Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Abstract Combat in Book 4 Mercenary

I bought the Mercenary book back in the mid eighties, and have built lots and lots of PCs with the expanded book 4 rules. I've even a few times tried building a mercenary unit by following the system laid out in the book. But until now the Abstract Battle system didn't make much sense to me. I figured out what I was doing wrong: I tried doing it totally in the abstract. 

The Abstract battle rules work the best when they are integrated into a story, so that both sides have specific objectives, which are determined by their particular missions. Let me explain.

This evening, my boys and a friend were finishing up the adventure of rescuing a princess, who was kidnapped by a General in her world's army. He was trying to usurp the throne and marrying the princess was part of the plot. 

As I have mentioned before, this was my re-imagining of the Amber Zone adventure Coup D'Etat, which I reviewed a few years ago. The setting is Pampati, in Holtzmann's Corridor, and the princess is Princess Aurelia. 

Well, the guys rescued her from the General's army base where she was held hostage, then retreated to the Summer Palace where the King was trying to keep his government together by radio and telephone. 
It may be cold outside, but the princess is Hot!
I provided the PCs with a small force of household guards, and a few hours to prepare defenses before General Kang's troops rolled in. The guards needed officers to direct them, so the King commissioned the PCs to lead the troops. They blocked the entrance road with trucks, hid in the woods and dug in on the front lawn. 

Kang's forces were attempting to capture the palace (and therefore the Princess & the King) and the PCs were there to prevent that from happening.

Here's where the abstract system came in. I drew a map of the area on hex paper. Each of the defending squads had a die-cut counter, and the attackers had a number of counters as well. As rebel and defending counters were moved adjacent to each other, I resolved each of the encounters as a battle round under the abstract system.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Free Character Sheet for These Stars are Ours!

Available now from Stellagama Publishing at DriveThruRPG:

Character sheet for the These Stars Are Ours! (TSAO) setting; compatible with the Cepheus Engine and other OGL 2D6 Sci-Fi games.

Available in three formats: Standard PDF, Fillable Form PDF, High-Resolution PNG.

All for the low low cost of no money whatsoever. Get it here!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

New Traveller Game Session Report December 2017

After the McGee Tragedy, the gang needed to find work. I used my Random Missions table and came up with "repair vehicle". Hmm. It will have to be a big vehicle to need seven repairmen. So that would be . . . an airship!
"Can we mount guns on this?" - an actual player question.

Location: Stavanger

The patron is Stephanos "Steffi" Trendheim, son of one of the ruling Barons of Stavanger. He's competing in a 100-hour endurance race across the wilderness of Stavanger, to Oasis and back. The race must use only TL-6 equipment, so no contra-gravity or rocket propulsion.

The gang's first task was to assemble the airship, a semi-rigid airframe with Helium envelopes for lift. They set to work with limited time, but got the ship air-worthy, passed the time trials and entered the race. 

During the build phase, everyone received a Rumor on a 3x5 card. Some pointed to possible future endeavors, but may were signs of trouble ahead: bribery offers and a death threat to lose the race; a bribe to take out a competing racer, and even to take out the patron!

In the air, they got off to a good position in the field of eight racers, each representing one of the Baronies: Arendal, Hokksen, Levanger, Namsos, Plancourt, Sandvika, Trendheim, and Ulstenvok.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Scientist Career Revisited

Citizens of the Imperium introduced the Scientist prior career. My first thoughts (years ago now) when I looked at it were "Who wants to play a lab-coat wearing test tube jockey [not a direct quote]" and "why are there no Science skills for a career called Scientist?"

Time for a re-evaluation. Is it really that bad of a choice of career?
It's gonna be for him, as soon as he gets a case of that super-virus.

Not all scientists are laboratory Researchers - lots of of Scientists are practically applying what's already been discovered/learned. A quick look over the skills list for scientists tells you these are not lab-coat wearing office dwellers. Traveller scientists are probably practitioners, or possibly field researchers.

All of the UPP characteristics except social standing can be improved. The service has a blend of technical skills, interpersonal skills, social skills, and a few slots for vehicle and weapons skills. This service does have it all. There's even Navigation skill, which will come in handy as one of the benefits is a laboratory ship. A scientist with Navigation can claim to be familiar with shipboard life, and be able to manage the ship. In the advanced education table there's an entry for Leadership skill, which will also be useful for directing a crew of NPCs.
Navigation suggests a focus on Astronomy. Electronics or Mechanical skill can mean degrees in those Engineering specialties. Gravitics and Computer are also engineering specialties. You could argue that the Scientist career is really the Engineers career.

But it is only for the exceptional and clever! The enlistment throw is comparable with sailors flyers and rogues, but the DMs are hard to get: INT 9+ and EDU 10+ and this is the only service that depends entirely on brain power. Survival is harder (5+) than bureaucrats, nobles, doctors and diplomats; and as hard as for sailors and flyers. Clearly these scientists do more than hang about in laboratories.

For comparison, I searched around for examples of scientist or scientifically-minded heroes in literature and television. Here's a sampling of what I found:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

RIP Commander McGee

Something has occurred in a game that I have never experienced before as a Traveller player. I started playing in 1982 or 83. In all that time, I have never had a player character die. Until now.

At yesterday's session of the once-a-month gaming group that I referee for my boys and their friends, Commander McGee died. The game was set in Holtzmann's Corridor, on the planet Dekalb. The PC group had just finished a job, capturing an escapee from a hospital who had been exposed to some weird things which resulted in him being super-fast and strong. This was in essence the Amber Zone The Werewolf Disease, which I reviewed a few years back. 

After tracking him for two days, they finally were able to confront him, only to find he dodged and dashed away at high speed, frustrating pursuit on foot. The quarry was finally brought to heel by Maj. Reaper hurling his sword him, at Medium range, and hitting the man in the leg. There's a bar story for you.

McGee, we barely knew ye.

Well, they got paid for the job, and decided to go to Stavanger next. I explained the various travel options, and McGee's player decided to travel Low Passage to save cash. The liner had a qualified Doctor (Medical-3) aboard, and he had no -DM for low Endurance. All McGee needed to survive the Low Berth process was to throw a 3 or higher. The target is 5+, with a DM of +2 for medical support.

He thew Snake Eyes.

The Brothers of St. Cuthbert took care of burying McGee, and my son had a few spare character sheets lying around. McGee's player picked one, announced that this was McGee's brother, transferred all his gear and cash to the new character, and we rolled on.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Watch Out For Falling Rocks! - Avoiding Hazards

Referees, you know you want to do this to your players!

Who hasn't seen a film or show in which the hero must navigate an area full of dangers? It could be a burning building, a collapsing mine shaft, an avalanche, or an artillery barrage. The hero dashes, dodges, jumps, ducks and otherwise displays their physical prowess by coming through without a scratch. This is also a way to get rid of the villain, who disappears in a shower of flying doom. 

I've worked up some simple rules to simulate these thrilling scenes.

Watch Out For Falling Rocks!

To determine the possibility of avoiding damage from collapsing structures, avalanches, rock slides, fires, etc., use the following throws. This can be used any time a character must move through an area of avoidable environmental danger or random gunfire. It will not apply to radiation, extreme heat or cold, or any other unavoidable condition.

The character moves at speed 1 (walking speed) representing the need to dodge and weave to avoid hazards. Expend one combat blow and make a throw every round until the character is out of the danger zone.

Monday, October 30, 2017

An Example of Solo Play with a familiar Patron

Michael Thompson over at the Traveller Adventures blog recently posted a report from a solo play session which featured a familiar face. Back when I posted the Casual Encounter with Adelaide Thrupp, Michael asked in the comments if he could use the character, and I said please do! Here's a snippet from the results:
            A middle-aged woman dressed in professional attire approached her, “Excuse me, Petty Officer? I’m Third Secretary Thrupp, formerly of the Diplomatic Corps. I think you may need my help here.”
            “Madam, I’m quite sure that anything like that- “
            “Can go through your Captain, and the Station Officer. I know the channels. I also know somebody in the Station Office has been compromised. If I can talk to your Captain, you can help me make a big bust here.”
            “People are listening. Aboard ship, it’ll be clear.”

Read the entire post here.

Thanks Michael!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Traveller game, new Traveller players

I have begun a Traveller campaign (sandbox, so far) with my two boys and their friends. This motley crew of odds & ends:
  • Commander McGee – ex Marine
  • Lt Landreth – ex Navy
  • Ca'al – ex Navy petty officer, carries a halberd!
  • Major Reaper – ex Army
  along with
  • Joe Blasterson – ex Army
  • Jay Maverick – ex Hunter
  • Longfinger – a Barbarian from a genetic offshoot of humanity

are off to explore Holtzmann's Corridor. For some of them, I think, their exposure to Science Fiction is limited to the Trek/Wars franchises. All of them, with the exception of my boys, are new to Traveller and some to role-playing as a hobby.

This will be an opportunity to introduce them to some different sci-fi concepts and some older works of fiction. Will they acquire a starship?  Will they be heroes or space bums?  Will they change the world?  We shall see.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Review of The Wreck in the Ring

Hey, I think I can see my ship from here!

This fellow calling himself Pookie UK has posted a review of The Wreck in the Ring. It's good to know that people have noticed. The review is generally favorable, while acknowledging some things that I could have done better.

Here's a quote:

"The technical aspects of the adventure are not its only challenge. There is at least one NPC who has ulterior motives and two NPCs who have motives other than salvage. In fact, one of the interesting NPCs is a member of the Brothers of St. Cuthbert, which is dedicated to recovering the bodies of those lost in space and returning them home for proper burial. This nicely adds a degree of faith and purpose not always present in adventures for the Cepheus Engine Core Rules and other 2D6 OGL SciFi mechanics. There is one other danger in Borderlands Adventure 1: Wreck in the Ring, one that suffuses both the ship and adventure with a sense of unease. Now, in scenarios like these, the cause of this unease, perhaps paranoia, might be some alien thing or crazed survivor, either ready and hungry to stalk and slaughter first the NPCs and then the player characters. And so it is here, but in Borderlands Adventure 1: Wreck in the Ring it does not feel like a cliché because it does not have to play out like a survival horror movie in space. Only if the player characters make every effort to interfere will the scenario turn into one of survival horror in space rather than one of salvage and recovery."
I admit I didn't think of the potential cliche in the element he mentions, as 'survival horror' is not on my list of genres I enjoy. I wanted a surprise and a mystery to present a challenge so the adventure would have more to it than the abstract dangers of working in hard vacuum. 

It was not my intent to make this a killer scenario, but if the referee applies the rules and situations hard enough, it could be.

The takeaway for me is 'next time write up a handout for the players' - give the 
Ref something tangible to show the players that quickly transmits some relevant information. Also, spend just a little more time giving important NPCs some background and personality, again to help the Referee build the situation.

Thank you Pookie UK for the review, and the ideas for improvement.  

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Lancaster Subsector

Why oh why oh WHY didn't I ever think to do this?  I grew up in Harrisburg, and 'explored' most of the Lancaster subsector as a young man. BeRKA over at the Zhodani Base has produced this very-close-to-home-brew subsector. Behold:

It didn't take four weeks in Jump to get to Baltimore in MY day!

 You can read about the Lancaster Subsector and the planets therein at the Zhodani Base:  http://zho.berka.com/amberzone/notorious/lancaster-subsector/ 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Jumpin' Out/Jumpin' In

I have found the soundtrack for all future Traveller play sessions that involve interstellar travel. Travelling through jump-space sounds like this:

Jumpin' Out
Unstoppable Momentum
Joe Satriani

Or maybe it sounds like this:
Jumpin' In
Unstoppable Momentum
Joe Satriani

What's your soundtrack for space travel?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Laser weapons are coming

Beam Lasers are designated at TL-9 technology in Classic Traveller, as heavy weapons. TL 9 is noted on the Technological Levels chart as being approximately 1990-2000. Okay, so they were off the mark with that one. We were supposed to have fusion and contra-gravity by now. (Don't I wish) However, the tech of the Far Future is getting closer. Take a look:

What else could they call it except Dragonfire?

Behold the UK Dragonfire laser weapon system, currently on display at the 2017 DSEI exposition (Defense and Security Equipment International). According to the Janes' 360 website:
"The system aims to offer highly accurate targeting, allowing it to hit specific parts of an aircraft, for example. Such accuracy gives greater flexibility in target engagement, potentially allowing an LDEW [laser directed energy weapon] system to disrupt or dazzle the target, as well as to destroy it."
The Dragonfire is mounted aboard naval vessels and serves as an anti-aircraft and anti-missile platform. Sounds like the fore-runner of starship turret weaponry to me.

If your PCs are operating as mercenaries or involved in Striker battles on TL 8-10 worlds, the Janes' site offers information on real-world tech that can be upgraded and imported into your Traveller games. Check it out and find some inspiration

Thursday, August 3, 2017

More literary Traveller history

Many bytes have been committed to the discussion of what works influenced the development of Traveller. My little contribution here today is by no means ground-breaking or game-changing. I simply share with you a fun story I discovered yesterday, that has a few points in it that share common ground with Traveller's mechanics and setting. 

The story is Hide and Seek, by Arthur C. Clarke, published in "Astounding Science Fiction" v44 #1, September 1949. I found it in the Internet Archive. 
One man being chased by a starship should be out of luck, right?  Not so fast!

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Wreck in the Ring Now Available

I am super excited about this. I have played Traveller for 30+ years now, and for most of the time, I was making up my own adventures. Now I've got one published! New from Stellagama Publishing: 

The Wreck in the Ring

This adventure was written under the Cepheus Engine rules, which if anyone does not know, is the Open Game License version of Mongoose Publishing's First Edition of the licensed Traveller rules.  Now here at AF3, I'm a Classic Traveller guy, but getting a CT license to publish is harder to do. Plus, I have a great working relationship with the folks at Stellagama, doing reviews and indexing for these:

These Stars are Ours!
From the Ashes
The Bronze Case
The Space Patrol (my remarks forthcoming).

The adventure centers around the PCs exploring a wrecked starship. There are dangers to avoid and challenges to overcome, and puzzles to solve. The PCs might get rich, but if they're not careful all they'll get is a face full of hard vacuum.

The Brothers of St Cuthbert make an appearance too.

I'm happy to see my work in publication. Maybe in the future I will convert some of my home-brew universe into CE terms.

Game On!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Happy 40th Birthday to Traveller!

(so I'm a few days late. It happens.)

On July 22, 1977, the first edition of Traveller was published at Origins '77.
To the Stars!

I encountered Traveller in 1982 at the FLGS, and bought the Starter Traveller edition. I've been playing it ever since, with a brief foray into MegaTraveller in the early 1990's. Since 1996 or so, I've been back with the LBBs, until a friend gave me his copy of The Traveller Book a few years ago. 

I created my own Traveller Universe in 1997, and have played in it almost exclusively since then. 

Here are some links to help you celebrate:

Happy Birthday thread at Citizen of the Imperium.

Tales to Astound's birthday wishes

Omer Joel's elegy to the beauty of Classic Traveller.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Danger Aboard! Hazards of exploring derelict starships

Starships are a popular 'location' for adventures in Traveller. Probably every player and referee has drawn up at least one set of deck plans for a ship they've designed. Most of GDW's adventures had at least one starship in it, often with deck plans. Starships are an easy way to give the game a sci-fi feel.

Here's a question that the rules don't cover. What happens when a ship loses control?  Or is damaged by pirates/enemy navies? Or collides with an asteroid? Or fails a landing?

But the engineer assured me the drives would last another month with an overhaul!

Soon my first written adventure for Traveller (actually Cepheus Light) will be in publication. The adventure centers around a crashed starship, and the PCs are there to recover crash victims and valuable scrap. What kinds of dangers could intrepid explorers face when investigating a crashed starship?  These came to my mind:

  • Exposed electrical conduits are a shock & fire hazard.
  • Unsound floor plates can lead to falls through the decks.
  • Weakened support structures can lead to collapses or falls.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Expanded Rules for Military Skills from CT Book 4 Mercenary

You're in the Army now!
Your players want to run a military or mercenary campaign. Great, What do you do? The abstract battle system in book 4 works, but it is little more than rolling dice and consulting tables. This does not keep players engaged for long. And it's, well, abstract. A commando mission plays out exactly the same as a security contract.

The rules state that the Abstract system is “particularly valuable in resolving a mercenary mission involving large numbers of troops . . .in which player characters are not primary participants.” Even if the PCs are platoon or company leaders, there's not a lot for them to do that will affect the outcome of a battle.

Book 4, Mercenary, was a very popular rules expansion for Traveller. More guns! All those new weapons, though, were just more ways for the PCs to die. Large scale battles run very slowly when done at the PC level (no, Striker does not play quickly) and the chances are good the PCs will be taken out very quickly. This is not good roleplaying fun. What to do?

I recommend that you keep the PCs front and center of the action by diverting action from mass formation slug-outs to actions at the PC's level. Use the standard Traveller combat system while the PCs are performing their part, then resolve the rest with the abstract system.

What part do the PCs play? They're the mission specialists. In addition to all the fancy new guns introduced in book 4, there are several new skills that are directly applied to combat situations.

Specialist PCs can do lots of things to turn the tide of victory besides fight. To do so they must employ these new military skills. Let us consider the following skills:
  • Combat Engineering (CE)
  • Demolitions (DO)
  • Field Artillery (FA)
  • Reconnaissance (RA)
  • Forward Observer (FO) [from book 1]
which do not have much definition in the Bk4 rules. I thought about them for a while, and here are some expansions to the rules as stated, that can make this group of skills more valuable.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Casual Encounter - Dane Buckminster

Here's a Traveller character who never went into the Services. Will this work? Let's find out.

Dane Buckminster
4B78C2     Age 22     College     Homeworld: Dimitrov/Holtzmann's Corridor
Streetwise-2 Brawling-0, Auto Pistol-0, Air/Raft-0, Administration-0

The man with the plan.
Chris over at Tales to Astound! suggested this concept. Yes, he's 22. I rolled up characteristics then went straight to the 4-year Sabbatical for Education. The rules do not say you must enter a Service, only that you may enter a service.

He's got Cr 500, and Cr 70,000 worth of debt. He has a reason to go adventuring!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Joe & Jay's greatest mission ever!

Tuesday has become Game Night with my boys. We're going back and forth between Traveller and Lord of the Rings. For Traveller, my two boys have picked up two old characters, Joe Blasterson and Jay Maverick again. Read about their earlier adventures here

Most recently they have been on Kemasiik, in Holtzmann's Corridor. After finishing a job, they were contacted by an Imperial Embassy staffer, Sir Tolbert, with an offer of two High Passage vouchers off-world in return for a 'job'. The Empire would like to see Kemasiik shake off the influence of VanGoff's World (VGW), which has economic control of the planet. A famine decades ago had forced Kemasiik to mortgage a lot of territory to VGW to stay afloat.

Sir Tolbert explained that their job was to prevent a VanGoff businessman, Mr. VanHoffen, from making it to a meeting. VanHoffen was a big-wig who owned a lot of the local real estate. They could not kill him or directly attack him (as this would call for a legal inquiry and reschedule the meeting), he had to miss the meeting by 'accident'. Simple, right?
This man is hosed six ways from Sunday. He just doesn't know it yet.
The boys set to work concocting a list of ways to mess up VanHoffen's morning schedule. It included:

  1. Disable his contra-grav car
  2. Change his clocks to read the wrong time
  3. Kill power to his house
  4. slip him a Mickey to make him over-sleep

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Armor of St. Oswin

The Tale of Saint Oswin of Mavramorn, patron of non-combatant soldiers.
Fr. Oswin, wearing The Armor.
During the Stavanger-Mavramorn war, (100+ years ago) Fr. Oswin was a Mavramorn Army Chaplain. At the Battle of Five Hills, Fr. Oswin traversed the battlefield, praying and tending to the wounded. He went as always, unarmed, with his clerical stole over top of his light armor jacket. His actions and prayers saved many from death. As he knelt in prayer with a dying soldier, an enemy sharpshooter, an impious man, spotted him and targeted the chaplain. This despite both sides acknowledging chaplains as non-combatants, exempt from attack.

As the sniper fired, a bird startled from the brush ahead of him and took the bullet. The sniper tried to fire again, but his weapon hung fire. Finding no mechanical fault, he fired twice more, each time thinking he had a true shot, but Fr. Oswin appeared untouched. His fifth shot struck Fr. Oswin in the chest, but the chaplain continued his ministrations unharmed. At this sight, the sharpshooter threw away his weapon and made his way to the Mavramorn lines to surrender, asking only to meet the chaplain. When they met, the sniper explained what had happened.

Mavramorn soldiers inspected Fr. Oswin's armor, and found that it had not only a large hole in the chest, but another in the back. The bullet passed through Fr. Oswin without harming him. At this, the sniper fell at Fr. Oswin's feet and begged his forgiveness for his attempt to murder him. The priest forgave him, but the Mavramorn forces took him as prisoner. Fr. Oswin later baptized him into the faith.

The Army gave the Mesh jacket to a church on Mavramorn where it was venerated as a relic, the Armor of St. Oswin. After the war, both St. Oswin and the former sniper ended their days in peace in a monastery.

The weapon which failed to kill Fr. Oswin was recovered by Stavanger forces, but ever after it could not hit a living target. Time and again it was tested and new sights attached. It would hit practice targets, but when fired at a person it would always miss, or fail to fire. After the war it was decommissioned, and went to a church on Stavanger, and it also is now a relic of St Oswin.

Referee's Information:

Friday, March 17, 2017

Frightening Animal Encounters

Animal Encounters should be exciting. And when I say exciting, I also mean terrifying. It is the referee's job to make what happens in the game memorable, so storytelling and descriptiveness are key skills. It also helps to have critters that are imposing in their potential to do harm. Encountering a bunny rabbit is not exciting. Encountering something like this should be.

Take a look at what's on the cover of Planet Stories, Summer 1942. No, not the Amazon. She's fine. I mean, fine. I mean the thing grabbing her and being shot in the non-face for its trouble. Yes. Look at that.

Shoot that thing in it's non-face brave Amazon! Teach it some manners!
Imagine your players' reactions if a half dozen or so of these awfuls came tromping out of the mist or the trees while on some remote and forsaken backwater planet. Either they'll panic or think “thank God we recently restocked the rocket launchers!” In both cases, what ensues should be an epic fight.

800 kg Omnivore Hunters
25/12 Cloth-1, Claws (x2) dmg: 5D A3 F5 S2  # appearing: 3
A three-meter humaniform shape emerges from the undergrowth. It probably masses close on a ton. It's gray-skinned, hairless with a featureless lump atop its shoulders where its face should be. The arms end in 4-fingered frying pans with 10-cm claws. I suggest you run.”

I've been browsing through Supplement 2: Animal Encounters, and there are some doozies in here. I list the world profile and terrain type in case you want to look them up. The extra descriptions and the planets named are mine. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Fighting the White Apes - A Combat Example

I wrote a post a while back about the Great White Apes of Barsoom, and how dangerous they are. But was I right?  I decided to find out. 
Yeah, that guy's probably doomed.
Meet Graham Clark, a PC of mine. Age 30, UPP B98885. He's an ex-army recon specialist (Recon-4). I take Recon to be related to Hunting, so I'll give him Hunting-3. He's hunting White Apes, armed with a Gauss LAG, which I recall finding at Freelance Traveller.  The G-LAG does 6D damage. (Note: I ignore +DMs versus armor on the tables, reading them as 0).

White Apes:
1600kg 8D/3D [28/10]  Claws/teeth  (+4 to hit due to size) Dmg 6D+2 
Armor: Mesh  A2 F8 S3  2 attacks/round   Number appearing: 1D

Encounter 1: Range medium, no surprise. Graham fires, the ape charges. Graham hits, wounds but does not down the ape, the ape closes to short range (speed:3, remember?) and kills him with one blow. Stats down to 001. Graham is unconscious, and the ape will tear him apart in round 2.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

From Stellagama Publishing - These Stars are Ours!

Available now from DriveThruRPG, Stellagama Publishings new campaign setting, These Stars are Ours! This is not the Third Imperium, but a whole new setting with new alien enemies, new alien allies, and dozens of new worlds of adventure. TSAO is available as a .pdf, or in print under a soft or hard cover.

The bulk of the text deals with the new alien races, presented with enough detail for the referee to pick up and run with them as NPCs right away. There is also advice given for players who want to try out a Cicek or Ssesslessian as a PC. The humans get some new career options, and the 'standard six' are re-skinned to fit with the setting background.

While the book describes “Known Space” the setting as presented is smaller than the 3I, and smaller than Clement Sector. It's almost three subsectors worth of worlds, but as Chris Kubasik points out over at Tales to Astound!, small is good. Even so, there is still more than enough room for a player group to spend years of game time rocketing around without anywhere getting stale.

The book is rich with adventure hooks from the history, flavor text, and world descriptions. Find out what 'Nine Talons' is up to. Tangle with the Empress' Own Legion if you dare. PCs can avoid politics and get into a trade war with the Zhuzzh, or go on an archaeological expedition to learn more about the legendary Precursors!

The book goes into a good level of detail about the setting's history. The current situation between the various races/factions is clear, yet complex. At the same time, it is not so detailed that the referee will feel railroaded into running the game 'just so'. The history is set, but there's no grand narrative for the players to follow. The setting is wide open so they can pursue their own goals, whether they may be.

The book includes some new ship designs, with some excellent deckplans to go with them, and some variant rules for ships. There is little in the way of new equipment, and the setting TL is 11-12, with a sprinkling of TL13.

These Stars are Ours is written for the Cepheus Engine OGL rules set. For those who, like me, prefer Classic Traveller, the setting works with only the smallest of adjustments.

I have already seen TSAO up close, as I provided the index at the back of this 200 page book. Since I've already read it, I can say it is worth picking it up. Use the setting, or (like me) borrow bits to add to your own setting. These Stars are Ours is a great setting for Traveller, whatever edition you play with.

I know that nobody buys a book for the index, but it has been mentioned in a review: https://rockymountainnavy.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/tsao-these-stars-are-ours-a-setting-for-cephesusengine-or-travellerrpg/#comment-1114

"The last part of TSAO is an index. This is one of the best indexes I have ever seen in a book."

If you do buy it, take a moment to explore the index. I take this opportunity to say that I'm available to work on your next RPG product as a freelance indexer. You can reach me on G+, here at the blog, or by email if you have a project that I can help you with.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Random Encounters: The Rulers of Worlds

Have you ever noticed that John Carter, no matter where he goes, meets the rulers and leaders? Tars Tarkas, Dejah Thoris, Tal Hadjus, the prince of Zadonga, The chief priest of the White Martians, the Queen of the Black Martians, the displaced king of the Yellow Martians. Everywhere, he's encountering the Nobility. Why does this not happen in my games? Earl Dumarest, interstellar wanderer and Traveller also runs into the high & mighty regularly. Dominic Flandry rubs shoulders with the rich & powerful all the time. 

Working from memory, the adventure anthology 76 Patrons has several Noble patrons. None are world-rulers or Dukes, but still, the concept of a Noble patron is well established.

So why is it that in all the years I've been playing Traveller, my PCs have never once met a Duke or a Count or King?  I can't say that I'm 'doing it wrong' but I surely have been missing out on a lot of adventure possibilities.
There is no reason why this outfit could not appear in Traveller. TL-4, anyone?
"So your Majesty. We hear you've got a little revolution problem. We can fix that for you."

 From the Wikipedia entry on Traveller:
Sociological: Interstellar society is socially stratified (high, mid, and low passage; SOC [Social Status] is a primary character attribute). Affairs are often managed by independent nobility, who make use of classic titles such as Baron, Duke and Archduke. The typical game shows how being a traveller crosses classes and breaks stratification.
Look at the Patron Lists, from The Traveller Book. You've got your criminal types (swindler, smuggler, terrorist, spy) and your ordinary citizens (scholar, courier, police, tourist) but you also have people with real power and authority: Diplomats, Naval Officers, Government Officials, Playboys, Governors, Doctors. Many of these could reasonably be nobility as well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

My Favorite Posts at AF3

It's a new year, and I thought that I'd take a little time to look back at the last three years of AF3. Take stock of what I've presented here, and how it holds up.
These are the posts that I'm most pleased with, in terms of my writing style, or humor, or the point I was trying to make. These are personal choices, rather than ones that were most popular with my readers (but thank you for all the +1's, comments, and shares!) They are in no particular order.

1 Of Robots and Clones
A very philosophical post. Much more concerned with whether there should be robots & clones than with the game mechanics of same. The concepts are regular features of sci-fi, but how often is the ethics of artificial beings considered?  Doctor Who touched on it with the Ood in series 2 & 4, and I touch on it here. 

2 How to Create Striker maps
My most practical instructional post. Striker is a complicated game system to learn and play, which explains why there's so little on the web about it. My hope is that this quick run-down will encourage more folks to try it.

3 Exterminate!
Daleks in Traveller. It might be a great idea, it might be a terrible mistake.

4 The Creatures of Little Fuzzy
Building and describing the fauna of Zarathustra was just fun. Remember, not all animal encounters are dinner, or target practice.

5 Fenton Tukachevski
Fenton was one of my first NPC characters - I'd never intended to play him. He was all about demonstrating the versatility of the CT stat block and of characters that don't have a laundry list of skills. Fenton is a playable character or a worthwhile NPC for the players to encounter. Knowledge is power, and he's got it in spades. 
6 Armed Groups 
I like this one because it was the product of actual research. Gaming has long motivated me to learn more about the real world, so I could apply it in my imaginary one.  

7 But I Don't Like That Rule!  
Rules are necessary to have a game, but sometimes they can get in the way. Writing this blog has led me to re-read and examine the rules of Traveller, and try to understand why things were set up that way. Traveller is trying to do one thing, which is model the free-wheeling far future sci-fi of the 40's-60's. That requires certain limitations on the characters and what they can do.

Did you enjoy these posts?  Have you read them?  Please leave a comment with your favorite post from AF3.