One of the players in the Mongoose Traveller game has finally designed his own ship. I was waiting for this to happen: usually in any given group there's at least someone who likes to do a little building and tweaking. And the ship design rules in Traveller pretty much beg to be used by just such an enterprising player, because while there's a pretty extensive set of pre-made ships (enough to get up and start the campaign without stopping to design your own) players tend to have their own ideas about what's "optimal."
I encourage players to do stuff like this. Every game of serious length that I've run they've ended up making something. I've had players design personal hideouts, come up with new races, research new spells, stat up loyal follwers, and create new character classes. It helps put a personal stamp on a campaign, and encourages the players to invest in the game and the world.
In this case, it seems to be a sign that the campaign is maturing -- and not just in the usual way, where the players get used to each other and their character settle into a comfortable dynamic. The players have started to take control of the campaign themselves; I'm no longer having the trouble I did a couple sessions back where every session was a struggle to constantly generate new happenings. They're doing things now: making plans, coming up with theories, and having adventures.
It's gratifying, because it's a sign that my experiment in a more sandbox-y style of campaign is paying off. I've never been much of a campaign writing kind of a referee, but I do usually start a game with some idea of an overarching storyline; a villain or two at the very least. This time, though, I didn't have anything immediately obvious going into it, and I knew that Mongoose Traveller was built for a more world-oriented style of play, so I decided to go with it. Things were rough for a while, but now I'm starting to see the real appeal of sandbox style play: it's fascinating to see all those separate plot threads start to knit together into something coherent.
Thus, the ship. The player in question has always had a vague idea of what kinds of goals his character, Duke Marlow Burrin, had in mind. (To challenge KordCorp's control over the subsector.) But now that the campaign is coalescing into a more recognizable form, he has a much better idea of how specifically he's going to achieve those goals, and the ship ties into that. And maybe more importantly, he and the rest of the gang seem to be getting much more attached to their characters, and thus more willing to invest in the world. It's a very encouraging sign.