Kickstarter: CONTACT – Tactical Alien Defense RPG

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Do you like computer games like XCOM – Enemy Unknown? Do you like roleplaying games with deep tactical combat, base building, high tech, and an alien invasion? You don’t mind crunchy rules? If you answered most of these questions with YES, you definitely should check out Clockwork Publishing’s latest Kickstarter project.

The German roleplaying games publisher Clockwork Publishing (aka Uhrwerk Verlag) is currently trying to raise money for an English edition of CONTACT, its “tactical alien defense” RPG. I actually picked up a copy of the German edition as soon as it came out a couple of years ago, and had a great chat with its author Robert Hamberger. In a nutshell, CONTACT is pretty much the XCOM series in roleplaying game form complete with base building. In my humble opinion it is the best adaption of the series I have seen so far, even though it doesn’t use the license.

cover-contact1Rules-wise it reminds me of games like Basic Roleplaying because it uses a similar percentile dice mechanic. But compared to BRP the combat rules are much more detailed. The game even uses action points like in the original XCOM games. I have to admit that rules-wise CONTACT is a bit too crunchy for my tastes, but you know that I prefer way lighter fare. But people who have played the game told me that you can easily reduce the complexity if needed. But if you are not afraid of crunch, you might find a lot to love in CONTACT.

The game is set into a near-future version of our world where the secret OMEGA organization is fighting against an alien invasion. Of course the OMEGA agents have access to the highest technology available to mankind at the moment. What really makes the game shine is it impressive artwork. Even if you don’t like the art style you just have to admit that this game has awesome production values.

If you want to have a free first look at what CONTACT has to offer, check out the quickstart rules available here.

The Kickstarter started today and is set to end on December 3rd. Clockwork Publishing has set the goal at €12,500 which should be enough to pay for the printing of the core rulebook. There are stretch goals which will update the core rulebook to hardcover or add additional material for the backers.

With a pledge of just €25 you get a copy of the PDF version of the rules if the projects gets funded. Starting with €40 you’ll get a full-color printed copy of the rules. And trust me, the book is gorgeous! As far as I know the rules are already fully translated, so backers should get their PDFs directly after the KS got funded.

If this sounds interesting to you, why not check out the KS project page now?

UPDATE: The PDF version is actually already available on DriveThruRPG right now. One of the KS pledge levels is actually specifically tailored for people who already own the PDF on DriveThruRPG and who are interested in the stretch goals. 🙂

Is SWN The Better Traveller?

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Yes, the title is a bit clickbait-y, but this is actually a pretty good question. In my recent Traveller post I was looking at the various Traveller editions available and I gave my reasons why I eventually picked TNE as the game I want to run.

If you have been living under a rock in the last few years you might have missed Stars Without Number, Kevin Crawford’s science-fiction roleplaying game. The title quickly catapulted Kevin’s Sine Nomine Publishing into the limelight and now he and his company are pretty much household names, especially if you are interested in everything OSR. In SWN Kevin did something very clever. He combined the combat mechanics of old-school D&D with a Traveller-inspired skill system, and a lot of material for GMs to create sandbox games. SWN is pretty close to perfect, especially considering that it’s digitally available for the low price of nothing. Yep, it’s a complete old-school SF RPG for free. Of course you can also get it in print, and there are quite a few supplements available, which are very high quality.

The setting reminds me a bit of Traveller’s New Era, but instead of a sentient computer virus it was a psychic phenomenon which severed the links between the countless human colonies in space. But instead of using the implied setting you can easily replace it by your own or use another published setting. The rules are simple and flexible enough that you can easily use SWN for any kind of RPG set into a far future. So it’s no surprise that people have used it successfully to run games set into Traveller’s Third Imperium. Sure, you might have to use the ship construction rules to build starships fitting the OTU, but all the pieces are already there – no heavy lifting is needed.

There are only a few things which bother me. Some of these things are actually directly related to the fact that SWN was heavily influenced by certain editions of D&D. SWN uses three classes, one of which is the Adept, a person having psi abilities like telekinesis, telepathy, etc. In a Third Imperium game, where psionic abilities are rare and often illegal, the Adept class might not be as useful as the other two.

The D&D-like combat system uses descending armor classes (the lower the AC the better) which was common with the early editions of D&D, but more modern versions and even most retro-clones use ascending ACs instead – or at least offer them as an alternative. Not that SWN’s system is unplayable, but some gamers might find it unintuitive.

SWN’s great strength on the other hand are the tools for building a sandbox campaign. Even if you are not actually interested in using the rest of the rules, the GM section of SWN is definitely worth a look. You quickly need a faction, planet, etc. in your game. In most cases SWN has a generator suited for the task. The advice on how to run sandbox games is also very helpful and definitly worth a read.

So is SWN the better Traveller? It depends. If you want to play in the Third Imperium it might actually be easier to just use Classic Traveller instead – or Mongoose Traveller if you are looking for a currently supported system. If you want to run a game like Traveller but you are more comfortable with OD&D-style combat, SWN might be a great alternative. Regardless of your decision, SWN’s sandboxing tools and GM advice are useful in any SF game!

By the way, this is definitely not the last Traveller-themed post here on Stargazer’s World. I still have a few posts up my sleeve and there might even be a couple of surprises for you, so stay tuned!

Traveller on CD-ROM

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Even though Traveller is almost as old as D&D it never had something similar as the Old School Revolution/Revival community. I guess one of the reason is that even today the original editions of Traveller are still easily available. You don’t need to rely on clones if you have the real deal just a few clicks away.

In my opinion the best way to get your hands on Traveller material is to order one of the CD-ROMs directly from Far Future Enterprises. At the time of this writing they sell about 20 different CD-ROMs which contain basically a whole game line each. Each CD sets you back $35 plus shipping and is chock full with stuff. Aside from Classic Traveller you can get basically every edition of Traveller released (aside from Traveller Hero) and including other GDW games like Twilight 2000, Dark Conspiracy, and 2300AD.

Today the postman brought me the Classic Traveller CD-ROM I ordered a while ago and it contains all the core rules, supplements, adventures, double adventures, alien modules, modules and boardgames released by GDW for Traveller back in the day. Even the original little black books from 1977 are included.

Some promo stuff included with the CD-ROM

A whole gaming universe on one CD-ROM

By the way, if you order 4 CD-ROMs from them, you only have to pay for three! Please note that the $35 rebate is a manual process, so you have to pay the full price first, but then Mr. Marc Miller himself will refund you $35 as soon as the CD-ROMs are shipped.

The scan quality of the PDFs varies a bit, but overall the quality is very good. And it’s definitely more cost effective than trying to get all Traveller books on eBay. Selling RPGs on CD-ROM might be considered a bit weird by some, especially in this day and age, but it works and is definitely the easiest way to get your hands on a lot of gaming material for less than the price of a contemporary core rulebook.

UPDATE: I just had another look at the FFE site and noticed that Traveller HERO and GURPS Traveller are now available on CD-ROM as well!

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