This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue.
It can be quite terrifying to referee a Traveller game. Perhaps some are so used to it they’ve forgotten those early worries; perhaps for those more experienced at role playing generally you’ve switched into the Referee role either without too much trouble or with fine examples of referees to follow.
I’ve written elsewhere about my lack of experience going into my first attempt at refereeing (see After Action Report: TravCon12 in Freelance Traveller, no. 29-30), but I thought I would try and identify specifically what was so unnerving.
The Adventure: was it any good? While I’d got around 100 pages of material, sheer quantity doesn’t necessarily translate into quality. I’d worked hard on the ‘parts’ (system details, world map, animal encounters, six hopefully interesting PCs) but would they come together as a whole?
Science: was it believable? For reasons bad or good I’d decided to go with an adventure that would rely—at least for its core idea and first third of playing time or so—on some heavy duty stellar science. Would the players be able to suspend disbelief at the edges of what I knew or could get advice on? The Traveller Mailing List was great in this respect for folk offering ideas and pointing out problems.
Timing: did I have too little material that would only last a couple of hours? Seriously, even with 100 pages of notes, with no experience I thought that might happen. As it turned out it could be managed in four hours, but might have suited the six hour Sunday slot.
Managing the NPCs: with a ship full of NPCs and later an entire village (some 75 sophonts), how could I possibly track them and play them such that they’d come alive for the players? I struggle enough with one PC in a normal convention game! This is an aspect I’m pretty sure could have been much better but in the event I probably managed this sufficiently well to be ‘OK’.
Six PCs: would they work together to encourage role playing and would they be balanced in terms of supplying skills necessary to the adventure? Would the players enjoy playing them? I’m still not sure this was as good as it could have been—they were fine for a campaign perhaps, but for a convention could have had more in the way of goals and inter-relations. The skills balance was just about OK although I’m not sure what would have happened if I’d only had, say, four of the six seats taken.
The players: six people would be giving up four hours of their time and expecting a good time—would they enjoy it? One of my particular fears in this regard is that I’d deliberately excluded anything in the way of combat. As it happened they seemed to love the exploration, the plot and the interactions.
Andy Lilly—the conference organizer—he’d taken a risk, was I going to let him down? He delivers a high standard of convention each year and I really didn’t want this to go badly.
The rules: for all that I’m familiar with various Traveller books, I’m not necessarily familiar with specific rules and their application (combat!) and feared players showing up my lack of knowledge. In the event everyone was fine with how it went, or kindly contributed help where it was needed.
In short, although these were genuine fears and not easy to quell in the weeks, days, and hours beforehand, it was worth pushing through them and venturing into the world of refereeing. Try it!