It's too big! (Traveller)

Cessna

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#1
All of my talk about 2300AD has got me nostalgic for Science Fiction.

I used to love Traveller back in the day. I had a copy of the little black books and I wore them out until 2300 came out.

I’ve got a copy of the reprint of the core books and I’m considering buying the reprinted supplements. It’s fun to go through them – partly for nostalgia, partly to try to dream up campaigns.

One problem I’ve got, though, is that the setting is too big, and too distant. With the size, it becomes static. In 2300AD, the kafers are just several jumps away from earth – and humanity is several jumps away from the kafer homeworld. A few ships in the right place could make a big difference in the way the setting is set up. But in the Traveller Imperium, the Capital is several months’ travel from *anywhere* on the frontier, and it is doubtful that anything short of a massive war involving thousands of ships could really affect anything.

It’s just so damn big. I suppose I could run something based on a tiny sliver of space, or just a few worlds – but then why play Traveller…?

In classic Traveller it is hard to imagine anything that could really change the setting that the characters could do anything about. In order to change the setting you have to do something massive, like the “virus” from later Traveller, or something like the collapse from Asimov’s “Foundation” or the Rebellion from Star Wars – and if you do that, the player characters are just along for the ride…

You look at the maps of the Imperium and see the thousands of worlds and countless billions of inhabitants and it all becomes a big abstract blur.

Anyone else run into this? How did you deal with it…?
 

Ithaeur

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#2
I can't suggest anything better than using the books and making up your own setting. Preferably a lot smaller (there's a damned lot of stuff to detail in a typical star system, anyway).
 
#3
That is a common attitude towards the Imperium; it is afterall what lead to the Rebellion, then the Hard Times and The New Era where PC's are supposed to be able to have a greater impact on the universe. But the thing to remember is the old Byzantine saying - "God is in heaven and the emperor is very far away."

To me, there is something to be said for the fringes of the Classic setting. My favorite areas have been the Spinward Marches prior to the Rebellion - especially down in District 268 with the unreconstructed Swordies running around unaligned worlds. A Firefly like campaign ripping off Texas/New Mexico/Arizona in the immediate aftermath of the US Civil War as Reconstruction gets underway is very viable/

Another is the Reavers Deep where you have dozens of little polities tucked inbetween the Aslan. the Solomani and the Imperium. It can be done like central Europe during the cold war (Finland, Austria, Czch. equivalents abound) but it's even more fun to run it ala the Balkans in 1900. Much more tension and greatly reduced player knowledge of just what the Referee is up to... :eek:

Where ever you decide to go, there is room for the core Traveller campaign - the tramp frieghter making just enough to survive with a bit of speculation and gun running on the side. It's at this point where the personal scale comes into play. The PC's might not be the ones storming heaven (aka the Death Star) but they can be the knights errant setting right the things that escape notice in an empire of 11000 worlds. It's only static if you want it to be - Traveller works best when the Referee breaks something; makes a disaster on a scale that the PC's can understand; and then set's the PC's free to do what they will. Most players I've know seem drawn to fixing it. This is the irony of all of the GDW rpgs that came out after Traveller - they create all of this conflict because people complained about the "static" imperium and the players are all about ending the conflict :D

Hope this has been of some interest.

William
Travelling since '77
 
#4
One problem I’ve got, though, is that the setting is too big, and too distant. With the size, it becomes static.
I'm running into this in other games, but aside from playing some Traveler back in the day & just knowing that my dude simply had to shoot the f*ck out of those damn dirty Kafers, I'm not familiar with the setting... so take all this with a grain of salt.

When it's a big blob, I divide and conquer.

Even though it's a big mass, you can divide up space into several "characters" - entities with motivations and reasons to exist in the universe. I got this idea from playing Master of Orion.

Create kingdoms, star clusters, and factions - Merchant houses, religious groups, monarchies, republics, & other significant socio-political entities that are your characters in the universe (the players play individuals, the GM plays the universe). Give them purpose, feeling, goals, allies, enemies... think of them as social entities, and only flesh out the gritty details when you need to.

Make digestible masses that are dynamic within the universe, and able to be influenced by the actions of a few.

So even if you need to focus on one region of space, you can retain the sense of scale by setting the rest of the universe in motion against itself like social entities.
 
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#5
I think if you're trying to recreate something along the lines of the 'caffeinated Kafers' from your T:2300 campaign then yes, you're going to have a problem - the Imperium IS too big to take that into account. You've just got to change your concept of what the game would be about; okay, there is no way that, without a major change in the nature of the Imperium, anyone can seriously threaten Capital - however, if you were born in the Spinward Marches, then to you Capital (and in many ways the Imperium itself) is nothing more than an abstract concept - to your character! You've got to focus explicitly on the region of space you are interested in, and take it from there. Generally most PCs tend to hail from border regions, places like the Spinward Marches, for this very reason.

The Traveller d20 version has set the clock back IIRC to about 100 years before the classic Traveller timeline, and has detailed the Gateway Domain in the Gateway To Destiny book, which includes a definite 'edge' of the Imperium and many smaller conclaves of worlds that do not belong - it's a great place to adventure, we've only just started the campaign (3-4 sessions in so far and it's going great) but we're all loving it so far. As the ex-Scout Hunter McClure I managed to snag a Scout Ship for my own uses and created the McClure Trading Company, which is currently meandering around the sector trying to find the source of a new drug craze that is sweeping the sector; taking any cargo we find along the way with us. The crew consists of myself, a Vargr pilot, a mysterious Aslan ex-diplomat, an engineer from the rougher side of life and a failed professor.

You just have to alter your perception of the game. Hell, if you want an alien lifeform to threaten the Imperium, what about something like those aliens from ST:TNG season 1 that were 'replacing' various important people in Starfleet? Or introduce your own race of shapeshifters a la the Founders from DS9. Or for that matter the Goa'uld from Stargate SG-1, only they would have to be less prone to pretending to be gods than they typically are....
 

Per Andersson

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#6
The most successful settings seems to have been on the fringes of the Imperium. Spinward Marches, The Solomani/Imperial border regions, that sort of things.

Also, the focus on most of the published adventures and campaigns (Traveller Adventure, Yay!) has been rather small in focus and power levels, with one of the rewards for the PCs being getting information on the metaplots, and maybe 'making a difference' by getting this information to the right people.

EDIT: Unfortunatelty, the Traveller setting seems most suited for rather long campaign, if only in order to get the players sense the vastnes of the Imperium. I guess this could pose aproblem.
 
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Cessna

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#7
bobrunnicles said:
You've just got to change your concept of what the game would be about; You just have to alter your perception of the game.


I'm *starting* to think that it would be better to focus on a single world - like the way "Dune" implies a big empire, but focuses on Arrakis...?
 

Per Andersson

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#8
Cessna said:
I'm *starting* to think that it would be better to focus on a single world - like the way "Dune" implies a big empire, but focuses on Arrakis...?
We did almost all our Traveller gaming in parts of a subsector. That still kept us busy for a few years.


I belive there was some company that published a licensed supplements designed for hyper-detaling individual worlds. Those could be useful for a campagin limited to a handful of planets. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the supplements or thepublishing company. Suggestions, anyone?
 
N

NPC Reverendkeith

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#9
Cessna said:
I'm *starting* to think that it would be better to focus on a single world - like the way "Dune" implies a big empire, but focuses on Arrakis...?
Absolutely. The best Traveller games I've ever ran worked well because I didn't think larger than a subsector. I didn't ignore the Imperium, and my players could wander out of that area from time to time, but I worked to keep the theme of the game heavily focused in that one subsector. (Frankly, the TNS news I made up did a good enough of a job of portraying the rest of the Imperium to the players without needing to spend years travelling across the whole darn thing.)

I found that by doing that, I helped reduce the "every planet looks the same" problem by developing a dozen interesting planets (rather than "random UWP world"). Each of the planets in the subsector had distinct characteristics and a wide variety of personalities operating on them, ranging from subsector nobility, navy/army military folks, local megacorporations, planetary governments, etc. I found that the cultures and attitudes of these planets and people became more believable, because you think about them more and your players know what to expect.

At the very least, focusing on a subsector has worked for me. Might not work for everyone.
 

CMD

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#10
To me, Traveller will always be a "small" game rather than an epic one. The classic traveller campaigns are usually focused on getting enough credits to make the next repairs on the scout/merchant/mercenary cruiser while getting involved with a bunch of really different worlds and cultures. Not only is the imperium too big to deal with, but I think it plays best when it's corrupt and ineffectual, which makes it hard to play imperial scale heroic campaigns.

That's not to say it couldn't be done. Heck, I think you could have an amazing campaign with players as nobles playing politics at the imperial court.
 
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