Working Toward a Role20 Open Table Traveller Campaign


Hi, this is a topic I have just started over at RPG Geek:

I will reproduce my opening statements here.

In the real world I formed and run the Kenmore Role Playing Society.
We have an Open Table D&D campaign that meets twice a month. 3 GMs (2 more in training) and 19 players have joined since we started in January. (Look at my Big Index to find all the session reports)

I'm looking at building a parallel open table using Mongoose Traveller 2e.

Its a tougher ask. The nature of space travel in the game means that the 1 to 1 mapping of real life dates to in game dates we use for D&D won't work. After careful consideration and tinkering with alternatives I'm planing to go with 1 IRL day to 7 IG days. So if the sessions are 2 weeks apart in real life then they will start 14 weeks apart in the game world.

I'm also thinking of playing live online using a mixture of Roll20, Discord and whatever other software tools help us along.

I'd like to discuss the design of the open table methodology for Traveller here and also take expressions of interest for GMing and Playing.

The first aim is that there should be multiple GMs, each in charge of a sub sector. Players will join at regular play sessions and move their character to which ever sub sector they are playing in (simply depends on availability of spaces at GMs virtual tables and order of arrival).

GMs are responsible for their campaign data and managing changes as factions etc do stuff over time.

Players will each be responsible for their character and assets and need a way to move that information with them from one sub sector to the next.

Player owned business assets or any planet/star system based assets are probably part of the GMs notes and the GM can apply changes to them over time as they see fit.

Roll20 doesn't really afford a mechanism for this so I'm interested in ideas about how this may be executed.

1) Players joining a session
2) Players moving their data about from GM to GM
Let me see if I understand. There would be a campaign with multiple players, each of whom is responsible for GMing if the story wanders into their designated subsector, and there is a chronological element that requires one week to pass (or one jump) each gaming session. Is that correct?
paltrysum said:
Let me see if I understand. There would be a campaign with multiple players, each of whom is responsible for GMing if the story wanders into their designated subsector, and there is a chronological element that requires one week to pass (or one jump) each gaming session. Is that correct?


The sessions are two weeks apart in real life. The start date of each session in campaign time is 14 weeks apart according to the campaign clock. The players adventure in each session can cover as much time as it takes. Each session the players return to the game master's home planet where they started, so they need some margin to get back before the 14 weeks in game time is up. The GMs are not players but each run a sub sector of their own.

The whole thing is designed for casual play. Whatever GMs are available hang out a shingle, and whatever players are show up take a spot in one of the GMs sectors, starting at the sub sector's "home" planet.

In the D&D ones that we are playing there is a "between sessions upkeep" process that accounts for the time that passes between when the character last played, according to the campaign clock, and the start of the current session. Things that take extended time, like making magical artifacts, are given a game date for their expected completion, and the players can obtain them when that date has passed. In traveller there will be a lot of player lifestyle costs, training, and star ship upkeep during the between session time.

Here is the D&D process to give an idea of what this would like like:
Here you will find session report links for my table at the D&D club: (I'm quite a few sessions behind but slooowly catching up)

The GMs sub sector politics etc also move on between sessions.

There is a lot of detail to work out. My intention is to find a GM and a few players to try the first session, with some "near enough is good enough" process. We can review and refine and just get the ball rolling. Then start including more GMs and more players.

important links
I like the idea, in principle, for one particular reason: it accounts for no-shows. I haven't played an RPG online, but I assume one of the problems is accounting for people not being able to show up. If the adventures and GM assignment simply depend on who's there on a given session, you will always have a game.
Yes, open table is fully built around the idea of regular, casual play. Its not intended to be the full, rich, role play experience you get from a dedicated table. It does produce fairly vibrant communities though. Connected to the role playing group at the D&D open table there are at least five private, dedicated table games that I know of using D&D, Stars Without Number and Call of Cthulhu.
ShawnDriscoll said:
This open gaming idea has worked for D&D and what other games?
I know of it being done for Numenera. Not sure what else.Nobody I know of much took up the idea when it was first mooted by Justin Alexander. I only started doing it myself this year in January. It has so far achieved all my objectives.
Character Generation in Traveller is more important than it is in games without a life story system. Not only does the player become familiar with their character through the process, they get to know something of the game master's world and the GM can riff off their events and struggles to expand their game world with player related detail. Late last year I did an experiment in using character generation as a form of GM solo play that had some useful results, generating some political, commercial and adventure opportunity richness.

So for open table I think I would prefer character generation sessions rather than pre gens. Its still important to have some pre generated characters handy for drop ins. For that I'm thinking I might solo RPG the pre gens to build them up and keep them up to date with the campaign. Each GM could keep one or two floating about in their region.

One difficulty of getting the value out of the life story process is the desire for it to complete in line with the next play session and for its historical events to match up chronologically with the campaign history. My thinking there is that new characters decide how many terms they are going to do. Then you start the character an appropriate distance in the past and come forward. Then if a character has an event that links to the campaign history its richer and stronger than some abstract thing.

There is an alternate school of thought that this is designed as a drop in open table campaign, so stuff it and just pregen some characters without worrying about any of that and only have play sessions.

Potentially of course you could do a mixture of approaches, depending on the players and circumstances.

Here is some time tracking stuff I prepared earlier:

Time Tracking

The campaign date at the start of a session is the date that maps to the current In Real Life date. The players may play over many days or weeks during the session and record the campaign date for when the session is complete and they have returned to home base (allow time for jumps home). At the next session players must account for the passage of time between their last session campaign end date and the new session's campaign start date.

Each day in real life is 1 week in the campaign. (that's if your regular sessions are about 1 week apart. The aim is to get about 7 or 8 weeks game time between sessions. So if your sessions are two weeks appart IRL you may want each day in real life to map to 4 days in game).

Time notation in the campaign is as follows:

A week is 7 days. Identified as 0 through 6.
A month is 4 weeks. Identified as 0 through 3.
A year is 13 months. Identified as 00. through 12.

The full date is formatted as e.g. 2500.09.2.0

IRL Date > In Game (IG) Date

2017-05-01 > 2500.09.2.0
2017-06-01 > 2501.04.1.0
2017-07-01 > 2501.11.3.0

Note that since one day IRL is 1 week IG then the last digit always maps to 0. During play the characters may start at 2501.04.1.0 and adventure for 2 jumps outbound (14 days) + 8 days in system adventure + 2 jumps inbound gives 36 days. That would take the IG date to 2501.05.2.1. If the next game session is 2 weeks later IRL (2501.07.3.0 IG), then they have 62 days of between session upkeep to manage.

Interestingly doing date calculations in real life is enough of a headache that there is a whole section in most software languages to deal with it. I could keep track of time as a base number of days from some start point and keep everything as simple integer numbers, but where's the fun in that? I actually have a spread sheet that you can give a base in game campaign date to, add any arbitrary amount of days, weeks, months, years, and then it will crank out the new date reached. And you can give it two dates and it will tell you how many days elapse to get to the latest date from the earlier one. I'll stick that up somewhere as a resource later.
I offer the idea of abandoning the fixed game clock, which just doesn't agree very well with Traveller, because different adventures have very different rates of time passage.



I've run the classic adventure Research Station Gamma twice, once at a convention, once as a single session game with friends (both times with pregenerated characters). Both got through the starport preliminaries and the submarine journey in fairly little game time, a few days at most.

The actual exploration of the station was less than a day, but the single session wasn't enough to completely take it over and search for all the dirty secrets in the station, which could have been a very long stay. A scientist character could even abandon adventuring and move into the station for a new career. Even just looting the place for cool equipment and interesting computer data, to examine at leisure during jumps.

The point there is that the first session to mostly pacify station (the only session in my cases) was very brief in game time, but the second session of examining the captured treasures could have been many weeks, depending on character whims. Finally, resolving the adventure's triggering event -- a drive failure on a backwater world -- would take a long, but predictable amount of time, to order a replacement part, wait for the order to reach a place that can fulfill it, wait for it to be shipped back, and wait for ship's engineers to install it.

There's another adventure that I ran, which had the premise that the characters are supposed to do a general planetary survey of every world they visit, reporting on whether certain items of the world's library data are still correct, and updating if not. Every time they visit a world with an xboat station, they drop off a report, and possibly receive payments for past reports. There, it works to the characters' advantage to visit as many worlds as possible, and stay only as long as it takes to make the reports. But of course they have to find other things to do too, because the reports alone don't pay well enough to justify the travel unless they're going places anyway.



So, I would say that in a session where there's only one table, time advances as much or as little as the character time that passes. If a session has two or more tables, time passes as much as the faster moving table.

It might make sense to put some limits on really long passages of time. It would really cook game time if a single table of players were to decide, "Since we're here at Glisten, where we can get anything we can afford, let's lease out the ship for the next two years, and each take the most intensive training we can get for our core skills." That would leave all the absent players' characters stuck with two years of catch-up.

A minimum passage of time might be good too, just so absent characters can do things they need to do to catch up on the map. For example, if the players in the RSG adventure took two entire sessions on a single game time day, capturing the station with tedious caution, the session game master might just have to Rule-0 a capture that throws them into the station's brig, from which the following week's players must rescue them, after they arrive on the same backwater world by chance, seven weeks later -- perhaps with the very part that the crippled ship needs as speculative cargo.
steve98052 said:
I offer the idea of abandoning the fixed game clock, which just doesn't agree very well with Traveller, because different adventures have very different rates of time passage.
Thanks Steve. However the purpose of open table is casual play, allowing the group to build up a fairly massive number of regulars to draw on for dedicated play in their own private groups. Its not full blown role play and there are sacrifices to play style made to accommodate it.

A very important restriction is that all adventures start and end at a home base, adventures complete in one session of play. This is because you don't know who will be playing at the next session, so you cannot have an adventure group "out there" part way through an adventure. Only half of them may be at the next session and other players who are not part of that adventure will now be there.

In order to allow multiple GMs, where the players go to whichever GM has a space at the table, then you want the game calendar to synchronise across all GM tables. (All GM's a running part of the same campaign, allowing players to rove between GMs with the same character). The beginning of the session is always the synchronise point. By having time pass in a regular way players can tell which session some future event will occur on, such as the construction completion of a new star ship. This also allows the game master to let things in the game world unfold at a comfortable pace as well, helping with a very low prep approach.

I have had considerable personal experience with this, running D&D open table. We have 3 GMs, 2 more in training, and over 20 players. This his grown from 1 GM (me) and 2 players since January this year. Privately we have Call of Cthulhu, Stars Without Number, Traveller and Rifts games going on that have the full RPG depth. The open table players are starting to join our dedicated table games and form groups of their own for playing more D&D. We are expecting 4 newbies at the next open session.

I recommend reading the Open Table Manifesto.
Regarding moving characters from one game master's sub sector to another :
So each GM can have their own sub sector. Characters can export to a vault and then into a another sub sector game. Normal Roll 20 is free, but there's more you can do with a pro account. Potentially I think its possible that a game master could buy the pro level and allow several people to GM subsectors in their account. However it will be more stable all around if GMs keep their sub sectors in their own accounts.
I'm about to start a series of 1 gm and 1 player experiments with a friend who will alternate being GM and player. I'll give some feedback about how we go. After a couple of sessions with each as a GM then we will take stock and see about bringing in some more players.