My 2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – “Are you alive?” Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game (Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd., 2007)

My last TTRPG Challenge post was on the Serenity Role Playing Game (Margaret Weis, 2005). Although that game comes first chronologically, Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game was actually my first Cortex-system RPG. It was also my first “IP” game since The Babylon Project (Chameleon Eclectic, 1997) from a decade earlier.

“The” Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game

To date, most of my science fiction RPGs could probably be best described as space opera focused with a healthy dose of starships and high tech gadgetry. The reimagined Battlestar Galactica TV series certainly has starships and gadgets, but the focus is very much on the human story. Indeed, the trivia says that actor Edward James Olmos, who played Commander William Adama in the reimagined series, had a clause in his contract that no strange aliens or monsters would appear so that the story stayed focused on the human drama.

Creating a character in the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game is actually very straight forward. Indeed, in many ways it is not that much more complicated than my beloved Classic Traveller or Traveller 4 which is probably why I embraced the system so readily. Oh, there are major differences; the first being the dice pool mechanic. In many ways I was a bog-standard d6 gamer, so having to suddenly use d2, d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12 was a bit of a shift. The other major shift was Plot Points, a meta-game currency that players can use to influence (control?) the storyline. The closest I had previously come to Plot Points was the Luck game mechanic in Star Trek: The Role Playing Game and James Bond 007. The other major adjustment in my thinking was “ships as characters,” which I discussed in the Serenity Role Playing Game.

The Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game also made me think about the “math” behind the game mechanics of RPGs. Most of my RPGs to date used either 2d6 or d%. I was very comfortable with “figuring the odds with those dice. Here though, you had a target number and often were mixing different die types together. If our Target Number is seven (7), what are the odds of rolling 7 or greater with a d8+d6? In many ways the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game created for me an interest in RPG mechanisms as I yearned to learn more about the “models” underlying the games.

Sometimes, you have to roll a hard six.

Commander William Adama

Reporting for Duty

Creating a character in the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game is a simple seven-step process:

  1. Set Staring Level: Determines the number of Attribute/Skill/Trait Points to spend
  2. Concept: General personality
  3. Buy Attributes: These are the character’s innate abilities
  4. Buy Traits: Assets…and Complications
  5. Buy Skills: Purchased in the form of “dice”
  6. Calculate Derived Attributes: Simple calculations
  7. Finishing Touches: Gear and other details

Lt. Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace: I have my flaws, too. 

Col. Saul Tigh: The difference is my flaws are personal. Yours are professional.

Unlike so many of my TTRPG before, character generation in the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game is a point-buy system. The nice part here is that the system has little incentive to min-max, in part because of the Assets and Complications. Taken in conjunction with the Plot Point game mechanism, I barely realized that the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game was very nearly my first “narrative” RPG. That is, this was the first game where players had the ability to control the narrative through creative use of their Assets and Complications and Plot Points.

But before we get too far along on that idea, let me introduce Thomas “Puke” Dogg, a Viper pilot aboard the Battlestar Galactica.

Thomas “Puke” Dogg

Starting Level – Puke is a Veteran starting with 48 Attribute Points, 68 Skill Points, and 4 Trait Points.

Concept: Puke is a Viper pilot that suffered from a bout of spatial disorientation in flight school that led to him “losing his lunch” during a flight with a very senior instructor. Thus, “Puke” was born.

Buy Attributes: Attributes come in two flavors; Physical and Mental. Attribute Points are used to purchase different die levels at 1-to-1 cost.

  • Agility (Physical) – d12
  • Strength (Physical) – d8
  • Vitality (Physical) – d6
  • Alertness (Mental) – d8
  • Intelligence (Mental) – d8
  • Willpower (Mental) – d6

In keeping with the “Puke” story, our Viper pilot has far above average Agility, but lesser Vitality and Willpower.

Buy Traits: Traits can be positive (Assets) or negative (Complications).

  • Assets: Dogfighter d4; Split-Second Timing d4
  • Complications: Illness d4. The occasional weak stomach is actually something more serious…but who wants to see the Flight Doc when there is another Cylon raid inbound?

Buy Skills: Skills are bought in General and Specialty levels.

  • Athletics d6
  • Covert d6 (Sleight of Hand d8)
  • Discipline d6 (Concentration d8)
  • Guns d6 (Pistols d8)
  • Heavy Weapons d6 (Autocannons d8)
  • Knowledge d6 (History d8)
  • Perception d6 (Tactics d8)
  • Pilot d6 (Viper d10)
  • Technical Engineering (Skilled only) d4

Calculate Derived Attributes:

  • Initiative (Agility + Alertness) = 20
  • Life Points (Vitality + Willpower) = 12

Finishing Touches: Puke is a Lieutenant.

Launch the Alert Viper!

Another aspect of the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game that I had to adjust to was a very character-centric approach to combat. So often in my RPG games to date, starship combat was a mini-wargame. Heck, the Star Trek: Roleplaying Game or The Babylon Project or Traveler: 2300 came with an entire set of wargame rules for ship combat. However, vehicle combat is the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game is a bit abstract. As the text box “A Matter of Drama” in the Vehicle Combat rules section (p. 152) states:

…For the players, the most important part of any combat comes from the point-of-view of their characters.

In short, this is the Battlestar Galactica Roleplaying Game, not a miniatures wargame. Viper combat should be run on a personal level, with rolls made to attack or dodge incoming raider autocannons. It plays out very similarly to combat on a personal level.

The only time a roll is needed is when something dramatic is about to happen, when there’s a real question to be resolved.

“A Matter of Drama,” p. 152

In many ways, this character point-of-view approach to combat (or any encounter) in the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game is not that far removed from the original Little Black Books of the Traveller Roleplaying Game. This is probably why this game clicked so well with me.

In the Cortex system, one doesn’t just roll a d6, but many other die types too. The Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game opened up a whole new world to me based on the Cortex game engine. Indeed, the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game and the Serenity Role Playing Game were the start of what I term my “Game Engine” era of RPGs where Cortex, FATE, a new Traveller, and what would eventually become known as Genesys would become the preponderance of my games. Alas, there were other games in there too; some titles might even seem a little mousy to some…


Feature image courtesy wallpaperup.com

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

My 2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – Finding daylight out in the black with Serenity Role Playing Game (Margaret Weis Productions, 2005)

In 2002 I was stationed overseas with the U.S. military. If you have ever been stationed in the military overseas you will know all about the American Forces Radio & Television Service, or AFRTS (pronounced “A-FARTS”). What you will very likely remember is that AFRTS had no real commercials; instead you got “public service” and command messages.

Yeah…I still remember seeing these…in the early 2000’s

What you also didn’t get was the latest television shows, which is why I didn’t get around to watching the 2002 season of the TV series Firefly until after I returned stateside in mid-2004. By 2005 I discovered the movie Serenity and the Firefly TV series and eventually even a new RPG, the Serenity Role Playing Game from Margaret Weis Productions (2005)

Don’t we all…

Technically speaking, I didn’t actually discover the Serenity RPG until 2007 when I got the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game (Margaret Weis Productions, 2007) and then went hunting for the older game. But in this 2022 CharGen Challenge I’m working my way through titles chronologically by publication date which is why this game is here.

The books for Serenity are beautiful, full color hardbacks that are lavishly illustrated with extensive use of the intellectual property. They were then, and still today, bloody expensive. But between those covers I discovered a RPG game engine that reinvigorated my RPG mojo after a decade of darkness.

Don’t know where I found this but it’s true…

Serenity was written by Jamie Chambers and uses a game engine that eventually came to be call Cortex. Unlike many of the RPGs I played before, Serenity uses a dice pool system. The fact I needed to buy d2, d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12 to play was enjoyable. Characters were easy for me to understand as they have Attributes and Skills. Finally, a game that doesn’t have Classes or Feats or Talents!

While I had grown very comfortable over the decades with a lifepath character generation system of random tables and the like, Serenity uses a point-buy approach. Yes, this demanded a change in my attitude, but here it seemed so natural. I will admit that the first time I came across Traits, Assets, and Complications it was a bit tough to understand, but again the whole package was put forward in such an enjoyable and understandable way I just went with it.

Little did I realize it at the time, but with Serenity I was moving into a more narrative style of RPG play. Nowhere was this more evident than with Plot Points—a form of currency used in-game to “buy” a bonus or create a short-term, expiring “reward” for players. The other part major change Serenity showed me was the concept of “ships as characters.”

Let Me Tell Ya About this FREE Trader…

Up until this point in my tabletop role-playing game experience, vehicles—be they ships or aircraft or ground vehicles or whatever—were always thought of and described simply as equipment. That is, they had a very mechanical description for they were really nothing more than tools for characters to use. Going a bit further, given the wargame heritage of designer Frank Chadwick it’s not surprising that vehicles in the Traveller Roleplaying Game were described in wargame terms. The listing for any ship in Traveller is little different than one finds in Janes’ Defense journals.

Not so for Serenity. While ships are given some encyclopedic entries (Dimensions, Tonnage, Crew, etc.) the in-game statistics mirror characters with Agility, Strength, Vitality, Alertness, Intelligence, Intuition, Willpower, Initiative, and Life. Ships even had SKILLS! Add to that the different traits and complications and every ship could be given a personality. Which really does make sense and is totally in keeping with the sci-fi roots of the game. Enterprise (Star Trek), Eagle 1, Space: 1999) the Millennium Falcon (Star Wars) , Galactica (Battlestar Galactica), and Serenity (Firefly) all are more character than setting in each of those franchises.

In the Serenity Role Playing Game building a ship is like building a character. You start with a Concept, determine Ship Attributes, figure out some Specifications, and then assign Ship Traits, Ship Skill, and so on.

Bagman

Concept: Small(?) courier ship to move (few passengers) and (some) cargo between planets. Usually owned by corporations or governments but few operate “freelance” in the verse.

Attributes

  • Agility d6 “Average Maneuverability”
  • Strength d4 “100-1,000 tons / Small Transport”
  • Vitality d8 “Requires low maintenance”
  • Alertness d4 “Basic, typical needs for privately-owned vessel”
  • Intelligence d4 “Substandard; can handle mundane flight details”
  • Willpower d4 “Basic; automatically seal bulkheads at critical sections, backups for the most critical systems”

Specifications (Dimensions, Tonnage, Speed Class, Fuel Capacity, Crew Quarters)

  • Dimensions: 118′ x 74′ x 30′ (Wedge)
  • Tonnage: 875 tons
  • Speed Class: 4/6
  • Fuel Capacity: d4 “12 tons in a 60 ton tank”
  • Crew Quarters: 4x Staterooms (Rooms 9 tons, Common 23

Ship Traits: The Asset “Cortex Specter” which means few record exist (seems appropriate for a ship delivery “off-the-record” materials).

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

My 2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – Shot down in Luftwaffe: 1946 Roleplaying Game (Battlefield Press, 2005)

In January 2006 I discovered a website called drivethrurpg.com. This was an incredible discovery; a website devoted to digital publishing of role-playing games. Here I found games I had never heard of before. My first order was for a Twilight: 2000 supplement I didn’t own. The second, on January 11, 2006 was for a 2005 game titled Luftwaffe: 1946 Role-Playing Game from a publisher I had never heard of, Battlefield Press.

At the time, I had discovered a website called Luft 46 which is still accessible today. At first I thought the RPG and website were associated with one another. Then I discovered that the Luftwaffe: 1946 RPG was based on a comic book series. Luckily, I was able to find some issues in a local comic store.

Luftwaffe: 1946 used the Action! game engine based a target number and 3d6. Basically, to make a skill check you took Attribute + Skill Level + 3d6 and tried to beat the Target Number.

If Luftwaffe: 1946 has a problem, it’s that the game engine and character creation rules are unbalanced. The character creation system in Luftwaffe: 1946 is extremely dense. The end result was my appreciation of the game was also unbalanced; I liked the game engine but didn’t like the character creation system.

Dallas ‘Tex’ Miller

U.S. Army Air Corps 1st Lieutenant assigned to a special air squadron flying captured German X-Planes

  • Body Group: Strength 5, Reflexes 5, Health 5
  • Mind Group: Presence 5, Intellect 5, Will 5
  • Derived: Defense Target Number 15, Initiative 5, Toughness 5, Life 25, Move 10, Cool 5, Fatigue 5
  • Skills: Athletics – 1 / Acrobatics -1; Heavy Weapons -3 / Aircraft Machine Guns (Spec) – 2; Military Science – 3 / Tactics (Spec) – 2; Small Arms – 2 / Pistols – 1; Technical – 1 / Repair -1; Transportation – 3 / Pilot (Spec) – 4
  • Abilities: Ace! Technique -2 (Gunnery, Masterful Controller), Attack Combat Master, Heightened Awareness, Rank 2 (1st Lt.)
  • Disabilities: Famous (1), Recurring Nightmares (2)

Tex has a good life, getting to fly the latest Luftwaffe wonder weapons. Today it’s a Salamander-D, or the forward-swept wing Heinkel 162D (Maneuver Bonus +1). Tex is just trying the basics and is making a Immenlman Turn (Target Number 21).

The GM says the Governing Attribute is Reflexes (5). Tex adds his Transportation (+3) and Pilot (+4) or a total of 12. The 3d6 roll is 10 plus the Maneuver bonus of +1 for a total of 23. Tex pulls off the Immelman but the Salamander is being a bit slippery in its handling!

A bit later Tex decides to try an execute a Lag Roll (Target Number 24). The roll is as before (12 + 1 + 3d6). The 3d6 rolls com up with 7 for a total of 20; the maneuver fails with and effect of -4. Normally, Tex would have to make a TN18 skill roll to retain control with that -4 modifier added in, but his Masterful Control ability gives him the “ability” to ignore the negative penalty. The roll is 12 + 1 + 3d6 (11) for a total of 23—Tex maintains control and is starting to discover the Salamander’s true limits!

An RPG Atrocity

In the end, I gave up on Luftwaffe: 1946 not for the game, but for the politics of the comic book author. What bothered me is that he insisted that removing the swastika from plastic model kits amounted to censorship. He also stated, “I made a careful study of Nazi Germany and found out that their atrocities were not much worse than what other major countries had done to their people and their neighbors throughout the centuries of warfare” (p. 5). Now, I’m not so stupid to think my country is totally blameless, but I absolutely disagree that the United States of America and Nazi Germany are somehow morally equivalent. This forced me to relook at the entire setting in Luftwaffe: 1946. In the end, I decided not to pursue this game any further.


Feature image by Gareth Hector on Luft 46

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

My 2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – Misdirection in Prime Directive (Amarillo Design Bureau, 2005)

In a previous post, I explained how I totally failed to understand the d20 Modern system, in part because the system reference document (SRD) I bought was missing a key section on determining Abilities for a character. A few years later, I found the “next generation” of Prime Directive, the role-playing game of the Star Fleet Universe. This new Star Fleet Universe RPG used the d20 System. I decided to give it a try.

Technically, Prime Directive d20 required the use of the Third Edition Player’s Handbook (v 3.5) from Wizards of the Coast. The intro matter indicated that d20 Modern could be used (with a little work) so I took the dare and tried.

“A Character Starts With a Story”

So starts “Chapter 3: Character Classes” in Prime Directive d20 (hereafter PD20). This story-first approach was not my norm; I usually rolled up a character first and then developed a backstory. Not in PD20:

The usual way to create a character is to design him or her just as though he was a character in a story you were writing. Start by deciding what type of person you want to be. you can take your inspiration from a fictional hero or heroine — or create your new “self” from the ground up. Once you have some idea what sort of person you want to play, it’s time to bring him to life!

PD20, p. 44

In some ways the story-first approach of PD20 made sense. After all, how does one get a bridge crew or Prime Team out of a random character generation process? So I plunged forward.

To get some inspiration for my PD20 character I looked a the different classes archetypes in the core rulebook. Officers, agents, Marines, merchants, and rogues were all there. The character education path was again very familiar. Figuring out different Prestige Classes was a bit of a challenge, but I eventually understood. Skills were rather straightforward while Feats took some getting used to.

It’s the Little Things…

Ultimately, PD20 suffered from two problems that made it difficult for me to generate characters; Abilities and Character Sheets.

Once again, PD20 forced me to rely on my d20 SRD to generate character Abilities. Of course, the SRD I possessed did not have that section in it. It put me in a pissy mood—I needed to buy a new SRD but I was so pissed at WotC I refused to do so. Why should I go buy the latest Dungeon’s & Dragons Player Handbook just to figure out how to generate Abilities when I don’t even play D&D?

Some of you are saying, “Just go to your FLGS, find the Handbook, look up the page, and take notes!” Yeah, I could of…BUT WHY? It was such a simple thing it shouldn’t have to come to that. Others of you will say, “Dude, look at DriveThruRPG.” Well, in 2005 I hadn’t discovered DTRPG yet!

To add further insult to injury, PD20 does not have a character sheet in the Core Rulebook. Yes, there was a website with some information but once again I felt like I was being cheated out of the little things.

I would eventually get around to creating PD20 characters, but it would not be for a few years. When I eventually did I found the usual problems in a military-based campaign; too many chiefs and not enough indians. It would also take a new Star Trek book series, Vanguard, to help me see a different approach to the Star Fleet Universe and go beyond strictly “military ops.”

Fortunately, Prime Directive d20 comes at the end of my Dark Milieu of role-playing games. From 1996 to 2005 I had sought out a replacement for my beloved Traveller RPG—and failed miserably. While I failed my final Difficulty Check in 2005 with PD20, things were just as quickly to change as I was soon to go from Dark Milieu to “Into the Black.” But before I jumped that far I had to try a little alternative setting…


Feature image courtesy starfleetgames.com

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

My 2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – Out in the cold with Cold Space Role-Playing Game by Clash Bowley & Albert Bailey (Better Mousetrap Games, 2005)

As the mid-2000’s came—and went—my quest for a replacement role-playing game after Traveller RPG had gone nowhere for almost a decade. After failing my d20 save, I went looking for other game systems. In doing so, I ended up looking at smaller publishers. Somewhere I came across a copy of a game called Cold Space from Better Mousetrap Games (2005). So desperate was I for a new RPG that I was willing to try anything. I mean, the setting looked interesting; an alternate history Cold War with counter-gravity in the 1950’s, Orion rockets, and the like.

The setting in Cold Space was not the only difference from what I was used to. The entire game system was different from my experience too. Cold Space was my first introduction to what I came to call “Indie-RPG.” These games, many times published in a kind of do-it-yourself desktop publishing manner, were maybe not as refined as the tentpole games (i.e. Dungeons & Dragons). However, each was interesting in how they brought a unique perspective on a game system to an RPG. Cold Space was built using a system called StarCluster. This was my first, and only, expereince with that game engine.

Cool Characters in Cold Space

In Cold Space, there are two “approved” methods of generating the initial characteristics and cash for characters; the Random Method and the Directed Method (p.30, 31). Seeing how I came from the random character generation heritage of the Traveller RPG I instantly went with the Random Method. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure sure I ever tried the Directed Method. Most initial characteristics in Cold Space are randomly generated with 2d6…another link to Traveller in my mind.

After generating the initial characteristics in Cold Space the character enters schooling. Ah, a life-cycle approach to character generation, ala Traveller again! Then, you enter a profession…still more Traveller-like! The skill list in Cold Space is kinda large (`100 skills) but not unmanageable.

Then I tried to play a game using Cold Space.

Check-ing Out Cold Space

Very slowly I was beginning to realize that different role-playing games had different “core mechanics.” I was learning that characteristics and skill levels were not all the same across different RPG systems, and each was related to the “core mechanism” of each design. In Cold Space, the Task Resolution system is built around several different checks:

  • Skill Check: Target number is the character’s skill chance which is base skill (45) plus 5 added for every level of skill with a bonus if governing attribute is above a certain threshold.
  • Attribute Check: A multiplier of the base attribute ranging from x1 (Very Difficult) to x5 (Moderately Easy).
  • Profession Check: Not a skill but familiarity from profession; 3x years spent in profession times promotion level.

Say the character, Major Tom, is an early astronaut that is launching on a mission…

Standing there alone,

the ship is waiting.

All systems are go.

“Are you sure?”

Control is not convinced,

but the computer

has the evidence.

No need to abort.

The countdown starts.

“Major Tom” – David Bowie

As Major Tom’s rocket enters orbit, there is problem. Major Tom attempts to use his Pilot+3 skill to regain control. This is a Skill Check with a target number of 45 plus (2×5=10) or 50. A governing attribute bonus of +1 comes from IQ above 120. Final target number is 51. Major Tom rolls a 65…

Back at ground control,

there is a problem.

“Go to rockets full.”

Not responding.

“Hello Major Tom.

Are you receiving?

Turn the thrusters on.

We’re standing by.”

There’s no reply.

“Major Tom” by David Bowie

If you can’t tell already, the StarCluster engine (a term I would learn later) in Cold Space is built around a d100 or d% die roll. This was certainly NOT Traveller RPG-like but I had played James Bond 007 so the d100 was not totally foreign. At the end of the day, though, the system just didn’t click with me.

Major Tom

In the early days of the contragravity space program, it still took a certain “steely-eyed missile man” to make an astronaut…

Mother’s Milk

Mother’s Milk skill are learned before age 10. Major Tom hails from the American Midwest, and as such he has Rural Moderate resources. This gives him skill in Tracking from the Hunting Set, Endear from the Social Set, Dash from the Sport Set, and Research from the Scientific Set. Young Major Tome grows up in a very middle-class family and has an interest in science.

Initial Characteristics (Random Method)

  • Strength (2d6) = 5
  • Coordination/Agility (same 2d6 each) = 6
  • Endurance (2d6) = 9
  • IQ (%d) = 53 by lookup table becomes 113
  • Luck (%d) = 31 by lookup table becomes 1
  • Cash (%d) = 71 by lookup table becomes $13,000
  • Charisma (2d6) = 5

Schooling

  • Public Junior High: CHAR+2, IQ+5, Research+2, Negotiate. Young Major Tom is a friendly, outgoing guy who loves to study and becomes a peacemaker amongst his friends.
  • Military High School (cost $1,300): Str+2, COOR +2, Mathematics+1, Astronomy+2. Young Major Tom starts dreaming of the stars…
  • Agriculture & Military (A&M College) (cost $2,000): Observe+1, Biology+1, Operate+1, Husbandry+1. Unable to get into a Military Academy Major Tom still finds a way to get a military education.
  • Officer Candidate School: IQ+20, Leadership+1

Career

Air Force

  • Skills: Pilot +3, Electronics+1, Mechanics+1, Zero-G+1
  • Promotion: +1
  • Pay: $3,000/year

Watching in a trance,

the crew is certain.

Nothing left to chance,

all is working.

Trying to relax

up in the capsule

“Send me up a drink.”

jokes Major Tom.

The count goes on…

David Bowie – “Major Tom”

Major Tom

Characteristics: STR 7 / COORD 8 / AGI 6 / END 9 / IQ 133 / LUCK 1 / Cash $30,000 / CHAR 7 / Constitution 300

Skills: Astronomy+2, Biology+1, Dash+1, Electronics+1, Endear+1, Husbandry+1, Leadership+1, Mathematics+1, Mechanics+1, Negotiate+1, Observe+1, Operate+1, Pilot+3, Research+3, Tracking+1, Zero-G+1

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

My 2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – Failing d20 Modern with The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook (Mongoose Publishing, 2004)

I’ve mentioned it before, but if if you go back through this blog and look at my tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) history, you will not find Dungeons & Dragons. You will find lots of Traveller RPG, but not the other grandparent of the hobby. So to show you how really dark my RPG milieu from 1994 to 2005 was, we’re going to talk d20.

In that dark milieu I was desperately seeking a new role-playing game system. As much as I loved Traveller I felt that it wasn’t “fresh” anymore. Someway, somehow, I “heard” that you could play an RPG in a modern setting using a variation of the D&D rules. All you had to do was get this thing called a “Handbook.” So I searched, and in those early-Internet days I found a publisher all the way across the pond in the UK called Mongoose Publishing that sold this thing called The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook (Mongoose Publishing, 2004) for a very respectable price of $19.99. So I bought one. The first envelope arrived—empty. Fortunately an appeal to the publisher resulted in another copy being shipped “With Compliments.”

Sitting down, I immediately started out to try to make a character…and failed. What went wrong?

Remember, I had not touched any of the d20 D&D world. I had no idea about “Edition Wars.” Most confusing was the text on the back of the book that talked about something called, “Modern OGL rule set.” What the heck is OGL?

Little did I realize then, I had encountered what I later learned was called a System Reference Document, or SRD. As the back book matter states:

The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook is a simple guide to the world’s most popular Modern roleplaying game system. It contains exactly what a reader need to play the game and nothing else.

With this guide to the intricacies of the Modern OGL rules set, Players and Games Masters can make use of any other setting material or devise their own for a campaign that is uniquely theirs while still retaining the basic framework of the Modern OGL game. If it is a basic rule covering character creation, combat, equipment, vehicles, creatures or magic, it has a home in these pages.

Back matter, The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook, 2004

Way too slowly did I realize that The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook is not a fully formed RPG but just like it says a basic, generic, set of rules. Still, you can create characters and put them in your own setting, right?

Creating a modern character is a simple, but well-detailed, process that requires several basic steps.

“Modern Characters,” The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook (2004), p. 18

Reading through the Modern Pocket Handbook I jumped to the character creation chapter. The first step to making a character in is to pick an occupation. This was familiar given my Traveller RPG history. Then I encountered classes.

Wha?

What I came to realize years later was that many of the “classes” in The Modern Pocket Handbook were actually archetypes. Further, like The Babylon Project before this, you don’t really randomly create a character, you methodically “develop” them.

As I worked though the Modern Pocket Handbook I encountered classes and talents and feats in character creation. What also threw me off was the lack of a setting. The last real “setting-less” rules set I used was my original Traveller RPG, but even that one had moved to the Third Imperium setting rather quickly.

I also realized that character creation chapter skipped a major part of character creation; abilities. For that you had to go back to the first chapter of handbook that discussed concepts.

Each character in a d20 game has six basic abilities.

“Ability Scores,” The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook (2004), p. 5

After learning all about occupations and classes and skills and talents and feats I tried to make a character using the Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook. I wanted to introduce you to Joe Mundane. But I can’t. The book simply does not give me the “ability” to do so. Really.

Nowhere in The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook is there a single sentence on how to generate the basic ability scores. No “roll a d20.” No “roll d20-2” or “Roll d20+1.” Nothing. Zilch. Nada. So how do I even start? Since I was not a d20 player, I had no “background” material to look at to see how others did it.

I didn’t look further…I just gave up and moved along.

Only later did I find another version of the Modern SRD and then have the confidence to make my own decision as to how to establish initial Ability scores. That time came only after I became more aware of different RPG system designs and actually paid close attention to the math behind the numbers.

As poor as my expereince with The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook was I did learn a few things:

  • I learned what an SRD is.
  • I learned about the Open Game License (OGL)
  • I discovered Mongoose Publishing which in a few years grew into a love/hate relationship with Mongoose Traveller.

What I didn’t learn was how the d20 system worked in play. This would take another few years to change…but (not-so-spoiler alert) not for the better. For the time being, my dark RPG age continued.

Pocket sized but not complete…

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

My 2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – The Babylon Project (Chameleon Eclectic, 1997)

Babylon 5 is one of my favorite sci-fi TV series. As I wargamer I certainly was entertained by the ship battles, and even went so far as to buy the ship combat wargame Babylon 5 Wars from Agents of Gaming (1997). Around that same time, there was another Babylon 5 ship combat wargame based on the Full Thrust set of rules by John Tuffley found in the Earthforce Sourcebook (Chameleon Eclectic, 1997) supplement to a new role-playing game, The Babylon Project. Since the wargame and the RPG seemed to go together, I got both. Twenty-five years later, I still enjoy the Earthforce Sourcebook ship combat rules. On the other hand, The Babylon Project is little more than a footnote in my RPG history. Like I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the period of 1996 to 2005 was a dark milieu of role-playing games for me. The Babylon Project certainly cast a “shadow” in over that dark, forgettable time.

Photo by RMN

This Really Ain’t Traveller…

In every RPG I had played before The Babylon Project character generation was by die roll. In a major change of pace, characters in The Babylon Project are not “generated” but instead “developed” through a thought exercise. At first I was totally lost—where are the die rolls and tables? As much as I loved the setting, this was totally NOT what I expected in an RPG. So I bounced off the game system very hard. It also didn’t help that the Task Resolution system was the polar opposite of character generation with a seemingly endless demand for table lookups Even this Grognard wargamer had difficulty with multi-step combat resolution system that had table after table…for what? Even worse, The Babylon Project uses 2d6 but not in the traditional sense; here you have “The Random Modifier” where you roll a “positive” die and a “negative” die and generate a result from +5 to -5. Sigh…

In the last 25 years I have occasionally revisited The Babylon Project and while I really enjoy the Gamemaster advice and setting material, I have never really been able to get into the character generation part of the system. I will admit however, that this time around it was a bit better. Maybe this is because after 25 years I understand more about life and understand what happens in different eras of aging.

Attributes

The first part of character development that surprised me in The Babylon Project was that you don’t roll for attributes. Instead, you started with a list based on your race and do a maximum +2/-2 exercise to “customize” that you wanted. This approach demands you know at the beginning of character development what you want the outcome to be. This was an approach I was not at all ready for; up until this point the only RPGs I had played were ones that I “rolled up” characters. While some systems gave me a degree of flexibility and choice during character generation, for the most part you “took what you got” at the end of the process. I was used to and very comfortable with this approach; I think it actually makes for a better RPG player because you have to truly role-play what you got, not what you dreamed up.

Childhood-Development-Adulthood

When developing a character in The Babylon Project, you go through a thought process that asks you to imagine your character in three eras of their life. You think about what they did in Childhood, then their Development years, and finally what they did in Adulthood. Along the way you pick out skills and characteristics. Again, this demands a good amount of prior player “knowledge” of what the outcome of character development will be.

When I first ran into The Babylon Project I was around 30 years old and not far into a military career. I certainly could relate, but not fully understand, what I learned and experienced in my childhood years. I was truly in the midst of my Development years and was still unsure what Adulthood really would bring. So to ask me to make a fully formed character was in some ways asking a bit much. Today, I am a quarter century older with my own children, some of whom are in those Development years already. My perspective on life gives me insights I didn’t have before. Developing a character for The Babylon Project is now a totally different experience.

J’Mak – A Reputable Business…Narn?

Meet J’Mak, a Narn trader. Well, J’Mak looks like a Narn trader. He acts like a Narn trader. He even owns a small fleet of merchant ships like a Narn trader. What only a few people know (though others suspect) is that J’Mak is much more than a trader. Rumor has it that if you want arms shipped to or from certain areas of space J’Mak is your go-to contact. Centauri intelligence absolutely believes J’Mak is a secret arms trader; the Earthforce seem less convinced. The members of the Non-Aligned Worlds seem more than happy to do business with J’Mak…though few talk about exactly “what” that business is.

A Terrified Childhood

J’Mak was born in the last years of the Centauri occupation of Narn. This was a brutal time, and J’Mak is Haunted (characteristic) by memories of losing family members to the Centauri occupiers in a brutal fashion. He also became a bit Paranoid (characteristic) about losing anything to the Centarui. In these early years, he learned to draw on Religion (skill) for personal strength but also excelled in Athletics (skill) that he often used for Survival (skill) and Hiding (skill).

Fanatical Development

The end of the Centauri occupation of Narn occurred just as J’Mak was coming of age. He eagerly joined the space forces. He learned how to Pilot (skill), Navigate (skill), handle (Shiphandling skill) and fight (Tactics and Weapons Systems skills) a starship. He also learned how to handle himself in a fight (Unarmed and Ranged skills) as well as bit of the Human language (skill). J’Mak was Fanatical (characteristic) and Proud (characteristic) of his service.

Adult Respectability

J’Mak left the service and quickly established his own small merchant trading company (Assets characteristic). For a Narn that was fanatical, he has become a very Dedicated (characteristic) businessman (skill). He has learned the art of Diplomacy (skill) and is recognized as a Savvy (skill) dealer while also being very versed in Human Law (skill).

Along the way J’Mak also picked up some skill in Driving and Investigation. He is even a bit famous (characteristic). Or is that infamous?

J’Mak – Narn Trader and regular visitor to Babylon 5…

Attributes (scale of 1-6): Charm 6 (+2) / Finesse 4 / Presence 5 (-1) / Xenorelations 5 (+2) / Intelligence 5 / Insight 5 / Wits 4 / Perception 4 / Strength 5 (-1) / Agility 4 (-1) / Endurance 5 (-1) / Coordination 5 / Toughness 0 / Initiative 4 / Resolve 5

Learned Skills

Primary Skill: Business 4 (Operations, Merchant)

Secondary Skills: Diplomacy 3 (Obfuscate, Persuade) / Law 3 (Human, Centauri) / Savvy 3 (Underworld, Human)

Tertiary Skills: Hiding 2 (Conceal) / Investigate 3 (Research) / Shiphandling 2 (Freighter) / Combat, Ranged 2 (Handgun) / Language, Human 3

Characteristics

  • Haunted by memories of family deaths during the Occupation
  • Paranoid and unable to ever trust a Centauri
  • Fanatical to the goal of Narn rising
  • Proud of his efforts to rebuild Narn
  • Outwardly Dedicated to his business (a ruse)
  • Inwardly Dedicated tot he fall of Centauri
  • (Assets – 3x freighters)
  • Famous and a popular businessman (Infamous as as gun runner)

Skill Check

If character development was a thought exercise, Task Resolution is a table heaven. Let’s say J’Mak has been approached sumggle arms by a contact he has never met before. Before signing on for the contract, J’mak decides to do a little “background check” on his potential client. This will require him to use his Investigation skill and let’s say he is using his Research Specialty to ask about. The Gamemaster decides this will use his Intelligence Attribute. The client is being vague and evasive with providing background information, so the GM decides this is a Difficult task,

  • J’Mak has an Ability of Intelligence 5 + Investigate 3 + Specialty +2 for a total of 10
  • The player rolls a Random Modifier (Good d6 – Bad d6) or 3-2 = +1
  • Ability (10) + Random Modifier (+1) = 11 which EQUALS a Difficult Task.

J’Mak has a “Marginal Success.” He uncovers that his client has some indiscernable shady past but can’t find any connection to an intelligence service. J’Mak goes ahead with the contract, but asks for a bit extra of a premium to cover potential “complications.”

Of course, when making the delivery that “complication” arrives. Just as the cases are being dropped, a “concerned” bystander pulls out a PPG and opens fire! The bad gang member’s first shot drops one of J’Mak employees, but J’Mak now has a chance to draw his PPG and open fire.

  • This is a Ranged Combat situation
  • Bad Gang Guy is standing 8 m from J’Mak making the Ranged Attack Difficulty = Average
  • J’Mak aims for the center of mass of the bad guy (Default Aim Point – No Modifier)
  • J’Mak’s Ability is Agility 4 + Combat, Ranged 2 + Handgun Specialty +2 = 8
  • The Random Modifier is 5-1 = +4
  • J’Mak’s attack of 12 EXCEEDS the Average Difficulty (7) by 5…a Significant Success and Aim Point hit
  • A PPG has Damage Rating = 12; Bad Gang Guy is not wearing any armor but has a Toughness of 1 reducing Damage to 11
  • Cross-referencing Damage 11 to a Torso hit on the Immediate Damage Effects Table yields Stun=2 / Impair= 2
  • Random Modifier roll for Stun is -2; Bad Gang Guy is STUNNED and cannot act next turn…
  • …which is a good thing as the combat ends next round
  • Turns out Big Bad Guy is a local crimelord (Major NPC) so Final Wounds are determined
  • Hit in the Torso is No Damage Modifier so Final Damage is 11
  • The Bleed Shift for a PPG is -1; Big Bag Gang Guy is bleeding but will not bleed out
  • By table look-up the Final Impairment number is 4 (this is a -DM to actions)
  • As the damage is greater than 8 we look up and see Big Bad Gang Guy suffers a broken bone.

As you can see, combat in The Babylon Project is far from streamlined. This is another reason I don’t play this much at all.

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

My 2022 #TTRPG Chargen Challenge – The Lost Traveller 4 (Imperium Games, Inc., 1996) #TravellerRPG

“I started playing the Traveller roleplaying game in 1979…”

I’m sure you’re very tired of hearing me tell you that Traveller RPG story, so let me tell you another. It’s about another version of Traveller, specifically Marc Miller’s Traveller 4th Edition aka Traveller 4. This “new” version of Traveller was much the same but also very different. The same was character generation. The (very) different was the Task Code.

From 1st to 4th

I missed out on MegaTraveller (aka “Traveller 2”) and Traveller: The New Era (aka “Traveller 3”) so in many ways the character generation system in Traveller 4 looked to be an extremely well organized, cleaned up, and streamlined version of the expanded character generation systems that I encountered in Book 4 Mercenary, Book 5 High Guard, Book 6 Scouts, and Book 7 Merchant Prince in the older Classic Traveller system. Even today, I love the simple character generation tables laid out in Traveller 4.

So what’s the problem?

3.5D

That’s not a reference to yet another edition of Traveller, that’s the Task Difficulty for a Staggering task. The code is telling the players they need to roll three and one-half dice for the task.

Wait a minute…Traveller RPG is a 2d6 game system, right? What’s this more-than-two dice? What in the heck is a “half dice?”

Every task in Traveller 4 is given a Task Difficulty. This is the sum of the character’s characteristic and skill level. So shooting a gun (Gun Combat) relies on Dexterity. If a character has a Dexterity characteristic of 7 and a Gun Combat Skill of 1, the Target Number is 8. The referee then looks at the task and determines the Difficulty. Taking a shot at Short range is a Difficult Task rated at 2.5D. This means the player rolls 2d6, sums the result, then rolls another d6 and divides the result in half (rounding up) and then sums the result again. If the die roll is LESS THAN the Target Number the task is a success. For example: With a Target Number of 8 I roll 2d6 (6+3=9) and adds a “half die” (roll 3…divided by 2 and rounded up to 2) for a total of 11 which far exceeds the 8 needed—FAIL!

For the longest time I simply could not grok the Task Code system in Traveller 4. The whole idea of a “half die” appeared ridiculous. I have to admit that decades later and after having expereince with many other RPG systems the half-die in Traveller 4 isn’t as off-putting as it once was. I still don’t like it, but I understand it better these days.

1st of the 3rd in the 4th

One other part of Traveller 4 that I never really grasped was the default setting. Traveller 4 was set in the “First Milieu” of the Third Imperium, a century before the Classic Traveller Third Imperium setting. Given at the time I was having difficulty buying into the Traveller 4 task system, is it any surprise that I resisted “investing” in the setting? Recalling that the 1977 Traveller books were actually setting-less, I think I also longed for some of those “good ole days.”

Fourth Generation Traveller

When it comes to creating a character in Traveller 4 the process is actually quite familiar and simple. Recalling that I skipped T2 and T3, reading the three ways to generate a character’s primary characteristics was (finally) affirmation that my preferred “Best Order” method—roll 2d6 six times and assign each roll to characteristics as desired—was not just a house rule. I also liked the more formalized homeworld, early life background skills that were at least acknowledged here. Some later systems would create far more detailed routines for youth or teen years, but I find those too excessive for my taste. A few (two?) background skills based on homeworld environment and tech level seems enough.

Traveller 4 uses the advanced education options in character development. The ability for character to go to college or a service academy was in the later Classic Traveller little black books but here I saw the process applied more universally. Looking at the process today, it seems that one of the assumptions behind character generation in Traveller 4 was that players wanted to have more educated characters and used advanced education to get there. I don’t feel this was an assumption in Classic Traveller and it was a bit jarring at first.

Traveller 4 also did away with the chance of “death in chargen” that is a hallmark of Classic Traveller. Instead, there was Injury and Honorable Discharge. Given the relatively simple chargen process in T4, having to “start all over” is not that onerous a task, but I understand how some people get…uh…”offended” by losing a character in chargen.

Pursuing a career in Traveller 4 is very easy thanks to the simple tables. The hardest part is (again) getting used to the “roll under” requirements and terminology. Specifically, I’m talking about “Die Modifiers (DM)” in chargen. When the table states, “Injury: 8-; DM+2 if Edu 8+” that means the die roll to avoid injury becomes roll under 10 (8+2) if the die modifier applies. This confuses me because when I see DM I automatically assume the modification applies to the die roll I make, meaning if I rolled a 5 it becomes a 7 (DM+2).

J’hnn K’ry

Meet J’hnn K’ry, a young man from the capital of the Bradii Reach in my B’rron Subsector. His primary characteristics are UPP 798773 (Strength-Dexterity-Endurance-Intelligence-Education-Social Status). J’hnn had a relatively normal teen life, and knows how to drive a Grav Craft (Grav Craft-1) and his way around computers (Computers-1).

Although J’hnn comes from a relatively poor background (Soc-3) he has average intelligence and education and tries to get into college. Alas, he is rejected, so he seeks out an Army recruiter and joins that service (Service Skill Gun Combat (Rifle) -1).

J’hnn’s first term is a bit scary as he (barely) avoids injury. He learns how to handle himself in unarmed combat (Brawling-1) and how to fly a helicopter (Aircraft (Helo)-1). His real heart is as a grav tank driver (Grav Craft-2) and he also enjoys his barracks time (Carousing-1). Maybe he enjoys that barracks life a bit too much; he does not commission nor promote but is allowed to continue his career.

The second term for J’hnn is a bit better. He doesn’t commission but is promoted to E-2. He picks up some more fighting skills (Brawling-1) as well as rifle marksmanship (Gun Combat (Rifle)-2). He obviously really enjoys being a driver as he gains yet more skill in grav tanks (Grav Craft-3) and some formal skill in ground vehicles (Ground Craft-1). He also gains some skill as an instructor (Instruction-1). Yet, for all he has achieved, the Army decides in their infinite wisdom that J’hnn does not have a future in the service and lets him go.

Now on the outside, J’hnn finds he has 10,000Cr and a Low Passage ticket. He is seeking out a mechanized mercenary unit where he can keep going as a grav tank driver.

J‘hnn K’ry, Age 26, former Army E-2 / UPP 799773 / Aircraft (Helo)-1 , Brawling-1, Carousing-1, Computer-1, Grav Craft-3, Ground Craft-1, Gun Combat (Rifle)-2, Instruction-1 / 10,000Cr / Low Passage Ticket (1)

Unfortunately, I never invested in other sourcebooks for Traveller 4 beyond the Starships book so I don’t have the T4 version of Mercenary.

Like I said, a lost Traveller era.


Feature image: “Grav Tank Patrol” by Andrew Boulton

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

My 2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – Lost direction in Prime Directive 1st Ed (Task Force Games, 1993)

I started playing tabletop role-playing games in 1979 while in middle school. By 1993 I was a college graduate starting a career in the U.S. Navy. With deployment for war and then overseas I had little time for hobby gaming. The truth to the matter is that between 1993 and 2005 I actually had little room for any gaming. Indeed, I call the milieu from 1993 to 2005 my “Lost Traveller D20 Years.”

I tried to pick up some new games. One of those which was not Traveller nor D20 (yet still part of this lost milieu) was Prime Directive: The Star Fleet Universe Role-Playing Game by Timothy Olsen and Mark Costello and published by Task Force Games in 1993. More popularly called Prime Directive 1st Ed. (PD1), this was a role-playing game set in the Star Fleet Universe (SFU) that was built around the wargame Star Fleet Battles. Although Task Force Games had a legitimate license from to produce Star Fleet Battles material, the SFU diverges significantly from the Star Trek setting.

In Prime Directive, the players are members of a Prime Team, an elite special forces team for the Federation. Whereas Star Fleet Battles is centered on ship-to-ship battles in the SFU, Prime Directive tried to be a bit more Trek and less Battles. I personally was never really able to rectify this setting dissonance in my head, especially since I owned more that a few products from the FASA Star Trek line and was perfectly happy with that set of rules for my Star Trek-ing adventures.

Tricode-er

While I had trouble wrapping my head around the setting of Prime Directive, it didn’t help that all those years ago I didn’t grok the core mechanism in the game either. Prime Directive uses a Task Dice and Tricode system for resolving action. Basically, the player adds their Skill Level and supporting Characteristic and divides by two. The result is the number of Task Dice rolled. This was also the first game I recall noticing the “exploding six”—any roll of six was rerolled with the new roll minus 1 added to the six. Once all the dice are rolled the resulting numbers are compared to a Tricode for each skill that showed Failure, Minimal Success, Moderate Success, and Complete Success. For example, my character you will soon meet is trying to repair a door controller that a teammate “accidentally” fried. This is a Technical Skill and my character has an Electronics skill level of 4 and a Technical Characteristic of 6, meaning they throw five Task Dice. The rolls are 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (exploding 2) or 7. The Electronics skills Tricode is 2/4/6.

  • If 2 or 3 was my best result that would be a Minimal Success
  • The 4 and 5 deliver a Moderate Success
  • The “exploding 6” for 7 makes my attempt a COMPLETE SUCCESS—the door is back in service like nothing ever happened!

In another example, my character is attempting to resist interrogation. With a Discipline characteristic of 3 and Resist Interrogation skill of 2, my character rolls two Task Dice. I’m going to also add a die roll modifier of -2 because the interrogator is using a strong pain baton. Die rolls of 1 and 5 become -1 and 3 which compares to a Tricode of 6/8/10. The 3 is half of the 6 for Minimal Success so it’s just a Failure not a Botch. The interrogator gets the information they want quickly…

All of which doesn’t sound that bad until you realize there are something like 100 or so skills and 100 or so Tricodes and 100 or so…sigh…you get the idea. It’s almost impossible for a player to know what their chances are without much cross-referencing of characteristics and skills and Tricodes. All of this I never really grok’ed back in the day and thus Prime Directive was shelved…and stayed shelved for many years only occasionally being pulled out to be fodder for comparison.

Another Trekish Lifepath

Generating a character in Prime Directive is another form of a lifepath system. Determine characteristics, tweak based on race, select a Service Division, gain Initial Skills and skills by Division, Rank can gain more skills. Then there is Seniority and Initial Professional Heroic Reps (reputation). None of this is diffucult but it also doesn’t lend itself to generation of characters that I can get excited about.

Bohr Th’oshaalleq

Coming up through the Academy, Bohr (often called “Boring” behind his back, and more often than not even to his face) was the stereotypical unsociable and gruff Andorian. Now a serving Lieutenant (Senior Grade) in the Technical Branch of the Star Fleet Engineering Division, Bohr has worked his way onto a Prime Team as the “gadget guy.”

Characteristics

Strength: 3 / Accuracy: 3 / Speed: 3 / Leadership 1 / Logic 4 / Intuition 3 / Discipline 3 / Technical 6 / General Knowledge 3 / Perception 4 / Lift 15-75 / Jump 1.5-3-.75 / Range Type NORMAL / Lethal Damage Capacity 6 / Stun Damage Capacity 6 / Seniority 35 / Professional Rep 4 / Background Rating 1

Skills

Accuracy: Acrobatics 2 / Drive (Vehicle) 2 / Fine Work 2 / Fire (Phaser) 4 / Lethal Damage Attacks (AMA) 2 / Marital Arts 1 / Melee Combat 2 / Pilot (Shuttlecraft) 4 / Sleight of Hand 2 / Zero-G Manuev. 1

Speed: Quick Draw 2 / System Speed 1

Leadership: Negotiation 3 (the Leadership characteristic of 1 made purchasing these skill levels VERY expensive)

Logic: Astrogation 2 / Computer Prog. 2 / Cryptography 2 / Investigation 2 / Mathematics 2

Intuition: Evaluation 2 / Fast Talk 2 / Gambling 2 / Security Proced. 2

Discipline: Resist Interrog. 2

Technical: Comm. Systems 2 / Computer Sys. 2 / Console Ops 2 / Damage Control 2 / Demolitions 1 / Electronics 4 / Field Equipment 2 / Imp. Drive Sys. 1 / Jury Rig 4 / Life Supp. Syst. 1 / Mechanics 4 / Medical Sys. 1 / Power Gen Sys. 1 / Sensor Systems 1 / Shield Systems 1 / Ships Weapons Systems 1 / Transporter Sys. 2 / Warp Drive Sys. 1

General Knowledge: Cultural Knowl. 1 / First Aid 2 / Philosophy 1 / Star Fleet Regs. 2 / Wargaming 2

Perception: Blind Fighting 2 / Shadowing 2 / Tracking 2

Lt. Th’oshaalleq is a Prime Team member but in many ways he lives up to his given name—he is a bit of a bore. With a wide variety of skills but only a few that he excels in, Other Prime Teams call on him often but at the same time don’t really count on him to make the big play…


Feature image courtesy fanpop

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

2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – My retro-foundations first milieu (1979-1986) #RPGThursday

So far, my 2022 tabletop roleplaying game character generation challenge has been a great trip down memory lane. For myself, my first “milieu” of the roleplaying game hobby was the years 1979 to 1986. In many ways, these years form the foundation of my roleplaying game hobby views. Alas, after this point, I entered college and, though I still kept in touch with RPGs, the truth was I was distracted. As you will see, my second milieu of gaming doesn’t pick up again until 1993.

Looking back over the seven earliest games in my collection, one should immediately notice that the 800 lb gorilla of the hobby, Dungeons & Dragons, is not there. Although I had friends who played D&D, it never grabbed me. I was a science fiction and military history fan and not a strong reader of fantasy fiction. So I stuck with games more in my wheelhouse; Classic Traveller, Behind Enemy Lines, James Bond 007, FASA Star Trek, Paranoia, Twilight: 2000, and Traveller: 2300.

From 1979 to 1986, the foundational roots of my RPG hobby were laid. Classic Traveller remains a favorite game. Behind Enemy Lines, with the emphasis on “adventuring through encounter tables,” is worthy of deeper analysis. James Bond 007 remains one of the best cinematic depictions in an RPG. FASA Star Trek would influence Star Trek: The Next Generation. Paranoia is still the dark-humor standard of the hobby. Twilight: 2000 created such an intriguing world that even the end of the Cold War could not kill it off and a new edition is out in 2021. Traveller: 2300 may be a step-child of Traveller, but its influences back into space opera Traveller, and eventually even TV shows like The Expanse should be noted.

This retro look at my roleplaying games, though focused on character generation, has reminded me of other reasons I long for the simple days of the retro beginning of the hobby.

  • Classic Traveller is technically setting-less—the Third Imperium setting came along after the three Little Black Books. Adventures are driven by encounters and patrons. So simple; so fun.
  • Behind Enemy Lines is build around missions, but within each mission one moves from encounter to encounter.
  • James Bond 007 came with missions based on familiar movies, but they are changed up in ways that make each familiar, yet very unknown. Such excellent writing.
  • FASA Star Trek is a “bridge-crew” focuses adventure, but once again the lack of canon made exploring the setting so much fun. Later supplements like The Klingons are still amongst my most favorite.
  • Now that I am older, I really understand the humor behind Paranoia better. Too bad all the snowflakes of today wouldn’t be able to handle it (“I died? But…I spent hours in the coffee shop developing my backstory!”).
  • Twilight: 2000, while maybe the most mechanically complex game, is really a medieval world with modern weapons.
  • Traveller: 2300 is under-appreciated and arguably made a very significant (albeit very behind the scenes) contribution to the world of The Expanse.

In 1986, my first milieu of gaming was coming to a close. The next milieu, which I call the “My Lost Traveller D20 Years” would start in 1993 and run though 2005. As I will show you over the next few posts, it wasn’t such a great time for my RPG hobbying.

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