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An Interesting Opportunity in My Traveller Game

Two weeks ago, we played our first session of Mongoose Traveller. We did chargen two weeks prior to that, and I spent the time in between preparing the adventure and developing contacts, allies and such to bring the skeleton of a back story from chargen to life.

In the first adventure, the party received a job (my initial adventure seed), which they dutifully accepted. The mission was to go to a parsec of empty space, where they would receive a cargo crate and fuel to continue their journey. They were then to go to a planet outside the Imperium and deliver it.

When they arrived in empty space, they discovered the other ships in the rendezvous were a Zhodani cargo vessel and a massive Zhodani refueling ship — easily large enough to refuel an entire subsector fleet.

They received the package without incident and made their way to Forine. Once there, things went sideways. They were supposed to exchange security phrases with some academics at an outlying research facility. The inhabitants of the facility failed to give the right answer.

It eventually became clear that the facility had been waylaid by bad guys (who knows what kind of bad guys yet). So they turned tail and ran back to their planet of origin, hoping to return the package and get the rest of their substantial payment.

The game ran almost five hours and not once did anyone peek in the box to see what the mysterious cargo, picked up from the Zhodani, was.

One of the characters did scan it a bit and found out something,  but nothing too specific.

At this point, the party sees the box as a bargaining chip. They know someone was willing to pay a lot of money for it. They also know that many people went to great lengths to keep it secret.

For the near future at least, the box went from a simple object to a classic MacGuffin. It doesn’t matter what’s in the box. The only thing that matters is that someone wants it and someone else has it.

Since this all stems from my initial plot hook, I have a good idea as to what’s in the box. I currently know EXACTLY what’s in the box. But within the constraints of the information I gave the one nosy player, I could change what’s in the box to damn near anything.

I’m not inclined to change what’s in it, but I do think it’s an important and valuable opportunity to have if I needed it. The vagueness of the MacGuffin gives me a lot of flexibility with future story.

If they were to open it, I could use it to drive the party is one of several different directions.

  • Perhaps it’s a powerful and very illegal weapon, so the party might try to get rid of it or sell it.
  • It could be money, so the party would want to keep it.
  • It could be a very valuable, identifiable and difficult-to-fence work of art, so the party would probably try to deliver it.
  • It could be a slave, implicating the party in slave trade.
Currently the MacGuffin is driving the story only because someone else wants it. If and when the party opens the box and identifies the MacGuffin (if opening the box would identify it) they could dramatically alter their course of action.

Written by

Stu Venable is the producer of Happy Jacks RPG Podcast and writer and editor of He is founder and director of the Poxy Boggards and a member of Celtic Squall. He holds a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from California State University, Long Beach. He is a husband and a father. He hates puppies.

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One Response to "An Interesting Opportunity in My Traveller Game"

  1. Michael SchulzNo Gravatar says:

    Gotta love it when response to one plot hook generates more hooks. Personally, I’d be inclined to have several unsavory factions interested in getting the box, and have the original patrons more than a little disappointed by the PCs failure.

    One alternative, given that the Zhos are involved, would be for it to be a ‘smoke test’ by Imperial Intelligence. Whatever was supposed to be in the box has been replaced by something harmless while the Imps try to keep tabs on every Zho agent, crime boss and noble who tries to get their hands on it.

    An Imperial agent might even pull aside a PC and tell them to ‘run and be convincing’ if they don’t want to wind up on a prison planet…

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