Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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Thousand Suns Readalong Chapter 10: Game Mastering

This section opens with almost the same game mastering advice that comes at the end of the Moldvay Basic D&D rulebook. (“There’s always a chance” shows up in both.) This is followed by several sections on the main themes of “Imperial SF”. This is even more clear and to the point because this game does not have to go to the trouble of explaining (or explaining away) the various complications that have arisen in the course of Traveller’s long history. Each premise is illustrated with a few related adventure seeds; I find this particularly helpful in illustrating the concepts as they pertain to the game.

This image does not appear in Thousand Suns.

Unfortunately, there is no epic cut-away view of a planet or space station to fire the imagination. In its place we have a random plot generator that uses D12 tables to fill out a Mad Lib in this format: “the character must [verb] [noun] near [place] while contending with [complication] and being confronted by [bad guy].” I think a natural thing to do is to take whatever idea you get from this and develop it into a patron encounter with a d12 table for determining what’s really going on. Some results would indicate that things are as they seem while other outcomes might add plot twists and maybe even plot twists to the plot twists. (Such a table is important in order to prevent the GM from doing the obvious cliché every single session– though the value of an obvious cliché should never be underestimated.)

The experience point system is fairly close to GURPS, but there is an insane hard core book-keeping option included that would fit the tone of an otherwise unplayable space role playing game. (A space role-playing game without pointlessly overcomplicated subsystems is simply incomplete.) The system for spending experience points reminds me more of my beloved Third Edition Gamma World set, but there is no incomprehensible stuff glommed into them here. Probably the biggest news here is that you can’t improve your attributes after play begins. This experience system will see a lot more use than Traveller’s incarnation ever did. Indeed… most people weren’t even aware of the experience rules that were buried in Book 2….


3 responses to “Thousand Suns Readalong Chapter 10: Game Mastering

  1. RogerBW January 25, 2012 at 8:24 am

    In my edition, there’s the Imperial SF section and stuff on experience points but no GMing advice, random encounter generator or hard core experience option.

    Some of us started Traveller with the Starter Edition, which reformatted books 1-3 (and a bit of what became book 0) and trimmed out the self-improvement rules completely – they simply weren’t mentioned. (Also no drugs.)

    • jeffro January 25, 2012 at 10:09 am

      Woah; that’s one more reason nobody used those Traveller experience rules…!

      Starter Traveller is also the sole location of the range band space variant of the combat rules– widely regarded as the best space combat system for Book Two ships…. (I see they fixed the pulse laser rules omission there… but I’m not sure they clarified how sand should work.)

      • John E. Boyle November 1, 2016 at 3:43 pm

        Holy Smoke! Never knew that.

        I don’t disagree with the contents of this chapter, it is just that I’ve been a GM for about 40 years, so my style of game mastering is pretty much set. I started out with Metagaming’s Fantasy Trip, Chivalry & Sorcery, RuneQuest, Stormbringer, Bushido, Call of Cthulhu, Ringworld, Pendragon. I’ve played other games, notably Traveller and T&T, but as player only, not GM. No D&D at all, until this past year.

        I already have the general plans for this campaign down. The rest will be up to the players.

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