Saturday, October 22, 2016

USE ME light wargame rules - now in digital download!

Four or five years ago I worked with Gavin Syme of Alternative Armies/ on the lightweight USE ME rules for miniature wargaming. These are simple, d6-based rules aimed at 15mm figures but easy to convert to other scales published in small booklets covering a range of milieus and battlefields from the American Civil War through World War 2 to the post-apocalypse and the far future. I am now proud to see them published as digital download as well!

Get them HERE!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Quick and dirty Classic Traveller vehicle combat

Following a discussion on the Citizens of The Imperium forums regarding broken or missing rules in Classic Traveller, I have decided to put together some basic rules for vehicle combat for Book 1-3 CT (plus Book 4 if you wish to use it).

I have written these rules with the typical Books 1-3 Proto-Traveller spirit in mind. That is, for the purpose of including vehicles in the various adventures and mishaps of interstellar travellers, traders, scouts, and misfits, as well as small-scale mercenaries. I did not aim in any way to simulate large-scale armored warfare but rather to provide some basic rules for what happens when your Scout empties his Submachinegun at a hovering Air/Raft or, at most when a mercenary shoots a RAM grenade at an AFV.

I drew inspiration for these rules from the Book 2 ship damage rules, the ATV rules in Double Adventure 2: Mission to Mithril/Across the Bright Face, and for a much lesser degree, the Striker wargame.

Skill Notation
For the ease of reference, "Throw Mechanic 8+" means "throw 2D and add the Mechanics skill; a result of 8+ is a success" and so on.

Vehicle Movement
Vehicle combat is either Tactical or Chase Combat. Tactical Combat is ordinary Book 1 combat with a vehicle included, usually moving at a slow pace of up to 4 range bands per round. On the other hand, Chase Combat ignores terrain for the most part and involves two or more vehicles chasing each other. This also uses range bands, though they are far wider than those involved in Tactical Combat; their exact length is abstract. Throw the appropriate Vehicle (or Air/Raft or ATV) skill at 8+ to either get further from the opposing vehicle by one range band or get closer to it by one range band. The driver or pilot may also throw 10+ once per round with the appropriate skill (DM +2 if DEX 10+) for a better position - that is, either gain DM +2 to hit the opposition or force a -2 DM on the enemy's to-hit rolls on him. Vehicles who leave the Very Long range band disengage and thpursueded vehicle escapes.

Hitting Vehicles
Hitting a vehicle with a man-portable weapon is an ordinary combat task. Throw 8+ to hit, add the appropriate weapon skill and characteristic DMs, as well as range DMs. Ignore armor DMs as I have covered the effects of vehicle armor in the tables below. Vehicle-mounted weapons use the Gunnery skill instead and the appropriate range modifiers. On a hit, consult the appropriate damage table.

Hitting a fast-moving vehicle suffers DM -2. You cannot hit fast, high-flying aircraft without specialized tracking weapons, but you can hit a slower aircraft, albeit at DM -2 to -4 (Referee's discretion, depending on flight altitude or speed).

Vehicle Damage
To keep things within a Little Black Book scope and flavor, these rules abstract the many types of weapons and armor into three broad categories each. Use the following table to see how each category of weapons affects each category of vehicle armor and choose the appropriate damage table to roll on. Each weapon his causes one roll on the appropriate damage table.

Soft Skin Light Armor Heavy Armor
Small Arms Surface None None
Support Weapon Critical Internal Surface
Heavy Weapon Destroyed Critical Internal

Small Arms: any regular personal weapons, whether a slug-thrower or a laser. All Book 1 weapons are Small Arms, as are the various rifles and pistols in Book 4. Light and medium machine guns also fall into this category.

Support Weapons: heavier man-portable weapons carried at the squad level or light vehicle weapons - such as Book 4 PGMPs, heavy machine guns, autocannons, Light Assault Guns (AKA Anti-Tank Rifles) with High Explosive or Discarding Sabot rounds. Most grenades, whether hand-thrown or RAM, fall into this category as well, including grenade launchers.

Heavy Weapons: full-scale anti-armor weapons. This includes Book 4 FGMPs and Book 4 Field Artillery. The specialized anti-armor HEAP RAM grenades also fall into this category.

Soft Skin: an unarmored vehicle, whether civilian or military. In Book 3 terms, this includes the Ground Car, Hovercraft, all Winged craft, Air/Raft, Speeder, and Motorboat.

Light Armor: a lightly-armored vehicle such as an armored car or light APC. In Book 3 terms, this includes the ATV and G-Carrier.

Heavy Armor: a heavily armored vehicle, such as a heavy APC (or IFV) or a tank. In book 3 terms, this includes the AFV, the Steamship, and the Submersible (due to size rather than armor for the most part).

For damage, roll on the appropriate tables below:

Surface Damage
2d6 Damage
2-5 Bounced Off
6-7 Device
8-9 Locomotion
10 Breach
11 Weapon
12 Internal Damage

Bounce Off: Shot has bounced off the vehicle's skin or armor. No damage.

Device: One secondary external device, such as a light fixture or antenna, was destroyed (Referee's discretion).

Locomotion: The vehicle's locomotion, such as wheels, treads, or propeller, was damaged. In case of a single-engine aircraft, this might cause a crash; throw Vehicle (Winged Craft) 8+ to land safely (DM +2 if DEX 10+), otherwise this is a crash causing a roll on the Critical Damage table. In case of multi-engine aircraft, this causes a -1 DM to all Vehicle (Winged Craft) rolls per disabled engine and will be at risk of a crash if all engines are disabled. Grav vehicles have enclosed grav-lift modules and are immune to this case of damage. Throw Mechanic 8+ to repair damaged locomotion.

Breach: If the vehicle is pressurized, its environmental seal is breached, exposing its occupants to the environment. Can be repaired with a vacuum seal patch or a Mechanic 6+ throw.

Weapon: One of the vehicle's weapons is disabled and may not fire. AFV (and other tank) main cannons are immune to this in most cases, but their secondary weapons are not. Throw Gunnery 8+ to repair a disabled weapon.

Internal Damage: Lucky penetrating hit! Roll on the Internal Damage table!

Internal Damage
2d6 Damage
2-5 Transmission or Suspension
6-7 Crew
8-9 Electronics
10 Main Weapon
11 Power Plant
12 Critical

Transmission or Suspension: The vehicle's transmission or suspension is damaged. A wheeled or tracked vehicle is immobilized. A Grav vehicle may only move up or down. For aircraft, throw Vehicle (Winged Craft) 11+ to land safely (DM +2 if DEX 10+), otherwise this is a crash causing a roll on the Critical Damage table. Field repairs of damaged transmission or suspension are difficult and require a Mechanic 10+ throw (DM +1 for INT 10+). At a workshop, this throw is easier, at Mechanic 8+.

Crew: 1d6 crewmembers are injured at 3D damage each.

Electronics: One or more of the vehicle's electronic systems is destroyed, usually the control systems or major sensors/radar. Flying an aircraft or Grav vehicle with damaged electronics suffers DM -2. Throw Electronics 8+ to repair damaged electronics.

Main Weapon: The vehicle's main weapon is damaged and disabled. This includes AFV (or other tank) main cannons. Throw Gunnery 10+ to repair a disabled weapon.

Power Plant: The vehicle's power plant takes a direct hit and the vehicle is disabled. Each occupant must throw 8+ (DM +1 for END 8+) to avoid taking 3D damage. In case of a aircraft or grav vehicles, this might cause a crash; throw Vehicle (Winged Craft) or Air/Raft 10+ to land safely (DM +2 if DEX 10+), otherwise this is a crash causing a roll on the Critical Damage table. This cannot be repaired on the field.

Critical: Massive damage. Roll on the Critical Damage table.

Critical Damage
1d6 Damage
1-2 Knocked Out
3-4 Crew
5-6 Destroyed

Knocked Out: The vehicle is rendered completely and irreparably inoperable. Furthermore, each occupant must throw 8+ (DM +1 for END 8+) to avoid taking 3D damage. Aircraft crash, causing 6D damage to all occupants. Low-flying Grav vehicles crash, causing 3D damage to all occupants; if they are flying at a high altitude or at high speed, this increases to 6D damage.

Crew: All crew suffer 6D damage.

Destroyed: Vehicle destroyed. On ground vehicles, crew must throw 10+ (DM +2 for DEX 10+) to bail out with "only" 6D damage. Otherwise, they are killed immediately.

Optional Rules
The following rules are somewhat more complex than those above; the Referee should use them at her discretion.

Technology and Penetration: Higher-tech weapons tend to better penetrate lower-tech armor, and higher-tech armor tends to offer better protection against lower-tech weapons. If you use this optional rule, if the weapon has a higher TL than the target vehicle, consider it as being one "category" higher, that is - Support Weapons behave as Heavy Weapons. This does not apply, however, to Small Arms, except for Book 1 Laser weapons and the various Book 4 weapons using specialized armor-piercing ammunition. Conversely, if the weapon has a lower TL than the target vehicle, consider it as being one "category" lower - for example, Support Weapons behave as Small Arms.

Called Shots: Many armored vehicles have weak spots. If you use this optional rule, if the Referee rules that the character knows of a specific vehicle's weaknesses, the character may roll to attack at DM -2 to hit a weak spot. Characters may only do so up to Medium range unless using guided or tracking weapons. If the attack hits, consider the damage as done by one "category" of weapon higher, that is - Support Weapons behave as Heavy Weapons. This does not apply, however, to Small Arms, except for Book 1 Laser weapons and the various Book 4 weapons using specialized armor-piercing ammunition. Discovering an enemy vehicle's weaknesses may be an adventure of its own; alternatively, the Referee may call for a throw of Tactics 10+ (DM +1 for INT 9+) to discover the target's weaknesses by observation and deduction.

You may now download these rules in PDF format from HERE

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Early Preview: These Stars are Ours!

Flag of the United Terran Republic
We at Stellagama Publishing are hard at work on two big future releases.

The first is Space Patrol, a thrilling setting-neutral (for the most part) sourcebook for the Cepheus Engine and the other OGL 2d6 sci-fi games about interstellar policing and the eponymous Space Patrol enforcing the Law between the stars. Its estimated release date is Halloween 2016

The second - which I present here today - is the commercial, full-scale version of my old Visions of Empire sci-fi setting. We are now working on the first core sourcebook - called These Stars Are Ours! - and it's taking shape very nicely. This will be a full-scale book, first to be released as PDF and later as a Print-on-Demand (PoD) book for you to order.

Here is some flavor text from the first chapter of These Stars Are Ours!:

A Reticulan and two Terrans
"When we rose up, threw off our chains, and overthrew the EFA collaborators, I was pessimistic about our chances. I thought that our people, with our few worlds and small fleets, would not stand against the Reticulan might. I even feared that Terra will end up like the old Ssesslessian homeworld: reduced to rubble by the enemy. I was scared. But others knew one simple fact – that our spirit and determination were stronger than the Reticulan generals and their mercenary troops.

These Terran patriots steadfastly believed in our indomitable defiance in face of the Imperial oppressors, and they were right. Here we are, against all odds, against the well-calculated predictions of Reticulan military planners – standing free, one year after our declaration of independence. Our Republic is the sum of Terran resilience – a state built on unity, on cooperation, on liberty.

It is a Republic defended by its armed citizens – no longer slaves sent to die and kill on alien worlds for alien masters, no! We are free Terran women and men bearing arms and facing the same alien overlords on the battlefield, keeping their talons off our motherworld.

Terran Navy (left) and
Naval Infantry (right)
Today, these brave women and men are fighting in the trenches on Belobog, Sirius, and Svarog and flying starships in deep space in face of a relentless enemy. Wherever the Reticulans try to shackle our worlds, our citizens answer with gunfire. They fight for what is theirs: family, livelihood, liberty! Many of them will not return from the front lines. Many will give their lives for Mother Terra and our hard-won liberty. But this is the essence of our independence – won with blood, secured with fire. And we will march on, until we will raise our green and blue banner over the ruined palaces of the Reticulan enemy – until we will secure our independence once and for all! And then the galaxy will know: These stars are ours!"
- President Vera Singh, June 3, 2233 AD, commemorating the first anniversary of Terran independence.

The Terran Borderlands
These Stars Are Ours (TSAO) is the first product of the Visions of Empire (VoE) line of space-opera setting material for the 2D6 Science Fiction SRD rules (formerly known as Mongoose Traveller first edition). Set in 2260 AD - two years after the Terrans took Keid II and forced the Reticulan Empire to capitulate - it introduces the player characters to the immediate aftermath of the Terran Liberation War against the mighty Reticulan Empire and its many thralls. The Retriculan Empire had to sign a humiliating peace treaty with the victorious Terrans and reluctantly accept Terran independence from the Empire. For their part, the upstart Terrans, bolstered by their victory against their old masters, now move to become a power to be reckoned with in interstellar affairs. On this background of espionage, maneuvering and saber-rattling, and on the new interstellar frontiers, the player characters can forge a destiny of heroes or villains of the new United Terran Republic. The book provides background information, a 16 by 10 hex star-map, full information and write-ups about all 64 major worlds in this area, and other materials necessary to set a Traveller campaign in the exciting times of the 23rd century. 

It is two years after we won the War against our old Reticulan masters. We - the children of Mother Terra - are now free to forge our destiny and put our mark on the stars. These stars are ours! We took them by our right, and by the blood of our brave soldiers and star-sailors who gave their lives to free our Motherworld from the Reticulan yoke. The United Terran Republic proudly carries our Terran banner forward and we will make ourselves - humans from Terra - into a power to be reckoned with. This is a time for bold men and women to step up and leave their mark on the universe. We need intrepid explorers to discover the riches of our far frontiers; enterprising merchants to open up new trade routes with far-away alien stars; cunning spies and agents to protect us from any alien plot against our hard-won independence; and of course - daring soldiers and spacemen to protect our borders and push back those who still desire to enslave us. 

But we are not alone - brave Cicek warriors and even Reticulan and Ssesslesssian defectors fought along our side against the Reticulan legions. Rebuilding our space - indeed, building Terra into a mighty force on the interstellar playfield will require the help of our alien allies. Against this mighty alliance, stand our many enemies - both internal and external. Corrupt politicians and crime-lords plot to turn our glorious Republic into their own plaything at our expense. Ruthless pirates and raiders rob far-flung colonies, heedless of the opening they give to our greater enemies. In the shadows, House Thiragin - the Reticulan noble house which once ruled Terra - plots and plans for its ultimate revenge on us upstart “barbarians”. For all of this - children of the Earth – Mother Terra needs you!

Coming Christmas 2016!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Empty-hex jumps and space topography

A common convention in (modern-day) Traveller and similar sci-fi RPGs using jump-drives and a hexagon star-map is that you can jump into "empty" hexes on the map and jump out of them, given enough fuel. Older incarnations of these games allowed jumps only between hexes containing a "world" (that is, a star with planets).

In this regard, one thing I was recently thinking about is that there are certain advantages to ruling out empty hex jumps. If you can jump into an empty star-map hex, then jump again to another system, you can essentially reach almost any star with almost any starship with enough drop tanks or inflatable fuel tanks - as well as extended life-support supplies. This makes space "flat" - crossing a 3-parsec "mini-rift" with your Free Trader is simply a matter of preparation and giving up some of your cargo space.

However, when you rule that you need a gravity well - that is, a star's mass - for the jump-drive to "focus" on, this changes things - now space has a "topography". In real-world (or fantasy world) planetside geography, you can't just travel anywhere in a straight line, at least if you move on the ground or sail on bodies of water. There are mountains and rivers, forests and bogs - in many cases, you will take a longer route to circumvent such an obstacle and not simply go straight through it. The same goes to jump-travel across a star-map where you cannot jump into "empty" hexes. Your Jump-1 Free Trader will have to take longer routes to reach worlds at a 2-parsec or wider gap from it; some worlds will simply be inaccessible to it as only a Jump-2 or higher ship can reach them. Even your trusty Jump-2 Scout will have to take detours around Jump-3 or wider gaps and there will be a few worlds only an advanced (and expensive) higher-Jump ship could reach.

This makes space interesting. There are various implications. First, it makes high-jump ships much more important - if your empire has Jump-3 while its rival has only Jump-2, you might be able to circumvent even its best-planned border defences and simply Jump over them. If you want to hide something, find a world accessible only by Jump-3 or higher and most civilians will simply be unable to reach it; go behind a Jump-4 or Jump-5 rift, and almost no one could get there. Trade and colonisation will develop along certain routes. Empires will fortify certain worlds, made strategic as they provide the sole access points into the empire using the rival's best Jump-drives. The empires themselves will develop along Jump-1 Mains allowing low-cost transport and develop much slower across Jump-3 or higher gaps.

This makes things interesting and makes space less "flat". I like that.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Review of Ships of the Galaxy: Vegas-class Light Freighter

I was kindly given a complimentary copy of Ships of the Galaxy: Vegas-class Light Freighter by Blue Max Studios. Here is my review of this product.

There are literally dozens of sci-fi and space-opera trader-ship designs floating around the Internet, both commercial and fan-made. The Vegas-class Light Freighter does stand out among them. Why? Because unlike the large number of "aircraft-type" trader-ship designs with the engines at their "back wall", the Vegas is a "tail-sitter" - it's engines are under the "floor". The entire ship layout is thus unique among its many competitors, as its deck plans and overall structure are very interesting and a refreshing change.

This book describes a 300-ton trader-ship for the 2d6 Sci-Fi OGL/Cepheus Engine/Mongoose Traveller sci-fi rules. It includes all the regular material - ship stats and deck descriptions. However, it also features an economic analysis of the design showing how it will be profitable when ferrying cargo and passengers even without speculative trade. It also has some very nice "fluff" allegedly written by the "Skipper" - a "professional" stowaway of sorts.

The book features 3D renders of the ship and its nine decks from an isometric POV. It also comes with a booklet providing more traditional top-down 2D deck-plans. The author has obviously made the art and deck-plans with a relatively simple 3D modelling program, and they are not as "slick" as those in other ship-books, but the design itself is, as I have said above, very interesting and would be enjoyable for players to explore.

I have several minor criticisms of this product:

1) The page background sometimes makes the text slightly difficult to read. It is still readable, but a paler background would probably make it better.

2) The table on p.2 - which is repeated in the deckplan booklet - has some irregular alignment of its text.

3) The Asimov quote on p.5 and decks 02 and 00 of the deckplan booklet are slightly pixelated and blurred.

The Bottom Line:
If this was a "regular" trader-ship book with an "aircraft-type" layout, I would have given it a score of 3/5. However, the design's uniqueness and coolness factor warrants a 5/5. Highly recommended for adding some variety to the star-traders of your sci-fi campaign.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Lurian Trailing Cluster - Book 1

Stellagama Publishing is THRILLED to present:

Lurian Trailing Cluster - Book 1

A brand-new setting for Stars Without Number!

The waters of the Deluge have receded.
We have survived.
Now, we must reclaim our birthright: the stars.

The Lurian Trailing Cluster was once a remote frontier, settled by misfits, renegades, and anyone desperate enough for a second chance on a distant world. Now, six centuries after the cataclysmic Deluge wrought untold destruction on civilization, the worlds of the Cluster are clawing their way back into space. But among the untold riches to be found in the heavens lie dangers too terrible to contemplate. Only the bravest and boldest adventurers can possibly survive the trials that await humanity in the stars.

The Lurian Trailing Cluster Book 1 is a science fiction setting designed for Stars Without Number, by Sine Nomine Publishing. In this product, you will find a brief history of the Cluster, as well as summaries for all fourteen of its worlds, faction data, and star maps. Three worlds are given fully detailed write-ups, including system and planetary data, trade tables, maps, and societal histories.

Get it HERE!

Two more books in the works! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Cepheus Engine - my go-to sci-fi ruleset

I have decided to completely move to the Cepheus Engine as my go-to sci-fi ruleset, replacing Mongoose/Classic Traveller. Stellagama Publishing will, of course, also publish material for Stars Without Number - and we are now working on some seriously cool stuff for it -  but personally I now use the Cepheus rules. I will move Hard Space from Classic Traveller to the Cepheus Engine; we are writing (the commercial) Visions of Empire setting for the Cepheus Engine as well.

Why the change? The main reason is that of copyright and licensing. The current (second) edition of Mongoose Traveller has a closed "Community Content" license onDriveThruRPG. This license is quite nice for fans who wish to write material for the Official Traveller Universe (OTU) and even earn some money from them. However, it is very problematic for third-party publishers, such as Stellagama Publishing, to market materials through for various legal and technical reasons. Classic Traveller - an excellent ruleset - requires an individual license to publish for if you want to write anything commercial. There are the open (OGL) 2d6 sci-fi SRD rules, related to the first edition of Mongoose Traveller, but they are incomplete as a ruleset.

The Cepheus Engine is thus a good compromise. It is quite similar to Traveller in terms of flavor and rules, yet it is completely open-content. This means that we can publish sci-fi material in the flavor we all know and love without stepping on anyone's Intellectual Property toes and without requiring any individual license as Cepheus is under the Open Game License (OGL). The rules are complete and very good - perfect for sci-fi gaming and better still for sci-fi publishing. Check them out!

On a side note, I now have the perfect mapping data and the perfect map for Hard Space... Sold by Stellagama Publishing! This is one of the products I am very proud of, by the way.