Laserburn as an RPG Part 2

Now its time to put my example character through a scenario that will hopefully test a range of stats. I’m not going to set it in the default Laserburn universe, but the Gypsy Knights Games Clement Sector background just to give it an introductory starting point.

So Amer Rivis is hanging around in a bar, in between jobs on Sequoyah. Its one of the more seedy bars there, with lots of rough and tough looking individuals. Propping up the bar, he is approached by a patron who starts a conversation with him. Amer finds out that the patron is looking for someone who is discrete and reliable, who can ‘do a little job for him’. The little job involves a little industrial espionage, where this evening there is a party being held for some senior executives of the Blaylock Mining Corporation in a nearby hotel. Andreas Morgan (as the patron is named) would like Amer to gain access to the hotel and obtain copies of some files which are likely to be held in one of the executives rooms. Andreas will pay 20,000Cr if copies of the files stored on the executives handcomp can be made, without anyone from Blaylock noticing.

Ok, so at this point would I want to make any rolls regarding the job? At best, probably just an intelligence roll to see if there is any sense that the patron is telling the truth. Amer has got a 3, so roll a D6 or less and I get a 3, so Amer gets a good sense that the patron is telling the truth. Andreas gives Amer the plans for the hotel and a pass that should get him past the Blaylock company security agents.

So Amer arrives at the Ross Interstellar hotel (one of the largest and most prestigious in the Clement Sector) and approaches the security desk. He passes the ID card to the security officer; the officer looks suspiciously at Amer and asks a few questions about why he is here and what he is doing. Another attribute check to convince the officer; I’ve got a choice – Initiative or Intelligence. The problem with Initiative is that its generated using a variable number of dice – so Amer’s score of 18 sort of ‘floats’ and I can’t roll using a set (or calculated) number of dice in order to check against it. So I’m going to refer back to the Intelligence score (even though it doesn’t feel like the most appropriate characteristic to check against) so I roll a D6 to get 3 or less. Amer gets a 5 and fails to convince the security officer, so he’s unceremoniously ejected from the hotel.

Feeling a bit frustrated at failing at the first hurdle, Amer decides to try and gain access through a back route. Finding a service route into the hotel, he needs to make a dexterity roll to gain access through a partially open window. I’m going to make this a bit difficult and apply a -1 DM to the DEX roll, so I need a 4 or better. I roll a 4, so entry is gained without anyone noticing. Amer manages to walk down several corridors before I reckon he needs to make a random encounter check. So a roll of a 6 on a D6 will result in someone seeing Amer… and I get a 5, so he hasn’t been spotted yet. He eventually arrives at the hotel room where the executives hand comp is located; the door is locked, so a turn of brute strength (and ignorance) should force the door in. I reckon a DM of -1 (because I think the door is hard to beat) so Amer needs to get 5 or less. I roll a 6, so he bounces off the door which remains in place, undefeated.

He decides to try and find another way in and looks around for a member of the hotel staff, who might have a keycard. Hearing the clattering of a trolley, he sneaks around and waits for the trolley to get closer in an adjacent corridor. Here I make a combat factor roll based on civilian stats 40.10.1 – the hotel worker rolls 80 + 10, gets 90. Amer rolls 90 + 70 = 160 and wins the round. To hit Amer has a chance equal to his combat factor (70) minus using a bare fist (-30) and gets an 18 for a successful strike. Now I need to roll for the hit location (D100) and I get 94, a left leg location; bit of an odd place to land a hit in a brawl. Now at this point, I’m starting to struggle for the hit effect. There doesn’t seem to be any mention of what effect a punch to a part of the body has on a victim. Therefore for ease of use, I’m going to say that Amer kicks the hotel worker’s leg from under him and manages to silence him without killing him.

Now that Amer has obtained a keycard, he is able to successfully gain entry to the executives room and start searching for the hand comp with the documents. Again I’m going to use Intelligence to roll a D6 against, I roll a 5 (Amer has 3 Intelligence) and he doesn’t find anything in his initial check. At this point, I think Amer should make a second check but with a DM of -1 to reflect that its a bit more difficult; I roll a 2 so Amer (just) finds the hand comp and starts the download of information required.

By the time Amer has completed the download, he can hear noises from outside. Chances are someone has found the unconscious hotel worker and is raising the alarm. At this point, Amer grabs his kit and makes for the door. He can make out the sounds of activity nearby, so he makes a break for it. Just as he turns the corner of one of the corridors near the exit, he can see a security officer at the far end. Amer is going to have you fight his way out, so lets roll for ranged combat.

I’ll stat the security officer as 100.40.10, so rolling for initiative he gets 47+10 = 57. Amer rolls a poor 18 plus his initiative results in a total of 36, so the security officer gets to fire first. Armed with a slug gun, I work out that Amer is a moving target (-10), is 5m away (-20) and because the firer is using a slug gun, -15. So that totals -45 take away from 100 is 55, so I roll an 83 and miss. Amer’s turn to fire results in (WS) 140, firer is moving (-15), -10 for 5m distance so he needs to roll 115 or less on a D100, so thats a guaranteed hit. Roll for hit location – I get a 24 (left arm). I roll a D10 as the security officer is unarmoured, on a limb the 6 I rolled is a serious hit. The security officer’s left arm is completely unusable for the rest of the combat.

So a new combat round starts with an initiative check; security officer rolls 1 on a D100 (!) plus 10 equals 11, Amer rolls 24 plus 18 equals 44, so Amer wins this round. He rolls to fire with -25 modifiers, results in a direct hut, so roll for hit location. A D100 results in an 8, thats a head shot. A throw of a D10 gives a 7, so thats a knocked out security officer.

Amer then makes a break for it and exits the hotel from the same way that he got in. Returning to the same seedy bar where he met the patron, who hands over the 20,000Cr for a copy of the data extracted from the executives hand comp.


Ok, that was a fairly simple scenario to demonstrate how Laserburn could be used as an RPG, comparitive to Classic Traveller or Cepheus Engine. First of all – for all you Laserburn afficiando’s, if I’ve mis-intrepreted or mis-used a rule, I apologise. Its been 30 years since I ran a proper Laserburn scenario and I’m having to read the rules and adapt to my demonstration situation as I go along. What I found that whilst coming up with different situations to run stat checks against, I was coming up short on a few things. Because much of Laserburn is so combat orientated, I found that I couldn’t match a number of situations to what I felt was the most appropriate stat. For example, trying to gain access to the hotel (first time) I could have done with some sort of personality / appearance stat or skill to try and convince the security officer that Amer could enter the hotel. Initative or intelligence didn’t seem to cut it as the most appropriate stats to use. I also found it a bit difficult to try and apply a simple punch to knock out the hotel staff and steal the keycard. However ‘general’ combat using guns and ranged weapons was very easy and I like having the hit location tables to illustrate where your shot landed.

Through my simple example, I’ve at least demonstrated to myself what Laserburn’s strengths are – combat orientated gaming, mainly using miniatures which is exactly what it was designed for. It does lack a number if elements for non-combat orientated role-playing where I would want to use some stats / skills found in Classic Traveller or Cepheus Engine, but depending on your style of play you may wish to ignore this completely and stick to just the combat rules to resolve those situations. However if you use Laserburn, enjoy it – its a great system and there is still a lot of support for it!

If you’ve come into this post directly, you can find Laserburn as an RPG – Part 1 here.

Link for Alternative Armies Laserburn 15mm range.

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Laserburn as an RPG Part 1

I’ve been taking a look at the Laserburn rules set again and though the book is largely pitched at 15mm or 25mm miniatures skirmishes, it does mention that it could be used for role-playing. So I thought I’d take a break from Classic Traveller / Cepheus Engine products and take a look at how well you can roleplay using Laserburn. There are a couple if things I want to do to prove this (even if its just to myself!)

1. Create a ‘lite’ set of rules that cover the basic RPG mechanics.

2. Develop some sort of scenario that can be used with the above rules set.

The intention behind this is to adapt the rules in such a way that you can use it entirely without miniatures and set up a RPG scenario. I’m going to call these ‘house’ rules ‘Laserburn Lite’, the reasons of which I’ll describe below.

I’m going to take elements of the rules set from two books; the main ‘Laserburn’ (LB) rulebook and ‘Advanced Laserburn and Aliens’ (ALA). Keeping in with the spirit of Classic Traveller, it should be an easy system to pick up and run with. Going back through both these books, there are a great number of tables and some rules that seem to over-complicate a character generation process, for example. I have read that ‘Advanced Laserburn and Aliens’ isn’t that popular in the 15mm gaming circles, with the original rulebook being preferred. So let’s pull the best elements from the two rulebooks in a bit of a mashup!

Character Generation

Basic Laserburn has three combat-orientated stats, plus 14 (again combat-orientated) skills. Advanced Laserburn and Aliens (‘ALA’) expanded on this by introducing a number of ‘Character Capability Factors’ or ‘CCF’s’ which add some basic stats such as Strength, Endurance, Agility etc – the sort of thing that you would see in many other RPG systems. To me, the CCF generation process seems very complicated and overly ‘clunky’… perhaps I’ve been too used to simpler systems such as Classic Traveller or to a lesser extent, Cepheus Engine.

So how do I turn this into a workable RPG system then? The basic combat stats (WS, CS and I) stay and I’ll stick to the same generation process as in the basic rules. So depending on whether you want to generate a conscript, pirate or hero, that stays as the system I’m going to use. So to start we have:

Weapon Skill (WS)

Combat Skill (CS)

Initiative (I)

Based on the table from the LB rulebook. I’ve reproduced the basic attributes table here.

The Advanced Laserburn and Aliens (aka ‘ALA’ from here) supplement is designed to provide additional rules for character generation. From what I understand reading other blogs, it doesn’t seem very popular. I can see why; it feels like a bit of a jumble of tables and slightly obscure rules. However there are some useful parts which I’ll use in my ‘lite’ rules here.

To get the total number of skills available for the character, roll a D6 and consult the chart:

To cover the basic sort if statistics that you would need to ‘flesh out’ a character and provide the additional stats you would use to base stat checks / saving rolls etc, I’m going to simplify the CCF system.

Out of the ones listed in ALA, I’m going to use these as a basis of gaving a ‘rounded’ set of character statistics:

Intelligence, throw a D6

Dexterity, throw a D6

Endurance, D6 consult chart

Strength, D6 consult chart

The way I’m envisioning that these stats will work is to simply roll a D6 against the characteristic and get equal to or less, modified by DM’s. So a bit like Classic Traveller then…! Having just a D6 (instead of 2D6) though might make such skill checks easier… or harder, so I’ll try this out in the adventure.


The basic rules list of skills are entirely combat-orientated; ALA seeks to address this my adding a wider variety of skills, so I’m going to use the ALA chart for choosing them as this does the job quite nicely. Something I’d like to mention is that Laserburn skills aren’t like Classic Traveller, they generally just allow you to do certain things but with no dice roll checks for success / failure. This takes a bit of getting used to after being used to the CT skills system.

For example, ‘Martial Arts’ states at first level, double combat throws. At second level treble combat throws. ‘Nerves of Steel’ skill allows the individual to ignore duckback results if desired. Straightforward stuff.

So, lets roll up a character;

I’m going to start with a ‘Grizzled Veteran’ and call him Amer Rivis. Weapon Skill is 4D6-1 x 10 rolled 15, minus 1 is 14 x 100 = 140. Combat skill rolls up as 2D6 x 10 = 70, equals 70. Initiative is 4D6 + 1 results in 18 total. So thats 140.70.18.

Rolling for the CCF’s, we get:-

Intelligence = 3

Dexterity = 5

Endurance = 2

Strength = 6

For number if skill, I rolled a 3 and got 1 skill to roll for.

Now to roll for the number of standard skills based on the ALA table. I rolled an 88, so roll again on the second table, and I get the Vehicular skill.

I want to give the character some starting cash so that they can buy some kit, a bit like the Tunnels and Trolls character generation process (one of my favourites). Therefore I’m going to add this into the CharGen process:

Starting Cash

Conscript or Raw Recruit 1D6+4 x 100 credits

Regular Soldier 2D6+4 x 100 credits

Elite Soldier 3D6+4 x 100 credits

Grizzled Veteran 4D6+2 x 100 credits

Hardened Space Pirate 5D6+2 x 100 credits

Hero 6D6+2 x 100 credits

The table in the LB handbook gives prices and availability; I think if you choose the item you wish to purchase, roll on a D100 to see if its available, if so you pays your money and you takes your choice. If you miss the roll, it simply isn’t available and you will have to pick something else. That introduces a random element to determine what the character has picked up over the years.

I rolled 180 credits, so looking at the shopping list I can afford:

A bolt gun

Complete set of flak/mesh armour

10 rounds of bolt ammo

…which isn’t going to get me very far. So I’ll add +5 to all the rolls, which now gives me 230 credits. So back to the shops and successful rolls award me with:

An assault rifle

Complete set of flak / mesh armour

A sword

Oddly enough I couldn’t see any cost for assault rifle ammo, so I’ll just ignore that for the moment.

So, now I’ve got a character, I’ll come up with a scenario that I can run in a sort of solo-RPG game to test the character stats and how they stack up as a set of mechanics. That second part is available to view here – Laserburn as an RPG Part 2.

Out of interest, the Penultimate Blog has a little bit of history about Laserburn (and also comments about its use as an RPG) if you want to learn more.

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Manhunter – Bounty Hunters in Clement Sector Review

Manhunter: Bounty Hunters in Clement Sector is one of the new releases from Gypsy Knights Games. Available from Drivethru RPG for $9.99 as a PDF, or $22.99 as a softback book (plus PDF) and it contains 94 pages. The material is compatible with the Clement Sector rules set or Cepheus Engine rules and could be adapted for other 2D6 SF RPG rule sets.

The bounty hunter is one of the more popular types of character that many gamers like to play; sometimes mysterious, usually tough and grizzled and always relentless its easy to see why they are well liked as either player characters or NPCs. It would be remiss without mentioning some of the more famous hunters from fiction such as Boba Fett from Star Wars and Deckard in Blade Runner. Io9 has an article on ten of the coolest in science-fiction:

There are also those from (real) history such as Thomas Tate Tobin who tracked his three targets and brought back their severed heads after refusing the help from a 15-strong militia:

So how does GKG expand on the ‘standard’ bounty hunter character from the rules book? The author John Watts delves in with a couple of pages of narrative ‘Another Day on Chance’ which describes the setting up of a deal between a bounty hunter and client. After a illustration depitching the deal by Bradley Warnes, you are introduced to what makes a manhunter in the Clement Sector. The next five pages break the eight types of manhunter down to the particular specialisms they are known for.

The (traditional) bounty hunter are usually independents who wait for a monetary bounty to be posted somewhere (could be a government or corporation) for the capture or death of a criminal.

Bail enforcement agents will track down accused persons that have jumped bail and return them to the law enforcement officials of the government that they have run away from.

Thieftakers offer their services directly to a victim of crime, where law enforcement does not appear to obtain justice.

Repossession agents will recover property for which payments have not been made in a timely manner.

Altrant / Uplift hunters are repossession agents working for someone or organisation that consider altrants or uplifts as property.

Skiptracers will search for databases and records in order to locate a fugitive or item of property.

Debt collectors recover funds lost to a person who has promised to pay those funds but has left the area where the organisation can legally recover those funds.

Marshals are specialised law enforcement agents tasked with the arrest and recovery of fugitives. The marshals remit may encompass many of the other types of ‘bounty hunting’ but only within the scope of what is legal.

Because the many worlds in the Clement Sector have different laws and views on what is / isn’t allowed, the next twenty-six pages describe in great detail the various worlds of the Hub, Cascadia, Franklin, Sequoyah and Colonies subsectors. This could get heavy going as there is a lot of text to go through (which is broken up with very fine images by Bradley Warnes) but John Watts has made the reading easy-going and engaging. Don’t expect to be able to leave one world where anything goes and stride into the bar of another world pointing your gun at your quarry and expect to get away with it. There are many nuances; its not just laws and governments, but many corporations have the say in a geographic area and their views take precedent. For example the Blaylock Mining Corporation believes that if they hire anyone, their employee is free of any legal problems that they have incurred on other worlds and they will not allow anyone to bring harm to one of their employees. What is considered as slavery on world, would be perfectly acceptable for a hunter to try and bring back an altrant on the run – dead or alive.

To help expand on the background of the eight character variations, the next thirty-four pages break down the variations between the careers and describe their respective specialisms. For example, Skiptracers have variant careers such as Investigators (on the ground investigations) or Researchers (office-based research and searches). Each variant career has a skills breakdown which are slightly different, plus the usual ranks and benefits, mishaps and events tables.

The next eleven pages help the referee to work out the various types of bounties, bail, debt, thieftaking and property recovery costs. It provides a good structured way of calculating how much a hunter could receive for a job, influenced by various factors. At least this way, you have a consistent approach for costing out jobs. I’m glad to see that the book has taken a look at this as it helps to build the ‘background’ to the careers and the legal basis (if any) for the types of job taken.

To help round off the book, you get four NPC manhunters of the Clement Sector (Seth Grinder looks like someone you definitely wouldn’t mess with!) and some background on a couple organisations.

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for some time and I haven’t been disappointed. Though the book is priced in a slightly higher-price bracket than some other GKG supplements, you get a lot of source material in just under a hundred pages. This is a cracking read and I like that the book doesn’t just cover generating careers, but also the mechanics of bounty hunting and the logistics (who will allow what and where) within the Clement Sector. Another very fine product from the GKG stable and most definitely worth picking up! I would like to thank very much John Watts for sending me a copy of ‘Manhunter’ to review.

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Clement Sector Bundle of Holding and Can You Survive

It’s nearly May the 4th (…be with you) again and John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games has released a ‘bundle of holding’ containing much Clement Sector goodness for very reasonable prices!

The link for the bundle is here: Clement Sector Bundle of Holding

You can pick up two packages, the first a ‘starter’ set containing the following PDFs for $9.99:

Clement Sector

Clement Sector: The Rules

Rucker-Class Merchant (part 1 review) (part 2 review)

By levelling-up, you can qualify for the second bundle (threshold price $20.24), which contains the following:

Cascadia and Franklin sourcebooks (Cascadia review)

Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture

The Cascadia Adventures (mentioned)

21 Plots Go Forth (review)

This really is a cracking set of packages and a great way to get started in the Clement Sector!

Ah, but there is more…

Gypsy Knights Games have 30% off their products over on Drivethru RPG. So why not pick up a few extra books at a bargain price?

Can You Survive…

…is the title of last years GenCant free supplement from FFE, where they made light (and took a great opportunity) of the old Classic Traveller adage that its one of the few RPG systems where your character can die in the character generation process.

So at last years GenCon, there were free supplements available for you to try the character generation process and see how you get in. Additional cards were available for a PWYW fee on DriveThru RPG and I was lucky enough (by complete co-incidence) to obtain a free CharGen pack as I’d ordered the Traveller HERO CDROM at the same time the offer was on. This was some time ago and only had the chance during a quiet afternoon last weekend.

The pack included two Traveller dice, a ‘Can You Survive’ introductory rules pamplet and some character sheets to record your characters details. The CharGen process is clearly described – but I did notice a slight difference. Instead of having a fixed value that you need to roll for when enlisting, surviving, getting promoted etc and the same value is used each time you progress through a term of service, you have to pick one of your characteristics (Strength, Dexterity etc) and roll against that value for the period of the term. I can only assume this is a Traveller5 rule, its not something I have seen before as I don’t own Traveller5.

So I followed the instructions and rolled up a character, choosing a Marine career path. I picked a random name (Markeith Elson) from the website Donjon SciFi Random Names Generator, rolled the following numbers and assigned them to these attributes:-

STR 12 DEX 9 END 10 INT 6 EDU 10 SOC 5

Equipped with these stats he started his first term of service. If my character is to survive the CharGen process, it was obviously wise to go in on the highest possible value to roll against for survival, commission and promotion. Picking strength (12), I basically couldn’t fail to complete term 1. This allowed me to pick up 6 skills as he had also successfully rolled for a commission and promotion.

Term 2 started and I picked Endurance (10) this time. Still pretty high so I would be very unlucky to fail to survive the term. Another commission and promotion was gained; I successfully repeated this through terms 3 and 4, as EDU (10) and DEX (9) were still pretty high to roll against.

Term 5 came up and I had to roll against Intelligence which was an average 6… I was starting to get a bit nervous! Though I did survive (rolled a 2), my character failed his commission (rolled a 12) but did get promoted). Unfortunately the final roll to re-enlist resulted in a 10, so I assume he got fed up max’ing out his potential advancement and decided to take his pay and benefits.

The Benefits rolls were pretty lucky as well, one weapon (an Advanced Combat Rifle-10), 60,000Cr in cash, 80,000Cr retirement package, a Knighthood and a medal ‘SEH Starburst for Extreme Heroism’.

Overall it was an enjoyable, quick way of getting some characteristics and numbers-based skills and cash behind my character, so I can see this fitting in with its intended use at a convention very nicely. There isn’t any backstory to roll for (like Cepheus Engine or Mongoose Traveller 1st edition), but then again neither did Classic Traveller – you made it up (and in some ways that was the fun part!) A nice package to receive from FFE with my CDROM order (cheers Marc!) and was a useful dip into an alternative Traveller CharGen process.

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Uranium Fever Review

Uranium Fever is the latest release from Stellagama Publishing and is available from Drivethru RPG for $5.99. It is available as a PDF and contains 49 pages; the product is partially aimed at Stellagama’s own sci-fi background ‘These Stars Are Ours’, but the content can be used perfectly well in any Cepheus Engine-compatible / 2D6 SF-RPG background or rules.

The book contains a comprehensive set of rules and source material for asteroid mining operations in space, aka ‘belting’. The book is broken down into four main sections:-

Belting in the 23rd Century

The Belters Career

Setting Claims and the Mining Area

Mining Ships and Hardware

Starting with the first few pages (9 pages) ‘Belting in the 23rd Century’ describes the background and history to mining in the 2200’s using the ‘These Stars Are Ours’ setting. This is a very detailed section and was interesting to read, with lots of information about the miners organisations (with some amusing pronunciations, such as ‘GOAT’ and ‘Tickle’) and how many small prospecting operations came into being. There is even a page and a half of mining slang that is used in 2260!

The belters career section (8 pages) follows the first chapter of the Cepheus Engine rules, but expands on the original belter career greatly. However, for completeness so you don’t have to refer back and forth between books, you are given the complete variant career rules. My favourite part are the new material mustering out benefits; three out of four of the potential benefits are some form of spacecraft ownership, being the 10-ton Kobold-class Gig, the 100-ton Bucca-class Prospector or the Coblynau-class subsidised miner. The latter two you receive a partnership, whereas the Gig is complete ownership. The final benefit are ship shares which can go towards the purchase of a ship. The three spacecraft are described in more detail later in the book.

Setting Claims and the Mining Area (13 pages) – starting with ‘Striking the Belt’, describes the actual makeup of asteroids, definitions, sizes and how to make a claim. Its pretty comprehensive stuff, for example the types of find are broken down into the types of yield and the amount in tons. It isn’t simply a job of picking an asteroid and start mining it, there are all sorts of legalities and this section covers this is great detail.

The final section ‘Mining Ships and Hardware’ (13 pages) is probably my overall favourite section of the book. Here you are presented with some variant ship rules with a rather nice table of ‘ship quirks’ that a spacecraft can acquire for every 10 years of service. Helps to give a ship some personality, I feel. There are three fully-described spacecraft, including deck plans and some lovely 3D illustrations by Ian Stead. You start with the TL9 10-ton Kobold-class Gig, next up is the TL11 100-ton Bucca-class Prospector and finally is the TL11 600-ton Coblynau-class Miner. The latter two are essentially ‘canisters’ in which several decks are located. To back up the spacecraft, the following section is ‘Tools of the Trade’; after all a miner isn’t a miner without a pick or in this case, its 23rd century-equivalent, the TL12 Plasma Drill! However most 23rd century mining is done by automated drone, so you get a page of mining drone specifications. To round off the book, what if the miner needs to venture outside? They’re going to need the right Vacc-suit so this section breaks down some specifications of different types.

Reading through the book, I think the authors have covered pretty much everything to do with belting and space-based mining operations. An ideal use for Uranium Fever would be for solo play, as you could quite easily set things up so that you can run some mining operations and trade rules. Add in a table of random encounters, you’ve got yourself an evenings gaming easily sorted. I can’t think of anything that has been missed as the book is very comprehensive without being overly onerous by introducing rules or information for the sake of it. The original Cepheus Engine rules have been enhanced and the right amount of extra information has made the book ‘balanced’ in all the right places. Along with some very high quality editing and some tasty art from Ian Stead (along with some stock art), this makes for a very fine purchase and useful addition to your games. Highly recommended! I would like to thank Omer Golan-Joel for kindly sending me a copy of Uranium Fever to review.

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Classic Traveller, Clement Sector, Mongoose Traveller, OGL | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Traveller HERO CDROM Review

Before I move onto the Traveller HERO CDROM review, I’d like to mention a few new releases:

Gypsy Knights Games have published ‘Manhunters: Bounty Hunters in Clement Sector’, out now on DTRPG for $9.99.

Stellagama Publishing have released ‘Uranium Fever‘, also available on DTRPG for $5.99.

I’ll be reviewing both products in the very near future!

General Observations:

The Traveller HERO CDROM is available from Far Future Enterprises for $35 and contains a lot of material that hasn’t been available to purchase for a number of years, previously released by Comstar / Avenger Enterprises. Ordering from the FFE website, it was delivered to my UK address in 8 days in a strong jiffy bag. It is presented in a DVD-style case with some gorgeous sleeve artwork by Bryan Gibson.

The CDROM contents can be best compiled into four groups:-

The Core Rules (5 PDFs)

Hero System References (8 PDFs)

The Golden Age Starships (8 PDFs)

The Supplements and Adventures (12 PDFs)

The Core Rulebooks

To kick off the contents of the CDROM, you have five books:

Core HERO1 Adventurers in Charted Space (163 pages)

Core HERO2 Adventure in Charted Space (159 pages)

Core HERO3 Starship Construction in Charted Space (12 pages)

Core HERO4 Starships in Charted Space (22 pages)

Core HERO5 Psionics in Charted Space (11 pages)

To use these rule books, you will need the HERO system rules, fifth edition although there is a supplement supplied elsewhere on the CDROM with advice how to convert to the sixth edition. You also get print versions of the HERO1 and HERO2 books if you want a copy in dead tree format.

The HERO System

I can only make observations about the Traveller HERO system from the perspective that I don’t own the rules set, so my perception of the system comes only from the stats that are provided in the books. Therefore, I’m comparing it – perhaps unfairly, against the Classic Traveller rules set. What I do see from the HERO rules set is that there are a lot more stats needed to describe an individual, creature, object, robot or vehicle. Unfortunately, this puts me off the system because I see things like from book 1, page 135, the description for a ‘Laser Pistol-16’.

LASER PISTOL-16 Effect: RKA 2 ½d6, AP, AF (3 shots), Inv. to Sight Shots: 32 Combat Modifiers: +1 OCV, +2 RMod STR Minimum: 6 Range: 320” Mass: 3 kg CR: 4000 Description: The Laser Pistol-16 is the TL16 version of the laser pistol. [Notes: Experimental Advanced Laser Pistol]

Laser Pistol-16: (Total: 95 Active Cost, 27 Real Cost) RKA 2 ½d6, 32 Charges (+¼), Invisible to Sight Group, Source Only (+¼), Autofire (3 shots; +¼), Armor Piercing (+½) (90 Active Points); OAF Fragile (-1 ¼), STR Minimum 6 (STR Min. Cannot Add/Subtract Damage; -1), Beam (-¼), Real Weapon (-¼), Limited Range (-¼) (Real Cost: 22) plus +2 with any single attack with one specific weapon (Real Cost: 2) plus +2 vs. Range (6 Active Points); OAF (-1) (Real Cost: 3). Total Cost: 27 points.

From what I understand about the HERO system is that everything has a ‘cost’, in points. So I what I started to notice reading through the book is the repeated line ‘Active Cost: <value>, Real Cost <value>’. I must admit I found this to be getting repetitive reading the same thing after several times. This combined with the lengthy descriptions of each ‘thing’, made for some heavy going working through the books.

The HERO system presents a bit of a paradox; the rules set is aimed at creating characters with extraordinary abilities, ie. in the mood of superhero’s. However, the Traveller HERO books are pitched to creating characters that are exactly like you would create in any of the GDW books, ie. ordinary people doing extraordinary things. To me this seems like a terrible contradiction. I’ve never played Superhero games, nor have any desire to play them. I’ve already preferred my characters to be ordinary people who through choice or not, try to do ‘heroic’ things. This contradiction in the Traveller HERO books seems to me to be a fatal flaw.

The books are based in the Traveller OTU, the Third Imperium. However, the books attempt to combine all the timelines from Classic Traveller, Mega Traveller, Traveller the New Era and Traveller: 1248 so that referees and players have a choice of what background and setting they can base their games in.

I must say that the amount of work the writers have done to combine all these settings is immense and they should be applauded for what they have achieved. Generally, through all the books, it makes for a very comprehensive source of background material; for example the combined Imperial timeline from 1105 to 1248 where each GDW / DGP / Comstar / JTAS product is listed with Imperial date.

The rule books are very text heavy and are only spaced with literally, one or two images over the entire edition, with the exception of a few deck plans for commonly-found starships. The layout and quality of writing is exemplary, just be prepared to thoroughly read the books as there is a huge amount of material presented.

Another example is the 63 pages (!) describing all the major and minor races that can be found in or near Imperial space – that makes for about 40% of the first book.

There are a few ‘oddities’; the GM Vault: World Generation system found in book 2, page 147 goes into great detail describing the World Data Format (which from what I can make out is the same or near as dammit as that in CT), but this is only mentioned at the very end, summarised in a three line paragraph, with one example. There is no example hex grid and half a page of blank space which could have been filled. Very strange.

The Golden Age Starships series; there are some inconsistencies with the deck plans, Book 5: Cutters and Shuttles features a couple of module deck plans, but the hex grid used is too prominent and has obscured the deck layout. I think the use of a hex grid instead of a square grid is a poor choice. At the back of each GAS book you get a minimum of a page of adventure seeds, roughly a paragraph per idea, though you get five pages of ideas in GAS7: LSP Modular Starship.

HERO System References

You are supplied with 8 PDFs:

HERO Fifth System Basics (1 page)

HERO Fifth Edition System Reference (1 page)

HERO Fifth Edition System Wikipedia (6 pages)

HERO Sixth Edition Character Conversion Summary (2 pages)

HERO System Basics (1 page)

HERO System Reference (1 page)

HERO System Wikipedia (6 pages)

Introduction to the Traveller HERO CD (1 page)

A few of the pages are more or less adverts for the system, or introductions to the product line. There isn’t enough here to get you started without the full HERO rules set (not included with the CDROM), even though the Wikipedia web prints will give you an idea of some of the rules terminology used in the other books.

The Golden Age Starships

This is an eclectic mix of ships, the smallest being the equivalent of a cargo pod up to (my personal favourite) the 300dTon LSP Modular Starship. The nice touch is that you get both Classic Traveller and HERO rules statistics, so there is a decent collection of craft for those of us that prefer CT.

Each book presents a short history of the ship, plenty of stats and variants and a set of scenario ideas, that range from 1 to 5 pages in total. The deck plans continue to use the hex grid (which I personally dislike), I think it makes the layout messy – but that must be my OCD… Probably the most archaic spacecraft described in the book is the Saturn 1B launch vehicle, dating from 1961 to 1975CE! Illustrations are minimal, except for deck plans for the major vehicles and transports. The GAS are the same as what was available in the Traveller 20 edition.

The list of books includes:

Golden Age Starships 1: Fast Courier (36 pages)

Golden Age Starships 2: Sword Worlds Patrol Cruiser (40 pages)

Golden Age Starships 3: Archaic Small Craft (42 pages)

Golden Age Starships 4: Ships Boats and Pinnaces (42 pages)

Golden Age Starships 5: Cutters and Shuttles (37 pages)

Golden Age Starships 6: Corsair (33 pages)

Golden Age Starships 7: LSP Modular Starship (31 pages)

Golden Age Starships 7: Armed Free Trader (27 pages)

The Supplements and Adventures

For me, along with the Golden Age Starships PDFs, represents the ‘value’ in owning the CDROM. However I was intrigued by the adventures mentioned in the Hero CD-ROM listing, having seen the titles mentioned somewhere many years ago and the publications never being available to purchase.

Sourcebook 1: Grand Fleet HERO (122 pages) details the Imperial Navy; it’s history, structure, personnel, capabilities, tactics, weapons, equipment and its opponents. You also get an appendix describing (in Hero stats) some of the more common types of ship, such as the Broadsword-class Mercenary Cruiser or Fiery-class Close Escort.

The Bowman Arm (27 pages) describes a group of ten worlds named for their locality to Bowman (District 268 / Spinward Marches 1132). It is designed as a lead-in to a line of books, focussing on each of the worlds in the Bowman Arm. However only two separate books were published, which are included in the HERO CDROM, Flexos (21 pages) and Datrillian (17 pages). The actual Bowman Arm also describes another world in the group, Walston. In many ways, these remind me of the Gypsy Knights Games ‘Quick Worlds’ series, with basic world data, environmental description, inhabitants and adventure seeds. The quality of the text is of a very high standard and sets the scene for events after the end of the Fifth Frontier War. However there is one flaw with the Bowman Arm map, which covers four subsectors namely Darrian, Sword Worlds, Five Sisters and District 268. It is of such low resolution that it is virtually unreadable. I’ve taken a look at Traveller Map and produced a snapshot which covers 95% of the same area. If you want to find the same region, the link on Traveller Map is here. I’ve also added a PDF of the image below if you want to download it, along with a Bowman Spinward World Data Sheet from Traveller Map.

Spinward Marches Supplement:Call of the Wild (46 pages) is an adventure set on the Sword Worlds system of Steel, involving a survey mission and a distress call… Both Hero and CT stats are provided.

Spinward Marches Supplement: Range War (57 pages) is also set on Steel and can be used as a follow up to Call of the Wild.

Special Supplement 1: Robots of Charted Space (77 pages) is a Hero edition-specific supplement that describes the various types of robots that can be found in and around the Imperium. You get some suggestions how to use robots in a game, history and manufacturers and the different types and classifications. Thirty-one standard robot types are listed, with full Hero stats.

Special Supplement 2: Robot Adventures (43 pages) is a collection of 22 scenarios with a robotic influence. It can be used with both Hero and CT. Each scenario is presented with players information, referees information and six possible outcome in the style of the CT Supplement 76 Patrons or the Gypsy Knights Games 21 Plots series.

Special Supplement 3: Patron Encounters (33 pages) contains 34 ready-made adventure seeds, again compatible with Hero and CT. it is divided into two predominant sections, starship required and starship not required. All adventure seeds have the same format again as the previous book, with six possible outcomes. The final few pages list some generic patrons and villains, with just Hero stats presented.

Special Supplement 4: One Crowded Hour (46 pages) is a full length adventure which can be used with Hero or CT, containing stats for both. Unfortunately the deck plans for the featured ship, the Duchess Selene, sufferers from the same problem as the Bowman Arm map, in that they are of a low resolution the layout is very difficult to read. The adventure takes place over the course of an hour game time, where the players have to save the ship they are aboard, which is on a collision course with a gas giant planet due to a course malfunction.

Special Supplement 5: Short Adventures (59 pages) is another collection of adventures broken down into five sections: Amber Zones, Mercenary Tickets, Patron Encounters, Linked Adventures and Generic Patrons and Villains. Some of the adventures do have 1D6 possible outcomes, whereas others are simply descriptions of the situation, background and resolution. Only the final section ‘Generic Patrons and Villians’ contains Hero stats, but the rest of the book is compatible with just about any SF RPG.

The final book in the list is TNE Operation Dominoes 1: Moonshadow (64 pages), which is set in the Traveller New Era timeline. It details the world of Tiniyd and presents two adventures where the players are sent to recon and strategic world, ruled by feuding psionic governments. Though there were actually four adventures in the series, only the first one is included in the CDROM which has been altered to include HERO game stats. Oddly enough, though there are no CT stats for the crew roster or some of the NPCs, there are some CT stats listed for some of the minor NPCs. Possibly an oversight in the conversion. The additional books are available as part of the Traveller New Era CDROM 2 from FFE which I took a brief look at back in 2011.

Overall Conclusions

The CDROM itself as supplied by FFE is a decent collection of PDFs with lots of reference and support material, for both Classic traveller and HERO 5th edition rules.

The impression I get from the PDFs themselves is that the quality of the editing and how four Imperial timelines (CT / MT / TNE / 1248) have been brought together is a fantastic piece of work. There is a ton of useful source material and wether you decide to use Hero or CT as your system, you’ll find plenty to help set you up for many gaming sessions. the lack of artwork is a downside (perhaps I’m too used to Gypsy Knights Games or Stellagama products now) and there are a few (previously-mentioned editing quirks) but there is a lot of text for you to read through. Unfortunately the HERO system is not for me, I find it too cumbersome and ‘bulky’ after the lightness and simplicity of Classic Traveller, but I know there are many fans of the HERO system. However I do think the CDROM is well worth purchasing, especially if you are a CT player and are looking for some additional gaming material.

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The Fantasy Traveller Part 14 – Creating Magic Items

Building on the last part looking into using magic items, lets take a look at the process of creating them. Again, magic items are broken down into two halves – ‘complex’ magic items that contain spells or are simply more than enhanced weapons. The second type of item is the ‘simple’ magic item, where the Shaman tries to create an item that has an enhancement, such as a sword +1DM to hit.

Creating Magic Items

This should be pretty high-level stuff I reckon, so its a skill level 3 spell to cast. You need to expend the ‘create’ spell and the same amount of points as you would, for the additional spell that will be ‘added’ into the item. However you can expend multiple points for the added spell, but only one lot of create spell’s points.

For example, Ula wants to create a magic sword that will have three ‘Detect Magic’ spells built into it. This is a skill level -1 spell, costing 1 STR point a shot.

The Create Magic spell costs 3 STR points and 3 END points. Because it is convenient at the time, she decides to cast the Create Magic spell (3+3 points) and add two Detect Magic spells (1+1 STR), so the total number of points expended is 5 STR points and 3 END points. The success roll is made, so there is no waste in points.

However at a later date, she wants to add another Detect Magic spell to the same sword, so this time the points cost is 3 STR + 3 END points for the Create spell, plus 1 for the Detect Magic spell, total this time is 4 STR + 3 END. The sword has the three intended Detect Magic spells and she puts it out for sale at the local bazaar.

So you only have to expend enough points to create the magic item, but in stages and you add to it as you want. That way you don’t have to expend dangerous levels of points in trying to get the item you want to create. This adds to the impression to non-Shamans that magic items take a long time to create and expend a lot of effort.

Spell Description

Create Magic Item

Cost: 3 STR, 3 END plus the same amount of points rated for the spell being added to the item

A spell can be added to an item to make it magical. The creator determines the spell (which also determines the level of the item for detection purposes) and expends the points necessary to add the spell to the item. Multiple additions of the same or different spells can in theory be added to the item.

Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license

Creating Low Level Simple Magic Items

Another new skill level 3 spell, I’m proposing this method so that Shamans can create enhanced weapons. The Shaman casts the spell on the weapon and expends the necessary points. Note I have prefixed the number with a + or – sign, so the Shaman can create ‘negative’ weaponry.

To Hit / Damage Adjustments

+/-1 weapon – double weaponry points plus the casting amount (3 STR, 2 END) = 5 / 3 total

+/-2 weapon – double weaponry points plus the casting amount (3 STR, 2 END) = 7 / 3 total

+/-3 weapon – 6 points plus 3 STR and 3 END = 9 / 3 total

The success / failure roll still has to be made, if it fails then the points are simply expended and lost, with the item gaining no magical ability at that time, though its fine to try again at a later date. How much the Shaman charges for the creation of such items is entirely up to them. The spell description therefore reads:

Create Simple Magic Item

Cost: 3 STR, 2 END plus double the number of points STR to enhance the item

A weapon can be enhanced by expending enough points at the same time as casting the spell. For an item that you wish to increase its to hit or damage DM, then +1 would require an additional 2 STR points plus the cost above, a +2 item would require 4 additional points and a +3 item would require 6 additional STR points. Items above a +3 DM are virtually unheard of.

Now that we have a few extra spells, I’ll update the spell book in my previous article to include these and from part 13.

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