Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Traveller Tuesday: 1977 Edition Encounters

It helped, being a scion of a baronial house in the Grand Duchy of Hermes, Falkayn reflected.  To be sure, he was a younger son; and he'd left at an early age, after kicking too hard against the traces that aristocrats were supposed to carry; and he hadn't visited his home planet since.  But some of that harsh training had alloyed with the metal of him... (pg. 6)
The machine said, "Further study will be required.  For example, it will be needful to know whether the entire cryosphere is going to become fluid.  Indeed, the very orbit must be ascertained with more precision than now exists.  Nevertheless, it does appear that this planet may afford a site of unprecedented value to industry.  That did not occur to the Lemminkainenites, whose culture lacks a dynamic expansionism.  But a correlation has just been made here with the fact that, while heavy isotopes are much in demand, their production has been severely limited because of the heat energy and lethal waste entailed.  Presumably this is a good place to which to build such facilities."
The idea hit Falkayn in the belly, then soared to his head like champagne bubbles.  The money involved wasn't what brought him to his feet shouting.  Money was always pleasant to have; but he could get enough for his needs and greeds with less effort.  Sheer instinct roused him.  He was abruptly a Pleistocene hunter again, on the track of a mammoth.  "Judas!" he yelled.  "Yes!" (pp. 23-24)
Satan's World
Poul Anderson (1969)

In the 1977 edition of Classic Traveller, it was envisioned that there were going to be three kinds of encounters: routine, random, and patron.  Routine encounters were simply those encounters which did not need a great deal of attention, while random encounters were an attempt to provide a variety of unexpected encounters, friendly or unfriendly.  In a sense, random encounters in Traveller were a kind of "wandering monster" although the parallel is not exact.  

Patron encounters were seen as a means of providing adventuring opportunities for the players, should they not have enough ideas on their own.  What's interesting as a difference between the 1977 and the 1981 editions is that the 1977 edition phrases the relationship between patrol and player-characters somewhat differently.

1977:  "One specific, recurring goal for adventurers is to find a patron who will assist them in the pursuit of fortune and power."
1982:  "The key to adventure in Traveller is the patron.  When a band of adventurers meets an appropriate patron, they have a person who can give them direction in their activities, and who can reward them for success.  The patron is the single most important NPC there can be."
There's a subtle but important difference between the two introductory passages.  The 1977 version leaves the relationship more undefined, and the focus is left on the player-characters.  By 1981, however, patrons are viewed as a sort of "story-controller" which shifts the focus from the players' intentions to those of the referee.  While some might say I'm splitting hairs, I think in retrospect it is difficult to not recognize the difference, and the effect it probably had on people learning the game.

In addition to the differences in how patrons were viewed, there is a section in the 1977 edition on nobility.  This section was shifted in the 1981 edition to Book One: Characters and Combat, but putting it by encounters in the 1977 edition was a clear suggestion that nobles were seen as being potential patrons:

At the discretion of the referee, noble persons (especially those of social standing 13 or higher) may have ancestral lands or fiefs, or they may have actual ruling power....Ranking above duke/duchess are two levels not reflected in social standing: prince/princess or king/queen are titles used by actual rulers of worlds.  The title emperor/empress is used by the ruler of an empire of several worlds. (pg. 22, Worlds and Adventures)
In the 1981 edition, the mention of ancestral lands and actual ruling power is muted by the modifier "some ancestral lands or fiefs, and may actually have some ruling power..." [emphasis added]  So this is another suggestion of the openness of the 1977 edition, which gets more constrained by the 1981 edition.  The entire idea of scale in interstellar relations was left open for the referee to determine, with just the suggestion of "empires" as comprising "several worlds."  That's far different from the Third Imperium.  (Some of this gets cleared up in an article by Marc Miller published in 1979 - but I'll get back to that.)

Thus "encounters" in the 1977 edition were left to the referee to use as they saw fit, but in a more "sandbox-y" way than the 1981 edition.  From game play, I recall that considerable time was spent attempting to find patrons, though the resulting adventures were as much about the players' intentions, if not more so.

Next time: Animal Encounters

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