#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)

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

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.


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

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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2022 RPG CharGen Challenge – RPG roots with Traveller (Game Designers’ Workshop, 1977) #RPGThursday #TravellerRPG

Christmas 1979. While searching for presents I stumbled across a small store tucked away in the upper level of a now long-gone mall in the suburbs of Denver. The store—Fascination Corner. This little corner of heaven quickly became not only my fascination but my obsession. First it was wargaming, but then I found a small black box. My first RPG. My first RPG love. To this day my true RPG love.

How I love the simplicity of character generation in Classic Traveller. Quick and easy. Sure, most of the characters will be military veterans and combat will very likely be a way of life in their future, but what did we really expect from a wargame company when it made an RPG?

Do you know how to read the Universal Player Profile? The UPP was read using hexidecimal code from left-to-right; Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence, Education, Social Status. A factor of 7 was dead-average, 0 often meant dead and 15 was the top of the scale. Skill levels rarely exceeded 4.


Cyris Ozcar

  • UPP 9776B9
  • Age: 34
  • Retired Army Lt Colonel
  • Skills: Air/Raft-1, Blade Cbt (Cutlass)-3, Fwd Obs-1, Gun Cbt (Auto Pistol)-1, Tactics-2

Ozcar (original UPP 887499) might not of seemed the brightest guy around but he worked hard (low INT, High EDU). Due to his good DEXTERITY and EDUCATION he successfully joined the Army (DM+3). He survived his first term and was both commissioned and promoted (Rank 2). In his first term he built up his strength (STR +1) and learned how to handle a Cutlass (Blade Cbt-1) and Tactics (-2).

Reenlisting for a second term, Ozcar survived and was again promoted. He learned how to fly an Air/Raft (Air/Raft-1) and more Cutlass skills (Blade Cbt (Cutlass)-2. In his third term he was promoted again (Rank 4) and finally became proficient with a firearm (Gun Cbt (Auto Pistol)-1) and how to act as a Forward Observer (Fwd Obs-1).

Ozcar’s fourth term was a bit of a disappointment. He failed to promote and found time only to refine his Cutlass skills (Blade Cbt (Cutlass)-3). He also found he had lost a step (Aging, Dexterity -1). Deciding to Muster Out, he now faces the universe with 25,000 Credits to his name and a final bit of some education (+2 INT, +2 EDU).

Looking around, Lt. Colonel Ozcar seeks employment with a mid-tech mercenary unit where he figures his Tactics skills can be beneficial.


Feature image courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/pin/237846424043702509/

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