Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
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Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby msprange » Mon Mar 05, 2012 9:45 pm

We are just starting the serious design work on Solo Traveller. We have plenty of our own ideas on how we want this one to look but...

What would you like to see it capable of?
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby SSWarlock » Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:23 pm

I'd say the solo adventures should integrate with the material of the other books. That may seem obvious but by integration I'm thinking solo adventures should use those aspects that are unique to a career and somehow reward players who've taken to the time to develop characters using those unique aspects while not penalizing players whose characters don't have those unique aspects. I"d also like to see adventures that are connected to each other to form a solo campaign, in addition to solo adventures that stand alone. Solo Traveller should stay true to rules in the books; consistency in rules application is critical.

Finally, I'd like to see adventures that shed light on different aspects of Traveller. That is, exploration and politics instead of just shoot-'em-ups. Space/ground combat is all well and good but Traveller is so much more than that and Solo Traveller should reflect that.
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby nats » Mon Mar 05, 2012 11:00 pm

Well one thing I definitely do not want is a book like the Campaign Guide where its just a load of tables. What I would like to see is not 'Solo Traveller' at all (which suggests another almighty mess in the making to me)

I would like to see a set of thin adventure booklets, along the lines of Marooned Alone, that players can play on their own with very nice illustrations, a good story, and lots of atmosphere. It would though require some careful thought as to how to approach them so not to spoil the process of running the adventure whilst providing plenty of opportunity for change and surprising events. If you include some miniatures orientated ground battles and starship battles, where the player is actually running the show but doesn't know how it will turn out, then it cant go far wrong. Chamax Plague would for example make for a great solo game because of the strategic battles you need to fight.

So I suppose that is a viewpoint completely contradictory to the posting above! I dont see how a solo exploration, mystery or political game could work solo myself but I am sure it must be possible. It would have to be very linear surely and end up like Steve Livingstone/D&D4e Red Box book surely - suited to only one play through? Once you know the ending there would be no point in playing it again surely?

The fact is that Mongoose Traveller isn't actually all that much fun played solo IMO. Whereas with the original Classic Traveller I got a lot of pleasure out of creating ships, Merc battalions, fleets, fighting massive battles using miniatures, etc, MGT is steamlined to be more of RPG that you play with friends. Everything is a lot simpler than it was in CT. In CT you could spend a whole day fighting a vector based space battle. Not so in MGT. So whereas CT was great playing it solo if designing things etc, there isnt so much opportunity to do so with Mongoose Traveller. Perhaps this then is something that is needed - a book that expands on all the design processes - making starships, characters, vehicles, warfare etc a lot more detailed and strategic. That could make a good solo game.

But otherwise I cant honestly see solo Traveller working myself unless it creates the atmosphere, intrigue and emotion that is normally lost when you are not playing the game with other people. Whenever I played CT solo it was always designing something or fighting a vector space battle or a boarding battle etc. I did try some adventures like Marooned Alone (which was fun) but my other trials, such as a solo trading game, were very boring - because the game loses a lot when you have to imagine the scene yourself and you know you are just looking at a load of tables in reality.

Much like D&D4e, Mongoose Traveller therefore is a difficult game to play solo. You really need those other people!!
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby Karl Tenh » Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:37 am

Adventures that have multiple paths and possible 'endings' would be highly desireable. The old FASA Star Trek Game was good at this. Depending on skills of members sent on the mission and choices made by the player, different endings were possible. The old Victory Games Ambush, Open Fire, and Battle Hymn used a paragraph book to provide Fog of War and control enemy actions. Patton's Best and B-17 just randomized the enemies and then you had to fight them. There's been more paragraph oriented solitare games over the years (choose your own adventure), I just don't have any of them on the shelf behind me as reference at the moment :D

So the question is, is Solo Traveller going to be a game engine (or game engines, each dedicated to a different type of encounter) that provides the opponents actions and reactions that is supported by some type of 'paragraph solo adventures', or is it going to be a complete package that is stand alone? Perhaps a combination of the two, with the basic system and a couple adventures as examples for people to build upon.

For example, a player is running a solo merchant game. Many of the necessary charts for trading (buying, selling, passengers, mail, etc) exist and can be used without any special solo rules. However, how does he run an encounter with pirates or thugs trying to steal the cargo? How big a force does he face? When do they decide to break off / surrender? How does he handle trying to ship illicit cargos and contact criminals, rebels, etc?
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby OddjobXL » Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:54 pm

I'm of a different school of thought. I look to products like the Mythic Game Master Emulator and see a flexible structure that leverages the single most powerful attribute of tabletop RPGs: the imagination of those present.

We're talking about a system that basically answers yes and no questions like a GM would as players toss out their ideas about what might be going on or are trying to get a better idea of whether this or that object or option might be present. The answers are weighted by the user's idea of the actual probability of the outcome. Into that rather simple and obvious structure you've got a terse and vague but evocative system to throw out surprise events and shape the flow of the story as it emerges. Emerges from where? The player's interpretation of what's going on!

Plot threads, allies and adversaries, are tracked as they crop up and can add a sense of continuity to an adventure or series of adventures. Events can spotlight one or another of these, move the story towards or away from them, and so on.

Another way to structure a system like this might be based off of Hamlet's Hitpoints by Robin Laws. He discusses the idea of rising and falling action, dramatic beats, and so on and how to incorporate that into tabletop storytelling.

The beauty of Traveller's Core is that it's all but set up for solo gaming as it is. All that's missing is that old spark of life that turns a bunch of numbers or a handful of tables into a colorful world or a tense adventure. Products like the Game Master Emulator or Hamlet's Hitpoints are attempts to dissect how that works and present it in a logical, and inspirational, fashion.

I'd also leaf through products like the Ultimate Toolbox to get an idea of how to set up more randomized but concrete story ideas, and flesh out situations or NPCs on the fly, without getting caught up too much in the yes/no loop of the Emulator or, conversely, putting in so much detail the story teasers aren't infinitely recyclable.

More is always better. Traveller's beauty is primarily twofold: simplicity and sandbox. This is a game so potentially zen even Steve Jobs could love it. But if we go back into the weeds, like we see with products like the Campaign Guide and just hand out scripts that corner people into fixed interpretations and a finite handful of stories then that's almost missing the point.
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby msprange » Tue Mar 06, 2012 2:23 pm

nats wrote:because the game loses a lot when you have to imagine the scene yourself
Just to play Devil's advocate - isn't this the point of RPGs?
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby msprange » Tue Mar 06, 2012 2:26 pm

Karl Tenh wrote: For example, a player is running a solo merchant game. Many of the necessary charts for trading (buying, selling, passengers, mail, etc) exist and can be used without any special solo rules. However, how does he run an encounter with pirates or thugs trying to steal the cargo? How big a force does he face? When do they decide to break off / surrender? How does he handle trying to ship illicit cargos and contact criminals, rebels, etc?
Well, this is the direction we were thinking.

Traveller is essentially a collection of sub-systems and mini-games (trading is one, character creation an obvious other). So, those mini-games can be used and expanded to create a solid system whereby you can create a character (using whatever creation system/book you see fit) and then choose to go trading, find merc tickets, go exploring, and so forth.

Our task is to make that as fulfilling an experience as possible.

We are not looking at 'choose your own adventure' paragraph-style adventures (well, actually we are, but not for this project).
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby JRoss » Tue Mar 06, 2012 4:13 pm

I'd like to see integration of all career books as well. Like how Cybernetics used Trust from Agent. So I'd like to see options for things like different criminal syndicates and agencies and such using the material presented in their respective books.

I'd like to see a system fairly close to what was done in the Campaign Guide and in Dynasty, which is itself a fully-contained game system that can be played solo. Of course, having access to the supplements would add greatly to the fun.
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby Dave Chase » Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:04 am

Well, one of my thoughts was the book

Star Games with a Space Adventure
Created by Kim Razzi, Rick Brightfield and Jack Looney

ISBN 0-553-01113-8
1978

Of course with a more Traveller feel and upgraded target age group.

The following Library says that they have it on the shelves

The British Library, British National Bibliography
Wetherby, West Yorkshire, LS23 7BQ United Kingdom


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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby Karl Tenh » Wed Mar 07, 2012 6:06 am

msprange wrote:
Karl Tenh wrote: For example, a player is running a solo merchant game. Many of the necessary charts for trading (buying, selling, passengers, mail, etc) exist and can be used without any special solo rules. However, how does he run an encounter with pirates or thugs trying to steal the cargo? How big a force does he face? When do they decide to break off / surrender? How does he handle trying to ship illicit cargos and contact criminals, rebels, etc?
Well, this is the direction we were thinking.

Traveller is essentially a collection of sub-systems and mini-games (trading is one, character creation an obvious other). So, those mini-games can be used and expanded to create a solid system whereby you can create a character (using whatever creation system/book you see fit) and then choose to go trading, find merc tickets, go exploring, and so forth.

Our task is to make that as fulfilling an experience as possible.

We are not looking at 'choose your own adventure' paragraph-style adventures (well, actually we are, but not for this project).
So basically you need an overall encounter system, an enemy force generator, and some sort of combat AI to help determine what the enemy does (advance, hold, fall back, run away, surrender).

For exploration and starship travel such systems exist. I don't have animal encounters, so I don't know if an 'urban' encounter table exists, but I'm sure some tables could be generated based on the population / community / subcommunity type (an encounter in a farming town will be different from a certain town known as a hive of scum and villany :) ).

The enemy force generator has always been difficult for me when doing Traveller. Starship are usually easy, vehicles fairly so, person on person the hardest. How best to judge the players firepower / defenses and create a suitable challenge without under or overkill?

I'm not sure how to work many of the non-combat encounters without a paragraph book or something else to get the narrative feel of GM based RPG.

So going back to the merchant adventure for the moment. A basic merchant adventure is to travel between planet X and planet Y. Adventure points are:

Buy Merchandise / Acquire Passengers, Freight & Mail
Possible Ground Encounter (Thugs, Customs, Critters, .... ) <- New Table
If Encounter, Generate Opposition <- New Tables
If Combat, Fight Battle <- Combat AI system (target determination, morale, etc)
Travel to Jump Point / Possible Space Encounter (Space Encounters from Core or New System that weighs encounters based on Players force)
If Combat, Fight Battle <- Combat AI system (same or different from above?
JUMP
Travel to Destination / Possible Space Encounter (same as above)
Reach Destination (or refueling point and repeat Travel to Jump Above after any encounters)
Possible Encounter (type depends on if player lands or is refueling at gas giant)

If final destination Sell Merchandise / Deliver Passengers, Freight & Mail
If final destination Service Ship
Repeat as Desired

I have some possible ideals for a Mercenary adventure line, but that will have to wait till tomorrow.
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby steelbrok » Wed Mar 07, 2012 9:33 am

I think for solo traveller I would like to see something very like the Mythic GM emulator with a number of tables from which things like the interupt and altered scenes could be extrapolated


In fact the more I think about it the more a licensed version of the GME optimised for Traveller sounds like the best option.
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby nats » Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:39 am

msprange wrote:
Karl Tenh wrote: For example, a player is running a solo merchant game. Many of the necessary charts for trading (buying, selling, passengers, mail, etc) exist and can be used without any special solo rules. However, how does he run an encounter with pirates or thugs trying to steal the cargo? How big a force does he face? When do they decide to break off / surrender? How does he handle trying to ship illicit cargos and contact criminals, rebels, etc?
Well, this is the direction we were thinking.

Traveller is essentially a collection of sub-systems and mini-games (trading is one, character creation an obvious other). So, those mini-games can be used and expanded to create a solid system whereby you can create a character (using whatever creation system/book you see fit) and then choose to go trading, find merc tickets, go exploring, and so forth.

Our task is to make that as fulfilling an experience as possible.

We are not looking at 'choose your own adventure' paragraph-style adventures (well, actually we are, but not for this project).
If I want to play something like that solo I would play a computer game. And sandbox games of the type you are suggesting are difficult enough to get right - even as computer games - in that people often get bored quickly because they have no focus. I think that would be a problem with the system you are citing here as well.

I like the idea of playing Traveller solo but the reality usually proves to be far from the imagined game. I think a good solo adventure provides enough of a focus and atmosphere to keep a player interested, but if its a sandbox game of just rolling on tables of choices, with no real direction, I cant see that enough to provide an enjoyable experience in itself.

I for example tried playing a CT solo trading adventure when I was very much younger, more imaginative and creative than I am now and it didn't work, staring at tables didn't create the degree of involvement I desired. And I definitely wouldn't be able to play anything like that now. I feel that 90% of the enjoyment of RPGs is the social interaction whilst playing, as a GM seeing how other people get over the challenges you have provided for them, and as a player having enjoyment at being surprised or shocked at the twists and turns of the game, whilst a world is created for you by the descriptive narration from the referee.

IMO the only way this project could work is if the solo game generation system is widely supported by a good degree of quality solo adventures to use the system with.
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby OddjobXL » Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:08 pm

Another way to think of it might be to see the Mythic, suggestive/evocative, freeform approach as the connective narrative tissue for more concrete systems that structure conflict at decision points. That's a good question "how do you balance opposition but still make conflict varied"? A bunch of shootouts that are pretty much like the last shootouts aren't going to hold my interest very long.

Another concern is that, yes, the core trading game on its own merits isn't much of a game. It is, however, a great mechanic to get people wandering around and it offers an easy answer to the question "Why am I doing this?" To raise money to pay off a ship. I might suggest a simplified system with more variety that focuses less on credit counting and more on a general wealth level system. Any given cargo run could offer a chance to improve, or lower, wealth levels by a notch which would improve access to gear, that could help the chances of success in combat for the cost of a chance of a negative impact on wealth level, and eventually offer a chance to pay off the ship entirely. Make it more of a game by creating more chances a given cargo could become a story in itself ala 101 Cargoes from BITs.

In fact that could be an optional endpoint for a solo campaign and one could even create a point rating system to see how well one did! How fast did you pay it off, how many crew casualties did you have, how much money is in the bank, how many Patron missions were completed, etc. This means that maybe stretching the game out by spending wealth levels on gear and improvements to the ship could pay off in terms of overall points gained. The same sort of approach could be used for any campaign structure that's actually, well, structured including the mercenary company campaign. That's a motive, as if love of roleplaying weren't enough on its own merits, for replaying. Like classic computer games along the lines of Pirates! How did well did you do?

But to make it a real story, and an unpredictably fun one of the sort we enjoy around the table with other players, you need the freeform narrative generation system that prods players into imagining for themselves what's going on and spurring them with unexpected twists and turns that keep them on their toes and inventing their own new content.

Give a man a scripted solo adventure and he'll play for a day. Give him a system that rewards his own creativity and gives him tools to improvise when he's not feeling all that creative and he'll play forever.
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby GamingGlen » Wed Mar 07, 2012 8:14 pm

msprange wrote:We are just starting the serious design work on Solo Traveller. We have plenty of our own ideas on how we want this one to look but...

What would you like to see it capable of?
Help me create chapters, each chapter being an advemture or mission, of the story of my character (or character group, i.e. an agent duo, small freighter spaceship crew; or even a ship). I could write a novel, but I'd rather play the game and leave the whims of fate up to some choices and die rolls then the whims of my poor story telling. Plus it helps to keep the game rules fresh in my mind for when I do find a Traveller group to join. (and help you sell more books :D )

I really liked the mission generator in Agent; I even put it into a spreadsheet. I created a duo team of agents, gave, er, loaned :wink: them the SX Frontiersman type scoutship for cover (small merchant freighter configuration), an overall mission goal (observe and report activities, which is why I picked the SX with the extra sensors instead of a Far Trader), and rolled a couple of side missions. I played the first one out in my mind, but it just felt empty even with rolling against the skills the mission generator listed. The second time I had them make an emergency landing on a barely habitable planet and they had to set out to the nearest (and only) habitat. I was going to roll up some animal encounters during their trek, but somehow lost interest. I started to actually write the story, but well, I know how my novel writing goes (2-5 chapters then give up).

A couple ideas about the Agent mission generator for solo use: change mission duration to mission distance and let duration be determined by the transportation method used; vary the number of skills to check against, i.e., a simple mission might only need two skills while a complex one might need six.

Of course a solo play guide or set of rules cannot cover everything (like upgrading of a Scout benefit to the SX type scout), but could probably leave hooks within its framework for people to add their own elements (e.g., their own encounter tables).
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby GamingGlen » Wed Mar 07, 2012 8:15 pm

OddjobXL wrote: Give a man a scripted solo adventure and he'll play for a day. Give him a system that rewards his own creativity and gives him tools to improvise when he's not feeling all that creative and he'll play forever.
I quite agree with this.

Give me a sandbox to play in, not a variable novel to read once.

Traveller is a great sandbox RPG. Make the solo version fit that theme as well.
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby JRoss » Thu Mar 08, 2012 8:44 pm

+1 to Oddjob.
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby nats » Sun Mar 11, 2012 10:39 am

GamingGlen wrote:
OddjobXL wrote: Give a man a scripted solo adventure and he'll play for a day. Give him a system that rewards his own creativity and gives him tools to improvise when he's not feeling all that creative and he'll play forever.
I quite agree with this.

Give me a sandbox to play in, not a variable novel to read once.

Traveller is a great sandbox RPG. Make the solo version fit that theme as well.
Whilst its not something I would probably buy or play myself I will wait with interest to see what happens with the project. I would definitely rather have some good short adventures, whether solo or otherwise.
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby middenface » Wed Mar 14, 2012 10:03 pm

1st do it, it can be done and I think it can made interesting and enjoyable, just avoid it becoming a chore...

2nd how about covering solo games with no player, games with a player and referee and then a game with just a referee....

I like the idea of having a system that covers the 'routine' and in it you interject the interesting bits, encounters etc. TNE traveller and Megatraveller had the whole 'visit a planet procedure...'
Then slot in mini adventures... perhaps. Then again the whole routine system in itself is and can be the adventure too!
Even this 'routine' system can be used for down time for non solo games too? ie the bit between adventures... of course you could run a solo game then run sessions with players later on.

3rd plenty of the regular Traveller careers suit solo play, agents, bounty hunters, even Navy.. they say Command is a lonely job.. instead of trying to run the regular sort of traveller game, run a command level game, ie the player is a commander of a patrol vessel out in boondocks. The patrol becomes the rountine (ok 'routine' maybe a bad word)
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby nats » Thu Mar 15, 2012 12:25 pm

middenface wrote: 2nd how about covering solo games with no player, games with a player and referee and then a game with just a referee....
Isn't a game with no player and a game with just a referee the same thing? :P And surely a game with a single player and a referee is no longer a solo game. Or are you meaning that all these roles being played consecutively by a single person?
middenface wrote: 3rd plenty of the regular Traveller careers suit solo play, agents, bounty hunters, even Navy.
I think this defines why I think designing a solo game for Traveller would be extremely difficult. Traveller isn't D&D where the options are at least a little bit more limited. Traveller is extremely varied, you can do practically anything. Trying to come up with a set of rules that would allow for all or even most of the possibilities would be extremely difficult. The core rule book provides a framework for a referee to develop a game. This can just as easily be used by a single player acting as a referee and then played by him as a player. You don't need a solo book to do this and I doubt any solo rules could even start to cover all the possibilities anyway.

Take for example personal combat as a limited example of one area that solo book would have to deal with. I make a decision whilst designing a conflict in a starport that the characters of such and such a make up are going to be challenged by some police. I draw a rough part-starport including a ship deck plan to play with. The enemies are going to be four policemen with limited weapons and armour and I will choose some equipment to provide an easy challenge based on what the character have on them. I decide that reinforcements are going to come up after ten minutes, that they are going to be four troops of this and that more advanced armour and weapons. The characters will have to get to their ships locker to get their better weapons which will have in it such and such. I will play each character and enemy as if he has a certain personality (cowards, idiots, brave hero etc) based on roughly their skills and attributes. I have determined, by a guess on how long to ready a ship for take off, that the characters will be able to escape in 15 minutes and assume the pilot is at the controls readying the ship leaving the other character around the ships cargo ramp when they are challenged by the police. Then if they escape I plan to have a pursuit in space by a couple of ships to try to cut off the character's ship. I will choose the enemy ships to provide a decent challenge but not too much.

In playing just the above I have had to make a startling amount of decisions using my background knowledge of the Traveller universe. How can any solo book account for all this for every different type of character, every TL, every possible situation? Very difficult. A humans can design and play out this situation quite easily using just the basic rules and some typical rules of thumb, guesses, estimations, etc. A solo book where all this is prescribed would be a weighty document indeed and probably wouldn't make half as interesting situation either I would think.

And the above is an easy typical solo situation to play. How would a solo book deal with other less defined typical Traveller group play such as politics, bureaucracy, science, disputes between characters, changes of mind, making mistakes, acting stupid, being brave, a character being a hidden spy or threat to the party, etc the list goes on and on....

Will be interesting to see how all this is covered.
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Re: Solo Traveller - What do You Want?

Postby msprange » Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:11 am

nats wrote:How can any solo book account for all this for every different type of character, every TL, every possible situation?
It can't - we therefore focus on specific areas.

Also, we acknowledge that it won't replicate the experience of group play but, rather, provides a different experience altogether.
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