This article originally appeared in issue #006 of the downloadable magazine.
SLT is a variation on Traveller meant for Second Life. We’re currently using the “House Tardis Creativity System” as the house rules for this (see http://www.HouseTardis.net)
The main change is to make all the dice rolls disappear from the players sight—they happen behind the scenes, inside the ships, vehicles, weapons and equipment the players use.
One of the things that separates SL from other MMORPGs is the lack of a company provided character system. SL is very open in allowing the people using it to create games within the environment. In general, this leads to people learning a variety of skills—programming, 3D object building, graphic design, audio file manipulation, animation file creation...
One of the ‘pearls of wisdom’ that’s told to folks new to SL is : “In other games, your character levels up... in SL, it’s the player that learns things”
We decided to keep to that philosophy in SL-Traveller by making as many things as possible as realistic as possible, then letting the players learn how to do the skill.
SLT Adventures are meant to be quick (less than 2 hours) , self-contained (people can show up and play without a lot of pre-game briefing) , and intuititive in play.
The first role-play event was an “incoming Scout Orientation”, run March 15th,2009. Like the first game session for many campaigns, this was where the GM and players discussed rules and how the game works. Unlike most game sessions, this involved a virtual walk-through of the Type-S Scout ship Sierra, getting hands-on with systems and how things worked. One comment from that game session was, “This is a flight simulator for the Type-S!”
The first adventure, “Nav Beacon”, was run on March 22. Set far above the surface of Arakis and the city of Splintered Rock, it involved an orbiting navigation beacon that had started malfunctioning, and the players went off to repair it. A simple, straightforward mission intended to let people get their feet wet, it involved lifting off, flying to orbit, finding the drifting navigation beacon... then spacewalking to stop the tumbling, correct the drift, and repair damage to it. Along the way, the source of the damage became obvious: a number of meteors moving through the area.
This adventure was also the point where the “High Realism” let the player do something that I, as GM, had only half anticipated. In the ship’s computer was a file containing technical notes on the Nav Beacon. In the file were about three lines of information the really needed, but to make it a bit more of a game, I’d wanted to put more text around them as filler. I decided to cut and paste from my notes on programming the beacon, then dress them up a little with technobabble so they sounded like something you’d get from a Scout ship's library computer.
One player was clever enough, on reading this, to figure out how to use the ship’s radio to link to the telemetry channel on the beacon, and thus help the crew home in on it as it drifted away from where it was supposed to be. I’d put the code in there to allow me to clean up after the game ended, but it made sense that the IISS would have such a feature so I’d included it in the documentation, then forgotten about it as the game started. It really made me smile when the Vargr sitting at the computer station said, “Found it!”
Repairing things in SLT involves clicking on the broken item, choosing the “Inspect” option to find out what seems wrong with it, then choosing “Repair” and selecting a method of repair. Different descriptions of damage match to different repair options, and a “good engineer” knows which goes to which... a poor engineer fumbles around longer before managing the repairs. Vooper Werribee was the space-walker on this mission, floating next to the beacon and figuring out what needed replaced or repaired. Here the “good engineer/bad engineer” makes a difference: drifting in zero-G is a pain in the tail, and the less time making the repair the better.
The next adventure was “Spider Station”, a simplified version of the old Classic Traveller “Death Station” from Double Adventure 3. It involved an Imperial Research Station that had missed its check in, and the IISS being called upon to investigate. The players were to make sure the scientists were safe—and if not, pick up anything that might be classified or shouldn’t fall into the wrong hands, and bring it to the proper authorities. This was the first docking of the Sierra to another object in space, and the first “NPCs” used — a number of 2 meter wide, meter-and-a-half tall mutant spiders that the scientists had made while playing with DNA resequencing. This was also the first big test of the combat ‘rules’, including the medical ‘rules’, and the first time some of the players got to bang away with snub pistols. (One of the people on this adventure had helped beta test the combat system, and thus had a little experience with it.) The medical rules are similar to the repairing rules. When using a medical kit, it describes the wounds and offers treatment options. A good medic will avoid doing things that cause ‘mishaps’, and make choices that get you back on your feet more quickly. A bad medic... well... ‘mishap’ is a bad word.
Since then, we’ve had a few other adventures, and mixed in other events. The “Easter Egg Hunt” in April, the “Micro Climate Survey”, and the “Survey of Sihnon” have all drawn good numbers of players. Some adventures are re-run as an intro for people first coming in to play—such as the Nav Beacon—and others are run as fun contests, such as Micro Climate, where Scouts try to gather data while the opposing team scores points for destroying sensors. The player who collects the most data, and the player who destroys the most sensors win prizes.
The “Fiddleback” adventure, pitting a damaged 400 ton cruiser (only 1 turret working, M-Drive damaged) vs a Type-S led to the players getting hurt a bit, but managing to take out the turret and get a lucky hit that shattered the cruiser's fuel tanks — which meant it became a boarding action to retake the ship!
This fall, we changed our weekly play time to Tuesday at 5PM Pacific time, and the format changed a bit. The first part of the session is “classroom RP” , where the players learn things their characters should know , and play with the hardware. The second part is a short adventure that involves the skills just learned. This came out of the Fiddleback, where people afterwards made comments along the lines of “If I knew the missiles had more range, I would have....” or “So that’s the advantage of HE rounds in the Snub!”
The classroom time is also a bit more welcoming for new players, as they’re not being thrown into the meat grinder from the beginning, but have a chance to ease into the fun.