Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Review: T5 Traveller5 Core Rules 3-Book Set (2015)

T5 Traveller5 Core Rules 3-Book Set
We are entering a strange time now. There are now two editions of Traveller on the market, the Mongoose version and now, in 2015, a new version from Far Future Enterprises, the inheritor of Game Designers' Workshop intellectual properties.  This one is designed to be a new edition of the Traveller 4 edition and thus an "unbroken line" from Classic Traveller.

I have the Traveller 5.09 version I grabbed from Far Future Enterprises and the 5.10 version from DriveThruRPG.  For the purposes of this review, I am going to be considering the 5.10 version.

T5 Traveller5 Core Rules 3-Book Set

As with Classic Traveller, this version is split up into three books.  They are not little, and the covers are not included, but they do have the same names.  So that is fine.

Each book has a comprehensive table of contents of all three books.  

Book 1: Characters and Combat

PDF. 208 pages, black & white and color interior art. 

Starting out this has a different feel than other versions.   We start with the the typical "What is a Roleplaying Game" bits and "What is Traveller" under the Traveller is a Role-Playing Game section with an example of play. What follows is a bit on the Galaxy (weird to see how little of it is charted in Traveller), A Brief History of the Universe, and The Foundations of the Universe.  The feel here is one of situating the characters in the Traveller Universe first as opposed to having the character operating in the universe as Classic Traveller does.  Thematically (not rule-wise) this makes it a bit closer to MegaTraveller.  

Traveller Uses Dice takes us back to the real world.  There seems to be some new dice mechanics being introduced here in the form of "Flux Rolls." We get bits on Money, Ranges, and Humanity.  I have to admit I admit I am not liking the organization so far.  The topics seem to come at random. 

Ok. We finally get to a chapter Characters are the Central Focus of Traveller, but not till page 46. 

Characters still have the same six basic characteristics/abilities but there are an additional two added, Psions (Psi) and Sanity. Then there are another eight that are also used that are combinations of the regular six. I can't help but feel that something that was elegant is not needlessly complicated. 

Eleven pages later we get to Characters and Careers. This covers the careers that we see in many versions of Traveller.  I do like the art on the various medals a character can get while in the service, nice touch.  The careers are comparable to previous versions.  Each carrier gets a single page of detail which is nice really, print it out and staple it to your character sheet card. There are also many tables for backgrounds.

There is a new section on Genetics. There are some lists and diagrams for family trees (genetic trees) but I am not seeing the in-game application to this yet.  I guess if your character is genetically modified this would be good. Sections on Chimeras, Synthetic Lifeforms, and Clones follow. 

Tasks are next and deal with how you do things in Traveller.  We are back to a Roll Under task resolution.  A few pages discussing how tasks are determined with an example of three character with low, medium and high dexterity. 

Skills is introduced with a Master Skill list, though "Massive Skill List" would also be appropriate. There are a lot of skills here.  Skills and their descriptions take up the next 40 pages.

Equipment is given the acronym QREBS for Quality, Reliability, Ease, Bulk/Burden, and Safety. 

We jump back to character focus with Intuitions, Personals, and The Senses. 

We get to the second half of the title 2/3 of the way into the book. Combat. Up first is Personal Combat. This covers all sorts of types of combat, conditions, environment, movement, and more. There is even an example of combat between two groups of five combatants. This is good, because I still have no real good notion of how combat works in this system. This follows by a list of weapons.

Dice is next and covers all the rolls for 1D to 10D and the Flux die.  Look I have a Master's degree in Stats, I like math, I like numbers. But this feels needlessly complicated to me. 

The book ends in an Index (but hyperlinks and the PDF is not bookmarked).

Book 2: Starships

PDF. 304 pages, black & white and color interior art. 

One of the things I love about Traveller has been their starship-building rules. It's like character building and I don't feel bad about min-maxing or even meta-gaming it.  

We start out with the basic anatomy of a stellar hex grid. Ok, that is useful. This introduced us to the section on Star Systems. We get some brief overviews of systems and some helpful charts and tables to describe them.  This is followed by Star Ports (places to go in the system) where the adventures usually begin.

Starships are next and cover all sorts of starships. The same sorts of details are here as in other versions of Traveller. I would need the rules side by side to see the differences, but it feels more like Traveller T4 than anything.  Lots of color art for the various types of ships are a nice touch.  Our old friend the Beowulf-class Free Trader is present. 

Starship Design and Construction covers how to build and pay for these ships.   All of this is recorded on the Ship Card, like a character sheet for ships. This is a feature that goes back to the beginning. 

Maneuvering is next, or how your ship is a ship and not a space station. This includes interplanetary travel.  Jump covers interstellar travel. 

Plenty of sections on how Power, Sensors, Weapons, Defenses, Fuel, and Space Combat work. Far more detail than I recall in any version of Traveller so far.

Trade and Commerce Between the Stars section is next. Traveller is built on the reality that goods and people need to move between the starts and there is an economy based on that. 

Technology and Tech Levels are discussed in detail. Followed by Lifespans of intelligent species (why wasn't this in Book 1?), Interstellar Communities, Computers, and Robots.

This book was a bit better organized than Book 1, up till the end that is.

Book 3: Worlds and Adventures

PDF. 304 pages, black & white and color interior art. 

This covers Worlds and Systems.  It seems that some of the System material from Book2 would have been better here. 

If Book 1 creates characters, and Book 2 creates Starships, then Book 3 creates worlds and systems. Again pretty detailed with charts and graphs galore. This covers the first 94 pages or so.

Makers or building things run the next 80 odd pages.  Seems like this should have been in book 2. 

Special Circumstances are next for the next 70 pages.  This includes Psionics. This covers psionic characters and their powers. This also covers the Zhodani.  

There is an interesting sub-section on Sophonts, or intelligent non-humans.  Again, this would have been better served in Book 1 I think, but I do see why it is here. 

We don't get to Adventuring until page 270 and then it is only 10 pages. Very underserved in my mind.

Each book ends with book specific Appendicies and Indexes.

--

So. 816 pages of PDF rules for Traveller 5.10.  (FYI my Traveller 5.09 weighs in at 760 pages).

What do I know?  Well. This version of Traveller is an interesting view of divergent evolution.  In 2015 to 2019 (and still) there are two in print, live versions of Traveller out there. Traveller 5 and Mongoose Traveller.  Both have the same ancestor, Classic Traveller, but each went on a different path.

Classic Traveller Mongoose Traveller Traveller 5

We also live in a world now where ALL versions of Traveller are easily available in PDF, Print, and POD versions. 

Given all of this, I just can't see myself playing Traveller 5. There is a LOT here I can see myself using though.  I do not regret buying it at all. Far from it. I think my goal here is to grab anything I can find that is useful that is still roughly compatible with the Classic Traveller Core.  

My issues with Traveller 5 are largely from the organization of the material and the over-complication of the rules.  I am not a fan of roll-under systems, but I can get over that for the right game. 

I give Far Future Enterprises credit for trying to expand the game in a new direction, it's just a direction I am interested in going in these days. At nearly $45 for three (four if you count the "Read me" pdf, which I don't) PDFs and no POD option is a bit rich for most people's blood. 

Still, I am a perpetual sucker for the sunk cost fallacy, so I am always looking for an excuse to use all my books. 

BTW: This is also my 5,000th post here at the Other Side!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Review: Traveller Main Rulebook (2008)

Traveller Main Rulebook (2008)
We are getting to the end of our journey into the various editions and versions of Traveller.  Today I am bringing us to the modern era and will spend some time with the various Open Gaming editions of Traveller.  That's right. Traveller has hit the retro-clone stage of development.

2008 was not all that long ago.  This blog was up and running at this point and I was beginning work on a lot of the projects you know me well for. So consequently I was not really paying all that much attention to what was going on in the world of Traveller. 

While I mentioned that we are hitting the "retro-clone" phase of Traveller's development, it was not (as far as I can tell) Mongoose that released the Traveller SRD. That was the work of Jason Kemp.  But I will get to all of that in a bit when I review the Cepheus Engine.

Traveller Main Rulebook (2008)

PDF. 192 pages (plus covers). Black & White art with a red accent.

Traveller has had a long history. This new version from Mongoose celebrates that history by essentially going back to the beginning with the look and feel of Classic Traveller. 

How much does this feel like Classic Traveller?  So much so that I am kinda struggling with what to say other than "wow this is like Classic Traveller!"  Not in a "they copied The Traveller Book" way but more in a "These are people that began playing this game 30 years ago and now want to introduce new gamers to that game" way.

Everything about this book is a serious nostalgia trip.  And given that I have been spending all this time with all versions of Traveller, a serious case of déjà vu.  

Introduction

Our introduction to the Traveller game.  There are some minor references to "The Third Imperium" but much like the LBBs this game is largely setting-free.  Some examples of play are given and the various Technology Levels (TL 0 to 15) are given.

Character Creation

This is very, very similar to the Classic Traveller Character Creation even down to our good friend Alexander Jamison returning.

Side note: I have decided that once a character musters out of one of the services (Army, Marines, Merchant Marines, Navy) they are gifted a sword. Seems like something that should happen and explain why Jamison here has a cutlass in a universe full of lasers.

The big changes here (and see throughout this book) are better layout for looking at options and checklists and guides.  This version does an amazing job of getting a new player up and going fast. 

improved layout

You can't die in character creation, but there is still a lot going on.  Also there is a point-buy feature for assigning your points to your six abilities.  We are again back at an average of 7 for abilities and the UPP is back. 

There are still a lot of careers to choose from, more than in The Traveller Book.  Life events follow. Someone close to your character can die, but not your character.  Though you can muster out and be in medical debt.  

There is a section on aliens. Here we get the Aslan, Droyne, Hivers, K'kree, Vargr, and the Zhodani.  Given the way the rules of this version are written, I can't see why the older Alien Modules couldn't still be used here. 

Skills and Tasks

Skills are very familiar but seemed to be pared down a little. Die Modifiers (DM) are discussed as well as how to do a task check right away.  Each skill is detailed along with any specialties under that skill. 

Combat

This chapter gets an upgrade in my mind and shows the familiarity Mongoose has had with d20 and other modern systems.  Actions are divided into Minor and Significant Actions along with Reactions and any number of Free actions. These are made very clear.  Combat actions (a significant action) is detailed on what needs to be rolled.  All of this was in previous versions, but now they are more upfront and bolded.  

Encounters and Dangers

This is the analog to the older Encounters and Animals sections. Plenty of charts and boxed text to help a referee out when building encounters.  Encounters are more than just strange new animals on weird worlds. There are rivals, other humans, and corporate actions just to give some examples. Quite a lot really.  True to Traveller there are plenty of d66 tables for all these encounters.

Equipment

Your characters' shopping lists. It looks like this is very similar to other equipment lists of other editions.  I will note (because this is me) that computers finally feel right.  They, and a lot of the other equipment here feel like futuristic equipment.  Computers are tiny and powerful. There are "smart guns" that help you hit your target, holographic displays, and robots and drones in their own sub-section.

Each bit of equipment comes with a TL rating.

Spacecraft Design

Distinctions are made between interplanetary and interstellar spacecraft.  Like character creation, there is a helpful checklist. 

Common Spacecraft. This is less of a chapter section and more of a sub-section of Design.  This list of common ships with their details, some maps, and a picture. 

Spacecraft Operations

An alphabetical listing of everything (mostly everything) that can go on in a ship. 

Space Combat

Similar to other versions and the combat chapter above. This details how ships can fight including movement, targeting, and firing phases. Along with damage and reactions.  The chapter is not large but remarkably detailed.

Psionics

Ah. Psionics.  Stuck out into the back half of the book again. Psions are given a "career" write-up as the other character types. 

Trade

Covers basic trade between the worlds/systems/colonies.

World Creation

This chapter feels more like Classic Traveller than the others. Sadly no equations to apease the math geek in me but a lot of information all the same. 

Index

A pretty good index (not hyperlinked), a character sheet, and a hex grid.

--

So this might be the best version of Classic Traveller to date.  Same rules more or less (I admit I could not spot any major differences), the feel of Classic Traveller and in a cleaned up and reorganized fashion.  I know there is a 2nd Edition coming up (I have already started on that) but there is a simple elegance to this edition.

There is also a Book 0 to get you started.  It is a cut down version of the Core Rules at 32 pages and is Free.  I have both in the same three ring binder I have The Traveller Book in.  

Friday, May 20, 2022

Review: Traveller20 (2002-2007)

Traveller20 (2002, 2007)
We are now in another new decade. In fact a new century and a new millennium in fact. And of course another new edition of Traveller.  Interestingly enough we are now 25 years out from the Little Black Books. But we are now nearing the end height of the d20 boom.

Traveler, for the first time in its history, is now using the same system as Dungeons & Dragons.

Traveller for d20, also called Traveller 20 or even T20 used the d20 system under the OGL and d20 STL.

Since this is the 20th day of SciFi month, let's do Traveller for d20!

There are two versions of this game, one out in 2002, which I remember was a single hardcover book.  The other, available from DriveThruRPG is the 2007 edition and made up of three books (and a handbook).  I had the 2002 version briefly but ended selling it off in an auction. Why? I can't recall. I had a baby and another one on the way, I bet I needed money.

Both versions have similar cover art.

For the purposes of this review, I am going to consider the 2006-7 version from DriveThruRPG and from Far Future Enterprises where I got my copy from. 

Traveller20 Core Rules Set (2006-7)

PDF. Four files. Color cover art, black & white interior art.

Traveller20 (2006-7)

Ok. I want to start with this. I like d20. I do. My favorite version of the Star Wards RPG is Wizard's Revised d20 version. I know that sounds like blasphemy to so many, but I don't care.  Star Wars and D&D are so wrapped up into my childhood that bringing them together under one system was a no-brainer for me.  Now if I can add some Traveller bits?  Well I don't know if I can just yet, but the idea is so tempting, so tantalizing I just can't help it.  Seriously what could be more Summer of 1977 than Star Wars + D&D + Traveller?   What does that mean for you?  Well.  I am likely to cut this edition a lot of slack. Maybe even to the point of excusing some things I shouldn't.  Forewarned is forearmed.

The Traveller's Guidebook
The Traveller's Guidebook

PDF. 234 Pages, Color cover, black & white interior art with blue accents.

This is the "Book 0" OR the Book 4 of the 2006-7 Traveller d20 line.  This book covers all the basics for the Traveller Player. 

We get out Introduction which tells us what we are in for here.  It is written for the point of view of anyone new to RPGs or new to Traveller (any version). 

We get brief overviews of the d20 mechanic. How to set your Difficulty Levels (DCs) and even a little on success levels.

Character Creation is next.  What follows is pretty standard for all d20 games.  Roll abilities, choose races, select classes, set skills, add feats, roll up hitpoints.  This is Traveller so there is a bit more added on.

D&D/d20 has six Character Abilities. Traveller has six.  T20 has nine. These are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Education, Wisdom, Charisma, Social Standing, and Psionic Strength.  Ok a mix of both systems.  Not exactly what I would have done, but hey.  Ability scores are d20 standard, modifiers are as well.   

Hitpoints are split between Stamina and Lifeblood. Or what other games might call wound points and health points.  One slows you down the other represents how much you have till you die. Loosing either is not good.

Races are discussed and the standard humans are given with variations. You can also choose Vargr, Aslan, Ursa, and Virushi. 

Since this is Traveller you have your homeworld to consider.  There are plenty of random tables to help you figure this all out.  Tech Levels from previous editions remain here. It's a nice touch of course.  Also you have your prior history, or what you did before you decided to live the glamorous life of a Traveller.  Turns of service enter here with various paths and what that all means in terms of your character (background, credit earned, and skills).   I am not sure but it seems like there are a lot of careers here. More than other editions.

Once that is figured out you can choose a class. XP values are the same as D&D 3.x so that is easy enough. There are 12 core classes: Academic, Athlete, Barbarian, Belter, Entertainer, Martial Artist, Mercenary, Merchant, Noble, Professional, Rogue, and Traveller.  Nine "Service" Classes: Army, Convict, Corsair, Flyer, Law Enforcement, Marine, Navy, Sailor, and Scout. And eight Prestige Classes: Diplomat, Engineer, Medic, Ace Pilot, Ancients Hunter, Big Game Hunter, Psionicist, and TAS Field Reporter.

Skills are covered and as expected there are a lot of them. A lot. Nearly 30 pages worth.  Same goes for Feats (this is d20 after all).  Now I prefer a smaller list of skills myself, but I see why the authors did what they did.

Equipment and Starting Funds cover the next 40 pages or so.  Imperial Credits are still good here!

Combat is the d20 system with a few twists, but nothing the average D&D 3.x+ player couldn't figure out.  The covers personal, vehicle and ship combat.

Adventuring covers quite a lot from what the characters do, living expenses, environments and their dangers, weather dangers, movement, vision, and on to Psionics (which really should be it's own chapter).

We now get into what could be reasonably called the Traveller Black Books of d20.

Book 1: Characters and Combat
Book 1: Characters and Combat

PDF. 209 Pages, Color cover, black & white, and color interior art.

I will admit I am confused. This book looks older than the "Book 0" above.  No problem.  Ok. So I get the idea these textbooks are actually separate from the first one. Not sure what the logic here is, but works for me.  I'll take these three books as a group, like the Little Black Books of old.

We start out with some game fiction. Move right on to an introduction from Marc W. Miller, but I think that is all he did for this particular version.  This moves on to the Introduction to RPGs section and about Traveller in particular.  So while it is similar to the book above it also goes into far more detail.

Characters cover character creation.

There is an overview with page references to where they are detailed later in this book.  Most interestingly there are now eight (8) Abilities.  The standard d20 ones plus Education (EDU) and Social Standing (SOC).  

You generate your abilities first, examples are given of how EDU and SOC work in the game.  Determine your race/species included here are humans (with sub-types), Vargr, Aslan, Luriani, Sydites, Ursa, and Virushi.  Mentioned ar the Droyne, Hivers, and K'Kree.

As always your homeworld stats are determined and character adjusted as needed.  This also helps with skills and what classes are available to you. 

Classes are next and there are a lot of them. This time they are better explained.  We have the core classes: Academic, Barbarian, Belter, Mercenary, Merchant, Noble, Professional, Rogue, and Traveller.  The  Service Classes: Army, Marine, Navy, and Scout. And Prestige Classes: Ace Pilot, Big Game Hunter, and TAS Field Reporter.  Classes work like the d20 standard. 

I do admit I have a desire to run a game with TAS field reporters.  If nothing else this is giving me a load of ideas for my Star Trek: Mercy campaign. 

Skills are up and we also get a note that this section is Open Game Content. Nice touch.  There are quite a lot of skills here, more than the d20 standard of the time.  A lot of these are also limited to particular classes or backgrounds.  Unlike standard d20 and more like some other games, some skills can be used with more than one ability. Pilot for example can be INT or DEX.  I think my favorite addition though is the "Dealing with Bureaucrats" DC table.   As expected this section is rather large.

Feats (this is d20 after all) is also a long section.  There are also some Final Details to figure out like age, height, and weight. 

Oddly, but maybe it makes sense, Prior History is after all of this.  Reading through is does actually since it modifies what the character is like. In truth it is like a rather robust "Backgrounds" from D&D 5th Edition, just 10+ years before that.

Combat is up. The book says that combat is pretty much the same as d20 standard except in a few   cases.  Mostly Traveller universe specific examples.  Where things are different it is noted.

After combat, the Prestige Classes are covered.  And at the end as always (more or less) is Psionics.

The Appendices follow.  Their page numbers start as if all three books are combined.  Nice really. So Appendix I starts on page 426.  The last page is the OGL and Product Identity information.

Book 2: Equipment and Design
Book 2: Equipment and Design

PDF. 164 Pages, Color cover, black & white interior art.

I just want to say right now that I am loving this Classic Traveller presentation of the Traveller 20 rules.  I wish I had a POD of this. 

This book continues, page numbers and all, from Book 1. 

This book covers all the Technology and Equipment (about two dozen pages), the design of vehicles and starships, and some standard designs.  All of it is largely what you would expect it to be.

Technology and Equipment.  This discusses various TLs (Technology Levels) and the character "shopping list" so lots of weapons.  We do have sections of drugs, medical care, food and living expenses, as well as cybertechnology (somewhat that started in Traveller just a decade ago) and cloning.  Interestingly enough I did not see a lot on robots save that they can be built like vehicles.  I do appreciate the conservation of rule space here, but more might have been nice.

Computers are more advanced, but you are all sick of me harping on that.

The Appendices repeat here as well as the OGL information.

Book 3: Worlds and Adventures
Book 3: Worlds and Adventures

PDF. 107 Pages, Color cover, black & white interior art.

Ok, I have to admit I am enjoying this system. 

This is the smallest of the three. 

This book covers Travelling (Chapter 14), Starship Encounters (Chapter 15), Universe and World development (Chapter 16), Campaigns (17), and Traveller Adventures (Chapter 18).

The design here is one of characters living in a giant Galactic Imperium that is full of adventure and lite on the details of the Imperium itself.  Oh there is information here on it anyone with any knowledge of Traveller can easily fill in the blanks.  The focus of this game though is more like Classic Traveller, on the characters and what they do.  There is more here than Classic Traveller, but not as much as say MegaTraveller.

I can gather from reading that this takes place sometime prior to the timeline of the LBBs, before 1000. But not much more.

--

Ok so this bundle has two separate versions of the T20 game. For my money, I would rather the Three Books and add in details from The Traveller's Guidebook where needed. 

The Three Books cover the same material as The Traveller's Guidebook save for where the TGB goes into additions (more classes, more abilities).   I am not 100% convinced that the additions to TGB are better. 

I am not going to lie. I like the 3.x d20 system, warts and all.  I like the idea of a huge Galactic Empire.  So if I am going to play a non-Trek game then some flavor of d20 is likely going to be my choice.

Call me crazy, but I like this one. 

Part of me wants to find a copy of the Traveller d20 dead tree book online to buy another part of me wants to print out what I have to put into a binder with other d20-based SciFi games.  I know there is d20 Starfleet Battles / Prime Directive and more. 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Review: T4 Marc Miller's Traveller (1996)

T4 Marc Miller's Traveller (1996)
We are now up to 1996.  Games Designer's Workshop, unfortunately, had folded at the end of February 1996. At this time the rights to Traveller reverted back to Mark Miller.  So Mark started Imperium Games to produce a new game called "Marc Miller's Traveller" but most called T4 online.

It has, as far as I can tell, the least amount of supplements for its game line but that is not a huge surprise. 

T4 Marc Miller's Traveller (1996)

PDF. 194 pages, color covers and color inserts, black & white art.

For the purposes of this review I am only considering the PDF from DriveThruRPR. There is a softcover POD that includes the color plates, but I do not have that. 

There are a lot of familiar names here including Larry Elmore doing some of the interior art.  

This game is set at the dawn of the Third Imperium, so in the opposite direction timewise the latest versions were going.  It makes it pretty clear that setting wise at least is that this is not a sequel or continuation of MegaTraveller or Traveller: The New Era.

I will note I am not coming into this one blind. Even back then I had heard how this particular edition was riddled with errors and it there is a page (or two dozen pages) of errata out there.  I am not going to consider that, nor do I even know if they are included in this file. I am going with no, but I'll check them out later. 

Chapter 1: Roleplaying in the Traveller Universe

This is the typical "what is a role-playing game" and "what is Traveller" sections.  It is all very similar to the Traveller Book.

Chapter 2: Character Generation

This feels an awful lot like Classic Traveller. In particular, again, the Traveller book.  There are more careers here and you get more skills.  It also doesn't look like you can die in character creation anymore, but you can be injured and discharged. You still go through background, homeworlds and advanced education, and more.  Very familiar I am sure to the seasoned Traveller player.  Speaking of familiar, our good friend Alexander Jamison is back.  An error, on page 24 Ranks are mentioned (ok, cool same as CT), but in the tables on 29-32 have ranks of E1 to E9 and O1 to O10, Enlisted and Officer. 

Chapter 3: Skills

For the first time, the skill list seems a bit smaller than in the last two editions.  The chapter not huge and the skills are explained well.  

Chapter 4: Task

This is a short and sweet chapter.  Only 2 chapters. BUT a couple of things. First, we are now using a "Roll under" system which I am not a fan of.  And there are all these "x.5" die rolls.  I had forgotten about all the weird-ass die mechanics the late 90s flirted with.  This is not the worse, but it is certainly no fun. I mean the task resolution is not terrible, but there are better ones. Much better ones. 

Chapter 5: Ground Combat

This is a bit larger than tasks but still smaller than other versions.  While there are changes due to the task resolution system it still reads a lot like Classic Traveller.  In fact the range bands are now back! 

Chapter 6: Equipment

The shopping chapter! One thing I notice is that computers (I know I harp on this, sorry it's my thing) seem to have really advanced.  Though I have to point out the "advanced" computers of the Dawn of the Third Imperium are on par with the one I use now to write this. Minus the holographic display.   But all in all a big improvement.

I am getting the feeling that somewhere between CT and T4 there is a great Traveller game.

What I am not getting yet is how the tech of this time differs from Classic Traveller's implied tech. This is supposed to be 1100 years before the LBBs.  

Chapter 7: Surface Vehicle

This covers vehicles that are not starships.  I do want to take a moment and comment on the improved art of this edition.  Traveller never really had what I would call inspiring art. It had functional art and it had good descriptive art, but never anything like "wow that looks awesome."  Some of the art here is of the awesome category.  

Chapter 8: Spacecraft

One of my favorite chapters of past editions.  Again starship computers are better handled.  Creating a ship is a little like creating a character.  There are even some nice photo-like pictures of starships.  This section reads a bit differently than the others. Also the tables are organized by layout space rather than how they need to be consulted.

Chapter 9: Space Travel

Guess what is back? Yes! The equations! This whole section is very reminscent of the Classic Traveller books.  Though I will admit I do not recall the grisly "Low Lottery" from previous editions.  This isn't Star Trek folks.  

Chapter 10: Space Combat

This chapter covers combat and it is a bit different. I'd like to say it looks faster, but I have not tried it out at all. Again I'll need to stat out a few ships and give them a trial run. Maybe I could run that Freetrader Beowulf rescue mission I have wanted to try.

Chapter 11: Psionics

Each edition Psionics gets a boost. The material here is again largely similar to Classic Traveller, but now there is a Psiconist service. That's new. I wonder if Babylon 5 was any influence here. 

Chapter 12: World Generation

This is also a copy (more or less) from Classic Traveller. No world forms here though.

Chapter 13: Encounters

This is a combination of both the Encounters and Animal Encounters sections. This makes sense really. This is also all word for word from The Traveller Book. The more I red the more déjà vu I am getting.

I mean, can you tell which book these two sections are from.  There is a small hint.

Encounters

Encounters

Now I am not complaining here.  In 1996 when this came out the original Classic Traveller was 20 year old. The books were long out of print and GDW was gone. For someone who say played Traveller in High School, skipped all the other editions due to college and now was, oh I don't know, sitting on the train commuting from home to Chicago and back to home every day, this had to be a very welcome sight. 

Chapter 14: Referee's Introduction

Our Game Master section.  Not word for word from the Traveller book, but close enough.  OR at least the feeling is the same. This does include some details on improving skills.

Chapter 15: Running Adventures and Campaigns

This is similar enough to the Traveller Book's "Referee's Guide to Adventuring."  I am not sure is the authors (and there is plenty of evidence that there is more than one voice here) wanted to ignore everything after MegaTraveller OR were not allowed to use anything.  I don't mean text I mean ideas. I think I wanted to see more here.

Chapter 16: Trade and Commerce

Again similar to other editions of Classic Traveller. Did text search and found it is largely the same text as Book 7, Merchant Prince. And again not a complaint here.

Chapter 17: Exit Visa (Adventure)

This is the same adventure from the Traveller Book. 

Chapter 18: Rubicon Cross (Adventure)

This one is completely new as far a I can tell. In fact my online search for it pulled up references to T4 and the errata sheets. Guess I'll grab that. 

Library Data and Index

The Library Data is pulled from Classic Traveller. Is it a copy? Yes. And sadly it preserved the focus on the current year being 1105 and Year 0.  So the entries on "Dating Systems" and "Holiday Year" only make sense from a later perspective.  Ok, I suppose it was possible that Cleon I proclaimed the current year as the Holiday year when he assumed power. 

The Index is pretty good.

What do we know?

Well. Let's extend my D&D analogy here to the breaking point.

Original LBB Traveller is OD&D's LBB.  I called the Traveller Book the "Holmes Basic" of Traveller, but in retrospect I think Moldvay Basic & Cook/Marsh Expert is a better fit.  That makes Traveller Starter Edition the Mentzer BECMI D&D.  Traveller 2300 is SPI's DragonQuest, Mega Traveller is AD&D 2nd Edition, and Traveller the New Era is 4th edition.

So what then in Marc Miller's Traveller? Since it is closest to the Classic Traveller line it is the 1991 Black Box or The Classic Dungeons & Dragons Game produced in 1994 and edited by Doug Stewart.

So who is Marc Miller's Traveller for?

In 1996 that answer was easy. It was for anyone that wanted to play Traveller that did not have access to the older Classic Traveller books and did not care for the New Era.

In 2022? Well. That is a harder one to answer. Today Classic Traveller is easily available in a variety of formats and editions.  And I have not even started with Moongoose Traveller or the Cepheus Engine materials. IF there had been more material on the start of the 3rd Imperium here then that would give it a solid reason for setting alone. If the rules had been updated more with that 20 years of Traveller experience then that would have been a solid reason.  Sadly neither of those are true enough. That added to the errors, the typos and some weird design choices make this a Traveller for the die hard fans only.  That is NOT a bad thing.  Just for my money I still prefer my Traveller Book.  

Now what I might do, since I have the PDF and this is easy. Is go through it all and just print the updated sections I like and slot them into my Traveller 3-ring binder. I have a tab for "4" I could use AND I put in, or pencil in, all the errata I want or need.

I do want to point out again that the art in this book is phenomenal. There are some seriously good pieces that look like they come right off the cover of some great sci-fi novel. I like to think that was the intent.  I am sure it makes for a gorgeous PoD book. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Review: Traveller: The New Era (1993)

Traveller: The New Era
"Don't stop thinking about tomorrow
Don't stop, it'll soon be here
It'll be better than before
Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone."

Fleetwood Mac's 1977 hit "Don't Stop" came out the same year as Classic Traveller.  It was also, more or less, the theme that covered the intro the 1990s.  Newly elected Bill Clinton had used it as his campaign theme song and even Fleetwood Mac got back together long enough to play it at his inaugural ball in 1993.  Think about the start of the 90s for a second.  Everything seemed possible then.  I was in Grad School, working part-time (only 60 hours a week) for the Navy writing code. I was taking classes, and teaching. I had broken up with my long-time girlfriend and soon started dating someone who would in just a few more years be my wife!  So yeah the future was full of endless possibilities in 1993.

Traveller: The New Era feels like the most "1993" game ever.  Tomorrow was here and Yesterday (Classic Traveller if you will) was gone. 

For this review, I am only considering the PDF I just downloaded from DriveThruRPG.  My original one was corrupted and I was wondering if I was even going to get to do this one today.  I saw the PDF in DT was updated back 2014, so I grabbed a new one.  Glad I did.  I remember my first one was very hard to read and the text was blurry.  This new one is much clearer. I also recall that some of the pages had a green background, this one does not.

Traveller: The New Era (1993)

PDF. 386 pages, color covers, black & white interior art.  Oddly there are no PDF bookmarks in this file. The book is also available as a softcover PoD.  I have no idea which printing this is. I understand the first printing had a few errors. 

This book is a beast. I think (not 100% sure) that this was a boxed set of different books. 

One of the first things I noticed about this edition is that Frank Chadwick and Dave Nilsen are listed for Game Design and Marc Millar is only listed for Design of the previous version of Traveller.  I remember some of this back in the day, but for now, I am going to focus on just what is in the book. 

The book is divided up into various large sections. The table of contents seems to deny my guess that this pdf was separate books at one point. Ok, no problem.

Introduction (and History)

This is our introduction to the Traveller Universe. The History section is the most important for this edition since it sets up how this is different than the previous editions.  For starters, the Imperium has completely collapsed.  Classic Traveller was taking place roughly around 1110 of the Imperial Calendar. MegaTraveller dealt with the aftermath of the Emperor's assassination in 1116.  This Traveller jumps ahead by 85 or so years to the 1201 "The New Era."  Honestly from a design/edition perspective, this makes a lot of sense. 

It is a neat background and welcome (in a manner of speaking) to older players but new players likely won't care about this.  The "world" of TNE is very different than that of MegaTraveller of Classic Traveller. Even at just a few pages it is still more background than we got in the LBB of Classic. 

Characters

Character creation in TNE feels similar and different at the same time. You are still rolling 2d6, though now it is a 2d6-1. This changed the average from 7 to 6. There are still six attributes that are roughly the same. TNE has Strength, Agility, Constitution, Intelligence, Education, and Charisma. Classic Traveller had Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence, Education, and Social. So similar.  TNE also offers a point spread of 36 to distribute if you prefer.  We are still using the UPP, only now a 666666 denotes an average character instead of 777777. Abilities are determined, then the background generation begins.  Like previous versions of Traveller, you decide on a homeworld (which can affect some abilities) and work out your starting careers.  

This version seems to have more careers than previous versions, but keep in mind I am only looking at core books for now. Character generation covers about 43 pages total. So quite a lot really.  NPCs cover about 8 pages, with a nice playing card system to determine motivations. 

The character creation rules now make no assumption of species or gender, so that is left to the player. Thre are 5 pages of alien templates to add to characters at the end of this section.  There are Hivers, Vargr, Aslan, Zhodani, and Droyne.  

The New Era

This covers what is, well, new for this version of Traveller's universe.  These are the AI Virus, the Star Vikings, and The Wilds.  I don't need to know much about Traveller or TNE to know these elements were not well received.  The Virus reads like how we looked at computer viruses in the 90s.  The flowchart looks like something you would find on a Mac Quadra 900 (btw I consider that a Feature, not a Bug).

I can see a smart AI virus attacking all sorts of computers, but even today we have good anti-virus software and still a couple of dozen operating systems (I count 7 or 8 different ones in my house alone) that do not transmit viruses to each other even when networked.

The Star Vikings seem like an inevitable addition to the game.  The Wilds, likewise.

All of this seems like an attempt to provide a little more chaos around the "edges" of the star systems.  That is, give the PCs more to do and ways to make it through or hinder them in some ways.

Referees

A little more than a quarter of the way through we hit the Referee's section.  The system seems closer to that of Traveller 2300 than it does of Classic Traveller or MegaTraveller. There are now d20 rolls added to the rules. Reading through in detail now there are a lot of d20 rolls. More details are given on how to make the rolls than I recall in MT or CT.

Skills are discussed in terms of what they can do. And the Referee gets some adventure ideas.  This section is only about 70 pages. I was expecting a bit more. 

Worlds & Travel

Now, this is a meaty section of about 100 pages. The world generation system feels similar-ish to other Traveller games, no point reinventing everything I guess. Though there is a lot more detail here.  It does look like it can create worlds much the same way as MegaTraveller.

This section also includes the Encounters and Animals sections from previous versions with some modifications.  Same with space travel. 

Interestingly enough the Psionics section, usually stuck into the back of the book, is now here. I still think it should be with Character creation, but ok. It is also expanded.  In the realm of purely new-to-a-core-rules material, there is a sections robots. Even if it tells us there are nearly no production facilities for robots still operational outside of the Spinward Marches in the New Era. 

Combat

The next nearly 100 pages deal with all forms of combat. From personal to space combat. The rules are updated and seem to cover most situations. Hard to tell without doing it. I am still thinking I need to run simulated combat for each version to see how they are.  Do something silly like a Borg Cube vs the Death Star or a Colonial Viper vs an X-Wing vs. a Buck Rogers Thunderfighter. 

Combat is different than other versions of Traveller.  

There is some advice here too on using minis in a game. Their recommendation is to paint them all white to make them easier to see.  "Step 5 Admire your Work" is something I do naturally!

USS Protector

Equipment & Technology

The section covers roughly 40 pages. I can't help but notice the effect that Star Trek: The Next Generation has seem to have had here.  Med bays and medical scanners look like they were taken from a Federation garage sale. Ok...it's not that bad. Excuse a little levity on my part here.  We still have a section on drugs. 

We are keeping the same assumptions (and rules) about Technology Levels which is still hanging out at TL 16.

Computers have fared a little better in this edition. At least the batteries of the future are closer to what we have right now. I hate to harp on this, but my phone today can do nearly everything on pages 340 to 343.  I am being unduly harsh here I know.

The section of Starships though once again fills my heart with longing for the stars.  Many of these I am familiar with.  You may not have been on the internet talking about Star Trek or starships, but I certainly was.

Crushing it
Flashback to when I called the ending to S2 of Picard nearly 30 years ago.

The last few pages are worksheets for Characters, Combat charts, and the Index.

--

So. My feeling on Traveller TNE is that it was an attempt to keep Traveller moving forward.

I have gone through the TNE book more and compared them to my "Gold Standard" the Traveller Book and I am now seeing a lot more differences in terms of rules than I did on my first couple of read-throughs.  This is the issue with reading a gamebook vs. playing the game.  Further research outside of this book lets me know that other GDW games of the time were using the same rules.  This is expected really.  Game companies began to discover that using one system in-house was much cheaper in the long run.  Not only did it mean you could hire fewer people to write, but you could also lift large sections of text from one game to fill in for another.  This does create an issue though.  There are two different writing "tones" here. I have no evidence but I am going to say the older-ish material was Frank Chadwick and the newer stuff was Dave Nilsen. 

Rereading the rules prior to this post it dawned on my why I felt so much of it was familiar. It was Traveller-speak, but the rules were an old favorite of mine Dark Conspiracy.  I rather liked that game back in the later 90s when I first encountered it and was looking for a new horror game to be my "home game" (spoiler, it was CJ Carrella's WitchCraft that won that battle!)

This an interesting idea though. Dark Conspiracy + Traveller The New Era would make for an interesting BlackStar-like game.  I am sure I am not the only one who did that.   Given the post-apoc feel of TNE I am not sure that hoards of undead would not feel so out of place, to be honest. 

So we have a system that the older players don't like and newer players can't get into in a setting that the older players hate and the newer players have no investment in.  Sound about right?

Still. There are some ideas here that I might mine.  I am glad I have the PDF but I am not picking up the PoD anytime soon.

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.