Category Archives: Random musings

The Cepheus Engine As Multi-Genre RPG?

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.

IN MY TRAVELLER UNIVERSE … Part 2

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!