Tuesday, June 06, 2017


My first sci fi RPG was Star Frontiers. I think I got it in 1983. Having been profoundly changed by Star Wars and then Battlestar Galactica, I didn't quite connect with the 1950s and 60s influence, but we still played the crap out of it. All the modules, the knight hawks expansion, lots of made-up stuff on top. I didn't discover Traveller, on the other hand, until many years later, with plenty of additional sci fi games in between, like ICE's Space Master (Charts in spaaaaaace!) and D6 Star Wars, and some other odds and ends like Shatterzone.

There's still a huge fan community keeping Star Frontiers alive. You can download pdfs of pretty much everything that was ever published. I guess Hasbro treats it like abandonware? In any case, it's all there.

The rules are a little weird. I won't get into them. I had more than a few frustrations, let's leave it at that.

But something I think is cool, years later, is the premise that these four species discovered each other, and everyone got along, mostly. It's kind of Roddenberryish. When the evil menace of the Sathar attacked, then they banded together even more so.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I've been thinking about a Cepheus or 2d6-SRD setting based on that sort of premise. Like Star Trek using Traveller tropes. There'd be 4-5 core members of the Federation, some outlying worlds that are "integrating", and a few protected low-tech worlds that are red zoned.

Each of the 4/5 member species would have areas of expansion, with a few co-habitated worlds where they meet up, trade centers, crossroads, etc. Core worlds, colonies, and a frontier zone. Then some unexplored worlds out beyond that. Possibly some sort of aggressive enemy empire out there too.

I think this setup allows for most SRD stuff to be used unmodified. Instead of an Imperium, you have the Federation, with their joint military and scout bases and such. Smaller ship universe than Trek or SF (battleships in SF are about 300K dtons). Will probably cap things out at CE's 5000 dtons, with probably only a few of those.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Hacking Traveller

This year -- I'm pretty sure -- will be the 40th anniversary of Traveller, an RPG almost as old as D&D. Probably never nearly as popular as the grandmother fish of tabletop gaming, it's still maintained a loyal fanbase over the years, some of whom have been playing from the beginning.

I didn't get into RPGs until 1981, with D&D, and where sci fi was concerned I was totally won over by Star Wars. So when I got a look at Traveller I thought, eww, you play old guys who don't know how to do anything. You know, when you're a teenager, anything over 24 sounds pretty old. And so I ignored it in favor of games like Star Frontiers and eventually Star Wars d6. Because pyew pyew pyew, right? I also picked up Shatterzone in the early 90s, then Alternity. And then there was the whole indie-games explosion and the OSR.

Then at some point in the aughts, Mongoose (MG from here on out for laziness) got a license from Far Future to publish their own version of Traveller. It looks like a ton of 90s era games with the whole roll + skill + stat approach. If you've played Stars Without Number, the 2d6 skill system is pretty much what MG Traveller is. There's a lot in there that I like, and a few things I don't. Random chargen turns me off, and Traveller chargen is random EVERYTHING. You sit down and you have no idea what you're gonna end up with. And there are a few bits and pieces that strike me as readily improvable with more recent game tech.

And it so happens that MG published an SRD. I thought for the longest time that maybe someday I oughta take that and build my own game on top of it.

After MG released version 2 of Traveller, they opted for a 3rd party license similar to the D&D DM's guild, which takes a pretty big cut of your sales in order to have the logo on your materials. That prompted Jason Kemp to create the Cepheus Engine SRD, a traveller clone based on the MG SRD with a few additional open content ideas thrown in. It fills in the usual SRD gaps and offers a standalone fully playable game, while remaining true to the original feel of Traveller.

And people have started creating compatible content for it. Neat stuff like These Stars Are Ours!, a space opera setting that clearly takes some inspiration from XCom. Or there's Orbital 2100, a near future hard sf approach.

Of course CE still includes the bits that I don't like, so I'm still thinking, self, you should totally get back in the game and make something. I think I'm gonna.