Wednesday 16 March 2011

Munch Bunch

So, Starship Traveller. The least satisfying book so far, largely because the illusion of control is absolutely stripped away with so many decisions the sci-fi equivalent of the bare left or right found in some of the fantasy books. Funny, I remember really liking this book 20-odd years ago. It did get me thinking about tabletop roleplaying; Star Trek (and Firefly, which I'm halfway through watching at the moment) would make a very good model for episodic, fantasy set, sandbox play. More on that idea in a later post.

Anyway, after rolling up my crew, and plunging through the Seltsian Void, we aimlessly explored new space. Landing an a planet notable for its anarchy, we ran into a bunch of GUARDS. Their description was the highlight of this read-through. I asked 'why, if there are no laws, they have the need for guards'? Our host explains, 'Guards do not guard things, we do not need to protect things. It's just that some members of our community get pleasure out of attacking others and, of course, they are free to do as they wish. But in fairness to the rest of the population, they dress up in uniforms and call themselves guards so as to warn others they must be on guard when a guard passes.' Brilliant.

From there we proceeded, again, without any kind of plan, to a planet with a hallucinogenic atmosphere, changed course because I suspected that we heading into deep space in the pursuit of a hallucinatory scanner reading, and then my CATERING OFFICER tells me that all the food has been spoiled. Why wasn't I given the option of rolling for his SKILL, as I was all the rest of the key members of the crew?

In pursuit of food we were presented with another left-right choice; a blue planet or a green planet. Opting for the blue planet, we were told that the entire planet was an ocean. Nevertheless, we were given the option of beaming down. I made the choice to leave orbit and head towards the green planet, but broke one of my rules and skipped to the section for beaming down to the blue planet. Your transporter chief doesn't really beam you down to death by drowning does he? Yes! Yes he does! Morale must be low on Traveller.

Down on the green planet one of the crew gets crushed a gigantic beasts do battle, but by keeping calm and quiet we avoid drawing the attention of the winner. Then, in true death planet style, the plants themselves attack! Thinking perhaps that the tangling vines are a self-defence mechanism, I try the same technique as saved us from the beasts. I opt to attempt to remain still, presenting no threat, no stimuli that might prompt the vines to entangle me further. Of course, the vines strangled and crushed the life from my acquiescent body. My adventure ended here.

Nom! Nom! Nom!


  1. In the boundless expanse of infinite space there is only turn to 157.

    I have long held a half-baked theory that the restricted, confined space of a dungeon make it the perfect location for a game-book, whereas environments that offer limitless choice (space, deserts, the wilderness) often feel somewhat lacklustre.

    And that's why Starship Traveller sucks :-)

  2. I find myself liking ST despite the fact that A - it isn't very good, B - I hate Star Trek with a passion and C - the end game of adding three arbitary values together with no clue given as to which of the three was wrong nor how many of them were wrong is monstrously unfair and what we would now call "cheap".

    Perhaps it's because I actually found the individual planet encounters to be quite interesting.

    Isn't this the FF book that it is possible to complete without a single die roll? Or am I thinking of something else?

  3. Zhu - Perhaps that is *especially* so for space adventures, as you don't just have the unbounded nature of the environment (which involves exploring several planets and trillions of *cubic* miles of space vs. a few tens of *square* miles of jungle/desert/Island of the Lizard King), but you also have the greatly increased power (vs the physical universe, at least) of the 'adventurer' - a member of a tremendously advanced society in command of a vehicle capable of inter-stellar travel (and that's just for starters: transporter beams, medi-bays, replicators... etc.).

  4. Coop - the succession of very different encounters was what I had remembered fondly, and is what I'm thinking of with regard to a episodic sandbox game - a succession of single location, single game session encounters/adventures, that, in the process of rolling them up on a Gygaxian table, build the world.

    This read-through of Starship Traveller probably disappointed due to the fact that I managed to visit three planets, only one of which was interesting.

  5. Also, while I know that Fighting Fantasy gamebooks are for 'young adults', I'm coming to feel that there is something markedly more 'juvenile' about the sci-fi books. Perhaps it is the artwork - in fact, I think that is a large part of it - but the sci-fi FF books often leave me with a Choose Your Own Adventure aftertaste, while I can taste hints of early Warhammer in some of the fantasy books.

  6. I remember thinking at the time that the GUARDS thing was quite clever but looking back at it now... was the young Mr. Jackson in the habit of attracting the wrong sort of attention from the Metropolitan Police? It certainly reads that way.

  7. The Metropolitan Police? The late 1970s/early 1980s Metropolitan Police? Surely not...