This article was originally posted to the pre-magazine Freelance Traveller website in June 2002. It has been lightly edited, with some new material added by the Editor, and appeared in this form in the May/June 2016 issue.
Good old Traveller News Service. The first thing any true Traveller player reads when they cracked open the journal all those years ago. Just one to two lines that could led to adventure, glory or incarceration in a deep, dark hole.
Want to ‘hide’ a nugget of adventure information in a TNS report? Need to create stories as camouflage for a story seed? Well, simply let the dice fall where they may then fill in the blanks. Below is a system used to create stories for a subsector, but is easily applicable for smaller or larger areas.
This list is of course no means a comprehensive one but hopefully you might find it of use.
Step 1: Number of Stories
Number of stories for a particular day for that Subsector: Roll 1D6 ÷ 2, round fractions down. This will give you 0-3 stories. Note if the Travellers are on the world where a story occurred, then it will be on that date. If 1 to 3 parsecs from that world, subtract a week (as it took a week to get there). And so forth for more distant systems.
Step 2: Where Did the Story Take Place
Determine where the story takes place. For me, I load the Pop code for each world in a Subsector into an Excel spreadsheet, total it up and use a Random Function to determine where the news item takes place.
For those who are not blessed with Excel, if there are less than 36 inhabited systems a good model might be using the Traveller D66 system, i.e., 11 to 16, 21 to 26, 31 to 36 etc, re-rolling a blank result. Because stories with larger populations are more likely to have news to report, consider rolling 2D6-2 when you have nominated a system, if the result is higher than the Pop code then re-determine where the story took place.
Other ways of determining the system are possible, but in any case, you should probably bias your method in favor of worlds that would be “more important” in the milieu.
Step 3: Story Type and Topic
Simply roll D66 and consult the table below.
|D66 Roll||Story Type/Topic|
|1||1||Civil War or Inter-state War begins, ends, escalates, peace talks commence, etc.|
|1||2||Imperial Navy deployed in increased patrols, interdicts a planet, battles with pirates/enemy vessels, etc.|
|1||3||Imperial Marines or Army deployed in police action, counter insurgency or raid|
|1||4||Government Changes: Revolution by people or coup by military occurs, overthrowing current administration. Consider change in Govt Code. OR Democratic process has seen a change of government (applicable for Govt Codes 4, 7, A, B)|
|1||5||Change within Government: Government remains the same but a major figure within it has left due to scandal, age, family reasons, health, growing senility etc, or has died in office|
|1||6||Change within Government: A new figure has emerged as the effective ruler of government and is ushered in into office in an elaborate ceremony, e.g., coronation if a noble (Govts 3, 5, A & B), or swearing in if a representative (Govts 4, 7-9). Could also be a member of the supreme judiciary body.|
|2||1||Change in Laws: New laws have been introduced or rescinded, that impinge greatly on personal freedoms, for example the right to search a residence without a warrant, the right for governments to monitor bank accounts etc.|
|2||2||Civil unrest has broken out on world over some particular issue such as harsh new laws being introduced, the government being caught in immoral activity, ethnic or minority persecution, immigration issues etc, or a crime wave occurs.|
|2||3||Major Crime Bust or Legal Event occurs: A criminal organization has been broken open due to diligent law enforcement work and/or information provided by an informant. Or a legal case of great significance has begun, is in process, or has concluded.|
|2||4||A major contract has been signed between a system and a company to produce a particular product: e.g., small arms, starships, computers, nylon stockings, etc. Or a company has announced a new product, e.g., Vanilla Coke, the latest Android House Servant, a really big gun, etc.|
|2||5||A major company has merged with another or been acquired by a larger company. Concerns about reduced competition or the loss of a national asset might surface.|
|2||6||Big Business: A major company has announced massive losses, restructuring required or even has gone bankrupt, which will greatly impact on that particular system (for example they could have been the major employer on that world).|
|3||1||Natural Disaster: Earthquake, Fire, Storms, Flood, Drought, Space Debris, Plague, Pestilence, Famine, Mass Extinction, etc.|
|4||1||Accident: Explosion, major transport accident (e.g., rail derailment or aircraft crash), bio-weapon loosed, habitat or life support compromised, etc.|
|4||5||Amber zone applied or lifted on planet; Red zone downgraded to Amber or Amber increased to Red. Determine cause for the new rating. If being applied as opposed to taken off anything that threatens the well being of others makes a good example: natural disaster from disasters or conflict from political are good reasons.|
|5||1||Celebrity (or partner) has given birth, had a true clone made, etc.|
|5||2||Celebrity has died of natural causes, tragic or bizarre accident, assassinated, is gravely ill, diagnosed with a rare disease, etc.|
|5||3||Celebrities relationship status has changed: Got married, divorced, split up, hooked up with someone (preferably famous in their own right with a similar sounding name) etc.|
|5||4||Celebrity caught in a Scandal: Bribery, Drugs, Disgusting Fetish for culturally obscene act, Sex, fraud, criminal, revealed as a covert Psi, etc. May go to trial and be covered extensively by tabloid press (with the broadsheets also giving less coverage but largely commenting on the immoral actions of the tabloid press, while still giving enough details to satisfy their high brow clients).|
|5||6||Celebrity is touring the region: fact finding, performing, attending awards ceremony, visiting with sick children for charity etc.|
|6||1||Competition or Sport: Major sporting event concludes (trophy/award handed out) or starts. Or winners of prestigious awards are announced, e.g., actor’s guild awards, TAS reporter of the year, the Imperial Academy of Sciences etc. For lower population planets the competition or sport is probably weird (hence it appearing as a 'quirky' news item: for example nude ice hockey, dwarf tossing, Vargr shaving or the like)|
|6||2||Festival commences/concludes: A major festival or celebration starts or concludes, and probably has some wacky elements or customs. For example: on Roup (Regina) or Florida (Terra/United States) the law level is reduced several places for a week to allow people to let off steam; The festival of the dead commences which has the living honoring dead relatives by dancing in the street wearing masks made up to look like them; etc. The lower the population the more unusual or outré the festivals|
|6||3||Weird Customs: An unusual custom, calling for conduct far outside the social norms for where the story is appearing, is revealed for that planet (the World Builders Guide by Digest Group Publications had some great examples). For example: Judges must wash the feet of a leper to prove their worth to judge others; social standing is indicated by hair color; law enforcers must sing the recently arrested their rights; everyone sits down at the same time for a meal. Go nuts.|
|6||4||Mystery solved or Discovery: A ship which disappeared many years ago has re-appeared, the owners of ancient ruins identified, technological breakthrough has occurred in a particular field of sophont endeavor, a missing celebrity turns up, etc.|
|6||5||Mystery occurs: Ship disappears, ruins belonging to an unknown race discovered, entire city goes psychotic for exactly 10.1 minutes, etc.|
Step 4: Write the Story
While a story in a regular daily or weekly newspaper (or equivalent) is generally several paragraphs long, TNS articles in Traveller publications have typically been one-to-three short paragraphs, like the “lead” (now commonly written “lede”) of a more extensive story.
When writing your story (or its lede), you should insure that you answer the “five ‘W’s and the ‘H’”—Who the story is about, What happened, Where it happened, When it happened, Why it happened, and How it happened. Since the lede is generally intended to be the first paragraph of a longer story, you only need to include the bare bones.
Rolled a 5-2 for Celebrity Death. Stuck for a celebrity type, I roll a 3 for Business Mogul.
Radan Colth, owner of Robo-Technics, the largest supplier of Technical droids in the subsector, was killed in a tragic accident at his most recently built Robotic plant, when a droid went haywire at a ceremony to officially open the facility. The robot, a servant model hired from a catering company, was reported to have attempted to serve Radan Colth by inserting a magnum of champagne down his throat, which ruptured internal organs, leaving Colth beyond the help of advanced medical science. The servo droid was not of Robo-Technics manufacture.
Rolled a 2-5 for Company Buy-out or merger
Fenris Arms, a local company specialising in the manufacture of infantry support weapons, has been bought by Madagascar Incorporated, a wholly owned subsidiary of Interstellar Arms. Company spokesperson, Lou Franburg, said that Madagascar had long sought Fenris Arms, a company with an excellent reputation for producing a high quality product, and its growing market share amongst mercenary companies that hire out from the world.
‘The Fenris VRF has the highest ammunition to kill ratio of any VRF unit on the market today. If the Imperial Marines were armed with these babies during the siege of Banu-Phal, there would have been a lot less Vargr limping back over the frontier with their tails between their legs,’ he said.
Rolled a 4-3 for Accident
A shuttle crash at Moughas downport has killed over one hundred people and caused nearly MCr2,000 damage to the facility. The shuttle apparently lost control on landing and impacted into a fuel refining facility. The resulting explosion levelled that section of the complex, and caused wide spread damage to other areas of the port, and injuring 450 personnel in addition to those killed. SPA Chief Administrator Pablo Bescaro has been stood down until an inquiry into the accident has been completed. Rumours of cost cutting to Starship Approach control systems have abounded at Moughas downport for years. Last year two shuttles were forced to abort landings after control systems inexplicably went down at the last second.
Rolled a 6-1 for Competition
The Rogue Roosters have won Tansum’s Grav Ball league, with a stunning 45 to 8 win over favourites Carson City. Commentators have said that the fact that Carson City’s entire forward section coming down sick was almost certainly the deciding factor to a Rooster win. The Roosters are owned by Davwa Smcan, a former player who made a fortune as a Belter after leaving professional sports, and who was horribly disfigured in a decompression accident last year, shortly after purchasing the team.
Rolled a 3-3 for Natural Disaster
An earthquake initially estimated to have a magnitude of at least 7.9 has shaken the northern third of the minicontinent of Shiikelanaa. The epicenter of the quake has not yet been determined, but is believed to be within 100 kilometers of the city of Denikar. Damage is reported to be extensive, and casualties high. Relief efforts from southern Shiikelanaa and western Eshiki are under way.