Monday, May 16, 2016

The Price of Rebirth - variant injury and death rules for Swords & Wizardry: White Box!

Death lies in wait for the hapless adventurer in the dark corners of the dungeon, amidst the gnarled trees of the forest, and even in the halls of mighty kings. Even the strongest adventurer faces a constant threat of death, as the adventuring profession is not for the timid. 

However, not all heroes and villains die so quickly, even in the absence of powerful magic capable of raising or resurrecting the dead. Instead, this supplement proposes a possibility for first aid – or even ordinary healing magic – to bring back a character from the brink of death if applied in a timely fashion. But such lucky escape from the maws of hell is not without consequences.

The supplement includes:

- Critical injury and treating it - and lasting injury
- Variant Raise Dead rules with circumstances, from mild to dire
- Variant and less predictable Reincarnation rules
- Become a LICH!

Fully compatible with Swords and Wizardry™: White Box, and highly compatible with a wide range of older-school games.

Character Options - compatible with Stars Without Number

Stellagama Publishing are proud to present: Character Options Compatible with Stars Without Number!

Stars Without Number comes with a good number of Background and Training Packages, allowing for a wide range of characters. However, the potential number of professions and backgrounds in the universe is enormous; many more packages are possible. In this publication, we humbly present a plethora of additional Background and Training Packages for Stars Without Number.

Included are:

- 6 new Background Packages

- 10 new Expert Training Packages

- 5 new Psychic Training Packages

-10 new Warrior Training Packages

Get it HERE!

What is Proto-Traveller?

I have already written about old-school Traveller several years ago when I wrote of the "Three Creeps" - Modifier Creep, Complexity Creep, and Scale Creep - that is, gradual and (at least partially) unintentional processes of change in Traveller which made later Traveller products significantly different from the earlier game. But a recent discussion on the Citizens of the Imperium Forums brought forth again the subject of Proto-Traveller, that is the Traveller "Old-School" movement. For your reading comfort, pleasure, and ease, I will provide here a consolidated and clarified version of what I posted in that thread.

Proto Traveller is not necessarily a time period - as High Guard came in 1979, before the accepted 1980 "cut-off" point - and not necessarily a "tight" set of rules. It is an attitude, a style if you will. It is Traveller in the spirit of the first three books of the original boxed set, as well as early adventures, JTAS articles, and supplements. That is - small ship, small setting, simple rules. I'd also argue that it has a focus on civilian or quasi-civilian (ex-military) play rather than strictly military settings and plots as suggested by the weapon list in Book 1 and as opposed to the mercenary unit play of Book 4, the huge-combatant naval play of Book 5, and the strict military fleet-building play of Trillion Credits Squadron.

This Proto-Traveller attitude consciously and intentionally resists the Three Creeps - Complexity Creep, Modifier Creep, and Scale Creep.

Complexity Creep was introduced by Book 4 with its Advanced Character Generation system. Book 1 character generation was very simple and straightforward - and incredibly quick. Book 4 introduced a much more complex system for generating characters, and books 5-7 continued this trend. Book 5 put forth a ship design system which was far more complex than the one in Book 2. Book 8 suggested a highly complex robot design system similar to the similarly complex Striker wargame rules. The Proto-Traveller attitude resists this complexity and desires a return to the simplicity of Book 1/Supplement 4 character generation and of Book 2 ship design.

Modifier Creep began with Book 4 as well. The 2D6 curve used by Traveller is highly sensitive to modifiers, and hence the strictly limited skill acquisition in Book 1 character generation, as well as the moderate to-hit modifiers of most (though not all) Book 1 weapons. Book 4 introduced characters with much more skills and much higher skills. It also introduced advanced weaponry bearing massive to-hit modifiers guaranteeing auto-hits - and usually also auto-kills - on almost all targets. Books 5-7 continued this trend with their Advanced Character Generation systems. The Proto-Traveller attitude prefers smaller modifiers and more limited skills.

Scale Creep began with Book 5. Suddenly, instead of small, relatively affordable ships - you have massive dreadnoughts. Such vessels are monstrously expensive and thus require a similarly massive polity to support them. They are also far beyond the scale of player-centered starships, unless, of course, the players are Big Navy captains or admirals. Book 5 focuses on major naval engagements, not the affairs of merchants, scouts, and corsairs - or at most a mercenary company or a local small-scale naval patrol, as in Book 2. This soon escalated into a huge Imperium many Sectors across, supporting similarly huge navies. The Proto-Traveller attitude prefers smaller ships, smaller empires - and a greater focus on a small group of characters rather than on wider affairs of state and navy.

To expand my explanation above, another potential (fourth) "creep" in later Traveller was (possibly) "Military Creep". Note that the first book has ex-military characters who have clearly mustered out; they might have combat skills, but they are no longer soldiers. Also, note the Book 1 weapon list - all small arms, with the auto-rifle being the toughest gun around. Further, note the ship list - there are some paramilitary ships, even two "cruisers", but they are all small ships that a small PC-owned ship has a certain chance of defeating in combat, especially with missiles.

This is very similar to the Alien, Firefly, or The Expanse premise - characters might be ex-military, but they now work on civilian or at most paramilitary jobs, have a civilian starship (in The Expanse they do acquire a small military ship, but nevertheless not a big warship), and tot small arms. A single Xenomorph is a huge threat to the trader crew who at best have flamethrowers. Gangsters and outlaws with revolvers and shotguns are common foes. A real battleship is something you try to avoid or outsmart, not fire guns at. At most in Book 2 ship terms you can have a mercenary platoon, again armed with small arms for the most part.

Book 4 introduced military-grade weaponry and a big discussion of field artillery and armored warfare. Granted, it is a specific boo for mercenaries, but it did start the military "creep". Add to that huge battleships with all sorts of Naval guns in Book 5, and soon things start escalating into a very militarized outlook which, IMHO, MegaTraveller was the peak of it. It went from Firefly to Babylon 5 (both magnificent sci-fi, IMHO), from Dumarest to Honor Harrington. Especially the later seasons of Babylon 5 where the action often involved (wonderful) space battles between major combatants. There is of course nothing wrong with "Big Military" games - which are enormous fun - but it's very different than the more low-key picaresque adventures of a tiny starship's crew or very small mercenary detachment as depicted by the three first books.

Also, note that in Proto-Traveller you might deal with military themes such as in Kinunir or Chamax/Horde. But you always deal with them as civilians or ex-soldiers unwittingly caught in military affairs - PCs are never generals or fleet admirals or even the commanders of warships.

Finally, you should keep in mind the inspirational "source material" for Proto-Traveller, that is the science fiction stories it was inspired by. They usually had a picaresque element to them - usually, the protagonist, such as Dumarest, travelled the stars and ended up in all sorts of weird and cool situations. The focus was far less on large-scale setting construction and more about exotic and interesting locales to explore.

The Tales to Astound blog, for example, has some interesting and highly educational articles about this. Go and read them - he had some very interesting points indeed!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Bronze Case - New Traveller adventure from Stellagama Publishing

Stellagama Publishing is proud to present: The Bronze Case! This 20-page adventure for the latest version of the Traveller sci-fi RPG throws the characters into an exciting tale of corporate espionage and criminal intrigue on a backwater world where gangs rule the roads and corporations play dirty. Between drones and gunfights, between highway chases and avoiding pursuers, excitement is guaranteed!

In The Bronze Case, the Travellers encounter a woman desperate to escape an attack by persons unknown. She needs them to help her deliver a mysterious bronze case to a facility hundreds of kilometres away, but the attackers are not far behind!

Will the intrepid Travellers protect her and her precious cargo or will rival corporate spies and road gangs have the upper hand? It's up to the bravery of the Traveller crew to determine!

This adventure is set on a mid-tech, habitable planet and can be quickly inserted into any existing Traveller campaign. This adventure is designed to be easily dropped on a group of Travellers without disrupting their regular campaign.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hard Space: Starship Decisions

Decisions regarding spacecraft and starflight in my Hard Space setting for Classic Traveller:

1) In this setting, there are no empty-hex jumps. You need a gravity well to jump from or jump to, though being too deep in a gravity well is risky as usual. This gives space a "topography".

2) M-Drives are not reactionless Magneto-Gravitic drives but fusion engines. The "power plant fuel" is actually M-Drive fuel/propellant. The power plant actually has a reserve of hydrogen (or even He3) enough for decades. What you need LHyd for is the M-Drive. This produces constant thrust, giving the ship constant gravity - it is built as a "tower" with the engines on its "bottom" - though without inertial damping this means that you usually don't go over 1G unless in emergencies and combat, and then you need to be strapped into an acceleration couch. I know very well that the fuel consumption and thrust here are a handwave - in reality you will need MUCH more propellant and you'd usually avoid constant acceleration due to limited propellant - but its still a much smaller handwave than that required for gravitics...

3) As a result of the lack of gravitic technology, most starships don't land on planets. Instead, they use interface craft. Most ships thus carry small craft for landing purposes. Heavy freighters usually travel from high port to high port - as loading an unloading with shuttles could be unwieldy - and thus rarely appear on the frontier. The exceptions are Scout/Couriers and Free/Far Traders, which are "flying saucers" with their engines on their "bottom". When they enter an atmosphere and gravity well, they turn off their fusion drive and use interface drives to fly like aircraft, but the floor remains in the same direction, only now using local gravity instead of acceleration-based "gravity".

4) I am using Book 2/Book 3 drives and drive TLs: heavier ships are slower and ships are usually small.

5) As interface craft would now take some serious tonnage on most starships, I am increasing the TL from TL10 to TL11 in order to accommodate larger ships - up to 2,000 tons on a Solar Main only ship.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Coming soon for Traveller from from Stellagama Publishing!

Stellagama Publishing is now hard at work on Traveller products, which will be published through Mongoose Publishing's Traveller's Aid Society (TAS). We have previously published several products for another sci-fi ruleset, White Star, but we are now getting ready to publish for Traveller as well!

We have the following two products in layout phases:

The Bronze Case: A thrilling planetside adventure for Traveller involving a mysterious woman, corporate espionage, gang wars, car chases - and the eponymous sealed Bronze Case. Will the players overcome enemy spies, road gangsters, and bad weather and deliver the case to its destination? Scheduled for mid-May 2016

From the Ashes: Ever wanted to transcend death, or outright cheat it? This supplement provides the Traveller Referee and player with rules for resuscitating characters whose three physical characteristics have been reduced to zero - at a (sometimes terrible) cost of course - as well as high-tech ways of bringing back the dead, with all sorts of attendant side effects and unintended circumstances! Scheduled for mid-June 2016

We also have one large product in late editing and art phases:

Space Patrol!: Fight pirates, interstellar gangsters, and assorted scum and villainy all over the Empire! Uphold Law and Justice! Includes career options, brand-new starships with full stats and deck-plans, rules and details regarding legal systems and legal process in your Traveller game - and much, much more! Scheduled for Autumn 2016

And we are working on even more Traveller products! Stay tuned for future releases!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Porting Over Grimmsgate to White Star

Last summer I ran the Swords & Wizardry adventure Grimmsgate for my D&D 5E group, and it has proven itself to be an interesting and enjoyable adventure. I have already written ideas about converting it to Stars Without Number, but here I will present my ideas about using it as a White Star adventure.

The Ancient Temple becomes an old research lab, which once upon a time housed a crazed AI. Three powerful Star Knights defeated the said AI after it wreaked some havoc on a nearby world, and brought it, locked in a datacube, to a research lab where it would be studied and stored safely. The facility had some robotic laboratories and a medbay as well. Eventually, as the tides of civilization receded and the world became quite a barbarous backwater, the facility's staff become little more than an atavistic religious group, following ritual after ritual in place of the old protocols. A young initiate, Arumvel his name, tried to breathe some technological life into this dying ritual, and used his dataport - implanted into all initiates in a barely-functional initiation ritual - to jack into the mainframe into which the AI was locked and "chained". The old AI quickly "hacked" Arumvel's brain and brainwashed him into releasing it into the facility's still-functional computer network, using the remaining robotics to murder the other initiates and priests. However, it was unsuccessful in subverting the facility's own stable AI (the "Tomb Guardian") which still controls some of the robotics. Using the facility's high-tech medlab, the AI converted Arumvel into a full cyborg equipped with a nanite-cloud weapon. Arumvel now captures local farmers and transforms them into crazed cyborgs (the "Mogura-Jin") under his - and the AI's - control. The AI would wish to eventually take over the area and rebuild communication arrays in order to transmit itself into passing ships... Unless someone stops them.

The PCs will be hired by the regional government to investigate disappearances in the remote outback village of Grimmsgate (or Givat-Giram) near that facility...

Conversion Notes:

The demon Vuod - crazed AI
The Tomb Guardian - stable AI security system
Arumvel - now a powerful, nanite-using Cyborg!
Mogura-Jin - full Cyborgs!
Cursed Humans - Cyborgs with partial implants (due to dwindling supplies).
Undead skeletons - humanoid service robots.
"Powerful" undead skeletons - security robots (also humanoid in shape)
Etarra and Albraith - locals captured and kept restrained to tables in the medlab pending Cyborg Conversion!
Manes Demons - improved robots under AI control.
Paladins - powerful Star Knights (placed in cryogenic storage but dead due to the AI's machinations)
Fane - mainframe
Altar - backup mainframe; orb is replaced by a dataslab with full data backup.
Dragon on the regional map - local apex predator capable of flight and breathing flame/acid
Golden Treasure - ancient high-tech components fetching a high price on the black market