The best stories always begin with good characters. Roleplaying stories are no different.
This week I've been fiddling with ideas to bring something very old back to life, breathing interest and excitement back into my vision of the Traveller setting. Two decisions have helped me to break out of old assumptions and freshen things up:
Instead of the free-wheeling campaign aboard a starship, complete with trading for resources and to keep the ship payments flowing, I've opted for a totally different model. One world, one city and a plot focused upon a group of local characters who are about to try and make a difference.
- Creating four concepts for character pre-gens which help set the tone.
- Shifting the focus away from the big-scope galactic right down to a tight-focus city setting.
Outline: Psi, post-cog/telepath/remote viewer
Jennings has been hiding his talents for most of his adult life. Born to a mid-grade family his father was a bureaucrat and his mother worked shifts at a diner. Jennings grew up as the smart kid who got bullied at school, mostly because he spent too much time in the library. As he matured, he discovered his talents and quickly learned to hide them. Able to influence minds, he first developed his abilities to help people forget about him. A search for other like him led him to a woman named Nimara who, eventually, helped him to enrol in a secretive Psi Institute in New Haven. Jennings has come a long way since those early days and now, having listened to many of Nimara’s ideas, he has agreed to join the Solomani Cause and work for the freedom of all Psi’s.
Outline: Ex-Cop, Solomani sympathiser, ex-homicide
Paulo was a pretty good New Haven cop, working homicide for most of his short career. Being Solomani, however, proved difficult in the New Haven 23rd
precinct because most of his peers were dismissive of his heritage. Over time Paulo went from being a fringe sympathiser of the Solomani Cause to a persecuted rebel who harboured a desire to break free from Imperial law and restrictions altogether. A recent investigation into the city’s military governor, however, linking the man to a potential double-homicide was enough to get Paulo into trouble. Coming home to a crime-scene in which his young wife and child greeted him with tears and police with planted evidence of drug trafficking got him a 2 year prison sentence and cost him his marriage. Out in 5 months for good behaviour, Paulo has been harbouring a grudge ever since that day. Now he’s joined the local Solomani Party and been invited to take a more active role.
Outline: Ex-Imperial Soldier, Solomani
Lars was born on Krypton, on the other side of the border, but his mother fled the Confederation and sought refuge in New Haven. Growing up Lars was always the “other” kid at school, picked on because of his strange accent and immigrant background. Even at 14 he knew that he wanted to show those meat-heads that he could be somebody: he would join the world’s Infantry Lift Battalion. Lars aced basic training and showed some promise, being used off-world in some low-level counter-insurgency operations and routine peace-keeping tasks. Everything was going ok until 6 months ago when, on leave in New Haven, he ran into some “old friends” and got himself into a bar fight. Having sustained a pretty solid kicking, some time in hospital and a medical discharge, Lars has been kicking around town trying to figure out what to do next. Although not a strident Solomani convert he has become attracted to the Party, joined and recently invited to take part in supporting some “information gathering”. Glad to be using his military training to support others, he has readily agreed to join an active cell.
Outline: Solomani, hacker, techie, conspiracy nut
Sarav grew up in New Haven and knows the city’s systems pretty well. A bright kid from a privileged family, Sarav fought off his boredom with “playtime” on the Grid. Ever a techie and lover of computer systems, he graduated from city University and immediately got himself a tech support role for a large corporation. The problem was he got sloppy and ended up fired. Since then he has become convinced that the Imperial authorities are covering up some illegal activities, and he made contact with the Solomani Party as a freelance tech consultant to gain access to their data. Proving himself a useful asset to the group, Sarav was invited into party surveillance activities and heard about Paulo Dimitri’s run-in with the city governor. Requesting to “go active” Sarav ended up working in the same cell.
This is the place the campaign not only begins but also where the focus lies, at least at the beginning. Kidashi is an Imperial world close to the border with the Solomani Confederation. It is a world under Imperial military rule and one upon which the Solomani population is restless, uncomfortable with the "oppressive" actions of the Imperium.
New Haven is one large city, an urban sprawl of high-rises and slums which is home to our characters. Here the Solomani Party is actively seeking to fuel rebellion and make a stand against the "corrupt" Imperial leadership. Stories of espionage, theft, rebel raids and investigation into whatever dark secrets abound are the focus. Our heroes must fight to make a difference on the streets where they live.
Whereas the traditional Traveller campaign relies on the players never staying in one place long enough to get too bogged down, this campaign has the opposite feel. It's a scenario in which the action is all about standing up to the distant Imperium and seeking to restore a dream of freedom which is, in many ways, itself a fantasy. No starships, no repayments, no trading on the open market, and very little travelling.
My hope is that some really good characters set within a tightly-focused setting will create a really nice start to the development of something fresh. Conspiracy begins at home, right here in New Haven.