All posts by Stargazer

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team.

In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games.

Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

Cepheus, Python & Me

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A friend asked me if I had an open spot in one of my roleplaying game groups, because she really would love to play more often. She is already playing in my RIFTS game, and the only other games I am more or less regularly playing in at the moment are a Star Trek and a Star Wars one. Unfortunately she’s not really into either setting.

So I offered to run a new game for her and my wife. We looked at a couple of games I could run, and to my surprise the choice fell on Traveller. Initially I thought it would be best just to use Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition and set the campaign into the Third Imperium. I own a couple of sourcebooks mostly focused on the Spinward Marches, so this should be quite easy. But easy is not necessarily the most fun way to do things.

So in the end, we settled on using the Cepheus Engine (which is basically CT with a healthy dose of MgT thrown in) and using a homebrew setting instead of the OTU. I will probably still use a lot of OTU material, but this approach allows me to throw out canon out of the window and create my own subsector to play in.

The easiest solution would have been using one of the countless Traveller subsector generators on the web, but I wanted to try the world generation from the Cepheus Engine. Since I always loved to write my own code, I decided to use this opportunity to learn some Python (which I have planned for quite some time).

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The Endless Quest For A Science Fiction Campaign Setting

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I think as long as I knew about roleplaying games I was looking for the “perfect” science fiction setting. Of course there’s no such thing. But there’s something close, a setting which I would love to run games in and which I can really make my own. During the last twenty years or so, I have created several homebrew SF campaign settings. But usually I am not perfectly happy with them. One reason for this is probably that I can’t make up my mind. I am always torn between the gritty hard science setting I’d love to play in and the space opera setting I could find players for.

The question quickly boils down to whether I want to put a lot of work in something I’d love even if I will never put it to use. Don’t get me wrong, I also love space opera settings. But when it comes to writing my own stuff, I always want to get things “right”. Even when I have some cool ideas for a light-hearted space opera setting, I usually end up on Atomic Rockets (a website I could peruse for days at a time!) and try to reconcile my pet theories with real-world physics. This ends with me throwing out half the stuff I’ve written so far, in order to make the technology more “real”.

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So I constantly try to walk the thin line between approachabilty and realism, and – trust me – I am not good at tightrope walking. The next problem is that I am often inspired by existing settings from books, movies, video games, but I don’t want my homebrew setting to look like some Frankensteinian nightmare. Most people I know would probably not care. A lot of people have successfully run or played in kitchen sink settings in which space marines from Warhammer 40,000 fought Borg from the Star Trek universe while being allied to the Jedi order from Star Wars. This just feels wrong to me.

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I think my mental health issues are partly to blame for this. Back in the day, before I had to deal with depression, anxiety, and all these other nice things, it was much easier to be creative. Nowadays I often overthink everything and turn activities that should be fun into a nightmare. Ok, perhaps I am exaggerating a bit, but I guess it helps to make a point. What I am now hoping for is advice from you guys. I am pretty sure I am not the only one having this problem. How have you dealt with something like this in the past? Please post your comments below!

Review: Conan – Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of (Part 3)

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This is what you’ve been waiting for, the conclusion of my Conan – Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of review! Usually my reviews are not that long, but this time I decided it was time to try something new. Please let me know in the comments below if you prefer this more in-depth approach to shorter first look posts.

imageBefore having a look of the rest of the book’s content I have to talk about the artwork. I already mentioned Modiphius’ high production values in the first part of the review, but I just have to mention it again. You’ve seen the pieces I included in my review and I doubt you’ll disagree with me if I say that the artwork used throughout the book is not only gorgeous but also a perfect fit to the source material. The layout is a standard two-columned layout, the fonts chosen are highly readable. I’ve definitely seen fancier layouts in my time, but I get the impression that Modiphius focused on readability over fancy here. This was actually a wise decision because a lot of modern RPGs are often being accused of being hard to read especially if you’re eyesight is not as it used to be. Since we roleplayers are an aging demographic, it makes sense to keep things like that in mind. Nevertheless, the Conan corebook is a sight to behold. I can’t wait to get my hands on a physical copy!

Before delving into The Hyborian World and the remaining parts of the book, let’s have a quick look at equipment. Conan has a quite extensive chapter on equipment, including long lists of various weapons, armor, and other belongings. There are also rules for mounts like horses or more exotic ones like camels. Since Conan was also an infamous pirate for a time of his life, we also get rules for boats and ships. These are not too detailed, but at least allow you to make use of sea travel in your adventures.

Continue reading Review: Conan — Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of (Part 3)