Friday, 26 February 2010

'... for when you absolutely, positively, have to go trans-uranium on somebody's ass.'

L to R: ESU Power Armoured Infantry, Cyclops Battle Suit, ESU Naval Infantryman - figures by Ground Zero Games A chap on the Stargrunt-Full Thrust Yahoo discussion group wanted to know how large the new 15mm Cyclops Battle suits from Ground Zero Games were. The short answer is that the battle suits stand about 30mm tall, or approximately 12' or 4 meters tall in RL.

L to R: 25mm Samurai by Eureka Miniatures, Cyclops battle suit by Ground Zero GamesHere are a couple of WIPs comparing the battle suit with 15mm figures from Ground Zero Games and a 25mm Samurai from Eureka Miniatures (the only 25mm figure I have to hand).

I was initially sceptical about the whole 'walker' thing until I realised that the battle suits actually have two 'mechanical toes' for balance, rather than the metal 'boot' mechs are often depicted with. This little design touch suddenly made them believable to me - that and seeing the battle suits in Avatar.

L to R: Peter Pig Large Green Martian (Traveller Sydite), Cyclops battle suit by Ground Zero GamesJust remembered to snap a shot of the battle suit along side one of my Sydites - up until now the largest figures in my Traveller collection (well, non-vehicle figures). I think I had worked the Sydites out at twice man-height (which is a little larger than in the T20 rule book, but the Sydites in the RimWorlds eat all their greens and that's why they're so tall). The Cyclops tops them in height, and bulk.

I'm currently painting them up as support weapon platforms for my Rebel Miniatures Earth Force Marines - the latter are going to be ground forces for the Republic of Kamperal in the Miazan Subsector. Kamperal is a small, poor, high population world of moderate tech level that controls two neighbouring systems. My theory is that lacking small grav units, and with predominantly urban terrain to fight in, the Kamperalians opted for walker-type heavy weapons and armour as these can manoeuvre and fight more easily in tunnel systems and arcologies.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Website Update #3

15mm Citadel AslanUpdated my website tonight, adding pictures to the modelling log and painting guide pages.

Five 15mm Citadel Aslan, that I won on eBay, arrived today, as well. Even 20-odd years on, they are still very nice miniatures - even if they look vaguely like very dangerous hippies.

The Felids from Khurasan Miniatures are taller, and more angular than the Classic Aslan sculpts, but appear to fit in - I'll know better when I've got a few painted up so I can compare them.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Accidents in Astrography: Gamelea Subsector #2

Gamelea Subsector
Gamelea Subsector actually consists of several discrete regions; the Julnar Reach, the Gamelea Cluster, the Kalar-Wi Cluster and the Nolgor Run.

The Nolgor Run is a band of stars lining the edge of the J-3 Rift and stretching across Nolgor Subsector to include Gilanda and Canblyne at the Trailing edge of Gamelea Subsector. Canblyne has an A Class Starport, a Naval Base, and a Tech Level of 13. Canblyne’s small population has precluded it from becoming a fortress world, but its economy is still built around heavy engineering.

The Gamelea Cluster is separated from the Nolgor Run by the J-2 gap between Canblyne and Syndon IV, on the Trailing edge of the cluster. Syndon IV is a Red Zone and has been posted as such since the initial exploration of Gamelea Subsector in the early-to-mid Sixth Century. The Red Zone classification, and designation of the planet as an Imperial Reserve, was to protect the native humanoid inhabitants who have a late Iron Age culture. With sensitivities over access to the Syndon system already running high, most traffic between the Gamelea Cluster and the Nolgor Run is carried in J-3 capable vessels, staging out of either Ventura or Vanvlack VII. Vanvlack VII, a notable tax haven, is probably one of the most corrupt planets in the subsector and has little to recommend itself, apart from its almost non-existent regulatory system. Ventura’s Civil Service Bureaucracy on the other hand, is very efficient. With a B Class Starport, a Tech Level of 12 and an extensive naval base, Ventura suffered from several heavy assaults during the Kalar-Wi War of 1103 – 1105. Gamelea, subsector capital, is a rosette system with three world masses equipoised in the same orbit. The origin of this artefact is still unknown, even after nearly six centuries of study. With an A Class Starport, a Tech Level of 15 and the primary Naval Base of the subsector, Gamelea dominates the subsector economy. As seat of the subsector Duchy, Gamelea should also dominate politically, but under the weak and corrupt rule of House Juharl-Zarquestuir subsector government has become lethargic. Feor is a mineral-poor system and was not settled until 975, after the 2nd Outrim War. With an A Class Starport, a large population and a Naval Base, Feor has become one of the fortress worlds of the Gamelea Cluster in under 150 years. Technologically, Feor still lags behind most of the rest of the Cluster with a Tech Level of 9. The little ice world of Kalath has always been used as a refuelling point on the J-3 route to Leminkainen.

The Kalar-Wi Cluster extends across the borders of the Gamelea, Lymethius and Cabria Subsectors. Kalar-Wi, the capital of the Kalar-Wi Pocket Empire and homeworld of the Kalar-Wi Minor Race, lies within Gamelea Subsector and was occupied by Imperial forces after the Kalar-Wi War of 1103 – 1105.

The Julnar Reach is actually a broken Reach. Leminkainen and Julnar, a water world and homeworld of the amphibious Julnari, are separated from Kerak and Tulvan, within Gamelea Subsector; and Ouron, Finduil and Por’via in Lymethius Subsector by J-2 gaps. Kerak has been largely abandoned and Tulvan has suffered severe economic recession since the Odinite mines closed in the mid 1070s.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Psions and Psionics

Cover of Mongoose Traveller Book 4: Psion - image lifted from Mongoose's website
Mongoose Traveller Book 4: Psion
By Lawrence Whitaker

I never used to be completely comfortable with the idea of Psionic abilities in Traveller. Consequently I never allowed them in my games. This is probably due to two reasons; firstly, while I like the concept of teleportation, psionic healing, telekinesis, etc, I don’t tend to think about psionic abilities naturally and so the sudden advent of a Psion is likely to grossly unbalance my game; and secondly, the Psionic rules in Classic Traveller’s Book 3: Worlds and Adventure and Mongoose Traveller’s Core Rule Book are very basic and, to me, rather uninspiring. Even the addition of a Psion Character career in Mongoose Traveller added little to what had been already written in both sets of rules, though it now becomes possible to sketch out Zhodani characters or NPCs.

With Mongoose Traveller’s Book 4: Psion, all my preconceptions have been turned on their heads, and I now want to actively encourage Psionic Characters in my RimWorlds campaign. Psion is pitched to a wider audience than that of the straight Traveller player, and draws inspiration from Science Fiction, Science Fantasy and Space Opera. This leads to an influx of fresh ideas and a general new look at Psions and Psionics, how they work and what they do, that hasn’t really happened with Traveller’s Psionics since the days of the Little Black Books.

While some of the concepts may fall far outside the traditional style of Traveller game, it is possible to draw inspiration from them and I can easily see myself running a very ‘X-Files-like’ game where Psionic characters know or learn things about the universe that conventional characters will never know.

This is a Mongoose Traveller supplement that I will have to get an actual copy of, rather than relying on a pdf.

Monday, 8 February 2010


15mm Citadel Noble Adventurer

I have always felt that the table of Noble titles, as presented in Classic Traveller, was a little too flat. A successful Naval Officer for example, could become a Duke before entering play. And realistically, there’s little chance His Grace would then be hanging around in seedy starport bars with his deadbeat mercenary chums, hustling for cargo for his Free Trader. The guy in charge of a planet, or a system, or several planets a) wouldn’t be allowed to do such a thing; b) would be too busy; and c) it probably wouldn’t occur to him to become a merchant in the first place – except, perhaps, at the boardroom level.

Looking at ways to curb potential power gamers (“I’m the Duke, I want that battlecruiser, I want it painted puce, and I want it now”) while allowing me the freedom to have noble player characters in my Traveller campaign, I began to consider what part the Nobility actually plays in Traveller. There are few clues in the Little Black Books and Supplement 4 and few pointers elsewhere in Cover of GURPs Traveller: Nobles from Steve Jackson Gamescanon until you reach the very fine GURPs Traveller: Nobles supplement. From the Science Fiction that inspired Traveller, The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle reads as if it was a major source both for Traveller and the role of the Traveller nobility, while H. Beam Piper’s Star Viking, and the Federation and Empire collections of short stories, and Poul Anderson’s Dominic Flandry stories offer further insights and inspiration.

In the end, it was Frank Herbert’s Dune that lead me to envisage a two-tier form of nobility – the Siridar or Great Nobility, the Houses Major, who rule entire planets, systems and groups of planets; and the Houses Minor who hold fiefs on planets and make up the planetary banking, industrial, military, political and scientific elites. This also fitted in with my concept of how the RimWorlds were settled and developed. In this concept, the initial exploration and settlement was very much driven by a Private Venture Capital Company, in the fashion of the Merchant-Adventurers of Terra’s Sixteenth Century. Scions of Noble Houses put capital and resources into the exploration company and, in return, received planets, systems and clusters in fief to the leader of the expedition who, with the support of his nobles, became the first Sector Duke.

Politics in the RimWorlds, at the planetary, subsector and sector levels anyway, is very much like that of Belisarius and the Foederati of Sixth Century Byzantium, in that factions form around strong, powerful leaders and grow, or decline, as the perceived status of the leader alters through time. Vargr xenologists find this behaviour rather predictable.

Rules for Noble Player Characters
Player Characters who roll a high Social Status characteristic, or end up with high Social Status due to the Character creation process, are from a House Minor.

The Social Status ranks for Houses Minor:
Knight (B)
Baron (C)
Marquis (D)
Count (E)
Houses Minor that advance beyond the rank and title of Count have been elevated to House Major Status.

The Social Status ranks for Houses Major:
Siridar-Lord (B)
Siridar-Baron (C)
Siridar-Marquis (D)
Siridar-Count (E)

House Major ranks extend beyond those of Houses Minor as follows:
Duke (F)
Sector Duke (G)
Arch-Duke (H)
Emperor (J)

House Major ranks have the same titles as House Minor ranks, but with the prefix ‘Siridar’ – ‘Great’. The one exception is that of Social Status B Knight. The corresponding House Major title is Siridar-Lord and is the lowest rank of the Great Nobility to be assigned rulership responsibilities for an entire planet. Very few Siridar-Lords actually hold such positions and to many Houses Minor, merely obtaining the status of Siridar-Lord is the culmination of decades or centuries of effort. It should be noted that the titles of Duke (usually the short form of either Subsector or Sector Duke) and Archduke are not available to Houses Minor in the Imperial Rank system. Consequently, there is no need to prefix the title with ‘Siridar’ because if one is fortunate enough to encounter an individual of this rank, then one should be assured that one is in the presence of the ruler of a Subsector, a Sector or a Domain and act accordingly.

The elevation of a House Minor to House Major status can occur in one of several ways: Meritorious Service - a member of the House Minor has performed some service of such value that a House Major will stand sponsor for the House Minor’s elevation before the Conclave of Houses Major; Marriage Alliance – a House Minor successfully marries into a House Major and then inherits the House Major’s title and estates upon the failure of the direct line. Such successions usually set off lengthy court battles as any House Major heirs, of any remove, would seek to block the elevation of parvenu blood in such a fashion; Wealth & Power - a House Minor has accumulated sufficient wealth, prestige and political power to literally buy a House Major to stand sponsor for the House Minor’s elevation. Meritorious Service and Wealth & Power are the two most common means by which Houses Minor elevate themselves to House Major status.

Finally, a system for assigning benefits to nobles by Ian MacKinder, based on the articles ‘Sceptre and Starship' and ‘Robe and Blaster' by Ahnre and Stuart, and located on Ian’s Website. I have not fully explored all the ramifications but I would look at either increasing the number of benefit rolls for Houses Major, or look at smoothing the results while importing some of the results from GURPs Traveller: Nobles.

An example: Sir James Fabian Fairweather, a Naval Officer from Kartivia/Gazul, was invested with the Barony of Lukaskow on Kartivia in 982 by Liarb IX, Duke of Gazul. Now styled Baron Lukaskow, James had lifted House Fairweather’s status from where it had languished, as mere knights, for some three centuries. An ironic element of the investiture was that the Fairweathers were descended, on the distaff side, from House Crensea, Siridar-Counts of Daxam. House Crensea eventually numbered Dukes of Gazul, and Sector Dukes of the RimWorlds amongst their members. Duke Liarb IX of Gazul, a Crensea, was in fact a (very) distant relative of Baron James. The Fairweathers eventually acquired both the Marquisate of Chaquarg and the Barony of Holon on Kartivia, and by the Twelfth Century (current campaign date) had become a fairly wealthy and influential House Minor on their homeworld, with a Social Status of D in the senior line (the Marquis of Caquarg).

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Website Update #2

Octopod by

After several days work, I finally updated my website yesterday so that it included both material I had finished painting, like the handsome fellow to the left, plus a quick look at some figures that had just arrived from

So, having got all that done, I thought I could stick up a quick post saying "See this stuff here" and then get on with the Traveller stuff I want to write about. And the best laid plans of mice get eaten by mutant space goats.

Arriving home from work this afternoon, there was a little package in the mail box for me from Jon at Ground Zero Games - the last of my Christmas cash, plus a little birthday present for myself for the 17th of February.

Lovely new figures: two packs of New Israeli gravbikes, a pack of the UNSC Light Infantry (which I'm thinking of using as Zhodani), a pack each of the new Cyclops Heavy Battlesuits (these lads are BIG!), a pack each of the new head sprue sets, and a pack of the new New Israeli 'dynamic posed' figures.

Pictures of all these figures are available on the Ground Zero Games site, or on Dropship Horizon. I blame Mark from the latter for my purchases as he keeps breaking the news!