The Cepheus Engine. What is it? It is a new set of Traveller rules from Samardan Press that doesn’t say that it is Traveller. (But it is Traveller.)
The rules look very much like a cleaned up version of Classic Traveller, book 1-3 plus supplement-4 and selected parts from book 4 (PGMP and FGMP) and 5 (small ships). You can also find some bits of Mongoose Traveller in it. So far there is no setting except that a few aliens are named as an example.
Since the Cepheus Engine is a refined set of CT rules, you will recognize most of the rules and can quickly start using them.
First, the character generation and skills are similar to what you already know. Then psionics (important to us at the Zhodani Base) is also what you would expect.
Next in the equipment list you find a tech-level overview table, with the same tech-levels as in Traveller. The currency used is Credits. You can find familiar Traveller items like Fast Drug, TDX, and Air/Raft. The first internal book ends with a combat chapter.
Next book is about Starships, Travelling, Trade and Space Combat.
The Final book is the Referee’s book. In this book are the rules for generating worlds. (It is interesting to see that hydrographics is generated as in CT book-6. That is the same as in MongTrav.) There are rules for all sorts of encounters, including the familiar animal encounter tables from CT. There are also some short help about refereeing and adventures.
This is really the new rule-set we didn’t know we needed. This is proto-Traveller Deluxe.
For the so called “Small Press” (that we like here at the base) this is another option for publishing new supplements without loosing half of their income to Mongoose.
Some of us may remember Alan Dean Foster’s terrible Star Wars book The Splinter of the Minds Eye. But it was a long time since I read that book. What I still remember about it was that it didn’t really fit into the Star Wars canon very well. So maybe it was just that problem and it may not have been that poorly written.
Anyway, I decided to give his “The Damned” series a chance. A Call To Arms is the first book. The cover looked cool, but it turned out that the aliens in this book was quite poor warriors. Most aliens was quite poor at most things. They were like 0-points aliens from GURPS Aliens. All aliens had disadvantages. No aliens was good at warfare.
The reason given for the aliens to be bad at warfare was that an advanced race would (normally) have to abandon all sorts of violence to become an advances race. This is something that would normally happen in the race’s prehistory. This is a quite interesting idea.
The problem was that there was a big interstellar war going on… A race called the Amplitur wanted all other galactic races to join what they call the Amplitur Purpose. A number of races think this is a bad idea and has formed what they call the Weave. Neither side has any good soldiers. Then the Weave find the Earth… This is just the start of the book.
The book is really good and the different races are well describes. The plot is interesting. I think there are lots of ideas that can be mined for your Traveller setting here. This may even inspire you to come up with a new Traveller setting.
This book is the first one in The Damned Trilogy. I will try to find and read the other two.
The short Mongoose Traveller adventure ‘The Bronze Case’ by Richard Hazlewood was published by Stellagama Publishing in May 2016. On the surface, the adventure concerns the transport of a Bronze Case through local areas on a backwater planet after the players respond to a struggle in their hotel in the middle of the night. But Hazlewood is also interested in involving the players in the politics of local gangs, industrial espionage, a climactic car chase, and the promise of a reward to intrigued player characters. Hazlewood and Stellagama Publishing aim to provide a Referee with everything he or she needs for a quick side adventure on a local world. It can easily fit into an on-going Traveller campaign.
The adventure is structured to clearly present each encounter or scene in the story in chronological order. No Traveller era is mandated, just a suggested world profile where the adventure might take place. The local gang politics and local history are generic enough to slot into many worlds. The Referee is provided with full character profiles for all important NPCs, and detailed references to the Mongoose rules for vehicles, equipment and other props needed for the story. The different encounters provide detailed advice to the Referee to deal with common player responses to the situation.
The Bronze Case takes place in a world where the law level has recently been raised to 9 as the result of local political developments which give rise to the complications with gangs in the adventure. Although the broad history is detailed, the local police force culture is not, but this leaves the Referee free to fill in details. At the beginning of the adventure we are introduced to an alluring woman who wants help dealing with a mysterious attack in the middle of the night. It is completely up to the players to respond – or the adventure ends at the beginning! Some good Refereeing may be needed to get this started without railroading the players; but this is an age old problem for all Referees. When the players respond they are drawn into her circumstance, and are made an offer of money to help. The apparently simple problem is to help “Amy” get a case to a particular facility. What is not revealed immediately is who is after it and why – but the Referee receives a full briefing on the background of gang territory and the local politics that produced the current situation. The climax is a vehicle chase and possible fire fight to overcome thugs who want the case for themselves. The ever-present threat of rival interest in the case keeps the story moving and provides motivation for the players to see the adventure through.
The layout is simple but effective. Castellani’s illustrations of “Amy” set a suitable action mood for the story. While there are only two graphics, the layout provides a Referee with easy access to all of the information needed. The short nature of the adventure means after one read-through, the Referee is ready for a session.
Hazlewood and Stellagama Publishing have successfully presented here a quick-paced side adventure with everything a Referee needs to run it. For those Referees who play other versions of Traveller, the information provided is easily enough to quickly convert to other Traveller systems. If successfully navigated, players will be rewarded with interesting contacts, and a Referee is free to flesh out further details in store for players’ return to the planet.
The Mote in God’s Eye is a classic Science Fiction book by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. When I read it on the bus home from work, one person (that I don’t know) started talking to me about the book. That is very unusual behavior in Sweden.
The book is about the first contact with an alien race (the Moties) that lives in a star-system in the Coalsack Nebula. They don’t have FTL drives, but the humans does. Their location in the nebula has prevented them from inventing an FTL drive, but other than that they are very clever.
The book is mainly about how the humans learn more about this race and eventually their secrets.
The Moties are not only clever. They are also very interesting in other ways. They are asymmetric. Just like the Droyne, they are divided into different castes that physically look different from each other.
The Kzinti is a tiger-like alien race of warriors from the planet Kzin. They may look a bit like Aslan from Traveller, but they are not Aslan. The Kzinti males are intelligent but the females are not.
The Kzinti is a race created by the author Larry Niven. In this book he has written the first of three short stories. The other stories are written by Paul Anderson and Dean Ing.
The first story is about the first meeting between the Humans and the Kzin. It doesn’t end well for one of the races…
The second story is about a Kzinti base at an old metal-poor star racing through the galaxy. The interesting thing about this story is that these old stars really exist. However, the story felt like it was set in a sandbox, to not upset the canon of Larry Niven’s work.
The third story is even worse. This is a sandbox. The human hero is stuck in some kind of zoo that was built by some kind of ancients.
But even though two of the stories are set in sandboxes, I enjoyed reading this book by three great authors.
A great adventure for Traveller, That is what it is. You may think that the idea of a circus in space is a rather unorthodox idea. I know I thought so in the beginning. I first thought is was a silly copy of the Roadshow Amber Zone (where the PCs are roadies for the rock-band Veedback) from JTAS #23. But Cirque is so much more.
Compared to the Roadshow Amber Zone, that was not more than an idea, Cirque is a 186 pages book full of adventures. The adventure starts at Rhylanor. There are deckplans, NPCs, scenarios for every planet the circus visits and a greater meta-plot for the entire adventure. The only Traveller adventure book that can be comparable to Cirque is the 154 pages The Traveller Adventure. (The Traveller adventure has a larger font size.)
The first 59 pages of the book describes the circus and it’s ships, characters and animals in great detail. The rest of the book is about every planet the circus visits and what happens there.
This adventure started as a successful Kickstarter Project. The adventure is written for Traveller 5 but will work fine for any version of Traveller.