Traveller as a Convention game

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
Captain Handsome
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Traveller as a Convention game

Postby Captain Handsome » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:05 am

I was toying with the idea of running Traveller at Origins 2013, and I was wondering if anyone had experience running it at conventions?

How does the system hold up in such a setting?

The general idea i have kicking around is a Caravan Guard situation but in space. Hardly original but hey, it would be my first con game.

The PC's would be contracted as additional security for a lesser merchant house that wants to try and undercut the competition short cutting through a few rough sectors. Shenanigans ensues etc, etc...

Another consideration, I'm a big proponent of pre-generated characters in con games, but Traveller has such an interesting character generation system that I feel it would be a disservice to not include it.

Alright so thoughts? Tips? Tricks? Cryptic Warnings of Doom?
I'm open to any and all feedback on this idea kicking around in my head.
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Re: Traveller as a Convention game

Postby Gypsy Knights Games » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:24 am

I have run Traveller at many conventions and had a great time each and every time. I've found that it can be a very easily run convention game because, when you break it down to its bare minimum, Traveller can be a very easy game for people to pick up if they have never seen it before.

Just roll over 8. Here are your modifiers based on attributes, skills, difficulty. It's quick and easy.

The most common question I get asked is: Traveller? People still play that? I always assure them that we do, it's lots of fun. Let me show you.

The caravan guard situation sounds fun. If you get stuck, Gypsy Knights Games has produced two adventures (with a third in production) based off con games we have run involving our background. You can find our products here.

Either way, we're hoping to get to Origins in 2013. Maybe we'll see you there.
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Captain Handsome
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Re: Traveller as a Convention game

Postby Captain Handsome » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:28 am

Interesting... I'll be sure to look through your stuff.
That is very encouraging thank you.
I was hoping that Traveller was as easy to figure out as i thought it was. But you never know who you're going to get at cons.
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Re: Traveller as a Convention game

Postby Gypsy Knights Games » Sun Nov 11, 2012 4:04 am

Captain Handsome wrote:I was hoping that Traveller was as easy to figure out as i thought it was. But you never know who you're going to get at cons.
We've had very good luck with it over the years. Most everyone seems to have a good time.

I might also add that I've played in a fair number of entertaining games at cons over the years as well. Out of all of those I can only remember one convention Traveller game being a disappointment. It wasn't the game system's fault though as the poor guy seemed to have stayed up most of the night drinking, slept about an hour, and then tried to be coherent. He did not succeed.
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Elrick
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Re: Traveller as a Convention game

Postby Elrick » Sun Nov 11, 2012 2:28 pm

I've run Traveller at many conventions over the years (I started DMing at conventions in 1979 - gulp!) and I agree with Gypsy Knight Games that Traveller is a very easy system to introduce to players.

I've never been to Origins (it's a bit far from the UK), but if it is like the UK and European conventions the slots are generally too short to include character generation. I've always used pregens and I've never had a complaint yet. However, I will say that players will always expect their characters to have gun combat skills (or maybe that's a UK player thing :wink: ).

The first thing I ask the players when they sit down is who has played Traveller before. If everyone has, we can just get into the scenario. If not (or if there are any who have played TNE, which uses different rules) I find a quick scene to introduce the players to how the rules work is useful. It helps them make sense of their characters and gets them into the mindset for playing. Think something like the teaser scenes at the start of most James Bond movies.

Generally I find the hardest thing to get players to understand is the damage rules, so I usually make a point of guiding them through it again the first time a PC is hit.

Don't have anything that involves the players being captured. Unlike home games, players tend not to get too attached to convention characters and will fight to the bitter end rather than give in to NPCs...

While you can use any scenario for Traveller (as long as it fits into the slot length, obviously), I usually try to run something which has a little bit of spaceship action and a little bit of ground action to show off the scope of the system and background. I also have some extra scenes in my notebook in case things run really quickly - although I find that convention players can make the simplest scenarios overcomplicated.

Another thing I've found especially good for convention games is giving the players lots to look at - starmaps, ship deck plans, prop letters, etc. That really seems to focus their attention on the game (it looks good to passers-by too).

Be sure of your scenario before you run it at a show. Run through it at home a couple of times and make sure you know the more obvious points where the players might go off-map. They will still surprise you (which is a lot of the fun) but you can prep for a lot of things. If you want someone to look over your scenario for you, I'd be happy to help.

Finally, enjoy it. It's supposed to be fun for you too. I like it best when the players get up from the table smiling. Even better if they get up from the table and go to the trade area to buy the rules, but that's a rarer pleasure.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.
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Re: Traveller as a Convention game

Postby Elrick » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:02 pm

More thoughts (I'm making bread so I had to step out after the last post).

Don't make the pregens too complete - give the players something they can personalise. For example, the character name or something that makes the character memorable.

When you've introduced the rules (and any player intro information), give the players a few minutes to read the character sheet and ask any questions. I offer that the players can step away from the table at this point if they want to ask anything in confidence, which occasionally happens. Then go round the table getting the players to introduce their character. It may help to have sticky labels (address labels are good for this) which you can write the character name on and the player can wear.

At this point you could encourage the players to decide how their character knows at least one other character at the table to encourage some kind of unity, but this isn't always necessary if the players seem to be getting into the feel of the game.

Type the pregens, don't handwrite them. It looks so much better and avoids any confusion over numbers. There are form fillable character sheets in the Traveller forms Yahoo group, or just create your own in Word.

Give the pregen sheets some background information, so that they are more than just character stats & skills. You can use this space to add the names of contacts/allies/enemies, but only if you plan to use them in the scenario.

Go through the rulebook and mark each page you will need in play (weapons lists, space combat rules, etc) with post it notes so that you can find the pages quickly. If you have the GM screen you will have the tables, but you may still want to mark specific rules blocks.

Do not let the rules slow the game down though. If the players are having fun and the game is flowing, nothing will kill the mood quicker than you flipping through the rulebook muttering. The aim is to have fun and show the players how the system works. If you can't remember every die modifier for something, don't be afraid to fudge it to keep the action going (but make a note to mark that page for next time).
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Re: Traveller as a Convention game

Postby CosmicGamer » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:19 pm

Captain Handsome
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Re: Traveller as a Convention game

Postby Captain Handsome » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:22 pm

Elrick wrote:While you can use any scenario for Traveller (as long as it fits into the slot length, obviously), I usually try to run something which has a little bit of spaceship action and a little bit of ground action to show off the scope of the system and background. I also have some extra scenes in my notebook in case things run really quickly - although I find that convention players can make the simplest scenarios overcomplicated.
I definitely plan on there being a little bit of space and ground action, I too think that's important. I mean what's a Traveller game without a little bit of space combat?
Elrick wrote:Another thing I've found especially good for convention games is giving the players lots to look at - starmaps, ship deck plans, prop letters, etc. That really seems to focus their attention on the game (it looks good to passers-by too).
Again you and I are on the same page. I love making props and little knick-knacks for my players. I ran an game of FATE where everyone was working for the FBI, so I took their sheets and made dossier folders for each of them along with their backgrounds and maps of the place where the game took place.
I plan on doing something similar for Traveller but nothing (besides starmaps of the sector, ship plans and the like) jump out at me just yet. Does anyone have any suggestions in that regard?
Elrick wrote:Be sure of your scenario before you run it at a show. Run through it at home a couple of times and make sure you know the more obvious points where the players might go off-map. They will still surprise you (which is a lot of the fun) but you can prep for a lot of things. If you want someone to look over your scenario for you, I'd be happy to help.
I sneakily went to my group on an off day and said "Hey guys look at this crazy character gen system it looks kind of fun, want to give it a try for giggles?"
They ate it up and have been badgering me to run Traveller ever since. So i'm going to make them run through the scenario a few times with them and then I'm sure i'll need a 3rd party to look over it. Thank you for the offer I'll be sure to take you up on it when it's more fleshed out.
Captain Handsome
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Re: Traveller as a Convention game

Postby Captain Handsome » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:31 pm

What do you think about letting the players finalize the connections and choosing the package skills to finish off the pre-gens?

That would allow them to flex a little bit of creativity and forge a little bit of shared backgrounds between them all without eating up a lot of that precious 4 hour time frame.
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Re: Traveller as a Convention game

Postby Elrick » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:38 pm

Captain Handsome wrote:What do you think about letting the players finalize the connections and choosing the package skills to finish off the pre-gens?

That would allow them to flex a little bit of creativity and forge a little bit of shared backgrounds between them all without eating up a lot of that precious 4 hour time frame.
Sounds good.

Something I got from another RPG is keeping the connections loose and having the players use them during the game to bring in NPCs. Example, the PCs meet up with another ship in orbit and things are a little tense at first (duff roll on the reactions table), when one of the players asks to use one of their contacts as an NPC on the other ship to help them out and reduce the tension level.

You as DM would always have final say, but it might be good to have that option for players to add to the background. What do you think?
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Re: Traveller as a Convention game

Postby Captain Handsome » Sun Nov 11, 2012 3:43 pm

That's actually the solution to a half formed thought problem in my head.

"Allies and Contacts are a big part of this game, but if i flesh out all of them it'll be wasted space because how many of them would come into play in 4 hours?"

This solves that quite nicely, I think and again lets the players get a little creative and lets me improv a little. I like it very much. I'll try it with my playtest group and see how it goes.
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Re: Traveller as a Convention game

Postby GamerDude » Sun Nov 11, 2012 7:25 pm

I've averaged 4-6 cons a year, running between 6 to 9 Traveller events at a single con (3-day and 4-day cons respectively) but much of what I would contribute has been said.

But, as the current coordinator of the MI I do have something to contribute related to Cosmic Gamer's post (quoted above). Please go to my post at Mongoose Infantry and RPGs to read it.

Thank you

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