October 2

#RPGaDAY2015 – Day 18: Favourite SF RPG

I’m using the same sort of criteria I did yesterday for my Favourite SF RPG, but I have fewer sf games that I like to mention.  I must have bought lots of sf games trying to find one to equal or better than my current favourite.

In the end it just boils down to one sf RPG, Traveller.  The background that eventually became  the Traveller milieu is sprawling and took inspiration from a great number of sf works, including Isaac Asmiov’s Foundation series and if you don’t believe me consult the library data and look up “psychohistory” 🙂  The game has had several editions and it was mentioned in my top ten rpg list such was the drawing power of this game.

Now I see Mongoose is working on another version of Traveller, I hope they are able to present something refreshing but still somewhat familiar to the classic game.

Runner up:

Star Wars.  Still for me a classic game of good vs evil and being able to watch the film to get an insight into what the game is all about is still a big draw for me.




Category: RPG, sf | LEAVE A COMMENT
September 29

#RPGaDAY2015 – Day 16: Longest Game Session

When I first started gaming and I had an almost unquenchable thirst for gaming I would think nothing of gaming for seven nights a week but even that wasn’t long enough for me as occasionally we’d game Saturday and into Sunday or Sunday into a bank holiday Monday.  One time we even played right into the new year so we could all wish ourselves a happy new year!

Looking back on it now, I realise it may have been a mistake to try and play longer and longer without much rest,  I recall arguments over trivial things when we were all sleep deprived. Stupid things like can someone with super-leaping drop down a height they can leap?

I know, daft things that seemed really important at the time.

These days I tend to game responsibly and try to not game for too long as I don’t appear to have the endurance for it these days.  Call of Cthulhu isn’t much fun when you’re unable to process the clues but tend to connect you to the great green giant itself 🙂




March 23

One year on

So it’s been a year since I started this blog and I’m pleased with how it’s turned out so far.

Once I started I realised how much I missed writing for pleasure; most of my penmanship has been dull technical stuff that while serviceable isn’t something that I can point to and say “I did this”.  Which is  very unlike this blog my main outlet for my creative urges although  my muse seems to be driven by my sickness, something that I find very amusing.

I thought it was also time to expand upon my origin story that I first mentioned here, while searching through a box of books it turns out that I had accidentally deceived you all and my first purchased RPG turns out to be the basic edition Marvel Superheroes RPG.  I purchased in 1986 while on holiday after being driven to find it by the amazing adverts in the back of the Marvel comics I was reading.

I think I forgot about buying it as I never seemed to know what to do with it or how to get other people interested.  Bear in mind this was before the days of the internet and gaming magazines in the UK were had to get hold of from the local newsagent.

What really grabbed my interest in gaming was a programme I saw on LWT back in the early 80s called “South of Watford” and presented by Ben Elton.  I remember watching him go to the Games Workshop store in Hammersmith and talk to the store manager before later on playing some D&D.  Five years later I would be in that very store and buying my first games.

Games Workshop then was a different store, one that sold other peoples material and long before the advent of the Games Workshop hobby which is what they’re best known for these days.  In those days you could pick up a licensed copy of Runequest, Traveller or even Call of Cthulhu.

Moving behind the screen.

After being a player for a short period of time I decided to try being a gamesmaster and looking back on those days I think it was my sheer enthusiasm that kept me going.  I was at one point gaming five nights a week running a different game each night with a different system.  It was during this time that I started to understand what I liked to run; science fiction piqued my interest more than fantasy did and I loved the four colour superhero genre.  Much Traveller and Marvel Superheroes was played along with a side dish of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The Critical Miss years.

It all started simply enough with an open call for players at a local comic shop; the owner knew me and the people organising the event and  I decided to turn up and try to play with a different group of people.  Let me tell you those first few weeks were a great time, we all brought games down to play and since we never really that organised you could never count on the same group of players for each game.  I took my chances and dusted out Paranoia second edition and over the course of several weeks I ran through the published adventures I had bought.  The players had fun trying to kill each other and deal with the game forms a friend had photocopied.

Slowly the group started to crystallise from the raw elements we threw at it, after a few months we lost a player and the venue; we found a new home in a building owned by the father of another player and we played in that cold cramped warehouse amongst the boxes of paper.  Summer came around and then we started to lose players until by the following October we were d0wn to a handful and we moved once again to my place.

I found myself running more games and with a stable group we could try to play campaigns together.  I was now playing twice a week with two different groups and this became once a week when the two groups melded together.   We lost more players as well; one went off to university, one moved away and one left for personal reasons I won’t go into here.

It was during this period I broke out Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and embarked upon the Enemy Within Campaign.

The present.

I’ve been playing with another group of friends online using Roll20 and that’s what caused the genesis of this blog back with this first post . 




October 29

The X-Boat Network In Traveller

A guest post here from an old friend.

Getting the message across.

The X-Boat network in Traveller.

What is it?

The X-Boat network is the main means of sending messages across the vast Imperium. It was established 624 (Imperial) and covered the entire Imperium in 718 (Imperial). The backbone of the system is a small craft capable of a maximum speed of Jump 4. Administration of the X-Boat system is the responsibility of the Communications Office division of the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service (IISS). Although the maximum speed of an X-Boat is jump 4, not all jumps are made at that speed. Because of the way the network is laid out, the average speed a message travels is Jump 2.6.

How it operates.

The best way to describe this process is to do it as an example. Say I was staying at Capital and I wanted to drop a message of to a close friend of mine on Regina. I would address it in the following fashion:

So breaking it down, starting with the far left. The * informs me that John is a registered voter on Regina then his name. The @ means located at. The next part is his Personal Information Reader’s serial number. This part is optional. TASNET is the computer system name. Regina is the subsector capitol, Regina is the system name.

Common computer system domains include:

  • TASNET: Traveller’s Aid Society.
  • EDUNET: Educational.
  • GOVNET: Local government.
  • IMPGOV: Imperial government.
  • COMNET: Commercial businesses.
  • PRIVNET: Non business.

These are the main ones. Major corporations’ names are added after the network name and before the user ID.

I record my message to John using my terminal in my room. I have the option of Video, Audio, or text. The only difference in them is the quality and cost. Video is 30 credits for each ten minutes per jump, audio 10 credits for ten minutes and text one credit for ten pages. Mixed text and pictures’ costs one credit per page. If I was not using a terminal in my room, there are public terminals located in most starports. Although video transmissions are only available on class A starports, audio class B and C or less is text only. Billing is in Imperial credits and worked out with the jump speed of 2.5. If he was not on the main route, the message would be passed to the Imperial Courier Service (ICS) for final delivery.

I have finished my message and instruct the terminal to send. The terminal then gives me the option to have my message encrypted, this doubles the cost of the message. From here, the data is compressed and passed to the local communications system for transmission to an X-Boat station or passed to the ICS for delivery onto an X-Boat route.

An X-Boat drops into realspace. The pilot then activates the recovery beacon and aligns the communications array to the X-Boat station. An X-Boat station is constructed close to entry points of Hyperspace and contains fuel, pilot stations and communications arrays. The station dispatches an X-Boat Tender with a fresh pilot and fuel. Once it has reached the boat, it recovers it, changes crew and refuels it. This process takes about four hours. The record for this routine is seven minutes. A single tender can deal with up to six X-Boats at a time. In busy systems, many tenders can be seen working at once to keep the network going. Once re-fuelled and a new pilot aboard, the X-boat is released and gets ready to jump. While all this activity is going on, the X-Boat is still getting data and messages.

Once all checks are finished aboard the pilot shuts down the communication array and departs the system. The pilot from the X-Boat is given another job, whether this be aboard the tender or at the X-Boat station. After a week in normal space he is reassigned to another X-Boat and his job starts again.
What is the ICS?

The ICS maintains a fleet of type S scout/couriers. It is they who take the messages to systems off the main network. They are mostly modified with the passenger compartments removed and replaced with extra computer storage and extra fuel tankage. They depart at different speeds taking their messages to wherever they need to go.

How do I collect my mail?

Usually this is just case of connecting up to the planet’s data net and accessing it that way. If you are on the move, this can be tricky. Copies of mail are held at subsector and sector capitals and at TAS hostels. The last option only applies if you are a member of TAS. Mail is also archived at scout bases, this option requires an administration fee of about 100 credits and a week to accomplish. You also need to produce proof of identity. A standard Imperial bank card is usually all that is required.

What else does the X-Boat system handle?

You can make bank payments at an X-Boat office. The information is encoded and then sent to the bank of your choice. This has become a standard way of paying for starships.

Does the X-Boat carry military transmissions?

Yes, unless the transmissions are secure. If they are secure then the Imperial agency sending the transmissions uses an Imperial courier vessel. Imperial courier ships are rated at Jump 4 with a few being capable of Jump 6! Otherwise, the X-Boats data bank is fitted with an auto destruct system that fueses the internal electronics.

What about parcels or paper transmissions?

To some, a letter is the ultimate secure transmission. You cannot drop a letter into a computer and scan for a phrase. Someone has to read it all the way through. Letters are handled by the ICS except they are not X-Boat sent. Instead the message is accepted at the ICS office and then passed on with other letters and parcels to a cargo ship. Letter post costs one credit per 100grams of weight. Parcels on the other hand can make licensed carriers a tidy profit. For ease of packing aboard ships, parcels must be sent using a standard design. The boxes are available at starports everywhere at the cheap price of a tenth of its size in credits.. The smallest box is a 10cm plastic cube and this costs one credit. The postage for this item is 5 credits. A cubic metre costs ten credits and postage costs 500. The formula used to calculate this is: (size*size*size)/6*10. Size= size in cms. So the metre box is 100*100*100 =300/6=50*10=500. Postage is charged per 2 jumps or fraction thereof. The parcels are collected and dropped into a cargo container for a sector. So, I decide to send John a litre of water. The water fits into a metre cube and I take it to the ICS office. There I pay my 2500 credits for it to be carried 24 parsecs. The package is loaded into a cargo container along with nine other metre cubes for Regina. Each cargo container will hold ten cubic metres for each ton of displacement. Once loaded, a licensed trader is contacted for delivery.

Note: Since the ICS has limited ships available, they rely upon licensed carriers. Obtaining a licence is not easy. First an application form has to be filled out and a fee of 500,000 credits is paid. Then the applicant is given a thorough background check if anything looks suspect then their application is refused and the fee is kept. If all looks good, the applicant is granted a licence.

ICS regulations prevent more than five tons of a ships’ cargo space from being used for mail. This prevents unscrupulous captains from running off with mail and also means there is a steady flow of carriers. Each ton of space nets the carrier 5000 credits.

If a group of governments is pitching together for a Subsidised Merchant and the ICS thinks it will suit their needs then they will throw in one fifth of the cash for it. The merchant is usually given first pick of the cargo.

The cargo is then transported to its destination in its pod. It may along the way make stops to drop off mail pods and collect more.


The X-Boat system operates at full capacity until about 1120. Once fleets start to diminish, many systems start to lose contact. The Aslan’s hold off attacking X-Boats because they present no threat. Many ships and pilots where lost in systems that had major battles as they became easy targets for stray missiles. Once the virus starts to rampage through Imperial space many X-Boats become infected. They become carriers of the Virus. Since they contain only enough fuel for a jump 4 they drift aimlessly. It is during the rebellion the ICS makes the bold decision not to spy on enemy systems. This leads to Lucan’s and Dulinor’s fleets to intentionally destroy X-Boats in enemy territory. Vagr pirates prey on them for spares and the long range jump drives.

New Era.

There is not the personnel to maintain something as complex as a network of ships. A vague communications network exists but it lacks the range of the old X-Boats. Many have been found in systems, dead and lifeless. They are boarded and scavenged for spares. Since they have no manoeuvre drive the hulls are just left to decay. A few X-Boats became Vampire ships, however because they could not refuel and were not fitted with manoeuvre drives the ships simply lay in space becoming time bombs waiting to go off. The RCES when it finds one ALWAYS employs anti viral protocols. Those that were invaded by other viruses usually triggered the auto destruct if they lost control.


I took and based my information on the following sources.

Book 6 Scouts.
Imperial Encyclopaedia.
Supplement 7 Traders and Gunboats.

Authors’ notes:

Well, I finally did it. I always thought it would be a bit longer than what I have here! I hope that this will provide inspiration for all players out there. I can be contacted here via the contact me form

The Traveller game in all forms is owned by Far Future Enterprises. Copyright 1977 – 1998 Far Future Enterprises. Traveller is a registered trademark of Far Future Enterprises. Far Future permits web sites and fanzines for this game, provided it contains this notice, that Far Future is notified, and subject to a withdrawal of permission on 90 days notice. The contents of this site are for personal, non-commercial use only. Any use of Far Future Enterprises’s copyrighted material or trademarks anywhere on this web site and its files should not be viewed as a challenge to those copyrights or trademarks. In addition, any program/ article/ file on this site cannot be republished or distributed without the consent of the author who contributed it.

This document is Copyright ©1996-2014 Steven Ward


August 31

#RPGaDAY Day 9: Favourite Die / Dice Set

As a gamer of three decades I have collected quite a number of dice of different sizes, styles, colours and manufacturers.  Trying to pick out a favourite is going to be a bit tricky so I’ll cheat a bit here and list my all time favourites rather than a specific die.

Single Dice:

My speckled Torg die is amazing and there were only available in the Torg boxed set. Later editions of the game swapped this speckled die for a regular D20.  I understand that these may have been manufactured by a company called the Armory as they did a similar looking set of dice called Torgish.  Unfortunately the company no longer makes dice and I was never able to track down a set.

Glow in the dark:

I have several glow in the dark six-sided dice.  One made by Koplow and the other by Flying Buffalo Inc .  The Flying Buffalo dice have a skull in place of the 1 on the die.


I have two sets that I’m fond of.  One of them are the all metal dice from I think Crystal Caste but I’m not sure.  The dice are heavy and appear to be biased or at least the D20 is certainly biased towards the upper end of the range; great for OGL D20 games, not so good for Pendragon.  I’d chalk this up to an anomaly if the fact that all three of the dice all exhibit this behaviour.

The other set is the Traveller 5th Edition dice set I received from the Kickstarter, in black, white, red and yellow with the numbers moulded into the material.

June 7

Top 10 RPG list – number 5.


Traveller was the first science fiction game I ever played in and was the second rpg I ever tried. I was so taken with the game that I persuaded my grandmother to purchase me a copy from Games Unlimited, it may have been a second hand unboxed copy but I didn’t care about that. I had at that point several d6 dice which Traveller makes use of so I didn’t have to spend any more money on them.

I was drawn in by the seductive red line running across the page of the black cover of the books. It was later on when I was heavily involved in collecting Traveller did I realise I had the three little black books combined into two books. Early editions of the game came published as individual volumes about A5 size and this gave rise to the term “little black books”. There was a range of supplementary books published in this format that covered all sorts of new material; careers, adventures and even library data which expanded upon the previous books.

As I understand it the rules were written to enable the referee to create their own universe for play, the adventures that were written were set in what would become the default setting of the Third Imperium. In this respect Traveller was probably the first sandbox game I had ever encountered. You could argue that games like D&D were sandboxes as well but they all seemed to revolve around gong to the dungeon and clearing it out 10 foot room by 10 foot room; almost like some sort of medieval SWAT team.

Traveller was also the first game I had encountered that had a life path system which dictated your previous history before you started adventuring; unlike some of the other life path based systems it was entirely possible to die during character creation, so the game had an element of risk to it. Later versions of the system mitigated it to your character being wounded rather than death and you finished your career at that point.

Character creation was just one of the mini-games that the rulebook had; trading was another one and also world creation. The rulebook suggests that you can play them in isolation as a solitaire activity, whether you are trying to found a new trading company by plying the space lanes or exploring strange new worlds. All examples of typical sandbox play that can be found in many typical computer games.

I suppose being a big fan of the BBC Micro computer game Elite was also a big selling point to this game. It is no surprise that most Traveller games are based around the Merchant Prince route; there was even an excellent campaign written called The Traveller Adventure which gave the players control of a ship and a trading route to ply.

By the time I was getting ready to actually referee Traveller a new edition had appeared; MegaTraveller. This new edition compiled the best of the supplementary books and the core rules into an improved system with a new and improved task system at the heart of the games skill resolution mechanic.

MegaTraveller also introduced a new background as well, expanding upon the popular Third Imperium and taking it into a new direction; the emperor had been assassinated and various factions tried to claim the iridium throne for themselves. The setting while interesting didn’t really do anything for me and I continued to run adventures based in the Spinward Marches sector. The rebellion eventually ended with an artificially intelligent virus and was the lead in for the new edition:

Traveller: The New Era was the last edition published by Game Designers Workshop, the company hit hard times and the decision was made to close it. This edition moved away from the familiar 2d6 task resolution system and used the GDW house system which was d20 based. I really liked the idea of the players having a chance to shape the new empires that arose out of the ashes of the virus. The Imperium was still there but 70 years of isolation had profound effects upon the planets. So the advance scout party often had some very old data about the systems to go on and could be surprised at what had happened during the long night.

During my tenure as referee I ran many Traveller games using the various editions I had collected and I would say that until recently MegaTraveller would have to be my personal favourite.

I’m looking to run Traveller again, this time I shall use the Mongoose edition as it has a modern take on the rules but still has the Classic Traveller feel to it. While GURPS Traveller piqued my interest for a bit, it seemed to me to lack the heart and soul of the Classic edition, characters were bought as packages of skills and advantages and gone was the random determination of your prior history.  Spaceships were regarded as an advantage so the better your starship was, the worse your character started the game.

As a result of the successful Kickstarter campaign I have a copy of Traveller 5th edition which has traded the little black books for one rather massive hardcover; while an impressive book to hold I find it lacks the simplicity that the Mongoose edition has. Both games had a parallel development and by comparing the two volumes you can see where they inspired each other.

Mongoose have also used their Traveller rules to do other licensed games they publish, the most interesting to me was Babylon 5 and it sort of worked but it was woefully lacking in certain areas.


Mongoose Traveller: http://www.mongoosepublishing.com/rpgs/traveller.html

Far Future Enterprises: http://www.farfuture.net/

Honourable mention.

 Stars Without Number.

I heard good things about this game published by www.sinenomine-pub.com ; it’s a worthy spiritual successor to Traveller and is also set up for sandbox play. So I tracked it down and was suitably impressed by what I found between the covers.

The system is a modern retro-clone of the world’s most popular fantasy game and uses the familiar 3d6 for character generation compared to the 2d6 Traveller required. Where Stars Without Number shines is the support for the game. The basic game is available in two versions; a free edition and a paid for core book with more material stuffed into it. There are other supplements available some of which are free and others don’t cost a great deal.