Thursday, October 18, 2018

More Traveller Literary History? or Not

Traveller literary history – or maybe not.

The Inverted Man

I thoroughly enjoyed Clarke's Hide and Seek short story, so when I brushed up against another one of his from the following year, I stopped to say hello.

It was a dull conversation. I am really disappointed with The Inverted Man
(Thrilling Wonder Stories, V36, #2 June 1950) Perhaps I should have read the cover story instead.
Here, there is Something at Stake. Look at the guy's eye. He's thinking "Get her clear of the line of fire, and this chump is Mine."

The story concerns a power plant engineer named Nelson. He is caught inside his new very modern generator apparatus when a freak set of circumstances throws it into overload. There is a huge thunder-clap, and Nelson goes down, but survives.

In the hospital, the doctors discover that Nelson has been Inverted: he is now a stereo-isomer of himself. His left hand is now his right, his hear is on the other side, etc. He reads and writes backwards.
So far so good, right? Good old H G Wells Invisible Man stuff. But at this point Nelson fades into the background. He has no more dialogue and takes no independent action.

The focus shifts to Dr Hughes, another engineer at the power company. Three science lectures later, Hughes tries to recreate the conditions of the accident to put Nelson 'right' again.

I'm going to ruin the ending now, so if you want to read this story, stop here.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

In Defense of Older Adventurers

On occasion, some gamers like to remark on the fact that Traveller characters are mostly middle-aged by the time they begin play (assuming they survive character creation). Is it really necessary for me to point out that the off-screen prior service is simply glossing over the “low level play” of level based systems, or the “few character points” stage of point-buy systems?

Don't harass us middle-aged guys who go off in search of adventure. We're not old, we're experienced. It's at this time of life when you finally know what you want, and go after it. And you're not taking any guff from punks.

Like this guy – he took no guff, and took names.

Samuel Whittemore
57A879 Age 80   
Army (militia) 3 terms, Captain
Brawling-1 Percussion Rifle-1 Survival-2 Badassery-3 Percussion Pistol-2

As another old soldier said "I could do this all day."

With thanks to Jed McClure on G+

Friday, October 12, 2018

Stealing Stuff for Fun and Profit

New from Stellagama Publishing

Piracy and Privateering

The other, less well known reason why Marines carry Cutlasses!

From the official description:

"A system-neutral guide to How To Be a Pirate! With explanations to help gamemasters run complete space pirate campaigns. In it, you will find guidelines for setting up a piracy or privateering sandbox campaign. There are fully developed encounter rules for figuring out which poor unfortunate souls have crossed paths with terrible player character pirates. We have also included system-neutral rules for fleshing out encounters with ships, space stations, and other unexpected sources of adventure. There are rules for selling ill-gotten booty, for splitting up crew shares, and for holding privateer courts."

I'm already using bits of it for my ongoing campaign - playing tomorrow! Once I read through the whole thing, I will post my review here. Check back soon!

Available now at DriveThruRPG

Suitable for/compatible with:
  • Classic Traveller
  • Cepheus Engine
  • Stars Without Number
  • White Star
  • other space opera/space fantasy type games

Monday, September 24, 2018

First Step towards Battle Dress?

Janes' 360 has reported on a Russian design firm which is developing an exoskeleton for infantry. The framework is not an armored suit a la Starship Troopers, but a means for the soldier to carry much more weight than normal.

Photo from

The exoskeleton "enables a soldier to carry a load of about 50 kg." A modification currently in trials will enable a soldier to "easily carry a general purpose machine gun," in addition to his personal weapon. This would turn every squaddie into his own fire support element.

If it is being developed now, at the equivalent of Traveller TL-8, it could be in general production at TL-9. Book 4 doesn't cover anything like this. That means I get to make it up myself!

Friday, August 17, 2018

High Level Play in Traveller

Lucas Trask, Space Viking Extraordinaire

First let me set the framework for my topic. High Level Play (hereinafter HLP) in Traveller is a particular type of play. It is play that goes beyond a random patron hiring PCs to do a random thing. HLP is about PCs with power.

Many game systems will have obvious mechanical cues when the players engage in HLP. Level based and point based systems are the most obvious and telling systems.

In level-based systems, like D&D, HLP is obvious. What level of fighter or magic-user are you playing? Tenth? Fifteenth? Twentieth? As everyone begins the game at 1st level, the differences from low level to high are very plain.

In point-based systems, like GURPS, HLP is also obvious. Look at how many character points your PC has. GURPS suggests starting out “potential heroes” with 100 points. PCs can increase their CP up to 400, 500 or even more points. The differences in skill and power are extensive. GURPS Supers has characters built on 1,000 points and more – into the realms of the gods!

Dice pool systems, like the eponymous D6 system are also plain. Count the number of dice your PC has in attributes and skills. Anyone who understands probability can tell at what #D rank a character can begin to do the impossible with ease. For those who don't: the highest difficulty number is 30. A PC with 8D in an attribute or skill can beat a 30 1 time in 3. At 9D, it's 2 times out of 3.

Traveller does not have dice pools, or character points, or levels. The central mechanic is “roll 2D6, add modifiers and beat a target number from 1 to 15”. The main modifier is skill level, but this is most commonly 1, sometimes 2 or 3, rarely 4 or better.

One can tally up a PC's total skill levels and call that a measure of high level play, but that's not the way to do it. I point out that Fenton Tukachevski has a grand total of 3 skill levels, and yet he could engage in HLP. See below.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Defend the Homeworld!

Next up in the (irregular) series of vehicles for Traveller, a custom design from Striker, for ground defense against space-based threats (invaders, pirates and such):
After some discussion on G+, I realized I could have built this craft much more efficiently. So, the first one is the improved version, the original behemoth is second.

Sentry-class anti-spacecraft vehicle

Anti-space laser vehicle                                                                                                            TL-13
Nationality:                  Lanzhou
Dimensions:                                                                                         Cost(Cr):   9,460,881
Chassis:           length- 6.9 meters; width- 3.2 meters; height- 3.2 meters Wt (loaded): 280.4 tns
Turret:             length- 3.5 meters; width- 3.1 meters; height- 1.7 meters Wt (unloaded): 276.2 tns
Suspension: Grav                                                                               Ground Pressure:            N/A
Power Plant:     297 Mw, Fusion                                                                    Road Speed:            N/A
Fuel Capacity:              4000 litres                                                        Endurance: 8.98 hrs
Crew:               Total: 4; 1-Commander; 1-Driver; 2-Gunner(s);           Volume: 89.101m3
Passengers:                 none                                                                   Ship vol (dT):  6.4dT
Chassis Armor: Front-2mm[8], Sides-2mm[5], Rear-2mm[5], Deck-420mm[65], Belly-2.5mm[7]        
Turret Armor: Front-2mm[5], Sides-2mm[5], Rear-2mm[5], Deck-420mm[65]
1 x TL-13, 250Mw, BL, VM, Stp-2, DF-5.25/10.5/21, Pen-75/67/59, HB:+2, Sig:+16, Trgts-2, Crew-1, (turret mount)
Weapon Notes:             See notes below.
Obscuration Devices & Sensors                                     Location
1 x Prismatic aerosol                                                     chassis
1 x Smoke discharger                                                   chassis
Communicators                                                            Location
1 x 1000-km laser comm                                              chassis
Radar/Ladar     x 1000-pwr targeting radar                  chassis
1 x 1000-pwr radar jammer                                          chassis
1 x 1000-pwr counter battery radar[0/2+[+10]]          chassis
Visual, ECM, & Computers                                             Location
1 x TL9 Image enhancement                                        chassis
Environmental Controls:          
Miscellaneous Equipment:        Cargo:  4m^3              

Combat Statistics:       
Cross-country speed:   N/A            Amphibious speed:       N/A      Size DM's(high/low):            +2/+4
Move rates (road/x-country) in cm: N/A           
Grav Vehicle Thrust:                             0.37 G's                                                                              
Grav Vehicle speed: 420 kph (max)                  315 kph (cruise)                   105 kph (NOE)              
Movement rates (cm):                          350 / 263 / 88 
Turret weapon move eff:                                  move <=1/2 (no eff), move >1/2 (no eff)           
Chassis weapon move eff:                                move <=1/2 (ffp -4/efp-none), move >1/2 (no fire)

The Sentry-class mobile anti-spacecraft platform works in conjunction with Skysweeper-class radar vehicles to detect incoming hostile spacecraft. Once the target is identified, both vehicles go in motion to frustrate counter-battery attacks on the vehicles. (note the high speed) Multiple Sentries can connect to one radar vehicle and so coordinate their firepower.
The Sentry-class is technically larger than a standard space fighter, but significantly less expensive.
 First Try:
Sentry-class Anti-spacecraft laser vehicle                                               TL-13
Nationality:                  Lanzhou                                                                                              
Dimensions:                                                                                         Cost(Cr):            7,831,722
Chassis: length- 10 meters; width- 6.9 meters; height- 3.6 meters       Wt (loaded):      324.8 tns
Turret: length- 3.6 meters; width- 3.1 meters; height- 1.7 meters        Wt (unloaded):   323.5 tns
Suspension: Tracked                                                                Ground Pressure: 9 tns/m^2
Power Plant:     252 Mw, Fusion                                                Road Speed: 895/845 kph
Fuel Capacity:  3600 litres                                                        Endurance: 9.52 hrs
Crew:               Total: 3; 1-Commander; 1-Driver; 1-Gunner(s);           Volume: 267.372m3
Passengers: none                                                                              Ship vol (dT): 19.1dT
Chassis Armor: Front-9mm [25], Sides-4mm [11], Rear-4mm [11], Deck-20mm [29], Belly-2.5mm[7]
Turret Armor:   Front-4mm [11], Sides-2.5mm [7], Rear-2.5mm [7], Deck-20mm [29]
1 TL-13, 250Mw, BL, VM, Stp-2, DF-5.25/10.5/21, Pen-75/67/59, HB:+2, Sig:+16, Trgts-2, Crew-1 (turret mount)                                                                                                                     
Weapon Notes:             See notes below.                                                                                             
Obscuration Devices & Sensors                         Location
1 x Prismatic aerosol                                         chassis                                                            
1 x Smoke discharger                                       chassis                                                            
Communicators                                                Location
1 x 1000-pwr radio                                           chassis
1 x 100-km laser comm                                    chassis
Radar/Ladar                                                     Location
1 x 1000-pwr targeting radar                            chassis
1 x 500-pwr radar jammer                                chassis
1 x 500-pwr counter battery radar [0/2+[+10]]chassis
Visual, ECM, & Computers
1 x TL9 Image enhancement                            chassis
Miscellaneous Equipment:                                                                               
Cargo:  1m^3

Combat Statistics:
Cross-country spd: 448/169 kph                      Amphibious speed: 44.75[37] kph
Size DM's(high/low): +2/+7
Move rates (road/off-road) in cm: 746/704  373/141
Turret weapon move eff:                                  move <=1/2 (no eff), move >1/2 (no eff)
Chassis weapon move eff:                    move <=1/2 (ffp -4/efp-none), move >1/2 (no fire)