Showing posts with label sci-fi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sci-fi. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Sci-Fi / Traveller Month Wrap-up

I can't believe we are at the end of May now.  My plans had been to do a Sci-Fi month featuring Traveller but also doing some other games as well.  The month got away from me and as I started my deep dive I decided to focus more and more attention on Traveller alone. And that is ok. This is something I have been wanting to do for a long time.

My Traveller set

I do feel bad I did not get to Starfinder or the Expanse RPGs. I also wanted to review The Lucanii Drift adventure.  I am sure I will get to those sooner or later.

Here is a list of all the Traveller posts I made in May.

There is much, much more I could have done. There is 45 years worth of Traveller materials out there and I only scratched the surface.

I do want to thank everyone that came by and commented, shared their own interactions with the various rule systems, gave me advice and corrections.  You helped make this a better series.

I suppose the natural question to ask is "Which edition(s) will I be playing?"  I think it is a toss-up between the Classic 1977 Traveller and the new Mongoose Traveller.  Both seem like they will do everything I want. 

Next May I am thinking of doing Star Trek RPGs. Focusing on the FASA and Mōdiphiüs versions but also looking into the Last Unicorn Games and Decipher versions as well as the various versions of Starfleet Battles.  It would have been great to do that one this year given all the Star Trek we have had on TV of late, but Traveller really had to come first.  Maybe one day I'll do Star Wars.

Moving into June where I want to get back to some D&D!  (Stranger Things is back!) I also want to get more monster book reviews in.  

Soon after that, I have something special planned I am calling "100 Days till Halloween."  So keep an eye out for that.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Spelljammer Monstrous Compendium for 5e

Monstrous Compendium Vol One: Spelljamer Creatures
Getting back to my Monstrous Mondays with a review of a Monstrous Compendium, but this is a new Monstrous Compendium for 5th Edition D&D. 

This might very well be the new format for monsters for D&D 5.5/5r.  

Monstrous Compendium Vol One: Spelljamer Creatures

Wizards of the Coast released this free in PDF format and on DnDBeyond.  

Inside are 10 new (to D&D 5) monsters.  They are,:Asteroid Spider, Clockwork Horror, Eldritch Lich, Fractine, Gadabout, Goon Balloon, Nightmare Beast, Puppeteer Parasite, Star Lancer, and Yggdrasti.  They range from CR 1/8 to 15. 

It is a fun little sampling, a nice appetizer till we get some proper Spelljamer materials later this year.

What I find interesting is the switch from Wildspace to the Astral Sea. Personally, that is what I wanted to do back in the 2nd ed days, but the point became moot when I never got my Spelljammer game off the ground, literally and figuratively. 

So I am really looking forward to the new setting this summer.

--

This is my, rather late, contribution to this month's RPG Blog Carnival.  This month hosted by Rising Phoenix Games. Check out all the posts about Spelljammer from this month.


Thursday, May 26, 2022

Review: Traveller and Cepheus SRDs

Cepheus Engine RPG
Ok. I will be honest this is much less of a review than it is an overview/analysis of the various Traveller and Traveller like SRDs and OGLs. 

Mongoose SRD

Mongoose, back in 2008 released the first version of their Traveller RPG and a version of a Traveller SRD with an Open Gaming License. This covered their First Edition game.  Later they updated it 2nd Edition.  At some point (I am not sure when really) they also created the High Guard System Reference Document and Mercenary System Reference Document.  This covers an awful lot of Traveller. 

My understanding is there is a Compatibility License though I did not find any details on it, but that is fine.

Much like the d20 SRD there are a few different copies out there.  These are the ones I have referenced the most often.

Cepheus Deluxe
Cepheus SRD / Engine

Back in 2016 Jason Kemp released the Cepheus SRD which emulated Traveller. Personally, from a game design point of view, I rather like it.  He took the Mongoose Traveller SRD and then did something I really like, he took other SRDs to get the desired effect.  Here are the various SRDs from his Section 15 of the OGL of the Cepheus Engine RPG:

Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

High Guard System Reference Document Copyright ©2008, Mongoose Publishing. Mercenary System Reference Document Copyright © 2008, Mongoose Publishing.

Modern System Reference Document Copyright 2002- 2004, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Bill Slavicsek, Jeff Grubb, Rich Redman, Charles Ryan, Eric Cagle, David Noonan, Stan!, Christopher Perkins, Rodney Thompson, and JD Wiker, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Richard Baker, Peter Adkison, Bruce R. Cordell, John Tynes, Andy Collins, and JD Wiker.

Swords & Wizardry Core Rules, Copyright 2008, Matthew J. Finch

System Reference Document, Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

System Reference Document Copyright 2000-2003, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Rich Baker, Andy Collins, David Noonan, Rich Redman, Bruce R. Cordell, John D. Rateliff, Thomas Reid, James Wyatt, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

T20 - The Traveller’s Handbook Copyright 2002, Quiklink Interactive, Inc. Traveller is a trademark of Far Future Enterprises and is used under license.

Traveller System Reference Document Copyright © 2008, Mongoose Publishing. Traveller is © 2008 Mongoose Publishing. Traveller and related logos, character, names, and distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks of Far Future Enterprises unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved. Mongoose Publishing Ltd Authorized User.

Cepheus Engine System Reference Document, Copyright ©2016 Samardan Press; Author Jason “Flynn” Kemp

He also used the T20 and Modern d20 OGC for this. Very clever.

This was released as the Cepheus Engine RPG in 2017. It is a complete RPG, but still mostly an SRD in an RPG cover. That is fine since it's goal is not to be a game but to be a resource to make material for other games.  To continue my rather awkward D&D analogy this is all 100% OSRIC; both in form and function.

In 2021 Stellagama Publishing released the Cepheus Deluxe RPG.  Which is an RPG based on the Cepheus Engine.  Extending the analogy further to point of self-referencing, this is the Swords & Wizardry of Traveller. At least in function.  

Of these, I have the Cepheus Deluxe in POD and it compares favorably to the OSR offerings for the D&D clones. It also compares well to the Classic Traveller line.

Cepheus and Traveller Print on Demand


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Review: Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition (2016, 2022)

Traveller 2022 Edition
We are coming to the end of my journey with the Traveller rule system. Not 100% at the end, but getting there.   Today I want to talk about the newest, 2nd Edition of Mongoose Traveller.  This edition is an update to the Mongoose Traveller from 2008. Again it coexists with the T5 Traveller from Far Future Enterprises I reviewed yesterday.  The only thing I can liken it to is the coexistence of D&D 4e and Pathfinder 1st Edition. Though which one is which is a matter of opinion.

Traveller 2nd Edition was first released in 2016.  A revised update was released in 2021 and called the "2022 Edition."  Both are the same rules though the 2022 update has a few improvements in layout and editing.  For this review I am just going to consider the 2022 version and notes from the 2016 version. 

Traveller Core Rulebook Update 2022

PDF. 266 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. Bookmarked and hyperlinks table of contents. 

Traveller is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. We live in time where old-school games are really popular, sci-fi is having a new golden age (have you seen all the Star Treks we now have?) and Traveller is riding that wave.  The new Traveller is best seller on DriveThru with the 2016 version a Mithral bestseller and the 2022 version a Platinum bestseller as of this writing.  I also know my FLGS sells the books hand over fist. One of the reasons I wanted to do my deep dive into Traveller now was because of all of this.

So how is the 2022 Edition?

In a word it is gorgeous.  

Mongoose, back in the early d20 boom, earned a bit of a reputation of a "spaghetti publisher" as in "throw a plate of spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks."  As time went on their reputation improved. These days they get a lot of credit for not just having solid books, but also serving the d20 bust.  Though some less than perfect editing sneaks in. The 2016 edition seemed to have this problem; at least that is what I have read online.  Both books had high-quality color art, there are some pieces in the 2016 edition I actually like a little better, but in general, I am pretty happy with what I see.  Happy enough to wish I had grabbed the physical books when I was last at my FLGS. 

What about the rules?

The book is similar in many ways to Mongoose 1st Edition, but enough differences in layout and organization.  For the first time, the designer did NOT try to invoke the feeling of old Classic Traveller.  This is a GOOD thing.  To attract new players they needed to make this a new game.

Introduction

This covers the various reasons why you might want to play Traveller and the different ways to play. I was hoping that among the examples of Star Trek and Starship Trooper they would include the most British of all Traveller shows, "Blake's 7." Which always was my goto example. 

There are some suggested books to read such as Traveller Companion, High Guard, The Third Imperium, and more.  I don't have those so I can't comment on them here.  What it does tell me that this version of Traveller is set in the Third Imperium. So that is something to look forward too. 

We get some game and dice conventions and descriptions of the Tech Levels.

Traveller Creation

Character creation is next as expected. This follows much along the lines of all Traveller versions. You roll your six abilities/characteristics.  We are back to our standard six from Classic Traveller with the same point spread and averages. The CCP is still here too.

You pick your background skills and then move to the next phase. There are good flow charts for character creation and the character sheet is annotated.  You go into your pre-career (aka school) and then move to your career. 

Like the first edition, careers are laid out with face pages so everything you need for a career is at a glance.

Traveller Navy

This is quite helpful really.  The careers supported in this core rules are Agent, Army, Citizen, Drifter, Entertainer, Marine, Merchant, Navy, Noble, Rouge, Scholar, and Scout.  There is an extra "career" that of Prisoner. Possibly to do that epic Stainless Steel Rat or Farscape adventure.

Various benefits and of course mishaps occur, leaving you with extra cash, some property or medical debt. 

There are some Skill Packages now.  There is a push here to get all the players and characters working to gether to make sure there is cohesion. 

We then get some examples of Alien species. The Aslan and the Vargr. 

Skills and Tasks

This chapter is combined as it really should be.  The system is basic which is what you want.  The character rolls a 2d6 and need to get greater than an 8 to succeed.  There are various Die Modifiers added and the Target number (the "8") can be be altered depending on the task difficulty. There are example throughout which works well.  An "Impossible Task" for example would require 16 or more rolled on the check.  There are also levels of success and failure. So if the roll is missed by -6 that is an "Exceptional Failure."  A roll of 6+ over the target number is an "Exceptional Success."

The amount of time spent on a skill check can alter the results and there are opposed checks as well. 

The rest of the chapter covers all the skills, their specialities and descriptions.

Combat

Combat is a always separate and it is a special case of a skill check.  What I do like about this system is that combat can rely on STR or DEX as appropriate and is not hard-coded like say D&D. For example Initiative can be modified by DEX or INT.

The combat phase is broken down into Significant, Minor, and Free actions.  You can do one Significant and one minor action per round or three minor actions.  You can perform anynumber of Reactions or Free Actions as permitted. What can be done in these actions is detailed. Attacking an opponent is Significant action, as is giving orders (Leadership). Minor actions are things like aiming, reloading, changing stance. 

Damage is discussed and it is very deadly.  

Encounters and Dangers

This combined the old Encounters and Animal Encounters chapters of Classic-era Travellers. There are all sorts of environmental dangers, diseases, high and low gravity situations, radiation, falling and so much more. Hmmm. Maybe best just to stay on your homeworld.  To quote Leonard McCoy from the 2009 Star Trek movie "Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence."

Animals are discussed and even a few examples are given. 

NPCs are also presented with the ubiquitous d66 tables of quirks, motivations and more that Traveller fans love. 

Equipment

Covers the economy briefly and plenty of things to spend your precious few credits on. The list here is not highly different.  What is different here is the new level of art added to the lists.  Descriptions of arms and armor are paired with great color art of these items.  More than that there are tech items, medical equipment, computers, and survival gear.  Various toolkits are also described such as Planetary Sciences and Psionicology Toolkits.

And of course guns.

Freaking Lasers

Each bit of equipment comes with a TL rating.

Vehicles

Cover most moveable craft that are not Starships. Each one gets a TL rating, an associated skill needed to operate, speed factors, crew/pilot and of course cost. Nothing is free in the Imperium. 

Spacecraft Operations

A mostly 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.

Spacecraft Construction

I think I would have put this chapter before combat.  Mayb put combat after Common Spacecraft.

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

Common Spacecraft

I rather love this chapter. This lists all sorts of spaceships with their details and a full color picture and some deck plans. This is also laid out so many of the ships have all their details on the facing pages. 

Free Trader

Many of these ships are found in previous versions of Traveller too. So it adds a nice bit of continuity to it all. 

Psionics

Stuck near the end is psionics again. There are talents and powers and the Psion Career.  I have always liked the Psionic powers section in Traveller, but this one really makes me want to play one.  The Careers are all numbered 1 through 12 with the "Prisoner" at 13 (Navy for example is 8).  The Psion career is appropriately numbered "X."

Trade

Covers basic trade between the worlds/systems/colonies.  There is a huge d66 list of Trade Goods to be used by Referees. 

World and Universe 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. The section is not huge and I a sure there are additional books for more worlds out there.  But there is enough here to get you started.

Index

The index is comprehensive and hyperlinked.

Unlike previous versions of Traveller there is no included adventure here.

--

Ok. What can we say here at the end?  Or in other words who should buy this Traveller and what does it have over other Editions/Versions?

Who Should Buy This?

Much like D&D is synomous with Fantasy Roleplaying, Traveller is synomous with SciFi Roleplaying.  IF you want to try science fiction out then for me the obvious first step is to see what Traveller is doing.

Traveller 2nd Ed 2016 vs. 2022

Both corebooks are still on the market now.  They are the same system.  I have both and while the rules are largely the same the organization of the 2022 version is much better.

Classic Traveller vs. Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition

Ah. The old-school vs. new-school debate. We live in a time where not only you can get new Traveller in print you can get old Traveller in print as well.  Which one should you play?  I think the choice comes down to experiences.  Both games really let you play the same game. Both games are fun. Both games take on some basic assumptions but largely leave the rest of the universe to your imaginations.

IF you started with any version of Traveller and enjoy that, then stick with that, but certainly check this one out.  IF you have never played any version of Traveller before then the Mongoose 2nd Edition, 2022 version is the one to get.  You can buy it at DriveThruRPG or your FLGS.

Mongoose Traveller vs. FFE Traveller

We owe a lot to Far Future Enterprises for getting all the Traveller books from 1977 up to today scanned and added as a PDF to both their website and to DriveThruRPG.  That is a huge debt we owe them.  However, I can't exactly recommend Traveller 5 over Mongoose's version. There might be content in the FFE Traveller 5 that I could port over. But I think to show my appreciation for what they have done, I'll keep buying the older Traveller materials.

In the end, for me, Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition is, right now, the best Traveller I can buy. 

I'll make an effort to grab a print version the next time I am at my FLGS.  Right now there is no Print on Demand version for the 2022 edition.

This would be the nominal end of my Traveller reviews, but not so fast. There is still a THIRD way to play "Traveller" that is active and in print today.  

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 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.

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.


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: Reflections Post

gif #AtoZChallenge 2022 WINNER badge animated

Here we are at the end of another April A to Z Blogging Challenge. I "won," that is I completed the Challenge.  That's not such a stretch for me since I tend to write every day anyway.  For me success is whether not I had an interesting theme (I think I did) and whether or not I got some interaction on the posts (I did).  "Success" for me in this case is about the journey and not the end.

This year's theme Conspiracy Theories was suggested to me by my wife and I really had a lot of fun with it.  The conspiracy theory part was for all the visitors from the A to Z, but the NIGHT SHIFT RPG applications were for my regular audience.   

I do hope that both audiences enjoyed both sections.  

Ultimately I hope that some of my regular audience found some new blogs thanks to the A to Z AND I hope some of the A to Z folks looked into the NIGHT SHIFT RPG.

I have not crunched all the numbers, but my hits were significantly higher this past month.   My Twitter engagement was also quite higher.

Like previous years, I made a Pinterest board for all my posts so if you want to see what I did you have a visual guide.

Follow Timothy's board "April 2022 A to Z of Conspiracy Theories" on Pinterest.

Though this one is less visual than last year's Monsters.

Also, unlike last year, there is no book these are all going in.  It was just a bit of fun.  Though I did do enough research on the side for a new book, that will wait until other projects are complete.

Once again I am considering what to do for 2023.  No ideas yet. I suppose I could do what I had originally planned for this year, but I have less excitement for that now.  I DO however know exactly what I am going to do in 2024!  

So until then!

Reflections 2022 #atozchallenge
http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

Oh.

I suppose that I shouldn't let "May the Fourth" go by unremarked.  It is Sci-Fi month here after all.

So for my small contribution here is the most Science Fiction of all musicians, Thomas Dolby featuring George Clinton on "May the Cube Be With You."

May the Cube and the Fourth and the Force be with you!

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Review: Classic (Basic) Traveller

It's May and I want to spend the entire month talking about Sci-Fi RPGs, and most of this month talking about Traveller.   Traveller has a long and storied history in both the RPG world and for me personally. It is the second (or the third, more on that) RPG I ever owned after D&D.  

I say second but my memory is foggy and it could have been Traveller or it could have been Chill.  I think for my horror cred I like to claim it was Chill, but in the early 80s, I was all about Science Fiction.  So really it was most likely to be Traveller.  I picked up the Traveller Book and tried to teach to it to myself, but my groups were very D&D focused and no one wanted to play it.  The groups that did play it were all older than I was and they did not want some "D&D kid" in their "Serious Sci-Fi" groups.  I was able to more traction on Star Frontiers a few years later.  Must have been the TSR bias of the time.  I do wish I still had my original Traveller Book though.   I did manage to score an Original Traveller boxed set of the "Little Black Books" so I guess that is even better.

Mayday, Mayday! This is the Free Trader Beowulf...

Today I am going to review Traveller and start at the very beginning.  There is just no way I could through everything for Traveller.  I'd need more than a month, I'd need a whole new blog, so instead, I was going to going to concentrate on some core products to get people into the game and a few choice ones that have meaning to me. 

I will admit right up front that I am no Traveller expert.  So it is very, very likely I will miss a few a things.  Just let me, and others, know in the comments.   

Ok, as my friend Greg said on Sunday, let's get this party started!

Classic Traveller

For this review, I am going to be referring to my 1977 Game Designers' Workshop edition of the boxed set of Traveller.   I am also joining to be comparing them the PDFs of the Classic Traveller Facsimile Edition from Game Designers' Workshop / Far Future Enterprises on DriveThruRPG. 

Side Note:  Far Future Enterprises bought the rights to various GDW games a while back and published this pdf as far back as 2001.  They own the rights to republish Traveller, 2300 AD, Twilight: 2000, and Dark Conspiracy. They also work with Mongoose and other publishers of Traveller material.  But more on that in future posts.  Suffice to say that from my point of view they have been carrying the torch of Traveller high since 2000.  Among other things they publish a full CD-ROM of Traveller material that I would love to grab someday. 

The Boxed Set

The Traveller Boxed Set from GDW was released in 1977.  GDW was located in Normal, IL which is along what I learned was a trail the lead from Lake Geneva, WI, and Chicago, IL all the way down to the University of Illinois in Urbana, IL, Illinois State in Normal, IL down to Southern Illinois Univerity in Carbondale, IL.  Tim Kask was an SIU grad, GDW was in Normal, Mayfair would later be founded in Skokie just outside of Chicago, and Judges Guild was founded in Decatur, IL.  I basically grew up surrounded by the growing Table Top RPG scene. 

Traveller Boxed Set

Much like Dungeons & Dragons of the time, Traveller came in a digest-sized box with three books.  Instead of there being "3 Little Brown Books" there are "3 Little Black Books."   Also, like D&D future printings would combine these books though in different ways. 

PDF Note: The Classic Traveller Facsimile Edition also includes a preface for the whole set of books and gives a brief history of their publications.  This is a great value-add for the PDF.  According to it what I am reviewing today is "Basic Traveller" and published in 1981.  Basic Revised was published in 1981 and the Traveller Book (my first purchase) was in 1982.  

Book 1: Characters and Combat

This is the character generation book and maybe one of the most famous bit of RPG lore ever.  Yes. In Traveller you can die in Character creation!  

You haven't lived until you die in character creation

I should also point out that very, very often in my conversations with people over the years that Character Creation for Travelller was very much in line with what we would call "Session 0" today.  Everyone worked on their character, developed a back story (yes in 1977) and then got together.  Even the starting character example is a 42-year-old with a pension (and a cutlass it seems). Trust me, at 42 I already had backstory (and a wife, kids, a mortgage, bills...)

Character creation is largely a random affair, but not wholly so. There are choices to be made along the way.  How a character acquires skills and expertise largely depends on which service they were in and how they got there.  You can enlist or you can be drafted. At this point, all characters were assumed to have served in some form of the service. Citizens don't mortgage their pension on a beat second-hand starship to go galavanting across known space. 

As you work through character creation you can go for a few terms of service. This gives you more skill, more experience, more credits, and makes you older.  As in real life, there are benefits and detriments to age.  

Skills are detailed next.  This is going to come up again and again, but let's talk about it here first. The Computers of Traveller are the computers of 1977.  Not very advanced and require special expertise to use them.  Today of course I am writing this post in one window, monitoring email and chat in another, watching the weather in another, and reading the PDF in yet another.  I have dozens of active programs running that I am paying attention to and who knows how many more running in the background.  I am not going to apply 21st-century biases though to these rules.  Let's just leave them as-is for now and see how future versions of this game treat it.   For me I am going to assume there are computers (with a lower case c) that do all the work we think of today and anyone can use and then there are specialized Computers (with an upper case C) that do specialized work, like today's supercomputers.  

Side Note: The best super-computer of 1977 was the 80mhz, 64 bit Cray-1. It cost $8M and was capable of 160 MFLOPS. For comparison, my three-year-old smartphone runs at 130ghz and is capable of 658 GFLOPS. Newer phones are more than double that. 4000x's the power at 1/10,000th of the cost. And I can put it into my pocket. 

After your terms of service are figured out along with your skills then comes the time to learn combat.  Combat always gets more ink than say hacking a computer since there are so many things going on and a failure usually means death.  Also, as an aside, there are a lot of bladed weapons in Traveller. I attribute this to two different elements. The first and obvious is Star Wars, though Traveller obviously draws more from Dune than Star Wars which only came out in May of 77.  The other and likely more important source is D&D.  For the obvious reasons.  The end effect is that officers in Traveller often carry swords in my mind. 

Combat gives us our basic roll for the game and the introduction of the Traveller basic mechanic. The PDF is a little clearer on this than my print book. Roll 2d6 and beat a roll of 8.  This is modified by various skills and experiences.  

Wounds affect the character's Strength, Dexterity, and Endurance. The more wounds you get, the worse those stats are.  D&D would not do this in earnest until 4th Edition. 

PDF Notes:  My copy is dedicated "To Mary Beth" and the PDF (and I think the Traveller Book) are dedicated "To Darlene."  There are other minor differences as well. The PDF for example has a "Personal Data and History" aka a Character Sheet on page 28 (36 for the PDF). 

Traveller Book vs. PDF

Book 2: Starships

This is what makes Traveller, well, Traveller. There are two types of travel dealt with here, Interplanetary (worlds within the same star system) and Interstellar (different star systems). Also if you are afraid of math this book is going to give you a bad day.   

The main focus of this book in my mind is buying a starship and keeping it running.  Starships are expensive and in Traveller, those expenses are more keenly felt than say keeping up a castle in D&D.  If your castle runs out of food you can leave to go buy some. In a starship, in space, your options are more limited.  In space, no one can hear your stomach grumble. 

I have no idea if the economies of Traveller work. I mean is 2 tons of fuel really worth the year's salary of a gunner?  No idea. I am going to handwave that and say it works.

There is also a lot on Starship construction here too. Before I could get anyone to play I would write up sheets of starships and their costs based on what I thought was cool.  Kinda wish I had a couple of those. The only one I can remember was the FTL Lucifer.  It was designed to be small, but fast.  It would later make it's way into Star Frontiers, but that is another tale.

We get some details on starship combat and some basic world data.

Book 2 also covers experience and various drugs.  I get the feeling these were put here to pad out Book 2 so all three books were the same size; 44 pages. 

PDF Notes: The PDF has more art, in particular how to orbit a planet and the necessary equations made more clear.  Like Book 1 for Characters, this volume has sheets for ships. The PDF also adds a Trade and Commerce section.

Book 3: Worlds and Adventures

This book covers worlds.  And if there was one thing I did more than creating starships that never traveled to other worlds, it was to create worlds that starships would never travel to.  World creation was fun.  

This book also covers various personal equipment and various encounter types.

Note at this point there are no aliens, no Imperiums, and really nothing other than the most basic adventuring outline.  Very much like OD&D in that respect.  I like the psionic system in Traveller and maybe I should explore the differences between it and the one in Eldritch Wizardry for D&D

The last part of this book covers Psionics. Maybe one of the reasons I like to draw a pretty hard line between Magic and Psionics is that one is for Fantasy (and D&D) and the other is for Sci-Fi (and Traveller).

PDF Notes: The PDF again has more art (vehicles) as well as hex maps for working out star systems.

Final Notes

How does one review a classic like Traveller?  How does one compare an RPG from 1977 to the standards of 2022?  It's not easy under normal circumstances, but with Traveller it is easier.  Why?  Because so much of this game was ahead of its time you could brush it off, get some d6s and play it out of the box as is today.  More so than OD&D is I think.

But both games are classics, no, Classics. With that capital C. It is no wonder that now, 45 years later, Traveller is still the goto science-fiction game.

Classic RPGS

As I move through the editions and versions I'll also talk about all the other materials that have been used with Traveller (board games for example) and how these "3LBBs" expanded to cover an entire universe. 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Greys (Zeta Reticulians)

Nice meeting of topics here today.  It is May which this year will be the start of my Sci-Fi month.  We have the normal May the Fourth celebrations, and Mayday for Traveller was yesterday.  Plus we get Star Trek Strange New World premiering this week.  AND there is a new D&D Spelljamer on the horizon. So there are a lot of great reasons to celebrate SciFi. 

I also just got finished with my A to Z Challenge for April where I did Conspiracy Theories.  I leaned heavily on a lot of UFO-based ones.  So my appetite has been whetted for more.  And today is Monstrous Monday!  So I thought I would bring all of these ideas together today into a special Monstrous Monday!

Greys (Zeta Reticulians)

Grey Aliens

Of all the alien species that have purportedly visited the Earth few are as popular as the Greys.  These creatures are also known as Zeta Reticulians since they supposedly come from the Zeta Reticuli star system, approximately 40 ly from Earth.  This is based on a drawing from one of the most famous alien abductees ever, Betty Hill.  

Greys are called such due to their skin color. The skin seems to be a uniform grey.  While some are depicted as not wearing clothes, others have suggested that they are wearing skin-tight suits of the same color as their skin to protect them from Earth's atmosphere.  They typically stand 4 to 5ft in height (1.2 to 1.5 meters), are hairless, with large black eyes.  They have no ears nor a nose, save for small slits or holes where such external sense organs would be.  Their bodies are small, thin, and somewhat elongated. Their heads however are large with large foreheads giving the impression of large brains inside. Their hands are long with long delicate fingers. They typically only have four fingers (three fingers and a thumb) per hand, though there are reports of "hybrids" that appear to be greys with human eyes and five fingers per hand.

They do not speak but instead communicate via a form of telepathy. 

Their purpose with humanity is still unknown.  They may not even know themselves just yet since all evidence seems to point to them observing and experimenting on humans. Their experiments in removing eggs and sperm as reported by abductees, and the existence of hybrid forms at least point to an interest in our reproductive abilities.  It is postulated that they are using humans to help deplete their own lessening numbers.

Grey (Dungeons & Dragons 5e)

Grey for 5e

Grey (NIGHT SHIFT)

No. Appearing: 3-12 (3d4)
AC: 6
Move: 30 ft.
Hit Dice: 2-4
Special: Cause fear, psychic abilities (chosen at random), telekinesis, telepathy, Can't use magic
XP Value: Varies

Greys are aliens from the Zeta Reticuli star system. They have enhanced psychic abilities, but are vulnerable to all forms of magic.  They never speak but communicate via telepathy.  A group of Greys are typically a scouting party with various scientists onboard their spaceship. They will abduct humans or cattle, do experiments on them, erase their memories and return them to where they found them.

Grey (OSR)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1d4+3 (1d10+2)
Alignment: Neutral [True Neutral]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
Armor Class: 7-5 [12-14]
Hit Dice: 
   Scientist: 2d8+2* (11 hp)
   Monitor: 3d8+3** (17 hp)
   Leader: 4d8+8** (26 hp)
To Hit AC 0: 18, 16, 15  (+1, +3, +4)
Attacks: 0 or 1
Damage: None, stun 
Special: Cause fear, paralysis, mind blank, telepathy, vulnerable to magic
Save: Monster 3
Morale: 10 (10)
Treasure Hoard Class: Special
XP:
   Scientist: 35 (OSE) 47 (LL)
   Monitor: 100 (OSE) 135 (LL)
   Leader: 275 (OSE) 290 (LL)

Str: 7,9, 11 (-1, 0, 0) Dex: 16 (+2) Con: 14, 14, 16 (+1, +1, +2) Int: 22, 18, 18 (+5, +3, +3) Wis: 16 (+2) Cha: 14 (+1)

Greys come in three castes; Scientists, Monitors, and Leaders.  Scientists perform the experiments, leaders lead the missions, and are the fighters of the group.  Monitors are a blend of the two, acting as leaders amongst the scientists.  The castes are not hierarchical, they are designed so that each role is filled by the most capable individual.  A group of greys encountered outside of the ships will all be scientists with at least one member a monitor or leader. 

Greys have psionic abilities to cause fear, paralysis by touch (save vs. Paralysis or be frozen for one minute), and to erase the memories of their victims.   Scientists do not attack. They leave this to the Leaders and if needed the monitors. 

Additionally, greys have no concept of magic, they save at -2 against all spells and take an additional +1 point damage from magical attacks. 

--

I might tweak these a bit more, but so far they look great to me.