Welcome to the Flaming Faggot

Callovia is called "the boundless empire" yet you have managed to find its northern border - a notorious roadhouse deep within the Madrasan Marches on the edge of the wilds of Llanvirnesse. The sign above the door reads "Flaming Faggot," which would suggest a cozy, homey inn with fresh biscuits served at teatime if not for the severed troll heads mounted on pikes at the gate.

As you cross the threshold the raucous din quiets momentarily as all eyes dart to the door and calloused hands drop instinctively to well-worn sword hilts. The threat, instantly assessed, is dismissed and roadhouse patrons go about their business hardly missing a beat.

Grim, hard-eyed men huddle around tables in close conversation thick with conspiracy; caravan guards gamble away their earnings; Caemric rangers sit close to the fireplace cooking the damp of the Black Annis from their clothes as they warm their innards with Red Dragon Ale; minstrels play and buxom wenches dance for the pleasure of men who pay them little attention - until they need a companion to warm their bed.

As you approach the bar, a huge, bald barman with a greatsword slung across his back slides a mug of freshly-pulled ale towards you, its frothy head dripping over the rim.

"Pull up a seat, lad," he says, "and let me tell you a tale of high adventure."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Traveller Nostalgia

After reading James Maliszewski's post on Grognardia this morning about Traveller Book 4: Mercenary, I've had Traveller on my mind all day. While I never got to play Traveller as often as I would have liked I did spend an awful lot of time lying on my bed listening to Electric Light Orchestra on my 8-track player and reading my collection of Traveller books. It's funny how music can become so closely linked with certain times and events in our lives. To this day, I can't listen to a track from ELO's Time album without looking around for a Traveller book.

Although I didn't play a lot of Traveller, I did play in a campaign run by my best friend that remains one of my favourite role playing experiences to this day.  All the other players had uber-characters generated using the rules from Mercenary and were fully kitted-out with battle-dress and plasma rifles.  They were bad-ass.  Not me, though.  My character inspiration came less from space opera than from spaghetti western, and I was playing a far less impressive character from Book One: a Jack-of-all-Trades who owned nothing more than a leather jacket, a 9 mm slug-thrower, a boot knife, a pack of smokes, and a bad attitude.  I can't remember the character's name, which is appropriate since he was largely inspired by Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name.

Having missed the first session of the campaign, I was introduced to the action in media res and found myself swept up in a situation beyond my control; an unwilling participant in a raid on an Imperial penal colony to free some political prisoners.  Now, here's the funny thing: my character - the lame duck amid a group of highly skilled and well-equipped killing machines - was the only one to survive the mission.  In many ways, I think it was the superior prowess of the other characters that got them killed.  Where the other players charged head-long into battle with Imperial guards, I desperately tried to avoid notice.  When our party was trapped in a cell, I used my boot knife to pry the hatch off a ventilator shaft and squeeze into a crawlspace that none of the others in their battle armour could fit into.  Meanwhile, a dumb-ass with a plasma rifle tried to blast the door open, and the ricochet ended up killing half the party.  So I guess the lesson here is that it's not the size of your skill list that's important - it's how you use it that counts.  Smart and careful play always trumps an awesome character sheet, which is the lesson that old-school play has driven home for so many of us.  So even though the characters from Books 4 & 5: Mercenary and High Guard were over-powered compared to those from the original books it didn't seem to make much difference in their effectiveness, and I always stuck with my Jack-of-all-Trades, leaving the retired fleet admirals and such to the other guys.  And he remains one of the best characters I've ever played.

Now, let's set our time machines back to 1981 courtesy of Youtube.  Where are those Traveller books?


Dan said...

Traveller is another of the long list of rpgs that I owned back in the early 80s and never really played. I had a bunch of the books and rolled up lots of characters (since char-gen was basically a mini-game of its own) and spent a ton of time "thinking" about playing but never got the opportunity to "actually" play.

Man I wish I'd kept all that stuff...

Michael Skinner said...

I also played a little back in the 1980-81 timeframe. I didn't own the books, my friend did but I really liked the game. Much older now, and much more solvent, I have picked up most of the books on Ebay. Nostalgia for a simpler time I guess.

Sean Robson said...

Never discount the pull of nostalgia as we get older. Some time around 1988, I decided to 'declutter' my games collection, and gave away most of my stuff, which I figured was old-fashioned and obsolete. Now, nearly 30 years later, my chief preoccupation is trying to reacquire it all.