Traveller Starports Review

[Archived from www.thehexedgamer.co.uk]

 Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Author: Carl Walmsley

Traveller Starports is a supplement for Mongoose Traveller, about, well, Starports. It is tagged as a Third Imperium product, but could be used in any campaign.
The book is softback, and has 118 pages, divided into 6 chapters: Introduction, Starport Encounters, Designing Starports, Sample Starports, New Ships and Reference Manual.

Introduction

This outlines the different types of Starport, and the (Imperial) Starport Authority (SPA). It explains what travellers can expect to find at the various classes of Starports (E to A), and Highports and Downports.
The SPA covers the organisation of the Authority at Imperial Starports, its objectives, customs law and links with other Imperial organisations. The Imperial Starport Organisation details the directorates within the SPA at each Starport, from Administration to Traffic and Flight Control. In a small Starport, employees will cover multiple roles, whilst the largest Starports will have hundreds or thousands in each directorate.
Finally, other Starports (Scout, Naval, Naval Depots, X-Boat Station, Independent Ports and Private Starports) are covered briefly.

Starport Encounters

The bulk of this chapter is devoted to tables for encounters at Starports, from Backwater Locations to Metropolis Locations. Each group of encounters is divided into General (day-to-day) and Significant (unusual and/or perilous). Some are patron encounters, environmental encounters, opportunities to buy unusual goods, and others are specific passengers.
Finally, it includes tables for local character details, the Starport Governor and Starport Quirks.

Designing Starports

This entire chapter is given over to designing Starports, and their associated costs. It is pretty comprehensive, covering everything from landing pads to security holding cells. Each Starport has a Profile, which may be filled out by the GM when creating it.
Starports are expensive – even a Class E Starport will cost upwards of MCr 1.
The chapter ends with a couple of examples: a Class E built from scratch and a Class E upgraded to a Class C.

Sample Starports

This includes details of 9 Starports created under the rules of the Designing Starports chapter. These are detailed with adventure hooks and important locations and personalities at the Starport. However, despite what the chapter introduction says, the do not include maps, which is a bit of a let-down. This from Mongoose, who provide plans for every ship they details (even 200,000 tonne warships!). Poor show.
The Starports range from Rhylantinople, the city-sized Starport of Rhylandor, to The Boneyard, an independent Starport built into the hulk of the Imperial battleship Megalith by a group of radicals (called the Dregs) from Querrion.
All the Starports have their place in the OTU, but could be transposed elsewhere with a little work. This is probably the most Third-Imperium centred chapter of the whole book.

New Ships

This includes 4 new ships: Dreg Fighter, Dreg Hunter (both associated with The Boneyard detailed in the previous chapter), Recovery ship and Tanker, all with associated rules and ship plans. New equipment is also included: Fuel Transfer Equipment and Magnetic Grapples, both of which may be included in other ships.

Reference Material

This has example Starports of each type, both Downports and (where appropriate) Highports. It also has basic schematics of each class Starport.

Conclusion

A good, solid supplement, aside from the now inevitable Mongoose typos: why can’t Mongoose hire proof readers (they jump out of the page at you, so a once-over would have revealed the problems). Still, it’s nowhere as bad as the Universe of Babylon 5 sourcebook! The lack of maps in the Sample Starports chapter is also a disappointment.
I would recommend this supplement to anyone running a campaign in the Third Imperium.

Return to Second Edition

[Archived from www.thehexedgamer.co.uk]

Recently, my gaming group have started a 2nd Edition AD&D campaign – and it’s been interesting. Travel back with me to D&D, 90’s style…

My group currently has 3 players and a DM, but another player is about to (re)join us. We were previously playing a long-term 3.5 campaign, from 1st-20th level. We hope to move onto Pathfinder when the 2nd edition game finishes. One of the players in the previous campaign (I was the DM) volunteered to DM this campaign, to give me a break (thanks, Louise!)

Characters

The characters are as follows:

A Human Cleric of Waukeen (me)
A Dwarf Fighter/Cleric of Moradin (Gerry)
A Elf Thief/Wizard (Matt)

We should hopefully be getting an Elf Ranger joining us soon.

I had forgotten just how useless low-level Wizards were in 2nd Edition – luckily I persuaded Matt to play a multi-class wizard, so he still has his Thief skills to fall back on (once he uses up his one spell). The whole multi-classing took some getting used to for players used to the d20 model. To be honest, I am playing a human only for story reasons: Humans are very weak compared with other classes, unless you play a long-term campaign with level limits. Still, I should be one level higher than the others throughout the campaign, which is some compensation.

Clerics are a mixed bag: having to memorise Cure spells is a pain, as it really reduces the flexibility of the Cleric, but I love the god-specific spell lists (I had largely forgotten these until recently). It is irritating that I can’t use certain spells, but it adds to the Role-Playing aspect of the whole thing.

Combat

The first thing we did was run a small combat, to get us used to the combat system. It feels a lot less tactical than 3/3.5, but that is perhaps inevitable given 1 minute combat rounds. It was a bit weird that technically this combat outlasted pretty much every combat we ran in the previous campaign, as it lasted about 5 rounds (5 minutes). That would be 50 rounds in 3.5! Actually, I’ve always found one minute rounds allow the abstract elements of D&D (Armour Class, Hit Points etc.) to make more sense.

It took some time to get used to announcing what you are doing at the beginning of the combat round, and then rolling initiative (we are using the individual initiative rules). That required some house-ruling (what happens if the situation changes etc.). But by last session (our fourth or fifth), it was beginning to become second nature. We also misplayed the backstab rules, treating them as more like the later Sneak Attack. We are now playing the correct rules.

Other Rules

Talking of rules, they are not that well organised in comparison with 3.5. Some rules are quite obscure and downright badly written. For example, are all bows assumed to have Str bonuses for those with less than 18 Str? Or only specially made ones? Since they cost the same, I can’t see why you wouldn’t buy and enhanced bow. Indeed, the whole bow specialism section seems odd. But that’s probably with 10 years experience of running a system designed with checks and balances (3/3.5). AD&D was always much more “simulationist” (potion mixing table etc), or as much as a game with magic could be…

One of the advantages of d20 is that there is one over-arching system. There are lots of different sub-systems in 2nd Edition (combat, non-weapon proficiencies, thief skills etc), which is good and bad – it allows systems to be created for specific tasks, but can be confusing. I find the non-weapon proficiencies to be better than skills in d20: you are proficient in the skill to start with, and they don’t overwhelm other systems like some skills do in d20 (diplomacy for example is badly broken in d20).

Conclusion

I am enjoying our journey back to the 90’s. I don’t think I would play it all the time, but it has rekindled my interest in the game (I played it to exhaustion back in the 90’s, and openly embraced d20). Unlike d20, it really is basically the same game as original D&D, with some additions – the real jump in evolution would come with d20. Of course, d20 was itself based on Gamma World, 4th edition (released in 1992, only a couple of years after 2nd Edition).

10 Things I learnt from RPGs

Ten things I learnt from reading and playing RPGs:

  1. What a diety is (AD&D)
  2. How the Numbers game works (Gangbusters)
  3. How to fix the Numbers game (Gangbusters)
  4. French Roulette uses 0 instead of 00 (James Bond 007)
  5. Differences between various pole-arms (AD&D)
  6. How to pronounce ‘Scenario’
  7. The format of medieval jousts (King Arthur Pendragon)
  8. Various parasites in Africa and their effects (Dark Continenent)
  9. Medieval metaphysics (Ars Magica)
  10. Japanese ritual suicide is called Seppuku (not Hari-Kari) and consists of 3 cuts (Bushido)

Just goes to show the educational benifits of RPGs…

 🙂