Thursday, April 30, 2009

How I Prep For Traveller

Most of the notes for the planets in my Traveller sub-sector look something like this:

Dori Danu 0408 B78A456-11 ST NI Wa

Very little physical violence, so conflict takes the form of espionage and elaborate power plays between the ruling families who control the world's aerodomes and algae farms.

A little smaller than earth
Dense atmosphere
Almost entirely water
41,142 citizens
Feudal technocracy
Banned: all firearms except shotguns and stunners; carrying weapons discouraged, TL 11 items, computers
Early stellar -- first true AI
500 Cr. Berthing costs

Peaceful -- physical conflict is almost unheard-of. The culture produces few soldiers and diplomacy reigns supreme. Forceful characters will be ostracized.

Famous for Danuvian rubies, which are so rare that exporting them is illegal.

Minor captive government -- The Shimmering Sky is an odd, drug based cult with mysterious initiation rituals, but it doesn't seem to be a source of trouble.
Minor company/organization -- ShinyHappy Algae, the major (but not the only) algae processing interest on the planet. It's run by its founder, Nila "Happy" Emmerson (no one knows what happened to her partner, Nick "Shiny" Frost).

First, I generate the UWP, and since I'm using Mongoose Traveller, number, strength, and type of factions, and then a cultural quirk. I write out what each entry in the UWP means below, since I haven't memorized all those charts yet and it helps when I'm describing the world to the players.

Then, I look at that and the quirk, and try to come up with a theme for the world, and a one or two sentence description based on that. Dori Danu's theme would be something like "decadent water world where conflict is social;" other themes in the subsector include "religion based on Marvel comics," "ancient Egyptian-style ruins," "Dune rip-off," "robot farmers," "plutonium-peddling Cthulu worshippers," "pretty much like Tortuga" and "everyone worships whales."

A lot of the time, that's really all I'll need to run a decent game, particularly now that the characters have their own goals going on. A lot of times what they'll do is ask me for a list of the passengers on their ship and what they're up to, or go to a bar to pick up rumors, either just in a general way or about specific people. The theme gives me enough to go on to generate that kind of thing.

For a while I was also generating a list of missions/rumors, but that was really too much of a crap-shoot to be helpful. It ended up giving me a bunch of random little things to manage, rather than making the sessions more interesting. Now that I have a better handle on the rhythm of the game, I'm probably going to start generating one or two "NPCs of interest," people who can provide some service to the PCs or have some interesting issue attached to them. That way, there's something obvious and interesting to return to, and possibly get integrated into the ongoing saga of the campaign, without giving me a bunch of pointless little details to manage.

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