Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dragon Ahoy!

The winter is VERY disappointing this year in Israel, and, apart from a week in December, it feels much more like spring than an actual winter. But there are those who enjoy the sunshine, like this Painted Dragon (Stellagama Stellio), who was basking yesterday and today on the rocks near my mother's house in Kiryat Tivon, Israel.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Traveller: Secrets of the Dark Nebula

After posting my Dark Nebula variant on the SFRPG-Discussion Boards, I was asked on these boards by the Evil Doctor Ganymede: "Is there a reason that the planets in the Dark Nebula polity aren't inhabited or named?" So here is the answer, which is pivotal to the back-story of my Dark Nebula variant (i.e. non-canonical) official traveller universe.

Experimental Jump Coils on N3
The 2740's (the distant Third Imperium's calendar speaks of the -1770's) were well within the waning years of the Rule of Man, marked by significant political, economic and social instability. The old, stagnant Imperium, with a thin layer of Terran rule superimposed on it, was going to hell in a handbasket. Soon enough, in 2746, the dreaded Twilight, and, later, the Long Night, would engulf known space, leading to almost two millennia of barbarism and decay.

But instability has its perks. The failing Terran Empire was no longer a coherent government body, and those with connections and a clout could apprehend budgets, resources, even whole worlds, and get away with it in the chaos. Research Unit #72 was one such group of people (in this case, scientists) with clout, and, indeed, they managed to appropriate funds - stolen from the decomposing corpse of the Second Imperium - undreamed of by scientists of more civilized times. With that money, they moved to the deep Spinward-Rimward frontier, to the scantly explored Dark Nebula, to be free from the moral and political constrains of the Core. And there they worked wonders. At least, they tried to.

The Event, as seen from the surface of N3
They tried to develop technologies which will save the failing Rule of Man from its inevitable collapse - artificial intelligence, cybernetics, genetic engineering, and, especially, new technologies for interstellar travel and, theoretically speaking, communications.

The latter technology reached a place that even the great scientists of the Solomani Confederation were unable to replicate, but at a price. On November 3rd, 2747 AD, The Event occurred. Experimental stationary jump coils on the world known today as N3 fired as part of a planned experiment. But they caused an unexpected effect. In an instant, all five star-systems of the Dark Nebula were torn from their place in the Space-Time Continuum, and hurled, through jumpspace (or a similar parallel dimention), as a whole, not in space, but in time. For a whole year, local time, these systems were in limbo - disconnected from our universe. But then they burst back into Real Space - almost three millennia, in Real Space dates, after their disappearance. For that time, the Nebula was a dead zone - an area of space where no solid bodies could be seen, and where anomalies in the Space-Time Continuum endangered any ship entering that space.

In August 5638 AD (1117 Imperial), suddenly the N4 star of the Dark Nebula appeared on the night sky of Taida Na, re-lighting the old cloud (this means they have appeared in real-space a few years before, as it takes the light of N4 a few years to reach Taida Na). Soon enough, rumours have reached both Solomani and Aslan ears that the worlds of the Nebula, hinted upon in legend, are back. And now, their technological treasures are ripe to the plucking, though still ripe with Space-Time Continuum anomalies, mutated animals, crazed survivors and a mad, mad AI.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Tomorrow's War: Mercenary Cyborg Stosstruppen employed by the Czar

The Czar has deep pockets and he hired the best of the best - an expensive German mercenary outfit with extensive augmentations - to combat his NSF foes on the contested world of Novi Stalingrad. These troops are second to none, and are armed to their cyberteeth, but their numbers are small.

Cyborg Stosstruppen Mercenaries Basic Attributes:
Confidence Level: High Confidence.
Supply Quality Level: High.
Overall Tech Level: 3 (2 for vehicles).
On Grid: Yes.
Body Armour: Carapace (2D) w/Exoskeleton
Troop Quality/Morale: D10/D10
Common Unit Attributes: Despised, Physical Augmentations (Active Trauma Treatment Nanites, Skeletal Augmentation)

Cyborg Stosstruppen Machinegun Squad
1x Sergeant w/StG-301 ACR
1x Private w/StG-301 ACR
1x Private w/StG-301 ACR
1x Private w/StG-301 ACR
1x Private w/MG-299 Gauss SAW (TL3 GWS, Lt. AP:2)
1x Armoured Car (with its own Driver and Gunner who do not dismount)

Cyborg Stosstruppen Flamethrower Squad
1x Sergeant w/StG-301 ACR
1x Private w/StG-301 ACR
1x Private w/StG-301 ACR
1x Private w/StG-301 ACR
1x Private w/Flamethrower
1x Armoured Car (with its own Driver and Gunner who do not dismount)

Cyborg Stosstruppen Tank-Hunters
1x Gunner w/Neo-Panzerfaust (TL3 Hvy. AP:3/AT:3 (M))
1x Assistant Gunner/Spotter w/StG-301 ACR

Cyborg Stosstruppen Platoon HQ
1x Lieutenant w/StG-301 ACR
1x Senior Sergeant w/StG-301 ACR (Forward Observer)
1x Private w/StG-301 ACR
1x Private w/StG-301 ACR
1x Private w/MG-299 Gauss SAW (TL3 GWS, Lt. AP:2)
1x Armoured Car (with its own Driver and Gunner who do not dismount)

Cyborg Stosstruppen Platoon
1x Platoon HQ
2x Machinegun Squads
1x Flamethrower Squad
1x Tank-Hunter Team
2x Lowe Heavy Tanks

Platoon HQ
Flamethrower Squad

Machinegun Squad
Tank Hunters
Armoured Car

Lowe Tank Work-in-Progress

Traveller: Dark Nebula

I have bought the Classic Traveller and JTAS CD-ROMs a few weeks ago, and so far this is an excellent bargain - a huge amount of material for the paltry sum of $35 (plus shipping). This has made me actually interested in the Official Traveller Universe (OTU), or, at least, a variant of it; too much good material to let it pass. On the CT CD there were also the various Traveller boardgames, in PDF format. One of them was Dark Nebula, a proto-traveller war-boardgame with the Solomani (Terran nationalists) set up against the Aslan (felid aliens with a Samurai flavour) over an area of space on the border between these two polities.

The interesting thing is that Dark Nebula presents a version of the Solomani-Aslan border region which is different from future depictions of the OTU Dark Nebula Sector; it is even rotated backwards (in the boardgame, the Solomani are to the Spinward and teh Aslan to the Trailing while in the OTU it is the other way around). It also presented a very interesting area of space.

Turns out that Andy Slack, in his Halfway Station blog, has already made this into a sci-fi setting, using GURPS Traveller and, later on, Savage Worlds and Stars Without Number. His creative application of the setting's features, as well as my discussion with him over his blog's comment system, have gotten my creative juices flowing. Here was an opportunity - a proto-Traveller, quasi-OTU setting ripe for the plucking. On one hand, this is "OTU" - and allows us to use the wealth of material presented by the Classic Traveller and JTAS CD-ROMs; on the other hand, it is non-canonical, so we need not be bound to the stifling limits of Traveller canon.

The Dark Nebula setting is also a perfect sandbox - it has two main polities and several independent worlds, as well as many independent worlds, and distinctions between habitable worlds, non-habitable worlds and systems with no mainworld planets (i.e. asteroid belts). There are enough worlds and enough space for a whole campaign, as Andy Slack has already run there for several years.

So I intend to build this as a potential sandbox as well. Note that my version of the setting is different from Andy Slack's setting, and uses Classic Traveller (CT) as a ruleset; it is set in January 5638 AD (late 1117 Imperial), with the Imperium mentioned only in passing (being very far from the Dark Nebula and a vague version of the MegaTraveller events used as background for the larger scope of things (in this case, Dulinor's coup led to him being Emperor, but some of the Great Houses rebelled and the Solomani used this opportunity of Imperial weakness to launch a lighting attack and liberate the rest of the Solomani Sphere from Imperial control).

Present in my version are mainly Solomani and Aslan humans, as well as two independent pocket-empires usually consisting of a combined Human-Aslan population. A few Droyne are also present.

A Note on Canonicity
Dark Nebula is not canon. I repeat: it is not canon in any way. It is vaguely set in the OTU, but in a variant OTU. Specifically, I use material and even CT adventures in a way suiting this particular version of the setting, sometimes in ways which are very different than those of canon. That is, some adventures set in teh Solomani Rim and the Spinward Marches are placed on this Dark Nebula map.

Setting Basics
Dark Nebula Map (Kilrai & Vecinos Subsectors)

Worlds of the Dark Nebula Area (Kilrai and Vecinos Subsectors)
0104 Kindara C511753-A Non-Agricultural, Ice-Capped GG In
0105 Amani D7C6523-9 Non-Industrial GG In
0108 Vaxt B8786N6-9 Non-Industrial, Agricultural GG As
0202 Mir D730577-6 Poor, Non-Industrial In
0209 KUZU A8669J6-D Polity Capital; Aslan Naval Base GG As
0210 Ikona C1005L4-A Non-Industrial, Vacuum GG As
0305 Astek C200445-8 Non-Industrial, Vacuum GG In
0307 Bor C0008M5-C Asteroid, Non-Agricultural, Vaccuum GG As
0309 Xida B9A6H7-C Non-Agricultural As
0407 Rosa C1003G7-B Non-Industrial, Vaccuum, GG As
0409 BLATTA B0009H6-C Asteroid, Non-Agricultural, Industrial; Aslan Naval Base GG As
0410 Panas X730000-0 Barren, Poor GG As RED ZONE
0505 Simsek C501543-9 Vacuum, Ice-Capped, Non-Industrial GG In
0507 Pasar B7A0731-A Desert, Non-Agricultural GG In
0510 Enjiwa C320688-7 Poor, Non-Agricultural GG In
0602 Rim C564878-B Rich GG In
0606 Godoro A587777-C Rich, Agricultural GG In (Droyne world)
0704 Daanari C000511-9 Asteroid, Non-Industrial, Vacuum GG Ff
0708 Dno C7B7565-8 Non-Industrial GG Vt
0710 Valka B862852-B Rich, Polity Capital; Valkan Technate Naval Base GG Vt
0804 Hasara C100740-B Non-Agricultural, Vacuum; Federation Scout Base GG Ff
0808 Drax C330563-8 Poor GG Vt
0810 Ajo C200260-9 Non-Industrial, Vacuum Vt
0905 Taanga C201522-7 Non-Industrial, Vacuum; Federation Scout Base GGFf
1002 Simba E420313-7 Poor, Non-Industrial GG In
1005 Salia D530432-7 Poor, Non-Industrial; Federation Scout Base GG Ff
1007 N1 X000000-0 Barren, Asteroid, Vacuum Dark Nebula
1008 N3 E798000-0 Barren T-Prime GG Dark Nebula
1104 MIZAH A678943-C Industrial, Polity Capital; Federation Scout and Naval Bases GG Ff
1105 Kov D7A4655-7 Non-Industrial, Non-Agricultural GG Ff
1107 N2 E511000-0 Barren, Ice-Capped GG Dark Nebula
1108 N5 E100000-0 Barren, Vacuum GG Dark Nebula
1109 N4 X000000-0 Barren, Asteroid, Vacuum GG Dark Nebula
1110 Taida Na D0008CC-7 Asteroid, Vacuum GG In
1202 Omoro E6B0535-8 Non-Industrial GG So
1210 Osa C100575-7 Non-Industrial, Vacuum GG In
1303 Icat B720889-A Non-Agricultural, Poor GG So
1305 Gazzain C668687-8 Agricultural, Rich, Non-Industrial GG So
1308 Salan C5A0457-8 Non-Industrial, Desert World GG In
1310 Janibar C000414-9 Asteroid, Vacuum, Non-Industrial GG In
1406 Irbev C300423-A Vacuum, Non-Industrial GG In
1410 Karpos C8697C4-6 Agricultural, Non-Industrial In
1502 MAADIN A7979AA-D Industrial, Polity Capital; Solomani Naval Base GG So
1503 MECHANE B0009CA-C Industrial, Asteroid, Vacuum; Solomani Naval Base GG So
1505 Kamat D7A5678-7 Non-Industrial, Non-Agricultural GG So
1507 Bulan C686854-5 Agricultural, Rich; Solomani Research Station (secret) GG In
1508 Changha C530740-8 Poor, Non-Agricultural GG In
1510 Dudaki C00089A-7 Asteroid, Vacuum, Non-Agricultural GG In
1601 Avair D301437-9 Vacuum, Ice-Capped, Non-Industrial So
1602 Zloban D411698-8 Ice-Capped, Non-Industrial, Non-Agricultural GG So
1605 Llavia B1017BB-A Vacuum, Ice-Capped, Non-Agricultural; Solomani Naval Base GG So
1609 Eski C430888-A Poor, Non-Agricultural GG In


Legal Stuff
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Friday, February 14, 2014

Tomorrow's War New Soviet Federation on the workbench

I'm working on an army for Tomorrow's War, a New Soviet Federation army. For the most part, this is a conventional land army, with regular infantry, BTRs and tanks, but it also has suits (particularly big and clunky power armour). Eventually I'll have two armies to oppose it, one German Stosstrooper Mercenary army (which is almost ready), and one Imperial Russian army (which I am yet to buy - these would be Khurasan neo-Russians and their DOE gunships for a VDV force).

In fact, my NSF force is composed of two armies: the NSF Guard army, which are a proper Tech Level 2 force (these are Tomorrow's War TLs; in Traveller terms, that would be around TL10-11), and the NSF Opolcheniye (People's Militia), a Tech Level 1 (in Traveller terms, TL8) lighter-infantry force with hand-me-down equipment and less armour. The Guard army will have Lenin MBTs (Combat Wombat Type-123's) and BTR-290's (ArmiesArmy BTRs which I've pre-ordered), as well as a Suit Cavalry squadron (Kremlin Miniatures Rising Sun MANITOUs), while the Opolcheniye will have Lev Davidovich scrap tanks (converted Zvezda T-34's). The Guard troops will be ArmiesArmy RUSKS, while the Opolcheniye will use a combination of Post-Apocalyptic Warriors with Rebel Minis Sahadeen support weapons and command.

Lenin MBTs Work-in-Progress
NSF Guard Infantry Platoon TO&E
NSF Guard Army Basic Attributes:
Confidence Level: High Confidence.
Supply Quality Level: Average.
Overall Tech Level: 2.
On Grid:
- Major Operations: Yes.
- Normal Operations: Rarely.
Body Armour: Light (1D)
Troop Quality/Morale: D8/D10 (some units are D10/D10)
Common Unit Attributes: Old School

NSF Motor Rifle Guard Squad
First Fireteam
1x Sergeant w/AK-200 ACR
1x Corporal w/AK-200 ACR
1x Private w/AK-200 ACR
1x Private w/AK-200 ACR & RPG-100 Single-Shot A/T Weapon (TL2 Hvy. AP:3/AT:3(M))

Second Fireteam
1x Corporal w/AK-200 ACR
1x Private w/AK-200 ACR
1x Private w/AK-200 ACR
1x Gunner w/RPK-200 SAW (TL2 ABW, Lt. AP:1)

1x BTR-290 APC/IFV
1x BTR Commander w/AK-200 ACR [rarely dismounts]
1x BTR Driver w/AK-200 ACR [rarely dismounts]
1x BTR Gunner w/AK-200 ACR [rarely dismounts]

NSF Motor Rifle Guard Platoon HQ
1x Lieutenant w/AK-200 ACR
1x Senior Sergeant w/AK-200 ACR (Forward Observer)
1x Commissar w/PM-150 Pistol (Inspiring)
1x Private First Class w/SVG-1 Gauss Sniper Rifle (TL2 Med. GWS AP:2/AT:1 (L)) (Designated Marksman)
1x Medic w/AK-200 ACR (Medic)
1x HMG Team (see below)
1x Command BTR-290

HMG Team
1x Gunner w/DShK-200 HMG (TL2 ABW, Hvy. AP:3/AT:1 (L))
1x Assistant Gunner/Spotter w/AK-200 ACR

NSF Motor Rifle Guard Platoon
1x Platoon HQ
3x Infantry Squads

NSF Guard Suit Cavalry Basic Attributes:
Confidence Level: High Confidence.
Supply Quality Level: Average.
Overall Tech Level: 2.
On Grid:
- Major Operations: Yes.
- Normal Operations: Rarely.
Body Armour: Powered Armour (3D)
Troop Quality/Morale: D10/D10
Common Unit Attributes: Old School, Intimidating

NSF Suit Cavalry - almost ready

NSF Guard Suit Cavalry Squadron
First Fireteam
1x Lieutenant w/RPK-80 Plasma Gun (TL2 Med. EWS AP:2/AT:2(M))
1x Sergeant w/RPK-80 Plasma Gun (TL2 Med. EWS AP:2/AT:2(M))
1x Corporal w/RPK-80 Plasma Gun (TL2 Med. EWS AP:2/AT:2(M))

Second Fireteam
1x Sergeant w/RPK-80 Plasma Gun (TL2 Med. EWS AP:2/AT:2(M))
1x Corporal w/RPK-80 Plasma Gun (TL2 Med. EWS AP:2/AT:2(M))
1x Corporal w/RPK-80 Plasma Gun (TL2 Med. EWS AP:2/AT:2(M))

NSF Narodnoe Opolcheniye
NSF Narodnoe Opolcheniye (People's Militia) Basic Attributes:
Confidence Level: Confident.
Supply Quality Level: Average.
Overall Tech Level: 1.
On Grid: No.
Body Armour: Unarmoured
Troop Quality/Morale: D8/D8

NSF Opolcheniye Storm Squad
First Fireteam
1x Sergeant w/PPR-74 SMG
1x Corporal w/PPR-74 SMG
1x Private w/PPR-74 SMG
1x Private w/PPR-74 SMG
1x Private w/PPR-74 SMG & RPG-70 Single-Shot A/T Weapon (TL1 Hvy. AP:3/AT:3(M))

Second Fireteam
1x Corporal w/PPR-74 SMG
1x Private w/PPR-74 SMG
1x Private w/PPR-74 SMG
1x Private w/RPK-155 SAW (TL1 TST, Lt. AP:1)

NSF Opolcheniye GPMG Team
1x Gunner w/DShK-120 HMG (TL1 TST, Med. AP:2)
1x Assistant Gunner w/PPR-74 SMG
1x Spotter/Commander w/PPR-74 SMG

NSF Opolcheniye Sniper Team
1x Sniper w/Anti-Materiel Rifle (TL1 Med. TST AP:2/AT:1 (L))
1x Spotter w/PPR-74 SMG

NSF Opolcheniye HQ
1x Lieutenant w/PPR-74 SMG
1x Senior Sergeant w/PPR-74 SMG (Forward Observer)
1x Commissar w/PM-150 Pistol (Inspiring)
1x Medic w/PPR-74 SMG (Medic)

NSF Opolcheniye Storm Group
1x Opolcheniye HQ
5x Opolcheniye Storm Squads
2x Opolcheniye GPMG Teams
2x Opolcheniye Sniper Teams
3x 'Lev Davidovich' Light Tanks

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

In Memoriam - Bryan Gibson

Bryan Gibson, a Society of Creative Anachronism craftsman, illustrator and artist, reposible, among other things, for the art in many Traveller books, passed away this week from Double Pneumonia. I had the honour to know Mr. Gibson in 2007-2008, unfortunately online only, when working together on some Traveller projects for Avenger Enterprises. He was a fine man, a good person, an excellent illustrator and a great role-player and Referee.

He will be missed.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Adventures I'd like to run in an Official Traveller Universe game

If I'd ever run an Official Traveller Universe game, which published adventures I'd like to run?

  • The Argon Gambit/Death Station (DA3). The first is "24" in Traveller, the second is System Shock. Both look very promising; Death Station can be planted anywhere, and Argon Gambit wherever there are Solomani.
  • Chamax/Horde (DA5). The first is a Bug Hunt, the other is Starship Troopers combined with a 1950s B-Movie. Very promising. Can be easily dropped into whatever campaign area.
  • Ahriy Uprising (from Alien Realms). Aslan sci-fi dig on an airless moon. What's not to like?
  • The Casteless (from Alien Realms). Droyne. And Cults. Could be transplanted anywhere with no much effort, despite the fact that originally this is set on Vanejen.
  • Research Station Gamma (A2). The world and its submarines are cool, and so are Chirpers.
  • Twilight's Peak (A3) - only if running a Spinward Marches game.
  • Prison Planet (A8) or its Mongoose version. Prison break!
  • Murder on Arcturus Station (A11) - a murder mystery fitting any asteroid belt. Could be dropped almost anywhere.
  • Siege (Challenge 25) - would work perfectly in my Outer Veil setting in addition to OTU backwaters.
  • Swift Water (Challenge 32) - finally set on a non-standard world (most adventures I've read are set on worlds with breathable atmospheres). Nice change!
  • Shadows (DA1). The map and setting themselves are cool, even if the adventure is lacking in detail. More puzzles and maybe a few more secrets would make it into a good adventure.
  • Dagger on Efate (JTAS 8) - could be a very nice miniature wargame scenario (for Tomorrow's War, mayhap?).
  • GERIA Transfer (JTAS 10) - industrial espionage; would best work on a Mars-style world (with the "storm" in this adventure being made into a dust-storm).
  • Last Flight of the Themis (JTAS 16) - MORE industrial espionage!
  • Without a Trace (JTAS 18) - Belter intrigues.
  • Raid on Stataorlai (JTAS 20) - Aslan politics and intrigue! 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

[Traveller] Quick & Dirty Realism in Book 3 Worldgen

A few quick & Dirty rules for somewhat more realistic Traveller Book 3 Worlds:

  • Atmospheres 1 or A+ can only exist on worlds of Size 3+. If not, Size is bumped to 3.
  • Atmospheres 2-5 can only exist on worlds of Size 4+. If not, Size is bumped to 4.
  • Atmospheres 6-9 can only exist on worlds of Size 5+. If not, Size is bumped to 5.
  • If the Population is zero, the Starport is set to X and the Government and Law Level are set to 0; bases are never present with such a low population.
  • Barren worlds (i.e. no population) do not recieve the Ni trade code.
  • Inhabited worlds with Atmospheres 4, 7 and 9 must have at least TL5. If not, TL is bumped to 5.
  • Inhabited worlds with Atmospheres 3- must have at least TL7. If not, TL is bumped to 7.
  • Inhabited worlds with Atmospheres A or B must have at least TL8. If not, TL is bumped to 5.
  •  Inhabited worlds with Atmosphere C must have at least TL9. If not, TL is bumped to 9.
  • Worlds with Starport A must have at least a Population of 5 and TL9. If not, Population is bumped to 5 and TL to 9.
  • Worlds with Starport B must have at least a Population of 3 and TL7. If not, Population is bumped to 3 and TL to 7.

[Traveller] Solomani Flags

Here is my version of the Solomani flag from Traveller. Green and Blue are Mother Earth's colours, and Mother Earth's astronomical symbol is superimposed.

 Alternative flag, using Sol's symbol (I prefer it over Earth's symbol as Earth's symbol is too similar to symbols used by the KKK and some Neo-Nazis as a stand-in for the Swastika).


Friday, February 7, 2014

Visions of Empire Poll!

Flag of the UTR (Vision #1)
Flag of the NTR (Vision #2)
After posting my two Visions of Empire a month or so ago, now it's time for a poll: which of them would you like to see developed, or even played? Come and vote!

I'll repeat the visions here for your reading convenience:

Vision #1:  These Stars Are Ours!
In this Vision, Humanity has missed its chance to start its own interstellar state. In the hyper-consumerist 21st century, apart from some privately-owned space tourist outfits and some abortive attempts at belt mining, we Humans did not pay much attention to space, preferring instead to focus on our day-to-day lives here on Earth. Space programs were cut back, and the single manned Mars landing in 2043 was not followed by any further exploration. But then the Reticulans came.

In 2082, several Reticulan (more particularly, House Thiragin) capital ships appeared in Earth orbit, sending a wave of smaller saucers to hover above Earth's major cities. Soon enough, through promises of advanced technology and access to vast wealth through interstellar trade, most Earth governments signed pacts with the alien visitors. In a matter of months, Earth was transformed from a chaotic collection of independent states into one big client-state of the Reticulan House Thiragin, ruled by the Earth Federal Administration (EFA). A few Earthlings did resist this economic and political takeover, however, under the umbrella of the hastily-formed Terran Defence Committee (TDC), which, for several years, launched covert operations against the aliens and their collaborators, until hunted down and defeated by the EFA's bio-augmented Federal Security Apparatus (FSA), better known as the Men in Black.

While self-administered and allowed to build its own armed forces - mostly to serve as auxiliary troops for House Thiragin - Terra was under the alien thumb, its economy and resources exploited by the alien Thiragin, some of its people used by Thiragin scientists as lab-rats for various bio-tech experiments, and its soldiers send off to fight distant wars on the behalf of its alien masters. the EFA allowed relatively little freedom to its citizens, but, on the other hand, developed its own sphere of space around Earth with nine new colonies settled by Mankind, exporting goods to the Thiragin monopoly and the larger Reticulan Empire.

But then, in 2232, Humanity had enough. After a century and a half of subjugation, massive protests against the EFA's unfair tax burden and tyrannical practices turned into open rebellion on Terra and the nine major colonies. Out of the chaos, rose the United Terran Republic (UTR), which declared itself an independent state, and, soon after, called for the Reticulans' other thralls and client states to rise up in rebellion as well, towards a free Interstellar Republic.

The Reticulans responded by trying to crush this impudent uprising, sending their own Thiragin Huscarls as well as Cicek mercenaries. Thus began the Terran Liberation War. Stubborn Terran military resistance, as well as diplomatic efforts, found, however, their success, as parts of the Cicek hordes broke off from their own, Reticulan-dominated client-state, forming what was first known as the Cicek Democracy and later as the Cicek Confederacy. The combined might of Terran troops and allied Cicek dissidents crushed, in 2239, House Thiragin's might, breaking through the defensive lines and approaching Zeta 2 Reticuli, House Thiragin's Sector Capital. Until then, however, the other Reticulan houses, content to see their Thiragin competitors embroiled in what was seen as a minor rebellion of barbarians and thus weakened, have not intervened. Only when UTR and Cicek Confederation troops were two jumps away from Zeta 2 Reticuli, the Empress herself sent her Legions, supported by numerous auxiliaries, to crush the rebellion.

Ultimately, they failed. Fighting raged for a decade more, with the lines moving back and forth between the Terran-Cicek alliance and the Reticulan Empire, but, in January 2250, the fabled Terran Guard, supported by Colonial Troops and a heavy Cicek fleet, smashed through the Reticulan lines, capturing Zeta 2 Reticuli and thus declaring the entire Reticuli Sector (now Terra Sector) their own.

The Empire had to capitulate. In June 2250, they signed a treaty with the UTR, recognizing its sovereignty, as well as its conquest of the Reticuli Sector, and setting up a Demilitarized Zone between the two states, where ships above 5,000 tons were disallowed to enter (the war saw ships as big as 50,000 tons in action). Furthermore, Terra forced the Reticulans' hand into allowing the various minor races of the Demilitarized Zone to secede, if desired, from the Empire.

Now it is 2258. After two decades of war and eight years of recovery, a large part of the Terran military is being demobilized. Your characters were among those who were mustered out (anyone serving 3 or more Traveller terms have actually fought in the Terran Liberation War!). Opportunities for civilian, or mercenary life abound in the far reaches of the Demilitarized Zone. Between petty squabbles of newly-independent worlds and the two major powers' attempts to covertly exert their influence into the DMZ, there is a big market for mercs, spies-for-hire, and, on the other hand, merchants opening up new markets on distant worlds. Adventures await!

Technologically speaking, the current Reticulan Empire is squarely at Traveller TL13, the UTR at most at TL12 for civilian applications with some TL13 military gear (especially starship weapons and Jump-4 military couriers) and the Cicek TL11 for the most part.

Vision #2: Ashes of the Empire
In this Vision, most earth governments of the early-mid 21st century did indeed cut deep into their space budgets, preferring to focus on more terrestrial matters instead. However, space exploration was taken up by Terran corporations, who saw the new frontier as a means for gaining vast wealth. And wealth they found indeed. Operating under Terran 'flags of convenience', they soon found their way into the asteroid belt, growing rich from its ore. In 2091, a faster-than-light engine, dubbed the 'Jump Drive', was invented, seemingly simultaneously, by several of the corporations. Soon enough, they were all over the nearby stars, exploring and exploiting their resources and colonizing distant planets.

By the mid-22nd century, ten stable megacorporations, each owned by a single family, arose from this exploration - the so-called Zaibatsus. Each laid claim to a major slice of explored and unexplored space, and held a vertical, as well as horizontal, monopoly over the majority of goods produced and consumed in that slice Inter-corporation trade was mostly in rare earth elements, radioactives and specialized technologies. It was by the early 23rd centurt that the Zaibatsus deemed their old Terran 'flags of convenience' to be an inconvenience themselves. Ossified and highly monopolized, in 2233 they used their enormous economic clout to manoeuvre the various Earth governments into forming Terra's first world-state: the Terran Empire. Upon their fossilized and highly nepotist corporate machines they foisted traditional titles from Earth's past, and the richest of all Zaibatsu families - the Durnhal family - became the Imperial Household. A major air of nostalgic pseudo-feudal mystique was stirred up by the Great Houses, with a strong rhetoric of honour and tradition. But, at its heart, the Terran Empire was a glorified price-fixing scheme, a deal between monopolies to divide known space between their interests.

For three centuries things went well, with the empire growing and expanding, making contact with the Reticulan Technate, with the Cicek Tribes, the Sselessian Hegemony, the Fanja-Kanja Condfederation, the Ph'noonk Cooperative and the nomadic Zhuzzh. The era between the Empire's stabilization in 2239 and the Great Stagnation beginning in 2526 was called the Terran Golden Age. While Great House nepotism and bureaucracy made scientific discoveries slow, trade with the alien neighbours brought new ideas to Terra, and technology progressed up to Traveller TL13, albeit in a conservative fashion. Apart from the occasional border skirmish with alien polities, as well as the growing threat of piracy, the single greatest military threat to the Terran Empire was the Matriarchate, a posthuman polity formed by dissident belters in the far reaches of space, and embraced cybertechnology to the hilt (unlike the conservative Empire), up to an including creating a synthetic shared consciousness of their group. And, indeed, the threat of the utterly alien (though of Human origin) Matriarchate served as a whip to keep Imperial citizens in line for several generations. The Matriarchate supremacy in electronic warfare also fuelled the Empire's technological conservativism, as advanced, integrated computer networks with wireless capabilities were easy prey for Matriarchate computer virii.

The Great Stagnation was cooking, in fact, since the mid-25th century. Ossified, decadent and introverted, the Imperial Core saw innovation as an inconvenience and progress as a threat. An economy and a society which is not moving forward, however, is bound to start sliding back. In 2526, the first Great House was forced to declare bankruptcy, an unprecedented event in Imperial history. Recession set in, and the power struggles between the Great Houses grew bitter. When Empress Elena II died an early death in 2539, despite TL13 medical technology, and left the line with no clear successor, the Empire fell into disarray, with the Great Houses scrambling to place themselves on the Terran Throne instead of the dying House Durnhal.

The actual Civil War, and the Terran Revolution which followed, were actually relatively short. Between 2539 and 2547, brief fire was exchanged between the major houses, and a major uprising had occurred in several parts of the Empire, including on Terra itself. But lacking economic strength to back up their war machines, the remaining Great Houses, as well as the Republican rebels, were unable to claim a victory. When the dust settled in 2547, the Terran Republic was no more, a weak Emperor found his way to the Terran Throne (ruling Terra itself and a handful of nearby worlds in bad economic shape); only three of the Great Houses remain in any measurable strength.

Into this vacuum came new forces seeking to gain ascendency from the chaos. First and foremost, Terran space was invaded by aliens, chief among them the Cicek, the Sselassians, the Zhuzzh and the Reticulans, seeking to expand their territories and grow rich from Imperial plunder; little or no Human forces were able to repel these invasions. Secondly, local warlords, as well as opportunistic Oligarchs - interstellar robber-barons feeding on the rotting carrion of the fallen Great Houses - rose and consolidated their local forces. The Republican armada and its rag-tag civilian followers, fleeing prosecution and near-defeat in the Core and the Coreward-Spinward by the remaining Great Houses, crossed known space into the utter Rimward, where they found sympathetic locals and established the New Terran Republic (NTR) - far from Terra itself.

The year is 2551 and the former Terran Empire lies in ruins. But out of the chaos, new opportunities arise for the brave, the enterprising and the opportunistic. Whether they serve one of the old Great Houses, align themselves with a warlord or Oligarch, join the Republican cause or strike out in their own, player characters have a chance for fame, glory and empire-building.

Technology is Traveller TL12 at best for most post-Imperial factions. The Empire was late TL13. The Reticulan Technate are early TL14; the old Reticulan State was TL16.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Barrowmaze Complete on Indiegogo!

Just a heads up: Barrowmaze, the old-school fantasy megadungeon by Greg Gillespie, which has already been published in two volumes, is now on a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to fund an expanded edition, containing both parts of the dungeon, as well as an entire new village and additional barrow mounds. Custom 28mm miniatures are also planned. Knowing how good Barrowmaze already is, I backed this in a heartbeat!

Highly recommended.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Classic Traveller CDs have arrived!

On January 21st, 2014, I tried to order the CT and JTAS CDs from the Far Future Enterprises web-store, and the PayPal links there didn't work. So I e-mailed the contact address, and WITHIN A FEW HOURS got a reply from Marc Miller, including a PayPal invoice for the purchase. I paid immediately, and the next day my order has shipped. It reached the post-office (in Israel) on Thursday, January 30th, and I picked it up today - very fast shipping. Packaging was very good and well-padded, and as an added bonus I got a patent of Nobility, a Traveller d6, and a Traveller Cr25 coin.
Excellent service!

The local Aslan population surveys the new Solomani purchase

[Alkonost] Laanese Fashion

So how do the people of Laana (capital world of the Liberated Worlds in my Alkonost setting) dress like? The way I imagine them is along the lines of this illustration from the old Traveller Book:

The main difference from this picture would be the fact that the Laanese, due to genetic drift, usually have a deletion mutation in their hair pigments, leading to white hair. Also, if they're living outside the equatorial canyons, they usually carry a filter mask on them (though they don it only outside) due to the low air pressure and massive amounts of dust on most of their worlds (think a half-terraformed Mars).

Also, Rebel Minis' Sahadeen look similar:

The clothing style is semi-military, owing to the prolonged guerilla war the Laanese has waged against the Incunablis Machine Empire's occupation of Laana (ended a generation ago), though the military uniforms and similar clothes tend to be quite informal and practical. Comfortable, utilitarian paramilitary clothing is also what the highly popular Chairwoman Ameena wears, adding further to their popularity on Laana and among counter-culture groups on Alkonost who are influenced by the Laanese culture and politics.