to the primary narrative and I’m already contemplating how I want to change it from the original plan.

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