Cirque, a Kickstarter Project for Traveller5

Cirque, a 160 page campaign source book for Traveller5 (T5) at familiar worlds in the Spinward Marches. This sounded like a good idea to me. I am backing it and getting a print version.

The idea of a circus, instead of the usual gang in a Free Trader is quite an unorthodox idea. But it sounds interesting and this is not the first time we have seen an unorthodox idea like this. Remember the rock-band Veedback in an amber zone adventure in JTAS 23. That was a cool adventure in only 3 pages. Cirque will probably be just as cool and requires a lot less work for the referee since it will be 160 pages.

7 thoughts on “Cirque, a Kickstarter Project for Traveller5”

  1. Many, many thanks for the support.

    I’ll be posting more about the rationale and personal experience behind a circus in a Kickstarter update. The short, simple reason is this: a Circus has a schedule it must meet, a diverse set of characters including both performers and more “standard” characters, interesting beasts along for the ride, and problems to solve at every system it enters. There is also a background within the background: I’ve set this after the Fifth Frontier War. Cirque des Sirkas, LIC, is intended to benefit the veterans of that war; its founder is Andii Houke, a war veteran. It brings joy back to the Marches, helps assist veterans…and possibly more.

    We’re already 1/4 funded, but of course that leaves $6000 remaining. I’m pushing to get this done, because it will be one of the first — if not the first — source book for T5.

    However, and this is ALSO important, Cirque is much more about people, places and events than rules. Though of course there might be adjustments to the main vessel and so on, the scenarios can easily be ported to other rules sets, and even alternate backgrounds. For example, where possible, I am seeking consistency between the “OTU” and the GURPS universe as set forth in Behind the Claw, with permission of Loren Wiseman and SJ Games. In case of conflict, OTU always wins, of course, but both universes work. A referee using MeaTraveller or Mongoose rules should have no difficulty adapting the scenarios, because they are 99% about the STORY.

    In addition, at the suggestion of Marc Miller and others, I have drawn a link to the one notable Traveller item I wrote some thirty years ago, “Lee’s Guide to Interstellar Adventure.” The trenchant observations of Adm. (Ret.) Aramais P. Lee will be featured, and Aramais himself is slated to make a “special guest appearance” in an “Episode.”

    The visit to each system allows an “episode” to play out. Most episodes have four “acts,” not unlike a movie or television show. The format follows the “EPIC” format espoused by Marc Miller in the T5 rules set. “EPIC” means Easy, Playable, Interactive and with a Checklist. In my first playtest, at this year’s Arisia convention in Boston, I brought in three players (one who’d never role-played before) and followed my own checklist. It worked well, even though I was still working with the brand-new game mechanics.

    So, there you go. yes, I’m selling myself and my work. You expected me to sit back and quietly pray that it sells?

    Again, thanks for supporting Cirque.

    Greg Lee

  2. Why a circus?

    The obvious answer to the question is that a circus moves from place to place. It moves based upon a schedule which pre-determines where it will land, rather than at the whim of a patron or ship’s captain. Thus, many adventures arise out of situations found at the local system. I’ve always liked that kind of storytelling.

    Second, the idea of an “entertainer” career was new to me when I read the original draft of T5. I had not bought a copy of T4, and I don’t recall whether or not entertainers were included in TNE. I don’t recall entertainers being a specific class of characters in MegaTraveller, the last edition I really actively played.

    The idea of circus entertainers becoming adventurers hit my funny bone. It also hit my funny bone that a traveling vaudeville-style or circus style vessel would put such fuel-prepared artistic types in the middle of like-it-or-not adventures. Not all of the characters here are ill-equipped. Apart from skills like knife throwing and acrobatics, entertainers are given quite a few chances to learn useful skills during their entertainer career. They also can have pre-existing or post-existing careers to gain skills, too.

    The most important factor in my choosing a circus was my own experience with circuses. I am old enough to remember the Clyde Beatty Circus, which performed in smaller cities and towns in the late 1960s or early 1970s. I can recall, somewhat dimly, attending a performance of that three-ring circus in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. I remember far less about the actual acts in the tents than I do about the venue, because the tents were erected on a cleared parcel in the center of town. The cleared parcel had been Pittsfield’s classic old railroad station, which had been torn down in one of the periodic crimes of urban renewal that are committed. I was especially familiar with that crime because my father was able to salvage marble, bricks and skylights from the demolition to incorporate them into a family room. He was not directly involved in the crime of demoloition, I should point out. He scavenged as sort of a hobby. In short, my memory of that circus is colored more by the fact that I had helped my father scavenge from that site than elephants and clowns.

    I am also a fan of early vaudeville and its recorded graduates to film, such as W.C. Fields and the Marx Brothers. Vaudeville was very much like the circus save for the fact that every town visited had a theater for the performances. Again, Pittsfield had several such theaters in vaudeville’s heyday. By the 1960s, these were movie theaters (and rather scrungey ones at that). However, all of the fine carvings and artful wood-, metal- and plaster-work were still visible.

    Finally though, we come to my early adulthood and beyond. In the early 1980s my mother and sister attended one of the first Pittsfield performances of the Big Apple Circus, a one-ring circus based out of New York. I believe that the tents were set up at Arrowhead, the home and grounds at which Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick. The next year, my mother treated myself and several friends as well as my sister to this small but growing circus. My sister and mother seemed especially interested in commenting about the physiques of various male performers. I remain scarred to this day, but I fight back by admiring the female performers.

    The Big Apple Circus began touring more, and in June, 1986 was scheduled to be in Boston. My mother bought tickets for herself and my sister, and possibly my first wife. However, another Lee women made an appearance on the day the circus came to town, so my mother chose to visit her (my then-newborn daughter) at the hospital instead. My sister took a friend. That began a tradition of trips to the Big Apple Circus each year. With very few exceptions, my mother attended, and still attends. The retinue of guests has increased as spouses entered the picture and, more importantly, grandchildren got old enough to attend.

    Last year, for her 80th birthday, and with the headliner Grandma the Clown retiring, my siblings and I were able to get my mother recognized by Grandma the Clown during performance. Grandma’s water-spitting act always includes a spectator or two. Given my mother’s age, Grandma had her perform only at ringside for a moment or so and then brought my youngest son into the ring to walk him through the water spitting act. Given that my youngest son is now over 6 feet tall and was about to enter the United States Marine Corps, be assured that he provided a good show. Marines aren’t afraid of clowns or water. Or anything.

    So there you have it. I just like the circus. I decided to use it.

    Mention of my son provides a segue to my decision to make this campaign arise after the Fifth Frontier War. Traveler obviously includes veterans as likely characters in the adventuring setting. Their prior careers provide good training and experience for the events which are popular in science fiction and role-playing. These prior careers also provide opportunities to obtain ships and other means of transportation from world world.

    In the post-9/11 world, though, I find myself a member of an in-between generation for which military and other service was far more optional and generally less damaging than it is today. This is why the “official” purpose of Cirque des Sirkas Foundation, LIC is to support veterans of the Fifth Frontier War. It is a small way in which I honor the very real veterans – mostly youths – who have fought for our nations at risk to body and soul. I’ve served the U.S. in my own way as an advocate in our legal system, but two of my children serve in the military. Regardless of your particular citizenship or location, you likely know someone who has made that choice and provided that service. Unless you are a hermit without any access to the Internet, you have heard about servicemen and women killed or permanently injured. The United States is not alone in this. Without getting into the political arguments behind any deployment, it is appropriate that we honor our real veterans in any small way that we can. I transmit that, I hope, through Captain Andii Houke and others.

    And, finally, that is the answer I gave to Marc Miller when he asked why Andii has no legs. Why did I invent a reason to preclude simple regeneration or regrowth, given the technology levels available in Traveller?

    It’s convenient to provide players playing games with the opportunity for instant and miraculous healing. It is much harder to recognize that those who serve can never be completely healed. Andii is that reminder, both to the players as people, and the characters in this scenario. The vehicle of adventure here is a circus, but the adventures include the backdrop of war, the continuing intrigues, and the unresolved pressures faced by the Marches, the Zhodani Consulate, and so on. I’ve reached an age at which I won’t shrug off the personal consequences of war, and I want at least one character to reflect that.

  3. Just one question for Greg:
    Are the miniphants the same as the CT miniphants or the MgT miniphants or is there a new T5 version of the miniphants?

  4. My initial decision to include them was based on noticing them in one of my old original JTAS (the “LBB” size, printed on durable paper). Thus, they are the Miniphants of CT/Solomani origin. Circuses being whhat they are, I thought it made sense to use them. I note that the new Bestiary materials tend to be relatively consistent with CT. In fact, I can’t say that I was aware of a difference between Ct and any other edition. Given the general lack of DGP material, it seems sensible to me to use the CT minihants.

    Is there an advantage to MT miniphants of which I am unaware? Can they trunk-stand or pilot starships? Pardon the Dumbo reference, but I’m all ears…

  5. MgT (Mongoose Traveller) miniphants are different. I don’t know why these were changed. I think it was a stupid and unnecessary idea to change them. :-(

    I will be very happy if you use the CT miniphants. These are the miniphants that we all know and love. :-)

  6. Oh, I see. I was confused by the Traveller types.

    Wherever there is ANY question, the CT Canon has final say.

    With good authority, I am treating “library” and “historical” information on the Zhodani Consulate found in the MgT Zhodani book (written by Don McKinney) as accurate. I am also using SOME factual information from GURPS “Behind the Claw,” seeking some consistency between those branches of the Traveller Universe. It’s my understanding and assumption that factual data found in the LBB’s, the original JTAS/Challenge, and original CT adventures is presumed Canon, and (apart from “stat differences”) is imported into T5.

    My rule of thumb is the location of material on the CDs available from FFE. If it’s on a “Canon” CD, I don’t change essentials. This avoids conflict with my “continuity director,” Don McKinney.

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