In our last blog post in the Modding Traveller series, we talked about Stressing your character to give them a success after they failed a roll. But how do they get rid of that Stress point? After all, it gives you a DM penalty to every roll after that one you needed to succeed. Well, you have to indulge in some Vice of yours.

What is a Vice? It is something that your character enjoys, but it takes you out of the action for a time while you indulge. This can be anything from sleeping in zero-g chamber to enjoying the best chocolate to getting high on some new designer narcotic. Does it have to be illegal? Absolutely not, but it can be. Should it be expensive? Definitely. But most importantly, it has to fit your character. This should be a roleplaying gold mine here, more than anything else.

So what is the catch, beyond it costing credits? Vices should be something you cannot do on your ship. It has to be something that takes you out of the safe environs and can potentially get you in trouble. Does your character have a drug habit? Well, they have to go somewhere to get the “good stuff.” Food? What you have the ship won’t do. It is always there for you. Sparring? Your room’s holographic partner just won’t do. You need to kick the crap out of someone made of flesh and blood.

So is that it? My character can’t participate in the action for a bit and I spend some credits? No. You have to roll for it. Make an Easy (4+) check using your lowest characteristic. And yes, this includes your Stress penalty. Success: you lose 1 Stress. Effect of 6+, you lose 2 Stress, should you have had a second Stress point. Fail: you still lose 1 Stress point but bad things happen. What exactly those bad things are is up to the Referee. Did you fight someone in a Fight Club back-alley brawl? Well, you put them in the hospital and now you are wanted for assault. Indulging your drug habit? Where you went got raided by the authorities. Getting pampered or enjoying some fine cuisine? The place is owned by a mob boss, and they want something from you before they let you go. Going to a holovid marathon? On the way back, your parents get killed in a dark alley while you standby helplessly and watch. Ok, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.

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I have played a whole lot of role-playing games. Everyone has something I love about them and something I don’t. Traveller is a great example of this. If I want a game without a thousand one little ways to change the outcome of a situation, Traveller is my go-to game. However, there are times when I really would like some way to change that blasted natural-2 die roll.

Enter the Stress system. Some systems call this Stress, some call it Willpower. Variations of this include Hero Points or Luck or a hundred other names for it. At the end of the day, it is some way to change the outcome.

How does this work in Traveller? Everyone player character has a pool of points equal to their highest Characteristic’s dice modifier (DM’s for STR, DEX, END, INT, EDU, SOC). This excludes PSI. You can spend a point from this pool to take one Stress This gives you a Boon to your next roll. However, it also gives you a penalty equal to your Stress on every dice roll thereafter until you get rid of it. This would be an 8-hour session of indulging some Vice.

What does this look like in Scifi TV/movies? In Firefly, Kaylee failed a SOC roll by calling Shepherd Book a “grandpa.” She took the point of stress to reroll it and succeeded. As a result, he didn’t take offense. But it also meant she ate all the strawberries herself instead of sharing them with anyone else on the ship. That was her vice. While it is not scifi-based, The Fugitive/U.S. Marshalls movie is another example of this. One character always wants to eat, another is highly particular about their fashion choices, and so on. Would these characters take a Stress, they’d get rid of it by going clothes shopping or enjoying a good meal and relaxing afterward.

Next time we’ll talk about how to get rid of that Stress. In the meantime, join our Patreon to help us create more subsystems for Traveller or other blog posts for you to enjoy.

Recently I asked on various Traveller forums what kinds of products do people want to see for the Solomani Worlds region. One of the responses asked for a reason to care about the children of Earth that turned Space Nazis. A solid challenge and one that needs to be addressed. So a good place to start with that is a blog post highlighting three misconceptions of our far-future descendants. Add these to ways to use the Solomani in your game.

1) Solomani Confederation is a Monolith

This should be exceedingly obvious but still needs to be said. Any confederation is a loose alliance rather than a strong central authority. If anything, confederations spend more time fighting internally than externally. One of the most determining aspects of a confederation is that the individual member governments (generally parsec governments in this case) do not have to follow the lead of their weak central government. During the Solomani Rim War where Terra was lost, not every planet contributed to the war effort, viewing this whole mess as the ruling party’s failure and choosing not to assist in this effort. Some planetary systems limited their contributions to money, keeping their people out of the effort. Others built ships or other supplies, claiming that their people’s technical prowess was too valuable to send to the front lines. However, the “most loyal and patriotic” systems sent regiments and fleets. It all depended on how the individual systems felt.

Even if they were a single central government, the Solomani are a collection of individuals and hardly a monolith. Yes, there are racists among them, but they are hardly representative of the whole of their society. This nicely brings us to our next misconception.

2) Every Solomani in the Confederacy is a Jackbooted Nazi

Again this is simply not true. This misconception comes from the original Classic Traveller’s Alien Module 6: Solomani. That book and those derived from it are largely considered by many original and modern fans of the game to be written from the point of view of the Third Imperium government and its supporters as a way of saying, “Look how terrible they are; we are much better. Ignore the problems in our society.”

Like I said above, there are racists in Solomani society and I am sure they are impossible to miss by the Third Imperium citizens, much like how the Ugly American stereotype is well known to those in the rest of the world today. In that same way, however, a few poor examples of a culture does not mean their whole is rotten to the core.

The most recent description of Solomani society as having a “racial pride.” Really? An entire race is proud to be that race? Perhaps some loud leaders and the various internal factions that follow said leaders are proud to be that race, but I find it exceedingly difficult to believe an internal group that is the descendants of slaves or other oppressed peoples would exhibit attitudes that lead others to be in similar situations as their ancestors. The same is true with those that want to live in a just society where all are equal. This could also be said about the descendants of those that worked to stop the Cradle of Humaniti from being destroyed from ecological disaster.

3) The Solomani Possess a Single Culture

I started to touch upon this in the last point and really this goes to the heart of the first point as well. The Solomani people are not one people. When the citizens of Earth started to go to the stars, they did so as a divided people. Early colonies held cultural ties with their original homelands. It was meeting the people of the First Imperium that made the people of Earth join under one banner. But that does not mean they instantly had a single culture. Colonies that were started by Japan that received an influx of Zulu citizens would eventually see a blending of these two cultures into a new mixed society. They would share cooking techniques and overcome hardships together. They would celebrate their respective ancestral holidays together while creating new ones to mark special occasions as a united people. So it would not take long at all for this new culture to look very different than one started by Brazilians that later saw an influx of Scandanavians.

While there would be a certain amount spreading of these cultures of the course of several millennia, one planet may look entirely alien to another group of Solomani. Some planets emphasized the learning of the common Solomani language over their culture’s native tongues while others decided the opposite.

To the average Solomani, being a “pure-blooded Solomani” is like being a purebred mutt, seeing themselves as a collection of different cultures. Adding the cultures of those from those that departed Terra thousands of years earlier to their own is not something that most Solomani would object to. The only ones who care about being “pure-blooded” are the extremist groups in their society.

The Problems/Roleplaying Possibilities

Just because the average Solomani is perfectly happy to live next door to a Vilani does not mean it is an ideal society. Are there worlds where the stereotype of the Solomani is true, where they are run by racists that overtly favor pure Solomani, where extremist groups can operate openly? Absolutely. However, there are more places that are inviting and welcoming to all. Then there are the vast majority of places that are somewhere in the middle, places that have racist policies that make life more difficult for non-Solomani but they can still operate. A planet that gives priority landings to ships owned by Solomani would justify that as wanting to favor domestic economic growth. Police frequently stopping and questioning non-Solomani, Solomani being eligible for certain tax breaks or loans that others are not, non-Solomani being unable to buy property in certain areas. This is what life would be like for non-Solomani in the Confederation.

With a single party ruling the territory, they can control who is and is not a member. They would be opposed by underground media outlets trying to uncover the truth, showing how these policies affect sophonts living in the Confederacy that most do not understand since they are not affected by them. A group of cargo haulers that is trying to “uncover the truth of their society” would be an awesome game potential for your group. So could a group of people trying to reform the Confederacy so that everyone has a voice by spreading word and supplies among peaceful resistance groups would be another fun game to play in.

Be sure to check out the Solomani Worlds: Kurland Cluster as well as all of our Traveller Products at DriveThruRPG.

Fans of any RPG system other than D&D and Pathfinder can have a tough time finding each other. Most often you have to convince your D&D/Pathfinder group to try something different. Maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t.

However, I encourage all gamers of smaller games to play online, especially over Fantasy Grounds. Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds are excellent platforms for playing games with those already interested in the same game so you do not need to convince the group to play something they may be hesitant about. While Roll20 is good, Fantasy Grounds is my preferred platform. The fact that it has native Mongoose Traveller support only adds to my love of the platform.

If you are a fan of Mongoose Traveller but are not sure about playing it online, check out the Fantasy Grounds Academy. They have a video series about playing Mongoose Traveller 2e over Fantasy Grounds. Give it a watch and plan a campaign over this virtual tabletop platform.

If you already play your games over Fantasy Grounds, check out the JBE titles available there and download our Traveller, D&D 5e and 13th Age titles there, as well as battle maps and tokens ideal for ship battles in Traveller and Starfinder.

I fully believe that every game system has some idea worth stealing. From D&D 4e, it is the idea of a skill challenge, making multiple skill checks towards a larger goal. However I feel the idea needs refined some and I am going to talk about that here, using my home Pathfinder 2e game as an example.

For the Halloween game I ran this past weekend, the group came across a poltergeist and killed it, but it’s essence returned to it’s chained up coffin. When they discovered it, I gave them these rules:

To put the troubled spirit to rest, you have to perform a ritual. The ritual requires a series of skill checks. The DC of the first check is 20 and increases by 2 for each subsequent check. This continues until you have succeeded or failed 3.

You can use any skill you choose as long as it can be reasonably justified and you describe how you use the skill for the overall ritual. The others in the group can help using the Aid action. However their help requires them to use the same skill check. The DC is the same DC for the main check -4.

However, once you use a skill, you cannot use it again for the entire group.

I will admit that is edited slightly from what I gave them. I made these changes after seeing it in action. Playtesting and all that.

Feel free to use these in your own game. Obviously, adjust the DC to your own game. If you use DC 20 in 5e, it may result in a complete failure. However, if your group is 15th level Pathfinder 2e, they probably have bonuses to skills above 20. The first check should be relatively easy. Everyone in my group had a +13 to at least one skill so they only needed to roll a 7 (without any Aid from others in the group) to pass the check.

Here’s the real kicker though, and I had to point this out to my players so you may need to as well. The DC increases by 2 for each check. So the second is DC 22, third is DC 24, and so on. This means they now we’re looking at which skills that were good but not their best for the first one, saving their better skills for future checks. Now, order mattered.

The adventure itself was a solid one and I might right it up during the next year and release it as a Halloween adventure next year.

Speaking of Halloween, DriveThruRPG is running a Halloween sale right now. You can get a number of JBE’s Pathfinder and D&D 5e titles on sale right now. Check them out and download today.

Traveller: Kurland Wallpaper

We haven’t released much wallpaper lately so with the release of the Solomani Worlds: Kurland Cluster, we are happy to give you a new beautiful image for your computer screen. Download and enjoy today. Don’t forget to download Solomani Worlds: Kurland Cluster and the rest of our Traveller products at DriveThruRPG.

A Cluster of Danger and Opportunity

Born from the same nebula, these Imperial-ruled systems border Solomani space. Here, tensions between the Solomani Party and the Imperial government constantly threaten trouble. Caught between are the aliens and ordinary citizens just trying to make a better life for themselves. Travellers fly their missions amid these struggles, delivering cargo and helping people along the way.

Tell stories you never could before with the Solomani Worlds: Kurland Cluster. Inside this 22-page book for the Traveller Roleplaying Game, you will find:

  • 39 worlds and moons across 6 parsecs
  • More than 12 detailed planets, complete with plot hooks for your next adventure
  • 3 beautiful solar system maps
  • Inspiring artwork to fuel your imagination

Take Your Game to New Worlds of Adventure.

Download Solomani Worlds: Kurland Cluster today at DriveThruRPG.

When it comes to Traveller, I love maps as much as the next person. Just looking at can be mesmerizing. The sheer quantity of information available there is just astounding. There are other resources for planetary maps of main Traveller worlds and generators and they are all great, but the one thing I am no seeing much of (and I admit, it may be out there and I just don’t know about it) is a solar system map set for every planet out there. So that is something we aimed at helping Traveller refs, starting with the Solomani Worlds: Kurland Cluster.

Planets and Background by Justin Andrew Mason

Of the six systems cover in Kurland Cluster, three of them have solar system maps such as this one right here. While not to scale, this gives you an idea of what the individual planets look like and their relative positions. Not only that, describe within details about many of the planet, like how Viduus is a gas giant with a massive quantity of electrical storms and a pilot would have to be either desperate or suicidal (or both) to try refueling there, even if Liber is a full week away when travelling with standard grav drives, two weeks if your starting destination is Libitina.

We’re almost done with this supplement and we hope you pick it up as soon as it is done. Grab our other Traveller supplements at DriveThruRPG today.

There’s an old gaming axiom: never split the party. Sure it started with D&D, but it is equally true for every other RPG out there. There are many, MANY reasons why, but really they can be boiled down to just three.

1) It’s Boring For Everyone Else

The GM and half the group are doing something and there is no chance of you showing up and making a difference. More often than not, you (or another player just like you) will take the opportunity to check your phone. Sure you might be half listening, but this is your chance for your mind to wander. Why? You’re bored. It’s best for the group to stick together; you’ll be paying attention the whole time.

2) You Lack the Skills to Do the Job Right

Groups tend to not have much crossover in terms of their abilities. Where skills and abilities to accomplish a task that overlap with someone else tend to have one person doing the job and the other person bored while they sit it out. So most groups tend to spread their skills and abilities out. It has the bonus of covering more areas. Those spread out abilities have the downside of no one can cover all areas. So you might be exceptional at arcane knowledge and can identify something from across the room but lack the ability to sneak over there and steal it with no one noticing. More often than not, you’re relying on another group member to do the sneaking. Split the party and the sneaking member might be missing.

3) You’re More Likely to Die

Here’s the big one. If the GM is expecting combat for a given part of a mission and you all split the party, the GM either has to make the combat easier on the fly or run it as is and most likely cause serious harm to the characters or have them fail. Monsters that are balanced for the whole group can outright murder half. You have half the amount of targets, total hit points, number of attacks per round. So instead of spreading out the damage across multiple people, more is focused on fewer people. Making matters worse, you’re able to deal out half the amount of damage as normal, prolonging the battle and giving the monster more time to harm you, making that half the targets and total hit points even worse. All the while, the other half the group has to look on helplessly while being bored. It is a just a downright bad idea to split the party.

Check out all of our 3 Rules advice posts, and download our supplements at DriveThruRPG and the Open Gaming Store. Grab our supplements for your games online at the Fantasy Grounds Store.

Over a year in and the pandemic is still going on. The current strain is even more virulent and half the country is refusing to get vaccinated. So if you haven’t been gaming over a Virtual Tabletop, now is a good time to start. If you are, here are three rules for gaming over a VTT.

Before I start, I want to say that my specific examples are from Fantasy Grounds since that is the platform I am most familiar with, but these principles apply to every VTT platform.

1) Patience, Patience, Patience

Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, Foundry, even just a dice roller on a Discord server is more difficult than picking up some dice and rolling. People have different learning curves and different levels of comfort with technology in general. Be patient. How patient? Quite a bit more than you think you will need.

2) Prepping for a Game is the Same, Yet Different

When I prep for a game at the table, I read (again) the adventure, make notes on how to adjust it, post post-it notes on pages for all the monsters with minis selected, and draw my maps on my wet-erase battle map. When I prep for a game over Fantasy Grounds, I read the adventure (again) but this time in Fantasy Grounds, make the changes to the adventure, make sure the monster encounters are set with tokens, and have maps set and noted for easy access. So it’s the same, but completely different.

3) Be Prepared for Low Rolls

I have only known one player that rolled worse than the dice roller of any VTT. Every single VTT dice roller I’ve used produces poor results. So I am much more lenient when I choose skills I make the players roll on, handing out bonuses or advantage or otherwise giving the players some help. Every player always gets inspiration at the start of every game session. When I can set the DC low, I do so. I help the players do well. Gaming over a VTT is not for the killer DM unless they want new characters every single session.

Bonus) Remind Your Gamers About Game

Reminding my players about game has produced my gamers showing up more consistently on time. I do a “T Minus 4 hours until game. Be there or be square,” to keep my light and fun while still saying, “Show up on time.” Even then, I pretty much consider the first 15-30 minutes chat time. This is the only time for some to socialize. Let them socialize.

Check out all of our 3 Rules advice posts, and download our supplements at DriveThruRPG and the Open Gaming Store. Grab our supplements for your games online at the Fantasy Grounds Store.