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After Action Report: TravellerCon/USA 2016

This was the featured article in the November/December 2016 issue.

Dammit, what is it about this phone and Lancaster, PA? Sorry about no pics, again.

Day 1—Friday, 7 October

I got on the road earlier this year than last, pushing the power button on my Prius at just after 0900. After a quick McBreakfast and a fill of the Prius’ gas tank, I jumped on to I-95 South, heading for the Cross Bronx Distressway (Expressway, for those of you unfamiliar with the term—some places might call this road a Freeway or a Motorway) and the George Washington Bridge. While on a slow spot on the Cross Bronx, I was putting along behind a minivan being used as an auto-parts truck; there were some place-and-press letters on the rear bumper whose actual meaning I had no clue for, but which any Traveller would have recognized—F G M P ?. I’d hate to think that he was suggesting that the truck was actually equipped with one…

Once across the George Washington Bridge, travel through New Jersey (I-80 to I-287 to I-78) was uneventful; I was able to run up to the speed limit and turn on the cruise control essentially the entire way. A quick stop at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center on I-78 after you cross the border was for emptying bladder, stretching legs, and grabbing something to drink. Then, back on I-78 to US-222 to US-30 to the T-Con site, arriving at 1330.

Shortly after I arrived, KF and MH (the rest of the con-com) did as well, and we went to set up the room. Our usual room was undergoing renovations (remember, there were some … bobbles … with the hotel last year, and it was sold to new owners this spring, and they’re putting time and money into it) so we ended up in a different room—larger, and much better lit (two whole walls were floor-to-ceiling windows).

1900 saw the official start of the first session of gaming, and I found myself playing a Marquis with Admin, Diplomat, and Persuade skill—and an INT of 3! Well, he didn’t turn out to be totally useless, although the adventure might have suggested otherwise—the party were all cashiered from the Navy in one go, and more-or-less dumped as part of the discharge (other-than-honorable) package on a backwater world in a backwater subsector with nothing much to say in favor of it. The party’s objective was to acquire a ship and attempt to make a go as free traders. We did find the ship that would work for us; financing it was … interesting. We did get financing, but it required some creativity, and we necessarily developed a sideline in … casual import/export.

Dinner was pizza, provided courtesy of the Con-Com, and eaten over the games. A good start to the con.

Day 2—Saturday, 8 October

I’m really not cut out for late nights; years of getting up at 0400 for work does a fairly solid job of realigning one’s circadians. Nevertheless, I managed to drag myself out of bed at 0530-ish, breakfast at the restaurant’s breakfast buffet (decent, but nothing to write home about), and at 0800, it was time for more Traveller. I could see (and hear) lots of fun going on around me, but DM was running his published Foreven Sector adventure, and I was playing in that one. The party was “deniable assets” for Imperial Intelligence, and the mission was to find where a certain passenger of a certain ship was being held, and rescue said passenger, while preventing a cargo of missiles from being handed to a set of Bad Guys. Oh, and by the way, the missiles are being delivered on a Zho ship—more or less a Marava equivalent. And we don’t know whether the Bad Guys that captured the ship are the same Bad Guys that are receiving the missiles. So, off we go, more or less winging it as we go, and somehow managing to grab some hot dice—my character was way over-educated (EDU 15!) and had Computer-2 on top of that, so essentially anything we wanted to do with a computer was at +5. Hastily conceived plans always managed to work out, and we actually managed to convince (with the help of some Hacks To End All Hacks—modded rolls of 14 and 16) the Zhodani crew—SORAG operatives—that we were also SORAG operatives, with the authority to supercede them. We made contact with the Missile Bad Guys, who turned out to be the Passenger Bad Guys as well, and managed to take them in long enough to “negotiate” getting the remaining prisoners out—including the passenger that the Imperium specifically wanted—and back to the passenger ship, which we took over revealing our connection to Imperial Intelligence—and destroying the missiles (and part of the Bad Guy asteroid base) on our way out. If you wanted to characterize this as a single task roll, collectively we rolled a natural 12 and had high positive DMs to boot.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that after a Really Good Adventure—one where everyone participated actively and had fun, regardless of the outcome—there’s a fair amount of post-mortem discussion, which will range all over the map—not just retelling the good parts of the adventure, but more philosophical—why the adventure worked, what makes a good adventure in general, the role of the referee, and of the players, the characteristics of good referees, and good players, and so on. Because of the discussion, lunch turned out to be burning a few extra calories out of the layer of fat contributing to my 140-odd kilos (and if you’ve met me, you know that “odd” is appropriate. Oh, and for those of you who don’t use rational measurement systems, that’s about 300-odd pounds).

The afternoon session for me was the as-yet-unpublished sequel to DM’s adventure from the morning session, and it was just as much fun for much the same reasons, even though it was quite different in character from its prequel. This time, though, we managed to have an event worthy of nomination for the PING! F*** It! Award—two or three consecutive blown rolls (including two crits) converted a near-certain full success at a three-part mission to a TPK that also converted two of the parts to failures. Even with the Peanuts-esque “AAUGHHH!”ing over the failure, a rollicking great time was had by all, and yes, more post-mortem discussion as above. I cut some of that short to go to dinner, and (sadly) the less said about it the better—and I choose to believe that they were understaffed for handling both the restaurant and the (large) wedding, even though the restaurant was nearly vacant.

After dinner, back downstairs for the evening session. For me, this was MW’s “Mustering Out Blues”, which I recalled favorably from last year; see the November/December 2015 issue and just copy the description of the game and the discussion, even though this session’s adventure had essentially nothing in common with last year’s.

Day 3—Sunday, 9 October

The morning session was set to start a half-hour later than Saturday, but I was downstairs at the usual time. A few people were there, but far fewer than Saturday’s session; not everyone would have Monday off (it’s Columbus Day in the US, a minor Federal holiday—government offices are closed, but some schools are open, and most businesses treat it as Just Another Day. As a government employee, I have Columbus Day off), so getting home early Sunday—or late Saturday—was generally held to be a Good Idea. None of the games really appealed to me, so I spent some time just wandering around and looking at what was going on. One of the vendors was selling LED “nametag” badges, and was having trouble programming them, so I ended up spending a bit of time troubleshooting with him, and we concluded that that particular badge was bad—though none of them was entirely trouble-free for setup. Copious notes were taken and provided, and the vendor will be looking at various alternative suppliers, though it appears that they all end up coming from one or two Chinese factories.

By then, I’d shaken off the remnants of sleep (or so I thought), so, in spite of the SEH and the Ping! not having been awarded yet, I resolved to head out and try to beat most of the traffic that I figured I’d run into on “final approach” to New York. It didn’t quite work out that way; about an hour out of Lancaster, I decided it would be prudent to pull into the parking lot of a Dunkin’ Donuts and grab an hour nap. That put me on track for a 1700 arrival at home, which meant probably a bit of traffic at the George Washington Bridge. And indeed, crossing the Bridge was slow, but not slow enough to delay me—especially as once across the Bridge, I had an alternate route to avoid the bottleneck caused by the accident on the Cross Bronx Expressway (which was the reason for the slow traffic on the Bridge). I ended up home just a few minutes after 1700—pretty good estimating for a GPS system that wasn’t continuously updating for traffic conditions!

The Awards

I got the award info from KF and MH, with just summaries of the event. Next year, I’ll try to stay for the awards and get the Whole Story.

This year’s awards almost seem like they were awarded more-or-less backward, but the nominations were made and voted on with these results.

The Starburst for Extreme Heroism went to DT, who used a cybernetic claw to break a cryotank and freeze the party like popsicles, thus preserving their lives.

BM earned the Ping! F*** It! when he went to kick in the corrupt governor’s office door, missed on a natural 2, and broke his foot. He incapacitated the governor with a thrown knife, catching him in the knee.