All posts by Stargazer

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

Alternate Character Creation Rules For Cepheus

Traveller (and Cepheus for that matter) are (in)famous for their character creation. Being able to die during character creation is one of the quirks for which we love that game. But there are times when you want to create a character exactly how you envisioned them. Here are my ideas on how to houserule character creation:

  1. Instead of rolling for your six characteristics distribute 42 (or probably 45 to 50 points for a more heroic game) among Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence, Education, and Social Standing. No characteristic may be higher than 15.
  2. Pick your career, there’s no qualification roll needed, but you have to fulfill the requirements.
  3. Instead of rolling on the skill tables you may pick which skill you want learn or raise.
  4. Advancement is a bit tricky. With Referee approval variations are possible, but personally I’d limit Advancement to once per two terms of service. Otherwise you’ll end up with a party of Admirals, Generals, and the like.
  5. Re-enlistment is automatic and there are no survival rolls. With Referee approval you may switch careers.
  6. The maximum number of terms is still 7.
  7. Players are allowed to pick their benefits from the table, but you can’t choose the same benefit twice without GM approval.

There’s a high risk that characters created in such a way are extremely skilled and well-off. I recommend that players and referees work together to build somewhat balanced and fun characters. And if everything else fails, you can still return to the old random generation method.


Yesterday I have put some more thought into my planned Traveller universe. The idea of using the Spinward Marches as a canvas for my … well … ideas. I also reached out to the Traveller community on the Citizens of the Imperium Discord server and asked for some advice. The community turned out to be very welcoming and helpful.

While browsing through my vast collection of gaming material I also stumbled upon Near Space by Stellagama Publishing. This small booklet contains Traveller/Cepheus stats for our stellar neighborhood. If you plan to run a 2d6 SF game in the near future, this could be the perfect resource.

While I still think my alternate Spinward Marches idea is still viable, I would love to work on a near-future, exploration-based campaign using Cepheus Light and Near Space as a basis. At the moment I am not sure whether I should put one or the other plan on hold for a while. Since I don’t have a deadline I could easily work on one project until I hit a dead end, switch to the other project, and return to the first ones when my creative batteries are recharged.

In regards of my Spinward Marches Pocket Empires campaign (damn, I need a better name for this), I was also wondering if using the Marches was actually such a good idea. If I create something interesting, I just can’t easily share it with the world because of copyright, trademarks and all that jazz. So perhaps I should instead create a sector of space inspired by the Marches. Since I basically just wanted to use the Marches’ “geography” after all, this is probably no biggie. Hmm, I think I have to ponder this for a while.

People also recommended a couple of Cepheus/Traveller products which I could use for inspiration: Outer Veil and Clement Sector have been mentioned several times and both look like interesting alternatives to the OTU. It’s also quite amusing that the Clement Sector setting shares its premise with the Ad Astra setting I wrote almost a decade ago.

Overall I am currently pretty excited about working on some SF stuff, but I also know that this excitement can easily turn into frustration. Having to struggle with mental health issues can be … well … a struggle. While I am in a much better place than a couple of years ago, things are still pretty glum some times. But at the moment the excitement is still burning bright in me. So let’s keep it that way! By the way, if you have any thoughts, advice, or questions, please post them in the comments below!

In My Traveller Universe …

My relationship to Traveller is … complicated. Classic Traveller was the first tabletop RPG I bought, but I was never really comfortable with its rules. I skipped MegaTraveller and eventually got Traveller New Era. As with Classic Traveller I was extremely excited about it, but most people I knew at the time weren’t sharing that enthusiasm. I also had a hard time wrapping my head around some of the rules back then.

Eventually I met people online and in real life who shared my love for the Traveller roleplaying game. I even got to experience Traveller as a player for the first time a couple of years back. Unfortunately the GM at the time preferred using basically everything but the official Traveller rules.

During all these years I kept chasing a dream: I wanted to run a Traveller campaign either in an original universe or a modified Third Imperium setting using official Traveller rules. For a while Classic Traveller or Traveller: New Era were the most promising candidates when it came to mechanics. In the end the Cepheus Engine, or rather its more streamlined edition called Cepheus Light, got into my focus. It’s not really an “official” Traveller game, but I guess it’s close enough. So I’ve found some mechanics I could get behind.

But the bigger problem has always been the setting. I’ve had countless plans, conflicting ideas, and in the end I usually threw everything into the bin. Recently I watched a video (see below) from the latest GaryCon where Marc Miller talked about Traveller and especially his plans for a future setting. In his talk he mentioned the “Republic of Regina” which gave me an idea. What if I take the Spinward Marches, get rid of the Imperium, the Zhodani, and in its place establish a few pocket empires. I don’t even need to rework the whole Marches, a couple of jumps around Regina for example are a big enough playfield for any campaign.

Marc Miller talks about Traveller

And since I am throwing canon out of the window I can also get rid of basically all of Traveller history and aliens. In my Traveller universe, there are only humans, who originated from Earth and built many small empires in space. Because of the long distances and the lack of FTL communication large empires never were established.

Aliens existed in this setting only in the past (or outside of charted space). The Marches are littered with ruins and there might even be derelict space ships drifting in the void, but the sapient life is limited to humans and uplifted species like perhaps dolphins and chimpanzees.

Last but not least I need a good idea on how to get the players motivated to travel around and do stuff (aside from trying to make a buck by trading). I am not interested in running a tramp freighter campaign. I want action, excitement, mysteries, that kind of stuff! So I am stealing an idea from the Perry Rhodan series. In this German novel series existed a privately-funded and quite mysterious secret service focused on keeping peace and balance in the Milky Way Galaxy. This United Stars Organization is the perfect patron for the kind of campaign I’d love to run. It’s also not unreasonable that such an organization would recruit former military types or members of the Scout service.

At the moment this is just another idea, but I think, it’s at least an idea which compromises between my various conflicting goals. It retains some elements of the original Third Imperium setting, I don’t have to reinvent the whole Charted Space from the ground up, but it’s still different enough to be called my own. Hopefully I can keep myself motivated for just enough so that I can do some prep for an actual game session! At the moment the mere thought of running a game is still anxiety-inducing, but I really want to get back to GMing, so I have to jump that hurdle eventually. Wish me luck!