RPG Thursday – Soaring into battle with #TravellerRPG

“What’s that?”

Strom turned his attention from his mapping instruments and looked over at the panels that Ga’de, his co-pilot and fellow Scout, was now studying intently. The optical array had picked up something and flashed an alert. Whatever it was, it was unidentified for the moment.

“It’s small and cool,” Ga’de reported. “Maybe 5 dTons in size. Why is it in a retrograde orbit?”

“Yeah,” Strom thought out loud. “It’s coming straight at us.”

Ga’de glanced away from his instruments and over at Strom. His brow was furrowed. “They’re attacking?”

Strom was thinking out loud. “Since we got here, the western continent has not liked our presence. They’re the most vocal about the ‘danger’ of ‘outer space aliens’. They’ve made announcements that they are willing to fight to keep us out.”

Ga’de harrumphed. “What imbeciles. They just can’t accept that they’re not alone in the universe and somebody else made it to the stars before them. We offer them technology and they reject us because we threaten their ”culture’. Why can’t they see that we offer them the future?”

Inwardly, Strom agreed but talking about it was not the solution right now. “Can we get any sort of ID on it?” he asked.

Ga’de turned back at his instruments. “Hard to tell, optics seem to show something winged. Do they have manned small craft?”

Courtesy astronautic.com

On a small screen next to his station Strom consulted the few files they had on the planet so far. In a previous expedition they had raided what passed for a library on this planet and acquired an “Encyclopedia” but it was a physical paper document. It had taken a while to scan it into the computer and the cross-references were poor. Imagine that; a planet so backwards they didn’t even have the SmartNet yet!

“Yes, they are working on a crewed launch capability using capsules. But the only thing shown here is crude ballistic missiles, nothing more than TL5 at the best. Wings…that’s different,” Strom trailed off.

“Do we maneuver?” There was a nervous edge in Ga’de’s voice.

Strom considered. “We’re higher tech. And we have to finish this mapping mission. Besides, we can’t let them think they can push us around.” He paused for just a moment. “No. We maintain course.”

Optics continued tracking the black winged object. A bit nervous now, Strom nudged the thrusters a bit to slightly change their vector; a few moments later the black winged object adjusted too.

“That’s not right,” Strom thought. “It means it’s guided…by a hu-man?

The range was closing rapidly. The approach looked like it was going to be close.

Somewhat belatedly, Strom stirred into action. “Ga’de, get to the turret, fast.”

Ga’de got up and raced from the control cabin. The winged craft kept closing.

Strom watched his panel as the turret indicator light came on. His heart sank when Gade made his first call.

“Damn systems rebooting! Something about an urgent update!”

Strom strapped himself in as he started throwing switches. “Strap in, we’re gonna burn!”

Time seemed to slow to a crawl. Strom saw on the optics the winged beast release a smaller object that flared briefly and accelerated quickly towards his saucer. He saw out of the corner of his eye a warning from the radiation detector. He heard Ga’de cursing the Gods in the turret.

These Stars Are Ours, Stellagama Publishing, 2017

He reoriented the ship and punched the M-Drive. As Strom was slammed back in his chair by the acceleration he thought about his mission. The Quorum had sent them here to expand the frontiers of their small empire. Surely, this lesser-developed planet, just at the cusp of spaceflight, would welcome them. After all, they were a highly compatible species as secretive missions before had shown. Some of the specimens captured were still alive and helping the Quorum even now. Sure, some had resisted, but they were the exception, right?

The small missile flared again but brightly this time. It changed course to intercept Strom’s saucer. Before he could manuever again the small object exploded with a blinding flash of light. As the expanding atomic fireball rapidly washed over his saucer, Strom thought that, surely, their superior technology would save them. Surely….



Deep inside a bunker buried under a mountain, the General watched intently as the stream of information from SIDS, the Space Intruder Detection System, reported the nuclear detonation in orbit above. The Eastern Pact would be upset by the large EMP event above their continent, but setting them back while destroying the alien intruders was but a small price to pay for saving the planet.

The General watches (Courtesy Wargames)

The General glanced to his right at the two ‘Agents’ dressed in identical black suits. They kinda looked like that a-hole J. Edgar’s men, but something was not quite right. The older one had never smiled. The younger one kinda fidgeted until the older one glared at him then he too stood by emotionless. They didn’t even laugh at his spark plug joke. Shaking his head ever so slightly, the General swore under his breath that he would never understand why they wore sunglasses this deep inside the mountain.

Sighing, the General spoke up, “Control, take us to DEFCON 5. Ops, make sure all reports are are captured for Project Blue Book. Comms, get me a channel.”

“Ground Control to Major Tom….”

Courtesy collectorsweekly.com

This mini Traveller RPG adventure was inspired by a tweet by @pilliarscreatio showing a Boeing Dyna-Soar hot-staging into orbit.

Key materials referenced include:

#RPGThursday – Sliding into The Slide

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Courtesy RPGGeek

The Slide: A Clement Sector Adventure, by John Watts, Gypsy Knights Games, 2017

I don’t usually buy adventures, but I absolutely love The Clement Sector setting for the Cepheus Engine/Traveller RPG. The Slide is an adventure that John Watts has apparently run at conventions. From the publisher’s blurb:

The race is on!

The Slide is a pirate route leading from the Winston Subsector of Clement Sector to the Peel Subsector of Ariel Sector. The route runs through the wild untamed subsectors along the trailing edge of the colonized subsectors. It is a dangerous proposition for the best of ships and crews.

Ever so often though, the pirates hold a race: The Slide Run. Who can not only beat the odds of The Slide but also the other racers? It’s a no holds barred free for all where the only rule is that whoever gets to the end first is the winner! The other crews will use subterfuge, speed, and violence to beat you!

Can you do it? Are you brave enough to attempt The Slide?

The Slide comes with instructions on how to run the race, detailed information on the systems along the route, your twelve opponents, your ship, and nine pre-generated characters. Everything you need to take your players on a grand adventure!

Start your drives. The race is about to begin.

The Slide is a meaty 103 page book that roughly divided into three parts. The first section is nine pre-generated characters and their pirate ship. Useful for conventions or one-shots, this section should not to be skipped by any Cepheus Engine GM. This is because the character descriptions are among the best I have seen in an adventure in a very long time. Each character is flawed, but not in how they were “generated,” but in how they are “human.” Every character – even the uplift – has flaws that make great adventuring hooks. Indeed, the descriptions really make the characters “come alive.”

The race is detailed in just a few pages. It only takes a few pages because there are not many details as much is left up to the GM – and the race has few rules! Twelve rivals are also provided. Each rival ship names the captain, the ship type, an occasional special ability, and a general approach (or tactic) the rival will use in the race. GMs again can find inspiration here as any rival can be dropped into adventures as a ready-made baddie (or ally?) with motives and their approach/response to conflict. Also added here are a few new thematic rules like Drinking or Taunting – always useful is a real Clement Sector adventure! Another section titled “Dirty Tricks” adds Missile Mines and rules for Sabotage.

The bulk of the book is actually composed of a gazetteer of worlds the race could move through. Many of these worlds have not been detailed in other products having been purposely left to the GM’s imagination. The Slide exemplifies how a GM can take an undetailed hex on the starmap and bring it to life.

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Courtesy Gypsy Knight Games

The Slide takes advantage of a previous Gypsy Knights Games product, Skull and Crossbones: Piracy in the Clement Sector, as well as more-that-a-few Ships of the Clement Sector books. Admittedly, this can be challenging if you don’t own all the products. Fortunately, none of these products are prohibitively expensive and well worth the investment.

Recommendation: BUY for the GM!

The Slide is much more than just an adventure to run for a large group. In many ways this is a great GM sourcebook; it gives examples of characters that are not always heroes, rivals with short backstories and motivations, new rules tailored to the theme of the adventure, and examples of detailing locations. It also showcases a less heroic vision of the future. The Slide (and Skull and Crossbones) brings another vision of the future to the gaming table; a future that I believe is closer to the real roots of the Traveller RPG where an uncaring universe practically forces one to skip ship payments, take jobs of dubious (illegal?) character, and keep flying in the black just one step ahead of the (nearly inexistent) law.

#Mindjammer RPG – Winning My Heart and Mind

I have been playing around with Mindjammer – The Roleplaying Game for a few months now. Mechanics-wise I am fairly comfortable with it given it is based on the FATE Core engine. However, setting-wise, I have a few problems.

First off, I am not a big fan of transhumanism sci-fi adventure in my RPG’s. Maybe I am a bit too old-fashioned and love my classic space pulp and space opera a bit too much. That’s what I get for growing up with the Classic Traveller RPG! That said, I do like my Battlestar Galactica RPG….

In my first few readings of the Mindjammer setting, I was put off by the Commonality. In the core rulebook the Commonality comes across as a unified, monolithic polity with common agenda and goals. The primary goal seems to be to reintegrate rediscovered worlds regardless of if they want to or not. This made mw think that my Mindjammer characters were going to always be the outsiders because I fancy myself more of a Browncoat than an Alliance “purple belly.”

I was very happy when I read the first Mindjammer adventure, Hearts and Minds. Besides being a great adventure that helps one understand the game better, it also introduces factions  of the Commonality (see p. 35-37). All told there are six factions mentioned, with two major ones defined as either a Major Organisation or a Supporting Organisation. After reading this part of the adventure I am much more comfortable with the setting. Yes, I understand that I could of done this on my own (after all, its MY game) but I appreciate when a setting is flexible enough to accommodate my style or trope of play.