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Friday, 26 May 2017

Classic Rant: Alternate Palladium System Skill Rules

I like the Palladium system. Overall, I have little beef with it. It's mostly very good at what it does; it's fast, it's not particularly complex, it runs smoothly, and it gives you that fast-and-loose kind of feeling.

Except the skills. The skills fail at all of the above. Skills are not fast, and they are complex.  They are the single biggest drag in the character creation process, the one thing that stops one from being able to say that the Palladium system would really be a great introductory or "pick-up" sort of game. Imagine Palladium, but where it only took you five or ten minutes to make a character, instead of having to spend a half hour poring back and forth from your OCC to the Skills section trying to look up the percentages (and progressions) of every single fucking skill, because they're all different. 

It doesn't run smoothly; the percentile mechanic is easy enough, but what happens when you level? This skill goes up 5%, that one 4%, that other one 2%! Once more, you are forced to look up everything (or at least, if you were smart enough to jot all the progressions down in the first place, you still have to take more time than you should have to double checking that you brought each skill up its required amount).

Finally, it's not "fast-and-loose" at all. It doesn't much fit with the rest of the system. In Combat you don't have twenty thousand different maneuvers; you just have "strike", "dodge", "parry", etc. But with the skills you, have "Radio operator: basic"; "radio operator: expert", "radio operator: superexpert"; "radio operator: jamming", "radio operator: techno-wizard radios", "radio operator: DJ", "radio operator: Ham"; "radio operator: shock jock", "radio operator: semi-intermediate that-kind-of-stage-where-you're-halfway-to-expert", "radio operator: ninja", and of course "radio operator: Fred".

It's idiotic.

So in any case, we were talking quite a bit about Palladium's skills a little while back on theRPGsite, and I hadn't forgotten about it. I had asked a few people what their solutions were, but none of them seemed quite radical enough. So here's what I came up with:

You know how all the skills are divided up into very broad categories? Make THOSE categories the skills!
So the new Palladium game system skill list would be:

Pilot Related

Plus the weapon proficiencies, that we'd keep as it is. There you go, twenty million skills pruned down to 14.

Now, every skill would begin with a base 30% + 4%/ level progression.

But beyond that, if you wanted to make it slightly more sophisticated, you could say that the old skills were just skill "specialties", that a given class would get a bonus for when rolling their skill as relates to that specialty. You would now have the skill specialties be automatically determined based on his OCC skills and related skills (and wherever his OCC related skills indicated a bonus to an entire skill-set, that would apply as an overall bonus to that skill including to any specializations; if an OCC related skill set indicated "none", that would mean that excepting any specializations already given under the OCC skills, the character has a value of 0 in the skill). 

Physical skills that gave you actual bonuses to attributes could only be taken if they were one of your OCC skills, otherwise they don't exist. For hand-to-hand skills, you could assume that if the option is given in the OCC to take a "higher" grade of hand-to-hand combat, you will have that higher grade. In other words, every PC will start out with the highest hand-to-hand type permitted by their OCC skills, unless the player himself wants to have inferior combat skills for some reason of character.

So for example, let's take the RIFTS "City Rat". It has for its OCC skills the following: streetwise (+20), pilot motorcycle (+15), pilot automobile (+10), math: basic (+10), running, wp of choice (1), hand to hand:basic. It also notes that the city rat could optionally have hand to hand: martial arts (or assassin if evil-aligned) if they use up one "other" skill.

So first of all, we assume that the City Rat will indeed have Martial Arts (or Assassin). Then we factor in the various specializations to end up with a skill set like this:

-motorcycle +15
-automobile +10
Pilot Related
-streetwise +20
math: basic +10

He also gets to pick one weapon proficiency, and takes running, which gives him +1 to P.E., +4d4 to speed, and +1d6 to sdc.

Now we look at "other" skills. Here is where we will determine the actual values of the skill. In the case of the City Rat, the "Other" skills are listed by category as: Communications: any (+10 to radio:basic and surveillance), domestic: any (+5), Electrical: basic only (+5), Espionage: none, Mechanical: automotive only (+10), Medical: first aid or paramedic (+10) only, military: any, Physical: any (+5), pilot: any ground vehicles, jet pack, robot basic combat (+10) only, pilot related: any, rogue: any (+15), science: math:advanced and chemistry only, Technical: any (+10), wilderness: none.

So now the skill list ends up looking like this:

Communications 30
-radio basic 40
-surveillance 40
Domestic 35
Electrical 0
-basic electronics: 35
Espionage 0
Mechanical 0
-automotive mechanics 40
Medical 0
-paramedic 40
Military 30
Physical 35
Pilot 0
-motorcycle 45
-automobile 40
-ground vehicle 40
-jet pack 40
-robot basic 40 (robot basic combat)
Pilot Related 30
Rogue 45
-streetwise 65
Science 0
chemistry 30
math:advanced 30
math: basic 40
Technical 40
Wilderness 0

As you can see there are effectively only 21 skills for the PC to worry about, and all of them will be going up at the same rate. When the time comes to level up, the player will just have to add +4 to each skill.

Next up, to finish rounding the character out, we see how many secondary skills he would have received. In the case of the City Rat, he had 10 secondary skills. In our system, you multiply that amount by five to receive the total amount of extra points you have to put into your skills listed above. You can put those points into any skill that isn't listed as having a rank of "0" (those are skills not available to the class and will never go up), either into the main skill or the specialization, but any points you put into the main skill do NOT end up raising the specialization at this point (this is to avoid the obvious wholesale points-pumping that would otherwise occur). So in the case of the city rat, you'd have 50 points to spread around into your various skills.

Finally, as the PC goes up in level, every three levels (lv. 3, 6, 9, 12, 15) the PC can choose two "adds" to the skill-set. An "add" can be either a bonus of +10 to a skill (general or specialized, there's no difference at that point), or a new weapon proficiency, physical skill, or robot combat technique, if any of these are allowed to the class.

So do let me know what you think about this solution to the problem of Skills in Palladium! I'll certainly be giving it a whirl if I ever get that RIFTS campaign I've been thinking of running going...


(originally posted june 16, 2007)

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Yes, Canadians, You CAN Get Dark Albion on Lulu!

So, I recently had some people complaining about the high cost of shipping US RPG-book products to Canada.  I wasn't aware of this, but apparently these days shipping books to Canada from the US or abroad has become even more ridiculously expensive than ever before.

Meanwhile, Lulu has a production facility IN Canada, and thus avoid those exorbitant fees.

Now someone recently asked me if I could be willing to put Dark Albion for sale on Lulu so that it would be cheaper for Canadian and other non-US customers to buy.

Well, in fact, Dark Albion IS on Lulu.
It's always been on Lulu. It came out on Lulu first.

In fact, the Alternate Cover Edition of Dark Albion is ONLY on Lulu.

And yes, Cults of Chaos is also on Lulu!

So if you are in Canada or one of those other "you get screwed on shipping/import duties/etc" countries, and didn't know you could get Dark Albion, now you have no excuse!  Go get yourself a real "OSR extravaganza" with Dark Albion and Cults of Chaos!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Egg + H&H's Chestnut

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Real Occultism in RPGS: How to Identify Crazy Wizards by Their Occult Team

I haven't done one of these in a long time, but long-time readers may recall I have done a whole series of entries (archived here) that detail how to incorporate elements of real occultism in your modern occult/horror RPGs. Today, I'm looking less at the theory, practices or mechanics of magick, and more at the social side of occultism. Just like in Harry Potter has Gryffindor and Slytherin, modern wizards have their own rival houses that are very different in look, attitude and ideas. They're all nuts, though. I should know, because I am one. So let's take a jesting look at the four major teams of the modern western occult scene, so that you can learn how to correctly interpret them in your occult RPG game!

1. Traditional/Grimoire Ceremonial Magicians

These guys are old-schoolers. They're divided between wizards that think magic should be done the 19th Century way, versus those who think it should be done the 15th Century way (and a couple who want it the 4th Century way). Regardless, they think new stuff is crap, and constantly showboat online about who's doing it the more old-school way. I say online because 99% of them never actually interact with anyone outside a computer screen.

Their magic involves trying to meticulously recreate the complicated tools and methods of Victorian or Medieval magicians, which sometimes involves a ridiculous amount of hand-crafting weird tools.

Some of them ain't got no time for that, so they just buy them. There's a whole Etsy industry catering to these guys.

It's especially funny because medieval magic is almost entirely Christian or Jewish, and almost none of these guys are. The whole "super authentic" thing goes out the window if you don't really mean all those psalms you're supposed to pray before invoking angels. But it gives you internet props anyways.

Hallmarks: Least likely to ever meet you in person. Most likely to have beards but dress like a square.

2. Thelemites

The modern wizards. Thelemites are magicians who use the techniques of Aleister Crowley, the greatest magician of the 20th century.

Like their founder, they enjoy being shit-disturbers, but fundamentally have disciplined views on magick. That said, 90% of Thelemites don't actually do very much magic, just read books and look for some fleeting partner to have "sex magic" with (Thelema is big on sex magic, though actually very few of them do that either).

As occult libertarians, they're big into free love, free drugs, and free thought; but they're also big on trying to spook the normies (and Wiccans). They can either be the life of the party, or totally insufferable know-it-alls.

Hallmarks: Most likely to wear black. Most likely to dig Alan Moore. Most likely to hit on Wiccan chicks at a Pagan festival.

3. Chaos Magicians

Chaos magicians are the post-modern magicians. It started as a kind of revolt against Thelema because the Crowley stuff was too "square" (by which they really mean "too hard"). Some of the big names in this movement are decent, because they're disciplined and studied other stuff. But 90% of Chaos-magicians have done anything at all outside of acting all pomo.

Granted, at least most of them have done some magic. Unfortunately most of them have only ever done one kind of magic: the one-trick-pony of Chaos Magic that involves masturbating over a sigil. Not even some ancient sigil, carefully selected and to deal with significant crises (where, in fact, the use of sexual energy to power the operation, even if just by masturbation, is traditional), but just one you made up yourself this morning for, usually for any old kind of bullshit.

(this is why people laugh at you, Chaos-magick wankers)

They also try to claim magic is scientific, by blurting out so much nonsense about quantum physics it would make Sam Harris' brain explode and Deepak Chopra blush. Then right after they tell you how scientific it all is, they tell you that it totally makes sense to invoke Wonder Woman in a ritual instead of Athena.

Hallmarks: Most likely to dress like a reject from an '80s movie. Most likely to dig Grant Morrison. Most likely to practice all their sex-magic solo.

4. Meme Magicians

Meme magick is post-post-modern magick. It is the art and science of creating, posting, and spreading memes to create change in your life and the world. It's either complete and total bullcrap or the most powerful sorcery of our modern era. Either way, it got Trump elected.

(Praise Kek!)

Meme Magicians operate through the power of sigils, like Chaos Magick, but instead of wanking over them, they use the power of the internet: their sigils are memes. The more popular a meme becomes, the more powerful it becomes. Of course, a lot of Meme Magicians are ALSO probably wanking over their sigils, because... you know, the internet.

So memes to them are a kind of hypersigil, and a meme that gets enough fame can achieve a kind of life of its own, or even a consciousness of its own. This is not some kind of new idea, it's called an Egregore, and it's essentially the artificial creation of a spirit through the application of group/collective consciousness. Egregores can be quite powerful, and useful, but can also sometimes be difficult to keep under control if they get TOO big. The most famous Meme Magick example of an egregore is of course Pepe the Frog. He went from being a goofy meme to beinga manifestation of an ancient Egyptian god, Kek

These memes can spill over to have effects on the real world. Some are very personal and can have very personal effects, changing things in small ways. Others can have massive world-changing effects. The most obvious case of this was the meme magick that helped the election of Donald Trump.
Other examples include the "Slenderman", and the "He'll be fine" meme, which is a meme that can be capable of killing celebrities. It may have been what killed Lemmy Kilmister.

Advanced Meme Magicians combine online memes, symbols of their intent, and more traditional occult symbols, as seen in this Jupiter Trump-Pusheen Sigil:

Obviously, you will now want to ask "are you fucking kidding me?", and the answer is yes. 
But kidding doesn't make it not real. Meme Magicians work on the basis of humor, to an even greater degree than the chaos magicians did before them, and the Thelemites did before them (old-school ceremonial magicians, on the other hand, tend to rely on being super-serious). The fact that even most meme magicians don't seem to take themselves seriously doesn't actually mean they aren't being 'real' meme magicians: meme magicians straddle a strange line between being dead-serious and totally fucking with you.

Hallmarks: Most likely to perform magick in their underwear. Most likely to weigh as much as two normal men or be stick-thin. Least likely to bathe daily. Most likely to want to Make America Great Again. Most likely to create an egregore to use for a waifu.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Billiard + Image Latakia

Monday, 22 May 2017

Why Did Time Magazine Not Know What the Kremlin Looks Like?

You've probably seen this cover, of the White House turning into the Kremlin.

Only, that's not the Kremlin. That's St. Basil's church. Time magazine doesn't know what the Kremlin looks like.

But worse: I know why.  If you do a google search for "kremlin", a lot of the images that appear are of Red Square, where St. Basil's and the Kremlin are both located, and some of the pictures that come up INCORRECTLY identify St. Basil's as the Kremlin.
See, this is St. Basil's (but the search claimed it was the Kremlin):

See the building on the right of the cathedral in this next picture? THAT is the Kremlin:

The Time magazine cover was done by someone who had to google to see what Kremlin was like, and got it wrong. And several million Democrats have been nodding sagely not realizing that Time Magazine knows fuck all about Russia and now they too know fuck all about Russia, thanks to thinking that a group of culture-studies-grad Establishment Journalists can actually have anything intelligent to say about the Trump presidency, foreign affairs, russian politics, or anything other than than the 'safe space'/microaggression nonsense they learned in school.

That cover is the ultimate triumph of the dominant Left-wing paradigm of "narrative/feeling over fact/truth or reason".  It symbolizes absolutely everything about the bullshit "Russia hacked the election" fabrication.

That is your brain on fake news.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Soltario Volcano + C&D's Chestnut

Wild West Campaign Update: The Murder of Dora Hand & The Intrepid Posse

The PCs started the session preparing for the upcoming wedding of former Gambler and secret Mormon, Hale, to his beloved former saloon-girl Becky.  After Miller had nearly caused a scandal for Hale by incorrectly thinking he was secretly a Catholic (he came close to the truth), Miller offered to make it up for Hale by running his bachelor party.  The fairly milquetoast Hale was reluctant but decided to accept the offer.

Miller paid for everything and held the party, which involved a poker game for various "prizes" (mostly prostitutes) at the top floor (the floor usually reserved for high-stakes games) of his Gambling Hall attached to the Beatty Hotel.

During the game, which was incredibly being won mainly by David the Mexican in spite of his having no idea how to play, one of Miller's employees comes up to inform him of a situation.  It turns out that an impromptu high-stakes game has taken place downstairs and is attracting a huge crowd, on account of how there's currently $20000 on the table.

The man holding up the game doesn't have enough to match the current raise of the only other player not to have folded yet. But he's trying to get a $10000 loan from Miller now, because of his insurance:  he'g got a four-of-a-kind in his hand.
Miller takes some time thinking about it (after arriving in Dodge near-penniless only 2 years ago, he was now wealthy enough to make the loan if he wanted), but in the end decides that he's too distracted by the party upstairs and on impulse says no.  However, the town bank manager says yes and gives him a cashier's check for the value, that whoever wins will be able to cash first thing in the morning. The gambler was sure of his victory, but everyone is stunned when the other man at the table has a royal flush.

After the game is over, the PCs and the other guests continue enjoying themselves at the bachelor party. All except Doc Baker, who calls it a night early.

Some time in the night the losing gambler leaves town with his tail between his legs. The next morning, first thing, the winning gambler cashes his check, and heads out of town quickly (not suspicious, given that he's likely to be nervous about someone who heard the news trying to hijack him).
Then the bank manager tries to hang himself. He's found in time by the teller, and they get him to Doc Baker, but Doc is nowhere to be found! They bring over Kid Taylor, the second most skilled medic of the town, to examine the manager.

Marshall Bassett is concerned about Baker's absence. He and Kid start to look around, and they discover he's nowhere to be found. Miller ends up finding out from the town drunk Louis that Baker was seen last night with the losing gambler.  What none of the PCs know, nor nayone one else in town except for Miss Jenny, is that long before Doc was a doctor, he was a riverboat gambler on the Mississippi, and he recognized the old scam: the two gamblers were in on it together. They'd set up the game to secure the loan and walk away with the bank's money (though Miller had been their original target). Unfortunately, when he was following the losing gambler in the hopes of finding proof of his suspicions, he got spotted and taken hostage.

A manhunt ensued, and eventually Kid, Jim Masterson and Wyatt Earp ended up finding them in a shack in the red light district. They'd doubled back into town and were trying to figure out what to do with the Doc and how to get out of town.  The lawmen were soon joined by the two Millers and Bill Tilghman, but they still had a hostage situation.  It turned out to be the young and usually bloodthirsty Jim Masterson who solved the issue.  He agreed to the men's demand that they be able to walk out with the Doc, and when they were too far to run back into the shack he drew on them, making it clear that they might kill Doc but six guns would end up mowing them down like dogs. The men surrendered.

One might have thought that would be all the action Dodge would see for a while, but the very next night a real tragedy struck.  In the middle of night, Dora Hand (one of the most renowned and beautiful singers of the west at that time, and one of the most famous citizens of Dodge) was shot dead.

She was killed in the house of Mayor James "Dog" Kelley, her lover. Kelley wasn't in Dodge at the time, having gone to Ft. Dodge for some medical attention while Doc Baker was missing.
The murderer was Spike Kenedy, the heir to the largest ranching fortune in this part of the west, son of cattle-baron Miflin Kenedy.

Spike had fallen madly in love with Dora Hand, and he hated Dog Kelley for being her lover. He'd actually tried to assassinate the mayor six weeks back (only to have the case thrown out thanks to his father's influence) and some three weeks back he'd come to town and challenged Dog to a fist-fight; in spite of being decades older than Spike, Dog beat him to a pulp.

This time, he'd gone to Dog's house in the night to murder him stealthily, not realizing that it was Dora who he'd shot.

Spike fled the scene, and Bat Masterson immediately put together a posse: Bat, Charlie Bassett, Bill Tilghman, and Wyatt Earp, accompanied by Bill "other" Miller, and Kid Taylor as deputies. The four lawmen were at this time four of the most famous lawmen in the west, and the new Ford County Register later reported on the matter, naming them "The Intrepid Posse", as never before had such famously intrepid lawmen all ridden together in such a celebrated manhunt.

Charlie Bassett:
Bill Tilghman:
Wyatt Earp:

They chased Spike Kenedy down, at night, through a raging autumn rainstorm. About 7 hours after they set off they caught up to him. He tried to ride off but Bat Masterson shot him through the upper arm with a .50 rifle while Wyatt Earp shot his horse out from under him. Spike cried out "Did I kill the bastard?", and one of the posse told him it was Dora Hand he'd murdered.  Spike glared at Bat and said "you should have been a better marksman"; to which Bat replied "I tried my best".  Spike would end up surviving his injury but only after the doc took about five inches off that arm, leaving it permanently paralyzed.

The murder of Dora Hand and the Intrepid Posse that caught the killer would become part of the wild west's legend.  Little do the PCs know that for one of the men in that posse, it would be the last time he ever rode as a Dodge city lawman.  But that's a story for next session.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Image Virginia

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Classic Rant: Sex With Ted

So, it has now come out that Ted Cruz has apparently been involved in affairs with five different women besides his wife.  As implausible as it sounds that there could really be a total of six women on the planet willing to sleep with Ted Cruz, it certainly seems like the National Enquirer (who broke the scandal, like they did the John Edwards scandal before this) have showed more actual Journalistic skill on this than the entire rest of the mainstream media.  They were very careful to cross all their Ts and dot their Is, because this is how they avoid lawsuits.  So it sure looks like it's the real thing.

In honor of that, I present to you my collection, thus far, of the @KasimirUrbanski "Sex with Cruz" posts from Twitter and G+. Visualize, if you have the stomach for it, what sex with Ted Cruz must be like:

Imagine this face, looking down at you, drenched in sweat, making animal-like moaning noises from his dead lips as he humps you to the sound of "Battle Hymn Of The Republic" playing in the background...

He asks you if he can talk dirty to you while you fuck, and if you reluctantly agree, he starts telling you about how David smote the Jebusites.

He has a part of his body he  calls "'Lil' Ted"... but it's not his penis.

"Ted Cruz will show America the face of GOD" -Heidi Cruz

It turns out, "the face of GOD" was Ted's nickname for his penis.

Imagine that face, those lips, whispering into your ear in mid-coitus "Can I call you Hillary"?

"My son is an Anointed King, destined to take control of all sectors of society" -Pastor Rafael Cruz

Now we know what he was "anointed" with.

Imagine if you were a woman and Ted Cruz was going down on you. 

It would feel like if you were getting oral sex from a blobfish


If you have an affair with Ted Cruz, he won't promise to leave Heidi for you, but he will promise to speak with Jesus on your behalf on Judgment Day.  

It gets really awkward when Cruz asks you to dress up as Mary Magdalene and wash his feet with your tears.

When Cruz goes down on someone, he never stops talking about "carpet bombing"

Cruz also cries after sex, but he says it's only because he's thinking of the Founding Father's greatness.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck

(Originally posted March 25, 2016)

Saturday, 20 May 2017

RPGPundit Reviews: Mindjammer: Traveller

This is a review of the RPG source/campaign-book "Mindjammer: Traveller", written by Sarah Newton & John Snead, published by Modiphius.  This is a complete campaign setting with adventures, nominally requiring the Mongoose Traveller rules for use though theoretically it could be used alongside classic or other Traveller systems too with relatively little modification.

As usual, this is a review of the print edition, which is a nice-looking hardcover, 385 pages long.  It has a full color cover featuring some starships, and the interior art is a mix of color and black and white, featuring a lot of relatively well-drawn sci-fi art, plus planetary and starmaps, starship outlines, equipment, etc. The interior cover art features a great starmap of Commonality Space.
Best of all, it has a ribbon bookmark! I automatically give extra points to absolutely any RPG book that has a ribbon bookmark.

This review also includes the "Mindjammer: Dominion" free quick-start rules, which comes as a 46-page softcover (magazine-style) meant to introduce you to the world of Mindjammer. This product includes a summary of the main changes from the standard Mongoose Traveller rules, as well as a few pre-made characters and an introductory adventure. It involves the (premade) characters heading to a frontier world to meet their new boss, only to have the boss end up being kidnapped by agents of a client-state of the Venu (the enemies of the Commonality). The adventure is presented in several parts, and there's options to cut down to only certain parts for a shorter adventure of the type you could play in a one-shot at a gaming event.  In all, Dominion provides a decent introduction to the campaign, particularly if you're already familiar with Mindjammer's setting. If you aren't, I suspect you'll need to read up some of the main book to fully acclimate yourself.

So, on to the main review.  First of all, I should note that this is the third incarnation of Mindjammer I've had the opportunity to review.  First was the review of the original Mindjammer sourcebook for (FATE-powered) Starblazer adventures.  Then, I reviewed the huge 500-page stand-alone Mindjammer RPG. You'll note that on the whole, I've been quite impressed by Mindjammer. It's basically the only "Transhumanist Sci-Fi" RPG that I actually like. Sarah Newton has shown herself to be a very talented RPG designer; if I were to dive into the totally unnecessary waters of identity-politics, I'd probably say that she is the best female RPG-writer around.

Mindjammer is a sci-fi setting in the very distant future (15000 years),  in a period of expansion (after a time of chaos) of humankind into the stars. The 'Rediscovery Era' is being led by the Commonality, a transhuman civilization that is expanding not only through conquest but by cultural domination.  The commonality technology, the Mindscape, means that everyone everywhere is interconnected, to great advantage and collective benefit; but it also means the Commonality is in some ways the ultimate collectivist nanny-state. In the previous incarnations of Mindjammer, as indeed here, this has been handled with fantastic subtlety by Newton. It would have been very easy to just make a setting portraying the Commonality as some blue-rose style leftist utopia, or as a horrifying dystopia out of a libertarian's nightmare-scenario. Instead, Newton's setting is a lot more complex than that, and largely how you view the Commonality depends on your own personal analysis of various complex factors. It's hard to deny the Commonality has some very positive features, but also poses some serious issues on the subject of individual liberty; all without being ideologically-heavy-handed or preachy.

Experienced Traveller fans might be asking themselves "I've got Traveller, I've got the Imperium, what do I need Mindjammer and the Commonality for"?  Well, for starters, Traveller is fundamentally 1970s sci-fi. Even though it has made significant attempts at trying to modernize itself, at the end of the day there are certain things still hard-wired into the setting that make it at least a little 'retro'.

Mindjammer is modern transhumanist sci-fi. So while there's some parallel to the internet in terms of computing-power in the modern version of the Imperium, in the commonality there's an extrapolation of that into the Mindscape, a direct-to-brain implant that makes you a part of the internet. In fact, there's technically  no computers at all in Mindjammer: because everything is AI. You don't program your starship (or your toaster!), you have to learn how to talk to it.  In certain ways, the 'tech specialists' of Mindjammer are more like psychotherapists for machines.

In some ways, Mindjammer is a great Traveller setting, because it's very different from the Imperium.  The setting conceits are different, the political structure is different, the challenges are different. The tech level is different. Characters in the Commonality will generally live longer than those in the Imperium, and access to Mindscape means that they will be able to mindscape-enhance skills to in some ways be much more effective.  For example, skill bonuses will be a lot higher than in a standard Traveller campaign.

So I think this is more interesting than if you had a Traveller setting that was just another spin on more classic sci-fi. But of course, a lot of people who like Traveller specifically like classic sci-fi. They might not be too keen on a Transhumanist campaign. Even there, though, I will note that Mindjammer is a much more approachable type of Transhumanist sci-fi than many other RPGs of the same genre; I've found that a lot of those make the mistake of going so far into The Weird that you can't really connect to them, or have any idea of what to do, or even how to keep a PC group coherently together.  Mindjammer doesn't have any of those problems.

Character Creation for Mindjammer is in many ways similar to that in standard Traveller, but obviously due to the different setting and transhuman genre there are also some important differences. You start out rolling for  your Traveller stats as normal, unless you're playing a sentient machine like a starship (yes, you can play a starship in this game!), in which case you roll a more limited number of stats.
The stats mostly mean exactly the same in Mindjammer as they do in Traveller, except for SOC which has nothing to do with aristocratic titles (there are none in the Commonality).  Instead, in Mindjammer SOC is a measurement of your reputation of respectability and competence. It also in essence serves as kind of credit rating in the Commonality core for obtaining equipment, since in the core worlds of the Commonality money has not existed for thousands of years (the Commonality was forced to reinvent currency for the purpose of interacting with the fringe areas and outside Commonality space, but some PCs will actually start out having no idea how money is supposed to work, depending on what culture they belong to).

Mindjammer has a "Tech Index" instead of Tech Levels, and characters will have a personal tech-index which indicates what level of technology they're familiar and comfortable with based on their culture. The standard tech index for the Commonality is T9, which is equivalent in Traveller to Tech Level 15-18, the maximum for the Commonality (T10) is somewhere around Traveller TL21.

Characters must choose a native 'culture' (Commonality Core, Neo-culture, Fringe, and their various subcultures... or Venu; though that last one is the xenophobic and warlike "bad guys" of the setting and generally aren't recommended as actual PCs), and these will potentially include certain 'traits'. The most common trait is the Longevity Trait, which means your character's lifespan has been enhanced. Starting characters in Mindjammer can, after the creation process is completed, be somewhere between 20 (ridiculously young) and 200+ years old.  Characters with the longevity trait will no longer age in the normal way, and will gain advancements in 50 year blocks rather than the standard Traveller method.
Note that because characters with longevity packages do not suffer effects of aging, the recommendation for character generation is that characters with longevity traits (which will probably be most PCs) should have to complete character creation after obtaining 3 longevity packages at the most (so, 150 years of career time). Each 'longevity package' provides a significant amount of bonuses, so even with this restriction the typical finished Mindjammer character will be significantly more powerful than the standard Traveller (Imperium) character. To give you an idea, there is a cap on skill levels; it equals 6+ 1 per 100 years of age!

Characters who have longevity packages also have to choose levels in what are called "longevity restrictions": these are personality traits that develop due to extreme age. It includes things like existential boredom, insatiable curiosity, intolerance of discomfort, concern for all sentient life, disregard for life, emotional distance, neediness, hyper caution, or risk taking.

Different cultures will include a number of different "genotypes", like humans, hominids (divergent humans, which can be as weird as any aliens from more standard sci-fi settings), xenomorphs (uplifted animals), or synthetics (artificial life forms). There are also actual aliens, but Mindjammer aliens are super-alien, not similar to humans at all, and thus are not recommended for PCs (though there are optional guidelines for playing one in the chapter on alien life).

Just like cultures will include certain genotypes, they'll also include certain Memes.  These are inherent concepts of ideology that the culture you come from belives in; PCs might have up to 3 memes, which will affect certain checks in terms of how your character would perceive or react to certain situations. Characters from the standard Commonality culture might have a meme of "rapid social change is dangerous", while characters from some weirdo neo-culture world might have "distrust mechanical technology" or "all life is one"; a character from some rediscovered fringe world might have "never show weakness".

After initial education (which in the Commonality worlds can mean the first 50 years of your life), characters go on to work their way through careers in a way quite similar to that in Traveller, with the noted exceptions (particularly relating to Longevity) mentioned above.

The available careers are: civilian, diplomat, downtecher (a career for people from or in more primitive worlds), explorer, installation (a career for sentient machines), merchant, military, rogue, sci-tech, security, or spacer.

The chapter on technology breaks down the standard details of the setting's tech level.  There's ubiquitous intelligence (in machines), power is super-abundant (unlike standard Traveller, starships don't really need to worry about "refueling"). The mindscape allows for access to amazing levels of information, but it is not itself some kind of consciousness. There isn't actually faster-than-light communication; but there's a network of communication transmission that allows for relatively fast communications.  The standard ftl transport allows for a relatively fast voyage between star systems, but the newest technology ("3-space gates") is already making transit in the core-worlds near-instant. There's no teleportation, but "makepoints" allow for ubiquitous creation of matter.  The chapter on equipment covers a huge variety of weapons, armor, vehicles and miscellaneous equipment.

The chapter on the Mindscape is explained in about 9 pages. The mindscape can be used to obtain bonuses to tasks by extracting memory from the mindscape.  Users with the right sort of skills or equipment can tap into the mindscape to attack or control people through the mindscape-link, or to perform other feats that look very similar to 'psychic' powers ("Technopsi").
You can even have a reading of your persona, at the time of death, updated to the mindscape so that a replica of your consciousness keeps on existing.  The game makes it clear that this is not actually you, however.

The chapter on starships covers everything you might need to know about those, including the ways the rules vary from starships in regular Traveller. There's also encounter tables for different areas of space. A significant number of premade starship templates and floorplans are included.

After that, there's a chapter on organizations, which includes mechanics to establish an organization in the game. Organizations can have their own Memes, will have varying scales of size, influence, and services.

Next we get into more description of the Commonality.  The setting's history details how humanity expanded slowly into space, then went through a long period of stagnation and isolationism with no central civilization being possible due to time and distance.  It was only with the discovery of the 2-space drive on old Earth that FTL travel was possible; this discovery led to the growth of the first interstellar civilization through the Earth-centered Commonality.

However, not every old colony was welcoming to the Commonality. Many did not want to join the Commonality's culture, and some areas of humanity out in space had diverged so much, either genetically or culturally, from the humans of the Commonality that conflict was inevitable.  In particular, in the fringes of space the Commonality encountered and warred with a human culture known as the Venu, who had become a strange culture of highly xenophobic and violent cultists of a Techno-priest religion. Although the Commonality beat back the Venu invasion, the result left behind a group of buffer "Successor States" that were clients of one or the other group.

In expanding and rediscovering worlds, the Commonality is as concerned about "culture threats" as they are about military threats.  Because of the Mindscape, cultural change can be as dangerous to the stability of the Commonality as a military attack.  So they will often seek to change entire cultures, and alter or remove any cultural memes that are considered dangerous to stability, before they integrate a new world to the Commonality.  Some worlds are quarantined not because of civil strife or toxic environment, but because of dangerous ideas.  There's also some worlds in the Commonality that are special "culture worlds", carefully crafted as a kind of "preserve" of specific cultural ideas, including some recreations of ancient cultures from Earth's past.

As for the fringe worlds that encounter the Commonality, some of them view the Commonality as saviors and rescuers.  Some which have slipped back into primitivism due to technological collapse even see them as gods.  But others see them as interstellar fascists bent on repressing human freedom into what they see as a dystopian nanny-state.

This chapter also details various areas of the Commonality's government, security and military organizations.

Just as in regular Traveller, it is possible for a PC group to be freebooters, doing their own thing; passenger transport is possible, as is trade in those parts on the fringes of Commonality space where money is a thing.  Criminal enterprises like smuggling are obviously possible too.  On the other hand, PCs could be agents of some branch of the Commonality's government or armed forces. Rules are provided for handling both regular trade, and the SOC-based status-derived resource-access that is more common in the core of the Commonality.  Certain actions can cause PCs to gain or lose SOC points, so this stat will be far more fluid than it normally is in Traveller.

There's a chapter on "culture" that creates mechanics for setting up a culture in a way similar to how in standard Traveller you would create a planet. Cultures are designed with their overarching memes, and with a series of "capabilities" that determines the culture's makeup.  Capabilities are tied to the Tech Index, and include "Armaments", "biotechnology", "comms", "information", "power", "resource exploitation", and "transport".
There's also rules for how to manipulate cultures, which is a big deal for the Commonality, as part of it's expansionist tactics involve altering cultures to make them more in line with the Commonality before integrating them. The mechanics involve accumulating sufficient "cultural manipulation points" to alter the culture; the further you need to alter it, the more points are needed. The values that are changed directly are the Memes of the culture, which in turn can have consequences altering the culture's capabilities. There's a whole set of guidelines for how to openly or (more often) covertly changing a culture.
Yes, that's right: this is a game setting where you can have a Meme War.  It's just like the 2016 election!

Details on sample cultures are provided with their statistics.

After that we have the chapters for star system and planetary profile creation.  The overall way these work are extremely similar to standard Traveller, however both have been considerably altered.  The alteration is mainly to try to bring in a greater amount of 'realism' based on current scientific ideas about the makeup of the galaxy and its planets.
The result is that the rules here are considerably more detailed than in standard Traveller, and certainly feel more like 'hard scifi'.  So you get stuff like spectral classification, stellar body age, much more detail than usual on the interal environment of star systems, planetary age, planetary year length, orbit, density, temperature, atmospheric pressure; hell, there's a table called the "year length stellar mass multiplier". Science geeks will go nuts for this.

On the other hand, I do feel it may be a bit too much overkill for my own tastes. Luckily, it gives me the impression that it's pretty easy to skip through the parts you don't really care so much about and focus only on those that you do care about.
Conveniently, there's a number of planetary-type profiles which give the standards for the type of planet by category ("ice giant", "garden world", "inferno", "proto-gas giant", etc etc), so you don't have to roll it all up every time. You can just use one of the template and make slight alterations to taste.
The profiles of civilizations on inhabited worlds are also different, having categories for things like population and government as per Traveller, but also things like societal development, economic development, openness index, control index, etc.  There's starport facilities ratings (familiar to Traveller Players, though the categories are different from Traveller standard), but there's also "Mindscape Facilities" ratings. Again, standard templates for the most common types of civilizations are provided.

There's also guidelines for converting a Mindjammer world profile to a Traveller UWP, and vice-versa.  The chapter also includes a "planetary events" table and random encounter tables.

Next there's a short chapter on Commonality Space, which adds some more detail about the regions of the commonality, and information about "Manhome", which is the Commonality name for Earth.

Then we get to "alien life". Again, in this setting humanity and its offshoots or human-made life forms are highly dominant, but there are a truly alien races, quite a lot of them. It's just that they are so, so alien from humanity that in a lot of cases there's a fundamental lack of compatibility or the ability to communicate. Once again, compared to standard Traveller, it seems like Mindjammer is trying to use more modern scientific concepts to guide its handling of alien life (well, certain predominant theories, anyways).

The gamemastering chapter looks at what might be the themes of a campaign, and the styles of play, and the tone. Suggested genres of campaigns include mining/salvage, military, conspiracy, special ops, hacking, mystery, exploration, research, trading, or transcending.  The latter refers to the transhuman theme of going so far as to become 'post-human'. In fact, characters who end up with 15 or higher in INT and EDU begin to effectively become post-human, they are so far ahead that regular humans find them hard to comprehend, and they're capable of feats (called posthuman-traits) that normal humans can't. There are also classes of post-human detailed in the chapter, in essence post-human "careers".

After this we get a complete subsector detailed, the "Outremer Subsector", which is of course on the edge of Commonality space (you could say it's like the Mindjammer version of the spinward marches). It's an ideal sort of adventuring locale: not too much law and order, various different power groups in conflict, etc etc.
31 worlds of Outremer are fully detailed in this chapter, complete with a worldmap and the planetary profile.

And apart from the character sheet, ship record sheet, system creation sheets and index, that's it.

So what do I think about Mindjammer Traveller?
I like it.
A hell of a lot.

I would say that of the three incarnations of Mindjammer thus far (the Starblazer version, the self-standing FATE game version, and this one), Mindjammer Traveller is definitely my favorite.  I think that a setting like this one begged for more structured rules than FATE is capable of offering. It is, to me, a much better fit to the Traveller rules.
Beyond that, the concepts and elements also seem to be better written and better explained in this version than in the previous one; I don't know if that's a product of Newton having to fit the material into the more rigid rule structure, or just that she's had more time to practice at it.

So if you were looking for a transhuman game, or just a more modern-style sci-fi game, you can't go wrong with this one. If you already liked Mindjammer, you should pick this up and see how much better it is with Traveller. If you like Traveller, why not take a look at what the game is really capable of, with a setting that's very different from the Imperium?


Currently Smoking: Neerup Billiard + Image Latakia