Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Review: MegaTraveller (1987)

MegaTraveller Players' Manual
It is 1987.  The year I graduated from High School and my first year in University.  I knew about MegaTraveller, anyone that read Dragon Magazine even as infrequently as I was then knew about it.  But again it is not a game I played.  I do recall seeing it* played at a local con (SIU had a bunch of them) but (and this is the asterix) I could not really tell if it was Classic Traveller or MegaTraveller at the time.  They had a lot of cool spaceships on a black hex map.

I would not actually read MegaTraveller until the late 1990s.  I was working on my Ph.D. and commuting all over Chicago.  I found a local library that would honor my U of I Chicago library card and they had a copy of the MegaTraveller Player's Manual.  I can't recall my impressions of the time all that much, just a memory of being on the commuter train and reading it.

Rereading it now I find the rules are largely similar to Classic Traveller.  I know some clarifications and changes have been made but I am not qualified enough to pick them out. 

The thing that is most obvious is the setting.  The Emporer has been killed along with all his heirs and his assassin is claiming the throne.  And so are about half a dozen or more people.  So the empire has fallen and this is called the "Time of Rebellion."   Does Traveller have...Star Wars envy??  I am sure that is not 100% true.  

I have NO data to back this up, but my perception is that MegaTraveller was a hit. I think it appealed to people that wanted to play but not have to get into 10 years worth of back product.  In many cases my D&D analogy extends here with MegaTraveller as AD&D 2nd Edition.  The Jim Holloway art certainly helps that along. 

My understanding is that MegaTraveller came as a boxed set. With Players's and Referee's books. Today you can get them as PDF via DriveThruRPG or from Far Future Enterprises.  I will be considering the PDFs from DriveThruRPG for these reviews.  It is nice to have these now after so many years.

In general, the scans are ok to good.  Some attempt has been made to clean them up, but they are obviously scanned from printed products and not the original files. They are OCR'ed and have bookmarks.  The scans look fine on my PC and on my iPad, but I don't think they would work well for Print on Demand yet.

MegaTraveller Players' Manual

PDF. 108 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art. 

This book covers everything the player needs to create a character, including Basic and Enhanced options, learn about the core mechanic (and the Universal Task Profile), skills, combat, and psionics. 

Reading through this I do get the feeling that this is a cleaned-up and updated version of Traveller.  While I can see the larger changes, the subtle ones are less clear to me.  My impression is that a MegaTraveller character could operate in a Classic Traveller game. 

Layout and rule-wise there are a lot of clarifications. For example, Page 9 details Task Resolution and the Universal Task Profile.  This would be called setting a difficulty level in other games.  There are the levels of difficulty and what you need to roll over (3, 7, 11, and 15) which is different (slightly) than the "just 8 or better" of Classic Traveller.  Rolls can also be altered by skills, risk, time, and other factors.  This page gives a great overview and the first place I see a real improvement.  Now my understanding is that many of the rules here came about in various publications, both books and supplements from GDW (Merchant Prince and Mercenary seem to be prime sources here) as well as periodicals.  IT IS POSSIBLE that by 1986 people were playing with rules that resembled this.  This the codification of all of those rules.

Character creation, both basic and Advanced/Enhanced are covered.  This is largely similar to what I saw in Classic Traveller (CT) except I did not see anywhere where you can die before mustering out.  The tables have been expanded to include military and non-military careers including Scouts and Merchant Princes.  Even the example is a Doctor now. 

Skills are detailed and this list seems to get larger with each new edition.  What I like about MegaTraveller is that skill advancement is right after this section and much clearer. 

Character creation and skills take up half the book.

SIDE NOTE:  A lot of the tables and other character creation details (like character flowcharts) are set to one page or two pages.  So printing out material from your PDF is easy.  I can take a page with me to know what my character needs to do to advance for example or keep a list of all the skills with me.  Page 9, the UTP is a prime example of this layout feature.

Combat comes up next.  Again not a surprise since combat is an important part of Traveller.  I don't think I expressed this before, but maybe MegaTraveller makes it more obvious, but combat looks like it is a deadly affair.  Again, no practical experience here, but going through the numbers I am surprised I did not notice it before.   There are charts of weapons and damage, but not the catalog of guns we found in Traveller 2300. 

The last dozen or so pages cover special rules, like mapping and special types of combat.

At the end, where it always is it seems, is the section on Psionics.

Throughout the book, there are little boxed texts that give some more background on the fallen Imperium.  Little bits of history and background to add flavor.  This new time period is the big deal with this edition. 

The inside cover maps of the Spinward Marches and the Third Imperium look like they were taken from a previous version of Traveller.  The Imperium map is dated 1115 and this game takes place in 1116 and beyond.

MegaTraveller Referee's Manual
MegaTraveller Referee's Manual

PDF. 108 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art. 

The Referee's Manual opens with the various factions vying for control in the Imperium.  Just a page, but it really set the tone for me. I can see how this would be a great game to play with the various factions working with and against each other for ultimate control while the PCs work whatever angles they can to either get more power or just stay alive.  I was skeptical of change when I first read it, but now re-reading it many years later I am very excited about it. 

This book covers similar territory as the Players' book, save from the game master's perspective.  Again I am drawn in by the parallels of the format and layout of this game as AD&D 2nd Ed. which will hit the stands in another 2 years.  I am not suggesting TSR copied GDW but instead that this was something that was a logical extension of many 2nd Edition games released around this time. 

There is a longer breakdown of Tasks and resolutions here that makes me happy to see. I never ran a Traveller game, but with this book I think I could.

Star System and World Creation is next including a discussion on world profiles. It is detailed, without being overly so, and will get any Ref going on world creation.  It doesn't have the same feel to me as the Classic Traveller section doing the same thing, but I think that is fine.  Lots of tables here and no equations to solve.  Kinda miss that. 

Sections on Animals and Encounters are similar to their Classic Traveller counterparts.  Detailed enough to keep you going for a while  

Trade and Commerce cover the next 10 pages.  Again, brief but enough to start. I imagine that entire books can (and maybe have) been written on this topic. I also imagine that this is an area where the Imperium's fall would also be a prime place for adventures.  Smuggling cargo, protecting shipping lanes, getting something like medical supplies to another part of the system but other factions want to stop you or steal what you have?  Yeah, lots of ideas.

Craft Design and Evaluation cover the next 34 or so pages. More craft seem to be available to the MegaTraveller character/group than the Classic Traveller ones. If this review is late in posting it was because I was making starships again.  With CT I like system building more, here I like starship building more.

This is logically followed by Starship Combat

We end with a couple of stellar maps. 

Reading through these now I kind of lament not getting in on this fun back then.  Classic Traveller with all its supplements, and add-ons, and alien modules, and board games seemed like a steep hill to climb.  I erroneously felt MegaTraveller was the same way.  Just looking through was DriveThruRPG and FFE have on their sites it doesn't seem to be that much to me know.   It is still far more than want to buy right now and far more than I'll ever play, but it is nice to know it is all there. 

More Notes

It appears that MegaTraveller, in addition to being a pencil and paper RPG was also a couple of video games, as if my Traveller Envy wasn't enough already. MegaTraveller 1: The Zhodani Conspiracy and MegaTraveller 2: Quest for the Ancients were released in 1991 for the Atari ST and MS-DOS systems and in 1992 for the MS-DOS and Amiga systems respectively.  These might be fun to try and find for the retro-gaming computer I built over the winter. 

GURPS Traveller

GURPS Traveller was released in 1998 for GURPS 3rd Edition.  It covers the same time span as MegaTraveller, but there was no rebellion.  I guess the idea was to preserve the feel of Classic Traveller. 

I like GURPS well enough, but I have stated before that GURPS has no soul to it; at least not to me. IT's too bad really since I do enjoy a good Universal game.  Their supplements have always been top-notch though. I have never been so happy to spend money on game I know I won't play.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Review: 2300 AD Traveller: 2300 (1986)

2300 AD Traveller: 2300
A new week and a new set of rules to read over.  This week I am going for a span of 20 years. Traveller, in its first 10 years, stayed pretty consistent and took me about two weeks to work through.  The next 20 years are going to be much faster.

I am going to start off with one today I only know very little about.  Traveller: 2300 also known as 2300 AD.  

Before getting into any books or research here is what I do know.  This was supposed to be the start of a new line for GDW.  It dealt with the earliest time in the Traveller Universe, specifically 2300 AD on Earth. There was a tie-in with their Twilight 2000 game line.   In 1986 I was very deep into AD&D to exclusion of all else save for college prep. 

So this one is 100% new for me.

2300 AD or Traveller: 2300

Ok. Let's do this one right from the start.  This is not really a Traveller game.  While I am sure many people worked it out so it could be the past of Traveller, my very, very limited understanding of the history of Traveller's Imperium suggests that likely isn't.  But I am sure people with better knowledge than me can say for sure.   Since I have a sci-fi game set more or less in the 2300s I figure why not pick this up to see what it is like. 

For this review, I am only considering the PDF available from DriveThruRPG.  I *thought* I had bought it from FFE years ago, but I can't find my copy.

PDF. 131 pages. Color cover, black & white interior art.  The scan is OCRed and bookmarked.  The scan of the cover is rough, but the interior looks better. 

The Introduction reads like many RPG books. "This is an RPG", "here are some expectations." And so on. 

Player's Manual

History covers the history of this setting with the horrible nuclear war in 2000.  I must have been sleeping. I am kidding of course, RPGs are great fun but they have not been great at predicting the future really. Now I have no way of telling, but I think this is basically the same history as GDW's other game Twilight 2000. It certainly feels the same. I never played the game myself.   This history section covers the fall and rise of humankind as they venture out into space by the year 2300.  Wars and geo-political rivalries are also covered and how they still affect the day-to-day lives of humans on Earth and in Space.  This flows into the next section.

Political Geography talks about Earth and beyond of 2300.  America is split up (ok that one is not so far-fetched) with Texas as its own republic (which seems to be a reoccurring theme in a lot of things I am reading right now) and other "American" nations. Mexico is split up. Europe ie, well Europe.  I think the authors overestimate the older rivalries a little.  Germany reunited long before 2000 in a largely peaceful integration and the European Union has been going pretty strong if you ignore Brexit.  

In space we colonies at L-4 and L-5 (LaGrange Points), Mercury (not likely, but I'll go with it), Mars, the Asteroids (much more likely), the moons of Jupiter, and just beyond Saturn.  No mention of Lunar colonies at all here. 

The chapter on Technology is interesting. By 1986 we had seen nearly 10 years of Moore's Law in effect for computers, so the authors of this game give computers a bit more power.  I would argue it is not really enough still, but getting there. There is a bit about AIs and psychosis that feels like something I just read in Robert A. Heinlein's Friday.  There is some detail on transportation and medical sciences as well.

Colonies cover the fifty-five colonies on twenty-nine inhabitable worlds.  Since these colonies are largely extensions of Earth-based interests they are classified by which "Arm" they are in (American, Chinese, French) or which "Finger" of the Arm (Canadian and Latin for America or the French Frontiers).   This is followed by Foundations that provide services for citizens after the collapse of the governments in 2000.

Twenty pages in we finally get to Character Generation.  If you didn't know this was "not Traveller" before then you learn it here.  There are four physical attributes: Size, Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, and four psychological ones: Determination, Intelligence, Eloquence, and Education.  You roll a 4d6-4 (generating a score between 0 and 20) and you can re-roll one physical and one psychological attribute.  Strength and Dexterity are altered by homeworld and gravity type.

Like Classic Traveller you have skills that can be determined by Background and Career.  But no hint of dying in Character Gen (is this even Traveller then???).  

This all takes us right to Skills and Careers.

The "Shopping sections" Equipment, Weapons, Vehicles, and Armor follow.  Weapons cover all sorts of guns (as expected) and a few laser-based ones. Vehicles does not cover starships.  The currency of choice is the French Livres (Lv). 

We get some star charts and tables of the nations of the systems.

Referee's Manual

While this is all one file, it was obviously once a boxed set with separate books.  Pages 54 to 105 cover what was the separate Referee's Manual.  I will also point out that the Bookmarks in my PDF stop working well at this point.  There are bookmarks, but they don't always go where they should and are indented oddly.

What would have been the back cover of the Referee's Manual has some really great insight.  It credits Marc W. Miller (Traveller) and Frank Chadwick (Twilight: 2000) as two of the "big name" designers of 2300.  The implication here is that 2300 was something of an in-house game combining elements of Traveller and Twilight:2k.  As a designer myself, I find that fascinating.  Maybe, just maybe, more fascinating than the actual game!  Internally they called it The Game. And it sounds like that played it out from 2000 to 2300 in turns of 5 or 10 years to get us where we were then.

Life on the Frontier covers the implied setting of the Traveller 2300 game. 

Tasks and Combat are largely the same sorts of sections, with combat a special case of task resolution.  Clue #2 that this is not your father's Traveller: 1d10 for task resolution and not a 2d6.  Here you need to roll higher than a 7 with every 4 points above or below that as a target number difficulty. You add your plusses from skills to your roll and if needed an attribute divided by 4 (+0 to +5) range. 

Both Tasks and Combat have charts of successes and failures and what you do with each.

Star Travel finally gets off of the Earth and out into the colonies.  The stutterwarp is travel mode of choice to get to distant stars. There are limitations.  The drives of these ships can travel great distances but have to jettison their spent radioactive fuel in the gravity well of a system.  This process takes some time.  So there is a limiting factor on how far a ship can practically travel.  There is some detail on tinkering with your starship, but not at the level I have come to associate with Traveller.  Space Combat follows right after this.  What is nice about this one is there are some photos of ships on a space hex-grid.  

Ship Listing is the "shopping list" of Starships.  It lacks the "used cars" feel of Classic Traveller. 

World Generation is next.  It covers quite a lot of detail to be honest. More than I expected.

NPCs are next, followed by World Mapping and Animal Encounters

There are some star maps, star charts, and some blank forms for Star Data, World Data, and Colony/Outpost Data.

Also included is a sample adventure, The Tricolor's Shadow.  It has maps, adventure ideas and two scenarios to run. 

Two alien species are introduced in the end, The Kafers and The Pentapods.  They are presented as NPCs only, not as playable species.

--

Traveller 2300 is not a bad game to be honest, it just isn't really Traveller is it?  I would be better with it IF I could try to figure out a way to make it work with more up-to-date history. But by that point, I could instead use it as a guide and run a Classic Traveller game and limit it to this time period and location.  

There is another issue with playing this sort of game.  Traveller 2300 suffers from our collective inability to really predict the future.  That is no slight on the designers, that is just human nature.  Compare the tech in this game to that of The Expanse RPG.  Both cover humanity's first step to the solar system and beyond.  Both cover roughly similar time periods (2300 vs. 2359) and both can play the same sorts of games.  In Traveller 2300 you have the stutterwarp to get to extra-solar planets and int he expanse has the ring gates.  The differences lie in the subtle predictions.  Computers are much more powerful in the Expanse, but FTL tech is non-existent (save for the ring gate).  Traveller 2300 has FTL (in a limited fashion by design).  Compare both to say Star Trek of the same period, neither has anything at all like the Ambassador Class Enterprise-C. 

Still this is a good game for a grittier version of Traveller, if you don't mind the system change, or for an advanced version of Twilight 2000.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Plays Well With Others: Horror in Space (BlackStar)

In space no one can hear you scream
It's Friday the 13th! Something of a holiday here at the Other Side.  

May is SciFi month and for the first two weeks here I have dedicated it all to Classic Traveller. I find myself at a bit of a crossroads.  Do I continue with the Classic Traveller OR do I go along to the progression from Classic to Mega Traveller and beyond?  Choices. Choices. 

In the mean time since today is the scariest day outside of October 31st (well, than and Walpurgis Night) let go to a discussion you all know I LOVE and that is horror in Space.  In particular, the Mythos flavored Cosmic Horror of Lovecraft AND the exploration of Space ala Star Trek.

Since I am going to look a few ways to do this I am going to put it under the banner of Plays Well With Others.

My "Star Trek meets Cthulhu" campaign is known as BlackStar and I have detailed the ideas I have had here.  

The game started out as a combination of various OSR-style games because that is what I was playing a lot at the time. But as time has gone on I have given it more thought and explored other RPG system options.  Every combination has its own features and its own problems.   Let's look at all the options I have been considering.

Basic Era/OSR

The first choice was the easy one really.  I went with the two main books for their maximum compatibility, Starships & Spacemen and Realms of Crawling Chaos.  Both are based for the most part on Labyrinth Lord.   This gives me a lot of advantages. For starters, and the obvious one, there is just so much stuff for this.  If I don't like the Cthulhu monsters from Realms, I can grab them from Deities & Demigods, Hyperborea, or so many more.  The Lovecraft/Cthulhu stuff is covered.  The "Weakest" link here is Starships & Spacemen.  Well, it's not weak, but it is not my favorite set of Trek-like RPG rules.

Starships & Spacemen & Shogoths

Given the rules, I could add in bits of Stars Without Number. That *might* fill out some of the rough spaces (for me) of S&S.  There is a lot, I mean really a LOT I can do with all of this.

It would also make running The Ghost Station of Inverness Five much easier. 

The Ghost Station of Inverness Five

D20 Systems

I'll admit it. I like d20. I enjoyed d20 games. There are LOT of options if I want to go 3.x d20.

d20 Games

Pathfinder, Starfinder, d20 Call of Cthulhu, Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos.  All of these are great and at least 90% compatible. Again, I am sick with riches when it comes to Cthulhu/Lovecraftian materials here. Starfinder is good...but it is not Star Trek.  In fact my preferred Sci-Fi d20 game is the Wizards of the Coast Star Wars.  I know. I am strange.  

Certainly, the d20 Cthulhu books would be easily converted to OSR, but they already have analogs in the OSR world.   But having all of these is certainly helpful.

Since my weakest link seems to be Trek-like rules, maybe what I need is a good set of Trek rules.

Star Trek RPGs

Currently, my two favorite flavors of the Star Trek RPG are the classic FASA Trek and the newest Mōdiphiüs' Star Trek Adventures.  Both are great. Both are really fun. AND there is even a Mythos/Lovecraftian game using the same system, Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20.  Now this game is set in WWII, but that is not a problem. 

Trek and Cthulhu

Here I have exactly the opposite issue.  There is a LOT of great Trek material and limited on Cthulhu/Lovecraft material.   I could add in material from Call of Cthulhu as needed. Also, I have the PDFs for Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20 but none of the physical books. The 2d20 system is also much newer for me and I don't know it as well as some of the others.

Traveller

I have been talking about Traveller all month long and it would remiss of me not to try something with that.  Thankfully things are well covered there.

Traveller and Chthonian Stars

So I have not even touched ANYTHING yet regarding the Cepheus Engine or new Traveller, but to jump ahead a bit there is a game setting for Traveller Chthonian Stars. It takes place in 2159 (a date I can use!) and there is a lot to it, but the basic gist is Humankind has begun to explore the Solar System and that is about it.  Then we introduce Cthulhu Mythos material to that!  Sounds a bit like BlackStar: The First Generation.  I'll get a proper review up later in the month, but there are a lot of great things in this setting.  Reading over it it really makes me want to try this using just Traveller.  They really make it work well.  Plus I could still use the Classic Traveller system, more or less.

This provides me with a solid sci-fi game with great mythos support too. The publisher has since updated this game to their more inhouse version called The Void. Not sure if it uses the same system as their Cthulhu Tech RPG or not. 

The Expanse RPG
AGE System

I really love Green Ronin's AGE system. I also LOVE the Expanse.  So I grabbed their Expanse AGE-based RPG and am hoping to do a lot more with it.  So imagine my delight when they ran a Kickstarter for Cthulhu Awakens an AGE-based Mythos game.   The Solar System spanning of the Expanse is nowhere near the Galaxy spanning of Star Trek, but maybe I could run it as a "Prequel" game.  Get a ship out to Pluto to discover something protomolecule-like but instead make it mythos-related.  A prequel to my Whispers in the Outer Darkness.  A Star Trek DY-100 class pre-warp ship would fit right in with the ships of the Expanse.  I should point out that the Expanse takes place in the 2350s, the same time frame as my proposed BlackStar campaign in the Star Trek timeline. 2352 for the launch of the Protector and 2351 for the Expanse RPG.

Maybe this "First Mission" might explain why Star Fleet is building its experimental ships at Neptune Station and not Utopia Planitia.  There is something they discovered on Yuggoth/Pluto that makes the Warp-13 engines work. There is my protomolecule connection!

It is possible I could retweak my "At the Planets of Maddness" for this system/setting. Though in my heart I really wanted Shoggoths and Elder Things for that adventure.  Pluto and Yuggoth clearly imply the involvement of the Mi-Go.

--

I have all those choices listed above and that is also not counting games like Eldritch Skies that also combine space travel with Cthulhu/Mythos.

Chthonian Stars might have an answer for me.  What if this story is not being played out over a single campaign, but multiple lifetimes?

I could do something like this.  Note, this is only a half-baked idea at this point.  

Victorian Era:  Scientists work out the means of travelling the Aether to the stars. (Ghosts of Albion*, Eldritch Skies, Space: 1899. Using Ghosts to make the Protector connections a little clearer).

1930s: Scientist found dead with brain "Scoped" out. Investigate. (Call of Cthulhu)

2150s: Travel to Yuggoth discover an advanced civilization was once there.  Items from 1890s and 1930s are there. (Expanse, Chthonian Stars, Cthulhu Awakens)

2290s: Star Trek Mercy (this one is pure FASA Star Trek). Maybe this can be the one with the Klingon Skelleton ala The Creeping Flesh.

2350s: These are the Voyages of the Experimental Starship Protector. (OSR or Mōdiphiüs 2d20)

I could even do an epilogue in the far future of the Imperium.  

And some other stuff to include all my BlackStar adventures.

Maybe all of these are tied to the "Black Star" an artifact that makes space travel possible and is at the core of the Asymetric Warp-13 engine?  Some was found on Earth but there is a bunch of it on Pluto.

Too many ideas, too many systems.  Gotta narrow it all down at some point.  But one thing is for sure, the system used will depend on what sorts of adventures the characters will have. Mōdiphiüs 2d20 is best for adventures and exploring. OSR games are good for monster hunting. FASA Trek does a little of both.  AGE would be suit the New Adventures in Space theme well.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

This Old Dragon: Retrospective, The Traveller Articles

This Old Dragon: Retrospective, The Traveller Articles
In all honesty, you have my wife to thank for this one.  

I was talking with her about Sci-Fi month (she is a huge scf-fi fan) and Traveller and how I learned of the game via Dragon Magazine.  She suggested that it was high time I did another "This Old Dragon" and focused on Traveller.  So I have spent this week going through some of the Dragons I left and some of the articles I have already "liberated" from various Dragons.

Remember that a lot of the Dragons I have water damage or are other wise in bad shape.  A few were so mildewy I dropped them in favor of the Dragon Magazine CD-ROMs.

There are a few Traveller articles, TSR/Dragon was very eager to embrace other companies' products more in the early days. This is good for me since I really wanted to focus on Classic Traveller. 

I am not going to hit *every* Dragon article about Traveller, but I do want to hit the big ones. I am, for obvious reasons, going to feature the ones I still have in my collection.

The Dragon Days

William B. Fawcett is up first with The Asimov Cluster in The Dragon #20.  This area of space is an attempt to emulate various Science Fiction novels while keeping everything within the scope of Traveller.  There are 10-star systems described here.  I have the feeling that if I had read more classic sci-fi I might recognize these worlds a bit better. 

The Dragon #25 has New Service Options for Navy Characters by R.D. Stuart.  Now the date on this is May 1979 so I am not sure what is happening with the Supplements at this time so no idea if this information had been rendered redundant at any point.  I will assume it had at some point.  But until then it is not a bad set of charts. If you are still using the 3 LBBs this is still good stuff.

We move on to The Dragon #27 and two articles from Gary Jordan. Up first he gives us another take on his Tesseracts article from TD #17 (and famously in The Best of Dragon II).  Where that article was used to confuse map mappers, here it is a boon in Traveller since the area is hyperdimensional.   What does that mean for Traveller characters? You can cram more into your hold.  This is followed by a Star System Generation system. 

The Dragon #35

This is the first of a couple of Traveller-themed issues.  This one comes to us from March 1980.  We get an article on the "Space FBI" from Kenneth Burke in IBIS: Profit and Peril. Alexander von Thorn, famous for his "Politics of Hell" article, is up with one of two articles on new skills.  The other is from Charles Ahner & Rick Stuart. More Clout for Scouts from Anthony Previte and Jame Cavaliere is next and establishes that this article, in particular, takes Mercenary into consideration.   The Traveller universe is growing!  In a switch from characters, James Hopkins is next with Block Holes! about, well, Black Holes.  This one would have been very welcome to me back then having just seen the Disney "Black Hole" movie at the "67 Drive-In Theatre" back in 79.  

This was 1980 though. I was firmly entrenched in my newest obsession, Dungeons & Dragons, and I barely knew other games existed, yet.

Dragon #51

The next, and also sadly the last, issue to have a Traveller featured section was Issue #51 from July 1981.  Though there is a lot here.  And a lot of that is quality.

The heading for this feature is "The Future is Here."  Trust me living in the 80s felt like the future was just right around the corner.  No wonder Traveller attracted me so.

Up first we have Dragon vet Roger E. Moore with Make Your Own Aliens. The Aslan and Vargr are still a bit off for Traveller fans at this point, but Moore takes Andy Slack's article series from White Dwarf #13 to #16 and expands on it.  The article is interesting and feels a little more like a "create your own monster" for D&D or mutant for Gamma World.  The rolls on the charts are d% and not d66.  On the plus side it would also work for something like Gamma World or Star Frontiers.

I do find it entertaining that the art for this article features what can only be described as "Dralasites."

Jeff Swycaffer is next with Plotting a Course for Choosy Players. This takes out some of the randomnesses of character generation by adding a Point-Buy system.  It looks like it could work well enough and I am sure something similar was added to future versions of Traveller. Point-Buy systems were all the rage in the 1990s.

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh is up with a few articles. First is New Ideas for Old Ships. The art and the article give this a full "Used Cars" feel to these ships, but to be honest this feels right.  Characters just completing their terms of service are not going out to buy a brand new Porsche 911 with the heated leather seats, heads-up display, and personal wifi.  No, they are getting an 11-year-old Honda Civic with all after-market parts and a rattle that no one can figure out.

Next, he gives us In Defense of Computers and tackles the two biggest issues people had with computers then; they are too expensive and do too little. First I never felt the computers in Traveller were too expensive, at least not for what they are supposed to do on a Starship.  I do agree they do too little by today's standards. But anymore I of the frame of mind there are computers in Traveller and there are Computers. 

Crabaugh delivers two shorter articles. The first is Planet Parameters which details various features, mostly gravity, of an alien world.  It works...for the game, but actual stellar data is wildly different.  I think we are fine with the size, G, Vesc, and Mass columns, but the P (rotational period) we know can vary wildly.  Earth and Venus are roughly the same size (say Size 8 and 7 respectively). Earth's rotational period is 23 hours, 56 minutes, or one day.  Venus has a P of 116 days, 18 hours. Mars, a Size 4 or 5 planet has a P (day) of 24 hours, 37 minutes.   Jupiter, which is off this scale, has an M of 317 (the chart goes to 2.4) and a P of 10.  In his defense, he does say that rotational periods can be slowed due to gravity.  The Earth's is slowed by our relatively large moon, Venus by the Sun and Mars none really at all. 

Next, he deals with Masers, or microwave band lasers (and points out the lasers are really visible light masers, but hey).  

Lastly, we get an article from none other than Marc Miller. The Miller Milk Bottle is, I think, an attempt to be the Towel of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy for Traveller.  Half a page on how useful the mundane milk bottle is.

The Jon Mattson Articles

Over the next several months we get a number of articles from Jon Mattson.  These are also usually longer articles and add more details to your Traveller game.

Filling in Skills from Dragon #55 does exactly that. This one details a "learning by doing" system of skill improvement. I never got to play enough games to know what my character would have done long-term. So I have no practical experience here. 

Moving on to February of 1982 in Dragon #58 we have Anything But Human, another attempt at creating aliens for Traveller.  Again this one is heavy on the d% rolls. 

Later that year in August we get Robots in Dragon #64, with some nice Larry Elmore art showing us where the VR-X9-4-M2 Galactic Probe, Government Issue Robot was made.  Like the Alien article above it has a lot of random tables.  Also it could be used with Star Frontiers if you wanted to. 

The Luna Series

In the early to mid 80s Dragon's Ares Section, which was devoted to Sci-fi, ran a series of articles on Luna, the Moon, and how it fit into various science fiction games.  I thought it was a great series and I loved reading all the different takes on it.  It had a side effect on my developing the moons of my D&D worlds in more detail.  But today we are looking at Dragon #87 and Luna: A Traveller's Guide by the first Traveller himself Marc Miller.   Note this article was copyrighted 1984 by GDW, so I imagine this is as close to official as it could get.  It is a library computer readout of Luna and it's place in the Imperium and to Terra. 

The Later Years

Post-1984 Traveller and all sci-fi began to see subtle changes.  These would be complete by the late 1980s and early 90s when Sci-Fi became darker and more cyberpunk.  I enjoyed the change myself, but also at this time I was drifting away from sci-fi and fantasy and more into dark fantasy and horror.

A sign of the times could be seen in Igor Greenwalds' Rogues of the Galaxy in Dragon #97 (May 1985).  Called a character "class" these are essentially characters who came up via organized crime instead of military, merchant, or other services.  It also features art from Jim Holloway, so maybe a sign of MegaTravller to come?

Rogues. Yes I cut this out of a Dragon magazine.

We get more Jim Holloway art in September of the same year (Dragon #101) with The Stellar Diocese from Michael Brown.  I know as a D&D player I talked about my Traveller Envy before. But I am getting some serious "D&D Envy" from the Traveller fans here.  Or...maybe these are the articles that Dragon printed since they knew they might appeal to D&D fans.

High Tech and Beyond from James Collins in Dragon #108 discuss some issues that were brought up all the way back to The Dragon #20 and that is that a lot of sci-fi media is much higher tech than the TL 16 depicted in Traveller. This article introduced some things that we take for granted in scifi like planet-destroying weapons, antimatter and transporters.

Michael Brown is back in Dragon #109 with The Double-Helix Connection or Mutants in Traveller.  Gamma World Envy? 

Put on "Bad Boys" because Terrence R. McInnes gives us Star Cops! in Dragon #113.  This article is also one of the reasons why I don't have a Dragon CD-ROM for issues past 250.  This article is copyrighted by McInnes, so likely there were never any second-run or reprintings allowed.   Anyway, this article deals with character creation for police forces. It actually looks rather fun.  This one also cites an earlier article from The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #14.  That is an entire universe left unexplored at present by me!

So we have done Gamma World and D&D with Traveller, why not Top Secret?  John Dunkelberg, Jr. has Space-Age Espionage in Dragon #120.  This is presented as a new career (not class) for Traveller characters.  The article is in-depth and in my very untrained eye, it looks like it could work out well.  Interestingly enough the following article is from Douglas Niles about the new Top Secret game.  

This is also the last article in Dragon about Traveller until Dragon #270 (April 2000) and even then it is only to convert it to Alternity. 

1987 is my personal cut-off date for Classic Traveller.  I am sure others share that, but 87 was also the year I went to University and my tastes moved from Sci-fi to Horror.  I still LOVED Star Trek and that was the bulk of my sci-fi roleplaying.  These last two weeks have given me so much Traveller information that I honestly could stop right here and be very happy.  But I have to admit there is Traveller 2300, MegaTraveller, T5, T20, and more out there I need to learn about and figure out. 

The Future is Now

This is going to be a fun trip.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Review: Traveller Alien Modules (1984 - 1987), Part 2

Alien Module 4 - Zhodani
Yesterday I covered the first three Alien Modules for Traveller.  The three I was most familiar with.

For Part 2, I want to cover the next five.

Alien Module 4 - Zhodani

PDF. 52 pages, color cover, black and white interior art.

Ok, I have heard of this one, it just, at the time, didn't grab my attention as much as the first three.  The Zhodani are a race of psionic humans that established themselves on their homeworld about 300,000 years ago.  That is the same time period as the Vargr. No idea if there is a connection yet.

This Module is much like the first three save there is no comparative anatomy section.  The psychology is expanded and the character creation section is altered from the Traveller standard to deal with a race of psionic humans.  

There is a small section on the Zhodani "Thought Police" that I thought could have been larger, given their role in Zhodani society.  Still though, an interesting take on an "Alien" for Traveller.

Alien Module 5 - Droyne
Alien Module 5 - Droyne

PDF. 52 pages, color cover, black and white interior art.

We are getting into very unfamiliar territory for me. The Droyne are an ancient race that had Jump Drive technology long before (at least 50,000 years before) the other major races.  Though they tend to placid lives on pastoral planets.  They don't seem to have the desire to get out to other worlds like the races covered so far. 

They are a smaller race, standing under a meter tall, reptile/bird-like, with small wings.  The original homeworld of the Droyne is believed to have been a low gravity one to allow their relatively small wings to work.  Droyne are divided into six main castes and this affects their psychology and their physiology.  In one example the Droyne have three genders and all three are needed to gestate a clutch of fertilized eggs.  Certain genders belong to certain castes and rarely are there exceptions. Droyne can also be high psionic.

There are the typical sections on worlds, there is no longer a Droyne "homeworld", starships and service.  This includes a character creation section that also differs from Traveller standard to cover the unique qualities of the Droyne species. 

The biggest "Feature" to alien is where did they come from? How did they develop jump drive technology and why are they not spread out over known space more given their 50,000 year head start?

I can see where playing a Droyne character would be an interesting challenge.

Alien Module 6 - Solomani

PDF. 52 pages, color cover, black and white interior art.

This "alien" species has a familiar name and a familiar look.  The Solomani are space-adapted humans. Maybe "space-adopted" humans is a better term.  Like the Vargr and the Zhodani, the Solomani were from Terran stock, human in the case of the Zhodani and Solomani. While the Zhodani (and other humans) developed on other worlds, the Solomani or Terrans stayed on Earth and then went out to the stars on their own.   

This book has much more history and background details than all the other Alien Modules.  It also gives us some starting insight to the various other human races in the galaxy (45 total according to the internet).  There is also quite a lot on the Solomani Rim Sector of space.

Like the other Alien Modules, this covers some new character creation details, but is not too different than the Traveller standard which assumed human. 

We end with an adventure about a lost colony and the deaths of thousands.

Alien Module 7 - Hiver
Alien Module 7 - Hiver

PDF. 52 pages, color cover, black and white interior art.

Back to another very alien species and one I knew nothing about till I bought this.

Where the other books typically opened with a comparative anatomy/physiology this one opens with just an overview of the hiver physiology as there are no reference points for comparison. 

They are called Hivers due to their hive-looking cities, but they are not really hive-mind creatures (say like bees), they are cooperative and work together well but respect the individual (otherwise we could not have characteristics of them). 

This book follows the outline of the other Alien Modules, with details on the Hiver's homeworlds, their government, and technology.  Likewise, there is detail about their starships and the world they inhabit.

As expected there is a bit more on their psychology as a completely alien species.  The rules for character creation are present for both "Basic" Traveller (LBB and such) and "Advanced" (High Guard, Mercenary, and beyond).  Special attention is given to their unique physical and psychological differences.

Hivers
There is an adventure included at the end to introduce these aliens to players.

Alien Module 8 - Darrians
Alien Module 8 - Darrians

PDF. 50 pages, color cover, black and white interior art.

Our last Alien Module of the Classic Traveller series and one of the last books before the big edition change.  The Darrians are of human-ish decent and would be a minor player in the game of Galatic politics save for two reasons. While the majority of the Imperium is TL15 (tech level) the Darrians are TL 16 and have been for a long time.  Also they have the knowledge of the "Star Trigger" essentially a weapon that causes a star to go supernova.  

For a major power player the Darrians only occupy a small subsector of space. So this make talking about their history into space shorter.  This Alien Module covers all the same basics as the previous ones. Again, as expected, since the Darrians (more on that) are from human stock seeded by the Ancients 300,000 years ago there is no comparative anatomy or physiology presented.

"Darrian" can mean many things, a gentic Darrian are the ones that were seeded 300k years ago and evolved on their own in their sector of space. It can also mean someone living in the Darrian Confederecy.  It can be anyone that is a citizen of the Darrian Confedercy. These details are explored more in the History and has an effect on Basic and Advnaced character creations.  Darrians are golden skinned, tall but slight of build and have pointed ears.  If you are thinking "Space Elves" then I am right there with you.

Darrians can be fairly described as the academics of the Imperium.  A "Darrian vacation" is going to the library. Or something in the pursuit of knowledge.  I kinda like these guys. 

We get the usual background information on their history, technology, starships, worlds, society and government. 

There is also an adventure, "The Secret of the Star Trigger", included at the end. 

--

So. For SciFi month this ends my little jaunt into Classic Traveller.  By my estimation there are over 300 Classic Traveller related products out there.  That is not counting anything published using the Cepheus Deluxe rules or the Mongoose rules.  I know in two weeks all I have done is (barely) scratch the surface.  I could spend the rest of this year talking about Traveller to exclusion of all other topics and still not get to everything.

While I might be done with Classic Traveller (for now) I am not done with Traveller AT ALL.  I have a couple of other posts coming up and then I want to get into the Traveller2300 vs MegaTraveller fray.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Review: Traveller Alien Modules (1984 - 1987), Part 1

Alien Module 1 Aslan
Before I get into the next phase of Traveller evolution I thought it behooves me to spend some time with the major Alien races we encounter in Traveller.  Indeed, it was the aliens and the ads for the first three books in Dragon Magazine that made me want to go back and check out Traveller some more.

All of these are available via DriveThruRPG and Far Future Enterprises.

Alien Module 1 - Aslan

PDF. 44 pages, color cover, black and white interior art. 

While not the first Traveller alien I encountered, this is the first module or data file for the various aliens Traveller has to offer.  This one seemed like a no-brainer to me at the time.  I had read Joan D. Vinge's "psion" earlier that year and between the Caitian and Kzinti (introduced to me by Star Trek) I was primed to want a Cat-like race in space. 

The book covers the basics. Aslan physiognomy, which includes some evolutionary details and how it plays into their current civilization. Their political structure (or almost lack thereof) is also discussed. While the Aslan (named such by the first human explorers to make first contact) are described as proud warrior race, they are not really a unified one. 

We are given a bit of their history and their forays into space and their encounters with the Imperium. We get a bit on their psychology, which includes the territorial nature of the males (explained the loose confederacy) and their ritual duels.  

The next large section is Aslan character creation. This covers the basic character creation going back to the 3 LBBs and "Expanded" character creation for other types of characters. 

We are also given background on the Aslan homeworld, worlds within the Imperium, and a bit on starship design.  There is even some detail on the Aslan language, at least in terms of names.

For 44 pages it is pretty well packed.  There is not a lot of "fluff" here, mostly all "crunch."  So no fiction from the point of view of an Aslan mercenary or a human living on an Aslan world.  Just the basics and enough to get you going on to your own adventures. Honestly, it is all you need. 

This was the Alien Module I wanted the most back in the day.  Researching it now I see that a lot of people did what I was going to do with it; mix in liberal amounts of Kzinti and some Caitian as well.  Plus I was going to have psionic ability be a bit stronger in Aslan women. A nod to a lot of the scifi I was reading at the time.  I also noticed just as many people complaining about others doing exactly what I wanted and described!  Yes, the Aslan are fine just as they are but I also like my ideas too.  Thankfully this book lets me do all of that.

Alien Module 2 - K'kree
Alien Module 2 - K'kree

PDF. 44 pages, color cover, black and white interior art. 

These aliens were very alien to me.  While I could relate to the Aslan and the Vargr, these centaur-like aliens were very different and thus pushed a lot lower on my "wish list."  I don't even think I had read any of this book until I picked up the PDF ten years ago.

This book is set up much the same as the Aslan book and the future books in the line. I found the bits on K'kree psychology most interesting. As herbivores, they tend to be peaceful (ETA unless you are a meat eater). This combined with the race's inherent claustrophobia goes to explain that while they had Jump technology they had not expanded as fast as other races.  

We do get the sections on history, politics and governments, space travel and starship design, and the language section on creating K'kree names. There is a section on character creation as well.

This Alien Module also gives a few pages on adventures with or about the K'kree.  So a little bit more background here than on the Aslan, but I think needed since this species is so different.

Reading this 10 years ago I was not overly impressed I think.  Today I am of a completely different mind and would like to see these guys used more.

Alien Module 3 - Vargr
Alien Module 3 - Vargr

PDF. 50 pages, color cover, black and white interior art. 

While I knew about the Vargr, they were the big three alien races GDW was advertising back in the day, my first *real* interaction with them was way back in the early 2010s when I was looking for new ideas for Ghosts of Albion adventures.  I stumbled on one from White Dwarf #62, "An Alien Werewolf in London" about a Vargr in Victorian London.  It was an odd adventure, but I gave it go for Ghosts and always wanted to try it again with Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space. 

This book is a bit larger than the previous two, largely because there is a lot you can do with these guys.  Also they are the most fun in terms of history.

Vargr look like Terran wolves because generally speaking that is what they are.  They were transplanted from Terra (Earth) to their homeworld by the Ancients over 300,000 years ago.  Now 300k years is not enough to evolve any stock into something like the Vargr so they had been artificially engineered for intelligence and survivability.  They share a number of physical characteristics of both humans and canine stock but have some minor differences as well.  They still have the psychology of pack hunters following a charismatic leader and working in small, but somewhat unstable, groups.  Pack membership can change and leaders can be followed or discarded at any time.  This has had two effects on the Vargr. One their history is a confusing affair with no one narrative of what happened.  Most of their 300,000-year history is largely unknown to them.  Also it leaves them with no central government nor even any type of government that could be considered "typically Vargr."   See why these aliens can be fun!

We get the now usual sections on character creation along with a brief language update for names. Some basics on the Vargr worlds and space travel.  

We also get a section called "Gvurrdon's Story" which is given to us from the point of view of a Vargr.

This makes up the "Big Three" in my mind.  I know more were introduced soon after (and I will get to them) but these are the ones I associate the most with Traveller.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Review: Traveller Starter Edition (1983)

Traveller Starter Edition
If there was a "Golden Year" of classic RPGs then I am willing to put my nomination in for 1983.

By now what I considered to be the "Big 3" were well established; AD&D/D&D, Call of Cthulhu, and Traveller.  Indeed there were even alternatives to these that were very good games in their own right; Runequest, Chill, and Star Frontiers respectively. While Edition and System Wars have always been with us, it was a great time to be a gamer.  

1983 also gave us a "new" version of Traveller.  Well, not really new at all, but certainly reorganized and edited again.   To keep up my analogy of Classic Traveller = Original D&D and The Traveller Book = Holmes Basic D&D (although with the inclusion of The Traveller Adventure a better one is Moldvay Basic/Cook & Marsh Expert D&D) then the 1983 Traveller Starter Edition is Mentzer BECMI D&D.

The Traveller Starter Edition was the version I saw the most in the pages of Dragon Magazine.  No surprise.  My prime Dragon reading years were 1982 to roughly 1991 and then not again until the 2000s.  Until Mega Traveller came onto the scene this was the Traveller book that GDW was pushing.  Easy to see why.  The cover of the Traveller Book, despite how much I love it, was always more "sci-fi novel" cover.  The new cover?  That's Star Wars meets Dune meets Battlestar Galactica.  This was a cinematic cover, even if the rules were the same.   I could not tell then, and in fact it was only today I noticed, but that ship looks like the Azhanti High Lightning from below.  Or maybe it isn't.  Either way that cover says Space Adventure.  The Traveller Book says "Space is Dangerous and I got bills to pay!" to me.  Both are perfect.

Traveller Starter Edition (1983)

For this review, I am considering the PDF I bought from DriveThruRPG split into three separate files.  The front cover and the back cover of the original book are not preserved here. 

Book 1: Core Rules

This PDF is 68 pages and features black & white interior art with black & white covers with red accents.  They look very much like the classic Traveller covers. 

This book features all the rules from the Classic Traveller system.  It is largely the Traveller Book but reorganized and edited for clarity.  Some sections read a little differently, but for the most part, it felt the same.  There is some new art here, but a lot of art from previous editions remains. The new art is, as expected, better and gives more detail. The red accents to some of the art have been removed.  Character creation reads faster, but it could also be that I have read this section many times now in one form or one book or another that I am "getting it."  

A trained or expert eye could spot the rule differences, but that is not me.  This largely feels the same.  This is not a bad thing mind you.  The difference feels the same as that between Moldvay Basic and BECMI Basic.  Two books for the same game are designed to do the same thing only in slightly different ways.

Book 2: Charts and Tables

This 28-page PDF covers all the charts and tables. References to the charts are in Book 1. 

Book 3: Adventures

This is a 23-page PDF with two adventures; Mission on Mithril (from Double Adventure 2) and Shadows (Double Adventure 1). 

Thoughts

When it comes to learning how to play Classic Traveller then either this version or the Traveller Book would be fine since they cover the same ground.  The analogy of The Traveller Book = B/X D&D and Traveller Starter Set = BECMI D&D extends here.  The trade dress of all future Traveller books will follow the Start Set design.  This will hold until Mega Traveller and 2300 later in 1987.

Which one should YOU buy?  That is entirely up to you.  The Traveller Book has the advantage of also being out in POD format and this one does not.  But this version is a little more friendly to newcomers.


Sunday, May 8, 2022

Review & Retrospective: Traveller Board Games

Azhanti High Lightning
I can't really talk about Traveller without mentioning my history with the game, or more to the point, my non-existent history with at least one aspect of the game.  The Traveller Boardgames.

I remember reading ads for Traveller in Dragon and White Dwarf Magazines and among the RPG books and very cool looking minis, there were the board games.   I remember reading about Azhanti High Lightning in particular. This was a board game and yet it could be used WITH the Traveller RPG. It even included material that could be added to your Traveller RPG OR played completely on its own.  Then imagine my surprise that this was not the only one.

Long-time readers will know this was the start of something I call my "Traveller Envy."  Even then in the early 80s, I was blown away by the amount of material for this game.  RPGs, Boardgames, starship minis.  It was enough to make a die-hard D&D player like me jealous.  Sure, I had Dungeon! but that is not quite the same is it? 

Sadly, and long-time readers know this too, I never got the chance to play any of them.  

Fast forward to, well, last week.  I picked up three of the board games from DriveThruRPG.  These are PDFs, but they are, as far as I can tell, complete.  They are PDFs though.  

I want to review them, but I really have no context for them save they are, to me, worth everything I paid.  Honestly just to see what they are all about was worth it even if I never get to play them.  

General Overview

I picked up three games, Imperium, Mayday, and Azhanti High Lightning.  All three share similarities. There is s set of printed rules that are easy to read.  There is a board game that really doubles as an awesome map.  And there are counters.  If anything is the weakest link here it is the counters.  I have, with other games, tried printing and gluing to cardstock (gotta wait for the ink to dry), but that is time-consuming.  I have been considering a completely futuristic plan.  I would use my HDMI projector to project down on a table and use 3D printed starships.  I have found a few online and I am 100% certain there are more.  It would be far more time-consuming than laser printing and gluing, but it would be 1000x so much cooler.  Thankfully the ships would not need to be huge so I could do a few at a time. I wouldn't even need to spend a lot of time painting them, just a solid color the same as the counter. 

Imperium (1977)
Imperium (1977)

This PDF features a 16 page rulebook, 3 pages of rule summaries, a turn tracker, 7 pages of background on the Imperium which may or may not reflect the same history as Traveller*.  There are also 3 pages of color maps/boards, 2 pages of counters, and an additional page of a counter manifest that looks like a page from Excel. Missing is the d6.  Bet I can dig one up.

This is a game of interstellar war. It actually predates Traveller by a bit, but obviously has similar DNA.  While the original 1977 RPG lacked an explicit setting, this one involves the Imperium (natch) and the forces of Terra (Earth).  The phases in the players' turns can include buying equipment, moving, and attacking.

This was published the same year as Traveller and the ideas of the Imperium had not been added to the RPG yet, so there are differences between the events of this game and future Traveller products. 

My issue with this set is I have no idea how big the map needs to be.  I can assume it is some multiple of the box size, but this is not a big issue.

Mayday (1978)

This one seems to be more explicitly linked to Traveller and is in fact Game 1.  The Mayday in question is the infamous "mayday" of the Free Trader Beowulf.  This is a game of ship-to-ship combat.   It was part of GDW's Series 120 games.  These were designed to play in two-hours or less. 

The Mayday is presented as a single PDF. Thre are 15 pages of rules. 1 page of counters. And a counter manifest/inventory (Excel printout). A board/map of a space hex-grid, and a scan of the box cover.

In general, this scan feels much more useful than Imperium did.  I can get a blank hex grid like this from my favorite local game store and I can print out all the counters I need, as I need, or use the 3D printing idea I have. 

While this game is more explicitly linked to Traveller, I see it could be used for any sort of ship-to-ship combat. I could even try my MCRN Barkeith vs. the USS Protector.  Might take some work, but the Barkeith would be a lot easier to do in the Traveller universe. 

Azhanti High Lightning (1980)
Azhanti High Lightning (1980)

This is where it all began for me. Well. At least my Traveller Envy began here.  This is Traveller Boardgame 3 and it is a companion to the S05 Supplement Lightning Class Cruiser.

This game is personal combat on a starship.  This PDF package includes 3 PDFs.  The first is the complete game of 118 pages. This includes 40 pages of rules which includes six different sorts of "Incidents" (read Scenarios).  The next section (40+ pages) of this PDF is S05 Supplement Lightning Class Cruiser.  So if you are looking for this supplement for Classic Traveller, then here it is. 

The next 16 or so pages include the counters and the deck plans for the Azhanti.   Again these counters are good, but I would like to use minis or something like that.

I have been told this game is a lot of fun.  I'll have to endeavor to get it all printed out into a playable shape.

--

It is hard to give these a proper review since the only proper proof is playing them.  One day maybe, but for now I can honestly say my curiosity has been satisfied.  

Links

Imperium

Mayday

Azhanti High Lightning