So I Ran Traveller... (Session Report, ish)

Today I got to run a classic that I've never really got the occasion to get into in the past (or, if I did, I didn't dare): Traveller (the 1977 edition, of course).

See, I'm not familiar with Science-Fiction. Or if I am, through a kind of cultural osmosis, I'm not confident about my knowledge of it. I don't know the "rules", if you will. I've read Dune, some K. Dick, some Clark Ashton Smith, and Dan Simmons' Hyperion, and that's really about it when it comes to books. A few more movies for visual references.

Turns out, years of playing fantasy games mean that despite not being fluent in fantasy litterature either, what I do have is familiarity and confidence in how to describe and "make work" a fantasy (or post-apocalyptic, or cyberpunk!) world. But space opera? Hard-ish Sci-Fi? That's beyond me. Anyways, I got my hands on an original copy of the 3LBB (3 Little Black Books) off Ebay, read all of Book 1, half of Book 2 and bits of Book 3 and hurriedly started a session right after some character and world generation, pretty much relying on improv.

It didn't go perfectly, but it was a decent enough session.

Here's our characters:

Click to enlarge (I think)
From left to right: Jessamine, Celerity, Steve & Stefan
What Happened
• The Party elected to all know each others (there's ex-lovers, a life debt and brothers-in-arms-ery), and all mustered out on Planet Matisse (E6798846, a sort of Water World with an Underwater City and a Mad Max-style Wasteland on the surface), which I generated a few hours before game time. In a crappy bar at the local starport (more like an air strip with an old terminal building) with a cranky robot for a bartender and rugged sea space men for patrons, the group considered its options. With no ship of their own, they'd have to wait at least a week until one departed from this backwater hellhole.
They asked some questions and learned there were some problems with the Order of the Trident, a sort of cult that uses sentient native Coral-life parasites for some mysterious and mystical purpose, might be kidnapping kids, but nobody can do much against them as they're backed up by Frontier Development or at least have an arrangement with them. There's also a bounty on a bunch of wastelands raiders causing trouble on the surface, and rewards for any scavenged tech brought back to FD.

Some shady-looking locals were at the bar too

A. They could get past the security checkpoint to go down to the underwater city of Paradisio, but it involved handing over their military-grade weapons.

B. Or they could go into the wastelands on the surface and try to scavenge some tech for Frontier Development (the corporation that owns the planet) and hopefully find a shadier way to get to Paradisio, while keeping their stuff.

These guys don't trust the law much, and decided to go out into the wastes after buying some protective suits (or respirators for the cheapest members of the crew).

• On a dilapided highway towards the ruined city (and what looked like some kind of refugee camp on the map the Colonel downloaded), the party saw three dudes in robes and rifles, and avoided the encounter (that's a clearly-stated thing in Traveller! "Hey you can avoid, here are some avoidance rules" - in OD&D, these are stashed in the Wilderness travel part of the game. It's also automatic if you're a small party and have surprise). 

• In the City, they sneaked into the camp and managed to pass off as locals after grabbing some robes. They learned that these were refugees from Paradisio who had been exiled by the Order of the Trident.

• The next morning, Steve shot down a camouflaged drone spying on them, and a quick jury-rig of the broken machine revealed a video feed that told the PC they were being spied on, them specifically, by the two weird masked ladies. Also some lady lost her kids, and a crazy old man talked about the faceless monsters that stole his dreams and memories, hmmm.

• After avoiding two large groups of raiders, the party found two of them running after two of the three kids. They sneaked in and took them down before the "end" of Surprise. See, in Traveller, Surprise lasts until it's "lost" (by, say, having a dude scream in pain or whatever). Here, one raider got stabbed to death, the other got stabbed/grabbed and then shot by another PC. One kid got shot by a raider before that though, but is alive and well, don't worry. The other kid was in shock but unharmed. They patched the wounded kid up, interrogated the still-living raider and brought them all back to the refugee camp after getting the location of a water purification chip (that the refugees would very much like to acquire) and the Raider's main camp location.

Post-Session Thoughts
• Classic Traveller is incredibly easy and invisible in play! I love me some 2d6, coming up with rulings on the spot is as simple as OD&D and I got a good handle on 1d6/2d6/3d6 probabilities at this point.
• The Surprise/Avoidance rules make it clear that you should avoid violence when it's not necessary. The way to-hit bonus stack up fast and strong, and how damage work also hammered in the point that this is not a power fantasy. I love this. I'm kinda glad this was showcased by the players ruining some NPCs' day, and not the other way around, as I think everyone really likes their characters and it'd have been a shame to see them go so early on.

• I gotta learn how to describe Sci-Fi stuff good. This will come, in time. Must absorb more fiction.


OddHammer Sessions #3 & 4

Not much happened in these two, so I'm combining both!

Session 3 - Journey to Altdorf
The party (sans our tilean thief, who had to drop out of the game) decided to get the hell away from Nuln, what with the whole angry cultists thing, and Oldenhaller being extremely shady. They had their boats back, so they went up the Reik.

• Goblins attacked on the river, on small, evil canoes. The party captured the leader and traded him for Andreas, who got knocked on the head so bad his whole personnality (and CHA score) was reset. He's been recovering slowly since then. Konrad got sick again, but Mortogg and Klamgar saved the day.

• Some fishing, some chatting with suspicious roadwardens, and two even shadier gentlemen on a small boat, but not much went during the journey after the goblin attack.

• Passing by the main hook of the campaign (Kastor Lieberung's corpse), the party decided it looked like a trap and to stay away from the corpse look-alike. This meant that Mistaken Identity and Shadow Over Bögenhaffen would need to be adjusted in the future - I decided to just do my thing instead.

Post-Session: we were all fairly tired as IRL seemed determined to keep getting in the way of our gaming, so we didn't get much done.

Session 4 - Jelly Surprise
This time, Mortogg's player couldn't join us, so Andreas, Konrad and Klamgar began at the Golden Duck (no relation) in Altdorf, and spent half the session there:

A scream from upstairs, a terrified serving wench, and a liquefied, boneless mess of a corpse in Gunther's bed. Konrad found it and got sick, Andreas too. Klamgar tried to steal the money behind the counter down at the bar while the innkeeper was busy mopping the mess. A mysterious trail of slime was found outside the inn, going who knows where?

The party was about to mourn Gunther when he fell off the wardrobe, naked and passed out drunk - turns out he likes to watch, and invited the dead guy in his room the other night. He didn't see anything as he was out of it during most of the morning.

• The innkeeper freaks out when he realize the dead liquid guy is none other than the money-lender Gottfried Zimmerman, an influencial figure in Altdorf. As he laments his death in his establishment, a mysterious noble dame comes in.

• It's the Marquess of Struteldorf, and she a) was expecting to meet Herr Zimmerman, and b) hoped to find the PCs as she is often in need of troubleshooters - Oldenhaller had written to her about them.

• There's quickly a lot of tension between her and the party as she's a bit of a bitch, and better-than-thou, that is, an Old World noble. They do get in her coach, and find out Robert, some bretonnian's bodyguard from session #1, now works for her. He helps keep thing civil as he is nearly two meters tall and mostly muscles.

• In the coach, the Marquess explains: Zimmerman was helping her investigate heretical activities - they had just discovered that the Count Waldemar Von Jäger, currently visiting Altdorf's high society, is involved in a mystical society called the Baroque Logos, a group that the Marquess, Zimmerman AND Herr Oldenhaller were working against. She offers the party two jobs:

1. Find out who or what killed Zimmerman, and bring them to her.

2. Investigate Count Von Jäger, help bring him down, and the pay will be huge.

3. Fail her or try to skip town with her cash, and she'll feed them to her dogs.

After that little intimidation bit, she gives the party invitations to a soirée at her manor, which will have many big wigs including the Count, and sends them towards Maximilian Thystleberry, her tailor and informant. He'll get them sharply dressed so they can pass off as proper members of society, and some more leads to look into.

• They have to walk, though. And on their way to the tailor, they find a crowd surrounding a strange old seer accompanied by a Cleric of Sigmar, declaring apocalyptic prophecies on a podium. Things get weird as Konrad gets singled out by the oracle, then some hooded cultists break out of the crowd to try and murder the party! And the Cleric and prophet! Mayhem ensues, in which Konrad gets his bacon saved by the Cleric, then by Andreas, and Klamgar kills a dude with his bare fists. The prophet gets stabbed badly but escapes alongside the cleric. The city watch tells everyone it was Bretonnian spies.

• Eventually the party reaches Max's shop, and we spent the rest of the session talking funky dresses and colour schemes. In a nutshell: the humans are dressed sharp and look like nobles, the dwarf is more soberly dressed and will pass off as their bodyguard.

Some Thoughts
I gave up on trying to run The Enemy Within, again. One because it's a bit too long compared to my attention span as a GM, and two because it's full of really archaic railroady stuff. While the colour is nice, I can come up with this kind of stuff myself. So I'm running 3-4 more sessions of (hopefuly) high-intensity Warhammer Fantasy, then I'll move on to something else. Thinking about Traveller Classic, might write about it later.

Oh, and I scratched out the Critical damage rules, too complicated for Into the Odd. I'm keeping the sanity rules cause they don't interact with other rules and are fairly simple/situational.


OddHammer - House Rules

As a follow up to today's session report, here are my current house rules (yet to be tested) for OddHammer.

OddHammer Session #2 - The Oldenhaller Contract

Last thursday, we played a second game of OddHammer, and actually went through "The Oldenhaller Contract" this time! Sadly, Konrad's player couldn't make it.

• Andreas Kier the Pilot
• Klamgar Cheekstamper the Dwarf Protagonist
• Marcellus Caligula the Burglar

What Happened
• After some shopping, the party went on to the nicer part of town for a job they found at Reikz Plaza:


• Getting to the other side of the toll booth, the party met the union taxman that took their boats (see session 1), who was suspicious of some poor scummy people getting into the rich peoples' borough. He had them escorted by two watchmen, who were much friendlier.

• Meeting with Oldenhaller went well - party negociated about 120 shillings per person for the safe recovery of one "Claw of the Forefather", a green-yellowish allegedly cursed gem to be carried in a protective (magical?) box. The gem had been acquired by the Schatzenheimer gang, but the leader had failed to deliver, so the Councillor would be sending the PCs to recover it in his stead. Some questioning revealed that Oldenhaller was sick and trying to find a cure for a terrible disease that may or may not be a family curse, that had also taken his wife.

• One lackey led the PC to Shantytown and a secret entrance to the Asylum, a network of abandoned basements connected to the sewers, serving as HQ for a few local gangs including the Schatzenheimers.

• It turned out that the Schaztenheimers got massacred by the Valentinas a bit earlier, and the gem had been stolen already, by none other than Emilio Senior, aka Don Valentina. Also the Schatzenheimer leader had contracted some horrible disease, so maybe this whole curse thing had truth to it.

• Being on friendly terms with the Valentinas, the party managed to get through them easily and got inside the office of Don Valentina, who had been isolated for a while before they arrived - he had been isolated and dead, too. Some assassin had sneaked inside from a secret passage, took his head and the claw, and left from whence he came. Sebastiano, his right-hand man, vowed vendetta against the vile vilain that he suspected had been sent by the Huyderman gang, further east. He, a few henchmen and the party all went after him through the sewers.

• In the sewers, a swarm of massive rats attacked and killed the capo and his men as the players fled into an abandoned mine - where they found the half-eaten corpse of the assassin, carrying the gem and the head - they took both, and fled the rats, though the dwarf almost died.

• Reaching a smuggling bay near the river, the party heard spooky chantings and noticed one way was barred off by a barricade of surviving Huyderman gangsters, while the river access was swarming with hooded cultists (the ones doing the chanting). They decided to hide in crates for a while.

• They overheard some horrible death rattle leading to the summoning of something massive that sounded quite weird, then battle, then quiet. Eventually they left their crates, scouted ahead and noticed the cult had been pressing on west, opposite of the river where they came from. So the party stole their boats and left, passing by the sacrificed corpse of none other than Emilio Valentina Junior, the guy who had given them the job from Session #1. Small world!

• After some debating, they decided to still give the gem to Oldenhaller as they'd rather not make too many enemies at once, but asked for a better pay, which he provided. Now they could get their boats back from the union and felt like it'd be a good idea to skip town. As Councillor Oldenhaller wrote a letter of recommendation for them to the Marquess of Dusseldorf in Altdorf, they decided to go there as soon as possible.


OddHammer Session #1 - They Took Our F****** Boat!

The Quarantine means I get to game more, and it has been quite a while.
I've always wanted to run The Enemy Within, the cult classic adventure saga for the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy RPG. If you go back in time on this very blog, you'll notice I actually attempted this before, and it ended up in a TPK, using Small But Vicious Dog. If you play in this game, you should probably not, though.

Anyhow I'm using the Electric Bastionland (Into the Odd) rules now, with bits and pieces taken directly from WFRP 1E's system to add more detail to characters.  Here's the characters:

• Konrad Kier is a nearly fifty years old boatman, Andreas' older brother and the self-proclaimed party's brain. He's seen some shit, and by the end of this session, has now developed a severe case of hemophobia.

• Marcellus Caligula is a (somewhat) charming and cool-headed tilean burglar, suspiciously knowledgeable about the Mafia's ways, quite good at what he does and, in a way, the party's moral compass.

• Klamgar Cheekstamper is a slightly neurotic dwarf protagonist and the party's wildcard. He will insult a stranger in a bar before casually introducing himself, in what is actually a clever strategem to destabilize his opponent. By the end of the session, he has nearly lost an arm, which is now all stiff and grey and nasty - but still working well, because of [a] Fate [Point].

• Andreas Kier is Konrad's younger brother, and the party's youngest, being barely sixteen. He does not handle alcohol well, has slight stabby tendencies, and is eager to prove himself to the world. What his adventures will turn him into, only the Gods know.

• By the later half of the session, our "heroes" have also acquired a lackey, erm, companion! He is a small mutated kid by the name of Hansel Von Groot, and he knows how to read, which makes him more of a scholar than anyone in the group. He also has a pincer hand and a horrifying face that he hides under a large blanket.

• The party arrived in Nuln, where they got stuck in a long bureaucratic process at the end of which their boats were seized by the Stevedore's and Pilot's Unions until they can pay a 100 Shilling tax.

• Konrad remembered a nice inn called the Rambling Reaver not too far from the docks, and suggested that the party get there to rest. On their way, they stumbled upon a skirmish between tilean mobsters of the Valentina Gang, and the City Watch. The party decided to help the mobsters beat the hell out of the guards, stole their mail shirts and their boots, then left after getting an invitation from the mobster boss, young Emilio Jr.

• At the Rambling Reaver, Klamgar fixed a door while Andreas got drunk, and a good night was had.
The next morning, they went to meet with Emilio and got a job: go to a meeting outside of the city walls, get a crate of illegal goods from a small team of Schatzenheimer Gangsters, however they see fit. If they want to keep the money to themselves, it'll act as payment, as well as some help to deal with the Union.

• After accepting the job, the party prepares for their next move, at which point Klamgar decides to go pick a fight at the nearest inn. He starts insulting a bretonnian burgher called Robert, but his giant bodyguard Hervé scares him off. Once outside, things quickly get rowdy as people gather around to see the fight. Andreas decides to start gathering betting money in his hat, and Marcellus saves the dwarf by calling guards and throwing one of the mail shirt with City Watch colours on it onto Konrad, drawing further attention to themselves. Hervé decides to run away carrying Robert with him. The party does the same, and luckily isn't pursued as the excited mob acts as a barrage of sorts.

• The party decides to delve into the sewers to scout the way they'll need to go back through with the smuggled goods. Down there, they stumble upon a mutant kid called Hansel Von Groot, heir of the Von Groot Merchant Family of Marienburg. He's runaway after his father saw him turned into a mutant and tried to kill him. Now he lives in the sewers and would like a new family. The party has yet to reach a definitive consensus, but it seems they have at least agreed to let him tag along for now. As mentioned earlier, he knows how to read, which make him an invaluable asset.

• Once outside, Marcellus shines again with his B&E knowledge and gets the party into the woods without attracting attention. In the woods, the party decides they'll ambush the Schatzenheimers, and Konrad begins building twig snare traps. The kid has to stay back in the sewers while waiting for his new family.

• Eventually the Schatzenheimers arrive, there's five of them and one of them is an Ogre. Despite that, the ambush works well and after a gruesome fight, the party emerges victorious with no casualties, although the Dwarf did get brutalized by a battle-crazed gangster with a sword - his left arm looks ruined, and half the team splits to go and get him to a Barber-Surgeon. The other half gets the crate (which is full of pistols) through the sewers, gets the kid back, and gets paid.

• Herr Doktor Fehlverhalten works wonders on the dwarf and fixes his arm! Though it's grey and stiff and nasty looking now. The nails are yellow, too. But it works! Emilio Jr. is busy elsewhere, but his lackey seems happy about the job, and the party gets to use most of the money they got to pay for the Dwarf's operation. They're still left with 26 Shillings, which is...not a lot, but better than what they started with.

• I prepared an intro adventure and a random table. Ended up using two elements of the random table and built off that into a one-shot. That's pretty cool! Although it means I kinda suck at keeping the main thing the main thing - too afraid of railroading I guess. Maybe "side quests" here and there alongside a sort of node-based Adventure is fine though.

• Lots of character interactions and banter, but the good kind, that add energy and momentum while driving play forward. This is what I love about tRPGs, and it's a breath of fresh air during quarantine.

• Electric Bastionland rules work very well: the combat was pretty fast and brutal, and I had no trouble ad hoc'ing rulings for necessary stuff like insanity. Overall I like to keep the rolling on the low side, though I did make a lot of Luck Rolls as I like the idea of Fate being a bit of a bitch in the Old World: lots of opportunities for ridicule and misery.

• Horrible Injuries are nice, but I'll probably need to extend that d12 Table I found in Oddvent Oddpendium into at least a d20 one.


Things to do with Hit Dice

No Hit Points

Both opponents state their intent and roll their Hit Dice (HD) in opposition when they engage with each other. Could be with fists, sword, guns, etc.

• A Tie means the opponents are struggling to gain advantage and are basically "locked" together.
Roll again next round.

• Highest roll is winning and gets fictional advantages (tie bonuses to it as desired, +HD for big things, +1 to the roll for small things).

• If you're winning and beat the opponent again, you win the engagement. You beat them senseless, killed them, shot them in the face, etc. Whatever you were trying to achieve has been achieved.

• For added complexity, let's say you need to beat the opponent as many times as their HD (level), though I would keep it faster and had oc it like: PCs need to get beat a number of time equal to their level or 3, whichever is lower. A Dragon might need to be beat like five times.

• Shields can be splintered to avoid a win but not a winning result. Saves your life once.

• Better armor/weapon gives you a bonus stated as +x HD or +x to the roll (keep it to +1/+2, that's for minor advantages). If you want it granular, go +1/+2/+3 and look at the difference in armor type, or say light weapons are +1, medium +2, heavy +3.

• If you have Surprise or other situational advantages, that can be a bonus too.

 Universal Task Resolution

• Roll HD! (on a 6, re roll and add) against a set target number (difficulty is 1-18 for stuff normal men can do, 19-24 for stuff only heroes can do and 25+ for superheroic feats).

What fun things do you do with Hit Dice? I don't figure there's many readers but if you want to chime in, please do!


Into the OD&D

I've been thinking about how to OD&D with Into the Odd again, and I think you don't actually need any house rules. Just take these pregens, and make other similar ones as needed.

Fighting-Man (STR 15, DEX 12, CHA 11, HP 6, armor 1)
Heavy Metal Armor (Bulky, armor 1), Two-Handed Sword (d8, Bulky)

Magic-User (STR 7, DEX 9, CHA 12, HP 1)
Wizard Robes & Pointy Hat, Magic Book (Read Magic, Sleep, Fireball), Staff (d6, Bulky)
Cleric (STR 14, DEX 10, CHA 12, HP 5, armor 2)
Heavy Metal Armor (Bulky, armor 1), Shield (Bulky, armor 1), Mace (d6), Holy Symbol

Thief (STR 9, DEX 16, CHA 13, HP 3)
Short Bow, Water Arrows, Rope Arrows, Cudgel (d6, Bulky), Lockpicks

Elf (STR 12, DEX 14, CHA 16, HP 4)
Magic Book (Read Magic, Invisibility, Charm), Scimitar (d6), Bow & Arrows (d6)

Dwarf (STR 16, DEX 13, CHA 7, HP 6, armor 2)
Heavy Metal Armor (Bulky, armor 1), Shield (Bulky, armor 1), War Axe (d6)

Hobbit (STR 10, DEX 15, CHA 14, HP 3)
Sling & Stones (d6), Dagger (d6), Pipe & Magical Herbs

Magic Book - each can be understood only by its owner (though certain thieves have been known to trick magic books into believing they were, in fact, the owner, and steal the spells off of them). These are anchors for plasmic entities known as spells. In written form, they are dangerous and wish to be read out loud. Amateur magic-users will soon discover that reading a spell out loud without deep familiarity with the magic book and the spells within will result in terrible catastrophes as the entity is released from its aetheric binding and goes wild. The owner of the book has that deep familiarity and understanding, so he can actually spend a week (Long Rest if using classic ItO rules) doing one of these:

• Memorize and prepare each spell within the book for casting.
Prepared spells can each be cast once before they need to be memorized again.

• Copy a new spell from a scroll or other magic book into his own.
Scrolls crumble to dust after being used once, and other magic books are dangerous to use.

• Research a new spell of his own creation, having gathered the required ingredients.
Referees will tell you what ingredients are needed based on the spell's parameters.
Finding the ingredients is an (or multiple) adventure(s) itself, with the most powerful spells being worth months or more of play. As usual, adjust to suit your table's pace, though.