Editor’s Note: This adventure originally appeared in Spanish in Vuelo Raso N. 6, and was translated by Google Translate and Jeff Zeitlin and the translation printed in the May/June 2023 issue of Freelance Traveller. Lea este artículo en español.
In many cases, Traveller referees manage Open World or Sandbox adventures in which it is difficult to predict the actions of the characters or the direction they will take and, therefore, have prepared events or activities to present in the locations they can visit. A methodology that I usually apply as a Traveller referee is that of Charged Encounters.
To do this, what you have to do is take as a reference a series of events or subplots that are supposed to be interesting to include in the story, which serve to give depth and a sense of realism. The daily life of these is usually prioritized, to introduce into the game that part of the life of the characters that is not commonly faced during the development of the adventures. Once the events in question have been selected, they usually develop with the following characteristics:
- Purpose. Here is noted what the narrative intention of this subplot is and where the game leads. Although of course the interaction of the players can modify the meaning of the adventure, it is preferable to know what their possible role in the story is.
- Trigger. The event that might allow it to be brought into the game.
- Event. This entry describes how it is presented to players and the game options it entails.
- Seed. The long-term option posed to the PC involved. The PC can accept it or not, but in any case I usually write down the most likely way that the encounter will reappear in the future.
These characteristics are not specific to place or time, and they do not have a role related to the main plot or objectives of the characters. They are independent and usually address concepts that must complete the game universe. The story will tell when and where to introduce them to the players, either because they are needed to fill a space in the narrative, because a player expresses concern in a way, or because it just looks good. In any case, it is a tool that is always on hand and I find it useful on many occasions.
Included are some examples of these Charged Encounters that were used in one of my campaigns with a little notation of how they came to be featured in the campaign.
Deirdre/Hannibal buys you a drink.
- Purpose. Since this referee likes the PCs to have a personal motivation or a place in the universe, allowing spirituality into the story can be a hook in that direction, and even introduce neo-animists as a faction or subplot engine, if players show interest.
- Trigger. One or several characters will manifest, sooner or later, the desire to simply interact with other people. It can happen after a long sequence of jumps, after an argument with crewmates, or simply as a result of the desire to explore a starport.
- Event. Depending on the proactivity of the travelers, they may notice him/her having a drink alone in a bar or the other person may approach them. Deirdre/Hannibal will have the right characteristics to attract the player’s attention. This person will be very receptive to having a drink, sharing a table to eat or simply chatting with the traveler. S/he will be very empathetic and assertive while s/he asks the traveler about his/her concerns or wishes, trying to establish a connection. In reality, Deirdre/Anibal is a neo-animist, who has taken on the mission of trying to help travelers in need. His/her way of approaching it is to make the character reflect on his/her bad luck, emotions that bring him closer to depression, etc., and will recommend activities that lift his/her spirits: walks through places brimming with nature, enjoy landscapes, try to take advantage of your trips beyond money, explore the galaxy as a wonderful and incredible place... Before saying goodbye, S/he will insinuate that there are many people who think the same way and the character will be able to find them in other starports willing to give you comfort, a helping hand or whatever you need. S/he will run away from any type of message that sounds like a sect or religion, since s/he seeks a close and personal approach. (There is more information on neo-animists in Referee’s Briefing 5: Incidents and Encounters.)
- Seed. It is possible that, in a new trip through the system, the traveler will look for Deirdre/Hannibal again, or carry out a similar search in other starports. In any case, the important thing is to transmit a new message in a second interaction: many travelers suffer from vicissitudes, bad luck or depression. This is so because in each transit space jump, the traveler is isolated from the universe and that connection, when broken repeatedly, affects the union of the traveler's soul with the All. For this reason, the need to repair that connection is recommended, trying to enter into communion with the universe, for which he must try to experience the natural world and interact with as many people as possible (see Neoanimists in Referee’s Briefing 5).
- Practical example. In the campaign, a woman of about 50 years of age appeared, with a melancholic appearance and calm character, who helped one of the travelers to “wind down” after a very long series of jumps in which they did not descend to the surface and, in addition, the character had faced a series of decisions that he had not much liked making. Now the character is embracing neo-animism.
Xiao Li/Tomki Araki needs a ride
- Purpose. Propose a free port, a local ally, and an occasional love affair that is a source of future adventure hooks in the future. And of course, learning about the moral values and decisions of travelers to be able to better measure their possible decisions in the face of dilemmas and complicated situations later on; but doing it through a situation that does not jeopardize the resolution of main plots.
- Trigger. The characters’ spaceship is in financial need or needs an excuse to get away from the main planet without arousing suspicion.
- Event. Xiao Li contacts the travelers through the networks of the local starport, since she is looking for a transport service to a mining station outside the system: the headquarters of the Lovec-Gao mining cooperative. The trip is not long and does not mean a major detour for the ship on its way out to the jump point to leave the system. She offers to pay a ticket of 5000Cr. Take this person and a companion to their destination The trip is in a quiet area where there is no news of piracy so it means easy money. Xiao Li, goes to boarding with little luggage and accompanied by an older man whom she treats with familiarity (he is her uncle), although he will never speak to the travelers and will only respond with gestural language. During the trip, Xiao Li (who can be a man or woman of any age or condition) can establish an informal and ardent love affair with any traveler who shows interest. As the time comes to approach the ancient mining station, which may be on a belt asteroid or a gas giant moon, a communication will tell them that they are approaching an exclusion zone and are not cleared to dock with the season. This communication will be clear and emphatic, without accepting a dialogue. It comes from a Type-J mining ship. Xiao Li is actually the representative of the Gao family within the cooperative, which is embroiled in a series of tumultuous fights to change several of the statutes. Her rival, the representative of the Lovec faction, intends to prevent Xiao Li from reaching the station in time for a series of votes and agreements that must be endorsed and that she could transfer a significant part of the power and benefits to her supporters. Xiao Li is able to explain the situation to the travelers, as well as her need to arrive at the station on time to avoid what she calls a “coup.” If the travelers help her, they will have her gratitude and help from then on; plus, if she can prove to the law the rival faction’s interference, she will give them 75% of the compensation she gets from the courts (although she is willing to offer 100% if the travelers negotiate well) . In order for Xiao Li to reach the station, she must avoid the blockade that the Lovec group’s supporters have set up. They are three J-Type mining scout ships armed with double turrets, which know that Xiao Li is on board and will try to prevent her from arriving at the station. When the time comes, they are even willing to reach an agreement with the characters and pay them another 5000Cr to deliver the passengers, who will be taken to the station by themselves (obviously once the voting has finished). Depending on the firepower of the PCs’ ship, it is possible to decide how far away the other two mining ships are to make for an interesting and dangerous situation, but not overly challenging. The miners are not fanatics and although they know that they are far away so that the authorities of the system do not get involved in a matter like this, they are not going to risk their lives or their ships. Your goal is not to destroy the travelers but to delay them long enough. Xiao Li’s objective is to arrive at the Lovec-Gao station on time where they will not put any problem with the coupling of the players, since her workers are not aware of this maneuver of the Lovec faction.
- Seed. The Lovec-Gao station is an independent station that is a port and supports more than a dozen mining ships syndicated in this area of the system. It also offers a small supply/rest port and buys its material to later sell it at the system’s main starport through its own broker. Both factions, the Lovec and the Gao, are prospects for Allies or Enemies in the future. Its presence in the system can be the result of many future situations and helps to fill the space in the system, since it is normal that sooner or later the characters return to it. Of course, all those involved will remember their role in the events and will act accordingly.
- Practical example. Xiao Li began a passionate romance with the pilot of the crew, who pressured her companions to storm the Lovec-Gao station since, by breaking the blockade, Lomasz Lovec took control of the station. After storming the station and putting down the mutiny by whittling down Lomasz’s half dozen accomplices, the travelers enjoy a free port, and a source of new plots in the system.
Sofía/Milinko can take you hunting
- Purpose. In the end, Sofía is a contact for people who have no problem with breaking the law to go hunting and in the future it can be used to get in touch with the system’s black market.
- Trigger. On some planets, colonies, or inhabited areas, only occupy a small part of the world. Characters can look for fun, find an excuse to get out of the inhabited area, or simply find out what lies beyond the cities of the world.
- Event. With any of the above triggers it is possible for players to meet Sofía at a restaurant/bar, who is found waiting at a table, wearing a half-rolled-up outdoor work outfit. The cook comes out of the kitchen to deliver a plate with a really striking meat stew, different from what other customers have seen and don’t remember seeing on the menu. Asking the cook, the waiter or herself about it, will lead them to know that it is meat hunted by the cook abroad. Sofía is a maintenance manager who deals with the revision and repair of equipment outside the colony, in the unvisited area. If the characters ask and she thinks she can trust them for some reason after probing them, she will confess that she hunts small animals in the outdoor area, and she likes to cook and eat them. Sofía has a small hunting business for which she takes those who are willing to pay to the outside area to hunt small animals (equivalent to rabbits or partridges). She is in charge of survival equipment and hunting weapons, which will depend on the law level. In any case, the law prohibits this activity, which must be carried out carefully to avoid a fine or worse charges.
- Seed. The idea is that, if the characters return to the system and have Sofía again, it is possible that law enforcement is watching her and the characters find themselves in the situation of having to escape a raid and return to the city, accompanied by Sofía or on their own to avoid being arrested. She can also choose to turn herself in and face a short process that could end with a hefty fine or ban from returning to the system for a few months, depending on a Legal roll (hers or the lawyer they hire).
- Practical example. When they found Sofía, the characters were trying to find out something about her, so they interacted with her and paid her to find out who they could get the information they were looking for about her. Since she was a space port official, the fact that hunting her was illegal was changed, to need a permit for her. That gave them the excuse to meet with the official and allowed them to continue with the adventure. Sofía remained as a contact in the port, but the official took on a role that she could not foresee and she was the protagonist of the session in an unexpected way. There is no harm that she does not come for good.
Elissa/Robert wants to give you a present.
- Purpose. Give details to the local culture, and locate a meeting place between people of a certain intellectual level or power, where they can go to have an opportunity to get a few minutes of time. An additional option is to arouse a taste for refined art in a traveler
- Trigger. A fledgling working relationship is brewing, some NPC is trying to get a deal done, or someone wants to reward travelers. This encounter is useful, especially, when the characters must spend time in a system without any task to perform. They may have to wait for a repair, the arrival of someone, let the broker work to find an intermediary or a buyer for the merchandise. In short, when they are idle and don’t know what to spend their time on.
- Event. Travelers will receive an exclusive gift as a token of appreciation or goodwill from a corporation, employer or business contact: tickets to an unusual show. A performance that combines a musical function that interacts with the local fauna or flora, creating an absolutely amazing show. The place of the representation is far away and the characters must take a transport to get there. There they will be able to observe that the assistants belong to exclusive circles of the society of the planet. After the performance, an exclusive snack is offered, off the bill, for those attendees who wish to meet the artists, at a high cost, but affordable for the travelers. In case of accepting the proposal, they will have the possibility of socializing with some important people within the system and who knows if they will get a contact or employer for later. Another option is that they are able to listen to rumors or find out some news that gives them an advantage when doing business (perhaps a bonus on the purchase or sale of some specific merchandise).
- Seed. This concert is repeated with certain periodicity and is part of the social life of the avant garde of the local society. There are strict rules of behavior that first-time visitors are forgiven, but it is hoped that if they return, they will at least bother to learn them. Otherwise, it could be interpreted as an insult or contempt for local customs. The characters could return on their own to resume contact and consolidate it, or locate someone who is not attending to them.
- Practical example. The world was aquatic and the concert was held in a low-depth glass vault, where large animals similar to whales came to the call of the music and responded with their own songs. In the subsequent meeting they had the option of contacting a regent of a small confederation of islands near the equator of the planet with whom they want to maintain commercial contact in the future. In addition, the character interested in neo-animism, felt how in the event his grief and anguish disappeared and he entered a state of peace, which he affirmed his beliefs and convinced him to meet again with Deirdre.