First and foremost the Cepheus Engine like the game it tries to emulate, Traveller, are science fiction roleplaying games. But instead of being limited to just sci-fi adventure stories, could Cepheus handle games in other genres? While thinking about what kind of games I could run with Cepheus Light, I wondered if the CE would actually work as a multi-genre roleplaying system.
Historical and pseudo-historical games are very easily done using the Cepheus System. The game assumes that the various worlds the player characters travel to have different tech levels from 0 (Stone Age) to 15 and beyond. The modern world is about tech level 8. The game also lists weapons, armor and equipment suitable for a variety of tech levels. So the CE is already designed with various levels of technology in mind.
The only problem I see are the CE careers which have been tailored to fit the implied setting. Retirement rewards like space ships, or certain skills might be inappropriate in a game set into medieval times for example. But if you use an alternate character creation method like the one I mentioned in my last post, things should work out quite nicely. It should also be quite possible to hack the existing careers into something more fitting to the kind of game you want to run. More adventurous referees might even want to design their own careers.
If you add fantastical elements to the game, things get a bit more complicated. The Cepheus Engine does not have a magic system out of the box. You could just use psionics and call it magic, or you could try to adapt an existing magic system from a fantasy roleplaying game. I haven’t actually tried it yet, but I guess you could just take the magic system from an old edition of D&D and use it with Traveller.
Alternatively you could just wait for the release of Sword of Cepheus, a sword & sorcery version of the Cepheus System. Omer Golan-Joel from Stellagama Publishing is currently working on that one. This project actually made me think about the CE as a multi-genre game in the first place.
So why should anyone actually want to use the Cepheus Engine for anything else than what it was designed for? First and foremost CE is a simple, easy to learn roleplaying game. If you are already comfortable with the system, you could easily run/play games in other genres without relearning everything. The CE is also pretty robust. You can hack it easily without fearing to break everything. Of course Traveller or the Cepheus Engine are not the only games you can hack to run in other genres. But if you like the 2d6 mechanics but want to run a non-scifi game, the Cepheus Engine might still be a valid choice.
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:
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.
Pick your career, there’s no qualification roll needed, but you have to fulfill the requirements.
Instead of rolling on the skill tables you may pick which skill you want learn or raise.
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.
Re-enlistment is automatic and there are no survival rolls. With Referee approval you may switch careers.
The maximum number of terms is still 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!
A Roleplaying Games blog
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