Friday, September 10, 2010

Traveller Sandbox: A Troupe

While watching an Afghanistan morning unfold from the Bagram East Green Bean, I was thinking about Traveller.  I don't recall the exact thought chain but the result was an idea for troupe play.

Each player generates a five or six term character.  If they bust out or choose to retire after five, they stop at five.  If they bust out at six, they're done at six, if they don't--they're still done at six.  These will be the Primary Characters.

Then each player will generate a pair of two or three term character.  Similar rules apply as above.  These will be the Secondary Characters.

Then each player will generate two one term characters.  These will go into the Crew Pool.

I'll fill in the gaping holes in the crew with one term characters which will also be part of the Crew Pool.

If this sounds a lot like Ars Magica's troupe play, you're correct.  I never claimed to be original.

The Primaries will be the main determinants of where the ship goes and what large-scale business it undertakes.  They will drive, early on, the main plots of the campaign.  Each adventure will feature one Primary and the rest Secondaries and Crew.  I'll give players the option to play a Crew in addition to either their Primary or one of their Secondaries.  The Crew characters are, for all intents and purposes, old-school D&D Hirelings.  Sure, some can advance to become Secondaries, as Secondaries can eventually become primaries.  Look at Miles O'Brien on the different Star Trek series he has been on.  What began as what may as well be a named extra, he got more roles on ST:TNG and eventually branched off onto ST:DS9.

A few other thoughts...
  • Primaries need to have a Connection with another Primary and a Secondary, run by a different player.
  • Crew do not get Ship Shares as mustering out benefits.
  • I'm thinking of giving Primaries 3 free Ship Shares and Secondaries 1 free ship share each.  If I have a group of four players, that WOULD give the PCs a 20% discount on the ship on top of what Ship Shares they generate through Character Creation.  This is worth MILLIONS.  I get that.  I think that given the vagaries of this particular style of play, it might be worth giving the players a break, since they aren't exactly set up for success.
  • Trade would occupy a few of the characters who aren't on an adventure.  The rest would get to do something like the Character Catch-Up from Cities, but specifically geared for this milieu.  Since the group as a whole will cover the job aspect with trade/adventure, this would be more of a reflection of what kind of trouble they get into on liberty.
  • I've got several people who I know would love to play, but can't do so all of the time.  This would work very well for them, as they can be assumed to be in the background when they aren't around and email sessions of the CCU would keep them current.
I think this paradigm will result in a much more episodic campaign than an epic sweep.  It sacrifices the singular development of a character for variety of play options and scenarios.  If a group wants to strike out on their own, that would be an easy thing to do.

Who has played troupe games before?  Any advice or criticism?