Saturday, 19 September 2015

Solo Traveller - Episode 24: In space, no one can hear you die...

[Forgive the James Bond-esque post title, but this turned into the most extraordinary action sequence of any Traveller game I've ever played.]

Obox/ Foreven (2337 C7A2777-9 Fl) / Date: 327-1106

Eshtam and Inty take their positions in the cockpit of the ship's boat. "Lemme see if I can hear anything," says Eshtam. [To intercept a communiqué between the other ships, she needs to make a Commo roll of 10+ : 11+1=success.]

She adjusts the controls for a few seconds, then a man's voice comes over the speakers. "...pare to be boarded."

"Not on your life," comes the reply from the lab ship Djehuti.

[Q: Will the terrorists attempt to ram? 50/50 (4+): O2 C4, No, but...]

"We can outrun you. And we'll cut through the hull if we have to."

The enemy pinnace is invisible against the field of stars, but the sensors indicate that it is less than 20km distant, and the lab ship will soon rocket past.

"They must intend to get behind us," says Inty, "and try to dock that way. Or cut through the docking ring..."

"Fly up to the ring, then," says Eshtam. "Get in their way. Hopefully our friends on the Djehuti will see what we're doing and not try anything stupid."

[Inty needs to make an average ship's boat roll (8+) to perform the manoeuvre: 8+1= success.]

Inty pilots the ship's boat towards the centre of the ring-shaped lab ship, and matches its speed and vector. They are now following less than 50m behind. The lab ship's pilot seems to divine their intent, and ceases accelerating.

"They're co-operating," says Eshtam. "Turn the ship round 180 degrees. I want to see our pursuers when they get within visual range."

"You sure this is a good idea?" asks Lt. Gytovo. "What if the pinnace is armed?"

"It isn't," says Eshtam confidently. "This is a research vessel in more-or-less friendly territory. Besides, they'd have fired a warning shot already if they could've."

"They're behind us now!" shouts Inty as she watches the sensor readout.

"It's showtime, kids," says the Lieutenant. "Helmets on, lock & load. Captain, as soon as we get inside the airlock, I want you to depressurise the whole ship. They probably aren't packing anything that will breach the hull without some effort, but better safe than sorry."

"Yes, sir!"

"And, Inty, you'd better rotate us off the ecliptic about 180 degrees, too," adds Eshtam. "I want our hatches on the same side."

The three put on their helmets, and give their vacc suits the once-over to ascertain that everything is secure. They they wait, nervously peering out the front portholes to catch sight of the enemy pinnace. Inty calls out the distance on the sensors as the ship closes the gap.

"Three kilometres... two-point-five... two... one-point-sev--"

"I see it!" says Eshtam.

"I don't make anything..." says Inty, looking up.

"Follow where I'm pointing."

"It's hard to tell in this suit. Oh, wait, now I see it... just catching the sunlight."

"When they hit two hundred metres, we should get moving, Lieutenant."

"I'm right behind ya."

Thirty interminable-seeming seconds later, Eshtam and Lt. Gytovo are moving into the airlock. They give a last cursory glance over their weapons to make sure their straps are fastened firmly to the utility rings, and attach long tethers to the belts round the vacc suits themselves. A blinking light signals the interior of the ship depressurising.

"We're good to go, Captain," says Lt. Gytovo over the commo in his helmet. "As soon as it's safe, shut off the grav plates and we'll open the hatch."

"And if you can, get a line through to the Djehuti," adds Eshtam, "let them know we'll keep them from being boarded. But they may need to come get us when it's done..."

There is a sudden feeling of levity as the grav plates power down. Lt. Gytovo opens the hatch on the port side of the ship, then he and Eshtam step out into space.

[Set-up notes:

Q: Any guards on the lab ship? Unlikely (5+): O3 C9, No.
number of people on the lab ship (1d6+4)x10=50% occupied = 10 scientists + crew

# of assailants: 1d6+1=6; I rolled a d6 for each to pick a source for stats (1-2 1001 Characters, 3-4 thug from the list in the Traveller book, 5 Citizens of the Imperium, 6 Veterans)

dice= 1,1,2,2,4,4

Everyone is armed with the weapons they have listed skill in. The PCs' stats are included for reference. NPCs are designated by service and nothing else, as they are anonymous assailants in vacc suits.

N/PC   UPP    Skills
----   ---    ------
merch  8698B6 blade-1, carbine-0, ship's boat-1
navy   5734C7 laser carbine-0, vacc-1
army   8476A8 SMG-1, blade-1, vacc-1
marine 177587 revolver-1, tactics-3, leader-3
thug a 95C498 autopistol-1, vacc-1
thug b 87636B revolver-1

Gytovo AB8888 ACR-1, Vacc-2
Eshtam 6AAE94 Rifle-3, Vacc-1, Zero-g-1

Q: Who gets out first? 1-2 PCs, 3-4 NPCs, 5-6 simultaneous: 1=PCs
The enemy pinnace stops 1d6x10 = 60m away.

I used the Zero-g combat rules out of mercenary. For reference, a roll of 10+ is required to remain in control when performing actions in zero-g. DMs: -4 if shooting firearms (no DM for lasers), +5 if handhold used (but effective DEX lowered by 4 for purposes of computing weapon DM), Dex 9 or 10 +2 Dex 11+ +4,  zero-g skill +4/level, vacc skill +2/lvl. A roll of 10+ is required to regain control once lost, with the same DMs as above.

Damage rules will be from German Traveller / Striker / Azhanti High Lightning; the rest is CT, though the PCs will have initiative as a strict sequencing of actions makes more sense. Each hit also has a 1-in-6 chance to crack the faceplate of the target's vacc suit, causing near-instant death.]

Eshtam and the Lieutenant drift slowly away from their ship in a V pattern at the end of their long tethers. Both have had plenty of EVA experience, and so are able to slow to a stop 30m out from their ship [they both have +8DM from skill & DEX]. Despite moving at terrific speed through interplanetary space, they seem to hang motionless in the ether, the terrific bulk of the ring-shaped Djehuti hangs still behind them, and the enemy pinnace creeps slowly to a stop in front. Eshtam looks up to see the Lieutenant suspended about 10m above her head, his ACR trained on the hostile ship. Her world is silent, save for her measured breathing, which is amplified by her vacc suit's helmet.

They are suspended for what seems an eternity before a crescent-shaped sliver of light begins to glow on the side of the pinnace as the hatch is opened.

"First one's mine," says Eshtam into her comm, as she takes aim with her rifle.

After a few moments, she sees the first vacc-suited form emerge from the side of the pinnace, upside-down from her perspective. They step heavily out the hatch, having not deactivated the interior grav plates. "Amateurs," whispers Lt. Gytovo over the comm in spite of himself. Inty's voice shouts in both their ears: "They're coming!"  Two others jump out in measured succession, each radiating from the hatch on their own tether at a different angle. But Eshtam is not listening to her friends' chatter, as she follows the first figure's trajectory with her rifle.

[Round 1]

Eshtam fires at the first figure out [navy]. She leans into the shot as she had been trained to do all those years ago at Antesh, and manages to remain steady -- though feels out of practise. She feels the shot more than hears it. She can tell she hit her mark as the figure jerks with the impact, and nearly lets go its laser. The wound isn't serious, but the hole in their vacc suit might be. Without making too sudden a movement, the figure takes an emergency patch and stops the hole with practised hands.

[Eshtam needed 8+ for an aimed shot: she rolled 6+3(skill)+2dex=hit. Her zero-g roll: 6 +4(zero-g-1) +2 (Dex 10) +2 (Vacc-1) -4(shooting)=10, just succeeded.
The damage roll is 8 +3 (rifle) -6 (vacc suit counts as cloth armour) = light wound. A light wound has a 1-in-6 chance to cause unconsciousness; this one doesn't. It also gives -1DM to hit.
Navy needs to roll 7+ to apply an emergency patch (counts as standard use of vacc skill, so DM+2/level): 7+2(for vacc-1)=success. Zero-g roll of 9+2(Vacc skill)=retain control.]

Lt. Gytovo aims at the second one out [thug a] and fires a single shot from his ACR. He remains steady with military precision. His target convulses once, then loses their grip on the auto pistol they had been holding, which drifts away into space. No move is made to retrieve it.

[Lt. Gytovo's attack roll was 5+2+1=hit; Zero-g 10 +4(Dex 11) +4(vacc-2) -4(shot)=ok.
Damage roll was 11+4(ACR)-6(armour)=serious wound; target automatically unconscious.]

The third enemy out [army] fires a burst from a submachinegun which acts like a little rocket engine, sending them into a head-over-heels spin.

[army's attack roll is 8+1(skill)-2(dex)=miss; Zero-g 5+2(skill)-4(shooting)=lost control]

[Round 2]

As the next one [marine] steps out of the pinnace's hatch, Eshtam fires. She hits them in the shoulder, and they scramble to get an emergency patch applied. The first one doesn't take, so in a panic they scramble for a second, as frozen droplets of blood are sucked from the wound into the vacuum of space.

[Eshtam's attack roll was 9+3+2: hit. Her Zero-g roll: 8+4+2+2-4=easily ok.
Damage was a light wound again.
Marine has only vacc-0 skill. A roll of 6 applies a patch, but ineffectually.]

Lt. Gytovo takes aim at the next one out [thug b]. But his overconfidence with weightless manoeuvres, or perhaps his underestimation of his foes leads him to slip up, and the recoil from his ACR sends him reeling. He doesn't know that he has hit his target, who hurriedly slaps an emergency patch over the tear in their suit's torso.

[Lt. Gytovo hit easily, but only rolled a 4 on his Zero-g check: 4+4+4-4=8, failure.
Thug B took a light wound (1d6=3, no KO), and despite a skill of vacc-0, rolled a 10 to patch the hole.]

Suddenly a beam of yellow light blazes through the emptiness. The first of the assailants [navy], having stopped their leaking suit, has returned fire with a laser carbine. The flash of the bolt illuminates the interior of Eshtam's helmet as it vapourises a few millimetres of the carbon-fibre exterior. The scratch is more cosmetic than anything, but she curses in surprise and fear before realising she's unharmed.

[Navy's attack roll was 9+0, hit. Laser fire does not penalise the zero-g roll: 8+2(vacc-1)=success.
The damage roll was only 4 +5(laser carbine) -6 (armour) = -1, No Effect.]

The one with the submachinegun [army] is twisting and turning and only succeeds in getting more tangled in their tether. [zero-g roll 5+2=failure].

No more attackers emerge from the pinnace.

[Round 3]

Eshtam switches back to her first target, the one with the laser [navy]. Her shot rips into the shoulder of the spacesuit, opening a large tear. The jet of oxygen venting out spins them round, and the laser carbine drifts away from motionless fingers, trailing on its power cord.

[the damage was only a light wound, but 1d6=6, so Navy is rendered unconscious]

Eshtam sees Lt. Gytovo above her manage to steady himself.

[zero-g roll 7+4+4, regains control]

Their assailants are not so fortunate. Two are either unconscious or dead [navy, thug a], one is helplessly spinning [army] and a another is still desperately trying to stop the atmosphere from leaking out of their vacc suit [marine]. That leaves but one with a magnum revolver [thug b]; taking careful aim at Eshtam, they fire, but due to the distance and her gentle motion outward, the shot misses. The shooter begins tumbling head-over-heels.

[The terrorists needed a Morale check (ML9) to stand and fight, which they passed.
Army failed another zero-g check to regain control, and Marine failed another vacc suit roll to apply an emergency patch. Thug b needed 10+ to hit due to range; a roll of 5+5+1 missed by less than a metre, not that anyone could tell. Zero-g roll failed miserably.]

[Round 4]

Eshtam wishes they would give up, but they seem committed to fighting to the bitter end. She fires at the one patching their suit. She curses under her breath, "Dammit! I missed." Her target finishes the patch job, and readies their heavy revolver [in fact she did actually hit, but the armour value of the vacc suit reduced the damage to No Effect. Marine finally rolled over a 6 on two dice and managed to properly apply an emergency patch.]

Both of the two who were spinning about [Army and Thug B] manage to right themselves. Lt. Gytovo shoots the one with the revolver in the arm, but the wound is not serious [light wound on thug b].

[Round 5]

Eshtam fires again. This time she is positive she scored a hit, but the slug just buries itself in the heavy nylon shoulder of the suit [hits Marine, No Effect]. Her target has drifted back towards the side of the pinnace, and grabs ahold of the lip of the open hatch in order to steady themself. [-2DM to hit for lowered effective DEX, but the +5DM on the zero-g roll keeps them in control]. The return shot from the heavy revolver ricochets off the nose of the ship's boat, fantastically short of its intended target.

The one with the submachinegun [Army] squeezes off a long burst, but none of the bullets hit anything, and they once agan go into a spin.

Lt. Gytovo sees the one with the magnum revolver unhook their tether and start to move forward with jets from a small propulsion unit. He fires on them, but loses control and starts to fly backwards himself. He notes with brief satisfaction that they seem to be rocketing away from the fight, but chastises himself for a second foolish mistake.

[Lt. Gytovo's shot hit, inflicting a Serious wound. Thug B is rendered unconscious and flies away into the blackness, never to be seen again].

[Round 6]

Eshtam's target is nearly motionless, hanging on to the hatch. She takes careful aim and fires. The faceplate of their helmet shatters, and death is mercifully swift.

Lt. Gytovo once again manages to right himself. Their sole remaining combatant does not.

[Round 7]

Eshtam shoots the spinning one, and hits despite the wild motion [I decided that being out of control was equivalent to Evading, for a -2DM to hit]. Her bullet is deflected by the solid back of the helmet [No Effect]. The Lieutenant fares somewhat better his shot takes the spinner out of the fight completely [serious wound], but the recoil sends Lt. Gytovo reeling once again.

[Rounds 8-10]

The Lieutenant regains control as Eshtam watches over the drifting forms of their assailants. None move of their own accord. She begins pulling herself back along her tether to the side of the ship, and Lt. Gytovo follows her. "We'd better check the pinnace," she says. He grunts in terse agreement.

They unhook the tethers and crawl along the outside of their ship toward the nose. Inty's voice sounds in their ears as they reach the nose of the ship: "What the hell?"

Eshtam kicks off and launches herself at the pinnace. The lieutenant follows without a word.

[This counts as a 'non-ordinary' manoeuvre according to the description of the CT Vacc Suit skill, so they will each need to roll 10+, with +4DM/level for skill.
E 8+4, G 3+8, both succeed]

They fly through empty space, 60m to the enemy ship. Eshtam sees the pilot of the pinnace in the cockpit, hurriedly putting on the helmet of his suit and taking up a carbine.

They each catch ahold of projections on the outer hull with a thud -- one only they can hear -- and begin to scramble across the surface to the still-open hatch. The gravity catches them as they crawl into the open airlock. The Lieutenant pulls the hatch closed behind them as Eshtam begins opening the inner hatch. She gives the wheel a final turn and feels the hatch start to open. "Ready?" she asks.

"Do it."

As she pulls the hatch open, the lieutenant sees a vacc-suited man beyond raising a carbine to fire. He opens up with a burst from his ACR, dropping the man in his tracks [Serious wound].

Eshtam cuts power to the grav plates and helps the Lieutenant pull the dead and wounded into the cargo area of the pinnace. They are disarmed and bound securely. Eshtam radios Inty and the Djehuti to let them know the situation is under control, and they have soon resumed their journey.

It's going to be another 40 hours to get back.


  1. I'd been very much enjoying this solo campaign up until this episode. There are just too many cringe worthy decisions and actions to list, especially the idea that the lab ship should *stop thrusting* in order to best defend against a boarding attempt. And all so that the PCs can face down the bad guys in a gun fight that wouldn't look out of place at the OK Corral.

    Wyatt Earp would have never stopped a freight train so the Clantons could board it more easily and you'd think the ex-scouts and marines among your PCs would be equally knowledgeable and professional.

    From the aforementioned decision to stop thrusting, to having to spot the enemy ship VISUALLY, to the bad guys coming to a stop to step out to face the PC mano-a-mano, and all the rest, this has quickly become too silly and suspender snapping for my liking.

    Have fun with the rest of the campaign.

  2. I've been enjoying it.

    Just because they've stopped thrusting, doesn't mean they lose any velocity. And doing so greatly reduces the complexity of picking up untethered friendlies (or untethered prisoners).

    None of the ships (lab ship, pinnace, ship's boat) has any weapons, so any capturing of the lab ship would have to be through EVA, and thus the defense is best done through an EVA.

    RADAR sets usually have a minimum distance of 150 meters, so anything less than that can't really be "seen". And anyone not using the RADAR scope would need to find their target visually.

    So don't listen to Bill.

    This has been giving me impetus to restart my solo Traveller game.

  3. Finally felt "brain awake" enough to read this.

    "Hey, people, this is FICTION . . . it is 'space opera' only with a bit more grit than those of the 1930s."

    I am still enjoying it also.

    -- Jeff

  4. The best defense is to keep under acceleration so an EVA cannot even be attempted. With the lab ship accelerating and rotating around it's axis, not to mention making changes to it's pitch and yaw, the terrorists' boat can't even dock let alone send out an EVA party. There was NO plausible reason to stop accelerating other than to set up that cringe worthy Old West shoot out. As for the radar sets alleged minimum distance blind spot, ships have other sensors. The lab ship and PC's boat can also use their radar to cover the each others supposed blind spot.

    Marines, ex-scouts, and the like would KNOW stuff like this. It would be part of their experience and training. Having the PCs ignore that experience and training - let alone simple Newtonian physics - is very jarring.

    You don't need to listen to me, but you can't ignore the physics.

  5. Apologia pro pugna sua :

    The halting acceleration was ultimately one of those crazy PC ploys to coax out the bad guys. The bad guys either had to ram the lab ship and destroy it or force their way in somehow. Had they been PCs (or had a better pilot), I could even see a situation where they might try to dock with the lab ship as it tried to evade.

    They could also have given up and tried to get at them back at port, but that was the less interesting option for me and the more difficult option for the NPCs.

    One of the reasons I like Traveller is that it does multi-genre sci-fi better than, say, Star Wars or Star Trek. Sometimes it's military sci-fi, sometimes it's cyberpunk, or spies, or merchants, or even melodrama. And sometimes it's Thrilling! Space! Adventure!

  6. There's no need to apologize here. All I wanted to do was point out one rather jarring episode it what has been a very enjoyable campaign. For me, it was like watching a great movie when all of a sudden a lame scene pops up.

    Take "Caddyshack" for example. You get scene after scene of various comedians doing their schtick and then Danny's girlfriend shows up with her HORRIFIC "Irish" accent. In a matter of seconds both your mood and your immersion in the film are destroyed and it takes a quite bit to get both of them back. That;s what the Shootout at the OK Lab Ship felt like to me. Everything's rolling along and - WHAM - all the wheels fall off.

    As for ramming the lab ship, didn't the intel have the terrorists wanting to seize the ship in order to broadcast a message from it? When did their plans change and, more importantly, how did the PCs ever find out about it?

    1. I meant apologia as 'speech in defence,' not apology. But I do see your point.

      I was at the theatre last night, and the play contained (purposefully) anachronistic music. At the interval, I heard two people behind me discussing it. One found it jarring and felt it detracted, the other absolutely loved it and said it was the best part. So it's a matter of taste, I suppose.

      Ramming the ship was just something I asked the oracle to see if the PCs intel was faulty. The PCs didn't know how fanatical the enemy was going to be, just that they were terrorists according to the Imperial marine. I had decided on thier couse of action before seeing what the NPCs were going to do.