And Now, the News

Posted: 14 October 2015 in Settings
Tags: , , ,

We got the bubble-headed bleached blonde comes on at five
She can tell you ‘bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye
It’s interesting when people die, give us dirty laundry.
– Don Henley, Dirty Laundry

Sometimes, I think I take this stuff too seriously.

In a setting like the Dark Nebula where news travels at the speed of a starship, news items from nearby systems arrive earlier than those from distant ones, so if you expect players to use this intelligence to inform their actions in the sandbox, it is important to know what they learn when. It’s bad enough when you only have one party, but in the Nebula I will have several, and some of the news items are triggered by things other parties are doing.

So I built a spreadsheet and entered the news items to date into it, and with a bit of not-terribly-clever calculation I can now extract the following three views…


Only the GM will ever see this; it’s what really happened.


Column A shows where the event happens, column B shows when, columns C to J show when the news of that event reaches the primary systems, and column K is the actual news item for reading to players.

I considered tracking news arrival dates for every system on the map, and allowing different arrival dates depending on the spike rating of the ship carrying the news, but decided the extra complexity wasn’t worth it. So I’ve limited myself to the primary systems, and assumed that news moves along the charted routes on the map at one week per system.

I also considered a slightly more elegant approach with a lookup table of travel times so that I could select a system and have the dates automatically calculated from that, but decided on a quick-and-dirty prototype to see how much use this actually is before I do anything clever with it.


By filtering on column A, you can see what happens on a particular world in sequence. Not sure how useful this is, but it’s easy to do. Here we see what happens on Enjiwa, month by month.



By filtering on one of the primary worlds and then re-sorting the items in the order that the news arrives, you get what is playing on the holo set in the corner of the bar while your PCs are drinking the profits of their latest mission. Here we see what a party on Valka between late February and early April would learn; notice the difference between when things happen (column B) and when Valka knows about them (column I).


This is likely the most useful view during a session. The jury is still out on how useful that actually is.

  1. raikenclw says:

    I used the news matrix from The Traveller Adventure with my college group (~20 years ago). Initially my players deliberately ignored the “news playing in the background,” assuming that this was nothing more than a collection of red herrings intended to distract them from their current in-game goal. But it only took a couple of iterations of “Why didn’t we know this, GM?/Well, it was on last night’s news . . . ” to fix that particular bit of metagaming.

  2. Russ Tarvin says:

    If I might make a suggestion, I would create two new columns to replace the week per system. I would add a impact/scandal rating to determine the impact of the news or the scandalous nature of the news. That kind of news moves faster IMHO. The second column would be a randomizer, being the randomness of communication between ships and that information travels, or the relevance of the information to the traffic. Meaning this information would not be relevant to anyone not of descent.

    My first thought on this would be that both numbers would be 1-5 for simplicity, and 11 minus the sum of both numbers. This would be the weeks it takes to move between planets. It allows for the system to change depending on relevance. It also lets rumor and lies travel faster.

    Just an off the wall suggestion,

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