The Pirates of Drinax is a massive sandbox campaign that has heavy support from Mongoose. I have the boxed set and it is just gorgeous. Players have a letter of marque and a warship from a king of a forgotten empire. This king and his court have plans to return to power. The players are free to do whatever —it’s a sandbox. The boxed set is three books detailing episodic adventures of heist and perils, a finale, the whole of the Trojan Reach region, and a book of starships of the Reach. I will run this for multiple groups -but not everyone gets into OG Traveller as I do. Enter Cortex Prime the new popular kid in the RPG neighborhood. There is some work to build out the Cortex options for the setting I want, but I am a Cortex Prime spotlight writer! Foundry VTT is as massive as The Pirates of Drinax and I’m excited to build support for this specific Cortex setting in Foundry —and hope no legal beagles come looking for me! I’ve got a crew of day gamers to play with. We’re halfway through the Pathways chart and the situation is fantastic.
The Cortex Prime Build
It would be a no-brainer to use Attributes and Skills for this Cortex build of Traveller. But my Day Gamers were dropping references like Firefly, Star Wars, KillJoys -dramas. My Cortex Prime build looks like this:
Distinctions —of course.
Values with trait statements.
Skills and specialties - CT Traveller skill list as a guide.
Pathways —to hook players into the Drinax open sandbox/
Doom Pool!! It is a MUST Have.
Callbacks —though I prefer Milestones, I’m not sure that’s the play here.
Our current shortlist of Values:
We are working through our 2-part session zero and haven’t reduced this list down to 5 or 6 values yet. I suspect Loyalty and Community will get merged.
Cortex Values color the context of the tests they are used in. This enhances the established fiction being generated by the game. We discover more about the characters and the shit they’re caught up in just by the player making decisions about what dice traits to use. Adding your Honor dice to a knife fight is a waaay different deal than adding your Survival dice.
Taking the CT Traveller skill list was easy, lazy, and a nice way to keep some Traveller vibe. It also comes packed with specialties! This list is also way longer than Cortex’s suggested approach. This longer list adds to the Traveller feel. Many OG Traveller characters didn’t have wide skill-sets, I like this ‘feel’.
I’ll stat out vehicles with a nod toward CT Traveller. It’ll be easier to keep the credit costs and tonnage in Traveller terms, especially the jump drive stat. There’s a tactical element to starship travel based on a ship’s jump drive capability —no need to reinvent that mechanic!
Pathways, since the Smallville RPG, has always been a great tool for generating situations everyone is bought into. The players have to be because it is a group activity. There is GM Lifting, I have to make a Pathways chart —that’s not a trivial thing. The one I have here is in play, but I want to push it further. I wanted some of Traveller’s character generation elements. You can not die in the pathways chart, but you do select homeworld, branch, and some other callbacks to Traveller elements. Pathways are my tool for hooking the players into the Pirates of Drinax sandbox. Rather than do a setting and situation dump Drinax onto the players. We use Pathways to generate a situation we’re all invested in then using some GM lift I map it onto the Drinax situation. As we play merge in elements from the sandbox. Profit!
Pirates of Drinax is a true open sandbox campaign. Loose adventures, plenty of locations with troubles, patrons with troubles. It is right in there with The Great Pendragon Campaign and The Darkening of Mirkwood. The greatest GM lift you will do is hooking in your players —so they are bought in. Pathways is my solution. In the box set is all the location-based events and adventure a pirate could want. I also picked up the Drinaxian Companion and it’s proving valuable as an annotation-like approach to the Drinax sandbox. Right now. My Day Gamers are halfway through this Pathways chart. We have a trade war, an infamous ghost pirate, a “bay of pigs” event, some CYA assassinations, strange AI, arranged hostages?! —did I mention we’re only halfway through?!
The Software Promise
Foundry VTT is my new obsession. I’m deep in the system and module creation tools to build out this specific Cortex build. There is a tech skill debt to be paid, but it is worth it for the online tools. Bill White did a post about running Traveller on Roll20 that is more about the promise of game support software. He runs a weekly open table of Traveller on Roll20 and it’s incredible the amount of effort he has built into Roll20 to run those games. He’s my role model here —and I believe in the promise.
You can catch the actual play podcast on Diceology.com when they air in a couple of weeks. Actual play posts will drop on my Patreon, all my GM thoughts, planning, machinations will happen right here.