Monday, December 26, 2016

I am not ashamed anymore.

I have found out that one of the most important things you should work on when coping with mental health issues is on combatting your feeling of shame and guilt. Society tends to stigmatize such issues and cause the suffering person to feel shame.

I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to very nasty things which happened to me in my childhood. I am no longer ashamed of this condition. I did nothing wrong - wrong things were done to me by others. I am not guilty of anything. I have nothing to feel shame about. I survive, I function almost normally - this is something I should be proud of, given my past.

I no longer feel shame for having PTSD. I don't give a damn about any negative idea other people will have about it.

Some people might unfriend me on Facebook - I don't give a damn. I prefer friends with a capacity for compassion.

Prejudiced people might point and say "look at the madman" - I don't give a damn. They can wallow in their ignorance as long as they please.

Some potential employers might be discouraged to hire me - I don't give a damn. There are other people in the world with human hearts with whom I can work.

I am who I am. I have no shame in that. My suffering and my struggle to live on despite it is nothing to be ashamed of.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Once again on Classic Traveller skills

Vacc Suit-2 skill in action
The question arises many times - what do Classic Traveller skills represent? How competent is my character? If he only has Vacc Suit-2 (for example) and no other skill, is he useful in gameplay?

I have written about this in the past, but I think that this warrants further discussion.

The first thing to remember is that Traveller characters are competent. Skill-1 is employable - you are good enough with it to get a paying job using this skill. Skill-3 is a professional - typically enough to get you a license in one of the Professions, such as being a Medical Doctor or a licensed Engineer. In ordinary situations, they do their jobs competently. Under CT rules, for example, First Aid and even Surgery for Severe Wounds do not require a roll - you got the paramedic (First Aid) or the surgeon (Surgery), you get results. They only need to roll dice when there is a significant chance of failure even for a professional, and when failure will have dire consequences. For example, if a doctor character would try to perform the above-mentioned surgery in some colonial hellhole when only the local TL-3 tools are available, and not in the default TL8+ Medlab.

Again- Skill-1 is enough to work at an actual, skilled job. Most people, both in real life and in Traveller, do not have too many such employable skills. Most of the things you do rarely go over Skill-1. As a typical person living in a modern, industrialized country, you probably have Ground Car-0 and Steward-0 if you know how to drive and cook/entertain guests, respectively. However, unless you have specific training, these would not be enough to work as a professional driver or a steward (or chef), respectively.

For example, I, the writer of this post, am a highly skilled and experienced Hebrew-English-Hebrew translator, as well as a skilled writer and game designer. I deal quite a lot with official documents. I can cook a decent meal and know my way around a car. I also have a good education and a Master's Degree in Geography. In Traveller terms, I will probably be:

Omer, UPP 4759C7 Other, 4 terms, age 34, Linguistics-2, Art-1*, Admin-1, Ground Car-0.

Enough to earn a decent living while holding a quasi-professional job. Am I an adventurer? No. An adventurer will typically have different skills, for example, Gun Combat or Pilot or Vacc Suit instead of one or more of my skills. The number of skills, however, is quite typical. Someone with a good military career will usually have one or two additional skills. Of course, there are the rare elite soldiers who enjoy a meteoric rise through the ranks - the maximum is ten skill points at age 34, DOUBLE what a typical civilian like myself has. These are the officers with stellar careers who reach the rank of Commander or Lieutenant Colonel by the age of 34 - unlikely in real life even for a successful officer, and unlikely in Traveller as well. These people are exceptional, but most Traveller characters are not - this is a game about ordinary people doing wildly extraordinary things and going on hair-raising interstellar adventures.

Skills are a Big Deal in Classic Traveller. Pilot-1 alone can land you in a 6KCr/month job - very well-paying for a 22-years-old character. Medic-3 alone is enough for being a licensed physician, and with DEX 8+ you are actually a surgeon! Most people - even sci-fi heroes - will not have too many skills. The game mechanics also reflect this - on a 2d6 curve, DM +3 is a Big Deal, and skews things very far in your favor. Add to that Characteristics DMs, and a talented, skilled professional can be a highly successful expert.

But what about all the other adventuring stuff? you ask, If my character only has Vacc Suit-2 and Computer-1, what about combat skills? Driving a vehicle? Well, my friends, for this you have the Skill-0 rules. For starters, all Traveller adventures have Skill-0 in all common small arms. With a good gun at good range, especially with good Characteristics, they'll make very decent combatants even with Skill-0. With Vacc Suit-1, you can wear Combat Armor, and with Vacc Suit-2, you can wear a Battledress! As a Referee, I'd also assume Vacc Suit-0 and a Skill-0 in one Vehicle skill for the typical character. Most "passive" knowledge skills are subsumed in the EDU Characteristic. Finally, this is Old School - your character can do a whole load of "adventuring" stuff without having a specific skill listed on their character sheet.

An interesting sci-fi example comes from the Alien(s) movies. Ellen Ripley from was not a soldier and didn't really have good combat skills. At most, she has the usual Traveller Skill-0 in common weapons. In Alien, she killed the xenomorph without using a weapon by using her Pilot and Vacc Suit skills. In Aliens, she does shoot guns and throw grenades (Skill-0, right?) but her real kickass moment is when she uses her excellent Vacc Suit skill to slay the xenomorph queen with the industrial/loading equivalent of a Battledress.

Her Classic Traveller stats would probably look similar to this:

Ellen Ripley, UPP 67C997 Merchant 4th Officer**, 3 terms, age 30, Vacc Suit-2, Pilot-1, Navigation-1, Admin-1.

Another sci-fi example is Commander Shepard of Mass Effect fame. Canonically she*** is 29 years old at the beginning of Mass Effect, but to keep with Traveller character generation rules, I'd make her 34 years old - the earliest age you can reach the rank of Commander in the Navy. She is an N7 - an elite special forces soldier of the System Alliance Navy/Marines. In Traveller terms, she got Commissioned and Promoted on her first term and Promoted on each subsequent term. She is the poster-girl of the best you can achieve in the Navy in a stellar (so to speak) Naval career.

Her Classic Traveller stats would probably look similar to this - assuming the Infiltrator class I always play in Mass Effect 1:

Shepard, UPP 7CA875 Navy Commander, 4 terms, age 34, Rifle-3, Autopistol-2, Admin-1, Computer-1, Vacc Suit-1, Electronics-1, Forward Obs-1****.

Badass!

On a final note, the above also explains why it is difficult to learn new skills in Classic Traveller. Learning a new employable trade - not to mention a full-blown profession - at a later stage of life is difficult. Possible, but difficult. Certainly, you can learn a new profession - Skill-2 - by taking a Sabbatical - once per lifetime. You can also vastly increase your Education Characteristics by up to six points through study. You can train new weapon skills, but this takes time, dedication, and effort to become permanent. You can also train skills - it takes 8 years to increase one of your skills by one level. This all makes sense in the context I have described above.

* Additional skills from the Cepheus Engine/MGT1.
** Roughly Classic Traveller's Book 1 Merchant Service equivalent to the movie's "Warrant Officer", which is a senior non-commissioned officer.
*** FemShep FTW!
**** Actually uses this skill several times, most notably in Mass Effect 3.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Review of Ship Files: Polixenes Class Courier


Ruleset: Cepheus Engine/OGL 2d6 Sci-Fi
Author: Michael Johnson
Artist: Ian Stead
Size: 25 pages
Price: $3.99

Grade: 5 out of 5

This product is a high-quality ship book. While the background material is not as expansive as in some of the Clement Sector books, for example, this book provides a highly detailed and highly useable starship which you could easily insert into any Cepheus or Traveller campaign. The 100-ton Polixenes Class Courier is, essentially, the good ol’ Scout/Courier, but in a more elegant “airframe” form. It has two variants. The main difference between them is fuel storage, with the longer-range one capable of 2-Jump-2. I wonder why it doesn’t have Jump Drive B to provide it with Jump-4 capabilities if it already has the fuel for this (I guess that this is a TL11 design?). Each variant gets a deck-plan in the book itself, and the regular variant also gets a color deck-plan. You also get the deck-plans and ship record sheets in separate, ultra-high-res JPEG files for your own printing.

Everything gets wonderful renders, including several paint-job variants of the ship and an Air/Raft it may carry (in its regular variant, that is). This also includes full Cepheus Engine ship (and air/raft!) stats and ship record sheets.

All in all, this is an excellent book. I now wonder, will the author publish his Terran Union setting itself in a later book? It sounds interesting...

Highly recommended!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Review of Clement Sector Core Setting Book 2nd Edition


Ruleset: Cepheus Engine/OGL 2d6 Sci-Fi

Author: John Watts

Size: 272 pages


Price: $19.99

Grade: 4 out of 5

Reading through the Clement Sector book brings back fond memories. The author, John Watts, wrote a book in the spirit and general format of my old Outer Veil - my first published product. His setting is different, of course, but the overall atmosphere and product design are similar. Great minds think alike!

The Clement Sector is an independent setting for the Cepheus Engine, and by extension - for Traveller. It is set in a remote sector of the galaxy which was reachable from Earth only by means of a wormhole. The wormhole collapsed relatively recently, stranding the colonists on the far side of the galaxy. By its very nature, this sector is underdeveloped. Much of it is open frontier and a good amount of subsectors are either unsettled - some are even unexplored - or very sparsely inhabited. I like that - there is room for exploration and colonization and many, many lawless frontier worlds - perfect for adventuring.

I must say that love the setting’s grand vision and overall atmosphere - a wide-open frontier inhabited by people cut off from Earth and forced to fend for themselves. 

However, the main weakness of the Clement Sector Core Book also lies in its setting. It describes sixteen subsectors - one full sector - with full star-maps and UWPs. However, it barely describes the worlds themselves. Similar to Classic Traveller’s S3: The Spinward Marches, it presents a few of them very briefly. The book does not describe most worlds and instead refers the reader to other products, costing $19.99 each. This would probably have been acceptable in the 1970’s or the early 1980’s, but when today’s gamer pays $19.99 for a setting core book, he often expects more than this. As a side note, this was one of the greatest weaknesses of my own Outer Veil, which had similar format even though I (very partially) covered for it by adding five Patrons and a short adventure.

A short introduction and 20 pages of setting history precede this expansive but rather empty astrography chapter. While it is a good read, for the most part it is of relatively little relevance to the setting itself - the politics of the 21st century United States have little effect on events set in the 23rd century on the other side of the galaxy. Sure, some of the states created by this crisis, such as Cascadia, did affect the setting, but I feel that two or three paragraphs, instead of a dozen pages, would have been sufficient for the history preceding the Clement Sector’s colonization.

The real value of this Core Book, however, lies in its massive character generation chapter. This is, in my opinion, one of the best treatments of 2d6 OGL or Cepheus Engine or Mongoose Traveller character generation. The chapter oozes color added to your character and ensures that each character will have a detailed and unique background. The chapter greatly expands on the regular character generation rules. It includes detailed tables to generate your character’s childhood and youth; a mind-boggling number of careers with d66 event tables and 2d6 mishap tables; and pre-enlistment options, again with their own event tables. There are homeworld skills tailored to the various Clement Sector colonies, but the Core Book does not describe their vast majority. However, it would be easy to replace those with homeworld skills for the planets of your own campaign. There are no known alien species in the setting (though there is some evidence of their existence), but humanity did “uplift” a number of animals, from dolphins to bears, and the book provides detailed rules for generating and playing members of these species (You can play a sentient, upright grizzly!) as well as genetically-modified humans. I must emphasize again - this chapter is amazing. You will also find it extremely easy to adapt it to any colonial sci-fi setting. The character generation chapter alone - which takes a whopping 45% of the book (!) - is well worth the $19.99 price of this product.

A few additional rules and a short discussion of technology in this setting follow the wonderful character generation section. There are quite good experience and character advancement rules and some alterations to the Cepheus Engine skill list. The technology section is relatively unremarkable except for the Zimm Drive - this setting’s Jump-2 Drive equivalent - and the Mindcomp. The former is very similar to a jump engine and could jump and distance up to two parsecs, with reduced transit time for closer destinations (e.g. 3.5 days to jump one parsec away), unlike the default Cepheus/Traveller J-Drive. The latter is a cybernetically-implanted computer, presented in a relatively interesting manner with its own unique rules and software. Oh, and there is a Handcomp which looks like a combination of the Pip Boy from Fallout and the Omnitool from Mass Effect!

The Clement Sector Core Book provides five setting-specific starships: a 300-ton Merchant, a 400-ton Yacht, a 300-ton Scout, a 800-ton Freighter, and a 1,200-ton Destroyer. The chapter does not provide TLs but all designs are seemingly TL11 and generally useable with whatever Traveller setting you prefer. All include excellent-quality deck plans and good renders. The merchant has an interesting design with a “saucer” lower deck and an engine nacelle/bridge section above and behind it (slightly reminiscent of the USS Enterprise of Star Trek fame); its lower deck does utilize its round shape for a less-orthodox radial layout. The Yacht is a traditional wedge and carries a 50-ton Cutter. The Scout is a round “flying saucer, but for some reason, its deck-plans, for the most part, fail to utilize its oval shape and instead opt for a rectangular layout surrounded by fuel. The freighter is excellent and interesting - an unstreamlined dispersed structure carrying six detachable cargo pods - a bit similar to the common freighters of Babylon 5 and Mass Effect. The destroyer is also top notch - a classical Babylon 5 or Halo elongated, unstreamlined design; it is also satisfyingly armed and armored with 8 points of armor, Meson bays, and Fusion bays - just as expected from a Traveller warship. The ship chapter concludes with a handy starship identification and size comparison diagram.

There are also handy, but mostly run-of-the-mill, starship operation rules, the highlight of which are wonderful wilderness fuelling mishap tables (applicable to almost any Traveller universe).

There is a short, 27-page setting information section at the end of the book - vastly dwarfed by the subsector charts and character generation rules. It presents seven corporations and four other organizations and only (!) four pages of setting politics. The corporate descriptions are mostly corporate history and contain a few good plot hooks. There is a Traveller's Aid Society equivalent (the Captain's Guild). The highlight of this chapter is a group called (surprise!) the Gypsy Knights who are "a group formed to travel across the colonized worlds helping those who are in need". There is also a religion/cult/terrorist organization called Solar Purity who are opposed to human presence on the Clement Sector side of the Conduit, or (in the case of moderates), preserve nature as far as possible. It reminds me of the "Reds" in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy; you can use them both as terroristic villains and as patrons hiring the PCs to protect this or that planet from human environmental destruction.

Politically, the Clement Sector is - for the most part - a collection of independent worlds. The only multi-world polity is six-world the Hub Federation. Unfortunately (from a Referee's standpoint), the Federation has an insular policy, missing the adventure opportunities presented by expansionism. The far more interesting (one-world) polity is Cascadia of the eponymous Cascadia Subsector, which has a strong interventionist and expansionist policy fuelled by a faith in "Manifest Destiny"; I would have preferred, though, that it would have had several colonies or at least vassal/client worlds for more interesting politics. There are also two new religions presented in this book - in addition to all the Terran faiths which came with humans to the Clement Sector; both present opportunities for conflict, especially the second one, Caxtonism, which is, in a nutshell, an expansionist proselyting cult.

There is a brief discussion of aliens in the Clement Sector. There are no known live aliens but the Terran colonists have found a few alien artifacts, hinting to alien life present somewhere in the universe. The big plot here is the Alien Research Network - ARN - a crackpot (or so people in the setting believe) group following various alien-related conspiracy theories. Still, the opportunities for serious xenoarchaeology are very limited in the canonical Clement Sector.

The book ends with a four-page discussion of possible campaign ideas. Most are typical Traveller ones - active military service, mercenaries, exploration, crime, trading and so on - but there are also plot hooks about working as a Gypsy Knight or trying to find the way back home despite the Conduit's collapse.

Visually, the book is very readable and well laid-out. All art - and there is plenty of art - is CGI, similar to Outer Veil. This is understandable, as color CGI is far more affordable than color hand-drawing, allowing the author to put more art into his book. The art is always relevant to the topic at hand and the book is very readable if a little ‘heavy’ on older tablets. All artwork and maps are excellently high-res.

The bottom line: An excellent character-generation book paired with a bare-bone frontier setting.

Grade: 4 out of 5

Review: Caennai Class Merchantman by Out of my Mind Games

Caennai Class Merchantman is a ship book published for Mongoose Traveller, 2nd Edition, by Out of my Mind Games. It describes a 500-ton armed and armored merchantman capable of carrying an additional 250 tons in an externally-mounted cargo pod (for a total tonnage of 750 tons, which reduces drive performance). The purpose of this ship seems to be the secure transport of expensive (or dangerous!) cargos, or transport through dangerous space

The product provides full Traveller stats for the ship and its potential cargo pods, as well as deck plans and a render of the ship. The ship itself has an interesting design - an elongated, blocky design reminiscent of the Sulaco from Aliens or of the Earth starships from Babylon 5, as opposed to the vastly overused "wedge" shapes. This is a good, refreshing change. However, the author missed an opportunity to design a non-streamlined ship - and the ship does look unstreamlined in its render - with integral hangarage for interface craft. Instead, it can fly through an atmosphere but not really land (though it can hover over the ground by anti-gravity). I find this somewhat sad, as the Traveller deck plan market is flooded with streamlined ships and unstreamlined ones are much less common - and thus interesting.

Personally, as a Referee, I would have removed the streamlining and reduced the common area and the cargo bay a bit to fit in a Ship's Boat/

The deck plans are low-res and unlabeled. The product describes the general contents of each of the three decks below the deck plan itself, but the deck plan is not always clear - which is a shame as this ship is interesting in its design. The layout is very basic but readable.

The great thing about this product, however, is its cargo pod system - a welcome unorthodox feature of ship design. This also allows for all sorts of interesting uses, including using this ship for exploration with a large laboratory/sensor pod, for example. It can also mount a "Docking Jig" carrying small craft - and I'd bet that some creative captains would convert the entire cargo pod into a fighter bay for an instant carrier (or pirate "Battlewagon"!).

Other very good features include a fully-detailed sample ship with a full crew, good adventure seeds for using the ship in a campaign, and flavorful details about the ship itself.

The bottom line is that this is an interesting, though flawed, product. This ship can be an excellent addition to any Traveller campaign.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Review: RHI Sandpiper Light Trader by Out of my Mind Games

RHI Sandpiper Light Trader is a ship book published for Mongoose Traveller, 2nd Edition, by Out of my Mind Games. It describes three varieties of a 100-ton starship originally intended as a trader - the original trader version, a militarized gunship, and a "star ambulance" version. It includes a good description of the ship with enough flavor and color to make the ship relatively unique. Each variety has a description, MGT2 stats, a deck-plan, and a render. The deck plans are very simple but serviceable and the renders are solid but nothing to write home about. The layout is very simple but readable.

For some reason, the book does not mention the ship's size (100 tons) until you reach the stats on p.5 - neither on the cover nor in the introduction nor in the technical details section on p.4.

The one thing which I love in this otherwise unremarkable ship book are the clever designs - the author managed to cram a Jump-3 drive, its fuel, and 30 tons of cargo into a 100-ton trader, and eight marines (!) on a 110-ton gunship.

All in all, a solid, useful booklet about an interesting small starship which you can drop into almost any Traveller campaign.

Grade: 4 out of 5

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Lurian Trailing Cluster 2 - The Lost Flame of Prometheus

Stellagama Publishing proudly presents:

Lurian Trailing Cluster 2 - The Lost Flame of Prometheus!

Recovering the Lost Flame of Prometheus is a major undertaking. Anyone backing an expedition like this would typically engage a group of highly professional individuals, dedicated to the singular goal of the advancement of human knowledge and the re-establishment of interstellar civilization in the Lurian Trailing Cluster.

Instead, a group of player characters will be mounting an expedition.

The mythical Flame of Prometheus, an immense data archive that contained all the knowledge of human civilization, was lost during the Deluge, centuries ago. Now that humans have begun to explore the systems of the Lurian Trailing Cluster, many are desperate to discover the fate of the Flame of Prometheus and locate its final resting place. In it, they might find the lost knowledge needed to rekindle interstellar civilization!

But finding the Flame is only half the problem because not everyone wants it found…

Lurian Trailing Cluster Book 2—The Lost Flame of Prometheus is a supplement designed for Stars Without Number, by Sine Nomine Publishing. It contains detailed descriptions of five new systems in the Lurian Trailing Cluster, complete with NPCs, new vehicles, starship designs and strange life forms. It also contains a full campaign outline for an expedition to locate the Lost Flame of Prometheus, including allies, enemies, monsters, encounters, facilities, and plots to drive a sector-changing treasure hunting adventure campaign.

Get it HERE!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Unboxing the printed Near Space poster-map

As one of the authors of Near Space, I wanted to see for myself how the printed Near Space poster map looks in reality. Thus, I ordered a copy from our store at Zazzle - you can call it a "proofing copy", though the product definitely does not need much proofing as I am very satisfied with how it turned out.

Map design by Omer Golan-Joel, map by Ian Stead.

The poster map has thus arrived at my home in Yavne, Israel. Here is how its unboxing looks like:




Monday, October 31, 2016

Simple mass-combat rules for Classic Traveller - draft

I am thinking about a quick "semi-mass-combat" system to complement my Quick and Dirty vehicle rules - some sort of "Striker Ultralight".

The intention is to simplify the bookkeeping load when dealing with many NPC combatants, such as a full Mercenary Cruiser's load of mercs show up under the PCs command or opposed to the PCs, when playing a "Rorke's Drift" type of defense by the PCs, and so on.

This does not come as a replacement for Book 1 combat but rather as an expansion of it concerned with somewhat larger forces. If there will be enough interest in the rules, I will consider building them into a simple, "self-contained" wargame-type system.

My current idea goes as follows:


General
Book 1 rules apply unless noted otherwise. This includes combat rounds, the fact that all actions simultaneous (but see the Optional Initiative rule below), stamina, attack rolls, cover, surprise, and so on.

Grunts and squads
Assume that 'grunt' or 'thug' NPCs have Skill-0 for any relevant weapon they carry or operate. Grunts are generally run-of-the-mill soldiers who went through boot camp and know how to operate as soldiers on the battlefield and use their weapons but lack significant combat experience and are ineffective when not part of a unit with a clear chain of command. Alternatively, they can also represent relatively well-organized criminals, pirates, or terrorists.

Grunts operate in squads - on average 8 members each. Consider all grunts in a Squad as "adjacent" for the sake of Book 1 and 4 rules (auto-fire, shotguns, etc.). The squad moves together and acts together.

Each squad has a leader - as noted in the Morale rules below. In most cases he will be a grunt by himself and there will be no need to list him as a character with full stats - simply note his Leader and Tactics skills in the squad description.

The short-hand squad description format is Number/Quality Armor Weapon Leader-skills. For example, a squad of 8 grunts with Cloth armor and Submachineguns with a leader of Leader-1 and Tactics-2 will be listed as:

8 grunts, Cloth, SMG, Leader-1, Tactics-2.

A Character (PC or significant NPC) may also lead a squad. In this case, he will shoot independently, move along with the squad, and use his own Tactics and Leader skills for squad purposes.

Movement
When using relatively small forces and a simple engagement, such as the PCs defending a stronghold against an enemy assault, you can use the Book 1 range band movement rules. However, in the case of more complex battlefields, you may use a map with markers (or pencil marks!) or even miniatures and a battle map (or terrain). In this case, a squad or character can move up to 25m and still act, or run 50m and forgo its action. A squad moves as one unit.

Morale
People don't like getting shot at.

At the beginning of a combat round, any squad in the open which was fired upon in the previous round must make a Morale roll (as per Book 1) to avoid using its movement to retreat to the nearest cover. This morale roll uses DMs as given in Book 1, with an additional DM -2 if fire upon by support-grade weapons. If there is no cover within 25m (or 1 range band) of its initial position, a retreating unit will forgo its action and run up to 50m (or 2 range bands) to the nearest cover.

Any unit behind cover which was fired upon in the previous round must succeed in a Morale roll to leave the cover. Add the leader's Leader skill to this roll. DM -2 if fired upon by Support weapons. This morale roll uses DMs as given in Book 1, with an additional DM -2 if fire upon by support-grade weapons.

When a squad loses its first member to enemy fire, and again when it has lost over half its members, it must make a Morale roll to avoid breaking and bailing out. Similarly, a squad which was under overwhelming fire (Referee's discretion) in the previous round must make a Morale roll to avoid breaking and bailing out.

A character with the Leader skill may attempt to rally a broken squad back into fighting shape. Throw 8+ to rally, DM +Leader skill. If the roll succeeds, the squad returns to normal function. If it fails, remove the squad from the battlefield. After the battle, the Referee will decide what happened to the troopers who bailed out.

Characters such as PCs and important NPCs, of course, do not have to make Morale rolls and may act as desired.

Fire combat
As noted above, Characters such as PCs and major NPCs shoot and are shot at by the Book 1 rules.

Shoot at grunt squads using the regular Book 1 rules including armor and range DMs. Note that all squad members are "adjacent" for the sake of group hits as in Book 1 and Book 4. When a shot hits a grunt, instead of rolling damage as usual, simply roll 1d6. The grunt is knocked out on 4-. A grunt is either active in combat or knocked out - light wounds don't matter. as far as the battle itself is concerned, the difference between a prolonged concussion, a serious injury, and death is irrelevant.

Each squad has one attack roll. Treat semi-automatic fire by a squad as an "automatic" attack as per Book 1 (multiple/group hits etc). Automatic fire by a whole Squad counts as Book 4 "10-round burst" fire (may hit up to 4 adjacent targets) and confers DM +2 to-hit. A squad with a light machine gun as a support weapon counts as shooting automatic fire even if the rest of the squad fires semi-automatic weapons. A squad below 4 members is ineffective and rolls for a single hit with no +DM unless firing automatic fire, in which case the whole Squad rolls with +1 DM and as a single automatic weapon.

Assaults
Unseating a dug-in enemy with distant fire is difficult. Usually, getting rid of an enemy squad in cover requires an assault.

A squad my assault an enemy squad and/or PCs/major NPCs if they are within up to 50m (or 2 range bands) of its position.

Assaults are scary, and thus getting a squad to assault requires a Morale roll as per Book 1. If failed, the squad will not assault. This roll is subject to a further DM -2 if the squad is behind cover, as soldiers loathe getting out of cover and storming into incoming enemy fire.

The defender gets a free fire attack at the assaulters before being assaulted. This is regardless of the defender having fire before in this round or not. Morale rules for casualties apply here - an assault may be repelled by defender gunfire.

The assault itself requires both squads to roll 2d6. The higher roll wins. DM +1 to the defender; DM +1 if a squad carries weapons appropriate for CQB such as handguns, SMGs, bayonets, or assorted melee weapons; DM -2 for a squad at half strength or lower; DM +2 for a squad in Battledress; DM +the leader's Tactics skill; DM +any relevant weapon skill of a PC or major NPC leader.

All grunt members of the losing squads suffer a hit each, roll 1d6 each as usual. PCs on the losing side suffer a hit by the most common weapon carried by the winners (or the winners' leader if he is a major NPC) subject to the regular Book 1 or Book 4 rules. Surviving losers must make a Morale roll. If successful, they make an orderly retreat to the nearest cover outside the assaulted location. If failed, they either surrender or rout (Referee's choice). The winning squad suffers three hits to its grunts. A PC on the winning side will suffer an attack roll at a -4 penalty to-hit.

On a draw, each side suffers 3 hits to grunts and a regular attack roll on any PC or major NPC leader and will make another assault roll on the next round.

Optional advanced rules:

Initiative
Traveller Book 1 assumes simultaneous action by all participants in the battle. When playing out a large engagement, however, such method might become unwieldy. Therefore, I propose the following rule:

Each battle has an Attacker and a Defender. The attacker starts with initiative - all of his units act first in the round, and the Defender's units act only after them. The action here is NOT simultaneous, so the side with initiative can kill or rout the enemy before its foe can react. For the purpose of Morale rules, if the attacker fired on a defender's unit in his phase of the battle, the defender is considered "under fire" in his phase of the same round.

Each round after the first, the defender may try to turn the tides of battle and seize the initiative. To do so, the overall commander of each side rolls 2D, DM +hisTactics skill. If the attacker rolls higher or on a draw, the attacker retains the initiative. If the defender rolls higher than the attacker, he may seize the initiative from him and act first from this round on. from the next round, the attacker may try to seize the initiative again.

Troop quality
The above rules assume generic soldiers or well-organized criminals as encountered on many battlefields. However, not all troops were created equal, and the Referee may decide to use varied troop qualities as an optional rule. There are three troop qualities: Rabble, Grunts (as above), and Hardened.

Rabble combatants are untrained, poorly organized combatants - usually a mob of civilians, inexperienced irregulars, or unorganized gang-members. Rabble combatants suffer DM -2 to hit0 and assault rolls and DM -2 to all Morale rolls. Also, when losing a Morale roll which would have caused a regular unit to retreat to cover, roll 1d6; on 3-, the unit routs and bails out.

Grunts are as given above.

Hardened troops are experienced, well-trained professional soldiers who retain their cool under fire under fire, such as veteran soldiers, intensively-trained combatants, and the better sorts of mercenaries. Hardened troops enjoy DM +2 to hit and assault rolls and DM +2 to all Morale rolls. Also, when losing a Morale roll which would have caused a lesser unit to break and rout, roll 1d6; on 5+, the unit makes an orderly retreat to the nearest cover and remains in battle.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

SPACE PATROL!

Stellagama Publishing proudly presents:

The SPACE PATROL Needs YOU!

Help protect innocent lives from the scourge of space piracy! Fight interstellar crime! Let the Navy play its wargames, the real action is in the merchant lanes with the Space Patrol. Join the galaxy’s elite crime fighting organization now!

The Space Patrol is a supplement for the Cepheus Engine rules and 2D6 SciFi OGL games. This book contains complete rules for creating Space Patrol characters with four detailed careers - complete with expanded event and mishap tables - expanded world descriptions discussing legal codes and interstellar law, a complete description of the Space Patrol’s organization, as well as its standard equipment. Busy GMs will find dozens of NPCs from all Divisions of the Space Patrol, as well as some of the Sub-Sector’s most notorious criminals. But beware: if these villains were easy to catch, they would already be behind bars.

The Space Patrol book includes complete descriptions of the ships used by the Patrol, from the humble Cutter to the mighty Ballista-Class Frigate. It provides extended details and full deck-plans for three ships - the 100-ton Relentless-Class Pursuit Ship; the 200-ton TL 12 Tasman-Class Q-Ship; and the 400-ton Dragon-Class Corvette.

Get it HERE!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Coming this Halloween from Stellagama Publishing: SPACE PATROL!

The SPACE PATROL Needs YOU!

The Space Patrol! Help protect innocent lives from the scourge of space piracy! Fight interstellar crime! Let the Navy play its wargames, the real action is in the merchant lanes with the Space Patrol. Join the galaxy’s elite crime fighting organization now!

The Space Patrol is a supplement for the Cepheus Engine rules and 2D6 SciFi OGL gaming. This book contains complete rules for creating Space Patrol characters - complete with expanded event and mishap tables -  expanded world descriptions discussing legal codes and interstellar law, a complete description of the Space Patrol’s organization, as well as its standard equipment. Busy GMs will find dozens of NPCs from all Divisions of the Space Patrol, as well as some of the Sub-Sector’s most notorious criminals. But beware: if these villains were easy to catch, they would already be behind bars.

The Space Patrol book includes complete descriptions of the ships used by the Patrol, from the humble Cutter to the mighty Ballista-Class Frigate. It provides extended details and full deck-plans for three ships - the 100-ton Relentless-Class Pursuit Ship; the 200-ton TL 12 Tasman-Class Q-Ship; and the 400-ton Dragon-Class Corvette.

Coming from Stellagama Publishing
this Halloween!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

USE ME light wargame rules - now in digital download!

Four or five years ago I worked with Gavin Syme of Alternative Armies/15mm.co.uk on the lightweight USE ME rules for miniature wargaming. These are simple, d6-based rules aimed at 15mm figures but easy to convert to other scales published in small booklets covering a range of milieus and battlefields from the American Civil War through World War 2 to the post-apocalypse and the far future. I am now proud to see them published as digital download as well!

Get them HERE!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Quick and dirty Classic Traveller vehicle combat

Following a discussion on the Citizens of The Imperium forums regarding broken or missing rules in Classic Traveller, I have decided to put together some basic rules for vehicle combat for Book 1-3 CT (plus Book 4 if you wish to use it).

I have written these rules with the typical Books 1-3 Proto-Traveller spirit in mind. That is, for the purpose of including vehicles in the various adventures and mishaps of interstellar travellers, traders, scouts, and misfits, as well as small-scale mercenaries. I did not aim in any way to simulate large-scale armored warfare but rather to provide some basic rules for what happens when your Scout empties his Submachinegun at a hovering Air/Raft or, at most when a mercenary shoots a RAM grenade at an AFV.

I drew inspiration for these rules from the Book 2 ship damage rules, the ATV rules in Double Adventure 2: Mission to Mithril/Across the Bright Face, and for a much lesser degree, the Striker wargame.

Skill Notation
For the ease of reference, "Throw Mechanic 8+" means "throw 2D and add the Mechanics skill; a result of 8+ is a success" and so on.

Vehicle Movement
Vehicle combat is either Tactical or Chase Combat. Tactical Combat is ordinary Book 1 combat with a vehicle included, usually moving at a slow pace of up to 4 range bands per round. On the other hand, Chase Combat ignores terrain for the most part and involves two or more vehicles chasing each other. This also uses range bands, though they are far wider than those involved in Tactical Combat; their exact length is abstract. Throw the appropriate Vehicle (or Air/Raft or ATV) skill at 8+ to either get further from the opposing vehicle by one range band or get closer to it by one range band. The driver or pilot may also throw 10+ once per round with the appropriate skill (DM +2 if DEX 10+) for a better position - that is, either gain DM +2 to hit the opposition or force a -2 DM on the enemy's to-hit rolls on him. Vehicles who leave the Very Long range band disengage and thpursueded vehicle escapes.

Hitting Vehicles
Hitting a vehicle with a man-portable weapon is an ordinary combat task. Throw 8+ to hit, add the appropriate weapon skill and characteristic DMs, as well as range DMs. Ignore armor DMs as I have covered the effects of vehicle armor in the tables below. Vehicle-mounted weapons use the Gunnery skill instead and the appropriate range modifiers. On a hit, consult the appropriate damage table.

Hitting a fast-moving vehicle suffers DM -2. You cannot hit fast, high-flying aircraft without specialized tracking weapons, but you can hit a slower aircraft, albeit at DM -2 to -4 (Referee's discretion, depending on flight altitude or speed).

Vehicle Damage
To keep things within a Little Black Book scope and flavor, these rules abstract the many types of weapons and armor into three broad categories each. Use the following table to see how each category of weapons affects each category of vehicle armor and choose the appropriate damage table to roll on. Each weapon his causes one roll on the appropriate damage table.

Soft Skin Light Armor Heavy Armor
Small Arms Surface None None
Support Weapon Critical Internal Surface
Heavy Weapon Destroyed Critical Internal

Small Arms: any regular personal weapons, whether a slug-thrower or a laser. All Book 1 weapons are Small Arms, as are the various rifles and pistols in Book 4. Light and medium machine guns also fall into this category.

Support Weapons: heavier man-portable weapons carried at the squad level or light vehicle weapons - such as Book 4 PGMPs, heavy machine guns, autocannons, Light Assault Guns (AKA Anti-Tank Rifles) with High Explosive or Discarding Sabot rounds. Most grenades, whether hand-thrown or RAM, fall into this category as well, including grenade launchers.

Heavy Weapons: full-scale anti-armor weapons. This includes Book 4 FGMPs and Book 4 Field Artillery. The specialized anti-armor HEAP RAM grenades also fall into this category.

Soft Skin: an unarmored vehicle, whether civilian or military. In Book 3 terms, this includes the Ground Car, Hovercraft, all Winged craft, Air/Raft, Speeder, and Motorboat.

Light Armor: a lightly-armored vehicle such as an armored car or light APC. In Book 3 terms, this includes the ATV and G-Carrier.

Heavy Armor: a heavily armored vehicle, such as a heavy APC (or IFV) or a tank. In book 3 terms, this includes the AFV, the Steamship, and the Submersible (due to size rather than armor for the most part).

For damage, roll on the appropriate tables below:

Surface Damage
2d6 Damage
2-5 Bounced Off
6-7 Device
8-9 Locomotion
10 Breach
11 Weapon
12 Internal Damage

Bounce Off: Shot has bounced off the vehicle's skin or armor. No damage.

Device: One secondary external device, such as a light fixture or antenna, was destroyed (Referee's discretion).

Locomotion: The vehicle's locomotion, such as wheels, treads, or propeller, was damaged. In case of a single-engine aircraft, this might cause a crash; throw Vehicle (Winged Craft) 8+ to land safely (DM +2 if DEX 10+), otherwise this is a crash causing a roll on the Critical Damage table. In case of multi-engine aircraft, this causes a -1 DM to all Vehicle (Winged Craft) rolls per disabled engine and will be at risk of a crash if all engines are disabled. Grav vehicles have enclosed grav-lift modules and are immune to this case of damage. Throw Mechanic 8+ to repair damaged locomotion.

Breach: If the vehicle is pressurized, its environmental seal is breached, exposing its occupants to the environment. Can be repaired with a vacuum seal patch or a Mechanic 6+ throw.

Weapon: One of the vehicle's weapons is disabled and may not fire. AFV (and other tank) main cannons are immune to this in most cases, but their secondary weapons are not. Throw Gunnery 8+ to repair a disabled weapon.

Internal Damage: Lucky penetrating hit! Roll on the Internal Damage table!

Internal Damage
2d6 Damage
2-5 Transmission or Suspension
6-7 Crew
8-9 Electronics
10 Main Weapon
11 Power Plant
12 Critical

Transmission or Suspension: The vehicle's transmission or suspension is damaged. A wheeled or tracked vehicle is immobilized. A Grav vehicle may only move up or down. For aircraft, throw Vehicle (Winged Craft) 11+ to land safely (DM +2 if DEX 10+), otherwise this is a crash causing a roll on the Critical Damage table. Field repairs of damaged transmission or suspension are difficult and require a Mechanic 10+ throw (DM +1 for INT 10+). At a workshop, this throw is easier, at Mechanic 8+.

Crew: 1d6 crewmembers are injured at 3D damage each.

Electronics: One or more of the vehicle's electronic systems is destroyed, usually the control systems or major sensors/radar. Flying an aircraft or Grav vehicle with damaged electronics suffers DM -2. Throw Electronics 8+ to repair damaged electronics.

Main Weapon: The vehicle's main weapon is damaged and disabled. This includes AFV (or other tank) main cannons. Throw Gunnery 10+ to repair a disabled weapon.

Power Plant: The vehicle's power plant takes a direct hit and the vehicle is disabled. Each occupant must throw 8+ (DM +1 for END 8+) to avoid taking 3D damage. In case of a aircraft or grav vehicles, this might cause a crash; throw Vehicle (Winged Craft) or Air/Raft 10+ to land safely (DM +2 if DEX 10+), otherwise this is a crash causing a roll on the Critical Damage table. This cannot be repaired on the field.

Critical: Massive damage. Roll on the Critical Damage table.

Critical Damage
1d6 Damage
1-2 Knocked Out
3-4 Crew
5-6 Destroyed

Knocked Out: The vehicle is rendered completely and irreparably inoperable. Furthermore, each occupant must throw 8+ (DM +1 for END 8+) to avoid taking 3D damage. Aircraft crash, causing 6D damage to all occupants. Low-flying Grav vehicles crash, causing 3D damage to all occupants; if they are flying at a high altitude or at high speed, this increases to 6D damage.


Crew: All crew suffer 6D damage.

Destroyed: Vehicle destroyed. On ground vehicles, crew must throw 10+ (DM +2 for DEX 10+) to bail out with "only" 6D damage. Otherwise, they are killed immediately.

Optional Rules
The following rules are somewhat more complex than those above; the Referee should use them at her discretion.

Technology and Penetration: Higher-tech weapons tend to better penetrate lower-tech armor, and higher-tech armor tends to offer better protection against lower-tech weapons. If you use this optional rule, if the weapon has a higher TL than the target vehicle, consider it as being one "category" higher, that is - Support Weapons behave as Heavy Weapons. This does not apply, however, to Small Arms, except for Book 1 Laser weapons and the various Book 4 weapons using specialized armor-piercing ammunition. Conversely, if the weapon has a lower TL than the target vehicle, consider it as being one "category" lower - for example, Support Weapons behave as Small Arms.

Called Shots: Many armored vehicles have weak spots. If you use this optional rule, if the Referee rules that the character knows of a specific vehicle's weaknesses, the character may roll to attack at DM -2 to hit a weak spot. Characters may only do so up to Medium range unless using guided or tracking weapons. If the attack hits, consider the damage as done by one "category" of weapon higher, that is - Support Weapons behave as Heavy Weapons. This does not apply, however, to Small Arms, except for Book 1 Laser weapons and the various Book 4 weapons using specialized armor-piercing ammunition. Discovering an enemy vehicle's weaknesses may be an adventure of its own; alternatively, the Referee may call for a throw of Tactics 10+ (DM +1 for INT 9+) to discover the target's weaknesses by observation and deduction.

You may now download these rules in PDF format from HERE

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Early Preview: These Stars are Ours!

Flag of the United Terran Republic
We at Stellagama Publishing are hard at work on two big future releases.

The first is Space Patrol, a thrilling setting-neutral (for the most part) sourcebook for the Cepheus Engine and the other OGL 2d6 sci-fi games about interstellar policing and the eponymous Space Patrol enforcing the Law between the stars. Its estimated release date is Halloween 2016

The second - which I present here today - is the commercial, full-scale version of my old Visions of Empire sci-fi setting. We are now working on the first core sourcebook - called These Stars Are Ours! - and it's taking shape very nicely. This will be a full-scale book, first to be released as PDF and later as a Print-on-Demand (PoD) book for you to order.

Here is some flavor text from the first chapter of These Stars Are Ours!:

A Reticulan and two Terrans
"When we rose up, threw off our chains, and overthrew the EFA collaborators, I was pessimistic about our chances. I thought that our people, with our few worlds and small fleets, would not stand against the Reticulan might. I even feared that Terra will end up like the old Ssesslessian homeworld: reduced to rubble by the enemy. I was scared. But others knew one simple fact – that our spirit and determination were stronger than the Reticulan generals and their mercenary troops.

These Terran patriots steadfastly believed in our indomitable defiance in face of the Imperial oppressors, and they were right. Here we are, against all odds, against the well-calculated predictions of Reticulan military planners – standing free, one year after our declaration of independence. Our Republic is the sum of Terran resilience – a state built on unity, on cooperation, on liberty.

It is a Republic defended by its armed citizens – no longer slaves sent to die and kill on alien worlds for alien masters, no! We are free Terran women and men bearing arms and facing the same alien overlords on the battlefield, keeping their talons off our motherworld.

Terran Navy (left) and
Naval Infantry (right)
Today, these brave women and men are fighting in the trenches on Belobog, Sirius, and Svarog and flying starships in deep space in face of a relentless enemy. Wherever the Reticulans try to shackle our worlds, our citizens answer with gunfire. They fight for what is theirs: family, livelihood, liberty! Many of them will not return from the front lines. Many will give their lives for Mother Terra and our hard-won liberty. But this is the essence of our independence – won with blood, secured with fire. And we will march on, until we will raise our green and blue banner over the ruined palaces of the Reticulan enemy – until we will secure our independence once and for all! And then the galaxy will know: These stars are ours!"
- President Vera Singh, June 3, 2233 AD, commemorating the first anniversary of Terran independence.


The Terran Borderlands
These Stars Are Ours (TSAO) is the first product of the Visions of Empire (VoE) line of space-opera setting material for the 2D6 Science Fiction SRD rules (formerly known as Mongoose Traveller first edition). Set in 2260 AD - two years after the Terrans took Keid II and forced the Reticulan Empire to capitulate - it introduces the player characters to the immediate aftermath of the Terran Liberation War against the mighty Reticulan Empire and its many thralls. The Retriculan Empire had to sign a humiliating peace treaty with the victorious Terrans and reluctantly accept Terran independence from the Empire. For their part, the upstart Terrans, bolstered by their victory against their old masters, now move to become a power to be reckoned with in interstellar affairs. On this background of espionage, maneuvering and saber-rattling, and on the new interstellar frontiers, the player characters can forge a destiny of heroes or villains of the new United Terran Republic. The book provides background information, a 16 by 10 hex star-map, full information and write-ups about all 64 major worlds in this area, and other materials necessary to set a Traveller campaign in the exciting times of the 23rd century. 

It is two years after we won the War against our old Reticulan masters. We - the children of Mother Terra - are now free to forge our destiny and put our mark on the stars. These stars are ours! We took them by our right, and by the blood of our brave soldiers and star-sailors who gave their lives to free our Motherworld from the Reticulan yoke. The United Terran Republic proudly carries our Terran banner forward and we will make ourselves - humans from Terra - into a power to be reckoned with. This is a time for bold men and women to step up and leave their mark on the universe. We need intrepid explorers to discover the riches of our far frontiers; enterprising merchants to open up new trade routes with far-away alien stars; cunning spies and agents to protect us from any alien plot against our hard-won independence; and of course - daring soldiers and spacemen to protect our borders and push back those who still desire to enslave us. 

But we are not alone - brave Cicek warriors and even Reticulan and Ssesslesssian defectors fought along our side against the Reticulan legions. Rebuilding our space - indeed, building Terra into a mighty force on the interstellar playfield will require the help of our alien allies. Against this mighty alliance, stand our many enemies - both internal and external. Corrupt politicians and crime-lords plot to turn our glorious Republic into their own plaything at our expense. Ruthless pirates and raiders rob far-flung colonies, heedless of the opening they give to our greater enemies. In the shadows, House Thiragin - the Reticulan noble house which once ruled Terra - plots and plans for its ultimate revenge on us upstart “barbarians”. For all of this - children of the Earth – Mother Terra needs you!

Coming soon!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Empty-hex jumps and space topography

A common convention in (modern-day) Traveller and similar sci-fi RPGs using jump-drives and a hexagon star-map is that you can jump into "empty" hexes on the map and jump out of them, given enough fuel. Older incarnations of these games allowed jumps only between hexes containing a "world" (that is, a star with planets).

In this regard, one thing I was recently thinking about is that there are certain advantages to ruling out empty hex jumps. If you can jump into an empty star-map hex, then jump again to another system, you can essentially reach almost any star with almost any starship with enough drop tanks or inflatable fuel tanks - as well as extended life-support supplies. This makes space "flat" - crossing a 3-parsec "mini-rift" with your Free Trader is simply a matter of preparation and giving up some of your cargo space.

However, when you rule that you need a gravity well - that is, a star's mass - for the jump-drive to "focus" on, this changes things - now space has a "topography". In real-world (or fantasy world) planetside geography, you can't just travel anywhere in a straight line, at least if you move on the ground or sail on bodies of water. There are mountains and rivers, forests and bogs - in many cases, you will take a longer route to circumvent such an obstacle and not simply go straight through it. The same goes to jump-travel across a star-map where you cannot jump into "empty" hexes. Your Jump-1 Free Trader will have to take longer routes to reach worlds at a 2-parsec or wider gap from it; some worlds will simply be inaccessible to it as only a Jump-2 or higher ship can reach them. Even your trusty Jump-2 Scout will have to take detours around Jump-3 or wider gaps and there will be a few worlds only an advanced (and expensive) higher-Jump ship could reach.

This makes space interesting. There are various implications. First, it makes high-jump ships much more important - if your empire has Jump-3 while its rival has only Jump-2, you might be able to circumvent even its best-planned border defences and simply Jump over them. If you want to hide something, find a world accessible only by Jump-3 or higher and most civilians will simply be unable to reach it; go behind a Jump-4 or Jump-5 rift, and almost no one could get there. Trade and colonisation will develop along certain routes. Empires will fortify certain worlds, made strategic as they provide the sole access points into the empire using the rival's best Jump-drives. The empires themselves will develop along Jump-1 Mains allowing low-cost transport and develop much slower across Jump-3 or higher gaps.

This makes things interesting and makes space less "flat". I like that.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Review of Ships of the Galaxy: Vegas-class Light Freighter

I was kindly given a complimentary copy of Ships of the Galaxy: Vegas-class Light Freighter by Blue Max Studios. Here is my review of this product.

There are literally dozens of sci-fi and space-opera trader-ship designs floating around the Internet, both commercial and fan-made. The Vegas-class Light Freighter does stand out among them. Why? Because unlike the large number of "aircraft-type" trader-ship designs with the engines at their "back wall", the Vegas is a "tail-sitter" - it's engines are under the "floor". The entire ship layout is thus unique among its many competitors, as its deck plans and overall structure are very interesting and a refreshing change.

This book describes a 300-ton trader-ship for the 2d6 Sci-Fi OGL/Cepheus Engine/Mongoose Traveller sci-fi rules. It includes all the regular material - ship stats and deck descriptions. However, it also features an economic analysis of the design showing how it will be profitable when ferrying cargo and passengers even without speculative trade. It also has some very nice "fluff" allegedly written by the "Skipper" - a "professional" stowaway of sorts.

The book features 3D renders of the ship and its nine decks from an isometric POV. It also comes with a booklet providing more traditional top-down 2D deck-plans. The author has obviously made the art and deck-plans with a relatively simple 3D modelling program, and they are not as "slick" as those in other ship-books, but the design itself is, as I have said above, very interesting and would be enjoyable for players to explore.

I have several minor criticisms of this product:

1) The page background sometimes makes the text slightly difficult to read. It is still readable, but a paler background would probably make it better.

2) The table on p.2 - which is repeated in the deckplan booklet - has some irregular alignment of its text.

3) The Asimov quote on p.5 and decks 02 and 00 of the deckplan booklet are slightly pixelated and blurred.

The Bottom Line:
If this was a "regular" trader-ship book with an "aircraft-type" layout, I would have given it a score of 3/5. However, the design's uniqueness and coolness factor warrants a 5/5. Highly recommended for adding some variety to the star-traders of your sci-fi campaign.

RATING: 5/5

Friday, September 16, 2016

Lurian Trailing Cluster - Book 1


Stellagama Publishing is THRILLED to present:

Lurian Trailing Cluster - Book 1

A brand-new setting for Stars Without Number!

The waters of the Deluge have receded.
We have survived.
Now, we must reclaim our birthright: the stars.


The Lurian Trailing Cluster was once a remote frontier, settled by misfits, renegades, and anyone desperate enough for a second chance on a distant world. Now, six centuries after the cataclysmic Deluge wrought untold destruction on civilization, the worlds of the Cluster are clawing their way back into space. But among the untold riches to be found in the heavens lie dangers too terrible to contemplate. Only the bravest and boldest adventurers can possibly survive the trials that await humanity in the stars.

The Lurian Trailing Cluster Book 1 is a science fiction setting designed for Stars Without Number, by Sine Nomine Publishing. In this product, you will find a brief history of the Cluster, as well as summaries for all fourteen of its worlds, faction data, and star maps. Three worlds are given fully detailed write-ups, including system and planetary data, trade tables, maps, and societal histories.

Get it HERE!

Two more books in the works! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Cepheus Engine - my go-to sci-fi ruleset

I have decided to completely move to the Cepheus Engine as my go-to sci-fi ruleset, replacing Mongoose/Classic Traveller. Stellagama Publishing will, of course, also publish material for Stars Without Number - and we are now working on some seriously cool stuff for it -  but personally I now use the Cepheus rules. I will move Hard Space from Classic Traveller to the Cepheus Engine; we are writing (the commercial) Visions of Empire setting for the Cepheus Engine as well.

Why the change? The main reason is that of copyright and licensing. The current (second) edition of Mongoose Traveller has a closed "Community Content" license onDriveThruRPG. This license is quite nice for fans who wish to write material for the Official Traveller Universe (OTU) and even earn some money from them. However, it is very problematic for third-party publishers, such as Stellagama Publishing, to market materials through for various legal and technical reasons. Classic Traveller - an excellent ruleset - requires an individual license to publish for if you want to write anything commercial. There are the open (OGL) 2d6 sci-fi SRD rules, related to the first edition of Mongoose Traveller, but they are incomplete as a ruleset.

The Cepheus Engine is thus a good compromise. It is quite similar to Traveller in terms of flavor and rules, yet it is completely open-content. This means that we can publish sci-fi material in the flavor we all know and love without stepping on anyone's Intellectual Property toes and without requiring any individual license as Cepheus is under the Open Game License (OGL). The rules are complete and very good - perfect for sci-fi gaming and better still for sci-fi publishing. Check them out!

On a side note, I now have the perfect mapping data and the perfect map for Hard Space... Sold by Stellagama Publishing! This is one of the products I am very proud of, by the way.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Near Space Poster Maps - now in Print!

The Near Space hexagon-based poster star-maps are now available for order from Zazzle! High-res, high-quality 2D maps of the space and stars around Sol ready for your near-Terra sci-fi RPG needs! Based on actual, up-to-date stellar data which was abstracted and "flattened" for gaming ease.

There are two versions available - one in full color, the other with a white background for easy Referee's scribbling and notation.

Get them from OUR ZAZZLE STORE.