[Traveller World] Psis Like Us Campaign - Actual Play

edited October 2012 in Actual Play

one of my players sent this as some AP from our ongoing Traveller World play-test campaign.

To give a bit of background we started with 2 player-characters and the Mustering Out Blues playset:

Astrid, a manipulative ex-merchant whose family were owners of a recently gone bust subsector line.
Buzz, an ex-scout with a gambling addiction and a detached duty scoutship with a computer on the fritz (plus a npc gunner by the name of Marco).

Both met up on a backwater world where Astrid had been ejected from the captaincy of her ship by the new owners of her line. Buzz had come to collect her as a favour since Astrid had rescued him from his gambling debts in the past.

I had decided on a Psi theme worked up some rough fronts based on a new psi-suppressing subsector duke, a fugitive on their current world and the general imperial anti-psi prejudice. The fugitive turned out to be Fleur Tyrell, an ex-mob insider who had cleaned out the local operations and wanted off-world fast, but not before he collected his ex-military cousin Kiara for some muscle. At an awkward moment Fleur revealed that he was also a psi and so he didn't want to meet the imperial forces massing on the planet for "morale building". They fled that world and Fleur made the players an offer - he would bankroll them if they helped him find and make contact with a psionic institute, there was rumoured to be one in the subsector. Upon completion he'd make them rich beyond their wildest dreams (although Astrid proved to have some pretty wild dreams). That was session 1. Session 2 was spent in the oppressive (if you're poor) playground for the rich that Astrid comes from. No psis there. So on to Baskan (next message below) where a 3rd player (Holtz) joined us. Incidentally the shared world design that features in most sessions is working well - I must try to document the process to make it more repeatable for people. Mainly just AW stuff - ask questions, draw maps, look for conflict.


  • TW: PSIs Like Us - Update 1 by Player E (Astrid)

    Baskan (High Population / Poor)

    On the way in from the jump exit we referred to our TAS database to
    get the basics on the planet.

    This is an early-stellar technology world, with 10s of billions of
    people. They don't have a lot of industry and virtually no exports.
    The star port is D class which means the facilities are pretty basic,
    essentially a patch of concrete for each ship to land on and a handful
    of buildings to house customs and ground control, There is no repair
    facility and refined fuel is not available. Luckily our trusty Scout
    ship operates just fine on unrefined fuel (or at least as fine as it
    ever does).

    Early Stellar might mean a bit behind the curve for the Imperium but
    it's important to remember they have all the tech toys that early 21st
    century earth has and more. This is not a primitive planet. Holtz
    will find this out later.

    Supporting the high population requires the planet to be run as
    efficiently as possible. The people almost universally live in huge,
    high density cities which tower kilometers high and cover areas up to
    a quarter of a million square kilometers. There are 8 to 10 of these
    megacities and they can easily be seen from orbit. Outside the cities
    there are vast fields of monoculture crops, patrolled by large robotic
    combination agri-machines. Around the coast the sea is a patchwork of
    aquaculture farms also primarily maintained by robotic machines.
    Efficiency is the watch word, not variety. The population subsists
    mostly on the two Ks, Kale and Kelp.

    We wanted a high population world for plot reasons and since this is a
    positive tag we needed to select a negative tag to balance it out and
    'poor' was chosen. As usual we were asked to think about what was
    special or interesting about this planet and we came up with the giant
    city and food issues. I see it as kind of a cross between Mega City
    One and Soylent Green. Of course that's not entirely accurate since
    with no tag indicating otherwise this planet has a moderate law level.
    There are police but they are quite reasonable.

    We land and manage to find a broker to take on the cargo we were
    carrying (mainly to disguise our real reason for travelling).
    Compared to the giant hive cities where the native population live
    star town is more like a shanty town. It is a low density district
    that grew up around the port. We decide we will do like we did
    before, operate as normal, try to get cargo and talk to brokers,
    traders, the star port authority and if we happen to hear something
    about psionics that's fine. Astrid and Buzz are are walking through
    star town when we meet Holtz. This is an ex-Army guy that Buzz knows
    pretty well and Astrid met once while trying to negotiate a supply
    contract with an Army base.

    Holtz' player uses the normal character generation hx statements to
    determine the relationship with Astrid and Buzz.

    Holtz wants off Baskan (apparently kelp beer is not really to his
    taste) and having a passenger we can trust helps us with our cover so
    this is win-win. We basically agree to carry him off world when we
    are leaving although we warn him this might not be for a few weeks.
    Astrid doesn't see why he shouldn't pay passage but Buzz feels he can
    do Holtz a favour and allow him to work for his passage.

    As the group is discussing this a shout / scream is heard from a
    nearby building and Astrid realises (10+ Read a Situation) that the
    noise came from an upper floor of a nearby building, a side door
    appears to have been forced and a thuggish looking local is standing
    guard with a bat. Despite pleas from Astrid to 'not get involved'
    Holtz rushes off and Buzz follows. Holtz scares the guard away (7-9
    Go Aggro) but he runs in to the building and barricades the door
    behind him. Luckily whoever broke the door open in the first place
    has damaged it so badly that it won't remain closed. Holtz and Buzz
    rush in and Astrid stays outside to keep watch.

    On the upper floor the boys, in some sort of gang clothing, find a
    handful of men holding a girl. They are beating her and coming out
    with phrases like 'good enough treatment for one of THEM'. It appears
    they are anti-psionic vigilantes and the girl is a suspected psi.
    Holtz intimidates them by putting a bullet in someone's leg (Go Aggro
    7-9). They drop the girl and flee.

    Meanwhile outside Astrid notices a crowd forming. A woman points at
    Astrid and gestures. Sirens are heard in the distance.

    Inside Holtz does some first aid on the girl and stabilises her. Buzz
    checks out the funny hat the thugs left behind and it's got some sort
    of flexible circuity embedded in the fabric. Its the early stellar
    version of the tin foil hat. Holtz picks up the girl and he and Buzz
    try to get out following the same route the thugs used. Unfortunately
    Holtz does not excel at the sneaking and when he bursts out the back
    door there are armed police waiting for him. "Put down the gun!" -
    "I'm not the one you want!" - -
    "PUT. DOWN. THE. GUN". (No good at manipulate, go aggro not wise!)

    Holtz is arrested. Buzz escapes unnoticed and meets up with Astrid
    who has talked her way out of the suspicion she was involved with the
    incident. Buzz tries to get hold of Fleur but he can't talk.

    Holtz tries to claim initially that he didn't fire any shots but the
    police quickly prove that his gun was fired recently. His claims that
    he fires his gun every day does not endear him to them. He claims
    that the fired a warning shot but by this stage they have a
    holographic forensic reconstruction that clearly shows Holtz fired a
    shot in to the leg of one of the missing people. As a proven liar
    they pretty much discount his claims that he was just defending the

    Buzz and Astrid locate Holtz in the local police station and organise
    a bail bondsman and a lawyer so that he can be released. Holtz is
    sent back to the ship to think about what he did while Buzz and Astrid
    go to the hospital where the girl was brought. Buzz waits downstairs
    and Astrid goes up to talk to her. The girl is very suspicious and
    almost immediately rings the alarm. Astrid is caught by security but
    lies her way out of it.

    Back on the ship Astrid confirms that the special hat is an actual
    functioning device that generates some sort of energy cancelling
    field. When Fleur arrives back he confirms that it does block his
    mind reading powers to an extent. It's not in the same class and
    imperial military psi-shields but it has some effect. He also
    indicates that the extremely high density of people in the city made
    it difficult for him, the pressure of their thoughts gave him severe
    headaches. When he hears what happened in the hospital he accuses
    Astrid of trying to deliberately sabotage the mission and claims he
    needs lucky people like Holtz not people like Astrid. Buzz brings him
    to the hospital and from a distance he is able to determine that the
    girl is in fact psionic.

    Meanwhile on the ship the local news reports indicate that there was
    an explosion in a sector of the capital city known to be home to a
    significant number of 'Freelanders'. Researching news items for the
    last few months indicates that have been infrequent, but increasing,
    incidents of violence started by the 'Freelander' movement. People
    who want to be allowed to found a new home away from all the existing
  • Those sound like a couple of awesome sessions, Robb. Thanks for sharing.

    Just one question: do you find yourself adjusting the TW Alpha rules set during play (or, indeed, between sessions), or is it robust as is to enough to support the kind of play you're after? Just curious.

    - Seán
  • Hi Sean,
    thanks for the kind words. My current play-testing approach is to just use the alpha set as written to get a feel for how the moves work, etc. I'm noting areas that feel rough or ideas I have and then I'll do a group of tweaks for the next version.
    However it basically works out of the box, it is mainly just an AW re-skin with the vibrant colour of Classic Trav.
    I'm playing these sessions with zero prep (after the little I did for the 1st one, as I had a previous one-shot that ended up a bit bland) and just making MC +threat moves, letting the players wander around, etc.
    One area I've de-emphasised is the patron missions aspect, as Paul warned in the development thread, its tricky to do well.
  • edited October 2012
    One area I've de-emphasised is the patron missions aspect, as Paul warned in the development thread, its tricky to do well.
    Does this mean you've ditched the Basic Cycle of Play (BCoP) entirely, or just those steps that relate to the Patron Mission?

    I ask because while I loved the BCoP in theory when reading the alpha release, I must confess that I had a hard time conceptualising how to make it work practically.
  • Well we are using the Basic Cycle of Play as follows:
    1. Select travel destination (move: look up in library data)

    - Working really well, we are dynamically filling in a subsector map as places come up in play/char-gen/we need to jump

    2. Move ship by jump/m-drives (move: make hazardous

    -Working well, sometimes I split this into up into 2-3 hazardous journey moves (m-drive to orbit/jump-point, j-drive to other system, m-drive to world) depending on the fiction and where the session ends.

    3. Spend a week on planet looking for work/cargos
    (moves: starship operations, living off your savings and
    small-time jobs, looking for a lucrative opportunity,
    starship gigs)

    - starship operations is doing what it should, eliminating paperwork but revealing *wants* that the players can explore. looking for a lucrative opportunity is a bit of a mess as it really needs to be split into 2 moves (one based on SOC, one on SHARP) but it is usable as is. Starship gigs need further work, they are presently a way of snowballing from starship operations but in an off-screen way. Hmmm.

    4. Generate patron + mission or starship gigs

    - I haven't used this so much as "announce future badness" and the Patron threat moves, my PCs are on a long-term mission for Fleur.

    5. Execute mission/gig: can roll to see where play starts

    - I haven't used this yet, but I may do so at tonights game now that you've given me a push!

    6. Travel to another world (got to 1) or stay here (go to 3)

    - yep, using this.
  • Cheers Robb, that's really helpful.

    In fact, this whole AP might just convert my desire to run the TW hack into some sort of actual, tangible action...
  • Awesome Robb! You are the Traveller MAN. What a fantastic emergent story, full of classic traveller trappings, yet with its own immersive story game 'feel'. Wicked.

    I have still been doing the odd session solo, and developing a concurrent relationship / starmap, but I have yet to convince the regulars to play a group session... all they want to play now is Tremulus *shakes head*. I'll keep you posted.
  • Last weeks session (none more for a few weeks). As threatened I tested the patron mission generation/situation. I selected "delivery" and allowed the PCs to roll +Sharp to find out where they were. They got a 7-9 "awkward package".
    It worked well!
    This is how my player, E, wrote it up:

    Last week on Bascan:

    We hired Sol a criminal attorney to defend Holtz. Actually we want
    him to organise a deposition of Alba so we can get her and Fleur in
    the same room.

    Alba is very suspicious. She calls so say she knows what is going on
    and that Astrid is lurking in the vehicle down the street. She
    demands we ditch our weapons and then she will meet us. We agree and
    tell Sol to go entertain himself at the bar while we talk. Alba
    agrees to introduce Fleur to some people if we do a job for her.

    We have to collect a package and get it in to the star port then
    deliver it to another ship which is waiting. The package will trigger
    radiological alarms so we need to do something to prevent that. We
    buy a ship component which contains radioactives and Astrid rigs it so
    that it will short out and produce a brief but high intensity burst of
    radiation after a short amount of time. We send Holtz through the main
    gate and when he trips the radiation warnings we slip through a
    vehicle gate undetected. Since Holtz really only appears guilty of
    buying a defective component he just gets a fine.

    Having proved ourselves later we get details of the meeting and go
    there. The location is in a very bad area of the city, known as a
    nest of Free Lander activity. Hooded men bring us inside and force
    all the normal people to go downstairs (through a hole cut in to the
    apartment below) while they interrogate Fleur. A time later they come
    down. Their 'testing' of Fleur has broken his mind, he's moving but
    he doesn't appear to be able to think for himself. Unfortunate but the
    hooded men have a proposal. From rifling through Fleurs mind (none too
    gently it appears) they know a lot about us. They propose that we use
    Astrids connections on her homeworld, Fleurs money and their powers to set
    up a successful corporation. This will be used to smuggle psi's off
    Bascan and will be a power base for them.
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