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Tramp steamers


Owl

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Okaj, so I've got my copy of BRP (and damn it is sweet), I was planing on running a Rome game as son as it's availible from Chaosium, but when I read the book I find myself wanting to do something completely different: Tramp steamers.

Okay, here me out on this one, okay? The characters are the crew of a tramp steamer set in a indeterminable thirties or fifties setting (sort of like Tintin?) and adventures generally take place as they try and find cargo in port, avoid modern-day pirates in the South China Sea, hide dubious cargo form customs officers, smuggle guns to noble rebel movements, find safe haven from storms etc etc - basicly a free trader campaign in Traveller only set on the seas of earth. Adventures while in the harbor, adventures while at sea, it's all good?

So I'm thinking, what would I need to do? Read up on tramp steamers, sure. Does anyone have any good links or books to recommend? Any thoughts? Any rules you'd suggest for such a game?

A game where everyone plays Haddock?

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There once was a GURPS sourcebook with a lot of useful informations for

just the kind of campaign you describe. Unfortunately I do not remember

the title. It could have been GURPS Cliffhangers, but I am not sure.

Edit.:

Here is a review from the Amazon website:

"GURPS Cliffhangers, like almost all GURPS books, is a gamemaster's delight. The book gathers handily in one place almost all the information you will want on the history and background of the 1920's - 1940's in one place. It not only covers the events and the background information for North America, but for almost all of the world. The layout is clean and well organized, and GURPS-specific rules are, as with all GURPS sourcebooks, confined to one chapter. This means that the book is easily usable as a source for GM's running campaignes set in the Cliffhanger era using different rulesystems. Several pages at the end are reserved for a very thorough bibliography of othe sources - not just books, but comics, films, and other games. If you're looking at running a cliffhanger/pulp style game, you can't do wrong by using GURPS Cliffhangers as a starting point."

Edited by rust

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Okaj, so I've got my copy of BRP (and damn it is sweet), I was planing on running a Rome game as son as it's availible from Chaosium, but when I read the book I find myself wanting to do something completely different: Tramp steamers.

I'd play this in a heartbeat.

You might want to look for a copy of Hero Games' Pulp Hero (for Hero 5th), as it's a heartbreakingly wonderful resource for the pulp era.

The old Tales of the Gold Monkey tv show might have some applicable concepts.

You might also want to read Robert E. Howard's Sailor Steve Costigan stories. Ten of them are available in Boxing Stories. There seem to be ebooks (Amazon Kindle, at least) of several others.

That's all that comes to mind initially. I do like your idea of using the merchant style of Traveller as a model as well. Go forth and make with some serious rockin' out!

75/420

---

Geek blogging at http://strangestones.com

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Amazon.com: 21st Century Pirate: Sean O'Reilly: Books

The link above is to a book that might be good for modern day smuggling. Why just keep it in the 30's or 50's? And what if a group of players don't want to follow the straight-and-narrow?>:->

Well, I went with 30-50ies mostly because the music is better then, the ships are cooler and modern day sailing is all GPS, give me charts any day! ;)

As for the straight and narrow... I kind of forsee the players at least stooping to smuggling. As to reverting to piracy, well, that's a different question. I'll check out the book, thanks for the tip.

That's all that comes to mind initially. I do like your idea of using the merchant style of Traveller as a model as well. Go forth and make with some serious rockin' out!

Yeah, that was my major inspiration for a campaign. Nothing wrong with Traveller, but it's way more interesting to go ashore in, say, Agadir than Cyrsis Major VII or something, IMHO.

THat said, I seem to recall someone doing this now. I dont think he got anywhere, but I think it was called Mariner or something?

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You might also want to check an old library in the YA section. In the 30s, 40s, and 50s there were a lot of "boys' adventure stories" in the "run away to sea" genre that might be useful for inspiration. Some of them may even have been written by people who went to sea themselves and so knew what was what. Unfortunately I can't remember any titles or authors; I barely remember reading them...

- QV

Rule #1: Amuse the GM.

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Well, I went with 30-50ies mostly because the music is better then, the ships are cooler and modern day sailing is all GPS, give me charts any day! ;)

As for the straight and narrow... I kind of forsee the players at least stooping to smuggling. As to reverting to piracy, well, that's a different question. I'll check out the book, thanks for the tip.

I was mostly thinking about the drug smuggling aspect of it. That would probably be a source of a whole lot of adventure.

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I haven't actually read any stories, but it is my understanding that South Sea island-hopping adventures were a popular pulp sub-genre during the Thirties. Louis L'Amour, later famous for his Westerns, began his literary career by writing such tales. He switched genres because Pacific ocean adventurers waned in popularity after World War 2.

You can get a taste of this nearly forgotten genre from some old movies such as the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby road pictures and John Wayne's 1948 film Wake of the Red Witch. Another inspiration could be the following radio show from the 1950s, Voyage of the Scarlet Queen. Give it a listen. It is very much in the vein you described.

RadioLovers.com - Voyage Of The Scarlet Queen

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for the links guys, the blueprint of the tramp steamer was wonderful :)

And in case you're wondering how far I've gotten on this project, I've... well, I've asked if anyone nearby is interested in playing, and I've order a nautical dictionary to help me understand nautical mysteries. It's from 1914, so itmight be a tad out of date by todays standards, but I figure it'll work just fine for the 30ies-50ies unles I decide I like the idea of a pre-WWI setting better merely because I'm a fan of the kaisers navy...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here's a link to another set of plans. You can copy and paste them from the discussion, but the provider can also e-mail you a 2MB file.

Model Ship World :: View topic - 1929 Tramp Steamer Plans

Another RPG fan had a custom made model of the Venture from King Kong. Photos here:

http://theminiaturespage.com/profiles/784643/

Edited by seneschal
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  • 2 weeks later...

Man, you really, really, really need THIS: http://home.earthlink.net/~djackson24/TrampSteamer2.pdf

You can buy me a beer later :)

Paul Elliott

Warlords of Alexander - Roleplaying in the ruins of Alexander's Empire

Zenobia - Fantasy RPG in the Eastern Roman Empire

Zaibatsu - Fast-play Japanese cyberpunk - Gibson-style

www.geocities.com/mithrapolis/games.html

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I know just what you need, but it's probably very difficult to get ahold of.

A book called "Vagabond Voyaging: The Story of Freighter Travel" by Larry Nixon, published by Little, Brown and Company, 1938 - Boston.

It's a guide published to advise travelers who wish to travel via tramp steamers and/or freighters rather than ocean liners.

Details:

  • Travel Prices
  • Travels Routes
  • Accomdations and Food
  • Appropriate Clothing
  • How to Prepare
  • Common Ship Plans
  • Description of Crew

Also has descriptiond of several common trips like

  • Passage to Manila
  • Chinese Ports
  • Crossing the Equator
  • Indian Ocean Ports
  • Round the World Trips

Also has a good dozen or so illustrations or photographs of a sample cabin, dining room, sample wine list and dinner menu, the galley in action, etc.

I found my copy in a used bookstore, but a good university interlibrary loan might be able to get ahold of a copy.

anyway - hope that is helpful

:cool:

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All of the aforementioned titles are excellent, especially Tales of the Golden Monkey....

Depending on how violent you want your world to be, you might check out "Black Lagoon". Granted it is an anime, and modern, but the cast of characters and complex motivations/backstory might be a good mix...plus it is about smugglers/pirates.

-STS

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People, I have to say that this is probably the best thread I have ever seen.

A member asked for help with an idea, and got flooded with helpful hints and resources- everything from story ideas to rules to deckplans to obscure references.

The idea for such a campaign never occurred to me before, but after reading this thread, now I want to plan in a tramp steamer campaign!

Good job, guys. This site rocks!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I wanted to add this to the record.

After following this thread, I went ahead and picked up a copy of “Vagabond Voyaging” – including shipping it was less then $10. I ride a train to and from work each day and was able to read the book in just a few commutes.

IMHO this is a great source book, not only for 1920’s and 30’s, but for classic Traveler. As I was reading the book it seemed to jive exactly with my impression of the typical Traveler adventure; a group of people thrown together on a ship having adventures. Of course, the author was suggesting much more mundane (particularly by 2008 standards) adventures, but the idea was there. Actually, I think even the tonnage of the ships was about the same – maybe a little smaller in Traveler.

I have gotten more out of this $10 book then from many supplements costing a lot more.

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I wanted to add this to the record.

After following this thread, I went ahead and picked up a copy of “Vagabond Voyaging” – including shipping it was less then $10. I ride a train to and from work each day and was able to read the book in just a few commutes.

IMHO this is a great source book, not only for 1920’s and 30’s, but for classic Traveler. As I was reading the book it seemed to jive exactly with my impression of the typical Traveler adventure; a group of people thrown together on a ship having adventures. Of course, the author was suggesting much more mundane (particularly by 2008 standards) adventures, but the idea was there. Actually, I think even the tonnage of the ships was about the same – maybe a little smaller in Traveler.

I have gotten more out of this $10 book then from many supplements costing a lot more.

I'm glad the suggestion was useful. I've used it mostly for Call of Cthulhu, but you're right, it's a good source for ideas for Traveler too.

:thumb:

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