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Contents I once played in a Traveller campaign. Just a normal Traveller campaign with a normal Traveller party. Five uncharismatic 33 year-old ex-servicemen, all hating each other, travelling around the Spinward Marches in a starship for no apparent reason.

One day we arrived at a star system. I can't remember its name now, I'm not sure I knew it then. Anyhow, as we went to leave on a 1 parsec jump - something went wrong.

Misjump.

A week later we emerged from the jump to find that we had traveled more than 30 parsecs, to a point outside Imperium space.

30+ parsecs, in a ship not capable of more than 2, in a universe where nothing is capable of more than 6. Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? No. Misjumps are part of the Traveller system. You make an extremely unlikely die roll when doing the jump and you misjumped. Then you roll one die for the direction, and two for distance traveled.

You can end up anywhere.

And where did we end up you ask? Well I'll give you a clue. In his hand the GM held an official Traveller scenario (one of the old A5 booklet types). The scenario started on a neutral planet, in an area of the Spinward Marches outside the Imperium.

Well, what a coincidence!

Unlikely? Incredibly so.

Impossible? No.

So here we are, stranded on this arsehole at the end of the universe, with a hyperdrive blown to buggery. (What? You thought you could jump 36 parsecs, dust yourself off, say: "Whoo! That's was a rough ride, eh guys!" and just carry on? Yeah, right...).

After five minutes or so of the usual post-landing procedure of rows, bickering and financial negotiations, we hit the tarmac and went in search of startown. (At least this time we didn't have the usual paranoid fear that if we left the ship on our own the other four would immediately take off and leave us stranded).

Somewhere in startown (which is the dodgy bit next to all star ports) we found a magazine with a whole load of job adverts. The scenario had a very nice handout at this point, and we spent a few happy minutes browsing through it.

"Hey! There's a programming job on 500 credits a week. I've got Computer-3. I can do that!"

"...And here's a job for a air-raft mechanic. I've got Gravitics-2. That'll do me."

And so on. Pretty soon we'd all selected jobs to do, and worked out that if we lived prudently, the five of us could earn enough to buy a new hyperdrive within three or four months. Three or four months of game time that we could roleplay though in, say, three, maybe four minutes of real time. Everybody was happy.

Except the GM. Who was not happy. At all.

So we looked again, and found the advert that we had totally ignored the first time. The one that said something like: "Earn 500 credits a day! No experience necessary!" The one that was obviously a total con.

The one that we were obviously supposed to pick.

It was a classic standoff. On one side a group of stubborn players, their characters now united in defiance. On the other, the GM, pointing out that players have a general responsibility to not obviously break the storyline.

We backed down. Eventually.

So we went to the address given in the advert, where our new employers gave us an induction ceremony that was brief, effective and to the point - a sealed room flooded with knockout gas.

"What a surprise!" we said to ourselves in exaggerated voices. "Who'd have guessed it was all a sting? Why on earth did we respond to an advert like that?'

We woke up on a small space station in an asteroid belt, where an automated voice outlined our new working responsibilities and conditions of service. There was a fair bit to it, but it boiled down to one basic point: We had to mine asteroids. Each week an automated spaceship would turn up to pick up the ore. If there was enough we would receive the next weeks oxygen.

Slavery.

There was no escape. Two of the blokes tried a little plan involving the automated ships and spacesuits, but hitched a lift back when the games master bluntly pointed out to them a few facts involving time to planet and hours of oxygen left in the suits.

So we toiled away, mining 'roid after 'riod, for week after week.

And then one day we found something rather surprising. An airlock, on an asteroid. Well, a rat with retardation issues could've figured out our next course of action.

We broke in, and found that the asteroid, was, in fact - a spaceship. And an asteroid as well. At some point someone had found it, hollowed it out, installed a set of hyperdrives and set off across the galaxy. And then abandoned it in an asteroid field. Some people, eh?

It had everything we needed. Jump capability. Maneuver drives. Weapons. Life support with several staterooms.

Oh, and some ten year old girl frozen in suspended animation. (Like we gave a shit).

Bastards that we were, we totally ignored the girl and started planning our next move. Which mainly revolved around blowing this system, and the shittiest job ever devised, and heading back to the bright lights of the Imperium.

"What about the girl?" asked the Games Master.

"What about her?" we replied. "She's frozen. She'll keep."

We weren't going to kill her. We weren't going to do anything with her. For all we knew, she could have been frozen for centuries. Few years more wasn't going to do any harm.

And then, as we happily explored the ship, something strange happened. The suspended animation unit that had kept her alive through the ship's long, lonely drift, chose that moment to malfunction, and revive her.

Having woke up, she came into the control room where we were and launched into a little speech.

"My father was a scientist..." she droned to an audience of none. We totally ignored her and continued checking through the controls. I think she might have made the speech a second time.

Eventually, we got the gist.

Her father had been interested in the Zhodani. (They were like the Soviet Union to the Imperium's USA). In order to explore Zhodani space without sparking a galactic war, he'd built this ship so that he could covertly poke around undetected. They (him and the girl) had gone across the border, but it had all gone wrong. While her father was outside spacewalking, some Zhodani ships had shown up and arrested him. The ship, under his pre-programmed emergency instructions, then made a series of escape jumps, with her still on board, and ended up at this system, out of fuel.

This had been several years ago. She had shut down the systems (to save power) and put herself into suspended animation.

Until we turned up.

The reality of the scenario's plotline had become horribly clear.

Yep you've guessed it. We were supposed to travel into Zhodani territory, an empire of more than 3000 star systems and a population that measured in the hundreds of billions, in search of one man, who had been taken prisoner more than five years ago, and rescue him.

I could start throwing words like "needle" and "haystack" around at this point in the hope they'll form a sentence, but I do try to avoid cliches.

As you can imaging, the scenario pretty much ended there, and I don't think the campaign lasted much longer.

(Actually I recall the scenario stuttered on for a few more minutes when one of the characters, his player under instructions from the GM, attempted to seize control of the ship and head for Zhodani space - but I think I'll avoid getting into that here).

A particularly unattractive case of railroading, I think we'll all agree.

But before we pass judgement on railroading,

e-mail let's look at some of the other suspects...

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