Category Archives: Guest Post

Traveller: 3rd Party Settings

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Michael has already shed some light on the various incarnations of the Traveller rules. The sheer number of different versions can be somewhat overwhelming.
But once you settled for a given ruleset you face an even more daunting task: making yourself and your players familiar with the vast setting of Traveller.
To my experience this is one possible point of failure when the scope of the setting encounters the expecations of the players for the first time.

The official Traveller universe
The official “Third Imperium” setting for Traveller encompasses 11000 star systems, at least six major polities and a plethora of human and alien cultures. Most of those features are deeply rooted in classical science fiction literature of the 60ies to 80ies – but where this might be very rewarding to me – a SciFi nut for more than forty years – there is little to nothing to relate to for a younger prospective player.

Neither Star Wars features strongly in the original Traveller setting nor does Star Trek and those are probably the most popular SciFi franchises around. And who even remembers Firefly or Battlestar Galactica any more? Coming from the “mainstream of pop culture” the sheer bulk of background “stuff” of the Original Traveller Universe (OTU) without easily recognizable features like a mystical knightly order or a benevolent planetary federation often leads to dismissive reactions (tl;dr).

So how to make this game your own?
There is – as always – more than one answer to this question.
Michael asked me to take a look into a couple of Third Party Settings but there are also a couple of DIY approaches like “Proto-Traveller” (Michael already mentioned it before) to adapt Traveller for your own science fiction gaming needs.

The Traveller rules where originally meant to be generic RPG rules for contemporary or futuristic settings and Mongoose themselves willingly provided a handful.

One of the more successful attempts was 2300 AD (meaning it is still around in 2016) which is probably sufficiently known. But since 2300 AD is Mongoose’s in-house Alternate Traveller Universe (ATU) setting these days I won’t cover it here.

As mentioned above there are also a couple of DIY methods but those were not part of Michael’s request und would be beyond the scope of this post.
Then there are those by third party publishers (3PP) like Spica Publishing (Outer Veil), Terra/Sol Games (Twilight Sector), Zozer Games (Orbital 2100) and Gypsy Knights Games (Clement Sector).
This list is neither representative nor complete those are merely the settings that caught my eye one way or another while I was looking for something new since the Spinward Marches and the Solomani Rim as well as the classic era had somehow lost their appeal.

Except for Twilight Sector they all have in common that they are well below the techological level of the “Third Imperium” setting, that there are no (playable) aliens and that Earth and its neighbourhood feature more prominently.

Continue reading Traveller: 3rd Party Settings

WHITEHACK

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It feels like every time I turn a corner, I am bearing witness to yet another Old School Renaissance (OSR) role playing game being released into the world. A world that already has several great OSR games to choose from. Does our world really need another one? The answer to that question is, yes. I have yet to hold a game in my hands and exclaim, ‘THIS IS PERFECT!!!’ I think that until that perfect game is released, game designers will continue working tirelessly to sculpt and mold games until that perfect game is created.

Youseph-Whitehack

The most recent attempt by Christian Mehrstam, was recently released and is called WHITEHACK. A game with which its rules are written in a shockingly small 32 page rulebook  More impressively, within this rulebook containing all the information you need officiate a game, start an adventure, implement monsters, build characters, equip those character, and level that character up through level 10. You can literally start your first WHITEHACK adventure within minutes of getting your hands on this pint-sized book. Dice not included. Continue reading WHITEHACK

The 5th Edition

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The latest version of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), currently known has D&D Next, is Wizards of the Coast’s (WotC) latest attempt to reboot the worlds most popular tabletop role playing game. The game is currently in beta stages and WotC is receiving feedback from fans who have been testing out the new rules. WotC is trying to bat a home run with this game by trying to win back fans after the D&D 4th edition failure, while at the same time converting older fans who have been perfectly content playing older editions of the game.

D&D

While I was at PAX this year, I had a chance to play a demo of Dungeons & Dragons Next with an official representative of Wizards of the Coast. You can see a video of the game I was playing here. I really had an enjoyable time playing the game and after it was over, I was able to talk to our Dungeon Master and ask several questions about the new edition and how it was progressing. Unfortunately, I left the gaming table somewhat disappointed with the state of Dungeons & Dragons Next and I don’t expect the things I would need to buy the game to be addressed by it’s release sometime in 2014.

In a nutshell D&D Next is still too complex for my tastes. Please don’t get me wrong, I do think that the 5th edition of this game is a lot better than 4th edition. I figured that out just by looking at my character sheet. Gone are skill checks from your character sheet. Now if you want to do something outside the box that would be considered a skill you just use your Ability Score Modifiers and add them to your D20 roll to see if you accomplish your goal. This is a nice example of how the game has been cleaned up and streamlined. But the sad fact is that you are still doing a ton of math, adding all your extra points of damage from weapons or abilities, rolling extra dice for advantage and so on. I found this to not only be confusing, but also detracting and slowing down the story being played out in front of me.

I do understand and respect that there are gamers out in the world that enjoy the mathematical crunch of a good game mechanic. I am just not one one of those gamers. When I first looked at my printed off character sheet for a level one Cleric for 5th edition, I let out a sigh of disappointment. Already I knew that if I had to write out this character by hand that there was no way I could fit all the information I needed on the front and back of one character sheet. Which to me is very disappointing. To me when I think of a tabletop role playing game, I think pencil and paper. I feel like I should be able to write down everything I need with a pencil and one sheet of paper. I shouldn’t need to print off the character sheet from my computer or need several index cards to write down all the extra information my character has. That’s just not fun for me.

When D&D Next was first announced, I was feeling very optimistic about it. I recall early talks of this 5th edition by WotC being modular. Think three ring binder of sorts that would contain the rules for how to play D&D in its most basic form. Rules light if you will. Then, as you wanted to add eliminates from 2nd, 3rd, or 4th editions of the game, along with extra character options you could just by adding on packs or sheets and inserting them into your binder. D&D Next. The edition for everyone. I thought this was was a great idea and something I could see myself buying. But shortly after the first beta of the game was released for public testing, I knew that this great idea was no longer going to be an option for fans.

The truth of the matter is, I cut my teeth on D&D. I love the name of the game and I want to support it. But the reality is I have found that I enjoy gaming with a modern clone of the original D&D game called Swords & Wizardry. I would rather play a game called Dungeons & Dragons. I want to come back home to my roots and play and support the game that has been around since before I was born. I just don’t see that happening with D&D Next. But like any fan of the hobby, I will continue to hold out hope until the official rule books are released and and I can see for myself what WotC is asking me to buy.