Monday, July 23, 2018

Beware the Telepath! Dangerous Psi abilities

In my recent fiction reading I've come upon some characters with some psionic ability or other. This has caused me to reconsider the way Traveller has handled psionics. In the Traveller Book, the psionics section mentions that the 3rd Imperium has a strong negative perception of psionics. There are nasty consequences for PCs with Psi talent who get caught using them.

When I started playing Traveller back in the early 80's, I thought that the rules about psionics in society were both harsh and arbitrary. I didn't think then about all the ways a psionic PC could cheat and sneak and cause trouble. The gang I played with back then wasn't inclined to thievery and vandalism. We wanted to be the good guys; and I still do.

I almost never played characters with psionic ability, so it didn't matter. I assumed that the OTU psi prejudice was included to explain the standoff between the Third Imperium and the Zhodani Consulate. I don't play in the OTU much either so I still didn't think about it much.
Perfect communication & perfect understanding
Now having read more stories that involve psionic characters, I can see more of why the general public worries about them. This is one more example of how reading the literature that inspired the game enlarges your understanding of it.

Why wouldn't normals view Psi power as a danger? Look at the examples we've got.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Signal 99 from Stellagama Publishing

Signal 99 by Richard Hazlewood, published by Stellagama Publishing, is an adventure for the Cepheus Engine system, set in the universe of TheseStars are Ours!

The publishers were kind enough to send me a copy of this adventure, so I'm sharing my impression of it. As long time readers of  my blog will know, I have worked with Stellagama before in a number of ways. However, my aim is to give as objective an account as I can. I will use the same format I've used for other product reviews.

This is an adventure for 4-6 PCs, most likely the crew of a private starship. If the PCs have no ship, they can be passengers aboard a commercial vessel. Signal 99 is available as a .pdf file from

Location: The Parvati system, in UTR space. The adventure takes place in space, so the exact system is not crucial to the play of the encounter.

Patron: There is no patron per se, the PCs are responding to a distress signal, which by recognized interstellar law, anyone within range must do.

Mission: The ship sending the Signal 99 is damaged and in distress. Get aboard, assess the damage, repair if you can, transfer survivors off if you can't.

Payoffs: There's no cash reward, of course, but there are things and people aboard that can be to the PC's benefit for having encountered them. PCs from spacefaring backgrounds should feel that maintaining the tradition of answering distress calls (and the expectation that others would do so for them) is the reward.

Complications: All the damage aboard makes moving about dangerous; the ship is an 'enemy vessel', the ship may not last much longer. The players will have to make some hard choices about what/who to focus on in the time they've got.

Strong points: Plenty of setting/background data for the Referee means an easy adventure to introduce. It is self-contained which means not much prep time needed. There are good deckplans and detailed explanation of the ship's damage, which will help bring the setting to 'life' and keep tension high. There is also a helpful list of 'typical actions' in task format. A quantity of high tech goodies can be found aboard. Each significant NPC is detailed with their own motivations and courses of action beyond simple survival. Self-contained but also open-ended; this can lead into a number of subsequent adventure avenues.

Weak points: This is not actually a weakness; there is a lot of time record-keeping for the referee to do, which I am not fond of, and poor at doing. Players who dither or waste time will find the clock has run out before they get anything done. One editing mistake: on page 29 there is a 'see page' reference which is incomplete, but as the adventure is only 38 pages, it is easy to determine what page is referred to [page 32].

What I'd change: I can't think of anything. This adventure is focused, with plenty of detail while still giving the PCs plenty to choose from and their choices will matter in a lot of ways.

In My Traveller Universe: Cepheus Engine is similar enough to Classic Traveller that converting Signal 99 to my TU would be no problem. If I set this adventure in Holtzmann's Corridor, the enemy ship would be from Tabraz, a planet of notorious pirates. Non-human NPCs would simply be folk from non-Imperial worlds. The adventure is focused on a ship in space, so it could be set in any world's system.

In summary, this is a good space sci-fi adventure that is more than just brawn and danger. The players will be challenged by the choices they have to make. It sells for $3.99, and I say it's worth the cost. Pick up a copy, and To the Rescue!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Freelance Traveller #88 is out!

Jeff Zeitlin's Freelance Traveller e-zine has a new issue out!

Highlights include the Horosha-class Scout/Courier (Type S) for Classic Traveller, by Matt Frisbee

The Spacer's Hymn by Timothy Collinson, complete with sheet music, and a link to an audio file

A short fiction piece of mine, set in my own Daktari Nebula subsector: Predator!

Issue 88 is available from the Freelance Traveller site. Here's the link.

Check it out! And Thank You Jeff for publishing my story.