Getting Bogged Down in the Rules…

Last night’s Traveller game was a great one for me.  There was a fair bit of meta-planning (thinking about the bigger picture) from the players and I have started to put in place long term plan number 1 for this campaign, the mystery of the Pandora and the space station.  But more on that shortly.  the game started with a lot of discussion of how the group was going to travel to an “uncharted” or empty space just below or “south” of Lysen on the map of the Spinward Marches in the Traveller setting.  There was question how this jump would be possible with the current amount of fuel.

The Lysen planet and it’s Jump 6 Neighbours courtesy of

As this discussion got under way we all drew on the map as to how we thought it should go ahead.  There were various options discussed, the safest looking at almost a two month sojourn through a circular route to get to the space allowing for a valid jump to be made.  The most risky involved a jump into a red zone system (Grant) which is forbidden, refuel from a gas giant and immediately jump on reaching the jump point into the big black.  From that point use a temporary fuel bladder that was filling the cargo hold to jump to the space they were trying to get at.  This was at best time a 3 and a half week journey.  They were on the tail of suspected pirates that had kidnapped Jewell, the intergalactic superstar singer.  The group was going around and around in circles trying to work out if this was possible with fuel consumption.

The path they decided on after the rule query.

I knew which direction that they would choose (the route being shown in grey to the right) and so while the discussion was going on I quietly went to look for the fuel consumption rules in CT Book 02 Starships.  Under expenses it listed that the fuel consumption was based off a formulae that involved the maximum Jump capability of the ship and the power plant of the ship.  On this page though it did not list the formulae.  So once the discussion was winding down I asked for help to find this material as one of the other players has the books also.  So the next twenty minutes of the game got bogged down as I asked him for information about the ship while he and I tried to find the formulae.  During this time we got a comment on the YouTube channel “Boring” which I pondered on later in the night.  At the end of the night all of the players had a good night and there was plenty of fun had.  I removed the comment from the YouTube channel (as one of the other players checked, and I confirmed that the comment was left by a user who largely left negative comments everywhere.

Last night as I got home I wondered if I had done the right thing in letting this get bogged down on this one rule.  Should I have allowed the game to run with the way I thought the fuel worked (and I would have been wrong) or should I have found the rule (as I did) and find that the players did not need to jump into that black space point with no way of jumping out if there were not something they could refuel from.  I think I did the right thing and I will tell you why.  But just before I do, for the Obsessive Compulsive Disorders amongst you who now MUST know what Classic Traveller’s fuel consumption formulae is: 0.1MJn + 0.2Pn where M is the mass of the ship, Jn is the Jump number of the Jump being undertaken and Pn is the Power Plant number for 4 weeks of bombing around star systems under normal power.  The resulting number is the tonnage of fuel used.

The Larksong docking with The Pandora

So, why do I think that I made the right decision in getting the answer to this?  It is a simple answer.  It mattered to the game.  It meant there was a difference of the players possibly doing something that there was no return from, or ease a little of the risk on the players mind as they knew there was an exit available to them if the proverbial excrement hit the cooling fans.  The players knew that they were likely to be jumping into a hostile combative situation and it meant the difference between them not being able to jump away (which I thought was the case) or the ability to make the Jump 1 to Lysen (which was the actual case).  So the path they decided on allowed them an escape which relieved all of the players.

If something really matters to the game, make sure you spend the time to get it right.  If it is a query that has minor impact to the game run with what you think immediately and promise to follow the rule up in out of game time and tell the players the result later.  If I had gone with what I thought and the players got stranded or killed because they did not know they could make the final 1 Parsec to Lysen their deaths and failure would have fallen completely on me.  I knew there was the chance for them to refuel where they were going but it will be risky.  So they need to know that they could go to Lysen and come back if they want.

Pandora’s Box

At the end of the night they jumped into the space just after a massive wave of radiation pulsed through the system.  They find a large space station in flames, obviously in the process of breaking apart and a gunboat they had heard of before, The Pandora afloat in space.  After some investigation they realised the Pandora appeared dead in space and the space station could in no way have been damaged in the way it had by the gunboat and there seemed to be no other ships in sensor range.  The players ship had suffered some damage itself on the way to the system (watch the video to find out how) and so could not hail any of the present players with any communication.  They flew their ship up and docked with the air lock on the Pandora and found it devoid of any energy so Ushtug managed the mechanical override to the airlock to open up The Pandora.

I ended the game here.  The Pandora and the associated space station has always been one of my long term plans.  The players declared they really became nervous after I put this simple statement to them…

“So you are the guys that opened Pandora’s box?”

They are looking forward to, and dreading, next fortnights game.

Win 🙂


  1. Nice Mark, I really enjoyed this reflection. I think it’s a question very important to all Gm. Striking the balance between getting it right and keeping the flow can be tricky sometimes. I appreciate your insights.


  2. Thanks Dan. I do need to point out that this bogging down came around solely because of my lack of preparation. It was my fault. I knew this discussion was likely to happen and I had assumed that the answer was in the Traders and Gunboats book but I was wrong. I had done other preparation and I should have checked that simple problem. That said, I still think I did the right thing in slowing it down. I tried to find the answer while they were talking but slowed it down when I could not find it.

    Morale for me, check my assumptions as well as the above.


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