Friday, November 1, 2019

(Banned) Weapon Research in my TU

Speaking of research . . . 

Recently I watched again the Star Trek film Insurrection. This will not be a movie review. In the film, there was a space battle scene in which the enemies of the Enterprise used an "isolytic burst" weapon. The Enterprise crew were surprised, as the weapon was banned by some treaty or other, for being unpredictable. I think it was supposed to be a scene to show how the Enterprise crew are creative and resourceful thinkers. Maybe it worked at that, maybe not. Watch the film and judge for yourself.

We never actually see what the weapon is supposed to do. Rather we get told about it by several crewmen, and then the Enterprise defeats it, and the enemies. The weapon might as well have been a 20th century ICBM, or a boring old laser beam.

So I thought, what kinds of crazy weapons could show up in my TU, as unique and probably banned weapons?

Well, there is the "stellar ray" from that post on Edmund Hamilton's "Crashing Suns". That's a crazy-powerful weapon.

Here are some of the unusual and illegal weapons that have been at least researched if not developed by star nations in my TU. The Talaveran Empire has declared a ban on all of them; any vessel found in Imperial Space equipped with such will be impounded and destroyed, or just destroyed if they don't surrender.

"The Imperial Ministry of Defense in conjunction with the Ministries of State and of Science have signed resolutions, later confirmed by the King, banning the experimentation, development production or use of the following devices. Some of these were explored by the Ministry of Defense, but were rejected by the Navy as being “irresponsible, inhumane and contrary to the ways of civilized peoples”."

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Surprising Research in the Third Imperium

Readers of my blog will know that I run in my own TU, not the canon Third Imperium. However, that does not mean that I don't pay attention to the canon material. For example, I recently ran across this:

Supplement 8, Library Data (A-M) has an entry on Imperial Research Stations on page 33.

I quote a portion of that article:
Imperial research may delve into many areas. Some examples include: black hole research, both large scale and mini black hole investigation, instantaneous transmitter development (so far proving impossible) advanced gravity manipulation, generic manipulation, anti-matter containment, weapon research, disintegrator beams, black globe development, deep planetary core soundings, nova prevention and prediction. Psychohistory, mass population behavior prediction, psionics, stable super-heavy elements, deep radar analysis, long range detection systems, robotics, artificial intelligence, stasis and time travel, so-called magic, cryptography, bionics, personal shields, x-ray lasers, and high temperature superconductors.”

Wait. A. Minute.

That list said “magic”.
If that's the Earth, where is she standing?

Let that sink in for a moment.

Magic could exist in Traveller.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Junkyards of Ships

Junkyard in Space
I recently read Edmond Hamilton's short story Sargasso of Space (Thrilling Wonder Stories, 1934) which featured a wreck-pile in space. The setup is that there is an area out past Saturn where none of the planets' gravity fields have influence. In this null space, wrecked or abandoned spaceships have collected like a proto-planet. The protagonists of the story make an unplanned stop in the wreck-pile after a shipboard malfunction sets them adrift.

The short story goes in one specific direction with this, and that's fine. It was an enjoyable short story, but literature is not my purpose today. Like a lot of stories from that era, by today's standards it may seem pretty cliche, but it was the potential of the wreck-pile as a location that got me to thinking.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Programmin' Part Two

Last year when I wrote the post Programmin'

a commenter said this:
Hmm, maybe allow players to make programming throws to optimize the existing code and reduce it's size?
Yes, absolutely!
Tell me again how your MacBook can run a starship. Cuz' I'm not buying it.

The run-of-the-mill Type A Free Trader (or any of the CT 'basic' starships, really) has very limited computing power. Computers are classed by Models; each Model has a rating for CPU and Storage capacity, abstracted into Slots. Each program has a Space rating which is the number of Slots it takes up, whether in CPU or Storage.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Traveller Experience Rules

I've written about Traveller's Experience system before. 

I do not understand why this system has not been used more widely, even among Traveller players. It is simple to understand and requires FAR LESS BOOKKEEPING than the other major experience system in play in the old days. 

That other RPG's experience point system led to a type of metagaming known as the "XP quest" where PCs would kill & steal and do whatever for no in-game reason, but only to get enough XP to "level up". While not everyone did this, it was common. I played this way at times as well. You had to track every little thing you picked up, and every monster encounter was evaluated in terms of the potential XP gain.

It took multiple adventures to gain enough XP to level up, and only after three or four levels would a PC see any growth in their To Hit numbers or saving throws - which is what most players really wanted.
Contemplating a third term in the Scouts. Should he risk it? Again?

Traveller's Experience rules were simple by comparison. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Social Standing and Class Consciousness

It seems that I am on a quest to make Social Standing a more important aspect of Traveller. Not sure why this is. I tend to play and write more plot-heavy and action-driven games, and have never gotten a PC into a 'comedy of manners' type situation. Pride and Prejudice is a great novel, but not a good model to base a Science Fiction adventure upon. (If you think I'm wrong, please do comment and explain your idea.) But as I look back across my now five years of writing posts for this blog, I see that I've spent some time trying to integrate Social Standing (SOC) into my favorite game.

Some players may consider SOC a 'dump stat'. I don't. I think it deserves its place in the UPP, because it can tell a player some interesting things about the PC. In the hands of an experienced player, SOC can be a useful tool in the arsenal for getting things done.

What's All This About Class Consciousness?

I assume in my TU that each planet has a mostly unified culture, even if the governments are not unified. There is not one monolithic 'Galactic Culture' or even an 'Imperial Culture'. Planets are like islands. Most residents don't ever leave, and don't ever interact directly with folks from somewhere else. This results in planet-based cultures.

Some cultures rate highly on what is known as the 'Power Distance' scale. These are socially stratified or 'class conscious' cultures. It matters what class you come from, and you stick with 'your people'.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Asteroid Visualization - Bennu

I have followed with great interest the OSIRIS-REx Mission to Asteroid Bennu (1999 RQ36), discovered twenty years ago this month! The next step in its exploration is to attempt a landing of the O-R spacecraft on it's rocky surface. It's a microgravity environment, and a challenging operation to conduct remotely.

Best of luck to the NASA team that's running this mission. 

What could a space-faring Traveller find by landing on such a small object?  What degree of difficulty would there be for the Pilot?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Amber Zone Adventure Contest is Back

The Amber Zone is once again holding its Adventure Writing Contest. 

Amber Zone Adventure Writing Contest 2019

This means War!

See here

The style of the entries should be in the style of the Amber Zones in the old JTAS. (First Players’ Information. Then Referee’s Information without any D6 options.)
This years theme is War. (This could be anything from a small local war on a balkanized planet to the Fifth Frontier War.) The PCs don’t have to be directly involved in the war. The war could be a background story.

I sent in two entries this time: a little jaunt I call Burn the Philadelphia!, and a rescue mission Doctor Aardmore, I Presume?

Check the Amber Zone site for mine, and all the other great entries. They are being posted one per day until all are up.

The "Big Phil"

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Hirelings and Henchmen for Traveller

Hirelings! Everyone could use a little help now and then, even your PCs. They can't rely on the Random Encounter to bring along a helpful troop of soldiers or adventurers. What to do? Hire them and bring them along yourself! A solo player in particular would benefit from having some helping hands by his side.

There is a problem though. How do the PCs do this? The only concrete advice or discussion of hiring NPCs we get in The Traveller Book is crew salaries on page 55. Ship crews are specialists, trained to operate a multi-million credit ship. This should not be the standard rate of pay for NPCs.

When the PC party is small, or the danger is going to be large, hired NPCs can spread the work-load, and supply needed skills. NPCs can also be convenient red-shirts for the referee to signal impending danger. The Referee can harm an NPC, giving the PCs a chance to react to the danger.

A general assistant NPC should will expect Cr 300-500/month. That's enough for 'subsistence' to 'ordinary' living standard, plus a potential for profit. A general assistant, a factotum or dogsbody, has average stats and one or two skills at zero level.

Better trained NPCs (skill-1) might ask Cr 500-1,000/month. Any NPC with skill-2 or better will work as a contractor on a specific project. At that skill level, they can be in business for themselves. NPCs with higher mental stats will ask for higher pay. Depending on difficulty and danger, a Senior or Master Technician could ask Cr 2,000 to 10,000 for the job.

Friday, August 9, 2019

D66 Reasons Why the Colony Failed

A few months back I asked a question of one of the Facebook Traveller groups that I read. I have a scenario in mind where the PCs are exploring an abandoned habitat. No specific setting, no specific arrangement. Just some kind of colony. The idea may have grown out of the tables in Stellagama's Pirates & Privateering source book, which lists abandoned space stations as a random encounter.

The question was: Why did the colony fail?  Much to my delight, the answers poured in. I have collected here the bulk of the answers (deduplicated for near identical answers) and arranged them in a D66 table. To roll D66, roll 1D for the 'tens' digit and a second 1D for the 'ones' digit.
Clearly something has gone dreadfully Wrong here.
If you have any ideas that don't appear on this list, share in the comments!

D66 Reasons why the Colony Failed
11 Pilgrimage site for some religion that was later deprecated as a forgery
12 Fast-acting or slow-acting contagion (bacterial/viral/fungal/parasitic)
13 Mining site, better yield found elsewhere and everyone moved.
14 Mining site, ore vein tapped out
15 Colony set-up was a scam. Shells of buildings only, no infrastructure. Scammers on the run.
16 Environmental factor not initially detected caused health problems (i.e. death)

Monday, July 22, 2019

A High-Level Traveller Character

I have written before about High Level Play in Traveller, and what that might mean. Today I want to share a character I've created, to illustrate what that might look like. 

Here is the character, right after character generation finished:

Jackson Law     Age 22   7A87B5     Ex-Army Captain
Tactics-4, Rifle-1, SMG-1, CG Vehicle-0, Carousing-0
Cr 2,000        
Our good Captain. Still a young pup. That will change.

Quite the junior tactician, eh?  But out of the service after only one term. What's that about?  Was it because of his low SOC that the other officers didn't approve of the young man?  Well, could be a lot of things.

Skip ahead 20 years.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

More Traveller Literary Inspiration - The TAS

As I browsed through old issues of Planet Stories (in particular Vol 2 #7, Summer 1944) to my great delight I found this:

A welcome sight at Class-C and better Starports everywhere!

I never knew that the TAS could have been modeled on a real wartime organization, but it's not too hard to imagine that the writers of Traveller came across these ads while reading old sci-fi tales. 

Has anyone else seen advertisements like these in pulp magazines or other sources? How long did this TAS last?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Clubs and Cudgels - What's the Difference?

From the beginning of my time playing Traveller (circa 1983) I found it odd that the combat rules included club and cudgel as two different weapons. I decided that I would look closer and see why that was. This is, I recognize, not a burning issue among Traveller players. My words will have little effect on how anyone plays the game. Well, this is my blog, and if I want to write about this, I will. I hope you enjoy my observations anyway.

There is not a lot in the official rules to go on.

Clubs are not purpose built weapons. They are, by TTB p. 38, found to hand in the brawl location. So a PC can ask the referee if there is anything lying about that can be used as a club. Bar stools, chairs, crowbars, briefcases, table legs, long handled flashlights, lamps, etc.

Looking at the combat tables, a club requires STR of 5 or faces a -4 DM. That's pretty severe, on par with the broadsword. STR of 8+ gives a DM of +2. My explanation is a club is a temporary expedient - it is not balanced or formed exactly to use as a weapon. If you haven't the strength to lob it in hard, the table leg will work against you.

The club can be abandoned at the end of the combat. It may not be, if it was originally a tool. The club base weight is 1 kg, as heavy as a sword. The referee can decide that the object the PC is using is not heavy enough and assign a -DM to the club. A pencil is not an effective club.
Nice try, bub. No DM for you.
Or it might be too heavy, and it can't really be used at all, except to drop down on someone. Clubs have the lightest penalty for weakened blows. This means a club wielder can keep going past his END score without too much worry. But I've never seen or heard of a Traveller combat that lasted that long.

Referees, have you ever had a mass brawl with enough combatants that a PC might have to fight to and beyond his END limit?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Crashing Suns

The Fantastic Technology of Crashing Suns

Last night I finished reading Crashing Suns by Edmond Hamilton, (AKA the World Wrecker) published in the August & September 1928 issues of Weird Tales.
Random Chance or just Carelessness? You Decide.

The story is set in our solar system some time in the future when the EIGHT planets are inhabited. [Pluto's discovery was still two years away.] The solar system is threatened by a rogue star hurtling on a collision course with Sol. This would result in annihilation of the human race and all its works.

The protagonist, Jan Tor, is a pilot of the Interstellar patrol. He is tasked with leading the expedition to the approaching star to find if there is a way to avert this disaster.

Space Opera, indeed.

The story is actually a straightforward affair of exploration, discovery, capture, escape, conflict and a last minute rescue. By now, this is a by-the-numbers tale of not great impact. We've seen it before. In 1928, though? This might have been hot stuff. Hamilton's reputation among space opera/sci-fi writers is outstanding, even if he's less well known today than during his lifetime.

The story's structure is heavy on exposition and description (needs to be, set in another solar system), light on dialogue and character development. Beyond their names, I saw only the scantest details to differentiate the hero and his companions.

But that's not what I found interesting about this story.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Traveller Meme Fun ATV edition

There is a Facebook group called Traveller RPG Memes. Go check it out.

These are two that I've done myself. The Facebook page has more. Enjoy.

Friday, May 31, 2019

The Most Dangerous Skill - Bribery

From Faoladh, in the comments section on an earlier post:
"I suspect that the reason most players don't use Bribery is simply because most aren't used to thinking of it as a way of doing business, but instead think of it as a form of corruption first. Perhaps it is, but that isn't the way that everyone in the world thinks of it. Referees, too, have to leave room for bribery to be just part of the cost of doing business instead of setting off alarm bells every time that a player leaves a stack of Cr100 notes in the middle of their passport."

Nothing to see here. Move along, citizen.

How It Works

Bribery is a Basic Skill from Book 1, and can be acquired by Merchants and Others. In Supp-4, Rogues can also get this skill. It makes sense to me that at least Diplomats, Bureaucrats and Pirates or even Sailors should be able to have this skill as well, but it is not there. The block quote here is from Starter Travller's Rule Book.

Let's break this down.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

House Rules on Hand to Hand

First I had an idea. A question, rather. Why can't a trained fighter (Brawling-1) knock out an 'average' NPC [UPP 777777] in one round? Hands do 1D damage per hit, so the maximum is 6. This is one short of reducing a stat to zero via the First Blood rule and getting a knockout. For Rule of Cool reasons, I want my PCs to be able to do this.

Then I shared the idea on the Citizens of the Imperium forum, and Classic TravellerFacebook group.

Then I sat back and listened.

I came away with this, which will now be the Way We Do It in my games.
Any skilled character engaging in hand-to-hand combat, either armed or unarmed, has two possible DMs. The first is the Advantageous Strength DM, found in the combat charts, and the second is the character's skill level with the weapon chosen.

In the past I have taken both of these and applied them to the throw To Hit. The New Rule is this: the player (or referee) can choose to apply these DMs to either the To Hit throw, or the Damage throw on a successful hit. So now my trained fighter can roll 1D+1 for damage, and has at least a chance of getting a knockout blow. If the fighter has STR 9+, there is an additional +1 that can be added to the damage throw. If the fighter has STR 13+, it is +2.

This represents a sacrifice of accuracy to put more power behind the blow.

+1 Damage. Sparkle optional.

This new rule does not change the existing rule that a skilled fighter can apply his skill level as a Defensive DM, to make it harder for his opponent to hit.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Not Human at all: Ursas!

What would your PCs do, if they arrived at a Class-E port on some frozen dead end world, and discovered that this character:

"Stan", E7D776  Army, 2 terms Lieutenant
was the Port Authority? The Ursas appeared several hundred years ago; and other than the fact that they came from Earth, their origins are more legend than fact. The Ursas themselves cannot say who uplifted them. They don't think about it that much. They are here, deal with it.

Ursas are intelligent to a level comparable with humans, and some are quite smart. It is unwise to think of them as large, furry humans.  Ursas's motivations are hunger, desire for territory (see point 1), self-preservation or reproduction. Ursas that live in human society have chosen to adopt human means of sating these desires. Working for pay to buy food negates hunger and the need for territory.  Cooperation with humans provides security and the opportunity to find other Ursas to address that last drive.

Ursas are not aggressive, unless they sense a threat. They know that they can intimidate humans with their size and will do so if it helps their goals.  They will fight if facing a threat to themselves, their territory, their cubs, or any character the Ursa considers important to protect. Ursas in the Army can wear armor and carry heavy weapons. Think about that for a minute.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Around My TU - Brocadia

In other posts I have shared my Holtzmann's Corridor subsector, where my monthly game group is playing. Here's a planet from another part of my TU, the Weitzlar subsector Glorious Empire Subsector. This region is where I'm trying out some concepts and running some characters solo, without it having an impact on the main gaming group.

Here I present Brocadia, a world of that subsector, that has a few interesting features and I hope a number of adventure possibilities. Enjoy.

0108 Brocadia B-772639-10
Kingdom of Brocadia. Current monarch: Wilhelm XI. Maintains control through a large and effective secret police service.

Tags: police state, freak geology

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Crew of the Bonaventure

May is cleanup time here at the AF3 blog. I'm perusing my files for post drafts, finishing them, and putting them up. It's going to be a mixed bag, I suspect. 

To start off, here is the Merchant ship Bonaventure, and its crew. I created these years ago with the idea of using them as the cast of short stories, but the stories never materialized. Maybe they'll show up in my monthly game as NPCs. Maybe they'll show up in your game as NPCs! If they do, please leave me a comment and tell us about it.

"Parking orbit, please Mr. Hammilton." "Aye, Sir."

The US Merchant Marine ship Bonaventure is registered in New Maryland.

Owner/Navigator Jason Hammilton 7A5D98 Age 42 Merchant 3rd Officer
Navigation-4, Leader-2, Vaccsuit-1, Electronics-1, Mechanical-1, Gun Combat-0, Broker-2, Trader-2, Administration-2

Captain Hammilton has dreamed of running his own starship since he was a child. He was level-headed enough to see that more than dreaming was required. He took every opportunity he could to learn about merchant operations and taught himself how to be successful. Once he felt he was ready, he left his job and bought his own ship. He is very aware of the debt burden he’s put himself under but it keeps him focused on succeeding.

Quote: “You have two choices. One, realize that I’m in command here and get in line. Two, get your sorry ass off my ship. You have one minute to decide.”

Pilot Derek T Hammilton 7998A8 Age 38 Navy Commander
Pilot-4, Leader-1, Pistol-2, Computer-2, Ship Tactics-2, Vaccsuit-1

Derek has been piloting since he was 18. He has piloted everything from yard tugs to heavy cruisers. Bonaventure is an easy assignment for him. Mostly he took the job to work with his cousin Jason. He is orderly, efficient and confident. He reads a lot and always is looking for new ship types & classes to add to the catalog he is writing.

Quote: “This crate is easy. You should have seen the panel on this one destroyer I was on. Talk about inefficient.”

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Great and Holy Pascha 2019

Today the Orthodox Church across the world celebrates Great and Holy Pascha, the Feast of Feasts, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be Glory Forever!

Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee from before his face! As smoke vanishes, so let them vanish; as wax melts before the fire,So the sinners will perish before the face of God; but let the righteous be glad.This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death,and on those in the grave bestowing life!
May the Blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be with you always.

For those who will, I share here a link to the famous Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom.

And if the Lord tarry until we reach the stars, then we will celebrate Pascha in the Far Future. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Portal Gun in Traveller

Not long into my current Traveller campaign, I concluded that there wasn’t enough sci-fi "stuff" in it. It seemed too generic. All the standard technology is very familiar to me. None of it evokes a sense of wonder or the fantastic. I sensed the same from the players.

I try to describe the setting and especially the not-earth-like-at-all planets they visit; to give that sense of being in another place, another time. Mind you, they've not complained; it was me who wanted to give it more, to give them a "Wow!" moment or experience.

One session I explained to the players the concept of Tech Level Change Factor (TLCF) and making gradual improvements to devices. They then had a fun time for most of that session designing and purchasing upgraded weapons on a TL-12 planet. One player now has a very dangerous boarding axe (halberd) which doubles as a cutting torch! I explain some of the TLCF here.

The Tales to Astound blog also talks about the lack of sci-fi in Traveller, as leaving it up to the referee to add in whatever bits of fun tech goodies will make the game more exciting for the players.

I felt the need to remedy this situation. While they were exploring a space station parked way out in the outer reaches of a system, I decided to give them a fun surprise:

A Portal Gun 

Even in the future they appreciate the retro aesthetic

Friday, March 15, 2019

More about High Level Play

I knew that there was more to be said about High Level Play than I said in my first post.

I spent some time reading through the introductory material in The Traveller Book, and I found not an explicit pattern, but many indicators that High Level Play was anticipated, maybe even intended.

The introduction section gives lots of hints, starting with the mention of "star spanning empires, huge star fleets, Larger-Than-Life heroes". (emphasis mine)

And how about this?
Traveller is open-ended, which means that there are no set conditions for winning. Each player sets his or her own goal, and has a lifetime (in game terms) to achieve it. Traveller can continue for as long as the referee and the players desire. Like the universe, Traveller has no limits.”
The characters have an opportunity to undertake genuine adventures as they search for their own self appointed goals.”
"The typical methods used in life by 20th century Terrans (thrift, dedication, and hard work) do not work in Traveller; instead, travellers must boldly plan and execute daring schemes for the acquisition of wealth and power."

The expectation, then, is that players will have goals beyond the wishes of their current patron, or the referee.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

More on Careers - One Rogue Too Many

I have not played any of the versions of that other RPG from the 1970's, where they re-named the Thief class to the Rogue class. Why, I wonder, did GDW feel it was necessary to use the vague and dissembling nomenclature 'Rogue' when 'Criminal' would have been more accurate? Or would it have been?

Something shady is going on here.

The text description of the Rogues reads as follows: "Criminal elements familiar with the rougher or more illegal methods of accomplishing tasks." I guess it would be more accurate, then. But wait. The word rogue is defined as: 1) a vagrant or tramp, 2: a dishonest or worthless person, a scoundrel. There are a few more connotations, but none are specifically criminal in nature. So, many Traveller PCs could be characterized as Rogues, regardless of what career they went through.

Let us speak truth, a great many Traveller PCs from back in the day were essentially criminals regardless of their chosen background career. They were smugglers, bandits, thieves, hired guns, burglars, and so on. Why the need for a separate career to breed them? Most player, myself included assumed that if you wanted a criminal PC, you went with the Other service. So this ground has been covered already.

Most of the skills the Rogues career offers (discussed later) are not specifically criminal, and with the random skill allocation process, there's no guarantee a PC will come away with a criminal CV. The free Service Skill is Streetwise, not a necessarily criminal skill. This would have been the time to introduce some new skills for the criminal class, but Supp4 does not do this. 

Later editions of Traveller introduced more criminal skills like Intrusion or Lockpicking. I suggested elsewhere that espionage activities (criminals on a payroll) could be handled with Basic skills and attributes. That way any PC could try their hand at clandestine activity

I actually have the chronology backwards. Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium, in which the Rogue career made its appearance, was first published in 1979. This is several years before that other game made the change. So why did they go along with GDW?

Let's have a look at the Rogue career, shall we?

Sunday, March 3, 2019

More Stellagama Goodness

Now I've got the Trio: Light, Pocket Light and Faster than Light!

Three versions
The good folks at Stellagama Publishing have provided me with physical copies of all three versions of their streamlined Cepheus Engine rules. I gave CL & CL:PE to my boys, and they've begun building their own worlds, characters creatures and adventures. 

You can get yours at DriveThruRPG.

Join the Fun!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Implications of "Slow" FTL in Traveller

FTL in Traveller takes one week, more or less, whenever you want to go from one star system to another. Whether it's a wimpy Jump-1 or a once in a lifefime Jump-6, the time to get there is still 168 hours +/- a bit. Many of Traveller's literary antecedents (most notably to my mind is H. Beam Piper's Terro-human future history) depicted interstellar travel as taking a long time. For fans of more modern SF media, this can seem odd.

In other SF settings, FTL travel is accomplished instantly. Now, in visual media (Trek/Wars) this is necessary to not drag down the flow of the plot. Rogue One would not have worked if Traveller's jump drive limitations were in effect. The plot required everything to move quickly. That's fine, and it is not for me to say that one method is better/worse than another.

A Youtube character known as the Complex Games Apologist has a number of videos discussing Traveller in different aspects. Here's the CGA explaining the setting implications of the way FTL works in Traveller.

Faster Than Light

The rules of a game build its setting.

Many folks over the decades have noted that "speed of travel is speed of communication" defines the setting of Traveller, whether the OTU or an alternate like my Church & Empire setting. Decentralized governments and local control are the accepted methods when it takes weeks to get reports to and from the borders. It is also this reason that I've focused on the Corridor, a region removed from the Talaveran Empire, but still one where Imperial influence can be felt. PCs have a greater latitude for independent action when the Imperial bureaucracy is too far away to directly monitor everything.

If you want to change the rules of FTL to make it more what you want, that's fine, but remember that you will have to redesign the setting as well, to reflect the internal reality of that setting. 'Fast' FTL will mean more direct control from the home office, as information can be transferred in hours rather than weeks. This in turn means less agency for the players, as their PCs who do sneaky things will be fretting about news of their doings getting back to the Government, which will probably try to stop them. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Not Quite Human - The Headless Hunters

There is an article from the old Dragon Magazine titled "Make your own Aliens" which was a supplement or variant for Traveller. One of the criticisms of the original game was that it had no aliens, robots or clones, and no rules for including them. Fair point, all three non-human types are common in classic sci-fi. A worthy inclusion into my favorite game.

In my Church & Empire setting, I have made the decision to not include non-terrestrial sentient life forms. However, there's more than one way to introduce the strange, abnormal or weird into Traveller. My avenue is postulating the mis-use of gene sequencing, which is already real science here on earth, to create near-human or partially-human beings. 

I have used the article's method to roll up some genetically modified humans (GMH's). This is one of the stranger types I've created. They are very secretive, but may pop up anywhere. They are known to work as contract assassins, hence their popular nickname,

"The Headless Hunters"

Thursday, February 7, 2019

More on Space Combat - The Select Programs

"The drive signature looks familiar - like a Suleiman-class scout . . . "

The 'Selective' group of Offensive programs have long confused me as to how the results should be applied. I have just now noted the following text from Starter Traveller Rules booklet, page 41. It does not appear in Book 2 (1977) but it does in The Traveller Book, on page 77. I've just never noticed it before. As I have stated elsewhere, TTB is my rules book of reference for my games.
"If a Select program is being used to influence attacks, the firing player rolls one die for each hit inflicted. On a 1 or 2, he picks the hit location, specifying one of the following: Maneuver drive, Power Plant, Jump drive, fuel, hull, hold, computer or turret. If the roll is 3+ roll hit location normally."
I have written before about how I see Classic Traveller starship combat as a Resource Management Game. This program is a great example of what I mean.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Cepheus Light Pocket Edition

Look what came in the mail!

Actual size 8.5 by 5.5 inches
This is not a new version of the Cepheus Engine rules, it is the C-Light rules in a digest sized book. I really like this format and size. It's super portable and handy. 190 pages of rules, and they still find room for some dandy illustrations.

Haven't got the time to do an in-depth review of C-Light at this time, but it's in the pipeline. 

Thanks as always to my pal Omer Golan-Joel

Monday, January 14, 2019

Leaving the Starport might be harder than you think

Please have your TAS documentation ready. All bags will be searched.

From the US State Department's Travel Advisory website:

Exercise increased caution in China due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws as well as special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese nationals.Chinese authorities have asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using ‘exit bans,’ sometimes keeping U.S. citizens in China for years. China uses exit bans coercively:
  • to compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations,
  • to lure individuals back to China from abroad, and
  • to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties.
In most cases, U.S. citizens only become aware of the exit ban when they attempt to depart China, and there is no method to find out how long the ban may continue. U.S. citizens under exit bans have been harassed and threatened.
U.S. citizens may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime. U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention for reasons related to “state security.” Security personnel may detain and/or deport U.S. citizens for sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government.
Extra security measures, such as security checks and increased levels of police presence, are common in the Xinjiang Uighur and Tibet Autonomous Regions. Authorities may impose curfews and travel restrictions on short notice.
China does not recognize dual nationality. U.S.-Chinese citizens and U.S. citizens of Chinese heritage may be subject to additional scrutiny and harassment, and China may prevent the U.S. Embassy from providing consular services.

Hmm. If the Chinese on Earth would do this to foreign nationals in their country, why would not sovereign planetary governments do this to Travellers?

Here are some simple rules for adjudicating the PC's entry or exit into a world.

In the OTU, this may be handled differently. I wrote these rules for my ATU, in particular for Holtzmann's Corridor, where there is no Imperial government sitting atop the locals telling them what to do.