Continuing Serene Dawn

When I began pitching out my ideas for a game set in the Traveller Universe’s Third Imperium out on the Solomani Rim, I fully intended to play using the revised “Traveller Core Rules Update 2022” rules. Today, as I prep for this afternoon’s Session 3 – a one-shot second adventure following on some weeks after the first semi-flunked investigation – I am wondering why on Earth I changed my mind.

GURPS is great but…

The first two sessions were run back around Christmas 2021 and I opted to run them using GURPS. Given this was four months ago, I am not entirely sure why I did that except to admit I probably gave in to the Resistance, aka my anxiety. In other words, at the time I felt safer and more in control using rules I was familiar with rather than re-learning Mongoose Traveller.

As I sit here today, I find that the added inconvenience of converting material between game systems is an irritant. Referring to two Traveller books anyway, it was extra effort to transfer the data into GURPS terms. In better mental health now, and recently buoyed by the arrival of Traveller Mercenary, I would probably have enjoyed playing in the Third Imperium with the prescription provided by Mongoose Publishing.

The good news to report is that I am prepped with another short investigative adventure built using the techniques I practiced last time. Once again, I used the character’s stated goals and the NPCs that were previously encountered by the players to help me find a starting point. I also limited my time to around 2 hours, which is half the session time allocated and feels like a good ratio.

Approaching Prep

Realising that this was an opportunity to write another investigative adventure, I drew on The Alexandrian’s node-based adventure design and the three-clue rule to develop a more fleshed out set of situations. This process naturally led to the creation of new locations, NPCs, and the wider picture began to unfold. It’s a creative process that I found myself greatly enjoying.

Along the way, I discovered some tweaks to my prep process which break down as follows:

  • Review the characters: Which skills, abilities, powers might be fun to include?
  • Review the active NPCs in play: Can any reoccur? Is there a clear potential villain?
  • Look at the current player’s goals for their characters
  • Create secrets for the players to discover: What’s going on?
  • Decide which of the four key game structures are in play.
  • Create obstacles to the player’s goals (Info Gathering, Challenge, Celebration)
  • Plan adventure with a node-based structure
  • Link adventure back to the characters: Which reoccurring NPCs and/or backstory connections can be used?
  • Provide three clues per secret
  • Grab maps for locations
  • Grab stats for NPC combatants

I discovered that, in practice, the order in which I do things shifted considerably from the process I thought I would have followed (per earlier post). I also ended up adding in some steps that significantly boosted my creativity, all tips gleaned from “Gamemastering” by Brian Jamison. I found that it was much easier to see the potential links having previously created Index Cards for each NPC, character goal, and faction in the game.

Here’s hoping the session goes well. I am going to have to seriously consider discussing with the players the idea that, if we choose to continue, it might be easier for us to play using Traveller. While I am a big GURPS fan it is, frankly, sometimes advantageous to take the prescription.

Game on!

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