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

May 2017 – My Geek Hobby Year-to-Date

Traditionally, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer for the RockyMountainNavy family. That is until we moved to the East Coast. Now school for the RMN Boys goes until mid-June. However, I still want to use this occasion to look back on my geek hobby year-to-date.

Wargaming

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Courtesy BGG.com

According to my BGG profile, I played 10 games in January, four in February, four more in March, none in April, and only two in May. For a year that I wanted to play more I certainly have dropped off! Summer may change as I have several new games inbound. Arriving tomorrow is Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal – The Pacific 1942 (Academy Games, 2016). I also may be getting closer to my Kickstarter delivery of Squadron Strike: Traveller (Ad Astra Games, ??) which after many delays (unwarranted and unacceptable in my opinion) finally opened the BackerKit this week. I also pledged for Worthington Publishing’s Mars Wars – but it cancelled. This month I pledged to support Compass Games’ new Richard Borg title Command & Colors: Tricorne – The American Revolution. To be honest, I am buying this title as much for myself as for the RMN Boys – which is both a blessing and a curse. I am certainly blessed in that I have boys who love gaming, but cursed in that they are not a hard grognard like their old man. The titles also reflect a change in my gaming interests as I struggle with the closure of many FLGS and the movement of my purchasing online or (shudder) to Kickstarter. I also have several games on P500 at GMT Games and hope to see that production schedule move forward this year.

Role Playing Games

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Courtesy RPGGeek

Whereas my grognard-fu has been weakening, my RPG play has been one of steady growth. Mostly this has revolved around the Cepheus Engine RPG system and products from Gypsy Knights Games and their The Clement Sector setting or products from Samardan Press, Zozer Games (especially their SOLO supplement), and Moon Toad Publishing. I have to tip my hat to these third party publishers which are doing so much to breathe life into my RPG adventures. For this summer, I also have a Star Wars: Edge of the Empire (Fantasy Flight Games) campaign at-the-ready. Here too I have dipped deeper into Kickstarter and pledged support to Cam Banks’, Magic Vacuum Studio’s Cortex Prime: A Multi-Genre Modular Roleplaying Game.

Books

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Courtesy Amazon.com

I started off at Christmas with a good collection of books that I am whittling down at a much slower pace than I wish. This is not because I have ignored them; on the contrary, I am probably reading more than I did last year – just not reading off my list! Science fiction books have taken up much of my reading time. I have found myself lost in rereading the Charles E. Gannon’s Caine Riordan series from Baen Books. I also turned to Kickstarter again for content, this time in the form of Cirsova 2017 (Issues 5&6) and its short stories.

Plastic Models

I didn’t get time to build much but the RMN boys got many kits completed. We even found a YouTube channel that we love, Andy’s Hobby Headquarters. He not only shows great models, but the boys are studying his techniques for better building.

Education Support

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Courtesy goodreads.com

I also have to do the Dad-thing and boast a bit about my youngest RMN Boy. This past quarter he was studying World War II and had a project to complete. The project supposed the student had found items in the attic from grandparents accumulated during World War II. The student had to put together a scrapbook of a newspaper article relating a battle (writing assignment), a letter from a soldier/sailor to home describing another battle (writing assignment), a letter from home describing the home front (writing assignment), a letter from the mayor to a local boys club thanking them for supporting the war effort (another writing assignment), notes from Grandmother about key personalities (short biographies), and a propaganda poster (art assignment). We had fun doing this project as together the youngest RMN boy and I prowled my shelves for sources, watched movies and documentaries online, and even pulled out a few games to better visualize the battles. A very proud moment for this father as the New Media and my book and game collection came together to teach a young man history.


Feature image courtesy 365barrington.com

#TravellerRPG #CepheusEngine System Reference Document

Remember the original Traveller RPG? The original three Little Black Books (LBB)? Jason “Flynn” Kemp of Samardan Press does, and thanks to his heroic efforts we have”A Classic Era Science Fiction 2D6-Based Open Gaming System” in the Cepheus Engine: System Reference Document.

The original three LBB were first published in 1977. If one looks carefully at the books, you will discover these are three LBB of rules; there was no specified setting. The Traveller RPG over the years has contained numerous settings, most revolving around the Third Imperium. Indeed, it seems these days one can almost not say “Traveller” without also saying “Third Imperium.” Even the latest version of Traveller from Far Future Enterprises, Traveller5, admits things changed:

Classic Traveller (CT). The original edition of Traveller published by GDW Game Designer’s Workshop 1977 and revised in 1981. The intention was a generic science-fiction system, but it quickly concentrated on the Third Imperium as a setting supported with adventures and supplements. Traveller5 Core Rules v5.09, pdf p.4

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Courtesy RPGGeek

It is with a degree of sadness that I have watched the legal wrangling this past summer regarding how Mongoose Publishing, creators of the new Mongoose Traveller second edition, have chosen a narrow-use license for their work. Of greatest impact, the second edition is not Open Game Content, and any users desiring commercial use of the Mongoose Traveller second edition must abide by the new Community Content Agreement. Given the new CCA grants broad rights to others to use an IP (like an alternate setting) this condition was unacceptable to publishers.

At first this made me very sad. As much as I love the Third Imperium, these days I am excited playing around in some alternate settings. My three favorite are Outer Veil by Spica Publishing, Orbital 2100 by Zozer Games, and The Clement Sector by Gypsy Knights Games.

Enter Jason “Flynn” Kemp of Samardan Press. Mr. Flynn obviously remembers when Traveller was a generic system. Using the Open Game License Traveller System Reference Documents he created Cepheus Engine. Cepheus is just what the subtitle says; a 2D6-Based Open Gaming System. The book is rules only; there is no setting. What Mr. Flynn has given the Traveller RPG community is a truly generic set of rules to play with. He even encourages it!

Publishing Your Own Materials

As you can see at the beginning of this System Reference Document, all of the text in this document is designated as Open Gaming Content, except for titles of products published by Samardan Press, and the trademarks “Cepheus Engine” and “Samardan Press.”

This means you can copy whatever parts of Cepheus Engine you want, add your own content, change the content around, and publish the result. Note that you will have to comply with the Open Gaming License, as reproduced at the end of this document. If you don’t mention any of the trademark elements, you don’t need to do anything else.

However, you can use the “Cepheus Engine” trademark, under certain circumstances, to indicate compatibility with this rules system. You have to follow the requirements of the Cepheus Engine Compatability-Statement License (CSL), but if you do, you can state that your published material “is compatible with the rules of Cepheus Engine” or, “with the Cepheus Engine rules” or, “with the Cepheus Engine game.” – Cepheus Engine SRD, Legal, p. 205

Cepheus Engine is a 208 page book broken down into 19 chapters. Starting with an introduction and the obligatory “What is Roleplaying?” it goes on to in a way mimic the original three LBBs. [Each LBB was 48 digest-size pages, for a total of 147 pages of content – guess we have a bit of rules bloat here!]

Book One: Characters includes Character Creation, Skills, Psionics, Equipment, and Personal Combat.The Core Mechanic at heart is a simple roll 2D6 > 8+ for success. Book Two: Starships and Interstellar Travel includes Off-World travel, Trade and Commerce, Ship Design and Construction, Common Vessels, and Space Combat. I note that the ship design and construction and space combat are focused on what long-time Traveller players call Adventure Class Shipsdefined in Traveller5 as “built using standard hulls between 100 tons and 2400 ton displacement” (T5, p. 274), though in Cepheus Engine one can build a hull as large as 5000 tons. Many of the larger Battle Class Ships construction and combat rules (which Mongoose called “Capital Ships” in their first edition and are available in the High Guard OGL SRD) are not covered by Cepheus EngineBook Three: Referees covers Environments and Hazards, Worlds, Planetary Wilderness Encounters, Social Encounters, Starship Encounters, Refereeing the Game, and Adventures.

Compared to the Mongoose first edition rules, this rulebook arrangement is eminently more intuitive to use. To long-time Traveller players, there is not much “new under the hood” but that’s the way it should be. This is a familiar rule book, not setting specific (occasionally rules modifying) material. With this book, third-party publishers can bring their setting to you, which is exactly what Zozer Games and Gypsy Knights Games are doing. More about their great products in future posts!

“Cepheus Engine System Reference Document, Copyright (c) 2016 Samardan Press; Author Jason “Flynn” Kemp.”

“The Traveller game in all forms is owned by Far Future Enterprises. Copyright 1977-2015 Far Future Enterprises.”