Starship Traveller – Conclusions

I’m destined to keeping getting the bad endings, aren’t I? Oh well, Starship Traveller was a book I actually quite enjoyed, but at the same time, did have some problems with too. One of the things I enjoyed the most was the variety of situations you would encounter, all those planets I ended up flying past or starports I didn’t dock with, I want to know what was on them! It’s not like a door in a dungeon you pass by, the story and races encountered on the planets in Starship Traveller are all unique to each other and thus made themselves more intriguing, when you touch down on a planet you have no idea what you’re going to get. It’s almost like a collection of short stories wrapped up within your own personal goal, and I think that is the books strongest selling point. But what this variety of encounters and situations did lead to was a slight lack of focus, the new rules for phaser combat and hand-to-hand combat were sometimes difficult to apply and left areas of ambiguity, especially when the fights involved multiple crew members and opponents. That said, I did like the ship combat, but I don’t remember having more than just one ship battle through the whole book. Having a crew of specialised individuals was a great idea to freshen up the decision making process though and I would have liked to see even more attention paid to the interactions in the crew and the tasks you need them to accomplish. At the time, this was quite an experiment, changing the established Fighting Fantasy formula so early in the series was a bold move and mostly, I think it works. Although, despite all this though, I did find myself hankering after a sword and a filthy inn to explore, it’s a personal thing, but the Sci-Fi setting will never appeal to me the same as swords & sorcery.

Now, the next point is something I touched upon in the read-through itself and it may be me being dumb, but it feels like a few Luck and Skill based decisions take you to the wrong pages? I hadn’t encountered this before in a Fighting Fantasy book, well maybe back in my childhood I did when I read this book for the first time, but I probably knew no better at the time! I seem to remember two occasions when it came up other than the one I mentioned in the read-through; a personal Skill test when debating with K’tait before the Contests and a Skill test for my Medical Officer when an infection was brought back to the Traveller after I had some repairs done on the starbase. I can only assume this was fixed up in the later editions? I’d also like to know what the point of discovering the speed I needed to travel into the black hole at the end was? I was never actually asked to take that into account when making my calculations.

I won’t be posting any pictures in my Conclusions because I can’t bear to look at that crappy artwork again!

But as the pot called the kettle black, here’s my abomination of a map that I kept during the read-through! I can’t imagine anyone will be able to follow it or have use for it, keeping track of planetary exploration, ship travel and the decision making that replaces the traditional corridor exploration made it pretty hard to do. Perhaps my skills will be honed as we go along into more complex adventures! Anyhow, I have a long  journey to Port Blacksand to make now so I will leave it there …

Starship Traveller – Part 3

Blasting off back into space with juicy warp-speed related information from the Rain Lord, a red planet caught my eye on the scanner and became my new destination, but not for long however as a small grey planet made itself known as I came out of warp speed and I went down for a little look. Scanners showed no life-forms, but evidence of some sort of machinery inspired me to send down a recon plane to survey the area. I didn’t even know I had a recon plane, might have been useful earlier on! Regardless, my now trusty recon plane managed to spot a crashed ship on what was a barren, rocky wasteland of a planet. The recon team discovered no survivors, only an automated mayday signal and so returned to the Traveller.

Unfortunately, they didn’t come back alone. Shortly after their arrival, a message was given to me that three of the engineers who helped with the recon teams docking had died! My first call was to seal off the whole docking area, no more deaths were reported; it’s what Ripley would have done. Medical officers in protective suits examined the body of one of the deceased and came to the conclusion that he had been poisoned; it was likely that some sort of poisonous gas from the planet surface was the problem and was now on the ship. My response was to flush all the air from the affected areas and within half an hour, my Science officer deemed the area safe.

Really glad I landed on that planet.

Heading back into orbit, I was presented with three options; the red planet I was originally heading to, a blue planet and a fast moving dot which showed signs of life. The dot seemed the most exciting option, so I set a course to meet up with the dot. And guess who it was? Our good old eagle-fearing friends, the Imperial Ganzig Confederation from the very start of the book. I spoke to them of my encounter with Commander M’k Tel, which they cared little for and told me to surrender to them and follow to the nearest starbase. Not wanting to waste any time I entered into ship-to-ship combat with them. They clearly didn’t care about eagles anymore. The ship combat was fairly cool though as shield levels dictated damage sustained, rolling 2D6 under your Weapon Strength would give a hit, then rolling 2D6 again higher than your opponents shields would result in extra damage. Due to my ships awesome stats though, the Ganzig Confederation didn’t stand a chance and I blew them to pieces.

My new location led me to investigate another nearby grey planet, but a nearby stardock seemed to offer the ability to repair my ship which had taken some hits in the previous battle, so I took a detour to check out what they had for me. Warning messages sounded however and a message was received from the dock saying that I shouldn’t land. Obviously, I decided to land. A large variety of alien species wandered about the docking area and the Port Commandant informed me that the facility had been infected by some sort of virulent microorganism and that I should leave, but they would repair my ships damage if we could give them protective suits for their engineers to wear and destroy them afterwards. I was cool with that, so I left the stardock with a fully polished ship, all the dings knocked out and everything. Unfortunately  a few dice rolls told me that one of my boarding party had become infected, but a further roll meant my rubbish Medical Officer, with Skill 8, actually managed to sort out a suitable cure, saving the life of my Engineering Officer.

Returning my attention to the large grey planet, I received communication from a small alien who introduced himself as K’tait of the planets Malini Mining Outpost. I was invited to pay the planet a visit as the ‘Contests’ were about to begin and the entertainment was in full swing. Beaming down, we were greeted by K’tait and in conversation he told us it was likely that someone on the planet may be able to help find the black hole we needed to get home, but before we could go further he was called away to the arena and told us to stay put. After an hour of no K’tait, a robot entered the room and instructed me and my landing party to follow. We were led into a small room where the robot left us, it soon became apparent that we had been tricked into something as an invisible energy barrier had closed behind us and sealed us within the room. A group of guards paid us a visit shortly after and asked if we were there for the Contests. I explained that some sort of mistake had been made, the guards contacted K’tait who apologised profusely and we were let go. As a ‘sorry’ K’tait said we could watch the Contests from the ‘best seat in the house’, the sly grin on his face as we headed off towards this seat should have been all the warning we needed to blow his stupid head off, but alas, that wasn’t an option given to me. It seemed I was destined to take part in the days events and  me and my crew were met by guards who instructed us to don some tight-fitting armour and before we knew it, we were thrust into a roaring stadium, facing combat with a Manslayer robot. Indeed, in the absence of an in-book illustration, it seemed the cover art was what I had to deal with.

Quite a difficult battle too, the old Manslayer. 10/4 Stats initially made me think it would be ludicrously easy, but special rules for the fight stated that on landing a blow I had to roll 5 or above on a D6 to miss the robots thick armour plating and then I would only do 1 Stamina damage, otherwise my hit would be absorbed. This made the fight last a hell of a long time and my party took a lot of damage, but thankfully the Manslayer was eventually taken down without any casualties on my side. The crowd roared its approval and we were led away by the head of the planets mining organisation to be let free, given a lovely pile of malinite ore (ooo!) and after a quick request for help, access to their Astronautical Headquarters. As far as the guys in this department were concerned, the black hole I needed to find would be in sector 083, but the timing they could not be certain of… I smell a page number puzzle!

After our brave victory we again set off into space in search of the final piece of information to get us home and a nearby planet named Terryal-6 was our chosen location. I learned the name of the planet from a brief radio communication with its inhabitants who were ‘white skinned with a thin, bone-shaped face’. I concluded that this was obviously David Bowie and made a bee-line to go and meet the intergalactic rock god.

Beaming down, I actually found that the Bowie aliens were on floating platforms high above the planet itself, but before I could meet them, a small child Bowie-alien ran past and dragged me off in another direction. I’m not sure why, but I thought I’d go along with it. Turned out to be a good choice though as the child explained to me that the Bowie-aliens advance backwards with age; they are born super intelligent and slowly deteriorate with age, so I was in-fact talking to the people in charge! After explaining where I needed to go, a few of the kids crowded around a big telescope and a computer before telling me that the two universes would meet at Stardate 21. However, as part of this deal, I had promised to share information on the Travellers weapons and defensive systems and now the Bowie-children wanted their part of the bargain. Somewhat concerned that they had a sinister motivation for obtaining this information, I thought it was best to kill them all and get the hell out of Terryal-6. And so I did just that.

It was time to draw a conclusion to the adventure. No more life-supporting planets were on the scanner and the crew were becoming restless and anxious about their fates. Given that I had discovered data to make a jump through a black hole, I took the decision to go for it. Subtracting the time data from the locational data, I ended up on page 62. The ship was set-up and headed into the black hole, lurching forwards with an incredible G-force that knocked the entire ships crew out cold. I will never know if this was the correct black hole or not, according to the text, perhaps the timing or speed of travel was incorrect, but suffice to say that the Traveller never emerged from the void, my mission had been unsucessful.

Bugger.

Starship Traveller – Part 2

We re-join our heroes who in our last episode had just beamed down on an apparently derelict planet, only to encounter a strange, cloaked figure. The figure announced his presence, telling us visitors had not been here for a long time. He considered my request to speak to someone in authority for a moment before hitting the deck in a smouldering heap, a phaser blast had shot over my shoulder; one of my landing party had killed the alien! Snatching his weapon I demanded to know why he had opened fire, I was met with protestations that the alien had a weapon and had raised it to fire on me. I had seen no such weapon. Not wanting to start any kind of battle, I beamed the alien aboard the Traveller to see if he could be helped by the medical team, but despite him being sent up successfully, nothing arrived on the ship. This was getting odd, and it only got odder when a rattling of machine-gun fire filled the air! I dived to the ground, only to see my crew-mates standing unharmed in a hail of gun-fire, bewildered at my behaviour. I sheepishly got to my feet and headed off to explore a nearby building. Inside, an old newspaper and a computer terminal told me that it had been some time since anyone had been here. A crew-member had however been examining the navigational data on the computer and had come up with a possible location for a black hole in Sector 288! We beamed back to the Traveller and continued onward towards a distant purple star. On examining the newspaper, we discovered that we had just been on the planet Prax where a past civil war had experienced a rocket crash, carrying a large amount of hallucinogenic drugs… the crash coincided with the end of the war as apparently civilisation completely crumbled through mass exposure to these drugs, helping to explain the strange things my team experienced there.

Signs of intelligent life were off the chart for the purple star I had chosen to visit, but despite receiving no response to my transmissions, I beamed down with a small team. Arriving in an area populated my seemingly nothing but tall buildings, a small vehicle appeared to be approaching in the distance. My translator began to pick up a voice telling me ‘Over here! Quick!’, a voice which belonged to an insectoid figure who had appeared from a small building nearby and was beckoning me in.

The little guy explained to me that the people in the vehicle were PCs, or ‘Population Controllers’. Interestingly, we were also told that we were on the planet Culematter. Nobody on this planet dies and so they are authorised to control the population by exterminating whoever they please within a quota limit. It was past curfew and I would have certainly been killed if I’d stayed out. Despite this though, the PCs burst in having followed me. My host protested my innocence but the PCs blew him away and took my team into their vehicle. We attempted to put up a fight and were overwhelmed, but in accidentally knocking off the helmet of one of the PCs, we discovered that this seemed to immobilise its wearer who jumped back to life when his colleague re-positioned the helmet… A journey in the PCs vehicle took me to a building where we were thrown in a holding cell along with a number of other aliens, presumably set to be executed along with my crew and I. On being summoned by one of the PCs, I decided to attempt to communicate with the Traveller. I tried my communicator and found that transmissions were being jammed, but when using the device, everyone around me became frozen, like statues. A potential way out had presented itself! Using the device to keep everyone immobilised, we made our escape, an escape which took us past a room which contained the equipment jamming the communications signal. Two motionless aliens sat by and whilst disabling the equipment, curiosity took over and I removed their helmets to find they were in-fact robots! Fairly crappy robots it seems if the whole planet can be disabled by my turning on a radio. Nevertheless, I soon had us beamed out of there. So much for Culematter being useful to my cause. I did however take the helmet with me, which would boost my Skill by +1.

Another planet showed up on my scanners as having intelligent life, so we beamed down for a quick look around for more clues. A thunderous storm and three podgy looking aliens greeted us in what is probably my favourite bit of art in the book, the style actually seems to work in this one.

One of the aliens began to waddle back towards what was their village and the other two approached me, sticks raised. Not wanting to take any nonsense  I walked up to meet them but was quickly corrected by them and told to remain still. Explaining my story, they aliens suspiciously took us to their village to meet their Elder in his hut. It became quickly obvious that this was a fairly primitive race and would be of no help I engaged the Elder in conversation about the nature of the planet and its inhabitants. We were on the planet Cliba where these little guys had lived for years, they were an agricultural people and used to comfortably sustain themselves with the perfect weather. But in recent years, the weather had turned and they held someone they called the ‘Rain Lord’ responsible. There were a number of sick members of their group too and so I set my Medical officer to work.

Now here is where a peculiarity cropped up. My Medical officer managed to bring down their fever with a successful Skill test, but soon began complaining that she felt unwell. I took a Luck test, instantly passing as I had a Luck of 12, but she became even sicker and needed to be beamed aboard the ship or die! I checked the other option and by failing the Luck test (i.e. rolling higher than your score), my Medical officer was fine and could continue. Now, that shouldn’t be! What’s the point in having a high Luck score if it impedes you? I will discuss this more in my conclusions as it wasn’t the only time I encountered this reversal of the rules. I took the good outcome and continued!

Deciding to help these aliens further, I set out to pay the Rain Lord a visit. A short walk brought me to the Rain Lords castle. I was suddenly wishing I was reading a different kind of fantasy book at the mere mention of a castle! Anyway, I pressed on and approached the guard, he panicked a little and I was quickly surrounded by many more guards and led inside to meet the Rain Lord.

Not quite as scary as the name the aliens gave though, he revealed his actual name to be Bran-Sel and wondered if his ‘intruders’ would actually be able to assist him. He revealed that he was once a trader who was selling planet control computers to a planet named Gleena-3, but his warp drive failed, he was unable to deliver on time and had the order cancelled. Instead of facing financial ruin by returning home, he set up on this planet and used his unsold planet control computers to become something of a benevolent overlord to the planet. This explained the wonderful, agriculturally suitable weather the aliens had experienced in the past; but now the computer was having problems and the weather turned for the worse. My awesome Science officer was able to help though and re-calibrated the machine, instantly ending the torrential rain engulfing the planet. Bran-Sel was able to offer me little information in terms of where the black hole I needed to find to get home was, but he did state that travelling at Warp Speed 3 would be the key to transferring through safely.

I took this potentially critical information back to the Traveller and set off onto the final segment of my mission to get back home…

Starship Traveller – Part 1

#4

Starship Traveller

The fate of the Starship Traveller and her crew lies in YOUR hands! Sucked through the nightmare of the Seltsian Void, the starship Traveller emerges at the other side of the black hole into an unknown universe. YOU are the captain of the Traveller and her fate depends on YOU! Will you be able to discover the way back to Earth from the alien peoples and planets you encounter, or will the starship be doomed to roam uncharted space forever?

Well this one’s different. My initial experience with this book was suddenly realising that I was actually going to have to RTFM. The standard adventure sheet of the past three books was all but thrown out of the window in favour of a set-up that reflects the sci-fi staples that are ship and crew. Infact, courtesy of Gamebooks.org, here’s a scan.

But before I get ahead of myself, what’s this one about exactly? Eschewing the idea of having some sort of proper plot, Starship Traveller strips away so much fat, there is barely any space-bacon left. Infact, the little blurb at the start of this post is basically it. You’re the captain of a big starship, which travels, and have to find your way back home after being sucked into a black hole. Sucks to be you. So, the first thing you have to do is figure out your ships abilities, my Weapon Strength (1D6+6) was 10 and my Shields (1D6+12) was 18. Pretty damn good if I do say so myself. Good rolls continued as I determined my crew abilities, which ended up looking like this…

Captain – 10/18/12
Science Officer – 12/17
Medical Officer – 8/18
Engineering Officer – 11/21
Security Officer – 10/20
Security Guard 1 – 11/19
Security Guard 2 – 11/18

Skill reflects combat ability as well as the crew members ability at their job, although the non-combat crew suffer a -3 penalty if forced to fight. A number of other little rules presented themselves too, but I will cover them as and when they come into play. And so, by Ziltoid, let the adventure begin!

As I say, the story begins with the Traveller, despite the crews best efforts, being sucked into a black hole; big explosion and my whole crew was knocked unconscious, all on page 1. And I thought Faster Than Light was tough.

As we regain consciousness, the combined efforts of my highly Science & Engineering team come to the conclusion that we are completely lost. The engineers got my warp drive up and working and a glance at my long range scanners identified three nearby systems, two of which potentially were home to intelligent life. After quickly, and embarrassingly, Googling which of Port & Starboard were left & right, I decided to head for the Port-side system. I was totally going left.

Along the way, my sensors picked up a ship heading my way, a Class D Starcruiser (which could be good or bad for all I know) which soon hailed me on the ships video monitor. It was Commander M’k Tel of the Imperial Ganzig Confederation (which could be good or bad for all I know). Regardless, the dude informed me that I was in charge of an unregistered vessel and had wandered into Imperial territory, instead of stating my name and purpose as instructed, I decided to scan their ship.

Taking offense to my actions, the Starcruiser fired a volley of laser bolts at my ship, causing me to lose 2 Shields. Falling in line, I told him what had happened to my ship and crew, but skeptical of my story, M’k Tel instructed me to prepare for his First Officer to board to check things out. Agreeing, we soon had a brown reptilian thing on board, snarling and brandishing a weapon. Translators told me that he wanted to be taken to the computer room. Something didn’t seem right, so I took him on a bit of a detour through the lower decks. In this impromptu tour, we went through the animal behaviour labs where our visitor began shrieking at the sight of an eagle. Puzzled, I took a chance and released the bird which attacked the apparently terrified intruder. So, Eagle vs Alien in combat was my first battle. I’ll be honest, I didn’t see that one coming. The eagle managed to land a blow, but when the alien got a hit in, he cowered and pleaded for the bird to be called off. He explained that eagles were sacred creatures in his Ganzigian culture and he could not harm it. He was soon beamed back to his Starcruiser and the Traveller was left alone; by simply carrying an eagle on board we could not be harmed.

A scan of the area showed that there was a nearby solar system which became my next destination. Two planets were available to me, a red one and a blue one, I set a course for the latter and set down on the planet with my Science, Medical and Engineering officers.

This was where I realised that map taking is going to be a bit weird for this book! Mixing space decisions, movement and planet surface actions will be a pain, but I’ll try and make sense of it somehow! My current predicament saw me on what seemed to be some sort of road surrounded by small incomplete buildings, the road leading up to one big one. Walking into one of the smaller buildings I woke a bulky figure who jumped up to its single foot, shouting loudly in a language not picked up by my translator. Holding up our hands, my crew and I made out that we were friendly and the little guy soon relaxed. Oddly, my translator now seemed to work fine and I could understand every word he said. He was a Timol and this place was basically a refuge for aliens from all over the galaxy, seen as some sort of ‘promised land’, aliens came from far and wide to settle here. However, in some sort of communist movement, nobody was allowed to take charge, everyone was considered equal, resulting in total chaos. He did however suggest that the planet Culematter was very advanced and may be able to help me figure out what was going on, so I should head there.

Before I left, I decided to check out the larger building. This one was full of aliens of all shapes and sizes, one of which approached me and took me on a quick tour. My guide was named Fioral and he was really hammering home this equality thing they have going on. Apparently, some aliens enjoy attacking people and because of this equality, it is their right to do so, but so as to warn people, they wear guard uniforms. Of course, I was then promptly attacked by three men in guard uniforms who were soon seen off by me and my crew. Fioral didn’t seem too bothered by the attack and offered to show me some more of the place. The map room sounded like a good idea. In there I learned that I was in the Magnus solar system and the location of Culematter was also noted. Saying goodbye Fioral, I beamed back up and due to my original Medical officer being alive, all crew members healed 2 Stamina.

The other planet in this system, Trax, I learned in the map room had been devastated by war and so before heading off in search of Culematter, I set down on Trax. No radio communications could be made, by a system of roads seemed to focus on a settlement of some sort. My Science officer and Engineering officer were with me and indeed, the place was wrecked, empty streets and derelict buildings. But suddenly a shape appeared…

Gasp! See you next time, kids…

Will you and your crew be doomed to roam uncharted space forever?

Starship Traveller was a book I was very unsure of back when I first read it. I don’t want to say I wasn’t a fan of Sci-Fi as I had R2-D2, C3PO and Boba-Fett on my 5th birthday cake, but I was always more attracted to the swords and sorcery end of fantasy. It was more Hero Quest than Space Hulk, although that did change as I got older. I particularly have fond memories of the Megadrive/Genesis game, Starflight, which is a crew-based space exploration game, originally for home computers and now on GOG. Anyhow, Starship Traveller was never one that caught my attention at the time as I scanned up and down the book lists at the start of every Fighting Fantasy.

So, cut to my mother coming home one day to present me with a brand new Fighting Fantasy book that she had found in a charity shop. My ungrateful face falling on realising that the book was of course Starship Traveller. I think it may have been one of the early versions of the book, similar to what I have here now, pre zig-zag! But still, I wasn’t that impressed. However, once I got sat down to read it, I was actually quite taken with the crew system and the different atmosphere the book had compared to the others, I actually ended up enjoying myself. It never did unlock a love for Star Trek though, which it obviously draws a lot of influence from.

This is pretty much all I can remember about the book! Looking through it now, it’s in very good condition with a clean adventure sheet, no notes, but rather odd to see a Fighting Fantasy book without the customary green spine; this one is blue! It cost £1.50 back in the day, that’d barely get you a bottle of Coke nowadays… I’m looking at the illustrations though and I think we’re hitting a low with this one. They’re pretty stylised, that I can tell, but I can also tell that they’re pretty damn ugly. I won’t be ordering prints of any of these to frame, that’s for certain.