I first read Dune in 1984. I liked it a lot and later read and enjoyed the five sequels.
I love the way the noble houses are described in the original books. I love how well Dune/Arrakis is described. When I read Dune and the following novels by Frank Herbert I could see where the ideas for the nobles in Traveller has got (some of) its inspiration from.
Now I have read the last one of the Prelude to Dune trilogy prequels, called House Corrino by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. This was an interesting book written in the same style as Frank Herbert’s Dune novels. This book focuses a lot on the Tleilaxu occupied world of Ix, where the Tleilaxu is trying to produce synthetic spice for the Emperor (from House Corrino). It is an interesting book, but I think that the other two prequels, House Harkonnen and House Atreides were better.
When I was 15 years old and spent 3 weeks in Lancashire, there was an arcade game that I liked at the local pub. (That pub didn’t care that I wasn’t 16.)
The game was a lot like Galaxian but had another twist. I the later stages the attackers could drop “spies” that could then attack you from behind. I thought the game was called Alien Spy. Maybe the words “Alien Spy” was printed on the arcade cabinet.
I only found this game one other time. At Tumba-tältet (that was an indoor golf driving range) in Stockholm. Since then I have not seen it.
Using my Google-fu powers with only that inaccurate name of the game as my only clue I finally found it. It is called Uniwar S. Using an emulator, I could also play it.
The first level is a lot like Galaxian except that all attackers look the same. If you know how to play Galaxian, the first level should be quite easy.
Each ship (called a Super Mosquito in the manual) is worth 20 points. I think you get the same when they are attacking (unlike Galaxian).
This is only a short review of one of the stories in the Lost Signals of the Terran Republic. A Fragment of Empire is a short story by Marc Miller. It was the story that I read first.
So, what is it? It is presented as a fragment of something larger. It is the story of the politics of nobles in the Spinward Marches and how the assassination of Emperor Strephon affected the Marches. It is a story about Norris and his loyal employees and how he became the Archduke of Deneb.
Canonheads will love this short story from Marc Miller himself.
Personally, I hope that we may get more fragments and eventually a new Traveller novel (called Empire) from Marc Miller.
A few years ago I read Dune – House Atreides. Now I have read the next one of the prequels. Dune – House Harkonnen.
We get to know more about the Harkonnen family and a few new characters are introduced. Not all are bad.
But the bad and stupid ones do what could be expected of them.
There are also the expected side stories about the Atreides and other important Houses.
A few concepts are introduced a bit too early here. Things that didn’t exist until later in the original series. That is a bit annoying. But other than that, I thought the book was quite good. (But don’t read it until you have read all of the original Dune books first. The originals are a lot better.)
“The more deeply we are cast under a story’s spell, the more potent its influence.” Underlying all passionate Traveller fans is a desire to tell and participate in grand science fiction narratives. We can worry about Canon and setting and what game Traveller is supposed to be. Or we can write sweeping histories such as “These Stars Are Ours!“. Published by Stellagama Publishing, its goal is to provide an immersive Traveller universe that explores a variety of themes and stories, drawing upon well known science fiction tropes. A consequence of separating the “engine” of Traveller from the “setting” is that it liberates writers and publishers to create their own settings for adventures. Echoing the great product the Twilight Sector, “These Stars Are Ours!” is a successful and comprehensive setting that includes new and modified rules relevant to the setting and takes advantage of Stellagama Publishing’s existing work in extending the Cepheus Engine. It entrances the reader immediately and provides a powerful basis for Traveller adventures.
Alegis Downport has already written an informative review. The comment thread below the review already contains positive responses from the publisher promising further material for the setting – great news for fans. This review will comment more on the history and nature of setting itself.
The star charts draw upon Stellagama’s earlier work “Near Space“. It makes Earth (“Terra”) the centre of the setting – and so players have an immediate stake in the game, connecting to the future of our own planet. The setting approximately 400 years into the future, not thousands, also making it more immediate to us as readers and players. The period is clearly parallel to Traveller 2300 but this setting has a very different flavour. The Reticulans are the almond-shaped-eyed aliens of Area 51 fame who conquer Terra and rule it with an iron fist until thrown off by the free-spirited, fighting and proud Terrans. Play begins in the aftermath of this revolutionary war.
The history of the war itself is a great read. This reviewer saw clear parallels to the Russian Civil War of the 1920’s and to World War II – there was even a ‘Stalingrad’ moment in this setting’s history. While the ‘fighting Terran’ spirit is reminiscent of fiction such as Starship Troopers, the setting is also clearly influenced by the gritty realism of Firefly and its themes of the real social consequences of war and oppression. This theme carries through in describing the history and culture of the various non-human sophonts of the setting. None are cardboard cut-out “bad guys” and all have redeeming qualities as well as flaws. How these various aliens react to the Reticulan Imperium and the United Terran Republic causes us to reflect upon the reasons for our actions – the best part of role play games (although I also enjoy blowing things up).
The patrons provided are all great hooks firmly grounded in this detailed and nuanced setting. There are familiar industrial espionage, smuggling and exploration themes, but all layered with the particular history of the setting, including a mysterious race of Precursors who have left artefacts. But on top of this there are very specific adventures interacting with the various alien races in ways other than at the other end of a weapon. The Reticulans are divided into competing feudal houses. The Zhuzzh are untrustworthy and nomadic – but as a wise man once said, you can always trust an untrustworthy man to be untrustworthy. The Cicek are fierce fighters and dashing pirates, but also divided along gender lines Aslan-style. The Ssesslessians are mysterious respecters of ancient traditions. Once more familiar with the setting, all of these species would make interesting player characters.
This setting book also offers careers and advanced career rules including setting-based events that affect characters, drawing players into the history and engaging them with the background. All of the new rules and alternate career paths are clearly based on the story needs of the setting. This is an excellent use of a rules engine: it obeys the story needs, not the other way around.
While the deck plans and starship designs are few, the generic ship designs from the Cepheus Engine will fit this setting well. The publishers have promised further ships for the setting in the future. The ‘flying saucer’ designs were a real treat, and the text justifies ‘mysterious UFOs’ at TL13 by showing how mysterious true gravitics would be to 20th Century earth – but always by example, never by telling the reader. This kind of excellent descriptive writing strengthens the setting and is an excellent example of ‘show don’t tell’ in RPG writing.
The star maps provided give plenty of contrasting settings for adventure, right on the border of four different political entities. “The Frontier” is always a good source of adventures and conflict. What These Stars Are Ours! shows is that you can pack a lot of adventure and campaign ideas into just two subsectors. This is plenty for a typical Traveller sandbox campaign.
Priced at a very reasonable $20, any Referee can pick this up and plan adventures for hungry players quickly. You will not regret the purchase.
From The Ashes is a short supplement for the Cepheus Engine (‘CE’) and the Traveller SRD (‘SRD’) published by Stellagama Publishing written by Omer Golan-Joel. It covers five expansions characters united by the theme of character death and recovering from fatal injuries.
It firstly adjusts the usual meaning of ‘character death’ within normal play. If all three physical characteristics are reduced to zero, instead of rolling up a new character, From The Ashes provides straightforward rules for rushing a character to trauma surgery and recovering. But the devil is in the detail: there may be some permanent new injuries. This can add history to characters – the loss of a limb or eye makes them more interesting.
Secondly there is an adjustment to character generation, replacing the standard injury table which draws upon the definitions carefully established in the first expansion. It makes character injury during generation harsher but with more detail.
The supplement then provides for simple optional rules in combat for critical hit bonuses for Effect 6 hits, aligning hits against personnel with hits against vehicles. This does make the game generally more lethal.
Finally, two higher technology solutions to near-death injuries are presented: Cybernetic replacements at TL12, and complete body renewal at TL16. However, both come with possible serious side-effects in the spirit of the trauma rules.
At 15 pages total with 10 pages content, this is a very readable supplement that offers a variety of interesting expansions for characters who suffer from fatal injuries and have one last roll of the dice depending on the TL of their surroundings and the skill of the doctor operating. At the same time, character generation and combat get a bit more fatal. The result can be used by Referees to rescue NPCs from death but now they have one leg, or are blind, bitter and have history with the PCs.
But, of course, the primary aim is for PCs to have options to trade death for the possibility of an interesting set of scars.