All posts by Aki

Adventure Log: The Flight of the Albatross Part 4

Now, safely back onboard the Albatross after the adventure with the Chimax, the crew was able to interrogate Krrsh. It didn’t take too much prompting to get him to spill the whole story: he had been the Captain of one of the ships that attacked Clarke, onboard an S-class Scout ship. He wasn’t part of the job on Toprol, so he had decided to stray off to make a bit of side money. On his trip he had stumbled across a merchant vessel, one that he thought would have been an easy kill. As it turned out, he was mistaken in his assumption: the trader held a set of concealed guns, and when Krrsh had ordered the ship to cut thrust and prepare for boarding, the merchant ship and opened up a broadside at almost point blank range. Krrsh had managed to get the ship out of the firefight and held it together long enough to make a jump to the next rendezvous point. However, the other two captains, Ferrik Redthane and Miria Silverhand were none to happy at his misadventure, which had rendered the Scout ship useless for pirating and as a punishment had marooned him on the ancient station as a warning to the others.

 

However, their act of ruthless pragmatism was now a windfall for the Albatross. While they had one of the pirates now, Krrsh was proving to be a most useful ally in their hunt. With a bit of prompting, the party was able to get the whole story: The reason for the attacks is due to Ferrik somehow running afoul of his former boss “Admiral Darokyn”, one of the heavy hitters on the pirate planet Theev, and as a result the pirate has been exiled from the planet, forbidden to touch down on one the one safe haven for pirates in the subsector. Ferrik was desperately looking to make big, flashy scores in order to convince another pirate captain that he was worth taking on and protecting from Darokyn. While he himself, couldn’t set foot on the planet, he would work through his second in command Miria to negotiate on his behalf. All too eager for payback, and with few options, Krrsh volunteered to join the crew, especially when it dawned on him that the party was trying to track down Ferrik. Krrsh could provide the up to date callsigns and passcodes to get through the pirate patrols along Theev, and was willing to be a guide around the capital of Blanksand City, and he had a few ideas as to who Miria might have gone to.

 

The group prepared to make their way along their preplanned path, firing up their jump drive and continuing to the secret refueling location they had been travelling to. However, when their reality bubble shifted back into real space, they were greeted to a distress beacon with Imperial Scout Service codes. Onboard, Kardoth Denive, retired Imperial Scout, struggled to try to keep everything on the ship together. Something had badly damaged the ship and left him drifting…the strange thing was that he couldn’t remember quite what, likely from a hit to the head during the blasts before jumping to safety leading to some Easy Amnesia. His scanners told him that a ship had just jumped into the sector, a…a Harrier-class? Did anybody still make those beauties? It was his lucky day that had brought the Albatross to his doorstep. The crew of the Albatross was happy to pick up Kardoth and see what the problem was. After a quick review of the S-clas, it was quickly written off as a loss. Kardoth offered what could be salvaged in terms of parts as a buy in to the venture, and was pleasantly surprised, if not a little suspicious, at the salary and “performance based incentives”. His buy in came with a very nice set of quality components, and Festus felt that he could likely use them to continue fixing up the ship, perhaps to complete some of the functions that Princess Rao had classified as “aesthetically pleasing but non-essential”.

 

With their stocks and fuel replenished, the Albatross made one more jump, arriving in Theev. They were quickly hailed by planetary control, and gave the pseudonym The White Witch. They were directed to a docking berth in Blacksand City, and were greeted by a smiling woman, dressed all in black with a neat bun of red hair. She cordially invited the group to the city, and took a moment to pointedly stress for the newcomers to follow the rules. Krrsh hushedly filled the party in: this was a Widow, one of those in the city charged with ensuring that the pirates followed the Laws of the Lords. In the starport, or the Upper City, or any building marked by red flags, the Law of Lords decree that is no murder, no weapons fire, and nothing that offends the calm and tranquility of the city is permitted. Those who do quickly find themselves with a slit throat in a back alley. Other than that, they were free to go about the city, so long as they watched their backs.

 

The crew had a few options to try to find Miria. They decided against seeing Admiral Darokyn, the former employer, and instead decided to go after the two names that Krssh provided as Miria’s hopeful partners: Petyr Vallis and Hroal Irontooth. The party tried Petyr Vallis first, traveling to his tower in the lower city, saying that they wanted “to show their respects” as newcomers. The guards gave them curious looks, but let them inside to meet their boos. Vallis was happy to meet with them, offering a feral grin from a scarred face. He seemed absolutely overjoyed that the newcomers had come to honor him as their first stop, and that “there weren’t any more cats making the city their litterbox”. It didn’t take much to realize a few things: one, Vallis hated the Aslan with a fiery passion, and that he was, at best, a borderline psychopath. With the pleasantries out of the way, the crew got down to business. They wanted to see if the man knew about where Miria was. Vallis claimed that he did, that Miria had holed up in the lower part of the city and was using street urchins to act as messengers so she wouldn’t be. Of course, that hadn’t stopped him from tailing them back to her hideout. The issue was, why would he give the Travellers that information for nothing in return? The pirate wanted 50,000 credits, an amount the Travellers didn’t have after spending the gains from their first heist…or a favor. Vallis went on to describe that he was looking for a way to wage war on the Aslan, and he was always looking for assistance. What he wanted was to be able to share access to any ports that the group considered their own. A few looks were exchanged, not wanting to give away Drinax, but Festus spoke up, mentioning Asim. A light suddenly caught Vellis’ eyes: Asim was right up against the border of the Aslan Heirate, and close to one of their shipping lanes…one that they Albatross crew had themselves raided. Vallis asked for the communication codes to identify as a friendly agent, and then he would provide the location. If his information didn’t pan out, they would be free to revoke it or change the codes. If it did, and the Albatross reneged on their promise, there would be hell to pay….


 

I want to take a moment to go back around the character creation process for Traveller. The rolls for Attributes and the lifepath generation puts a fairly distinct mark on the game. Overall, I enjoy what it does to the characters that it creates. Life rarely goes exactly the way we want it to, and the lifepath reflects that. There is also ample evidence that raw starting stats aren’t everything. In my first foray into character creation for Traveller, I got a decent stretch of starting Attributes when I did a pure line roll. Most tended to be around average, bounded by minor dips around the mean, but two stood out to me. Bisuke had near perfect stats, nothing below average, and a maxed out strength. She passed the roll to get into Marine academy and graduated with honors…and then promptly failed her first operation in the field and received horrific injuries, leading her to be discharged and requiring almost all of her benefit rolls to pay off a massive medical debt. In contrast, Declin started with below average stats in every category, and I honestly thought he would be a washout, so I put him into a career where I thought there was a small chance he would survive long enough to get some skills: Artist. Declan then promptly passed advancement roll after advancement roll, boosting his social stats far past what I expected and accruing a truly impressive number of skills and advancements.

 

That said, the process has one area that can infuriate people, and it’s not a bug, it’s a design choice: attempting to pick one certain path. This session was meant to be an introduction for a group of new players (Kardoth is one who I believe will be sticking around). One player in particular had been a bit apprehensive about the setting, and I had tried to kindle interest in mentioning that an angle he could take for his character could fall along the lines of the Honor Harrington franchise, one that I knew he enjoyed. However, when he attempted to make a character along those lines, the dice gods were just not having it. He tried to make six characters, none of whom managed to get the kind of career that he was looking to play and the process left him frustrated and resulted in him bowing out from the session.

 

This part of the game simply won’t appeal to some people. Personally, I think that there would be plenty of back doors to move up in careers that rather suit themselves to the environment of Drinax. To bring up Kardoth, I think he is a great example of a player making the best of some funky rolls. Kardoth had taken a stab at being a thief, washed out, became a drifter (and was stabbed by a fellow hobo), and then incongruously found himself drafted into the scout service. When disaster struck (stuck adrift in space with no memory of what happened), the player decided it was fitting that Kardoth would fall back on old instincts and be pragmatic about what would keep himself alive, even if it meant bartering with parts that weren’t his to spend and allying with people he has strong suspicions are outlaws. But if you really want to build a military vet, or a noble envoy, or a genius mechanic, and you absolutely MUST BE THAT THING…well, then maybe Traveller is not for you.

The Noob GM: My First Original Scenario

It was time to take the training wheels off. My previous attempts at GMing have, up to this point, been drawn from modules and published campaigns, or had been drawn up using notes provided to me when I stepped in to guest GM. Now, there is nothing wrong with running from a module, and it is required for something like D&D’s Adventurers League. However, with an upcoming gaming marathon on the horizon (As Aaron, Seamus and were running the planned scenarios, it was dubbed CHGCon) I found myself preparing to run a session of Blades in the Dark, something I had been looking to do for a while. The problem, however, was that the first time everyone would be able to sit at the same table would be gametime. There wouldn’t be time to weave together the backstories of characters without making them myself. I would have zero idea of team dynamic, or what kind of gang they would be, and that would prevent them from having access to team benefits. While I could have made characters in advance, I didn’t want to take away from the character creation process for them, especially with a system with fairly streamlined and boilerplate mechanics for character creation.
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Bargain Bin Gaming: The Aether Sea and Hocus Focus

We’re trying something a little bit different this week. Previous installments for The Independents have covered a couple of free to play or “pay what you will” games, such as The Agency and the Ennie nominees for Best Free Game, and I’ve found these to be really insightful. A lot of time and effort goes into making these games, and it is really a wonder that it’s possible that they can be distributed free of charge. It was to my surprise to find that there really is so much out there available to prospective gamers. They are sometimes expansions, or skins of a preexisting system, but with a preponderance of SRDs available on the internet it’s quite possible to get a game going, and free games have a way of just kicking off an idea that helps get people around the table. It is in this vein that I would like to check out free (or very cheap) games that can be easily acquired for a quick game night! And it just so happens that our good friends at Evil Hat have some really nice Pay What You Will and Free games!

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Meet the Party: After The Last Jedi

A captain, still scarred by the loss of her fighter squadron in battle with the First Order. A diplomat with a surprising talent for getting under a person’s skin so much that they do the right thing out of spite. An obsessive mechanic, signing on to the cause for access to high grade military tech. A former bounty hunter,a remorseless killer, who looks to protect those who saved his life and taught him about The Force. A burgeoning Force Sensitive, who is torn between the legend of the Jedi and her own criminal bent. In a galaxy far far away, a long time ago, but still a few decades after the events of the original movies, the Republic has fallen (again) and it’s time to make up interquel stories as we await Episode 9!

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Adventure Log: Flight of the Albatross, Part 3

The Albatross came out of the jump into a crowd of debris, pinging against the hull. For a moment, it seemed as if their deductions had been off, but as they regained their bearings they realized that they were being pelted by starship debris. Wolf immediately began a sensor sweep, and managed to pick up a weak distress signal. Oddly enough, it seemed to be one designed for a personal Vacc suit, only it was operating far out of its standard range. The Albatross followed the signal to a rickety old space station orbiting Borite. Unable to resist their curiosity, and hoping for clues regarding the pirates they were chasing, our pirates elected to dock along the manual airlocks, to a region of the ship that had been breached, counting on the protection of their own Vacc suits.

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The Independents: High Plains Samurai Advance Review

What happens when you throw together gangsters, cowboys, barbarians, samurai, steampunk and wire-fu and set the blender up to 11? Well, the potential for some truly eccentric, quirky or downright insane characters, and the award winning High Plains Samurai from Broken Ruler Games!

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Meet the Party: Scum and Villainy

A washed out veteran with a knack for pushing his luck at the right moment on high-stakes jobs. An illegitimate noblewoman, using her inherited charm and connections to build a shadow kingdom of her own. A grieving father, who can hold a ship together with duct tape and prayers, but can’t do the same for himself. An ace pilot, disillusioned about the costs of war and desperate to find work after fighting on the losing side.M eet the Party brings you ready-to-play characters, complete with backgrounds and relationships, for use both in your own games and as inspiration for creating characters of your own.   Strap on your holster and fire up the engines, it’s time to be space cowboy bad guys!

Last week we went over the recent Forged in the Dark product from Off Guard Games and  Evil Hat Productions, Scum and Villainy. There was a small bit of table fiction in the beginning of the review, and it struck a chord. What follows is the groundwork for a group of smugglers, blockade runners, and overall Ne’er-do-wells for profit, the crew of the Freefall.

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The Independents: Scum and Villainy

“Easy does it friend.” Ari raises his hands as Marx levels his gun. He raises his voice again across the hanger. “You wouldn’t want to do anything hasty now. I’m sure there’s room to negotiate here. All we want is to get paid, and the artifact is yours.” Already the situation was looking bad. Marx, the supposed buyer they were set up to deal with, chose to bring his own group of thugs, and it seemed like their idea of negotiation involves bullets.

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The Independents: Monster of the Week

A dark shadow lurks at the edge of town. Bodies with strange markings have been found throughout the city. Strange omens appear in the skies. Who will face these grim threats? A blue collar warlock, pulling out his street smarts as much as his arcane knowledge? A girl once given a “gift” by a faerie godmother, that helps (and compels) her to action? The last member of a defunct Order, sworn to stop Nazi experiments of the same? The roaming hunter, traveling from town to town to find the creature who killed his brother? The government agent who has stumbled into something larger, and can’t look away? Together, they will find out…why all these different monsters always seem to arrive like clockwork on one day of the week. It’s uncanny. This is Monster of the Week!

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ENnies Wonk: Best Free Game 2018

Surprise, it’s not the normal Level One Wonk this time, though I am gladly ripping off his format. At the start of the month, nominations for the ENnie awards were released. The nominations present a wonderful resource for GMs and gamers, and similarly for game reviewers. It had turned out that a number of nominations were games that we had written about in the past, but there were plenty more for us to study as well. In particular, there was one category that interested me: Best Free Game. Occasionally, players and GMs run on tight finances but still require their gaming fix. SRDs are plenty helpful, but sometimes you want to try something a bit different. A number of these games are more demos or skins for games that stop early than full, completely ready out of the box systems, but it is enough to get started, and to see if you enjoy the product enough to buy the full version . . . or creative players and GMs might be able to push it beyond expectations. These are only cursory reviews, and if something interests you, I fully recommend checking them out. They are, after all, free.

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