Book 4: Starship Traveller

Written by: Steve Jackson

Illustrated by: Peter Andrew Jones

First published: 1983

“Sucked through the appalling nightmare of the Seltsian Void, the starship Traveller emerges at the other side of the black hole into an unknown universe. You are the captain of the Traveller and her fate lies in your hands. Will you be able to discover the way back to Earth from the alien peoples and planets you encounter, or will you and your crew be doomed to roam uncharted space forever?”

Fighting Fantasy went all science-fiction on us with the fourth book in the series, and not for the last time. Steve Jackson’s Star Trek inspired adventure casts the reader as the captain of a futuristic starship, lost in deep space, trying to find a way home. Starship Traveller also featured a number of other firsts. It was the first adventure which wasn’t 400 entries long (while other books would go beyond the 400 number, Starship Traveller is the only one to come in under this, clocking it at 340 entries), and it was the first time the player was asked to roll stats for multiple characters and a spaceship. Yep, at the beginning of the adventure, you not only rolled your own skill and stamina scores, but those for your science officer, medical officer, engineering officer, security officer and two security guards, all of whom would come into play in your adventure. Only you and the security characters skills applied to combat. Your other characters, in a combat situation, would have to reduce their skill levels. However, at certain points in the adventure, you will need to, for example, test your science officer’s skill at sciencey type stuff. If it sounds complicated, it all becomes clear during the adventure. One luck score is shared between the entire group. You also roll up weapons strength and shield stats for your ship, the titular Traveller. For the purposes of this play through, I won’t be listing all the stats I rolled up, just those for myself and the ship. As ever, if you fancy reading Starship Traveller yourself at some point, spoiler free, then best stop reading here.

The Traveller is pulled through the Void, by Peter Andrew Jones
The Traveller is pulled through the Void, by Peter Andrew Jones

Attempt 1

Skill: 12

Stamina: 21

Weapons Strength: 11

Shields: 19

Luck: 10

Not bad rolls, but my security guards skill scores are disappointingly low. Ah, well. The adventure begins straight away, with no Background section. Instead I’m sent right off the bat to paragraph 1, in which the Traveller is pulled through the Selstian Void, and everyone aboard passes out. When we come to, we’re in an unfamiliar region of space, with three planets in the vicinity. I order the helmsman (yes, I’m enjoying this) to head for a life-bearing world to port.

As we approach, we’re contacted by an alien ship. Commander M’k Tel of the Imperial Ganzig Confederation asks us to identify ourselves. Being new to this section of space, I figure compliance may be our best bet. Commander M’k Tel is naturally suspicious, and says he’s taking us to a nearby starbase so his superiors can consider our story. He also tells us to beam his first officer aboard the Traveller. I’m not too pleased about this, but I comply.

Commander M’k Tel, by Peter Andrew Jones
Commander M’k Tel, by Peter Andrew Jones

As soon as the Ganzigite first officer beams aboard, he asks to be taken to our computer room. This I’m definitely not happy about, so I decide to sidetrack him by leading him through the lower decks. We take him to the cargo bay and show him around, but the Ganzigite freaks out when he sees an eagle which, for some reason, we have aboard. I attempt to use the confusion to turn the tables and capture our guest, but he has a forcefield which flings me against the wall. Ouch. The Ganzigite tells me not to be so foolish (good advice) and orders us to take him to the bridge.

We proceed to the Starbase, where we meet with the Ganzigite leader, who thankfully believes our fantastic story. He tells us we need find a black hole to head through, but at a very specific time and place. But he can’t tell us which specific time and place. Excellent. Very useful. He suggests we investigate other planets. Wish I’d thought of that. Cheeky bugger then installs a subroutine in the Traveller which will prevent us from firing phasers on any Ganzig Confederation ships.

We head back to the ship, and continue on our voyage. Coming to a small star with an orbiting system, I opt to head down to a blue planet, taking with me my science officer (who I nickname Spock), my medical officer (who I nickname McCoy) and a security guard (who I nickname Canon Fodder) with me. We materialize on the planets surface, and find ourselves on a street lined with buildings. We head for the larger of the buildings, where we meet some aliens and ask to be taken on a general tour. On this tour, we learn that everyone on the planet is equal, and free to do what they like. There are no laws, but they do have guards. Guards who are free to attack whoever they like, because they like attacking people. Um… Right. As if on cue, we’re attacked by three guards, who we beat up.

Our guide offers to show us a number of places next, including a travel and maps room. Seems like a pretty obvious place to go. Unfortunately, we get no information about black holes here, just some limited information on other planets in the area. We head back to the ship, and plot a course to the second planet in this system, where our sensors pick up signs of advanced technology, but no life signs.

The alien greets us, by Peter Andrew Jones

Myself, my medical officer and my science officer beam down to what at first appears to be a deserted planet, where we are soon greeted by an alien being. He seems friendly enough, but he is quickly shot dead by one of my colleagues. The officer claims he was brandishing a weapon, but myself and the other officer can see no trace of this. I opt to beam up the alien, to see if there’s any medical help we can give him on the ship, sending my medical officer with him. The ship beams down one of our security guards to join us, but the alien never arrives aboard the Traveller.

As we continue to explore, I hear a machine gun go off, and order everyone to duck. However, I see to be the only one who can hear or see the bullets, and to my horror, one of my officers stands up into their path… Only for the bullets to pass harmlessly through him. Little odd. We head onwards, finding a building we decide to check the place out. Conveniently, it turns out to be a library, where we discover that there is a black hole in sector 288. Sounds promising.

We beam back to the ship, and I select our next destination as a small cluster of stars a couple of light years away. Along the way, the language lab (we have one of those) calls to say they’ve studied a newspaper we brought back to the ship from the previous planet we were on. Turns out, the entire planet had been covered in hallucinogens in an accident. That explains a lot.

As we travel towards the star cluster, we encounter a meteor storm. I order evasive action to be taken, and we all get knocked about a bit. My clumsy science officer falls over and hurts himself, but my medic gives him a plaster or something, and he’s fine. A quick luck test sees us out of the meteor storm in one piece. Arriving at the cluster, we discover a small problem. We’re running out of food. We only have enough to last another two days. I order the crew to beam down to a green planet nearby. Green seems like a good place to get food.

I take my science and medical officers with me, and we encounter some kind of large beast. Luckily, it soon leaves on its own, and we begin gathering vegetation to eat. Yum. Unfortunately, in the process, I get attacked by some nasty plants. I use my phaser to free myself, but it is completely drained, and I won’t be able to use it again until I get back to the ship. Seems like the perfect time to suggest we hunt some animals. We find three hog-like creatures, but, because of my previous plant encounter, I have no phaser power. So I have to kill one with my hands. Good thing I’m a tough-guy type captain. Food procured, we head back to the ship and set a course for the nearest planet.

The natives approach, by Peter Andrew Jones
The natives approach, by Peter Andrew Jones

Scanners indicate intelligent life, so I beam down with Spock, McCoy and Canon Fodder. Some aliens approach us and agree to take us to their village elder, who tells about a being called the Rain Lord, who controls the weather. It seems that lately, he’s not being very nice, and is only giving the planet bad weather, which is causing the villagers crops to fail and making them sick. I offer to see if my medical officer can help, and a quick skill test reveals that he can. Yay! However, my medical officer then begins to feel a bit unwell. Uh oh… I have to test my luck (though unusually, have to roll equal to or higher than my luck score), and a lucky roll results in my MO making a full recovery.

We decide to contact the Rain Lord, and see what we can do to help. Arriving at his castle, we find ourselves surrounded by armed guards. Oops. I explain that we want to see the Rain Lord, and we are taken inside the keep. Inside, we are surprised to find a large computer complex, filled with advanced technology. A man in a chair is sat in the room, with his back to us. He turns to face us, and introduces himself as the Rain Lord. He’s much friendlier than we expected, and tells us that his weather controlling devices are borked (my phrasing, not his). He asks if my science officer can help, and a quick test of his science skill allows him to successfully repair them. We get some useful information about black holes and the speed we should approach them. Sounds useful.

The crashed ship, by Peter Andrew Jones
The crashed ship, by Peter Andrew Jones

We leave the Rain Lord’s planet and set a course for a large red planet nearby. Along the way, we stumble across a small, drab-looking grey planet. I send a landing party to investigate in a shuttle, and they discover a crashed ship, though there is nothing of note inside. The party return to the ship, but soon afterwards, crew members begin mysteriously dying. I order the landing party put into quarantine, but there is nothing apparently wrong with them, and three more crew members are soon dead, including my engineering officer. Noooooo!!!!!! Welshy!!!!!!!!!

My science officer suggests sealing off the docking bay, where the landing party docked their shuttle, figuring there’s poison in the air there. My medical officer confirms the poison, and we flush the air from the docking bay. This seems to work, as there are no further deaths. Phew.

Continuing on, we head for a fast moving spot, with signs of life on it. It turns out to be a ship from the Ganzig Confederation. Hey! I know them! We contact the ship, which wants us to follow it to the nearest starbase. We dock at the spaceport and… Um… Get forgotten about. Right. Suddenly, I’m not convinced that the Ganzig Confederation are particularly good at anything. We go to explore the spaceport, and end up being taken by a robot to an alien with a massive head. Which I presume means he has a massive brain. The alien advises me that our universes are intersecting via a black hole on stardate 77. We leave the spaceport, and decide to give getting home a try. To work out the way home, I have to subtract time co-ordinates from the sector, and turn to that reference. So I do. We find a black hole, head into it… And everyone dies. Well, something went wrong there. Failure.

To be continued…

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Starship Traveller – A Fighting Fantasy Flashback part 1