Category: Traveller

Keeping campaigns organized with blogs and wikis

I’ve been fiddling around with my sci-fi Savage Worlds game getting everything together. Something I’ve been a stalwart supporter for over the years is using online tools as information repositories for current games. I tend to game pretty infrequently, just about every other week. So for long campaigns I need a place to keep track of major events that happen. Another plus is I don’t need to saddle my players with scribbling down the name of every major NPC they come across. The important stuff I can put on up the campaign site for reference later.

Additionally we have about 2-3 different settings going on. I sometimes get a little burnt out GMing a particular setting and like to have an occasional one shot game once in a while. It can be a challenge for my players to keep track of the types of worlds they are playing in. Sometimes they need something to jog their memory on who the major movers and shakers are for that campaign. In these cases having an online wiki or blog is great keeping everything together.

For a long while now I have been using Obsidian Portal for a few of my games. It’s a great tool but lately I’ve migrated towards having more simple sites. I’ve found I don’t usually need the complete functionality of a wiki. I can just keep a running page or two of major NPCs or locations. So currently I’ve been leaning towards using blogs instead.

For my Savage Worlds superhero game it’s been a great means to provide a quick reference for major criminal (and neutral) organizations. Also by adding posts and tagging them, my players can filter out a lot of stuff and skim through past posts looking for specific enemies or topics related to the campaign. I haven’t been keeping a running adventure log going for that, but it could be done.

With my sci-fi game I’ve found this especially helpful. Above all other settings I think players sometimes need a little more information on the game universe. Sci-fi encompasses so many styles and themes, it can be difficult to accurately get across to players the levels of technology or how proliferate alien species are. Having a site that they can navigate to get that information is helpful.

Mind you have to be realistic about how deep players will dig through your site. Some may enjoy it but expect many to be willing to skim through about a paragraph at most. So I try to keep things brief if possible, especially for adventure recaps.

One last point though on having a campaign blog or wiki, it’s public. While it’s a way to share your world and ideas with others, it’ll also show how messy your games run including all the lackluster ideas. Just roll with it. Because sometimes you’ll have people mine your stuff for adventure ideas to use in their own games (Hee… or learn about things to avoid if scouring my campaigns). Honestly that alone is a great reason to have your campaign material up on a wiki or blog.


Sci-fi starship combat variant for Savage Worlds

TravellerDOne thing I latched onto planning out my sci-fi campaign game was using ships as characters. I tinkered a lot with the sci-fi companion rules and they still floundered some with me. I just couldn’t really see making starships a larger part of the game and making it work. If I approached making them characters I could make combat and other aspects of travel more engaging, even if it was being abstract over the traditional vehicle rules.

So I really dug the idea of using ships as characters and I scooped up Savage Space, a fan made space opera conversion. Although the spaceship combat rules were pretty solid, I didn’t quite want to go the route of a battle mat and miniature ships along with using actual ranges to work out combat. I liked the idea instead of using the chase rules from SWD. There were some additional tweaks I wanted to implement however.

Turrets vs Fixed Weapons – I altered the costs some of weapons and kept the idea of fixed arc weapons hitting harder, but were cheaper than turret weapons. Unlike the RAW (Rules As Written) chase rules, I’m allowing ships to return fire against other target craft. Yet they would be limited to turret weapons if the ship didn’t have advantage.

Speed matters – Ships announce their intended speed and it has an influence on ship initiative if substantially higher than the opposition. Some ship weapon systems like torpedoes would require a slower speed to lock in and would be subjected to snap-fire penalties otherwise.

Combat is chaotic – I liked the idea of drawing clubs introducing some type of complication with some ship systems possibly going offline. This allows the repair skills having some other purpose than out of combat checks for ‘healing’ ships. It could be mitigated some with drawing a lot of cards which ties into….

Piloting skill is important – The piloting skill matters. Aside from drawing cards for initiative, the higher the roll, the more cards that can be drawn, and the better chance a different card can be chosen if a club is drawn. Also there is a small change I have with the RAW chase rules, all ships draw 2 cards. If they fail their piloting check, they have to play the lowest card. So piloting has a lot of bearing in ship combat.

Inherent ship agility matters – Another small change I wanted was to have the agility of the ship have some function. I decided to make a basic check using the agility of the ship. Slow, lumbering craft with a low agility would be more difficult to gain advantage during a round compared to more nimble starships. So if failed, there would be a penalty to the Piloting check for that round.

Below are some more details on the ship combat rules I worked up. Another notable aspect is using a damage table for wounds received, but it’s covered pretty well in Savage Space. I also tweaked the range tables some from the rule book to allow for more attacks at medium range (and also allowing for lower range modifiers). Below are some high points of starship combat. Hope folks get some use of of this for their games.TravellerArtE

Starship Combat

Starship combat is a variant of the chase rules. Combats will typically be 5 rounds. At the end of the 5th round, and each round afterwards, the GM rolls a die. On an odd result the combat ends with either a ship slipping away, or the pursuing craft breaks off. On an even result the combat will continue at the GM’s discretion (ex. 3 fighters are pursuing a player ship. One fighter is destroyed and another is heavily damaged during the pursuit. A 6th round of combat should happen but the GM decides to break off the fighter attack, deeming the attackers have taken too many losses to likely keep up the pursuit).

For each round of combat initiative is determined by drawing various cards. Follow the sequence below to determine initiative order.

  1. Declare and record speed (For an ambushed ship current speed is equal to its acceleration).
  2. Each ship is dealt 2 cards.
  3. Determine Ship Agility Modifiers. Players make a trait test using the ship’s ability value. This can be modified due to ship wounds (or other applicable modifiers). On a failure the Ship Agility Modifier for this round is -1, on a success the modifier is +1.
  4. Players make a Piloting check applying any modifiers for wounds, shaken ship, etc. including the Ship Agility Modifier determined in the previous step. On a failure the ship must take the lowest of the 2 cards. On a success, the ship may take the highest. For each raise another card is taken and the ship may take the highest. Note that on a success, players may opt to take a lower card (especially if the higher card is a club).
  5. All ships act in initiative order. Ships which have a higher card compared to other ships are deemed to have the advantage for this round against those ships. If the selected initiative card is a club, some manner of complication happens to the ship during the round.

Additional Initiative Check Modifiers (All of these modifiers are cumulative to the Piloting trait check):

Speed – Apply a +2 modifier if the ship’s current speed is higher than the fastest opponent. This becomes a +4 if their speed is twice as fast.

Climb – If their climb is higher than their opponent, this confers a +2 bonus but only while in an atmosphere.

Terrain – Some conditions may incur a -2 penalty (like flying through a debris or asteroid field).

If the ship has advantage (their initiative is higher than an opponent), the may fire all weapons to bear on the target ship. Ships without advantage can fire on their attackers but only with non-fixed weapons and have a -2 penalty to Shooting in addition to any other penalties. The number on their initiative card indicates the range and any penalties due to distance are in parenthesis (see the Range Table).

Snapfire Penalty – Some weapon systems have the snapfire characteristic. If the ship’s current speed is equal to its acceleration, or the target is at short range, there is no penalty to fire. Otherwise the craft suffers a -2 penalty to Shooting.

Range Table

Card Range
2 Out of range, enemy is blocked, etc. No attack can be made this round.
3-7 Long Range (-4)
8-Jack Medium Range (-2)
Queen-Joker Short range (no penalty)

Damage Table

2d6 roll Wound Effect
2 Maimed Ship – Ship suffers severe scars and damage affecting its appearance.
3-4 Random Sub-system Offline
5-9 Internal Damage – A vital system inside the ship is damaged and needs repair.
10 Engine Damage – The engine’s FTL drive goes offline or its agility is reduced by one die type.
11-12 Cockpit Damage – Scanners, the ship AI, or some other sub-system goes offline.

Complications Table

2d6 Effect
2 Disaster: Piloting check at -4. If failed a major system fails at GM’s discretion such as the engine going offline, life support failure, hull breach, etc.
3-7 Major Complication: Ship Vigor check at -4. If failed ship has a system offline/component failure*.
8-Q Complication: Ship Vigor check at -2. If failed ship has system offline/component failure*.
A Distraction: The crew has their hands full. If attacking, a -2 penalty for Shooting this round.

* These complications are typically at the GM’s discretion. Alternately, cards can be drawn for various ship equipment and if a club is drawn the listed complication for that piece of equipment may occur.

Savage Worlds sci-fi gear: Ablat armor

I’m busy getting things together for my sci-fi Savage Worlds campaign. So I’ve been tinkering with a lot of stuff. One thing that stood out for me was armor for energy weapons. There aren’t a lot of options in the companion book aside from reflective armor. I like the idea of reflective armor and that if can be worn over other types. I especially like how it’s rather frail and can deteriorate due to damage. But I wanted another option.

I can’t envision a universe where weapon systems would migrate to one standard type, as it’d be too easy to offer cheaper defensive systems. That’s one thing I love about the gear in Savage Worlds. Body armor is great for stopping bullets, but worthless against lasers. Conversely reflective armor can disperse laser weapons, but can’t stop a bullet. If you wanted absolute protection, you can combine the two wearing one over the other. The other route is one I don’t want to go which involves power armor (as that diverges into heavy armor only being damaged by heavy weapons).

This is serviceable, but I wanted to give my players more options. Digging out old books of Traveller you’ll find Ablat armor. This was cheap, easily replaceable armor that would disperse energy weapon damage and vaporize when hit by lasers (ablation of the protective material). So it’d offer some protection but get worn out when hit by energy weapons.

I liked the idea of being able to combine ablat armor with regular body armor. You could buy a cheap suit to go over (or under) the ballistic armor. However another option would be to incorporate ablat material onto the the body armor itself. This could be thin ceramic tiles or strips, or maybe a layer of material sprayed over the armor. It wouldn’t last though. Each combat would likely chip away at its effectiveness until the ablat armor had to be replaced. So with that I worked up the following:

Ablat Armor: +4 toughness vs energy damage, negates 2 AP from energy weapons, but offers no protection against ballistic or melee damage. Cost: $500

Ablat armor is thin strips (or small hexagon tiles) of dark, ceramic material that diffuses energy. It is prone to damage easily from ballistic or physical attacks, and portions vaporize with each hit from energy weapons. For every wound that a player receives, reduce the armor value by 2 permanently. Additionally the first time a player is hit in a combat, resolve the damage normally. If no wound is scored roll a die. On an even result, 2 points of armor are permanently removed, just like as if a wound was taken.

Ablat armor cannot be repaired. It can be worn over (or under) traditional armor types but is rather bulky. Ablat armor is usually combined with non-reflective armor as outer coat of energy protection. Usually it is attached in thin strips/hexagon pieces to the surface of existing armor, or sprayed on in a thick coat of ceramic particles with an adhesive compound. This process takes about 2-4 hours and can be done only on planets of average technology or higher. Partial repairs are not possible with ablat, instead an entirely new layer would have to be added. Ablat also does not alter how noticeable the target is except in some odd cases at the GM’s discretion (like an arctic world where the dark, ablat plating might stand out).
Certainly having ablat armor is something my players will dabble in. I’m also certain they’ll agonize some over the constant drain of cash reapplying damaged armor. However it’ll give them some options and potentially ease that urge to pick up combat power armor as soon as possible. Hope folks get some use out of this for their games.

Savage Worlds sci-fi planet system

306d5-travellermapFolks that follow my blog will know I’m a fan of Traveller and even worked on a hack version for Savage Worlds. My Dark Sun game has been going a while but after picking up the new science fiction companion, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet to run another game. So all things sci-fi have sort of been on my mind as of late.

While I have my Traveller hack I really didn’t want to visit that again. I love the feel of the Traveller universe and likely will use it as a basis for my game, but I just didn’t want to juggle different game stats and rule books at my table. I wanted to just use the sci-fi companion and run with it. There are still some tweaks I’m making with the sci-fi companion, but they are pretty minor. Pretty sure it’ll be easy for myself and the players to jump in between different genres as we switch back and forth from sci-fi and Dark Sun.

So I’m slowly in the process of creating a few star systems. I wanted to get some manner of a map to plop down on the table and entice the players to explore some. I appreciate the relatively simple world creation rules in the sci-fi companion but it can create stuff that is all over the place due to every planet characteristic being unrelated random rolls. Because of that I began to eye the world creation system in Traveller.

I love Traveller’s idea of the UPP. A universal planetary profile that quickly provides key information on a planet’s characteristics. However I didn’t want to delve into using that that too deeply to create my maps, as again, I’d be trying to merge rules and stats from one system to match another. Instead I opted to work on my own version that primarily used the tables in the Savage Worlds sci-fi companion with some tinkering. The biggest change is that gravity and atmosphere would have some interaction and impact on the relative tech levels of the planet. I also scooped up Traveller’s tables for governments and culture quirks to flesh out planets some.

The main idea is that all star systems are classified using a universal planetary profile (UPP) for one planet that is the major, inhabited, economic, and political power in that system. It’s a 7 number/letter profile that conveys basic information on the planet. Along with the UPP, there is usually another designation indicating the type of government and any other notable planet characteristics (like trade codes). Each star system typically takes the name of the planet represented by the UPP. As an example:

Floria: NBW523X-L, Po, Ag

Reading the profile from left to right, we see Floria is a normal gravity planet (N) with a breathable atmosphere (B). It is dominated by oceans (W) and has a world population in the tens of thousands (5). It has a typical law level (2) and a below-average technological level (3). Primarily because of this, there is only a haphazard starport available (X) which is likely no more than a flattened plateau just above the sea level. The planetary government is run by a dictator which inherited the title (L) and is not well liked by the populace. Floria also has trade codes of being a poor (Po) and an agricultural (Ag) world.

What is especially nice about using UPP codes is I can whip up a spreadsheet to generate a planet on the fly. So now I can cut and paste a random string of d20 rolls and spit out a UPP for any system. Couple that with some awesome stuff out there for making up sector maps for Traveller and now I’ve got a means to quickly create several sectors. Add in a list of random planet names and I’m good to go. Hope folks get some use out of this for their games.

Savage Space – A fan made Savage Worlds sci-fi supplement

A while back I covered a Borderlands-inspired setting for Savage Worlds. I wanted to take some time and bring attention to another wonderful fan-made sci-fi supplement, Savage Space. Folks that follow my blog might recall that I considered running Traveller for one of my games. I ended up using Savage Worlds making my own conversion rules but much of the game I lifted stuff from Marcus “Chaosmeister” Burggraf’s amazing sci-fi companion.

I feel dirty using it, as it’s such a great space opera set of rules. I am a huge fan of settings that don’t go hog wild with edges and skills, and instead just add a dollop to the base rules. Savage Worlds is flexible that can fit a lot of genres. So settings that embrace that and amend what is necessary is appreciated.

You get a surprisingly thorough treatment of sci-fi rules with Savage Space. There are a few select knowledge skills. There is a replacement of climbing and swimming with an all encompassing athletics skill, which is something I’ve sort of adopted for my other games as well. Alien creation rules are missing primarily as much of this is covered in the regular rules with racial backgrounds. Cyberware however is something that is covered a bit more, primarily as it can be acquired as equipment of sorts replacing natural limbs with cybernetic ones.

I like the approach done with starships, making them have characteristics like characters. Ship to ship combat is covered more of a general outline in the rules. I think the author admitted these are a little limited in scope, but they provide a good basis for a system. You might need to work a bit more to fit it into your game however in practice (or lift rules from another setting or game). One tremendously useful part of the rules is an adventure generator, providing seeds for some classic space opera missions as well as some more scoundrel, mercenary-type tasks.

It’s not a complete sci-fi setting, as there are no rules for creating systems or planets. However that’s something that can be lifted easily from other game systems. The equipment section is rather complete having a lot of your typical gear and equipment that aspiring star travelers would have for their adventures. As expected there are a variety of weapons with differing technology levels, as well as more mundane and exotic technological gear.

It really is a wonderful set of rules for running a classic space opera game. It may not be a complete setting with a larger campaign detailed out for the universe, but it does have some great bits that can be lifted out and plopped into your own hacked sci-fi campaign. The setting background they provide is brief and paper thin. However the theme of the companion rules is for a generic space opera, so not having a detailed universe setting is expected. Savage Space is a great fan-made set of rules for Savage Worlds, check it out if wanting to run a sci-fi game. – sounds for your game

A while back I linked a gaming site that had various MMO soundtracks you could download. They had a pretty nice selection and found a few tracks that would work well for some background music to my sessions. I used to shy away from having music for my games. However I found with a decent mix you could get something playing in the background on a loop adding a little flavor to the game, and still not make it a distraction to what was happening around the table.

A few months ago I ran a Savage Worlds game for a local con. Being a demo game with new people, I really wanted to add something to the session to make it stand out. Normally I’m not one for sound effects. However for a few key points in the game, I wanted to add something to make it more of an engaging experience. As it was a horror sci-fi game, I also wanted some type of ambient noise to get everyone in the mood. Having a MP3 player and a miniature speaker, I could easily get something portable up and be able to play some tracks without it being too fiddly and taking up a bunch of space on the table.

So I needed to try and pick up some sounds. I stumbled across and fell into the rabbit hole of creative commons sound files. A bit of digging and I was able to find that perfect space ship alarm. There were tons of industrial and factory sounds. You can really find some wonderful ambient stuff. As for my sci-fi horror game, I settled on a few and also threw in a particularly longer ambient music track that was perfect for setting the mood.

The tracks are free, but many require attribution if being used in other projects. Consider throwing a bit of money to the site also as a donation. There are some nice tracks folks have made available. As for me, I am certainly going to be mining this for certain games. I simply cannot see running a horror game taking place on a dark and stormy night without using this site for some needed atmosphere.

Traveller homebrew conversion for Savage Worlds

A while back I wrapped up my 4E D&D campaign and we were thinking about our next round of gaming to try out. I had recently picked up the new Traveller RPG from Mongoose publishing and liked the rules and setting for a sci-fi universe. The downside was that it’d be another ruleset for our group to jump into. Also, I wasn’t sure how deeply the group would be vested in trying out Traveller. Some were thinking a few sessions would be fun and then maybe rotate to something else. Again the burden of getting everyone comfortable with another set of rules was hanging around there in the background. So doing something using Savage Worlds was rather enticing.

I decided to write up my own Savage Worlds treatment of Traveller. One thing right off was that I wanted to use the rules as much as I could out of the Mongoose book. The first bit was to convert much of the target numbers and penalties to an equivalent with SW. Another key point was to translate some of the characteristics to SW attributes. I ended up having a print out of those tables handy when I ran a game. So I could consistently scan any rule in the book for an equivalent in Savage Worlds. This made it immensely easy to use tables and charts in the Traveller book. Even starship combat was possible as I could just use the Traveller rules for checks, just translate them to SW die types and numbers.

Character generation was a challenge. I really liked the organic process and mini-game in Traveller. One of the major challenges was to work on converting the list of skills to something more manageable. I truncated a lot of different skills. At the same time, I want some gradation in combat skills. Shooting could encompass too many weapon types, so I opted for some carry over with weapons. Having a high skill level in ballistics weapons like a d8 meant you could also shoot well with energy weapons, just at one die type less (d6). It allowed characters a choice with their progression. They were freed up to consider using skills gained for a variety of other professions if they wanted to. Alternately they could try to focus on having as many fighting skills as possible be all at the same relative level.

Knowledge skills could get out of hand using this rule though. You could have a character gain some specialty in one field and be able to use that as a base for a lot of other skills. So for knowledge skills, I still allow some crossover with its application in other fields, but at two die types less. This for me made a bit more sense. Just because a character had a d10 in Astrophysics didn’t mean they were well versed in Biology. However, with all their training in science, they likely got some exposure to this field of science, so they could get a d6 with Biology checks.

Social standing was also not part of the game. To address this I have a temporary attribute that characters used during character generation. Having a high enough social standing at the end of their career meant they could gain some additional edges.

With this as a basis, you could then go through the charts and tables for character generation and basically get the same result. I truncated the careers somewhat to 3 year terms and capped the number of terms at 4 (or about 12 years). Beyond that you’d get characters getting upwards of 20 skill points which was a bit much starting out. This would cut out some hindrance choices (like the old age), but could be worked around just giving the character longer imagined times of career terms.

It’s far from perfect. You are going to get some divergence in the number of skill points between them, but overall I like how they run. They really match up pretty well with the theme and flavor of Traveller character generation. There is also room for establishing connections and picking up hindrances and edges as they go through the process. These are not very tight and rigid as your typical SW system. You are going to get characters with different skill sets and perks. I’d just run with it. By default I gave characters 3 bennies to reroll any trait or table roll during character generation. You might want to consider having only 2 for a more unpredictable career path.

Of course with all those skills, you needed a new table of weapons and equipment. For the most part it’s a port of the SW weapons with a few tweaks and nods to the technology in Traveller. As I mentioned, I really wanted to keep a lot of the material in the Traveller book relevant, so you can still use the equipment and items from that book for your game.

One small bit I added with starships was the concept of the 100 diameter gravitational threshold. I simplified it to a simple random amount of time that was adjusted by the thrust of the ship. I wanted to give something concrete but still have an easy ruling at the table so a GM could just spurt out a time needed and keep the action going. I like the concept that these routes are predictable. When you jump in (or jump out) to certain systems you will be traveling a common route within the system to minimize fuel use. The danger of this is that these sub-system routes are ripe for pirates (or for security patrols). It’s just a little ‘realism’ to back up why players might run into pirates as they jump into a system, or how security authorities know what route the players are taking when they break out of orbit from a local planet.

As trade and ship upkeep goes, I threw in the towel. I tried to use the freighter a base for figuring typical monthly costs for paying off the ship mortgage and upkeep costs and just gave up. The numbers don’t work out if running simple freight. For this I certainly took the spirit of SW with embracing a simple process over the convoluted rules in Traveller. Every two weeks players can run basic freight that will pay off half their monthly costs for upkeep and the ship mortgage. They keep doing this they can always pay the bills and potentially get a little more cash in thier pocket.

Alternately they can dabble in speculative trading, however they won’t get a windfall like they would in Traveller. Instead they will be able to sell goods at 10% over the base cost. For each raise they get on their Trader roll, they get an additional 5% increase in price. This allows the players to get a little extra money with trade goods, but it won’t be a huge amount like in Traveller. The good news is that players can always unload goods at 25% less the base cost for that planet type if they fail to get a buyer. So they will lose a bit of cash, but not be completely wiped out.

This conversion is far from perfect but it was serviceable for me. It allowed me to use the base rules in the Traveller book and quickly port much of it over to Savage Worlds. Feel free to give them a whirl at your own table.

Note: It’d be criminal not to mention Chaotic GM’s Space Savage Worlds rules. They are fantastic. Use them.

Obsidian Portal Kickstarter wrapping up

A possible dashboard layout. Spiffy!

I’ve frequently gushed on this blog how much I love Obsidian Portal. In fact, I’ve been a fan of the site for a long time. It’s been very functional over the years however I understand the people running it really want to give it a face lift.

A Kickstarter campaign is wrapping up in a few days. Fortunately, they’ve made their funding goals and then some. I’ve been a freebie user for a long time and I appreciate Obsidian Portal allowing that. If you aren’t a regular subscriber to their system this kickstarter is a great way to support the site.

So I hope folks are willing to send a few dollars their way. The project is funded. It’s a nice way to thank them for all the support they give to the gaming community. There are only 5 more days until the campaign ends, so if you are inclined be sure to support it soon.

Who is the captain of this PC ship?

A long while back I ran a very short stint for Traveller using Savage Worlds. The group ran a freighter and while most important decisions came down to a vote, they opted to have one player always break a tie as the captain of the ship. Ultimately, that person had more say in what would be the next course of action, whether they took a job or not, would they try and pick up passengers, etc.

We might be doing a spin off occasionally with a game in the Star Trek universe where I’ll finally be able to sit at the table as a player (yay!). We haven’t sketched out too many details, but we are expecting to be Star Fleet enlisted (or officers). Something that’ll likely come about from this will be planning out how we all work together and who will be the ship captain.

This got me thinking about other campaigns, especially military campaign settings. If you have a somewhat formal chain of command, how could that work with most ‘democratic’ groups? I would expect your typical fantasy adventure company settles everything with a vote. If everyone decides to relinquish this to a single player, say a captain of a star ship, how well would this work in the long run?

Granted you could have plenty of opportunities to get feedback from the other players. Likely get their opinions on certain matters and then make a final plan of action. However some times I would expect you could have that burden of decision making shift to that one player, after all they are the captain. Other players might decide to let more tricky choices not be their responsibility.

You might end up with a player calling most of the shots for the group. Things go to pot, they might get more of the blame. Some players acting as the leader might not enjoy being the continual decision-maker for the group. Likewise it could be very easy for some players to slip into a passive role around the table, letting someone else think up solutions for tackling problems, i.e. ‘Hey, I’m just a grunt following orders.’

So how could this play dynamic be altered? Have the GM be the captain. You are the person that makes the final decisions. You are the one giving the orders. You can ensure that everyone gives you an opinion on a thorny situation, have them plead their case on a plan of action, and you choose the plan of action. Note that not all players have to be the same ‘rank’ as the others with the same weight. One might serve as the XO having a bit more pull with their say. Some might just be subordinates to other PCs.

A big plus for this is you can direct the flow of events for an adventure and give immediate tasks to the group. You can directly influence the general direction of an adventure. One major tripping stone with this is the danger of railroading. It could be very easy to slip into forcing the other players into a story they are not interested in. I think a key point of avoiding this is to provide plenty of opportunities for independent action and allowing players to offer opinions on tackling problems. Rather than telling players they need to beam down to a planet, find information on the situation, and negotiate with aliens to approve a trade agreement, a more open approach would be needed. Instead I might say that the Federation needs a trade agreement with these aliens. You all have to make this happen in 3 days, keep me informed and utilize any resource to make this task successful. This allows for players to be a little more creative with how they handle the problem rather than following a laundry list of tasks to complete.

Another alternative to this would be to run an antagonistic officer. This person is either incompetent or just does not like certain PCs and wants to continually put them into situations that will make them fail. Consider a classic WWII drama, The Caine Mutiny, as a potential source. What would the PCs do if continually given poor orders? Would they go through with a bad order that would put other people at risk? Or would they stand up to the captain and potentially incite a mutiny?

To muck things up even more, maybe you (as the captain) are a competent officer in peacetime, but freeze up in combat situations. Players might have to agonize over willfully disobeying poor orders, even though in other situations you make the right calls. What would be the potential fallout from that? Could that erode any confidence the captain had with PC crew members?

I’m pretty certain the next game I run that has room for one PC being the leader, I’m going to take over that role. I don’t think it would work for a long campaign (much better for short term runs). Certainly railroading could be an issue and something I’d have to have to watch out for. However having a little more control on the flow of events would be great, and having that not continually fall on one PC’s shoulders would be even better.


Free MMO soundtracks for your game

I never really was into having music in the background while I play RPGs. However it’s something I’ve begun to dabble in. I don’t go for making a specific playlist. Rather I started using soundtracks. I can typically just put it on a loop without having to worry about the music being a hindrance to play.

MMO soundtracks are pretty good sources for background music, and one of my favorites of late has been the Age of Conan Soundtrack. It just fits my Savage Worlds hack of Dark Sun very well. Just the right touch to give the session a little ambiance and not be too distracting.

Massively is a MMO news site that recently posted a gold mine of links for free MMO soundtracks. It’s a bit of a pain to go through as many are individual tracks. However I think you can easily have a ton of tunes to mix and match for your game. The links likely cover a pretty wide spread of ‘sci-fi’ themed stuff to your typical fantasy music. Hope folks find this useful for their games.