Mustering out with a Zhodani Scout Ship?

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Mustering out with a Zhodani Scout Ship?

Postby Annatar Giftbringer » Thu Oct 14, 2021 7:31 am

Greetings,
I’m in the process of starting up a new gaming group, and we’ve gotten as far as to get the characters done. Everyone enjoyed the character creation process immensely, even the guy that nearly got his char killed twice (!) and after three terms had 0 successful survival rolls.

One player wanted to be a Zhodani scientist, and he managed to end up with a Zhodani Scout ship. Great, the group has a ship! However, unlike the imperial scout, a Ninz isn’t given to the character, they get it with 25% paid off and 1D old ship quirks. This means they need to earn money to keep the ship, and I don’t really see how they can earn any money from that ship…

No passenger cabins, very limited cargo space. Plus the fact that another player got an air/raft as mustering out benefit, and they’re probably gonna wanna keep it.

I’m thinking I could have the Zhodani government lend them the ship in exchange for reports on any and all findings along the scientific journey, and/or redesign it a bit.

Turn common area into cargo, cargo into docking space, remove probes and make a small common area there, perhaps? And/or make the fuel tanks into fuel/cargo containers, so they can become a semi-decent J1 trader…

I suppose I could reduce the Ninz to a plot and background device to explain how the Zhodani scientist ended up so far away from home, and let the group purchase a trader with 25% paid off instead…

Thoughts?
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Re: Mustering out with a Zhodani Scout Ship?

Postby Lurking Grue » Thu Oct 14, 2021 8:34 am

If the PCs are going to be flying a Ninz in Imperial space, I would think they'd be having a rough time. At least IMTU, most Imperial Navy ships will want to take a closer look at this (allegedly) former Zho scout ship turned (allegedly) trader. That means thorough inspections and even ad hoc interrogations of the crew. ("We're just honest traders, really." "Yeah right, now stop your acceleration and prepare to be boarded!" ) Also most trading partners and customs officials will be vary of this not-spy Zho ship and her not-spy Zho scientist aboard. Maybe only getting the most mundane cargoes, like ore or foodstuffs, at least no advanced tech or mail (re: trust issues). On most starports they'd be receiving long looks and some drunk in the local starport bar (veteran of Frontier Wars, perhaps) is going to get aggressive at them. So, there's going to be a lot of fun and interesting roleplaying opportunities! To me this sounds good, a very fertile gaming ground!

Don't have any suggestions on how to make the Ninz into a better trader, though. Sorry.

However, I would definitely go with the Ninz as the PCs' ship, if your players are ready for some interesting scenarios and don't mind at being under suspicion (at least the Zho scientist PC) in 3rd Imperium space. But if they want to just blend in and mind their own business (trading or what have you), maybe changing the Ninz to an Imperial trader ship would be better. Much depends of course on how you run your game and when and where your game takes place.
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Re: Mustering out with a Zhodani Scout Ship?

Postby Condottiere » Thu Oct 14, 2021 10:54 am

You could have a Vargr Han Solo, smuggling in a Zhodani scientist:

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Re: Mustering out with a Zhodani Scout Ship?

Postby Saladman » Fri Oct 15, 2021 2:46 am

Annatar Giftbringer wrote:
Thu Oct 14, 2021 7:31 am
I don’t really see how they can earn any money from that ship…

No passenger cabins, very limited cargo space.
Small cargo lots of high value and dubious legality. Speculative trading, or simply hired to deliver a shady package by shady people.

They're mobile, so whatever skills the party as a whole has can be taken on the road. With a scientist in the party that might include getting sensor readings or planting recorders on a red-zoned world, salvaging an abandoned asteroid station and returning a particular computer core untouched, or returning a sample or specimen of a hostile xeno. Or if the party as a whole have a slant towards technical, shooty or social skills those can all lend themselves to patron missions.
Annatar Giftbringer wrote:
Thu Oct 14, 2021 7:31 am
or redesign it a bit.

Turn common area into cargo, cargo into docking space, remove probes and make a small common area there, perhaps? And/or make the fuel tanks into fuel/cargo containers, so they can become a semi-decent J1 trader…

I suppose I could reduce the Ninz to a plot and background device to explain how the Zhodani scientist ended up so far away from home, and let the group purchase a trader with 25% paid off instead…

Thoughts?
Those all sound like player-facing decisions, not GM ones. If the group want a Trader instead they can ask, or at most you can tell them they're allowed to ask, but don't do it for them. Or if the Zho scientist player wants to re-spec it, that's also a player decision.

But before that, ask them how they might go about making a Zho scout pay, and listen to their ideas. There might be something you can work with, or at least something that lets you say "well, that's halfway there, so what about making it..." Sometimes the constraint of working with a particular platform prompts new ideas.
Lurking Grue wrote:
Thu Oct 14, 2021 8:34 am
If the PCs are going to be flying a Ninz in Imperial space, I would think they'd be having a rough time. At least IMTU, most Imperial Navy ships will want to take a closer look at this (allegedly) former Zho scout ship turned (allegedly) trader. That means thorough inspections and even ad hoc interrogations of the crew. ("We're just honest traders, really." "Yeah right, now stop your acceleration and prepare to be boarded!" ) Also most trading partners and customs officials will be vary of this not-spy Zho ship and her not-spy Zho scientist aboard. Maybe only getting the most mundane cargoes, like ore or foodstuffs, at least no advanced tech or mail (re: trust issues). On most starports they'd be receiving long looks and some drunk in the local starport bar (veteran of Frontier Wars, perhaps) is going to get aggressive at them. So, there's going to be a lot of fun and interesting roleplaying opportunities! To me this sounds good, a very fertile gaming ground!
None of that sounds fun at all to me. It takes over the game too easily.

I do agree a Zho scientist in a subsidized Zho scout ship would be seen as a spy. As he probably would be. A solution would be to place the game in a non-aligned buffer sector, or at most right on the frontier fringe of the Imperium.
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Re: Mustering out with a Zhodani Scout Ship?

Postby ottarrus » Fri Oct 15, 2021 5:30 am

OK, you got several issues and I think I can help with most of them.

1. Where to play.
Obviously, it would be best to play someplace other than the Third Imperium. You got 3 choices:
- a] play in 'unincorporated' Spinward Marches. This could work but it's germane to realize that Querion subsector will likely be your best bet. The Darrians dislike the Zho's for political reasons and aren't very touchy about psionics and the Sword Worlders consider the Zho's scarcely better than the Darrians. Their testosterone-driven culture has a hard time with psionics, even though Sancnoth has an open Psi Institute. Psionics is seen by Swordies as somehow 'cheating' in the rough and tumble physical world they idealize. Let's be clear: the Sword Worlds consider the Zhodani Consulate as allies of convenience only and prefer to keep them at as much of a distance as politics allow.
- b] You could go looking for MgT 1st ed. sourcebooks on either the Zhodani or Vargr, both of which provide entire sectors to play in [Ziafrplians, 'NW' of the Marches, in the Zho book and Gvurrdon, 'N' of the Marches, in the Vargr book]. In both cases, you'd have the luxury of playing either in the Consulate or in Vargr space. However, this might annoy some of your Imperial characters.
- c] You could generate a subsector in Foreven Sector and have your own custom sandbox.

2. Paying for the ship.
I see 3 choices here.
- a] Make the players 'Hell March' trying to make the payments on ship with almost no cargo or passenger space. Extra points awarded for every year they don't resort to criminal activity :D
- b] The Zhodani scientist character did his career in the Zhodani Consulate Navy and is now 'detached' with a ship. He is required to undertake missions for the Consulate from time to time, keep the Navy up to date on the ship's activities, and offer up the logbook every year during annual maintenance.
- c] Use the ship as a plot device. The ship has a contract running the mail for Zhodani communities outside the Consulate proper. So long as the ship stays on the route, the payment is made. If the ship strays off the route, the crew is liable for the payment for that month. Whether they stray off the route or not, the ship's next destination always seems to have a paying patron that needs some under-the-table temporary help.
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Re: Mustering out with a Zhodani Scout Ship?

Postby Annatar Giftbringer » Fri Oct 15, 2021 9:12 am

Thanks guys, I’ve gotten loads of good ideas and stuff to think about!

Some things I should probably mention:
The players are all new to pen and paper RPG. Two of them have played a little DnD back in the day, but everything they know about Traveller is what I’ve told them.

They don’t really know how or what they wanna play yet, they’re interested in having a good time and trying some role-playing, so they’re pretty open to suggestions and I’ll try to mix it up at bit so they can with time find which parts they enjoy the most and take it from there.

The players are a Zhodani scientist, vargr ex-navy (imperial), Vargr ex-black ops operative (Vargr), and an imperial human navy/scout/drifter (5 terms, three failed survivals).

They will make the final decision regarding the ship, but I wanna be prepared so I can present them with pros and cons, dilemmas and possible solutions.

(And since I’m the only one with prior Traveller knowledge, there’s always the option to tweak things a bit to fit the group, if necessary)
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Re: Mustering out with a Zhodani Scout Ship?

Postby Condottiere » Fri Oct 15, 2021 11:22 am

I'd give the Vargr pilot a human engineer sidekick.

You should make the ship a Vargr constructed fast trader, as that's a lot less suspicious than either a Vargr scout (I don't recall if those exist), or an obvious Zhodani paramilitary starship.
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Re: Mustering out with a Zhodani Scout Ship?

Postby ottarrus » Fri Oct 15, 2021 11:52 am

I don't know if a Ninz-class ZS really is 'paramilitary' any more than a Sulieman-class is. Yes, they're built and operated by state agencies, but there are many of them in private hands operated for private ventures.
I guess my parallel to this: an M1113 HMMWV is obviously a military vehicle but a Hummer H2 isn't. Same manufacturer [although the civilian vehicle plant went out of business] and same general usage profile, but the M1113 has military radios and other equipment that the H2 doesn't. And the H2 has unheard of luxuries compared the HumVee. [If you've never served in the military, you'd be very surprised at just how much of a 'luxury' a frikkin' cupholder is, much less comfortable seats...]
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Re: Mustering out with a Zhodani Scout Ship?

Postby Condottiere » Fri Oct 15, 2021 11:55 am

Depends on how much attention you want to attract, that being half the selling point of the conspicuously consumptious civilian Hummer.
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Re: Mustering out with a Zhodani Scout Ship?

Postby Annatar Giftbringer » Fri Oct 15, 2021 1:08 pm

I agree that if any ship’s bound to attract attention and suspicion wherever it lands, it’s a Zhodani ship.

The imperial Vargr was never a pilot, he spent his career in engineering, where he learned everything but engineering… we’ve still got the skill package and connections to do, so there’s still hope for him.

There are Vargr scout ships, yes.

A Vargr free trader, that could work… but how would they end up with that..? Let’s see, the imperial Vargr has no reason to go for a Vargr ship, but both him and the imperial human might know each other from the navy, perhaps they served on the same ship even…

The black ops Vargr on the other hand… he ended character creation after his black op turned sideways and he got ejected from the career. Perhaps that operation used a free trader as transport, and he ended up with it somehow… hm.

I’ll talk to the group and try to find out what and how they wanna do, we should tailor the ship choice a bit to fit that. An Imperial Free Trader might be the most general of the ships, a type S scout would also be easy to explain since the human ended up actually able to survive a term as scout in the end…
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Re: Mustering out with a Zhodani Scout Ship?

Postby Culture-pig » Fri Oct 15, 2021 2:28 pm

Hi,
I appreciate you are looking at this as a ship for the party - but the alternative would be to use it as income. The Zho Scientist owns 25% - if the other owners are happy, this could be operated as a consortium with each of them receiving a proportion of the profits. Thus the Zho scientist can get a regular income (25% of nett profit) from the scout ship's activities. This then does not need to be detailed greatly or just say the consortium employs a crew and accepts charters as a yacht, missions as per earlier suggestions, even contracted to Zho Scout Service, etc. Details don't matter apart from flavour, decide what level of income this would generate, how your inter-stellar banking system works, and how the funds get to your Zho Scientist (lodged via TAS banking services ?) - you could even use hand-wavium to just set an income level.

These funds could then be used as the player sees fit, including mortgage payments, rental (?), and/or operational costs for an Imperium/YTU acceptable ship.

It also opens up role playing opportunities down stream - if the income payment is for a ship mortgage/rental, what happens if the income stream is disrupted ?
- is it just a quirk of the banking system ?
- are zho intelligence looking to bring pressure to bear in signing the Zho scientist up as an asset ?
- Has an enemy discovered the source of your income and are they using it as a weakness to wreak revenge or further their own plans ?
- has someone hi-jacked the scout ship ?


Thanks

Martin.
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Re: Mustering out with a Zhodani Scout Ship?

Postby Annatar Giftbringer » Sat Oct 16, 2021 9:27 pm

Culture-pig wrote:
Fri Oct 15, 2021 2:28 pm
Hi,
I appreciate you are looking at this as a ship for the party - but the alternative would be to use it as income. The Zho Scientist owns 25% - if the other owners are happy, this could be operated as a consortium with each of them receiving a proportion of the profits. Thus the Zho scientist can get a regular income (25% of nett profit) from the scout ship's activities. This then does not need to be detailed greatly or just say the consortium employs a crew and accepts charters as a yacht, missions as per earlier suggestions, even contracted to Zho Scout Service, etc. Details don't matter apart from flavour, decide what level of income this would generate, how your inter-stellar banking system works, and how the funds get to your Zho Scientist (lodged via TAS banking services ?) - you could even use hand-wavium to just set an income level.

These funds could then be used as the player sees fit, including mortgage payments, rental (?), and/or operational costs for an Imperium/YTU acceptable ship.

It also opens up role playing opportunities down stream - if the income payment is for a ship mortgage/rental, what happens if the income stream is disrupted ?
- is it just a quirk of the banking system ?
- are zho intelligence looking to bring pressure to bear in signing the Zho scientist up as an asset ?
- Has an enemy discovered the source of your income and are they using it as a weakness to wreak revenge or further their own plans ?
- has someone hi-jacked the scout ship ?


Thanks

Martin.
Those are some seriously interesting ideas, thanks for sharing!

We're gonna have an online session tomorrow afternoon to finalize characters (connections, skill packages...) and discuss the matter of ship. Looking forward to it, will let the players have their say before anything's decided :)
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Re: Mustering out with a Zhodani Scout Ship?

Postby paltrysum » Mon Oct 18, 2021 11:59 pm

In my (currently resting) Drinax campaign, the Travellers have an Aslan Ktiyhui-class courier that has been modified, including the addition of an Imperial-style transponder. The ship is just looked upon as exotic in most ports despite the fact that the Aslan are cause for concern in the Trojan Reach. The ship sometimes gets extra attention when delving into the Imperium, but since first contact in each system is invariably at extreme range, the first thing detected is that transponder signal, which usually warms things up for the eventual physical sighting of the ship. Could be similar for your players and their Ninz.

If you haven't yet selected the locale for your adventures, Vilis Subsector in the Spinward Marches might make a fine spot. The Federation of Arden, which is located there, is an interesting neutral polity and you have the Imperium and Consulate nearby. Could be that Imperial border worlds encounter such ships more frequently since they'd be on the border and frown upon them less.
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Re: Mustering out with a Zhodani Scout Ship?

Postby Annatar Giftbringer » Tue Nov 02, 2021 9:48 pm

paltrysum wrote:
Mon Oct 18, 2021 11:59 pm
In my (currently resting) Drinax campaign, the Travellers have an Aslan Ktiyhui-class courier that has been modified, including the addition of an Imperial-style transponder. The ship is just looked upon as exotic in most ports despite the fact that the Aslan are cause for concern in the Trojan Reach. The ship sometimes gets extra attention when delving into the Imperium, but since first contact in each system is invariably at extreme range, the first thing detected is that transponder signal, which usually warms things up for the eventual physical sighting of the ship. Could be similar for your players and their Ninz.

If you haven't yet selected the locale for your adventures, Vilis Subsector in the Spinward Marches might make a fine spot. The Federation of Arden, which is located there, is an interesting neutral polity and you have the Imperium and Consulate nearby. Could be that Imperial border worlds encounter such ships more frequently since they'd be on the border and frown upon them less.
Excellent idea with the transponder, thanks Paltrysum! We do need some place to be, so I'll definitely check out Vilis! Ok, I took a quick peek at the map, and it looks perfect as a starting point!

Turns out the ship issue solved itself. The players started wondering "how are we gonna make money with this?" and similar questions, we discussed it a bit and ended up using the Ninz as a plot device to get the Zhodani character into the Imperium and in contact with the rest of the players (we even tweaked a few backgrounds in order to tie characters together through the ship), and the players were given a classic Type A2 Far Trader instead. Well, the Zhodani is assumed to have bought it for his travels and field research and since the previous crew mustered out he's gonna need a new one...

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