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Review: Traveller Spinward Marches – Excellent Maps for Explorers and Merchants

I don’t think I need to tell you about the importance of maps in roleplaying games. Even the most crudest of maps can still be a very helpful tool in any campaign. A great map might even help to immerse the players more deepy into the game.

An excellent example of such a map is the Traveller Spinward Marches map by the German oublisher 13 Mann Verlag. In its print edition it’s 96 cm x 68 cm, printed on both sides, and even laminated. I am not sure if you can use boardmarkers to write on it, but it should at least be protected from greasy hands or spilled drinks. As a physical handout the map is just awesome. It’s made to look like a product available in the actual Traveller universe. One side shows the scout map of the Spinward Marches, with every system detailed. You don’t need to look up stats in a book, everything you need is right there on the map.

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The other side features the trade map for the same area, and features all of the information needed for crew of merchants trying to make a buck in this region of space. Especially the trade map can look a bit intimidating at first, but should come in handy during the game – especially if your campaign focuses on trade.

Some people may ask themselves whether a physical map still makes sense in today’s world. I have to admit, I still like having physical handouts at the table. And the map is definitely a great eye-catcher.

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If you prefer a digital version of the map, you can get it as well – which actually contains one PDF for each of the two maps. The digital edition is a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. It looks great, is only 7 MB in file size and looks pretty good even on a tablet PC, but it’s just not as useful as the printed map – at least in my opinion. Your mileage may of course vary.

The print edition of the map sets you back €24.95 (about 31$) which is a pretty fair price, if you ask me. It’s available directly from 13 Mann or through local retailers. The PDF version is also available from DriveThruRPG and sets you back $15.55. If you are a fan of any edition of the Traveller RPG and if you’re playing in the Spinward Marches, you definitely should check this product out.

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Realism in Roleplaying Games

Realism is a subject that regularly crops up in online and offline discussions about roleplaying games. Especially people who prefer a simulationist approach to roleplaying games tend to talk about this a lot. How realistic are the rules? Is it realistic that may character would do this or know that? In my opinion there’s no realism in roleplaying game and it’s actually a good thing.

At first let’s look at reality from a philosophical standpoint. Is reality objective? Or is it subjective? Is reality something you can measure or is it merely something we – as humans – have agreed on. I am no philosopher, but in my opinion, there are different kinds of realities. There’s the physical reality which we can measure and which is pretty objective, but the reality which we perceive is a totally different beast. Everything we perceive is ultimately distorted by our limited senses. We only see a small part of the visual spectrum, we can’t hear every frequency, and compared with a dog our sense of smell is basically non-existent. And if we move away from our senses into the realm of other “truths”, reality is basically just the major consensus narrative we can agree on.

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NaGaDeMon: WR&M Pocket Edition

Over the last few days I have continued working on the project I dubbed WR&M Pocket Edition. Initially I wanted to create something which is to WR&M what Chris McDowall’s Into The Odd is to D&D. Alas my first draft didn’t turn out that great. In some places the rules actually felt more clunky than the old ones. And that’s something I wanted to avoid at all costs.

So I started again from scratch. In the meantime I had an interesting conversation with Chris about diceless games. I’d stumbled upon the core mechanic of the Amber RPG and thought it might also work well in other games. That was the moment when I decided to turn the “Pocket Edition” into a diceless system.

I am currently working on the second draft of WR&M Pocket Edition and it now has six “abilities”: Warrior, Rogue, Mage, as well as Fate, Mana and Health. There are no skills and talents anymore, but at least skills might creep back in at a later date. The rules as they are now in place are even lighter than the original WR&M. The magic system is now completely freeform. Players can create spells on the fly if they wish to do so. At the moment the core rules are less than 3 DIN A4 pages.

So, what is left to do? The task resolution mechanic is still a bit clunky and I have to think about how I want to handle NPCs. I like the way Numenera does it, but I might just follow a more traditional stat block format. I guess, I’ll have to have a good night’s sleep over this.

I also decided that the game needs a setting. Generic rules are nice and all that, but I want this to be something special. At the moment I think about a magipunk, swashbuckling, airships setting. This could be fun and would probably fit the new rules better than a standard fantasy world. But time will tell.

So, will I able to finish the game in time? I highly doubt it. I wasn’t really able to work in it for at least two weeks and there’s still too much time. But I don’t mind. NaGaDeMon is all about the fun you have while designing games. Getting everything done in a month is great, but I don’t count it as a failure if it takes way longer than that.

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