Traveller Rule 5: Life is Messy

As a GM, I tend to map out my adventures beforehand. I try to steer clear of railroading my players but I definitely prefer having a fleshed out game in hand before I sit down at the gaming table. I realize this isn’t necessarily the case with everyone and for those who rely heavily on random encounters and unpredictable results this last entry in my five part series is probably not going to have as much bite.

Like any decent old school game, Traveller is peppered with random tables and outcomes for nearly every facet of the game. In fact, the classic version is still fondly remembered for the entirely real possibility of dying during character generation! Does anyone remember trying to roll up a belter?

Even for a GM like myself, there is still something to be said for the completely random. The Traveller core book(s), regardless of iteration, provides a number of random tables for encounters and potential hazards. While a GM who runs games off-the-cuff can use these to create entire adventures as she goes, they are equally invaluable to those of us who like to plan a bit.

If you have time, I recommend following suit by creating your own charts and tables. By doing this, you can tailor them to reflect the atmosphere you’re attempting to create. This will not only give the game a more logical feel, it helps to create a sense of atmosphere and continuity.

For example, here’s a truncated list of random encounters I’ve been working on for an adventure that I mentioned under Traveller Rule 2 below, where the group is hired to chaperone a class of school children on an off-world fieldtrip.

2 Sword World Kids Can’t Jump: While playing ball in the cargo bay, one of the children accidently dents an access hatch that causes a brief short in the electrical system. The ship falls out of Jump space and requires six hours to fix.
3-4 Animals Gone Wild: One of the children managed to sneak a Tiravian Squirrel Bat onboard and it manages to get free. Mayhem ensues.
5-6 Fire: A fire alarm sounds when two young girls decide to try their hand at smoking in the galley.
7-8 Medical Emergency: A child has an accident while running with scissors.
9-10 Food Crisis: A child who is on a very special diet winds up having his macrobiotic meals ruined (by another kid, storage malfunction, etc) and the crew must somehow improvise!
11 Inappropriate Behavior: A (presumably) divorced father or mother chaperone begins a liaison with one of the PCs; if successful, the child walks in during an inappropriate moment, and reveals in a most dramatic way that said parent is actually married.
12 Child Assassin: The criminal cartel/foreign government/noble the players pissed off three sessions ago clone and train a child soldier to exact revenge!

This is designed to be used while the ship is travelling through jump space. It’s still a rough draft and when I finish there will likely be several additional layers; but you get the idea. It’s this kind of random event that can add extra depth to your games. It might seem minor but when players enter jump space and the GM suddenly asks them to roll a few dice, I guarantee everyone at the table will pay attention.

Authors note: That concludes my lengthier discussion of the rather simplistic five rules that I presented a few months back. I hope everyone got something out of it. As always, the key to a good adventure is to know your audience and design games that your players are going to enjoy. Whatever they like, I hope these five rules will help you create your own unique Traveller experience.

One thought on “Traveller Rule 5: Life is Messy

  1. Tim,
    I kind of do a variation of your random chart. I don’t make up my own charts but I might use one of the many charts out there and basically pre-roll my random encounters. Being anal it gives me time to flesh out the encounter and if I roll one up that really isn’t appropriate I just disgard it. I usually do more than I can use in a single session and have the others in reserve for future sessions.

    Mike Cross

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