After-Action Report: TravellerCON/USA 2015
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2015 issue.
First, an apology, because there are no photos this year, except for the awards—my camera/phone was acting up, and if I looked at it cross-eyed, it would complain about the battery being low…
Day One—Friday, October 9 (and general comments)
I actually got onto the road close to the time I expected to, and arrived at the hotel (the Lancaster Host Resort, same as last year) at about 1430. We weren’t able to get into the con room; they were still cleaning up from the previous group. They did give us one of the smaller rooms just to wait around in and maybe get some pickup games and chatting going, so after dropping my stuff off in my room, I headed down to meet, greet, and chat.
We got into our regular room a little later than planned, but the Friday Evening session got started, dice and books and handouts were broken out, and Traveller started being played in earnest. I was chatting with some of the people who weren’t playing, and wandering around looking at the vendor tables, when Megan H. (the Queen of the Con) mentioned some of the freebies that I hadn’t collected when I signed in. I collected, and noticed that we still had some of the Freelance Traveller thumb drives from last year, so I set up my laptop, and let folks know that if they had one of the drives with them, I’d update them through the October 2015 issue (which had been posted only about a day before). So, more chatting, a couple of updates, and a little wandering around made for a pleasant evening.
This year, the awards for the PFI and SEH were courtesy of John Devine, who gets my profuse thanks because “life is like that, sometimes”, and it most definitely has been like that for me, recently, so I wasn’t able to get to the plastics place that I used last year to make them up. What John did was far nicer than what I had in mind, anyway, so from my point of view, that ended well. I took pictures, and then my phone started griping about battery.
The vendors present were John Devine, who had a selection of Traveller-themed T-shirts (“You have not LIVED until you have DIED during Character Generation”, for one) and other miscellaneous stuff - including a pen/penlight/laser pointer/tablet stylus (the first one was free swag, any additional ones you want were at almost token cost); John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games, with a good selection of the Clement Sector material—I walked away with a lighter wallet, and a much heavier load of Traveller books—and Noah Ternullo and Fred Goldin of RPGSuite.com, who have negotiated a license (with Mongoose) to bring out some Traveller software. They had some early versions to show off; the software looks very promising. I wish my phone hadn’t been acting up and gnawing on the battery; the screen shots were impressive, and the morning and afternoon periods on Saturday had clusters of people visiting their table and playing with the demos.
As last year, we had five roleplaying tables and two miniatures tables, and while slots on the schedule were well-filled, there was also ample opportunity for pick-up games.
Day Two—Saturday, October 10
After enjoying a quick-but-tasty-and-filling breakfast in the hotel’s “other restaurant”, I went down to the room, which had just opened (I was dining with Keith F. and Megan H., the other two-thirds of the ConCom). Some games were just getting started, so I checked the sign-up sheets and the descriptions in the Con book, and elected to join Mel W.’s “Mustering Out Blues”. M.O.B. is a Book 1-3 Classic Traveller adventure, where the idea is that you roll up characters on the spot, and Mel runs an adventure “off the cuff”, no advance planning, and even things like world building was done “on the fly”. Play was fun, but what really pulled everyone in was the world-building as a group rather than by Mel’s fiat. The adventure definitely went well, with a few surprises along the way, and we came to a natural end a little early, and spent the rest of the session doing a post-mortem on it, where sources of some of the ideas were discussed, as was how successful the session was because of the way it pulled everyone in and got us involved in a way that gave us an emotional stake in the collaboration.
We broke for lunch at 1200, and most of us scattered to various local eateries or take-out; it turns out that there’s a pretty nice noodle place just down the street from the hotel, so I had an Indonesian noodle satay with chicken.
The afternoon session didn’t have any games that really “pulled” at me, so I set up the laptop again for updates, wandered around a bit, and observed. This year brought a couple of games using the Fate Core rules; while I couldn’t really get a feel for the rules of Fate, I did get the sense that the games moved a bit faster.
Dinner was in the hotel’s restaurant, “Legends”, and was tasty. I opted for a salad this time, as I recalled that last time I’d eaten there, the meals were heavy—good, but deceptively substantial, and with large portions.
By the time I got back downstairs, the slots for all of the adventures for the evening session had been filled (dammit!), so I missed out on a couple of adventures that looked promising—and the one I’d really wanted to get in on had a waiting list as long as the player list. That one was Ken P.’s “A Noble Ending”, an assassination job on a maglev against a noble, and when I was standing there peering over shoulders, it looked fun, even when the party suffered some attention from Murphy. Things broke up around 2300, and people drifted off to the Con suite or to bed.
Day Three—Sunday, October 11
There was only a morning session with two roleplaying games and two miniatures games (counting Brilliant Lances as a “miniatures” game, even though it’s counters) on the schedule; most of us were more-or-less at loose ends or packing up to get on the road back to respective homes—some from as far away as Texas. I got packed up and loaded into the car early, and joined in to Bill P.’s GURPS Traveller Starships miniatures game. There was room for up to nine people; we ended up with four playing. The scenario was one in which there were three groups of three ships each, with different objectives for each group: The Imperial scouts (two classic Type S and a Donosev) had collected some data, and needed to get it home; the Vargr (two corsairs and a Close Escort; I missed names, but two of our players were sharing the Vargr force) were looking to “acquire some assets”; and the Sword Worlders (two Type T and a Close Escort) were simply looking to mix it up with someone. Being the type of person I am, I chose to play the scouts. I should note that none of us were told who we were or what our objectives were until we had settled in and were ready to start. I quickly decided that discretion was very much the better part of keeping my >mumble< in one piece—valor be damned—and made a bee-line for the exit without doing anything that might be considered provocative. The Vargr team offered an alliance against the Swordies, saying that I didn’t have what they were looking for, but I maintained radio silence, and didn’t even use active sensors to see who was what and where—just kept the passives, and set a course. Since I didn’t respond to the Swordies lock on one of my ships, and took care of the one missile that they threw at me with point defense, they sorta lost interest in me, and mixed it up with the Vargr, which was a pretty intricate dance. After I accomplished my mission on about the sixth turn, I “kibitzed” for both sides, and used some mathematical tricks I knew to speed up some of the calculations that were needed for the shooting (e.g., “That does 5d6×50 damage; >roll< Ummm… 13, times 50 is… >I interrupt, “six-fifty”<). All in all, fun was had.
In retrospect, we should have awarded the SEH and PFI at the end of the Saturday night session, instead of Sunday; too many of us were not at the Sunday session. Nevertheless, we got a couple of good nominations for each.
Bracken W. took the SEH (posthumously) for truly heroic action in a game: he was a teleporter, and the ship he was on was in trouble from the Bad Guys. He made some mech and electronic rolls, and was able to jury-rig a laser pistol into a bomb. He then teleported to the opposition’s ship, blowing the roll just enough so that he arrived starkers, but with the ‘bomb’—and knowing that he didn’t have enough psi points left to guarantee making it back. He used the surprise of his arrival—and of his being starkers—to get a lead running to Engineering, where he set the bomb to go off and tossed it at the ship’s fusion reactor. He was nearby when his bomb went off, and set off the reactor, but there was enough ship between him and the explosions to survive, and as he couldn’t teleport back, he headed for an escape pod, with the Bad Guys in hot pursuit. He just barely didn’t make it—but he was able to hit the release button while giving the baddies a middle-finger salute, so nobody got to use the escape pod.
Harry B. took the PFI for dying twice, practically simultaneously. The party had been negotiating with what can only be described as “intelligent dragons”, and he’d just about sewn up an agreement that was about as good as it could be, when one of the other members of the party decided that the dragons must be psionic and therefore Zhos, and started shooting. Chaos ensued, during which Harry got chomped by the dragon he’d been talking with before the shooting started. That happened just as the party’s ship’s weapons came on line, and someone shot the dragon, drilling through him—and into Harry.
All in all, much fun was had, much swag was acquired, and I’m looking forward to next year.