RPG Thursday: Orbital

Orbital (courtesy Zozer Games)

Orbital is a 223-page PDF written by Paul Elliott and published under the Zozer Games label. Orbital is a Solar System setting for the Mongoose Traveller (MgT) RPG. The setting takes place in 2098 with a Tech Level of mostly Tech Level 9 travel but TL 11 computing and electronics.

Author Paul Elliott lays out the setting by starting with a startling assumption; Osama Bin Laden was killed in the 1998 cruise missile attack in Afghanistan. In his alternate history/alternative future there is no 21st Century War on Terror.

Character creation generally uses the standard rules and careers found in the Traveller Main Book (TMB) with just a few changes. There is one new career introduced in Orbital, that of the Explorer. New skill specialties for Science, Survival, and Trade are here. Mustering Out is also modified. The result if most characters are generated “while still working” vice the usual Traveller mustered out.

Chapter 5 covers space vehicle in Orbital, including Deep Space Vehicles (DSVs). A heavily modified spacecraft design sequence that draws heavily on the TMB and High Guard is presented here. The author chose not to use the rules for Reaction Drives from TMB/High Guard and instead depends on Nuclear Thermal Rockets. This in turn leads to an entirely different Spacecraft Operations section with details on traveling between planets in the Solar System. This also means Space Combat is different, but the author doesn’t go into as much detail here.

Hardware in Orbital focuses on the technology necessary to survive in the Solar System. Vacc Suits get a very detailed treatment and their own design sequence. Planetary vehicles, named Rovers, are detailed too. It is unclear (though assumed) that Rovers were created using the design sequence from The Vehicle Handbook for MgT. Orbital Vehicles – the small craft of the Orbital setting – are detailed and were created using the MgT High Guard and Comstar/Avengers Archaic Smallcraft & Space Stations module.

Chapter 8, Orbital Society, delves more deeply into setting specific details. There are many details here that can serve as adventure seeds. Chapter 9, Working in Space, details the many dangers and threats as well as the Orbital version of Belting (asteroid mining) rules. Chapter 10, Worlds, is the “subsector guide” for the Orbital setting with details of planets and moons and other locales.

Chapter 11, Running Orbital, is the GM guide. Of the four default settings, I find it surprising the author uses Deep Space Haulage as his default campaign premise. To me this is the least inspiring of the premises given; I find Salvage and Rescue or Exploration & Science more inspirational with even Asteroid Mining more appealing. There is also a section on SETI – Intelligent Life. Fortunately  the author avoided his Outpost Mars RPG.net speculation approach and lays out five-plus good pages of adventure seeds.

Chapter 12, Resources, is quite literally the Appendix N of Orbital. A very useful review of movies, books, RPGs, and web resources to help GMs and players get a deeper understanding or inspiration for the Orbital setting.

Should You Get it?

Unlike author Paul Elliott’s earlier Outpost Mars, his Orbital is a near-complete setting. There is more than enough in this book to run a Solar System adventure or campaign. I wish the author had more fully imported his Reputation/secret Agenda/secret Ally mechanic into Orbital from Outpost Mars instead of being wishy-washy and simple changing Social Standing to a nebulous, ill-defined  reputation. Later in the book, under “Running a Campaign” for Running Orbital, he introduces the concept of Status without directly tying it Social Standing. There is also a discussion of Secret Agendas here. This is a missed opportunity to showcase his “gimmick” that could help define Orbital beyond just its low-tech Traveller setting. Instead, the author buries it as a commentary at the end of the Example Mission on page 200:

“Get the idea? No fights, no shots exchanged. No physical conflict, but a definite lack of trust and no-one is quite sure of the others’ motives. The referee can’t ban any physical conflict, but it should be an unwritten rule: the player characters never try to harm one another. Secret agendas are best dealt with using a few hand-written notes, quickly passed, rather than private chats. Any group using this secret agenda mechanic should understand that occasional notes will be passed between the referee and players and that none of the character’s lives are at risk from these notes.”

Orbital is quite obviously an evolved version of the authors previous Outpost Mars, not only in the setting but in the rules. I only wish the Reputation/secret Agenda/secret Ally mechanic had evolved in Orbital too.

Recommendation: BUY


RPG Thursday: Outpost Mars

Courtesy Zozer Games

Outpost Mars (OM) is a short 59-page PDF written by Paul Elliott and published under the Zozer Games label. OM is a Mongoose Traveller (MgT) RPG setting taking place on Mars in the very near future (2040!).

All player characters use a single character creation career called Mars Explorer. There are three mission specialties; Scientific, Technical, or Surface Ops. In a change from the MgT basic setting, each player character also has an Agenda which includes Reputation, a secret Goal, and a secret Ally. Equipment for the setting generally does not exceed Tech Level 8 (close to current Earth).

OM describes the planetology of Mars in great detail; not a bad thing considering the environment is an important part of surviving the setting. There is also an extensive discussion (much of it lifted straight from RPG.net posts) on possible alien life on Mars.

The chapter “Running Mars” describes possible missions with a few examples thrown in. OM is very much a “sandbox” setting – no rigid adventure paths are given! The players are cast in the role of members of small teams. Each member has to advance their reputation while also working to achieve their secret Goal. The secret goals of the player characters will likely be in conflict with each other. As author Paul Elliott states on page 44, “Get the idea? No fights, no shots exchanged. No physical conflict. But a definite lack of trust. No-one is ever quite sure of the others’ motives.”

The question of life on Mars is covered on page 36 where the author discusses archaeological theories. The author also includes five pages of RPG.net discussion of what forum members envisioned alien life on Mars could be like.

There is also an appendix (though not labeled as such) covering the Military on Mars which details both the Marines and US Space Command. What is not covered in the book are vehicles and spacecraft. They are mentioned in places but no details/designs are given. I do like the Movies and Books “Appendix N” at the end of the product.

I find Outpost Mars rushed and seemingly unfinished. The gimmick – here being Reputation and secret Agendas – works fine in the limited setting of Mars. What I dislike most is the speculation on alien life – there is too much speculation. The author would of been better off with his first two pages of comments and dropped the five pages of RPG.net speculation. I would of rather seen at least one example each of a Mars vehicle and spacecraft in those repurposed five pages.

Recommendation: PASS on it.

RPG Thursday – Mason Combatants

High Guard Stats for Battle of Mason. Derived from Traveller’s Aide #7 – Fighting Ships (QLI-RPGRealms, 2003) and Traveller’s Aide #9 – Fighting Ships of the Solomani (QLI-RPGRealms, 2009).

Solomani Rim War, Mason/Diaspora, 86-990.

Imperial Combatants

Effendi CH R 1 4 5 H 3 0 9 6 6 0 8 9 0 S 0 9
TL14 Bats Bear 11 11 11 28
Agl=5 Bats 15 15 16 40
Seydlitz Mo E 3 0 5 G 2 2 0 2 2 0 0 3 0 0 E 0
TL13 Bats Bear 5
Agl=5 Bats 5

Solomani Combatants (Note – The Midway SCF carries 1500 fighters; Texas has 10 fighters)

Zeus SBC S 1 3 5 G 4 2 7 3 3 0 7 9 5 8 P 8
TL13 Bats Bear 26 13 16 16 33 14
Agl=5 Bats 40 20 25 25 50 22
Yamamato SCS P 1 3 5 G 3 3 9 3 3 0 0 9 0 R 0 8
TL13 Bats Bear 8 8 16
Agl=5 Bats 10 10 20
Texas SCL H 1 3 4 4 3 5 4 0 0 0 0 3 0 8 0 2
TL12 Bats Bear 3 3 2 5
Agl=1 Bats 3 3 2 5
Striker SDD 3 2 3 5 6 1 2 4 0 0 0 0 9 0 8 0 5
TL12 Bats Bear 5 1 1 1
Agl=3 Bats 5 1 1 1
Midway SCF S 7 3 2 G 4 0 9 3 3 0 7 9 8 8 0
TL13 Bats Bear 16 33 33 16 33
Agl=2 Bats 25 50 50 25 50
Minsk SCH Q 1 3 5 G 3 3 7 3 3 0 8 9 0 8 F 0
TL13 Bats Bear 15 6 15 15
Agl=5 Bats 20 8 20 20
Madrid SCL K 1 4 4 H 1 4 9 4 6 0 0 7 0 0 5 9
TL14 Bats Bear 3 6 2 2
Agl=4 Bats 3 6 2 2
Tau Ceti SDD C 1 4 4 G 1 3 7 0 0 0 0 6 0 8 0 0
TL13 Bats Bear 3 3
Agl=4 Bats 3 3

Wargame Wednesday – Power Projection: Fleet Scenario – Opening the Jar at Mason

Solomani Flag (Andrew Boulton traveller3d)

–Based on “Decisive Battles – Disaster at Mason” in Travellers Aide #9: Fighting Ships of the Solomani (QLI-RPGRealms, 2009)–

Situation: During the Solomani Rim War, a Solomani Task Force under Commodore Tiajama opens Rear Admiral Wolfe’s famous Diaspora Sector offensive with a strike at Mason. Task Force Tiajama, comprised of a CarrierRon (7thThe Hokkaido Samurai), a FleetRon (21stThe Aoster Grenadier Guards) and a PatRon (2x SolSec picket ships) will approach Mason from rimward. The attack is an operational diversion designed to draw Imperial Navy elements rimward and away from Wolfe’s main axis of attack.

Location: Mason (Diaspora 2226), date 86-990

Solomani Operational Situation: Two picket ships enter the system first, followed by the 21st FleetRon and 30 minutes later the CarrierRon. Upon arrival, Commodore Tiajama receives frantic communications from the Recon Frigates warning of heavy enemy activity in the outer system. Communications with the frigates is lost after reports they are under attack by fighters. System scans reveal an Imperial CruRon is nearby.

Solomani Tactical Situation: The Imperial CruRon is closing fast with lead elements just 5 light-seconds away (20 MU). Due to the short time since arrival in system, no fighters have been launched. Commodore Tiajama has a Fleet Tactics Skill of 2, making the maximumTask Force Size=4. Commodore Tiajama can arrange his ships as he sees fit. Lead elements of the Task Force start 20 MU from the lead elements of the Imperial Player. Each Task Force must have at least one ship within 10 MU of a ship of another Task Force.

Solomani Forces:

21st FleetRon “The Aoster Grenadier Guards”

  • 2x Zeus-class Battlecruisers, 1x Yamamoto-class Strike Cruiser (Fleet Flag), 1x Texas-class Light Cruiser, 5x Striker-class Destroyers.

7th CarrierRon “The Hokkado Samuari”

  • 1x Midway-class Fighter Carrier (“Hokkaido”), 1x Minsk-class Heavy Cruiser, 1x Madrid-class Light Cruiser, 4x Tau Ceti-class Destroyers

Solomani Victory Conditions: Destroy more points of enemy shipping than you lose and disengage successfully.

Imperial Operational Situation: War is coming. Your CruRon has finished refueling at Mason and was proceeding out-system to jump to next destination.  A light monitor stationed in the system is accompanying you for fleet maneuver familiarization training. System scans detected two SolSec recon frigates jumping into the system. Immediately, fighters from a nearby base were dispatched. A short time later, scans revealed jump arrival signatures of at least a dozen ships with more escorts.  It doesn’t take a jump scientist to figure out the Solomani’s have attacked.

Imperial Tactical Situation: The lead elements of the Solomani strike fleet are 5 light-seconds away (20 MU). The CruRon commander has a Fleet Tactics Skill of 1 making the Task Force size limit 3. Lead elements of the Task Force start 20 MU from the lead elements of the Solomani Player. Each Task Force must have at least one ship within 10 MU of a ship of another Task Force.

Imperial Forces:

Unnamed CruRon

  • 8x Effendi-class Heavy Cruisers, 1x Seydlitz-class Light Monitor

Imperial Victory Conditions: Destroy more enemy points in combat that you lose before withdrawing from combat.

Historical Outcome: SolSec spies were unable to relay the presence of the Imperial CruRon to Solmani commanders in time. Faced with no chance to break off or jump, Tiajama quickly formed up his two squadrons. As the battle was joined, the Imperial cruisers concentrated their fire on Tiajama’s two Zeus-class Battlecruisers. A direct hit from a spinal mount vaporized one Zeus, while the other Zeus was pounded severely. With fuel tanks shattered, jump drive destroyed, dampers and meson screen disabled, spinal mount destroyed and heavy bay damage the Battlecruiser fell out of the battle line, trailing debris. Both Solomani Battlecruisers returned fire at the same time, both hitting with their heavy meson spinal mounts. One Effendi was hit amidships, shattering its fuel tanks, disabling its jump and maneuver drives and wiping out its computers. The other Zeus delivered a devastating strike on another Effendi, destroying its bridge and computer system, with explosions raging through the ship until it too fell out of the battle line. Tiajama’s flagship scored a spinal mount hit on another Effendi, disabling its jump drive and destroying its fuel tanks and maneuver drive. But another Effendi scored a direct spinal mount hit on Tiajama’s flagship which disabled the spinal mount. Multiple hits from the Effendi’s particle accelerator bays raked the Yamamoto’s surface, wiping out many bay weapons, rupturing its fuel tanks and disabling its maneuver drive. The flagship was a sitting duck. Tiajama’s Minsk-class Heavy Cruiser was hit by an Effendi, holing its fuel tanks and hitting its spinal mount, making it combat ineffective. The Madrid-class Light Cruiser was attacked by another Effendi, destroying its maneuver drives, its fuel tanks and much of its weaponry. A lowly Texas-class Light Cruiser managed to make 13 hits on another Imperial cruiser, slowing it but not stopping the slaughter. Within 50 minutes Tiajama retreated into deep space. Three Imperial cruisers out of 8 had been destroyed or abandoned due to massive damage, but the Solomani lost both Battlecruisers, Tiajama’s flagship, a Heavy Cruiser, a Light Cruiser and several destroyers. The Fighter Carrier had barely deployed its fighters when the order was given to retreat. The Imperial CruRon declined to pursue and rescued survivors from their battered ships. By the time they regrouped to hunt down the rest of the intruding ships they had jumped out of system back into Solomani territory. Despite heavy losses, Tiajama’s feint succeeded by diverting a powerful unit from the real battles yet to come deep in Imperial rear areas.

Open Game License v 1.0 Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
System Reference Document, Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.
T20 – The Traveller’s Handbook Copyright 2002, QuikLink Interactive, Inc. Traveller is a trademark of Far Future Enterprises and is used under license
Traveller’s Aide #9 – Fighting Ships of the Solomani Confederation, Copyright ©2009 QuikLink Interactive, Inc.

Wargame Wednesday – High Guard Plus

by John Berkey (Courtesy Travellerrpg.com)

Classic Traveller Book 5: High Guard came out in 1980. I find it surprising that after so many years there is actually a paucity of material expanding on the combat system in the book. Indeed, outside of Adventure 5: Trillion Credit Squadron and maybe an article or two in the Journal of the Travellers Aid Society (the Classic Traveller support magazine) I find no other rules. Sure, Power Projection: Fleet tried to be true to High Guard but PPF is in reality a totally different game.

Looking through Traveller materials, especially Mongoose Traveller’s Sector Fleet, several items jumped out at me that made me look at how High Guard did – or didn’t – implement these ideas.

Fighters – I don’t like how High Guard treats each fighter as an individual. I count by squadron or grouping of small craft for initiative and combat.

Screening & Attack Runs – At lower tech levels and with smaller ships, missiles are killers. There are many references in Traveller literature about screening and “getting in close.” In High Guard you set up ships either in the Line or Reserve. I added the “Screen” for fighters or small craft only. Units in the screen can defend against missile strikes or Attack Runs. An Attack Run is done by fighters or small craft. They must penetrate the Screen (dogfight) and then attack ships at Very Close range. If they leave Very Close range they must get through the screen again.

Close Escort – There is a whole “type” of ship in Traveller called the Close Escort. Escorts are designed to “stay close” and “hide behind” their charge. I have added two Close Escort slots for each ship. Each slot can be filled by a squadron of fighters, a group of small craft, or an “escort.” The Close Escort cannot attack the enemy battleline and is presented for combat along with the ship it is charged to protect. It can defend against fighters, small craft, and missiles.

Bomb-Pumped Laser Missiles – Simple really. Roll for To Hit as a missile, but Attack per laser.

I am still experimenting with modifiers and how to (simply) resolve events like the Screen battle. Once I get comfortable I will post them here.

Wargame Wednesday – Classic Traveller Book 5: High Guard – Raiding Isseydo

Azhanti High Lightning class by Shonner at SCIFI-MESHES

High Guard – Refuelling operations for a task force are another danger point, as forces which are low on fuel and maneuvering in a gravity well are especially vulnerable. The high guard position, so named because the ship or ships involved are higher in the gravity well than their companions, is used to mount protective operations during such maneuvers. (Mongoose Traveller Book 2: High Guard, p. 3)

“Approaching Isseydo Jump Limit,” the Navigator reported.

The Captain looked around his bridge. Battle Condition Red was set aboard Acheron High Lightning, FI-6357, an Azhanti High Lightning-class Fleet Intruder of the Imperial Navy.  As befitted the Fleet Intruder mission, ACH was raiding the small world of Isseydo, to the galactic rimward of the Vegan area. After being at war with the Solomani for 10 years, the Imperial Navy was on the offensive and, though not part of the main battle fleet, raids by the ‘Flints’ were important in keeping the Soli’s off-guard as well as useful for collecting intelligence. Acheron High Lightning had been ordered to enter the Isseydo system and raid shipping. If possible, she was also to land her Marine contingent and copy -then destroy- the starport’s data bank. Opposition was projected to be light; Isseydo had no more than a dozen of the Solomani ‘standard’ 300dton System Defense Boats (SDB). Acheron was running into the planet with a 2-g velocity; not too fast so the ship could maneuver. The Captain had decided to keep the fighters aboard for now; they would be used to cover the Marines landing and deal with shipping nearer the planet.

Sensor called out, “Detecting three targets on an intercept trajectory. Maneuvering together; likely a flight of system defense boats.”

And so the battle begins….

It was still long range, but the SDB’s had changed formation into a spread echelon, a sure sign that a missile launch was to follow. “Target lead boat,” the Captain ordered, “Fire at will.”

As missiles streaked away from the boats, Acheron fired full laser and missile salvos. The spinal Particle Accelerator – PA gun – also fired. The Captain grimaced as it missed. The laser fire from both sides was equally ineffective. It was in the exchange of nuclear missiles that damage was found. Acheron rocked slightly as it was buffeted by nearby nuclear blasts.

“Lead boast has ceased firing, assess probable mission kill based on lack of weapons,” Sensors reported. The Engineering Watch Officer was conferring with Weapons, and after a moment he turned and reported, “Spinal Mount sustained minor damage from nuclear blast. Power degraded, but still operational.” The grimace stayed on the Captain’s face.

The range between Acheron and the flight of SDBs closed. “SDBs are closing to fusion gun range,” Sensors called out. “Lead boat is dropping to reserve position.” Exactly what they needed to do if they wanted to they were going to jury-rig their weapons back on line. “Target next boat,” the Captain ordered.

The exchange of fire went as before for Acheron; the lasers flashed uselessly, the few batteries of fusion guns now able to range missed, the slightly-less-powerful spinal PA gun missed again, and the nuclear missiles struck the SDB which stopped firing. This time though, the rocking of nuclear blasts was also mixed with jarring jolts as enemy fusion guns hit home. Again, the Engineer and Weapons conferred. Weapons shook his head, then turned to report, “Spinal sustained further damage from nuclear blasts. Looks like at least one battery of missiles is also out of action.”

The Captain looked at the holobowl. Ninety minutes remained until orbital insertion. They had come too far to turn back now. “Helm, continue to orbital insertion. Weapons, I want hits! Alert the Marine commander to prepare for combat landing. Remind him we don’t want to stay long. And get the fighters ready!”

Time seemed to slow to a crawl, just like Acheron was slowing to enter orbit. Another exchange of fire, this time against the third SDB as the others moved off to effect repairs. On the visual display, the Captain could see flashes of light as the boat was peppered with lasers, fusion beams, missiles and the particle accelerator. When the massive PA hit, the SDB became a flash and then a small expanding ball of matter.

“SDB 3 vaporized!,” Sensors reported. Weapons was smiling, the PA crew finally had hit and it made a difference. At last, a break in the battle in his favor, the Captain thought. “Helm, shape us a course to get near the reserve SDBs. Weapons, fire as you please!” But even as he ordered the breakthrough attack, Acheron rocked more violently than before. Weapons and Engineer rapidly exchanged information, but the Captain could see for himself on his displays that more weapons were falling off-line. Soon enough, Weapons reported, “Damage to PA gun again. We also lost another missile battery, as well as a battery of lasers, fusion guns, and sand.” What was that old Solomani saying, the Captain thought, “Death by a thousand pin-pricks?”

Acheron flashed by the two remaining SDBs, raking the first one with fire. The particle accelerator connected again; and the SDB disappeared into an expanding ball of gas. The Captain’s grimace almost turned into a smile; that is, until Sensors called out.

“Detecting six SDB reaching for orbit from the planet. Now looks like was also have three more inbound from the outer system. Total of nine additional SDBs tracked.” The Executive Officer now stood next to the Captain and said, “Looks like they are committing everything. Going to be hard to get to the data banks.”

The Captain grunted and nodded his head. “We aren’t designed for a real combat landing. Tell the Marine commander to stand down, as well as the fighters.” Louder he called, “Helm! plot us a single orbital pass then go for the jump limit. Navigation, get that jump plotted. Weapons, as we pass the planet your target priority is merchant shipping, then the SDBs. After we was pass the planet then you need to swat those SDBs so we can jump out.” Acknowledgements came from every position.

In the next three hours, the Captain was a bit disappointed that he didn’t get to take a shot at any shipping. It looked like it had all scattered, but the system defense boats kept harassing him. He made them pay though. By the time Acheron High Lightning jumped out of the Isseydo system, two SDBs were vaporized, five completely wrecked, and another two effectively mission-killed. The spinal mount on Acheron needed some repair work, along with a few batteries and a patch here and there in the fuel tanks. As the crew stood down from Battle Stations and assumed the routine jump space watch, the Captain started composing his report to the Admiralty. Though Acheron had failed to destroy any shipping, nor grab the data bank, the defenses of Isseydo had been weakened significantly. Another raid in a few weeks, maybe by a light carrier, could clean up the shipping.

This battle was fought using the combat rules in Classic Traveller Book 5: High Guard. The ships are taken from QuikLink Interactives Traveller’s Aide #7: Fighting Ships and Traveller’s Aide #9: Fighting Ships of the Solomani Confederation. The number of defending boats was based on stats derived from the Fifth Frontier War game. I had also planned to fight a ground action but after looking at the defenses (120 battalions of troops) against the AHL reinforced company of Marines, landing only a portion of the troops in the gunboat, I elected to pass on that sub-game.

The only HG2 rules modified were I treated flights of ships as separate entities and allowed them to have different ranges. Thus, in Round 7, the planet launched SDBs engaged at short range while the boats arriving from out-system fought at long. Seems more realistic to me.

The AHL-class fleet intruder had three missions: raid shipping, seize the data bank, and weaken system defenses. The intruder started two-hours (six rounds) away from the planet. The game was originally designed for 12 rounds plus however many more over the planet were necessary for the raid. After Round 3, the AHL aborted the raid, made a (relatively) high-speed pass of the planet, and then proceeded outbound to jump. To reflect this, I shortened the game to 11 rounds total (The AHL did not fire in the last round, but jumped away).

I was pleasantly surprised to see a few tactical lessons come through here; lessons that are often discussed in Traveller supplements like Sector Fleet.. In fleet-level engagements, lasers are nearly useless as offensive weapons; better to be used as defenses. Missiles can eat away at ships but not get the “big-hit” against battle class ships. Spinal mounts are DEADLY! In ten rounds of combat, plus one breakthrough, the spinal scored seven hits (7 for 11) that resulted in five wrecked and two vaporized ships. The real damage came from the critical hits scored. The fighters were kept out of the battle because their small computers gave them a significant disadvantage when fighting the decent computer, high-agility SDBs. In hindsight the fighters should of been launched anyway to go after shipping. As it was, the SDBs kept the AHL engaged and there was only one breakthrough (Round 3). Though none of the lessons are “new,” it is good to see them actually reflected in the game results.

RPG Thursday – Traveller Dynasty


Traveller Supplement 12: Dynasty is very much unlike other Traveller publications. In the words of Mongoose themselves:

A complete guide on founding, growing and running your own world in Traveller, this book enables the creation of sociologically diverse solar systems or even empires. Covering a wide range of aspects involving governments, infrastructure, trade, military defences and even religion, it also allows the development of these unique polities over time; investments, conflicts and random events driving their growth – or indeed, possible collapse!

Whether you are a band of adventurers colonising or conquering their own planet, or seeking to play out a generational game of developing sector-wide dominions, Dynasty will add depth and colour to any Traveller campaign.

Dynasty is a cross between a “dynasty” chargen system and a metagame for fleshing out background. Say your favorite character is a spy. A spy for who? What does that agency want? Why does that Megacorporation oppose you at every turn? With Dynasty all those questions can be answered. Using Dynasty, a GM can create “a succession of rulers from the same family or line; also a family or group that maintains power for several generations” (p. 2).

Dynasty can be viewed as having two parts. The first part is Dynasty Generation. Dynasties are described using characteristics (Cleverness, Greed, Loyalty, Militarism, Popularity, Scheming, Tenacity and Tradition) as well as traits, aptitudes, values, boons and hindrances. Like Traveller chargen itself, a dynasty can be created using a mini-game (alternatively, a point-buy option is provided).

After creating the core characteristics, each dynasty much chose a power base which gives trait and attribute modifiers. At this point, a dynasty archtype is chosen which determines base traits and attributes. To get the dynasty started, the First Generation (actually the first 100 years) is covered, which is also where boons and hindrances are developed. The management (or leadership) of the dynasty is also created. Basic dynasty creation ends with the calculation of First Generation values as well as determining background and historic events in the first 100 years of a dynasty.

Now that the core dynasty is created, the layers or GM can work through the generations. Each generation is 30 years long. For each generation, a goal must be chosen. There are ten goals given and for each there is a checklist of aptitude checks or defined checks or end-of-generation factors that must be met. Every five years the dynasty must check for Threats and Obstacles, and every 10 years there can be decade events. Finally, at the end of every generation there is an accounting step to determine how the dynasty grows – or if it fails to survive.

The generations “game” is where Dynasty begins to fall apart. For each generation, the dynasty must complete Aptitude Checks to meet goals. The Aptitude Checks in the book are not all inclusive; indeed they represent only a very limited selection meaning a GM will have to be very creative. Some checks are opposed, meaning you have to have more than one dynasty being created. This is fine with multiple players but hard to solo – a past hallmark of Traveller games.

The second part of Dynasty focuses on when dynasties clash. Five mini-games are introduced, each replacing the regular generation process. Rules are also provided for dynastic influence on Traveller chargen. The book concludes with a GM guide to role-playing with dynasties and sample dynasties.

The process of creating a dynasty works fine through the creation of the core dynasty (the first 10 years). In the generation process, the Aptitude Checks provided are limited and the GM will have to create may of their own, but very guidance on how to do this is provided. When dynasties clash is also a bit confusing, because there are prerequisites to starting each mini-game and their relationship to the regular generational Aptitude Checks seems unclear.

I don’t really want to declare that the generational development game and the clashes mini-games are broken, but in the (few) dynasties I have tried creating it seems difficult to get the requisite accumulated effects (anywhere from 50-80 or so) each generation. Odds are if you spend an entire generation on Aptitude Checks you may meet your goal, but no clashes would be possible. Indeed, clashes early in the life of a dynasty appear deadly.

Since I am still working on creating dynasties I have not had the chance to play around with heroes and villains of dynasties. I worry that the changes to chargen may upset player character balance. Will have to keep an eye on that.

In conclusion, Dynasty is interesting but not without its issues. Rules could be clearer; the format Mongoose uses for books is difficult to follow. That said, Dynasty is interesting because it allows creation of background and backstory. It is integrated with chargen, but it is not very clearly interchangable with other Traveller mini-games such as Mercenary or High Guard; nor is it intuitively obvious how to relate to Classic Traveller games like Striker or Trillion-Credit Squadron (which just screams dynasty!).