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*Freelance Traveller

The Electronic Fan-Supported Traveller® Resource

TravellerCON/USA 2014

This was the featured article in the November 2014 issue.

Timothy Collinson has been kind enough to give us a look at TravellerCON/UK for the past few years; I can do no less with TravellerCON/USA.

I should note that, sadly, the past two years have been without a TravellerCON/USA; in 2012, it was cancelled when the site got a bit snarky about rescheduling it, and in 2013, the timing just didn't work out.

This year, the Con was scheduled for the weekend of October 10-11-12, which was good, because October 13 was a Federal holiday this year (which means that I—and a few other TravellerCON/USA attendees—got an extra day to recuperate afterward). I took October 10 off.

Day 1: Friday

I arrived at the Lancaster Host Resort, the Con site, at about 1430, about 4.5 hours after I left my cozy home a touch north of New York City. Google Maps says that the route it gave me (and which I followed) should be a touch over 3 hours travel time; that estimate wasn’t bad, actually, as that 4.5 hours includes a stop for a late breakfast before I really got onto the road, and another half-hour or so to stretch my legs just after I crossed the border into Pennsylvania.

The Lancaster Host Resort and Conference Center is a decently large establishment, with many amenities that few TravellerCON goers actually took advantage of. It’s impressive at first view, but when you look a little closer, it shows signs of age—I’d heard it described as “genteel shabbiness” and “a Grand Dame of a bygone era”. None of the signs were themselves individually distressing, but it was the combination of the whole that presented a less-than-ideal image. There’s nothing here that can’t be corrected, and it wouldn't even take much effort to do so—just money and time. Money’s not likely to be a problem; including TravellerCON (the smallest group), they were hosting at least four conventions/conferences. Time, however… there are indications that they may not really have a ‘slow season’, and they’d need one to do a proper job of sprucing things up.

1430 is well in advance of the first session, so I had time to check in, find my room, and drop my stuff, then come back to the main lobby and have a light, late lunch at the bar. The bar serves the full lunch menu from the restaurant, just in smaller portions, and with prominence given to more bar/tavern-like things (e.g., burgers or crab cakes instead of steak and seafood) so I quickly found out that the hotel’s restaurant is of quite acceptable quality.

I met Keith F. and Megan H., the ConMaster and ConMistress (no, they didn’t actually use those titles) a bit later, and we chatted for a while before getting the OK to open up the room. The first session was set for 1900 to 2300, and we were able to open up for setup a bit before 1830.

We had a nice-sized room, larger than we really needed for five game tables (four eight-seat round tables for non-miniatures play, one rectangular one for miniatures—and we could have fit two more tables, either type, and still had more room to walk around between them than we did with five tables at the 2011 site), but that’s not a bad thing. We had three vendor tables—one for a local FLGS (who, sadly, never actually showed), one of Greg Lee’s Cirque, and one for John Watts’ (Gypsy Knights Games) Clement Sector. Greg and John were both present and ran the latter two, respectively.

Ken P. uses a netbook and external monitor to present visual aids while running “The Gandr Gambit”.

Ken P. ran an adventure called “The Gandr Gambit”, in which the party, acting under a time limit, had to acquire data from a lab ship and evacuate, leaving no witnesses—lethal force was authorized and encouraged. I didn’t play in this one—it filled up fast—but I mention it because of Ken’s use of a netbook plus an extra (large) screen to present visuals as needed—for example, pictures of NPCs, and, as they approached the target, an Andrew Boulton picture that I instantly recognized as a landscape variant of the cover of the very first issue of Freelance Traveller, in November of 2009. I’ve asked Ken to consider writing about the (commercial) software he was using to handle that; it does much more, and looks to be a useful tool for world-builders. If he decides to do it, you’ll see the review/description in a future issue of Freelance Traveller.

Two views of the setup for “Bwap This!”

Bill P. ran a miniatures game, using his own homebrew rules, called “Bwap This!”. A K’kree clan decides to colonize a world. Unfortunately, that world has some Gnaak on it which must be cleansed. Not being willing to leave, surrender, or be exterminated, the frugal Bwap residents find the cheapest way they can to address the problem—hire some Vargr mercenaries! I got drawn into Allen C.’s pickup game, so I never found out the outcome.

Allen C. ran a pickup game—I got drawn into this—centered on an active-duty Donosev and crew. We’re skulking around a system in Foreven, and get a GK from what turns out to be the Vargr version of a 200-ton J1 free trader - a model that I immediately christened a ‘Beo-woof’. On investigation the ship was expertly disabled, and all aboard—except a single Vargr teen boy—were dead, with remarkably consistent symptoms. We recover the live one and four carefully-selected corpses just as a 3kdt Zhodani military ship pops up… and time runs out.

There was only the one late session on Friday, so off to bed with me—plenty happening tomorrow!

Day 2: Saturday

There were three sessions scheduled for today—0800 to 1200, 1300 to 1700, and 1900 to 2300.

In the morning session, I played in Harry B.’s “Days of Danger” campaign, as a merchant in a mixed crew hired by the IISS to deliver records—without looking at them or touching them, thank you; loading and unloading will be handled by base personnel at the respective ends of the trip. We didn’t actually get there, nor did we discover before time ran out just what, exactly, had happened—but what we were learning was, as one of Leonard Nimoy’s roles would have put it, ‘fascinating’. Harry explained as we broke for lunch, but no, I’m not spoiling it; it’s still a WIP that he eventually wants to release. I hope he does; I’d encourage him to shop it around to paying publishers—but if none of them are smart enough to pick it up, and he doesn’t go for a license from Mark or Mongoose to release it independently for Fair Compen$ation, I’ll gladly host it at Freelance Traveller.

Second session amounted for me to an informal roundtable discussion that covered a variety of Traveller-related topics, with occasional excursions into US politics. As is usual with that sort of discussion, it ran right into dinner.

Third session was mostly wandering around, chatting with John Watts about the Clement Sector line, and proposing a project (which he approved, and which you’ll see in Freelance Traveller in the not-too-distant future). I also watched Keith F. run a Power Projection: Fleet scenario set during the Nth Interstellar War, where the Ziru Sirka has to defend a battleship long enough for it to get to the 100-diameter limit of a planet, charge up the drives, and jump out, and the Terran Confederation attackers have to prevent it from happening. According to Keith, the scenario is actually the Ziru Sirka’s to lose, and in this particular session, they did—but it looked to be a near thing.

Keith F. explains the basics of Power Projection: Fleet before starting the Ross 154 scenario.

After the last session, a few of us—including all three members of the concom—adjourned to the hospitality suite for some sorta-post-mortem, and some exploration of ideas for TravellerCON/USA 2015. We definitely decided that we want one, and are actually looking to grow it, as the Lancaster Host Resort can handle moderate growth much better than the previous site could. Look for it to be Kickstarted again next year, with stretch goals.

The wee hours (0230) of Sunday proved to be Interesting, for Chinese definitions thereof. It’s not clear just where the water system failure was—hotel responsibility, City of Lancaster, interconnect, or what—but there was no water service until about 0630, which lasted to about 0700 before going out again. Final restoration was later in the morning, almost lunch time.

Day 3: Sunday

There was only the morning session, 0800 to 1200, today. Greg Lee ran the last of four or five—five were scheduled, but I’m not sure the fifth happened—sessions of Cirque. Each session took a different scenario out of the published adventure, and obviously was intended to make you want to play more of it. Fortunately, he had a good number of copies available for purchase.

Bill P. ran a miniatures scenario, “Research Station Sagan” using the GURPS Traveller Starships rules. This actually tied back to “The Gandr Gambit” from Friday, and using GTS seemed to make for faster play than Power Projection. The miniatures used were recognizable Traveller starships, and were only a small selection from Bill’s complete collection, which also included a 600dt subsidized liner, a Donosev, and an 800dt merc cruiser (“little ball”).

Research Station Sagan, the target in the scenario of the same name.

The two sides in “Research Station Sagan”: Top, a Gazelle with drop tanks, a Type S, a Type R subbie, and two Vargr corsairs; bottom, a Type T patrol cruiser, an Empress Marava, another Type T, and two Rampart fighters (actually, original BSG Vipers standing in).

We closed out with awards—with Andy Lilly’s kind permission, using the same names as the equivalent awards from TravellerCON/UK. John D. won the Starburst for Extreme Heroism for holding off a horde of troglodyte humans so that the rest of the party could escape, and managing to get out—with Certain Important Papers that were in the possession of a ‘gone native’ offworlder at the time of the attack. Both awards are clear acrylic, laser engraved, four inches by six inches (about 10cm by 15cm for you folks that use sensible measurement systems).

The SEH and PFI, taken before the Con

Mike B. took the PING! F*** It! for blowing three straight Perception rolls to see who it was that was shooting at him. When another member of the party got the shooter, … let us be perhaps a bit delicate, and say that Mike’s character made good (against the now-dead shooter) on the second half of the threat that begins “I’m going to tear your head off, and …”, without acting on the first half. And did so while another member of the party was getting ready to explosively depressurize the area.


What would a TravellerCON be without swag? Well… actually, it’d still be a TravellerCON. But Swag Was, and it was collected. I have some reviews to write, morally, as stuff I was willing to pay for (had I had sufficient cash on hand—note to self: fill wallet before leaving for TravellerCON next year!) was presented gratis, including a printed copy of Cirque, and three numbers from Clement Sector (one of which is the center of the project mentioned earlier). I also ended up with a TravellerCON 2014 T-shirt, and a packet containing an Origins deck of cards, some Traveller dice (new version), and a set of deckplans for an 800dt merchant. Other folks ended up with thumb drives with some Andrew Boulton artwork on the shell, and a complete set of Freelance Traveller PDFs on the inside. I was glad to be able to provide them, and in many cases, the enthusiasm with which they were received far outstripped what I thought was warranted. I must admit that it’s a bit of egoboo to see how much some people like Freelance Traveller.

All in all, fun was had, Traveller was played, and many people left looking forward to next year. By any reasonable measure, a success. I hope to see more of you there next year!