#TravellerRPG Tuesday – Adventuring the LBB Way in Traveller (Game Designers’ Workshop, 1977) #ttrpg

Believe it or not, there is a segment of Dungeon’s & Dragons roleplaying game players who proclaim that if you don’t follow the rules exactly as written then you are playing the game wrong. As much as I disagree with that position, I decided to go back to my tabletop roleplaying game roots and review the “Little Black Books” in my Traveller boxed set to see what is different and maybe play around with those rules a bit to see how they stand up after four decades. Along the way, I also (re?)discovered a gritty edge of Little Black Book Traveller.

No Third in ’77

Traveller, like every other RPG, has its own version of edition wars. Whether you like Classic Traveller or MegaTraveller or Traveller: New Era or Traveller 4 or Mongoose Traveller (1st and 2nd Editions) or Traveller 5 or HERO Traveller or GURPS Traveller, it’s all Traveller at heart. My three Little Black Books for Traveller are the 1977 edition. This means it truly is settingless—there is no Third Imperium between these covers. If I am tracking publication dates correctly, the Third Imperium didn’t appear until Book 4 Mercenary in 1978.

Here is how the “setting” for Traveller 1977 is introduced:

Traveller covers a unique facet of future society: the concept that expanding technology will enable man to reach the stars, and to populate the worlds which orbit them. Nonetheless, communication will be reduced to the level of the 18th Century, reduced to the speed of transportation. The result will be a large (bordering ultimately on the infinite) universe, ripe for bold adventurer’s travels. Using this three book set, players are capable of playing single scenarios or entire campaigns set in virtually any science fiction theme.

Traveller, Volume 1, p. 1

To me, the Third Imperium setting in Traveller is the definitive space opera tabletop roleplaying game setting. That said, I have always liked making my own space opera setting. For me, the lack of a defined setting in Traveller ’77 is actually quite refreshing, especially in today’s hyper-commercialized world where IP is the thing. Traveller ’77 is a relatively simple framework for adventure; the buy in requires only a few concessions (most notable, that communication at the speed of transportation). Beyond that is really is up to the imagination of the referee and players!

A subgenre of speculative fiction or science fiction that emphasizes space travel, romantic adventure, and larger-than-life characters often set against vast exotic settings. Used initially as a derogatory term.

“Space Opera,” Wordnik

Let’s step though the three Little Black Books and see what we find…

Book 1 Characters and Combat

PLAYING THE GAME (p. 2) – “Traveller may be played in any of three basic configurations: solitaire, scenario, or campaign.”

  • The Solitaire Game: “Solitaire is ideal for the player who is alone due to situation or geography.”
  • The Scenario: “Generally, a scenario is a one-time affair, and ends when the evening of play is over or the goal is achieved…Strangely enough, players generally become reluctant to dismiss an experienced character without good cause, and usually want to continue their “lives” in further adventures.”
  • The Campaign: “The referee should generate the basic facts of his universe before play begins…Traveller is primarily written with a view to a continuing campaign, and these books primarily deal with that end.”

Here is where my two primary modes of Traveller play, solitaire and campaign, come from. As much as I have played within the Third Imperium or other modern Alternate Traveller Universes like The Clement Sector from Independence Games or HOSTILE from Zozer Games I often find myself coming back to a single subsector for adventure—like I did at the very beginning.

DIE ROLL CONVENTIONS (p. 2 ) – “Routinely in the course of Traveller, dice must be thrown to determine an effectively random or unpredictable course of action. These dice throws may be made by players for their characters, or by the referee for the effects of nature, non-players, or unseen forces. Rolls by the referee may be kept secret or partially concealed depending on their effects. In situations where the players would not actually know the results of the roll, or would not know the exact roll made, the referee would make the dice roll.”

Ahh…the old argument of roll-in-the-open or roll-behind-the-screen. Also “players-roll” or “referee-rolls.” Thinking back, most of my early games were all rolls by the referee with players consulting their character sheet to add die modifiers. Later, we added “shared” rolls where players would roll one die and the referee secretly rolls a second and then narrates the result. This gave players some insight into the potential result (“Hmm…I think I need a 8+ for this to work, and I have a Skill Level DM of +2. I rolled a 3….odds are 2 in 3 that the other die is 3 or better for success but there is a 1 in 3 chance it’s not. Referee said it looks good but…”). To influence their luck, players would often bring their own dice and offer them up to the referee after appropriate blessings or incantations.

INITIAL CHARACTER GENERATION (p. 4) – “Obviously, it is possible for a player to generate a character with seemingly unsatisfactory values; nevertheless, each player should use his character as generated. The experience procedures and acquired skills table offer a genuine opportunity to enhance values, given only time and luck. Should a player consider his character to be so poor as to be beyond help, he should consider joining the accident-prone Scout Corps, with a subconscious view to suicide.”

I don’t think middle school me really understood that last part, but the first has driven so much of my RPG life. Generating a character in Traveller taught me to take what I had and try to make the best of it. There is no real min-maxing characters in Traveller. As I moved on to other RPG systems over the years, I always struggle with developing a character concept because I usually take the hand dealt, not the one tailored to me.

Survival (p. 5) – “Each term of service involves some danger; during the term, a character must successfully throw his service’s survival number to avoid death in the line of duty…Failure to successfully achieve the survival throw results in death; a new character must be generated.”

The character death rule has been in my Traveller since the beginning. To this day I look at other versions that avoid death and shake my head in disbelief for THIS IS Traveller.

OK…this is NOT Traveller but…

Skills and Training (p. 6) – I’ve always been amazed at how few skills a Traveller ’77 characters has. Two skills for first term and one for each subsequent. One skill for a commission and one skill each promotion. A character going out to five terms (early retirement) might have only 10 levels of skills.

AGING (p. 7) – “If, as a result of aging or combat, a characteristic is reduced to zero, the character is considered to be ill or wounded. A basic saving throw of 8+ applies (and may be modified by the expertise of attending medical personnel). If the character survives, his recovery is made immediately (under slow drug, which speeds up his body chemistry). The character ages (one die equals the number of months in added age) immediately, but also returns to play fully recovered. The characteristic which was reduced to zero automatically becomes one. This process occurs for each time (and for each characteristic) a characteristic is reduced to zero. In the event that medical care is not available, the character is incapacitated for the number of months indicated by the die roll.”

Another rule I don’t remember, likely because it is different from the Wounding and Death rules found on page 30 in COMBAT RESOLUTION:

When any one characteristic is reduced to zero by wounds, the character is rendered unconscious. When all three characteristics are reduced to zero, the character is dead…

Unconscious characters (with one characteristic reduced to zero) recover conciseness after 10 minutes, with all characteristics temporarily place at a value halfway between full strength and the wounded level…and remains so until recovered…Return to full strength requires medical attention, or three days of rest.

Unconscious characters (with two characteristics reduced to zero) are considered severely wounded, and recover consciousness after three hours. Their characteristics remain at the wounded level (or one, whichever is higher). Recovery is dependent on medical attention (recuperation without medical attention is not possible).

Wounding and Death, pp. 30-31

I remember the combat wounding/death rules but the one under aging seems more appropriate for out-of-combat situations, like basic illnesses or even falling.

THE UNIVERSAL PERSONALITY PROFILE (p. 8) – “…expresses the basic characteristics in a specific sequence, using hexadecimal (base 16) notation.”

How many of you can read the UPP, or USP (Universal Ship Profile) or UWP (Universal World Profile)? It’s amazing how much adventure can be inspired by just a string of alphanumeric text…

A NOTE ON GENDER AND RACE (p. 8) – “Nowhere in these rules is a specific requirement established that any character (player or non-player) be of a specific gender or race. Any character is potentially of any race or of either sex.”

There, no political theatrics or culture war needed. Been doing it since 1977.

Basic Skills / General Description / Specific Game Effects (p. 13 onward) – A close look at the Specific Game Effects give lots of rules for referee’s to use. They also show how flexible the game mechanisms are, mostly because they are few and leave much up to the imagination of the referee and players.

Computer (p. 17) – “Nonetheless, there is always the possibility that such a program will have a fatal error and not function when actually used in space combat (referee throw secretly 7 exactly for fatal error to be written in) or that such a program will have a negative DM when used (referee throw secretly 5- for a negative DM. Half chance that DM will be -1 or -2). Expertise will serve as a DM affecting program quality, +1 per level of expertise. Flaws generally remain hidden.”

While I remember the rules for writing a program, I had forgotten about the fatal flaw rules. Based on experience with MicroSoft over the years, I’m not sure that limiting a fatal flaw to a roll of exactly 7 is limited enough…

One “WOPR” of a programming error…

Ship’s Boat (pp. 17-18) – Often overlooked, there is a quick-resolution alternate ship combat system in the Specific Game Effects here. It is much more “narrative” than the set-piece combat sequence in Book 2.

Pilot (p. 19) – I often forget that while Ship’s Boat is useful for piloting small craft, a Pilot can also fly small craft, albeit at a -1 skill level.

Skills and the Referee (p. 20) – “It is impossible for any table of information to cover all aspects of every potential situation, and the above listing is by no means complete in its coverage of the effects of skills. This is where the referee becomes an important part of the game process. The above listing of skills and game effects must necessarily be taken as a guide, and followed, altered, or ignored as the actual situation dictates.

In some game situations, actual die roll results must be concealed from the players, at times allowing them to misconstrue the reasons for their success or failure. In other situations, the referee may feel it necessary to create his own throws and DMs to govern action, and may or may not make such information available to the players.”

“In order to be consistent (and a consistent universe makes the game both fun and interesting), the referee has a responsibility to record the throws and DMs he creates, and to note (perhaps by penciling in) any thrown he alters from those given in these books.”

THIS. IS. TRAVELLER. A game is a shared narrative created by the players and referee. The referee is charged with keeping the universe consistent.

COMBAT / MOVEMENT (p. 29) – “Because the effects of range are so important, and because the ranges between specific characters can vary greatly, it is suggested that the complex combats be mapped out on a line grid…Ordinary lined paper serves this purpose quite well.”

Another reason Classic Traveller was so easy for middle-schoolers—all we needed was a few note cards, looseleaf paper, pen/pencil and a d6.

MORALE (p. 33) – “A party of adventurers (players or non-players) which sustains casualties in an encounter will ultimately break or rout if it does not achieve victory.”

We always used this rule for NPC parties but for the players their Morale was up to them. Since combat in Traveller is actually quite deadly, my players tended to be careful when bullets were flying about.

Laser Carbine / Laser Rifle (pp 36-37) – These weapons were backpack-powered. In the post-Star Wars movie era this was laughable.

Book 2 Starships

Interstellar Travel (p. 1) – “Commercial starships usually make two trips per month, spending one week in travel time and one week for transit to the jump point, landing and take-off and time in port. In port, five or six days are allowed for the acquisition of cargo and passengers, and for crew recreation.”

This is the classic Traveller adventure timeline; one week jump followed by one week in system. It is also interesting to note how often in my adventures the one week in jump was “handwaved” away because nothing ever happens in jump, eh?

Hijacking (p. 3) – “The referee should roll three dice, with a result of 18 exactly indicating one or more passengers is making the attempt.”

Hmm…we never played this event in-jump but wouldn’t that be interesting?

Skipping (p. 3) – “A repossession attempt will occur under the following conditions: On each world landing, throw 12+ to avoid such an attempt, apply a DM of +1 per 5 hexes distance from the ship’s home planet, to a maximum of +9. If the ship has called on the same world twice in the last two months, apply a DM of -2.”

Wow, throw 12+ to AVOID repossession—means you need to get 30-35 parsecs (hexes) or something like two subsectors away to statistically avoid repossession. I can’t recall a time we ever played a repossession attempt which is very surprising given Repo Man was a popular movie in my gaming group…

Don’t ask, just watch

STARSHIP PURCHASE (p. 5) – Ahh, the starship mortgage. Here I was learning about buying a house while in middle school.

Mail (p. 8) – “Throw 9+ for a private message to be awaiting transmittal, and then determine randomly which crew member is approached to carry it. Serving as a carrier for private messages also serves as an introduction to the recipient as a dependable, trustworthy person.”

This is one of the several “encounters” that randomly can build an adventure.

Starship Construction (p. 9+) – I have arguably created more starships for Traveller over the years than characters. This simple sequence is still a favorite.

NON-STARSHIPS (p. 17) – “A non-starship…can support its passengers for up to 30 days in space. Beyond that time, air, food, and water begin to run out…At the end of 30 days, throw 9+ each day to prevent the recycling machinery from breaking down. If it does fail, it must be repaired on the same day (throw 9+ to repair; DM +1 per level of mechanical expertise, once per day) or the air is exhausted and the passengers will suffocate.”

I can’t ever recall seeing this rule before (even after 40 years). I double checked and there is no comparable rule for starships though you have to pay for Life Support.

Starship Combat (p. 22+) – A vector movement combat system. Another example of how Classic Traveller skews more towards hard sci-fi than space opera.

DATA CARD EXAMPLE (p. 24) – Another 3×5 notecard!

PLANETARY TEMPLATES (p. 26) – I still have mine created 40 years ago.

DETECTION (p. 33) – “Planetary masses and stars will completely conceal a ship from detection.”

When we all saw this in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan we looked at each other and said, “of course.”

Decompression (p. 34) – “Hull hits result in explosive decompression if pressure has not already been lowered. Explosive decompression kills all persons in that section unless a vacc suit is available and put on immediately. Throw 9+ to put on an available vacc suit; DM + level of vacc suit expertise, and DM + dexterity of the individual.”

Here is a rule worthy of The Expanse that I had totally forgotten. The + dexterity modifier is maybe a bit much; later rules would use the Characteristic Modifier which was not in Classic Traveller.

Abandon Ship (p. 35) – “individuals in vacc suits who are not picked up may attempt to land on a planet. The following notes apply…”

Say what?! I absolutely don’t remember this rule at all. Here are rules for vacc suit endurance, movement, foamed ablation reentry, oh my!

STARSHIP ENCOUNTERS (p. 36) – “When a ship enters a star system, there is a chance that any one of a variety of ships will be encountered…Roll two dice; apply a DM based on the starport of the primary world of the system (A +6, B +4, C +2, D +1, E -2, X -4).”

Another “standard” encounter. I do like the comment on how a “Patrol” might simply be a pirate looking to shakedown your crew…

Experience (p. 40) – One of the common criticisms of Traveller is that there is no character progression system. Granted, this is not an XP approach, but it is still part of the game.

Book 3 Worlds and Adventures

3. Route Determination (p. 2) – “The worlds of a subsector are connected by the charted space lanes, which marks the regular routes travelled by commercial starships. While it is possible for starships to travel without regard to the lanes charted, individuals who do not own or control starships are generally restricted to commercial travel on ships which ply routes which are mapped.”

To me, this always meant if you wanted to go “off the grid” (a phrase yet to be invented when I first played) you needed your own ship or a charter…which was costly. Often the adventure reward (payment) was enough to motivate characters to do so…

ROUTINE ENCOUNTERS (p. 19) – “Adventurers meet ordinary people in the course of ordinary activity…Personal reactions are rarely of importance…and the process usually continues without trouble.”

RANDOM ENCOUNTERS (p. 19) – “Adventurers…also have random encounters with an unpredictable variety of individuals or groups…which may complement, supplement, oppose, or irrelevant to, the goals of the adventurers themselves…Usually, a random encounter point with humans will occur once per day.”

PATRONS (p. 20) – “One specific, recurring goal for adventurers is to find a patron who will assist them in the pursuit of fortune and power…In a single week, a band of adventurers may elect to devote their time to encountering a patron.”

While I have always seen Traveller as a form of space opera, the “routine” of life is actually far more gritty. Life in the Traveller universe—whatever your setting—is tough. You can die in character generation. Combat is deadly. The environment is hazardous. You never have enough money. You always have to be on the hustle to your next “score.” This is reflected in encounters. Routine encounters rarely are harmful, but “random” encounters—which can occur daily—can help, hinder, or simply distract you. Patron encounters are very important in an ongoing campaign as they can lead to future adventure.

I’ll just note here that later versions of Traveller make Patron Encounters a weekly event. In early Traveller rules if the adventurers wanted a Patron Encounter they had to be pro-active.

NOBILITY (p. 22) – “The title emperor/empress is used by the ruler of an empire of several worlds”

This may be the closest we get to the Third Imperium in Traveller ’77.

Animal Encounters (p. 24+) – For a game all about space, I didn’t understand the extensive animal encounters section for many years. Only later did I get into “alien exploration” adventures, and finally realized that these rules are how you create alien creatures, not just “animals.”

ANIMAL DEFINITIONS (pp. 30-31) – Hidden here are rules for planetary hazards like a storm or precipices.

Psionics (p. 33) – “The powers of the mind are incredible, and some day the study of these powers will enable every individual to use them as a active part of his life. At the time which Traveller occurs, however, universal psionic training does not exist; accurate information and quality training are available only through branches of the Psionics Institute, which is wholly devoted to the study of mental powers. Unfortunately, some prejudice exists, and the Institute maintains an extremely low profile.”

Seeing how I started Traveller in 1979, or post-Star Wars, this version of psionics clashed with The Force seen in the movies. Not that it really mattered because we all wanted to be more Solo and less Luke! The result was that a few players in my group tried psionics, but mostly it was ignored. Forty years later, and with a better understanding how books like Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination influenced early Traveller, psionics often finds its way into adventures.

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

Han Solo (Harrison Ford)

(End Notes) (p. 44) – “Traveller is necessarily a framework, describing the barest of essentials for an infinite universe…care must be taken that the referee does not simply lay fortunes in the path of the players, but the situation is not primarily an adversary relationship. The referee simply administers rules in situations where the players themselves have incomplete understanding of the universe. The results should reflect a consistent reality.”

“Barest of essentials” which in the case of Traveller ’77 means no default setting. Referee and players working together to create a consistent reality.

Looking through Traveller ’77 that “consistent reality” is a bit more gritty sci-fi than I remember. Maybe exposure to 40 years of the highly space opera Third Imperium has softened Traveller.

The three Little Black Books of Traveller ’77 are rightfully a design triumph. Three 44-page books—132 pages in total—deliver a deep, flexible framework for consistent adventures. How many other RPGs do that?

This is the Traveller I started with. This is the Traveller I have always loved.

RIP Andrew…

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#SciFiFriday – Elder Race by @aptshadow as #TravellerRPG and #dungeonsanddragons #ttrpg inspiration (h/t to @AndrewLiptak)

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Arthur C. Clark

Arthur C. Clark’s famous quote comparing advanced technology to magic is the core of Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky. This novella makes an excellent Traveller and Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game crossover adventure.

Courtesy Tordotcom

Lynesse is the lowly Fourth Daughter of the queen, and always getting in the way.

But a demon is terrorizing the land, and now she’s an adult (albeit barely) with responsibilities (she tells herself). Although she still gets in the way, she understands that the only way to save her people is to invoke the pact between her family and the Elder sorcerer who has inhabited the local tower for as long as her people have lived here (though none in living memory has approached it).

But Elder Nyr isn’t a sorcerer, and he is forbidden to help, and his knowledge of science tells him the threat cannot possibly be a demon…

Tordotcom

So starts a two-sided story. On one side is Lyn who has summoned a wizard to help defend her kingdom. On the other side is Nyr, an Earth Explorer Corps anthropologist, awakened from hibernation and with access to wondrous technology. One side told in fantasy, the other in science fiction.

Mysticism versus rationality.

Dungeons & Dragons versus Traveller

…the book works…

..so could a tabletop RPG adventure.


Shout out to Andrew Liptack at Transfer Orbit for the tip off on the book.

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – Playing secret agent in James Bond 007 (Victory Games, 1983) #RPGThursday

In my early days of roleplaying games I studiously avoided Dungeons & Dragons. Although I had friends who played, I kept to science fiction RPGs like Traveller. As a wargamer I tried Behind Enemy Lines but it never caught on with my group. Come 1983 the wargaming world was upset with the collapse of Simulations Publications, Inc. and Avalon Hill and the rise of Victory Games. Seeing how Victory Games was the spiritual successor to Avalon Hill and SPI, I wholeheartedly supported them when they jumped into the roleplaying game space.

Besides, it was James Bond 007. Who didn’t want to play Mr. Bond?

[OK, OK, this was deep in the Roger Moore era…but still…]

In terms of game mechanisms, James Bond 007 was far, far removed from the simple roll 2d6 for 8+ in Traveller. Now the player had to deal with Primary Chance and Ease Factor and Quality Rating. At first my group bounced off hard from all the “mathing” required. However, very quickly the game grew on us. All that math was actually on the character sheet or the GM screen. It wasn’t hard; indeed, the resulting play it produced was rather cinematic.

Years later I deeply appreciate James Bond 007. The example of play is still amongst the best ever written. The Chase rules are brilliant. Secret agents were wargamers! Most importantly, it feels like Bond.

Working through this little character generation drill, I see some “aging” in the system. The skills, abilities, and fields of experience probably need to be updated a bit from the 1980’s. I know of “modern” systems derived from James Bond 007—I’ve tried at least one—but at the end of the day no espionage RPG can beat James Bond 007.


Characteristics are on a scale of 1-15 with 5 being the minimum for an Agent.

Lawrence Hone

Former reporter, now Rookie Agent

STR 7 / DEX 7 / WIL 10 / PER 10 / INT 5

Skills (Skill Level/Primary Chance): Charisma (8/18), Driving (8/16), Electronics (3/12), Fire Combat (6/14), Hand-to-Hand (5/12), Sixth Sense (5/14)

Abilities: Connoisseur, First Aid, Photography

Physical Aspects: Height 6’1″, Weight 185 lbs., Age: 30, Appearance: Good Looking, Fame Points: 15, Hero Points: 0, Speed=2, Hand-to-Hand Damage Class=A, Stamina=28 hours, Running/Swimming=25 minutes, Carrying: 101-150 lbs.

Fields of Experience: Computers, Political Science, Wargaming

Weaknesses: Fear of Spiders

Weapon: Walther PPK (Performance Modifier +1 / Shots per Round=2/ Damage Class=E/ Jam=99)

Lawrence grew up in a small town with traditional values. He always seemed to have a nose for news and went to college to be a journalist. After graduation he worked for a while but grew disillusioned with all the “fake news;” he wanted his politics to make a difference. While assigned to the Washington, D.C. news bureau Lawrence was recruited by The Company and has just completed his basic training. Now a Rookie Agent, Lawrence is anxious to get out there and face down his nations enemies. But is he really ready?


To give you a sense of how James Bond 007 works lets check out how Lawrence handles a little shoot out with a thug.Lawrence has turned a corner and come face-to-face with a thug carrying a Colt 45. Range is 30 feet (3 gridded squares in combat) making the shot CLOSE Range.

Starting Ease Factor=5. Lawrence is moving (-2 EF) but the close range gives EF +1. Performance Modifier is +1 EF for an adjusted Ease Factor of 5. Cross referencing Hone’s Primary Chance of 14 with Ease Factor 5 is 70. Die roll is 40 which on the Quality Results Table is “Acceptable 4.” Consulting the Wound Level Chart a Quality Rating 4 for Weapon Damage Class E says “LW” or light wound. The thug is stunned. However, the Walther PPK fires two shots per round. The second shot adds another -1 to the Ease Factor making it 4 with Primary Chance 14 giving 56. Die roll of 34 is a Quality Rating 4 (again) and another LW which becomes Medium Wound due to damage accumulation.

At this point I just know that some of you are going, “Wow, that’s too much math!” Part of the brilliance of the James Bond 007 game is that much of what you need is on the character sheet. It makes it faster to look it up and roll than to explain it!

James Bond 007...old school secret agent goodness!


RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#Wargame Wednesday – Crusader-ing with Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs, North Africa Expansion, & Tank Pack #1 by @Hobiecat18 fm @gmtgames

With the holiday weekend giving the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself an increasingly rare occasion when we all don’t have work or school, I was (gladly) badgered into a game of Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs by designer Mike Bertucelli from GMT Games (2019). GMT Games also recently published Tank Duel: Expansion I – North Africa Expansion (2021) and Tank Pack #1 (2021). The release of these two titles was very welcome by RockyMountainNavy Jr. who was anxiously looking for the Crusader, a favorite tank of his. So we ginned up a simple 1942-ish battle in the North African desert with the RockyMountainNavy Boys on the British side each running a Crusader Mk.II A15 against myself running a PzKpfW III AUSf. J and PzKpfW III AUSf. H. Thank goodness the RMN Boys asked early in the day for Tank Duel because I had to review the rules and reset the Battle Deck from the Russian Front to North Africa. Not hard to do but it took time that I was glad I didn’t spend while the Boys impatiently waited across the table.

What I really enjoy about Tank Duel is the narrative it creates in your head. There is no map board; instead, each player a board for each tank in front of them. Range and facing is handled in a relative and abstract manner—you are at a certain range from the “center” of the battlefield and you can either face or flank other tanks. If you lose a tank that’s OK because a new one will spawn reinforce next turn. Tank Duel is really a team game where the winner is the side that scores the most VP before a set number of passes through the deck are completed. More importantly, Tank Duel creates a wargame story, not just a battle.

The first time we played Tank Duel included one of those epic moments that will remain in a family’s wargaming lore forever. I had set up the perfect shot—cannot miss. Of course (I mean, of course) I pulled one of the only cards that made for an auto-miss. That tank I missed ended up surviving the whole battle and was the bane of my (short-lived) existence.

This game of Tank Duel was more of a slugfest. Whereas last time there was lots of moving about the battlefield, this go round we found ourselves hunkering down and trading shots from Hull Down positions with a bit of some movement to occasionally change the range. At the end of the the full game (the Game End was buried at the very end of the third reshuffle) the Germans had lost three tanks against a single British. Individual scoring was RMN Jr. first, RMN T second, and RMN Dad (myself) last—of course.

Playing with the new North Africa Expansion rules, with Sandstorms and Dust and Heat Haze and the like adds a degree of complexity that took some adjustment. I think what we need is large card or board to display all the weather impacts; referring to a card next to our board makes it too easy to forget or overlook a condition.

Every time I play Tank Duel I am reminded of the narrative power of this game. In no other tank battle game, even my beloved Panzer by Jim Day from GMT Games, do I feel this personally invested in every turn of a card. Tank Duel is a game that I need to be revisit more often. The core rules are actually simple and easy to learn; it’s the extra chrome like weather that needs to be experienced a few times to become more recognizable. It’s also time to play some of the set scenarios and add infantry and anti-tank guns to broaden our experience.


Feature image: Abandoned tank A13 Mk IIa T15228 North Africa 

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#ThreatTuesday – New missile kit for Philippines with BrahMos SSM in #wargame SOUTH CHINA SEA (@compassgamesllc, 2017)

News this past week was the sale of the BrahMos supersonic weapon system from India to the Philippines. Some reports claim the land-based variant will be fielded by the Philippines Marine Corps. This missile would be a very useful addition to the Philippines in a game of South China Sea from Compass Games (2017).

The BrahMos PJ-10 is credited with a speed of Mach 2.0-2.8 depending on cruise height. While the full-up domestic version has a range of 500 km (6 hexes in the wargame South China Sea), the version sold to the Philippines may be limited to 290 km (4 hexes in South China Sea) like a version designed for Vietnam in order to stay below the 300 km threshold of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

You can find the technical specifications of the BrahMos PJ-1 here courtesy CSIS.

A BrahMos missile launched from a truck (courtesy missilethreat.csis.org)

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2022 RPG CharGen Challenge – Wargame as RPG with Behind Enemy Lines (FASA, 1982) #RPGThursday

I started playing roleplaying games in 1979/1980 with Classic Traveller. By 1982, one of the many small companies that grew up to support Traveller was FASA. In 1982 FASA published Behind Enemy Lines, a military RPG set in World War II Europe during or just after D-Day. Unfortunately it didn’t find commercial success. Which is too bad because Behind Enemy Lines is in many ways an outstanding military roleplaying game adventure generator. The heart of Behind Enemy Lines is the Encounter Tables. Behind Enemy Lines seems near-perfect for a Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers-based adventure.

Character Generation in Behind Enemy Lines was very simple; in many ways simpler than even Traveller. Characters were usually enlisted soldiers—real G.I. Joe types—though you could make an officer. The real discriminator in chargen was the background of the character; City versus Country. City slickers tended to be a bit better educated, maybe with leadership and languages. Country boys were simpler but often came with relevant skills.

Another important “skill” was Combat Experience which is used as modifier in various situations. For example, when attempting to sneak up on an enemy position, the player had to roll 2d6 against their Agility. Rolling above your Agility alerted the enemy. However, you gained a -1 die modifier for every level of Combat Experience. It also serves as a modifier when attempting to rally troops. Combat Experience also plays a role in interrogations and rumors.

Normal Range of Values: Physical characteristics range from 5-10. Most skills cannot go higher than 6.


Clinton Graves

Private First Class hailing from the Empire State of New York.

Strength 10 / Endurance 5 / Agility 7 / Stamina 8
Weapon Handling 9 / Combat Experience 5 / Skill Pts 2
Weight 175lbs / Carry 70-80lbs / Lift 175-200lbs / Drag 225-250lbs
Background: Country
Rifle 1 / Pistol 5 / Swimming 2 / Orienteering 2 / First Aid 1
Combat Skills:
Rifle 2 / Leadership 1 / Hand-to-Hand 2 / BAR 1 / Submachine Gun 2 / Grenade 1 / Rifle Grenade 1 / Bayonet 1 / Bazooka 1 / 60mm Mortar 1 / M1919 .30cal MG 1 

Clinton joined the US Army in early 1943 when he turned 18. Growing up in mid-state New York, he learned to shoot both a rifle and pistol while hunting with his uncle who worked for a survey company (Rifle, Pistol, Orienteering). He was the captain of his high school swimming team (Leadership, Swimming).

Clinton came ashore with a later wave of troops and was departing the Anzio beachhead late on December 2, 1943 when the Luftwaffe launched an air raid. Several ships were hit, including a merchant vessel that blew up into a tremendous mushroom cloud. The ash and dust of the explosion had mostly dissipated by the time it reached Clinton’s unit, and like many of his fellow soldiers Clinton used a muffler to not inhale too much. However, ever since then Clinton has been short of breathe (Endurance 5).

Now, in August 1944, Clinton and his unit are part of Patton’s army and working hard to break out of hedgerow country and race to the Rhine. 

(For the backstory of the Bari Raid see https://rense.com/general16/WWIIluftwaffe.htm)


Feature image courtesy https://quotesgram.com/d-day-quotes-from-soldiers/

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#Wargame Wednesday – Another wargame “in the books” with WATERLOO Solitaire by Mike Wylie fm @worth2004 (2021)

Sometimes it is easy to see how the worldwide shipping challenges are changing the wargame/boardgame industry. Most visible are the delays in getting a product to market. Worthington Publishing saw what was happening and took a different approach in the publication of their “Bookgame” series:

The design of this Bookgame came about as we looked at some of our board game designs that could be delivered quickly in a book format during backlogs of worldwide shipping and supply chains caused by a pandemic. Waterloo Solitaire fit well. It could do all a board game could do if 1 die and a pen could be provided by a gamer.

Waterloo Solitaire, Designer Notes and Strategy

Using a Christmas Amazon giftcard, I ordered Waterloo Solitaire and after just a few days the book arrived. These Bookgames are print-on-demand and of good quality being standard 8.5″x11″ softcovers in full color. Waterloo Solitaire is 60 pages of which six are rules and a detailed example of play, and the rest are 24 scenarios (12 French, 12 Allied) each with two facing pages (there is one more page of Designer Notes and a scoresheet).

The rules for Waterloo Solitaire are very easy to digest and one can get playing quickly. Each turn is a simple five step process:

  1. Choose Player Action
  2. Roll for Opponent (BOT) Action
  3. Resolve BOT Action
  4. Resolve Player Action
  5. Mark Turn and begin New Turn.

In Waterloo Solitaire each formation on the player side has a limited number of activations. When you activate, one simply notes the turn of activation. The player also has access to “Combined Actions” which activate multiple formations at once with a generally helpful die modifier. Seeing as a single d6 is used, the BOT action is easy to resolve and usually consists of five “attack” choices and a “special events” which calls for another d6 roll. Combat in Waterloo Solitaire uses a single d6 and a straight-forward table. Hits are marked off unit boxes.

Victory in a battle of Waterloo Solitaire is also very straight-forward. The French player wins if any two Allied formations (Allied Left or Right Wings or Reserve) are destroyed. They lose if at the end of any turn if all the units from the French I or II Corps are marked out. When playing the Allies, victory comes if the Allied Right and Left Wings have ANY units remaining at the end of Turn 18 or if the French I and II Corps are destroyed.

Not wanting to mark up my Waterloo Solitaire book, I photocopied the map-side of the first scenario which is a French player against a “Challenging Allied BOT.” I quickly lost as I failed to reinforce my I Corps and lost the last unit in Turn 5. I quickly reset (photocopied a new sheet) and restarted. This time my French (barely) won on Turn 13 with the destruction of the Allied Left and Right Wings. The Prussians never arrived to the battle (never rolled a 6 for an Allied Action). In total, the first and second play of Waterloo Solitaire battle took about 20 minutes.

[As I was writing this post I looked closer at the 12 French scenarios and realized there are actually only three sets of four scenarios. Each “set” uses a slightly different BOT (“Challenging,” “Veteran,” or “Tough”)—you actually play each scenario four times in a set. The same goes for the 12 Allied battles. Honestly, that’s a slight disappointment but in retrospect not surprising. Developing six BOT tables may be all the game design can handle.]

To experiment with the different BOT challenges in Waterloo Solitaire I advanced to playing the French against the “Veteran” BOT. The battle was more of a near-run thing for the Prussians arrived and attacked my French I Corps late in the game. However, on the Hougoumont side of the battlefield II Corps with some reinforcements from the Reserve got the best of the Allied Right Wing and, after the Imperial Guard couldn’t finish the job, were exhorted by Napoleon himself to attack just one more time and rolled up the Allied Reserve on Turn 11 for the victory just as those pesky Prussians arrived in force.

Battling on my photocopied map; you don’t need 4d6

While the game mechanisms of Waterloo Solitaire are simple, it surprised me as the how much I was pausing to think about what units to activate. The designers were quite accurate when they said, “You make the decisions on the best way to pursue your strategy.” As the French you MUST attack but you also have to manage your reserves all while awaiting the blasted Prussians. As the Allied player you have to stall and await the arrival of the Prussians. Both sides demand playing with finesse.

Waterloo Solitaire is highly suitable to be added to my “Office-al” games collection as it is a perfect lunchtime pastime. The fact that each battle is fought more than once is not necessarily bad; as a player you now have multiple chances to explore the battles and the randomness of the BOT will very likely assure that no two games ever are the same.


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Tuesday #TravellerRPG – “Give me a fast ship, for I intend to go in harm’s way” with The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture (3rd Ed) fm @IndependenceG6 #CepheusEngine

One of the many reasons the Traveller RPG system keeps me coming back to it even after 40 years is the many “sub-games” that the system includes. Not only is character generation its own game, but other world building elements of the rules are games in their own right. One of the more important subgames in Traveller and the modern Cepheus Engine rules incarnations is ship design. The new third edition of The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture from John Watts at Independence Games is the ship design and advanced rules compilation for The Clement Sector (TCS) Alternate Traveller Universe (ATU).

Clement-ready

The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture, 3rd Edition (hereafter referred to a A&F) is a 252-page, full color pdf. Author John Watts describes it as thus:

This updated third edition of Anderson and Felix Guide to Naval Architecture has been written for use within the Clement Sector setting. Clement Sector is a small ship setting, with restrictions on the size of starships bought about by the Zimm drive, the setting’s only means of FTL interstellar travel. Further, Clement Sector has an overall maximum technology level of 12 though some technology, notably computers are higher.

Even with these restrictions, the Anderson and Felix Guide to Naval Architecture can be used in any setting with the referee or designer simply substituting back element of those settings requirements or for that matter, any type of alternative setting-based guidelines wished. There is plenty of information in A&F to interest any referee or designer, including the pre-gravitic module, which allows for more detailed designs. I do hope you enjoy the book.

A&F, “Authors Note,” p. 20

John brings up a great point here; though these books might be sold under The Clement Sector setting label, A&F, like so many Independence Games products, is really “universal” in that you can use the rules beyond the house setting.

Modular

A&F is arranged in seven “Modules.” Several are familiar, some are setting specific, and others not what one might expect to see.

Module 1 of A&F is the Clement Sector version of Spacecraft Design. To many Traveller RPG or Cepheus Engine veterans this module should be very familiar. Just note that because the Clement Sector is a small-ship setting that Adventure-class ships top out at 1,800 displacement Tons (dT) and Capital Ships are no larger than 20,000 dT.

Module 2 of A&F should likewise be familiar as it is for Small Ship Craft (less than 100 dTons). There is also a provision to make “Drones” which is not just a remote control craft, but an autonomous vehicle.

Module 3 of A&F covers pre-gravitic drive spacecraft. For all you fans of The Expanse this is how you get close to building Rochinante! More realistically, this is a great module to use to build something like Odyssey from 2001: A Space Odyssey or even USS Sulaco from Aliens (better yet, check out HOSTILE from Zozer Games).

The pre-gravitic drive Trent-class is maybe my favorite design…

Module 4 of A&F is “Zimm Drive Alternatives.” While you might be tempted to this this is where you will find the “standard” Jump Drive of Traveller RPG you should be (delightfully) surprised to find “alternate” drive technologies like the Alcubierre Drive instead.

Module 5 of A&F is Advanced Space Combat. These are the rules for capital ship combat in the Clement Sector. Again, nothing really new here (hello High Guard) but the setting specific adjustments of technology can be inspiration of how to “fit” the classic Traveller RPG approach to technology levels into your personal campaign design.

Module 6 of A&F provides six sample spacecraft. All of these have appeared in previous Clement Sector products but all here are brought up to third edition standards. Which is to say if you have the “outdated” versions you can still play with them as the changes are not necessarily major.

Module 7 of A&F is one I don’t recall seeing before. “Module 7 – A Primer of Creating Deck Plans” provides guidelines and tips for drawing your own deck plans. For myself, I’ve been drawing deckplans for almost 40 years so I thought I didn’t need this module. However, after reading it I see lots of ways I can step up my personal deckplan game and make them more interesting without necessarily more work.

Non-Naval Architecture

As much as I love A&F, it is not without a few (minor) issues. Personally, I like a complete table of contents but really wish the pages were hyperlinked. Also, the ToC might be a good place to use two-column the print as the single column format is 20(!) pages long. The index is double-column, but again not linked. I know; small quibbles and, after all, in the pdf you just use the search function anyway, eh?

“Second Star to the Right, Straight on ’til Morning”

The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture is the “round-out” book for the Clement Sector Third Edition core rule book. Taken together, players, referees, or designers now have everything (and I mean everything) they might desire to make their own adventures in the Clement Sector—or any small ship ATU setting of their choice.

I should also mention that purchasers of the first or second edition of A&F were given a coupon for a substantially discounted copy. If you were a previous buyer and can’t find you coupon LOOK HARD because the price is well worth it!

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#SciFiFriday – Rediscovering @GerryAndersonTV Space: 1999 and thoughts of #TravellerRPG, #CepheusEngine, & other #TTRPG systems

This past Christmas, I gifted myself the new Moonbase Alpha: Technical Operations Manual (Post Breakaway Revised Edition) by Chris Thompson and Andrew Clements with illustrations by Chris Thompson. This nice coffee table book is published by Anderson Entertainment and is an “in-universe” book based on the 1970’s TV series Space: 1999.

I was but a wee lad, a bit less than 10 years old when Space: 1999 burst onto my TV screen (and it was a small screen, still black & white). Space: 1999 was cool—cool spaceships (Eagles forever!), cool uniforms, and cool science (not that it all made sense to young me). I took in the first season and remember being absolutely frightened out of my skin at the episode “Dragon’s Domain.”

Fan created trailer for “Dragon’s Domain”

I also remember being so confused at the second season of Space: 1999 with shapeshifting aliens and…well, better to forget that season.

So I did. Ever since then Space: 1999—Season 1 at least—continued to exist somewhere in my headspace. It helped that I had a few Space: 1999 toys like a die-cast Eagle and several models. In more recent years I “rediscovered” Space: 1999 and added UFO to the lore as well as the graphic novels. The RockyMountainNavy Boys helped me find new plastic models and kept my memories alive.

UFO Intro

Breaking Down the Breakaway Manual

It’s bigger on the inside (whoops, wrong British TV show…)

Moonbase Alpha: Technical Operations Manual is a 272-page book formatted in a 9.5″x12″ hardcover. The cover illustration is a faintly lined Eagle Transporter that I wish was a bit easier to see. Inside, the Manual is organized into seven major sections (chapters):

  1. History and External Layout – I finally have a good description of of what my MPC Moonbase Alpha plastic model kit depicts
  2. Internal Layout – Covered in 73 pages (~25% of the Manual) this is a great mix of set photos and illustrations; many details I never noticed in the series
  3. Nuclear Waste – At first I was like, “huh?” but after reading I better understand why this essential story element gets the attention it does
  4. The Eagle Transporter – In many ways I love the Eagle Transporter over Star Wars vehicles and this chapter reminds me why (it also gives me details to help me paint up my other MPC model of the Eagle Transporter)
  5. Supplementary Craft – Much more here than I remembered; give me the Hawk Mk IX for the win!
  6. Uniforms & Equipment – What good sci-fi fan of the 1970’s didn’t have a jacket that looked a bit like one from Moonbase Alpha?
  7. Current Command Roster – Only later did I learn about how the production company, ITV, used international stars; I always though that Moonbase Alpha was simply “international” much like Star Trek was.

There are also two major Addendums covering “Alien Technology” and “Emergency Evacuation Operation Exodus.” Buried within individual chapters are other addendum boxes of relevant subjects.

[Warning – Spoilers Ahead] Sometime in the past decade I became aware of the connection between the TV universe of UFO and Space: 1999. I was really excited to see some connections in the Technical Operations Manual. What I appreciate the most about the connections is the secrecy; there are little references to UFO in the Manual like “the Straker Doctrine” but as a whole UFO is treated as, well, a secret. There are other nods too but I’ll leave those for you to discover on your own.

Generally speaking, my personal experience with “in-universe” background books based on pop culture intellectual property (IP) is mixed. In order to enjoy many IP-based productions I have to really, and I mean really, suspend my disbelief. Books like Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare (Jason Fry, Ballantine Books, 2012), which as a military veteran and wargamer I should have wholeheartedly embraced instead helped me realize that I am a science fiction fan that hems more towards “gritty” or “hard” sci-fi rather than “space fantasy” like Star Wars. All of which is a round-about way of saying the Moonbase Alpha: Technical Operations Manual is much more “believable”—and enjoyable—than I expected.

Roleplaying Space: 1999

As I also play science fiction roleplaying games (RPG), “in-universe” books like this Technical Operations Manual serve as a great source of gaming inspiration. I have played the Traveller RPG (Marc Miller, Game Designers’ Workshop, 1977) since 1979 and science fiction RPGs are definitely my thing. As I look across my science fiction RPG collection, there are several different game systems that are candidates for use in a Space: 1999 RPG. Generally speaking, I look at each set of rules from the perspective of character generation, technology, and narrative support (story generation) when looking at how they might be used to create a Space: 1999 game.

Characters – When creating a character, most systems I am familiar with use careers. Moonbase Alpha is staffed by departments which might be a good starting point. The Manual tell us the different compartments are Command, Main Mission, Services, Flight, Technical, Medical, Science, and Security (pp 209-210). We also can see in the series the Space Commission (Politician?). If we expand our “canon” to include the 2012 Archaia Entertainment graphic novel Space 1999: Aftershock and Awe we also find other “careers” like the United Nations Coastguard using Eagle Transporters.

Courtesy goodreads.com

Technology – Space: 1999 is a near (alternate) future heavily grounded in technology we would recognize as our own. The major handwaves I see are nuclear fusion rocket engines, artificial gravity, and a hyper-light drive.

Narrative Support (Story Generation) – Although Space: 1999 the TV series was of the “adventure of the week” kind, different episodes covered many different genres and adventure types. A Space: 1999 RPG needs to be able to handle a wide range of story lines, from military to exploration to horror and more.

Cepheus Engine (Samardan Press, Zozer Games, Stellagama Publishing, 2016+)

The easiest approach to making a Space: 1999 setting might be to go to a near-cousin setting. Orbital 2100 by Paul Elliott from Zozer Games is a sublight, near future setting using the Cepheus Engine rules. Of course, Cepheus Engine itself comes in a few flavors (“Standard,” Light, and Quantum) but using the latest Cepheus Deluxe version as a starting point seems like a good place to jump from. Cepheus Deluxe has the advantage of being the rules set I am most familiar with, seeing how it traces it’s lineage all the way back to my first role roleplaying game, Traveller by Marc Milller from Game Designers’ Workshop (1977) which I first found in 1979.

Characters – No single rules set has the right combination of careers to represent Moonbase Alpha staff, but by synthesizing careers from Cepheus Deluxe, The Clement Sector Third Edition, and Hostile a fairly representative collection of careers and skill could be assembled.

Technology – Using Cepheus Deluxe, the “average” Tech Level (TL) is 8 to 9. To create the spacecraft of Space: 1999 will likely be a kludge of Cepheus Deluxe and Orbital: 2100 rules for sublight craft.

Narrative Support (Story Generation)Cepheus Deluxe does not focus on a single genre of science fiction so it should be flexible enough to cover a diverse set of adventures.

Star Trek The Roleplaying Game (FASA, 1983)

Going way back in my collection, I have the first edition FASA Star Trek Roleplaying Game (FASA, 1983). Seeing how the characters in Star Trek are all academy grads (or at least Starfleet personnel) the similarities to the Space Commission Moonbase Alpha arrangements jump out.

Characters/TechnologyStar Trek assumes the characters are in the service after attending the academy and served prior terms to gain experience and rank. The various Departments in Star Trek map directly to Moonbase Alpha Departments though the skills will be different because of the different technology assumptions.

Narrative Support (Story Generation) – Like Space: 1999, episodes of Star Trek (The Original Series) were episodic. The game system is capable of handling most any genre, but is highly dependent on Game Master preparations.

The Babylon Project (Chameleon Eclectic, 1997)

Long forgotten, The Babylon Project (Chameleon Eclectic, 1997) is in many ways similar to Space: 1999. Overtly, both focus on characters on a “station” or “base.”

CharactersThe Babylon Project uses a concept-driven character generation system. Using the roster in the Manual, it’s possible to map most any character in terms of the Attributes/Skill/Characteristics which can be a good example of how to make a Moonbase Alpha character.

Technology/Narrative Support (Story Generation) – Technology takes a backseat in The Babylon Project. Instead, story comes to the front. Much like Babylon 5 was one of the first TV series to do a story arc, The Babylon Project gives advice on how to do the same for your adventures.

FATE Core (Evil Hat Publishing, 2013)

Another rules set that is a candidate for Space: 1999 is FATE Core from Evil Hat Productions (2013). FATE Core claims the game, “works best with any premise where the characters are proactive, capable people leading dramatic lives” (emphasis in original). Character generation in FATE Core is not a lifepath or point buy system, but rather “concept” driven which I find a bit harder to imagine. The core mechanic, using FATE dice, is also more suited to “pulp” gaming than gritty or hard sci-fi. Technology is what you make of it.

GENESYS (Fantasy Flight Games, 2017)

A more recent game system that might be useful is Genesys: Core Rulebook from Fantasy Flight Games (2017). Genesys powers FFG’s Star Wars Roleplaying Games series.

Characters – Character generation is a form of point-buy built around archetypes. The generic career list would have to be tailored, but there are many examples in the various Star Wars Roleplaying Game books to draw inspiration from.

Technology – Technology is again what you make of it. Unlike Cepheus Deluxe which tends to portray technology in “harder” sci-fi terms, in Genesys technology is there to aid the narrative.

Narrative Support (Story Generation)Genesys is a highly narrative game system that again is suitable for many different genres of play.

The Expanse Roleplaying Game (Green Ronin Publishing, 2019)

With some work, Green Ronin’s The Expanse Roleplaying Game (2019) may also be adapted.

Characters – The Professions list of The Expanse Roleplaying Game is not that far removed from Space: 1999.

Technology – Technology-wise the two settings are not all that far apart.

Narrative Support (Story Generation)Green Ronin’s Adventure Game Engine (AGE) system uses a three different encounter types—Action, Exploration, and Social—for games that in some ways is very suitable for a Space: 1999 setting.

CORTEX Prime (Fandom Tabletop, 2021)

Another “generic” system that may prove useful is the CORTEX: Game Handbook (Fandom Tabletop, 2021). CORTEX comes in several flavors and different versions have powered the Serenity Role Playing Game (2005), Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game (2007), Smallville Roleplaying Game (2010), Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game (2012), and Firefly Role-Playing Game (2014). The CORTEX Prime System described in the CORTEX: Game Handbook is highly modular and tailorable to genre and setting.

Characters – CORTEX Prime characters come with three Distinctions (Background, Personality, Role) and then a “Power Set.” Looking across the options, I feel a Power Set combining the Classic Attributes (Agility, Alertness, Intelligence, Strength, Vitality, Willpower) with “Roles” based on Department assignments may be a good starting point.

Technology – There are plenty of examples of how to define a piece of technology in the other CORTEX rule books.

Narrative Support (Story Generation) – The different flavors of CORTEX can support different genres of adventure; CORTEX Prime attempts to synthesize those different play types under one rules set.

Which one should I work on first?


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