Plotting my #TravellerRPG renaissance (with shout outs to @GKGames, @moontoadpub, @StellagamaPub, & @TravellerNews)

ONCE AGAIN, WE PLAYED THE TRAVELLER RPG for our weekly Family Game Night. Actually, that’s not strictly true. Well, it is and isn’t:

For the adventure I literally opened 21 Plots to a random page. In this case it was 19 – Ghost Station. I had the RMN Boys make each make series of random rolls which directed me to the second plot line. Then we were off.

Like before we played with very lite rules. Once again, the entire adventure took place “in the theater of the mind” with minimal mapping and no tokens or character minis. It helped that there was a thunderstorm in the area during the session and I was able to take advantage of a few “jump scares” caused by close thunder to use in the game.

The funniest moment of the game had to be when the adventurers made entry into the darkened command center. As the doors slide aside, the first character charged in – and tripped over a body he didn’t see on the floor. Going down hard, the second through the door reacted by blindly firing into the room. Several rounds (and dangerous ricochets) later the team calmed down and discovered a very-dead mechanic on the floor of the still-darkened, and now slightly damaged, command center. Most frightening, the body was purple! Fearing an alien infestation (the station was deserted, what else could it be?), they “ensured” the body was really dead. Later, they would be asked by the Space Patrol if they had any idea how the purple-blooded Igellian (a race known for weak hearts from a low gravity planet in the next sector…info discoverable if they had bothered to use their medical skill) was shot. Shrugged shoulders was all they could offer.

We aren’t really using a true Classic Traveller Third Imperium setting but I draw upon parts of it as needed. That setting helps frame many of the in-universe limitations and norms which the RMN Boys are discovering (or we are incorporating) as we go. This was especially true as our session wrapped up and we found we still had some time. We took advantage of this extra opportunity to expand the sector map that we started before. I let each RMN Boy do the die rolling as I used the tables and recorded. We made several planets and some are very interesting:

  • An over-populated, high-tech, rich religious dictatorship in an Amber Zone (the RMN Boys immediately nicknamed this planet ‘Kool-Aid’)
  • An uninhabited planet with a deadly atmosphere and a gas giant in the system (perfect for a pirate base or a secret government research facility…maybe?)
  • A low-tech agricultural planet with a small technocracy (scientific research but why low tech?)
  • An agricultural water world (aquaculture?) with low population but sitting just next to that overcrowded, and very hungry, Amber Zone religious dictatorship.

At first the RMN Boys were not too impressed with a few planets (like the uninhabited one) but when I started musing out loud about the possibilities they got very interested, if not a bit worried.

I am really enjoying – and appreciating – the ability for so many different products to come together and be used to help create our setting. I don’t really know what to call our game except Traveller. The events of the past few weeks have taught me that Traveller is not so much a set of rules or a setting, but more an approach to the way we play an RPG. This is very much how I played Traveller back in the days of Marc Miller’s (@TravellerNews) then-GDW (and now Far Future Enterprises‘) Little Black Books. In many ways that is what I think is my Traveller Renaissance – playing a sci-fi RPG in a wide-open setting defined by us.

The original Traveller Little Black Books – mine are much more worn but no-less treasured

Feature image Gypsy Knights Games

#RPGThursday – Why #TravellerRPG is not #GameofThrones (and that’s a really good thing)

MUCH IS BEING WRITTEN ABOUT the finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones. One of the more interesting articles I read comes from Scientific America in their Observations blog online. Zeynep Tufekci writes, “The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones – It’s not just bad storytelling — it’s because the storytelling style changed from sociological to psychological.”

As Tufekci writes:

At its best, GOT was a beast as rare as a friendly dragon in King’s Landing: it was sociological and institutional storytelling in a medium dominated by the psychological and the individual. This structural storytelling era of the show lasted through the seasons when it was based on the novels by George R. R. Martin, who seemed to specialize in having characters evolve in response to the broader institutional settings, incentives and norms that surround them.

After the show ran ahead of the novels, however, it was taken over by powerful Hollywood showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. Some fans and critics have been assuming that the duo changed the narrative to fit Hollywood tropes or to speed things up, but that’s unlikely. In fact, they probably stuck to the narrative points that were given to them, if only in outline form, by the original author. What they did is something different, but in many ways more fundamental: Benioff and Weiss steer the narrative lane away from the sociological and shifted to the psychological. That’s the main, and often only, way Hollywood and most television writers tell stories.

This got me thinking. Why is it that I like the Classic Traveller RPG? I think it’s because Traveller is at it’s root sociological, unlike other games like Dungeons & Dragons which are psychological.

Bear with me here.

The connection hit me in part because I introduced the RockyMountainNavy Boys to the Cepheus Engine System recently. Like Classic Traveller, character generation in Cepheus Engine is a series of die rolls. There is some player agency in the process but for the most part the output of the character generation process is a very everyday character. The character is not a hero. There is little chance to min-max character stats – the player starts with the hand they are dealt (or restarts in the event of character death). In play the player must then respond “to the broader institutional settings, incentives and norms that surround them.”

In many other RPG systems character generation is much more personal (psychological). Start with a character concept, then build the character using the right tables. The result is often a heroic character – and that’s by design. After all, who wants to play an everyday drone in the world? They have to live, level up, get more spells, and become more powerful.

Let’s look at how Tufekci describes the best of GOT – character death:

One clue is clearly the show’s willingness to kill off major characters, early and often, without losing the thread of the story. TV shows that travel in the psychological lane rarely do that because they depend on viewers identifying with the characters and becoming invested in them to carry the story, rather than looking at the bigger picture of the society, institutions and norms that we interact with and which shape us. They can’t just kill major characters because those are the key tools with which they’re building the story and using as hooks to hold viewers.

The same applies to many RPGs and its why there is often a major reluctance to kill off characters in a campaign. Unless, of course, there is a “heroic” reason to do so.

Tufekci continues:

The appeal of a show that routinely kills major characters signals a different kind of storytelling, where a single charismatic and/or powerful individual, along with his or her internal dynamics, doesn’t carry the whole narrative and explanatory burden. Given the dearth of such narratives in fiction and in TV, this approach clearly resonated with a large fan base that latched on to the show.

In sociological storytelling, the characters have personal stories and agency, of course, but those are also greatly shaped by institutions and events around them. The incentives for characters’ behavior come noticeably from these external forces, too, and even strongly influence their inner life.

Personal stories and agency…hallmarks of a good RPG. But how many GMs use institution and events – external forces – to shape player characters?

I now see that Traveller and Cepheus Engine have sociological storytelling baked-in at their core. This is what makes these systems so interesting to me. Like other RPG players, I want to be a hero but I derive more pleasure at achieving without a heroic character being given to me.

#RPG #Gamenight with Cepheus Engine: Faster than Light (Stellagama Publishing) #CepheusEngine #TravellerRPG

THE ROCKYMOUNTAINNAVY BOYS know that I am a long-time Traveller RPG player. Even so, we had never played a real game of Traveller or its newer incarnation, Cepheus Engine. Instead we tried Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. We had a few good games but over the past two years we kinda dropped RPGs in favor of boardgames and wargames. That changed this weekend.

Like I said, the RMN Boys (Youngest RMN in particular) had been hounding me for a Traveller RPG session so this week I printed out the latest free version of Cepheus Engine: Faster than Light. This is a free, uber-lightweight set of rules that has the bare essentials to play.

Quick to learn – quick to play. And oh-boy was it fun!

While dinner was on the BBQ we started rolling up characters. I stepped the Boys through the tables and each quickly had three characters (of course, each one had one that died – welcome to Traveller). After dinner we rolled up three planets and we started adventuring.

Middle RMN Boy had an ex-Marine with Heavy Weapons and Demolitions skills. During chargen I joked that the guy was probably near-deaf. Middle RMN adopted this thought and ran with it. Youngest RMN Boy was an ex-Navy type that was socially inept, low Strength, but with high Dexterity and skilled with Tactics-3. We started the session in media res with the adventurers on a mission to covertly plant explosives in a mining colony ripe for revolution.

Unlike other RPGs I played with the RMN Boys, we did this game almost entirely in The Theater of the Mind; no maps or minis or tokens or the like. The Boys had their character sheets, I had some notes on the planets, the rule book, and some scratch paper. Oh yeah, and some dice.

I randomly determined it would take two beats to get to the area to plant the charges. The Boys had to get past a Goon Squad, which they did, but also drew a bit of suspicion to themselves. As they were planting the explosives the Goon Squad showed up and interrupted them.

I ruled that the demolitions were not set so they would have to hold off the goons and finish the task. As the goons tried to pile through the door Youngest RMN held them off. Although there were four goons, three had Stun Batons and one a shotgun (and he was last in line – again randomly determined). First round saw one goon go down and the others hesitate…but Middle RMN fumbled his roll for the final setting of the explosives and needed more time! Youngest RMN was able to roll well and take down another goon who just happened to fall backwards into the shotgun goon messing up his entry. By now the demo charges were set and Middle RMN was able to assist in dispatching the last of the goons. Getting out past alerted security was a bit of a challenge but the Boys were innovative. When running into a crowd that they were not sure was friendly, Youngest RMN used his Leadership skill to shout at them in his best parade ground manner to “make way!” It worked and the crowd parted to let the adventurers march through untouched.

The entire adventure took about 90 minutes to play and I have to admit it has been a long time since we laughed so hard together. Even RockyMountainNavy Mom showed up to see what all the commotion was about. Youngest RMN declared it his best RPG session-ever and Middle RMN heartily agreed.

After we finished, I found one of my favorite scenes from the original Italian Job movie that I thought captured the characters of the two Boys.

I gave the Boys the Faster than Light rule book and they are going to work up a wider selection of characters. For myself, I think I am going to step up to Cepheus Light for the ruleset. It certainly looks like an RPG session will have to enter into the weekly Game Night rotation for the summer.

It’s going to be so-worth it!

#RPGThursday – All hail the Almighty Credit (@GKGames, 2018) #TravellerRPG #CepheusEngine #ClementSector

LAST WEEK I took a quick look at Balancing Act, a sourcebook on interstellar relations in The Clement Sector setting for Cepheus Engine (or, as I call it, CETrav). This week I look at the companion publication, Almighty Credit: Corporations in Clement Sector.

Almighty Credit provides lots of background including personalities and corporations. Through these vignettes one discovers much of the history of Clement Sector. Once again, I appreciate what Gypsy Knights gives players and GMs; much of this history is open and plants seeds for adventures. One learns a whole lot more about Clement Sector but going forward the story is YOURS!

Following the vignettes is some legal definitions of different corporations and rules for banking. You know, important ones like Obtaining an Unsecured Loan. This is followed by two new careers; Corporate Courier and Corporate Fleet.

Like Balancing Act, Almighty Credit also has a “game.” In the Almighty Credit version, you play the head of a corporation and agents. The Almighty Credit game is fully compatible with Balancing Act; they can be played together to get the classic trope of government vs corporate powers.

Last week I expressed confusion over the point of these games, mostly because I failed to understand how they can integrate into a campaign. In the past week I have thought about it more and see these games as useful “time jumps” to advance a campaign or set the stage for a new one. I am less concerned about how to integrate my characters into the games and more concerned about how they can advance a story or adventure in a direction the players and GM can enjoy. Fortunately, like so many Gypsy Knights Games products, Almighty Credit gives me the tools to make this happen.

In the end, did I really need Almighty Credit? Not really, but I am really happy I picked it up. The tremendous background gives me lots of inspiration and the “game” is a useful tool to serves as a background for an adventure or set the stage for a campaign.

#RPGThursday – Balancing Act: Interstellar Relations in the Clement Sector (@GKGames, 2019) #TravellerRPG #CepheusEngine

It has been a long while since I bought any new RPG material. In early May, John Watts of Gypsy Night Games held a sale and I took advantage of to pick up a couple The Clement Sector products I had missed out on.

Balancing Act: Interstellar Relations in the Clement Sector is a 135-page sourcebook and new game subsystem. As the publisher’s blurb puts it:

Can you relate?

This book concerns the relationships which have been established, broken, strained, and improved between the worlds of Clement Sector over the time between their establishment during the 2200s and the current situation in Clement Sector as of 2342. It will take each world, one at a time, and detail how well or how poorly each world government gets along with its neighbors.

It also includes a game within a game called “The Balancing Act”. This game will allow you to take on the role of a head of state in Clement Sector and go up against other leaders as you attempt to push your world ahead of your competition. These rules can easily be used in other settings and games where one might wish to become a leader of a world.

Now you can rule your own world!

The first 92 pages are the sourcebook. Here, John Watts really excels at doing what all his The Clement Sector books do best; provide hooks. There is lots of information here about all the different worlds and their relationships with one another, but at no point does it feel directive to the reader. Instead, what I find are many plot seeds ready to be explored by the players without a preset conclusion. As vast and expansive as The Clement Sector is, John Watts make sure it still if YOUR universe.

The second part of the book details the game, The Balancing Act. I have read the rules, created a few Leaders and Agents, and played with the mechanics so this is still a very preliminary reaction.

Each turn in The Balancing Act (hereafter BA) is one standard week long. Each turn is further divided into phases. Each Leader starts out with two Agents and each gets two tasks (actions) in each week.

My first reaction it that BA is…interesting. Leaders and Agents each have four Attributes but it is unclear if these are connected in a meaningful way to the Universal Personality Profile (UPP) of a character. Two of the four Attributes, Intelligence and Education, would seemingly be the same but I don’t see an explicit rules connection. If one is playing BA as a separate game it’s not needed, but if one is adding BA to a campaign the question arises. Worlds have Planetary Attributes and again the connection to the Universal World Profile (UWP) is unclear.

Projects are large-scale tasks taking multiple turns to complete. Some projects may take years (i.e hundreds of turns) to complete. This is where I feel the time scale of BA breaks down. Weekly turns is very tactical but Projects can be very strategic. Mixing the two of them together makes for some interesting (unrealistic?) situations. For instance, look a the project Upgrading a Starport from C to B (p. 111). This is a Difficult (-2) task that takes from 52-312 turns (1-6 YEARS). It costs 1bln HFCredits; spending 10 billion cuts the time in half. Let’s look at the Success/Failure spread:

  • Exceptional Success: The starport is upgraded to B-class in half of the time.
  • Success: The starport is upgraded to B-class.
  • Failure: The starport is not upgraded. The task can be attempted again in 52 turns.
  • Exceptional Failure: The starport is not upgraded. The task can be attempted again in 108 turns.

Does it seem right to “know” the result of a failure at the beginning? If I know the upgrade is an Exceptional Failure and I am going to have to wait two years to try again, I have 108 turns of different investment coming since I know it’s not worth investing in that new fleet or factories because the starport ain’t happening! Maybe the answer is to make this a hidden roll with the result only known to a GM who can then release the result when appropriate. However, the rules of BA are silent on a GM leading me to believe a GM is not used. Hmm….

Five scenarios are provided in the book with times ranging from 20 weeks to as many as the players want. Maybe BA is scaled best for scenarios of five years or less? Will have to try a scenario or two to see for myself.

As I read and experimented with BA, I found myself making inevitable comparisons to Classic Traveller Trillion Credit Squadron and Dynasty from the Mongoose Traveller collection. I’ll just say that in TCS the players are the head of the military whereas in BA they are leaders of worlds. Dynasty, being focused on generations, is a totally different timescale and approach to long-term changes. I can eventually see TCS integrating with BA (same timescale); Dynasty is best forgotten.

On balance (heh heh), The Balancing Act is a very useful sourcebook and inspiration for campaigns. I am going to reserve further opinion on BA until I experiment more with the game; I think it has potential but am unsure about parts.


Feature image Gypsy Knights Games via DriveThruRPG

#TravellerRPG Tech – Beams & Missiles & Casters, oh my!

In Classic Traveller RPG and the more recent Cepheus Engine implementation of the rules spacecraft weapons generally are either Missile or Beam (lasers, particle beams, fusion beams). In Traveller 5 another class of weapons, Data Broadcasts or Beamcasts, is introduced. As advanced as Traveller technology is, it appears that Humaniti is too inventive.

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dia.mil

In February 2019, the Defense Intelligence Agency published Challenges to Security in Space. This volume is part of their Military Power Publications. As befits an intelligence agency, the focus is on, well, the threat:

Space-based capabilities provide integral support to military, commercial, and civilian applications. Longstanding technological and cost barriers to space are falling, enabling more countries and commercial firms to participate in satellite construction, space launch, space exploration, and human spaceflight. Although these advancements are creating new opportunities, new risks for space-enabled services have emerged. Having seen the benefits of space-enabled operations, some foreign governments are developing capabilities that threaten others’ ability to use space. (Executive Summary)

One graphic in particular stood out to me; it concerns Kinetic Energy and Orbital Threats:

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Challenges to Security in Space, DIA, p. 10

In Traveller RPG terms, Kinetic Energy Threats are covered by Missiles. However, several of the Orbital Threats shown are not immediately represented in Traveller or Cepheus Engine.

Lasers, KKVs, and Robotic Mechanisms are easily portrayed using the existing Traveller or Cepheus Engine rule set. Using Traveller 5 one can get to Radiofrequency Jammers using Datacasters.

High-power Microwaves is not easily found in the rules. This weapon is maybe a form of an EMP device:

The electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon, also called the e-bomb, or the radio flash weapon, is capable of disrupting or damaging the circuitry of most electronic devices.

The weapon accomplishes this by sending either a single pulse or a series of fast, high-powered pulses of electromagnetic energy in the range of 100 MHz to 20 GHz. These pulses are similar to a lightening strike or a nuclear blast. The power level of these pulses can be several hundred megawatts (MW). The EMP weapon has a range of at least several hundred meters, but reportedly can be transmitted up to 15 Km.

The specific method by which the pulse attaches to the circuitry is called coupling. Coupling is simply the binding of an energy wave onto a conductor. There are two types of coupling. The first is called front door coupling and it happens when the energy wave binds to the antenna of a device. The other type is called back door coupling. It occurs when the wave binds to external components such telephone lines, network cables and power lines.

It can also occur with ports on the back of a computer, such as serial ports. After the energy binds, it then moves through the circuitry, frying or disrupting sensitive internal components, such as crystal diodes, ICs, mixers, logic circuits, etc.

The precise targeting of electronic devices can be accomplished in the following way: First the EMP weapon can be aimed in a specific area. The primary factor is not the power of the pulse, but the ability to focus the output. The energy must be accurately deposited at a certain range to be effective.

Next, it can be configured to send a single pulse consisting of a specific frequency, which will only destroy the circuitry of a device that functions on that frequency. In this manner, if an operator has the frequency signature of a target device, then only that single device will be affected, while others in the area remain unharmed.

Furthermore, a series of fast pulses consisting of multiple frequencies can be sent to an area, which will affect the circuitry of all devices operating on those frequencies. This type of delivery is referred to as an ultra wideband pulse (UWBP). It can be adjusted to cover large areas, even an entire city. (newworldwar.org)

In Traveller/Cepheus Engine terms this sounds like a weapon that can be used to destroy sensors or otherwise fry circuits. At higher Tech Levels, the EMP pulse could even be tailored to attack specific components of a ship.

Chemical Sprayers looks interesting. Even spraying something as simple as water in space may create ice that could be lethal at high velocities. Or maybe its chemicals to coat optics or smear solar cells? Other sci-fi ideas may be a chemical that eats at door seals (depressurization?). Maybe what we have here is an early form of the Sandcaster?

Of course, the lowest-tech solutions are also effective. Where in Traveller was there ever harpoons in space?

 


Feature image Ian Stead biomasart

#RPGThursday – 70’s Art for RPG Inspiration

I first started playing RPGs in the late 1970’s. You know, that time of early computer graphics. Even after all these years, I still find science fiction art from that time much more inspirational than the septic, functional style seem so much today. While the modern artwork is often more grounded in reality, I prefer the fantastical whimsy of the past as my RPG inspiration.

Take for instance the feature image above by by David Metzer which was used as a cover for Michael Moorcock’s The Warlord of the Air. From a modern perspective, I think many people would call this art fantasy, not science fiction. From rocket-ship airships to weirdly swept wing craft there is so much unreal here.

Which is exactly why it works for me.

As a long-time Classic Traveller RPG player and a more recent apostle of the Cepheus Engine System, I instantly things that make me look to create a backstory to explain what is happening here. What sort of planet supports this kind of transportation? What Tech Level is shown? What is the political situation? Are the player characters on the rocket-blimps or the sweeping fighters? Why are they there?

Or this scene, a six-panel gatefold cover of Space Hymns by Ramases (1971) created by Roger Dean:

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Courtesy @70sscifiart

Looks like a cathedral tower that is actually a rocket ship. Again my mind races with questions; how did a cathedral come to be built around a starship? How long has it been there? Who has been keeping this secret? What happened that they need to leave now? Are the PCs aboard the ship or are they now chasing it across the cosmos?

Sorry, much of the modern sci-fi “art” just doesn’t do the same for me. How about you?


Feature image courtesy @70sscifiart

#RPG #Wargaming – #TravellerRPG Tech in #Mayday (GDW, 1978)

pic4387901Mayday (GDW, 1978) won the Charles S. Roberts Award in 1978 for the Best Science-Fiction Board Game. On this snowy weekend in January I played the game as part of my 2019 CSR Wargame Challenge. As a longtime Classic Traveller RPG player and more recent fan of the Cepheus Light: Old-School Rules-Light 2D6-Based Sci-Fi Role-Playing Game it was interesting to see just how Mayday’s take on the Traveller RPG universe was different even back then. The differences in the setting means Mayday is not true to the Traveller RPG universe but makes the game challenging and fun in its own way.

Movement

pic514041Mayday uses a simple vector movement system adapted from Classic Traveller Book 2: Starships. The major setting difference in this case is in the technology used to express Small Craft. In Traveller, small craft are usually propelled by the M-Drive. As described in Traveller 5:

M-Drive: Maneuver is the standard in-system ship drive. It interacts with gravity sources to produce vector movement. It requires a separate power plant. (T5 p. 323)

Power plants in turn are usually fueled for for two weeks. For the purposes of a Mayday scenario this means a ship has unlimited maneuverability. However, in Mayday the Small Craft found on p. 13 are rated in terms of G Level; the maximum acceleration in a movement phase and the total acceleration allowed. For example, the classic Fighter is rated “4G12” which means it can burn up to a maximum 4G in a movement phase but can only make a total of 12G of vector changes before it is out of fuel. In Traveller 5 terms this looks like the Fighter is equipped with Rockets (“Chemical fuels combine in an exothermic reaction in a combustion chamber to produce thrust. Rockets are high volume fuel users”). Rockets are the lowest-Tech Level drives represented in the Traveller/Cepheus Engine rules – and even then in certain setting-specific versions (like Orbital 2100).

The implication of this technology limit for Small Craft means maneuver must be a carefully considered choice. This makes Mayday a much more interesting game with a bit of resource management.

Laser Fire

In Mayday there is only one energy weapon, the Laser. This single Mayday weapon covers all the energy weapons found in Traveller/Cepheus Engine; Pulse Laser, Beam Laser, Particle Beam, Plasma Beam, Fusion Beam. This simplification may be in part because Mayday does not use any armor on ships. In this game, ships are small and fragile.

Ordnance Launch

Surprisingly, Mayday has a complete section on building customized missiles. Players can design missiles with different guidance packages, propulsion options, warheads, and fuel. This is far more in depth than what is found in Traveller/Cepheus Engine where there are three classes of missiles; Regular Missiles, Smart Missiles, and Nuclear Missiles.

Computer Programming

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biomassart.wordpress.com

Many people criticize the computer rules in the Traveller universe as “wrong.” After all, in this day of iPads and miniaturized computing, how come shipboard computers are rated in terms of displacement tons (13.5 to 14 cubic meters depending on the rules version used). In Mayday, like Classic Traveller, computers are rated in terms of CPU and Storage. The CPU rating is how many programs the computer can run simultaneously while Storage is the number of programs that are “loaded” in the computer. This leads to challenging game decisions. When flying my little Free Trader running a Model/1 computer (CPU 2 / Storage 4) I need make sure the right programs are in memory to be used during the turn. I may have the right program on hand, but my computer is too small to keep everything loaded and ready. Larger military ships like the Destroyer with a Model/2 bis (CPU 6 / Storage 6) don’t have as many constraints (and access to many more advanced programs too).

Although Mayday is not “true” to the commonly accepted Classic Traveller/Cepheus Engine rules the differences make for a more interesting game. Incredibly, it’s all because of the technology chosen.

#RPGThursday – SOLO (Zozer Games, 2017) & Cepheus Light (Stellagama Publishing, 2018)

“Jerks.”

Vase had said it under his breathe, but it came through Rand’s earpiece clearly. “Yes, jerks,” he thought. This was supposed to be a friendly meeting. Now he and Tercel were trying to ease their way out of the dive bar before anyone noticed that their “friend” was bleeding from a small dart wound in the forehead. Rand had heard the sharp whistle of the dart pass his ear at the same time the small hole opened. Fortunately, the contact had already passed the small package over to Tercel. Now they just had to get back to the ship. And off planet. And past the space patrol.

And it was only Tooday.

pic3458792_mdTaking my intrepid Cepheus Light adventures, I opened up SOLO: Solo RPG Campaigns for the Cepheus Engine (Zozer Games, 2017) to try to get my adventure going. SOLO starts in Media Res and the random roll set up the situation as above. It was a good, if somewhat predictable, “trope-ish” start to the campaign.

The SOLO rules also give some focus to character relationships. I had already started to explore these aspects, with the differences in “opinion” between Rand and Tercel. Now I have a few more relationships and motivations to play off of. Like, why does Rand owe that Crime Lord so much? Hmm….

To support the campaign, I need a subsector map. Using the rules in Cepheus Light, I rolled up a random subsector with 36 worlds. I am now in the process of fleshing out the Universal World Profile (UWP) for all those planets. There is at least one computer app out there that could do this for me automatically but there is something special about rolling the dice, watching the profile fill out, and starting to imagine what it means. One of the first planets I rolled up was a Captive Government, which immediately got me wondering, “captive to who?” Another planet? A corporation?  I don’t know, and probably won’t have a better idea until I get the planets within a Jump-2 radius determined. Already the ideas have started to grow….

This is the magic of the Traveller RPG universe; magic that Cepheus Light makes easy and simple to use.

Feature image courtesy spreadshirt.com

RockyMountainNavy #RPG Item of the Year for 2018

This is a bonus posting in my series of 2018 “of the Year” posts. This one covers role-playing game (RPG) items. The regular posts cover boardgames, wargames, game expansions, and the last is my Game of the Year. Candidate RPG items are taken from those published and which I acquired in 2018.

My candidates for the RockyMountainNavy RPG Item of the Year in 2018 are:

…and the winner is…

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Courtesy RPGGeek

First, a little backstory. In 2018 I lost my RPG-mojo. I used to play around with my Classic Traveller, Cepheus Engine, Traveller 5, The Clement Sector setting, and other Alternate Traveller Universes (Orbital: 2100, HOSTILE, These Stars Are Ours!) all the time. This year I hardly touched them. Even the RockyMountainNavy Boys, lovers of Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars (especially Edge of the Empire) had all-but-stopped messing around with the books. The last major RPG System book I bought was Genesys. My Kickstarter for Cortex Prime: A Multi-Genre Modular Roleplaying Game is “only” about a year overdue.

At one point this year I backed a Kickstarter for a RPG setting that seemed right up my alley. It featured “tense space fighter combat, swaggering pilots, and interplanetary adventure!” However, after reading the preview version I dropped my pledge in disgust because I wanted a GAME, not a political statement. It was part of a trend I see in many parts of the RPG industry and it turns me off. Now, I’m not naive, nor do I desire to avoid the “issues” but I deal with them enough elsewhere and I just don’t want them in my RPG. I want to play RPGs for a bit of escapism, not political activism. It was yet another nail in the coffin of my RPG enthusiasm.

Then I read Alegis Downport’s Cepheus Light Three-Format Review. I liked what I read. I bought a copy for myself. I read though it in one sitting.

Now my RPG-mojo is back!

Omer Golan-Joel and Josh Peters have reignited my interest in RPGs. To use some Traveller 5 definitions, I tend to be a Casual Player (travel, explore, interact, negotiate, combat, etc.) with a heavy dose of world building and System Engineer (explore the universe in detail) thrown in. With Cepheus Light I can get back to making adventures for myself and the RockyMountainNavy Boys. Indeed, using Cepheus Light I may just try to make my own RPG setting based on the wargame Talon from GMT Games.

Feature image from tedlindsey.com. Go look at their work; it’s excellent!