#RPGaDay 2017 – Which #RPG have you played the most in your life? #TravellerRPG!

#RPGaDay August 18, 2017

pic514176Don’t even have to think…it’s Traveller. Started in 1979 with the 1977 Little Black Book boxed edition. I somehow missed the MegaTraveller and Traveller: New Era times. I came back to Traveller in the much maligned (but personally respected Traveller 4).  These days I use a combination of Classic Traveller, Cepheus Engine, and Traveller 5.

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#RPGThursday – Not Encountering Traveller5

Tales to Astound has a long-running series on Traveller: Out of the Box. If you are a true Classic Traveller RPG fan and have not seen that site – FULL STOP! Go read it now then come back (or maybe not – his site is admittedly much better than mine).

Courtesy FFE.com

As much as I love Classic Traveller (or CT), I have stated before that the latest Marc Miller version of Traveller, Traveller5 (or T5) is also one of my guilty pleasures. I really like the “makers” in the system and how they all work together for world building. I also must admit that many of the critics of T5 are correct; the game is hard to play. I keep asking myself why.

 

To me, the Core Mechanic (nD6 < Characteristic + Skill +/- Mods) stands up well. Character Generation is no more difficult than any other version of Traveller. Combat (except Melee) works well and there are all those Makers! So why is it difficult?

One moment of clarity in my Traveller RPG journey came late last year when I revisited Marc Miller’s Traveller (or T4). In the introduction, Mr. Miller lays out his viewpoint of three different Traveller RPG players:

Casual Players: Anybody can play Traveller. The concepts are intuitive: travel, exploration, interaction, negotiation, combat, and all kinds of action. Individuals can role-play diverse characters or they can play themselves. Casual players can be so casual that they know nothing about the game system at all.

Detailed Role-Players: Traveller provides dedicated gamers the opportunity to role-play complex characters with strong motivations and intricate backgrounds. The Traveller system can be as informal or rich as the participants want.

System Engineers: The Traveller system presents referees the materials necessary to explore [the] Traveller universe in detail. Aspects such as starship design, world generation, vehicle descriptions, trade and commerce, animal generation, and encounters, are designed to meet two specific goals; as a prod to the imagination, and for creating custom equipment or information. – p. 8

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Courtesy thealexandrian.net

As I look at myself critically, I see that when I play CT I am a Casual Player. However, there are times when I really like to explore the System Engineer I go to T5. Interestingly, if I am trying to be a Detailed Role-Player I don’t usually use a Traveller system, instead I gravitate towards a more Narrative-style RPG in Diaspora or Mindjammer (FATE Core 2nd Edition, not the horrible Mindjammer Traveller) or Firefly or Star Wars: Edge of the Empire.

I think another major reason player uses are so different between CT and T5 is because T5 lacks CT-like encounter rules. “Encounters” in this case are not fights but “situations” that lead to adventure. Real CT is actually built on encounters. In T5 there is a nod to this style (the Adventures chapter) but it lacks the Encounter Tables found in CT thru T4. Instead the focus in on EPIC Adventures (EPIC meaning Easy, Playable, Interactive,  Checklist).

I don’t like it.

Without encounters T5 loses a great amount of the “Traveller charm” that I love and enjoy playing. I certainly use T5 to build but not play. Maybe this is because at heart I rebel these days against a setting that I see as hamstringing my play. I realize I appear to be talking out of both sides of my mouth; I seemingly dislike settings but at the same time enjoy CT or Cepheus Engine settings like The Clement Sector or Orbital: 2100 or These Stars are Ours! Each of these settings use the encounter mechanic from CT. Certainly one can make an EPIC Adventure within the setting but its not my preference. CT (and these days CE) support my preferred encounter style of play.


Marc Miller’s Traveller, Copyright ©1996 by Imperium Games, Inc. Traveller is a registered trademark of Far Future Enterprises. Used under license by Imperium Games, Inc. 

Traveller5: Science Fiction Adventures in the Far Future, v5.09; Copyright ©2015 Far Future Enterprises.

“Traveller, Basic Traveller, Starter Traveller, Classic Traveller, MegaTraveller, Traveller: The New Era, Traveller4, Traveller5, Traveller8, The Spinward Marches, The Edge of the Empire, EPIC, The Galaxiad, and Journal of the Traveller’s Aid Society are trademarks of Far Future Enterprises.”

#TravellerRPG #CepheusEngine System Reference Document

Remember the original Traveller RPG? The original three Little Black Books (LBB)? Jason “Flynn” Kemp of Samardan Press does, and thanks to his heroic efforts we have”A Classic Era Science Fiction 2D6-Based Open Gaming System” in the Cepheus Engine: System Reference Document.

The original three LBB were first published in 1977. If one looks carefully at the books, you will discover these are three LBB of rules; there was no specified setting. The Traveller RPG over the years has contained numerous settings, most revolving around the Third Imperium. Indeed, it seems these days one can almost not say “Traveller” without also saying “Third Imperium.” Even the latest version of Traveller from Far Future Enterprises, Traveller5, admits things changed:

Classic Traveller (CT). The original edition of Traveller published by GDW Game Designer’s Workshop 1977 and revised in 1981. The intention was a generic science-fiction system, but it quickly concentrated on the Third Imperium as a setting supported with adventures and supplements. Traveller5 Core Rules v5.09, pdf p.4

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Courtesy RPGGeek

It is with a degree of sadness that I have watched the legal wrangling this past summer regarding how Mongoose Publishing, creators of the new Mongoose Traveller second edition, have chosen a narrow-use license for their work. Of greatest impact, the second edition is not Open Game Content, and any users desiring commercial use of the Mongoose Traveller second edition must abide by the new Community Content Agreement. Given the new CCA grants broad rights to others to use an IP (like an alternate setting) this condition was unacceptable to publishers.

At first this made me very sad. As much as I love the Third Imperium, these days I am excited playing around in some alternate settings. My three favorite are Outer Veil by Spica Publishing, Orbital 2100 by Zozer Games, and The Clement Sector by Gypsy Knights Games.

Enter Jason “Flynn” Kemp of Samardan Press. Mr. Flynn obviously remembers when Traveller was a generic system. Using the Open Game License Traveller System Reference Documents he created Cepheus Engine. Cepheus is just what the subtitle says; a 2D6-Based Open Gaming System. The book is rules only; there is no setting. What Mr. Flynn has given the Traveller RPG community is a truly generic set of rules to play with. He even encourages it!

Publishing Your Own Materials

As you can see at the beginning of this System Reference Document, all of the text in this document is designated as Open Gaming Content, except for titles of products published by Samardan Press, and the trademarks “Cepheus Engine” and “Samardan Press.”

This means you can copy whatever parts of Cepheus Engine you want, add your own content, change the content around, and publish the result. Note that you will have to comply with the Open Gaming License, as reproduced at the end of this document. If you don’t mention any of the trademark elements, you don’t need to do anything else.

However, you can use the “Cepheus Engine” trademark, under certain circumstances, to indicate compatibility with this rules system. You have to follow the requirements of the Cepheus Engine Compatability-Statement License (CSL), but if you do, you can state that your published material “is compatible with the rules of Cepheus Engine” or, “with the Cepheus Engine rules” or, “with the Cepheus Engine game.” – Cepheus Engine SRD, Legal, p. 205

Cepheus Engine is a 208 page book broken down into 19 chapters. Starting with an introduction and the obligatory “What is Roleplaying?” it goes on to in a way mimic the original three LBBs. [Each LBB was 48 digest-size pages, for a total of 147 pages of content – guess we have a bit of rules bloat here!]

Book One: Characters includes Character Creation, Skills, Psionics, Equipment, and Personal Combat.The Core Mechanic at heart is a simple roll 2D6 > 8+ for success. Book Two: Starships and Interstellar Travel includes Off-World travel, Trade and Commerce, Ship Design and Construction, Common Vessels, and Space Combat. I note that the ship design and construction and space combat are focused on what long-time Traveller players call Adventure Class Shipsdefined in Traveller5 as “built using standard hulls between 100 tons and 2400 ton displacement” (T5, p. 274), though in Cepheus Engine one can build a hull as large as 5000 tons. Many of the larger Battle Class Ships construction and combat rules (which Mongoose called “Capital Ships” in their first edition and are available in the High Guard OGL SRD) are not covered by Cepheus EngineBook Three: Referees covers Environments and Hazards, Worlds, Planetary Wilderness Encounters, Social Encounters, Starship Encounters, Refereeing the Game, and Adventures.

Compared to the Mongoose first edition rules, this rulebook arrangement is eminently more intuitive to use. To long-time Traveller players, there is not much “new under the hood” but that’s the way it should be. This is a familiar rule book, not setting specific (occasionally rules modifying) material. With this book, third-party publishers can bring their setting to you, which is exactly what Zozer Games and Gypsy Knights Games are doing. More about their great products in future posts!

“Cepheus Engine System Reference Document, Copyright (c) 2016 Samardan Press; Author Jason “Flynn” Kemp.”

“The Traveller game in all forms is owned by Far Future Enterprises. Copyright 1977-2015 Far Future Enterprises.”

 

#SciFiFriday #TravellerRPG Legal Wars – Give me Advocate-1!

When can you write about the Traveller RPG? Can you sell what you write?

Traveller, in all its forms and editions, is copyrighted. Copyright protects the publishers (Far Future Enterprises and its licensees) from unauthorized copying or publication. Traveller and associated words and terms are trademarks. Trademark protection protects the publishers from unauthorized use of marks.

We have a liberal Fair Use Policy. If your activity is non-commercial, you can make copies to support playing the game, you can scan copies for your computer, you can write short programs and spreadsheets which automate processes within the game. You can make copies of pages as handouts for players. You can make web pages in support of Traveller.

Fair Use Explicitly Applies to non- Mongoose Traveller editions….Only Mongoose Traveller is governed by both the OGL and TTL….

FAQ FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

3. May I rewrite the game in my own words, scan parts of the book, or create any other derivative works.

No….You can write about the Traveller universe, and put it on your web site… but you can’t reproduce the rules (or reproduce re-writes of rules, etc.) except for about a page (because we give you permission to do that, provided you post the proper acknowledgement).

Far Future Enterprises Fair Use Policy, (C) 2008

Here is the copyright notice in the Mongoose Publishing Traveller Core Rulebook, (C)2008:

Traveller (C)2008 Mongoose Publishing. All rights reserved. Reproductions of this work by any means without the written permission of the publisher is expressly forbidden. All significant characters, names, places, items, art and text herein are copyrighted by Mongoose Publishing.

This game product contains no Open Game Content. No portion of this work may be reproduced in any form without written permission.

In September 2008, Mongoose made available the Traveller Developer’s Pack. The pack included a series of Open Game License (OGL) System Reference Documents (SRD) for Traveller, Mercenary, High Guard, and Vehicles. These SRDs pertain exclusively to the rules of Traveller, not any setting.

Legal rights were explained in the Read Me First document of the Developer’s Pack:

I want to produce material based on older and out of print versions of Traveller, and publish them on a non-commercial basis.

Consult the Fair Use Policy Document.

I want to produce and publish my own original material using the current Traveller rules – both commercially and non-commercially.

Consult the Traveller Logo License.

The Read Me First document also stated:

What Can’t I do?

The following is not permitted under the Traveller Developer’s Pack – if you wish to attempt one of these projects, you should contact Mongoose Publishing for further information at msprange@mongoosepublishing.com. This is not a comprehensive list, and you should get in contact if you want to do anything not covered by the Fair Use Policy or Logo Licenses.

  • Publish material for older and out of print versions of Traveller, and release them commercially.
  • Publish software based on the current edition of Traveller.
  • Publish Original Traveller Universe material beyond the confines of the Fair Use Policy or Foreven Free Sector Logo License.

This arrangement was fine; third party publishers like Zozer Games and Gypsy Knights Games could legally publish alternate settings using the then-current Mongoose Traveller (MgT) first edition Core Rulebook. That is, until Mongoose stopped selling the first edition, thus making any commercial release based on the first edition rules ILLEGAL.

Mongoose Publishing currently sells the second edition of MgT. Like the first edition, the game contains no Open Game Content. At the same time the second edition was released, Mongoose entered into an agreement with OneBookShelf (the company that brings us DriveThruRPG.com) to create the Travellers’ Aid Society (TAS) and brought the Community Content Agreement (CCA) to the Traveller gaming community. The CCA allows for commercial uses of the MgT Core Rulebook “…provided that they only use the game system rules and game terms found in the current [my emphasis] edition Traveller books published by Mongoose Publishing.” The real interesting part of the CCA is how the agreement grants Mongoose broad rights to YOUR IP:

“User Generated Content” shall be defined as the copyrightable elements included in your Work, such as original characters, scenes, locations and events. User Generated content shall not include the illustrations and cartographic artwork included in your work. Per the terms of this Agreement, you expressly agree that your User Generated Content, once submitted to the Program will become Program IP and useable by other members of the Program as well as the Owner as described in this Agreement.” Web Post by Harl Quinn – 05-02-2016

What this means is if you are a third party publisher who wants to sell an original setting using the MgT second edition rules, the only way you can legally do so is to use TAS and GIVE UP your IP to Mongoose (not to mention that posting to TAS also means you give up a larger portion of the financial proceeds of the sale to Mongoose and OBS).

The combination of no Open Game Content in the “current” MgT second edition and the CCA effectively means there is no allowable commercial use of the “current” edition rules other than that specified by the CCA. Most importantly, any IP you place in TAS no longer belongs exclusively to YOU; Mongoose and ANY OTHERS can use YOUR IP freely.

Gypsy Knights Games in the comments adds: “I would like to correct one small thing in this post. While it is true that Mongoose and anyone else who likes can use any part of your IP in any way they want, it is important to note that the person using your IP must also be part of the CCA/TAS agreement. It is a small distinction but I think it is an important one.”

Mongoose is not the only publisher with a CCA. Wizards of the Coast has their Dungeon Master’s Guild,  Margaret Weis Productions has their Cortex Plus Creator Studio, and Monte Cook Games has their Cypher System Creator. I can appreciate these folks trying to protect their IP, or in the case of Margaret Weis protecting several licensed IP.
I also totally agree with the third party publishers who don’t like this arrangement. I wrote about that earlier this year, when the outlook looked very bleak. I didn’t see anybody taking the Evil Hat Productions approach of releasing most of their line under not one, but two proper-use licenses.

Thankfully, the future looks much brighter now, thanks to Jason “Flynn” Kemp of Samardan Press. Mr.Flynn has taken the Traveller OGL SRDs and created the Cepheus Engine System Reference Document: A Classic Era Science Fiction 2D6-Based Open Game System. Quite a mouthful, but important for the Advocate skill-holders out there.

Please Note: This product is derived from the Traveller System Reference Document and other Open Gaming Content made available by the Open Game License, and does not contain closed content from products published by either Mongoose Publishing or Far Future Enterprises, and it makes no claim to or challenge to any trademarks held by either entity. The use of the Traveller System Reference Document does not convey the endorsement of this Product by either Mongoose Publishing or Far Future Enterprises as a product of either of their product lines. – Cepheus Engine System Reference Document (c) 2016.

The impact of the Cepheus SRD has been near-instantaneous. Zozer Games has published Orbital 2100: A Solar System Setting for the Cepheus Engine Game. This week, Gypsy Knight Games released Clement Sector: The Rules (An Alternate Cepheus Engine Universe). The GKG rules follow a major rework of their entire (formerly) Traveller RPG-releated line to make their products OGL compliant, even going so far as to strip the word “traveller” from all their books. These products are great because the rise of Cepheus has given me my 2d6-based Sci-Fi adventure gaming mojo back!

You know what? I’m OK with that.

I’m OK because after years of disappointing Mongoose content and watching the roll-out of their second edition (which fails to impress me) I now understand Mongoose is making a naked attempt to take back commercial profits of an IP that the OGL SRD release gave away. Mongoose wants to make bank not only on the Classic Era Third Imperium setting, but any other setting that uses “their” rules engine.

Since 1979 I have gamed with Traveller, but Jason “Flynn” Kemp, Paul Elliott at Zozer, and John Watts at Gypsy Knights Games have together taught me I don’t need “Traveller” to play a fun 2D6-Based Classic Era Sci-Fi RPG.

————-

Post Script: But wait, isn’t there another “current” Traveller RPG out there? All this legal wrangling over MgT second edition also got me thinking about Traveller5. According to the front plate in the T5 Print Edition 5.1:

Copyright (C) 2015 Far Future Enterprises.

All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without express written permission from the publisher.

FFE maintains a FUP Fair Use Policy (available on request) detailing reasonable uses of the Traveller5 game system (including references to the material, copying, web presences, and derivative works) while still respecting its copyright and intellectual property.

It appears that T5 is not Open Game Content but allows reasonable non-commercial use. Not being governed by the Open Game License will require negotiating commercial-use with FFE.

“The Traveller game in all forms is owned by Far Future Enterprises. Copyright  1977-2015 Far Future Enterprises.”

 

#FourRPGs of Influence

Reading the #FourRPGs hashtag on Twitter is a great nostalgia trip, as well a thinking challenge. Here are the four RPGs that most influenced me.

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From tasteofsoundsfiles.wordpress.com

#1 – Classic Traveller (Published 1977 – discovered 1979)

Anybody remember the game store Fascination Corner in Arapahoe Mall in the Southeast suburbs of Denver? It was there I bought my first war-game, Panzer, by Yaquinto Games in 1979. Soon after that, I found a little black box with a very simple logo. The game was Traveller, and it was a role-playing game. Being a huge Star Wars fan, I just had to have the game. This was my gateway into RPGs. Although I had friends who played Dungeons & Dragons, I didn’t (fantasy didn’t catch my attention then, and to this day still doesn’t). I have never looked back since.

I actively played RPGs until the mid-late 1980’s. After college, my job and family didn’t really give me the time to play. Instead, I became a bit of a collector. I tried to keep up with Traveller (buying Marc Miller’s T4 and later the Mongoose Traveller versions). I tried other Somewhere in the mid-2000’s, I discovered DriveThruRPG, and started building an electronic collection of games that I had missed. Being a huge Traveller RPG fan, I stayed with GDW RPGs for the longest time. Sure, I dabbled in other systems (like the James Bond 007 RPG), but I really tried to stay away from Dungeons & Dragons. I had tried my hand at D20 Modern, invested heavily in the Star Wars: Saga Edition, and even looked at Savage Worlds, but none of then really captured my interest.

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From en.battlestarwiki.org

#2 – Battlestar Galactica (Published and discovered 2007)

Being a huge fan of the show, I just had to have Margret Weis’ Battlestar Galactica RPG. I was immediately sold on what is now known as the Cortex Classic System (which, in retrospect, is not so different from Savage Worlds). The Battlestar Galactica RPG was a major turning point for me because it was with this game that I truly embraced designs beyond the Classic Traveller system. The Plot Points system, i.e. a tangible game currency for the players to influence the story, was a major break from my previous gaming philosophy. I realized that I was too fixated on systems like Classic Traveller, with its many sub-games, which is very wargame-like and not actually a great storytelling engine. I continued to follow the Cortex system, and these days really enjoy the Firefly RPG using the Cortex Plus system.

edge-of-the-empire-corerulebook_ffg_2013
From en.wikipedia.org

#3 – Star Wars: Edge of the Empire (Published and discovered 2013)

While Battlestar Galactica started me on the path to narrative RPG play, I didn’t truly arrive until Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. I had got the core rule book and the Beginner’s Game and tried to play with my boys. But at first I just didn’t “get it.” What do all those funny dice really mean? One day I discovered the Order 66 podcast, and listened to their advice on Triumph and Despair. At that moment it all clicked. From then, I was sold on the the system and strongly believe that this game is the best marriage of theme and gameplay. That said, I have to say that the later volumes of this game system, Age of Rebellion and Force & Destiny don’t hold my interest as much as Edge of the Empire does.

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From evilhat.com

#4 –Atomic Robo (Published and discovered 2014)

After Edge of the Empire, I started looking for other narrative RPGs. Somehow, I happened across a copy of Atomic Robo. I picked up the game (mostly on a whim) but after reading it was so intrigued by the gaming possibilities. As fortune would have it, I also discovered a Bundle of Holding that had many FATE products. I discovered I had been missing out on a great game system. Now, in addition to Atomic Robo, I enjoy Diaspora (FATE 3.0) and Mindjammer (FATE Core). I have even played a few games using FATE Accelerated with the boys, much to their (and my) enjoyment.

Truth be told, these days I pay much more attention to the “game engine” than the actual game. I admit that my favorite “game engine” these days is FATE Core. That said, I still enjoy Traveller (and even the much-maligned Traveller 5) although the newest Mongoose Traveller Second Edition is not impressing me.

Traveller Thursday – T5.09

Imagine my surprise this week when I got an email from Far Future Enterprises for my free downloadable copy of Traveller 5 (T5) version 5.09. Of course I immediately downloaded it!

Still working my way through it. At 759 pages its not light reading. These are my very early impressions:

  • Much better organized
  • An index!
  • Combat rules cleaned up
  • Lots of other errata incorporated

Most important is the organization. The original version was very hard to follow with tables being thrown in at seemingly random spots.

Will be working on trying out the chargen and combat systems, then onto the various Makers to see how they work out.

T5 remains more of a gamemaster/referee toolkit than a game playable as written. That said, I have already seen enough goodness that parts can be ported over or applied to either of my versions of the Outer Veil or Clement Sector settings.

Going Rogue in T5

REVIEWING the Traveller 5 RPG character generation errata, the two careers that had the most changes were Citizen and Rogue. I decided to explore the Rogue career and the Scheme Payoff mechanic for my next T5 chargen experiment.

Pim Pebow (UPP 694385) was a street kid from Arden. Though technically educated to a college level (8) he actually had little common sense (Intelligence 3) and, growing up in a lower-middle class family (Social Status 5) meant he didn’t want to go to college. Instead, Pim got immediately mixed ups in small schemes.

To begin Rogue Career choose Controlling Characteristic (CC). Using Dexterity (9) 2d6=5 SUCCESS

Pim’s first scheme was audacious – he scammed a fellow Rogue!  It worked so well he walked away with a cool Cr600,000.

Scheme DM +6. 2d6=4+6 for Rogue Scheme Target. Risk/Reward against CC of 9; both succeed. Scheme Payoff Roll is 4. Payoff 100,000 x (1+9-4) or Cr600,000. Gain 6 Skills. Roll against CC  to continue; success.

For Pim’s second scheme, he goes after a Scout that regularly visits Arden. A few years later, the Scout is out 8 Ship Shares.

Scheme DM +4. Risk/Reward successfully passed. Scheme Payoff Roll 2. Payoff is Shares x (1+9-2) or 8 Ship Shares.

Continuing on, Pim runs his next scheme against an aging soldier. Getting a bit more daring, he becomes a bit bolder this time around. His bank account grows another Cr550,000.

Scheme DM+3. Risk/Reward of Brave (-2 Risk/+2 Reward). Both passed. Payoff Roll of 1 for Payoff of 50,000 x (1+9+2-1) or 50,000 x 11 or Cr550,000. Roll to Continue is DM+3 for three terms; roll of 7+3=10 versus CC is FAILURE and Muster Out. During Mustering Out, roll for Fame Flux with Fame= 3x Successful Schemes or Fame-6 plus Flux (-1) for Fame-5.

Pim Pebow (UPP 6A4486/Genetic 4611XX) is now age 30 (3 Terms) and famous (infamous?) in his town but not much further (Fame-5).

SKILLS: Actor-1, Broker-1, Comms-1, Computers-1, Electronics-1, Flyer-0/Grav-1, Flyer-0/Rotor-1, Hostile Environment-1, Stealth-1, Streetwise-3, Trader-1, Vacc Suit-2.

Bank Account: MCr 1.2. Owns 8 Ship Shares in a small surplus Scout Ship. He also has a Traveller’s Aid Society (TAS) Fellow Membership.

Pim has teamed with Conrad Fundo. Where Conrad is the Pilot/Mechanic/Gunner as needed, Pim is the moneyman – always working the angles to make credits.