Monday, November 7, 2022

Returning to Swords & Wizardry!

Yours truly holding the Beginner Kit and wearing the local Swords & Wizardry T-Shirt
My journey through the OSR landscape was a long one. After abandoning D&D 3.xE in 2008 or so, I moved to the Basic Fantasy RPG (BFRPG). This rekindled my joy of fantasy role-playing, after an almost-burnout by 3.xE, where I felt that prepping game material is a menial chore. In BFRPG, I could simply run with the game and have fun, even as Dungeon Master.

Afterwards came Lamentations of the Flame Princess; the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System (ACKS), a short bout of Swords & Wizardry: White Box, and, finally, settling on Old School Essentials (OSE) as my go-to fantasy RPG. However, things have changed recently, and I am returning to Swords & Wizardry!

The reason is that Swords & Wizardry is enjoying rapid growth here in Israel. After the core book was translated in the previous decade, a local team gathered and created an actual Beginner Kit boxed set! This costs 99 NIS (approx. $30 USD) and includes all the rules necessary to play the game up to level 5, as well as dice and two adventures! This Kit is now sold in multiple game, toy, and book stores across Israel, ready to bring new players and Game Masters into our hobby!

Swords & Wizardry booth at a local convention, with a wealth of new products!

This opened the floodgate to a burgeoning ecosystem of supporting books, especially adventures, put forth both by the local translation team, and by third parties. This happens while D&D 5E is unavailable in Hebrew (other than its mostly-unformatted SRD) due to licensing issues. While most adult Israelis know English relatively well, children are rarely fluent in it, and even many adults prefer to run and play games in our native tongue. So, the game is growing exponentially here!

I am also behind the local (Hebrew) Swords & Wizardry fanzine, the Fighting Agama, which already published two issues, and a third one is already in the works - this is intended to be a bi-monthly, or maybe even later monthly, publication.

The Fighting Agama fanzine!
Thus, I am switching over, for all my "D20 fantasy", to Swords & Wizardry!

Disclaimer: The Hebrew version of Swords & Wizardry is based on Swords & Wizardry: Core by Matthew J. Finch ( The translation was performed by Itai Greif, Michael Gorodin, Eran Aviram, Itai Horev, and Eran Ben-Saar. the local team is unaffiliated with Frog God Games or Mythmere Games.

Also note that I have not been personally involved in the Beginner Kit's development, though I backed it on local crowdfunding, but I am involved in the upcoming Expert's Kit development.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Reignited Stars

Emblem of the Solar Union

A post-apocalyptic Classic Traveller setting I am thinking about is as follows, briefly, as a more elaborate and less standard replacement for Harsh Beginnings:

  • In the 22nd century, humanity colonized the near stars (TLs 9-13), mostly near Earth, but eventually around a Quadrant of space.
  • Apocalyptic war between the power blocs of Earth, spurred by eco-collapse and techno-shock, mostly devastating Earth, and the core colonies.
  • With most starships and all shipyards gone, the surviving (mostly further away) colonies were left to their own devices.
  • Eventually (circa 350 years later), some colonies, as well as Earth, regained interstellar technology and began expanding.
  • One prominent power is the Solar Union (TL9) - an authoritarian (but not totalitarian) state created by the union of slowly recovering Earth, surviving Martian colonies, and asteroid Belters. The Solar Union sees all human space as rightfully belonging to it and seek to liberate it from warlords and petty dictators the way it liberated Earth from wasteland raiders and warlords.
  • By default, PCs are "Detached" members of REA - the Reclamation and Exploration Agency. Think of a more aggressive Scout Service, or something like the TNE RCES, combined with a "marshal service" of sorts. The Solar Union sees itself as the legitimate government of all human space, and planetary governments not aligned with it as various post-apocalyptic warlords (like the ones the Solar Union defeated on Earth itself...). So, REA is tasked with exploring space, reclaiming pre-Collapse technology, establishing Solar sovereignty when possible, and preparing the ground for military operations if the local governments take an anti-Solar stance. Plus, maintaining the law on far-flung colonies and reclaimed worlds.
  • Solar Union "marines" are called Starborne Infantry, or SUSI (Solar Union Starborne Infantry). Called "Mother Susie" by the troops; or "The Sushi" by their foes...
  • Former colonies vary from worlds dead for the past 350 or so years, regressed colonies, tin-pot dictatorships, and genuinely recovering worlds, some even establishing their own multi-world interstellar polities (mostly TL9, too).
  • Science feels "hard" but isn't necessarily "hard". "Black box" alien artifacts permit gravitics, even grav vehicles. Flying cars! Expensive but possible. Adventure may take precedence over realism, as is customary in CT.

What do you think?

Friday, July 15, 2022

Classic Traveller: Harsh Beginnings

Image (c) MaksTRV

I wanted for some time to create a side "pet project" free/Fair Use setting using 3-book Classic Traveller. I wanted something strictly non-OTU, so this means writing something which is not Dark Nebula.

I have tried consolidating concepts for my Post-Imperial setting. Still no clear line of thought, only various ideas. Instead, I will focus on my near future/near Earth setting. Hardcore Classic Traveller at TL9, with the only deviation from the rules being using custom world generation based on colonization wave.

This should have a very different tone from my older Hard Space setting concept. Neither "true" hard science, nor chrome-focused cyberpunk. Instead, it will detail a harsh future inspired by the near-future sci-fi novels and other media I consumed in the 1990's, which was mostly from the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's.

Niven's Known Space tales set prior to Kzin contact; Arthur C. Clarke's stories; Roadside Picnic; Alien(s); Outland. This will be somewhat less industrial and less hard sci-fi than Zozer's HOSTILE, though.

Ground Rules

  • 3-book CT at strict TL9. Including gravitics; Jump-2 ships limited to 400 dtons, Jump-1 to 800 dtons; most weapons other than lasers are recognizable to early 21st century people; no Reflec (it's TL10).
  • Resist my strong cyberpunk urges. There are megacorps, who even dominate the stars, but there is less focus on technology and tech-related social alienation, or on nihilist rebellion. This is Alien, not Cyberpunk 2077 or even System Shock.
  • Science feels "hard" but isn't necessarily "hard". "Black box" alien artifacts permit gravitics, even grav vehicles. Flying cars! Expensive but possible. Adventure may take precedence over realism, as is customary in CT. 
  • No big interstellar wars. Most, or all, armed conflicts are local and small-scale. This arises from the colonies being very lightly populated and starships being small, but also from the general feel of such setting. An interesting change of pace from my TSAO/Terra Arisen milieux. It also makes small PC mercenary forces relevant.
  • No living aliens. At all. Only dead ones - the Antediluvians, who were wiped out by a hypothetical event dubbed the Deluge, and left behind incomprehensible ruins and artifacts. Again, a major change of pace from TSAO/Terra Arisen.
Some ideas from my older Hard Space setting concept would serve here, but the tone is different: unlike Hard Space, CT: Harsh Beginnings is neither cyberpunk nor strictly hard-science.

Maps coming soon.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Low-Tech and Fantasy Armor for Classic Traveller


Classic Traveller's Book 1: Characters and Combat provides a surprisingly complete collection of low-tech arms. Weaponry includes a good range of TL0-3 weapons, from spears to muskets, ideal for low-tech lost colonies and to forays into medieval and fantasy role-playing. Furthermore, Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium provides bows and crossbows, including the inaccurate but rapidly firing Repeating Crossbow. Book 3: Worlds and Adventures also provides common adventuring gear, such as torches.

However, the one thing lacking in these rules is low-tech armor. The only low-TL armor in Classic Traveller is the Jack (leather) armor (TL1). Below I will detail a few additional suits of armor for your Proto-Traveller game.

Chain, TL1, Cr250. A suit of flexible armor composed of many small interlocking metal rings. Treat as Mesh against TL2 or earlier weapons and as Jack against modern weapons. Weighs 18000 grams. Like modern armor, it does not count towards Encumbrance.

Elven Chain, TL1, Cr2000. A suit of particularly high-quality and lightweight Chain armor. Treat as
Mesh-1, weighing only 8000 grams. At the Referee's option, it may even count as regular Mesh against modern (TL3+) weapons.

Plate, TL2, Cr1000. A heavy full-body suit of armor built of metal plating. Treat as Cloth against TL2 or earlier weapons and as Jack against modern weapons. Weighs 25000 grams, and, unlike other suits of armor, Plate does count against the Encumbrance limit.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

On the Implied Setting of Classic Traveller


Note that, in the setting postulated in Traveller's Three Black Books, especially in their 1977 edition, star travel is infrequent, dangerous, and expensive.

A parsec's passage in cold sleep (with its 15% mortality rate!) is Cr1,000. Traveller Credits are said to be $3 each in 2020-or-so real-world USD (prior to the current wave of inflation). So, $3,000 just to travel, at a risk to your life, to a neighboring world. Crossing the subsector (8 parsecs) would cost you $24,000. One way. In dangerous cold sleep.

Normal "Mid Passage" without the risks of cold sleep costs $24,000 per parsec. Crossing the subsector will cost $192,000.

Add to that the risks of engine failure and/or "misjump" of the ship you are riding even when in "safe" Mid Passage. And frequent piracy. And hijacking (ships are worth a lot, so thieves abound). 

People don't travel casually.

PCs are Travellers - belonging to the small class of people who actually travel frequently, be that thanks to wealth/Travellers' Aid Society membership, or due to having a job on a starship.  Most NPCs stay on their homeworld.

Also, the average (and approximately median) world has hundreds of thousands of residents. The average world, isolated by the dark gulfs of space, has the population of a small city.

Worlds with billions of residents are rare, and, if their tech level permits, are often local hegemons. This has interesting implications to interstellar warfare. First of all, given ship size and availability, expect even large planetary invasions to be the equivalent of the Third Battle of Cartagena rather than of D-Day. Second, as world populations are typically small, a reasonably-sized mercenary unit can often have local military significance.

That's Classic Traveller as written originally. Within a few years, it evolved and changed into a more "open" space-opera setting, with various unified task systems and with a grander, less isolated setting. Passage costs remained high, but starships grew, and the setting changed from one or two subsectors rolled by the Referee to the vast Imperium.

My own Cepheus Deluxe books and settings were inspired by these later mechanics, while trying to preserve some of the original spirit. But they are quite different from the original form of Traveller. If I were to write an OSR book in the spirit of such original, it would have looked quite different from Cepheus Deluxe.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Knave: Species


Art by LadyofHats
Considering my recent addiction to Knave, I must say that one facet of the rules players are often dissatisfied with is the absence of non-humans. People want to play dwarves! While I can simply make such species completely descriptive, I feel that they should have a mechanical implication as well.

In the Knave spirit, I keep these rules to a bare minimum. Each species has an Ability Score requirement, an edge, and a flaw. This may seem somewhat minor in scope compared, say, to the OSE treatment of such creatures. However, once again, this is Knave, and Knaves tread lightly.

Below is a tentative list of species I may permit in my Knave campaigns:

Dwarf: minimum Constitution Defense of 13. Advantage on any roll related to construction or mining and searching for secret doors. Base speed is 30' rather than 40'.

Elf: minimum Charisma Defense of 13. Advantage on stealth rolls in natural surroundings. Suffer a -10% penalty to XP.

Geckofolk: minimum Dexterity Defense of 13. May effortlessly walk on walls; may walk on ceilings at half speed. May not use two-handed weapons due to size; may not climb or cling when wearing boots or gauntlets.

Gnome: minimum Intelligence Defense of 13. Knows one level 1 illusion spell - chosen one the player - requiring no inventory slot, which they may cast once a day per 2 levels of experience (e.g., a level 4 gnome can cast it twice). May not use two-handed weapons due to size.

Halfling: minimum Dexterity Defense of 13. Advantage on throws to pick pockets and other tricks of sleight of hand. Consumes twice as much food a day than other species.

Human: no Ability Score requirements. Neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. Default species.

Insectoid: minimum Dexterity Defense of 13. Immune, poison, disease, and ghoul paralysis. Disadvantage to any social rolls (other than intimidation) with other species.

Lizardfolk: minimum Strength Defense of 13. May hold breath for 10 minutes and swim effortlessly at 40' per round. May not wear helmets or boots designed for other species due to different morphology.

Orc: minimum Strength Defense of 13. May become enraged once per encounter, granting an advantage to Attack Rolls for 1d6 rounds. Disadvantage to any social rolls (other than intimidation) with other species.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

The primary differences between the Cepheus Engine SRD and Cepheus Deluxe

We at Stellagama Publishing are often asked: what's so special about Cepheus Deluxe? What's the difference between it and Cepheus Light or the Cepheus Engine SRD (or other 2d6 systems for that matter)? Below are six primary differences between these rulesets.

1. Design Choices are already built into Cepheus Deluxe. One of the major complaints many Referees have is that 2d6 systems are toolboxes of rules. Some Referees like toolboxes, but others don't have the time or interest in making a complete game out of the toolbox. Many Referees need a complete set of rules that they can use to quickly run games. We've made certain design choices to make a complete game that is playable out of the box. 

2. Non-random character generation. we offer Non-Random Character Generation as a standard because that's what many of today's role-players desire. There's plenty of good things about randomly generating characters, but there's a reputation traditional 2d6 systems have: the games where you can die in character generation. Even when you understand why that's a rule, sometimes you just want to play a scout, or you just want to play a space marine, and you should just be able to play that. We have kept random events tables, with chances for injuries or even prison terms to keep things exciting. 

3. Complete rules for personal, vehicle, and space combat that can be played completely map-less and include rules for chases. The goal is to make combat exciting for all players, not just the dedicated combatants. Vehicle and ship combat is streamlined, and the damage system is designed to give players problems to solve, not hit points to track.

4. Many random tables for space encounters, adventure hooks, complications, and animal encounters, and a GM guide to help develop adventures and campaigns for sandbox or more narrative playstyles.

5. Fully worked examples for all the major (and minor) subsystems: character generation, speculative trade, ship combat, vehicle combat, personal combat, world generation, starship construction, starship combat, interstellar commerce, and animal generation.

6. Optional rules to make your game more heroic or, alternatively, grittier, as you desire. You may use optional Hero Point rules and Traits to make your characters heroic. Ignore them for a gritty and more realistic game.