Giving players some ultra high technology is controversial. That tech shouldn’t be easily available but they’re players and should have access to the cool stuff. It can be game breaking or game defining. While both sides have a valid argument, I come down in the side of including it for several reasons.
1) It Makes For a Different Game
If you’ve played more than one campaign in Traveller where the plot could come straight out of Firefly, they start to feel overly familiar. Break out if the rut with a campaign where everyone has some cool ultra high tech. If it is weapons that can me one heck of a mercenary campaign. Maybe it is a ship where you have to go off in search of a cure to a plague. Perhaps a device that makes people tell the truth and you’re charged with rooting out an insurrection. Inspire some wonder in mystery into your games with some wonder tech.
2) You’re Throwing in Some Chaos
Say you give them ultra high tech guns, do they always have to work? Maybe they won’t work if the wielder lies. It could require special maintenance that the players aren’t aware of and it breaks at a critical moment. No matter what, you can do something unexpected and throw in some chaos into your game.
3) It’s Fun and Memorable
Which weapon are you more likely to remember: just another body pistol or the gun that wraps around your body, suck some of your life energy, and utterly destroys a mech in a single shot? If you’re hurt and you know that firing that ultra high tech gun will leave you nearly unconscious, it’s a real decision whether or not to fire it. That is a game session that you will remember and it is one that the players will call fun.
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The Traveller Sale is going on now at DriveThruRPG. Grab yourself Traveller PDFs you’ve been wanting but haven’t picked up you at 25% off. Even better there are some awesome featured products at a deeper discount like D66 Compendium 2 for 50% off the regular price.
JBE has some awesome MGT2e titles you’re going to want to grab while they’re in sale, like Careers Beyond the Claw and Vehicles from the Rim. Download them while they’re on sale.
Did you prefer 1e Mongoose Traveller or are you looking to complete your collection? Find all our titles for that version here.
There’s still more available. Check out everything on sale today.
Thinking about new careers got me thinking about my last book of careers: Foreven Worlds: Careers Beyond the Claw, specifically the athlete career. I designed it with auto racing in mind, putting a vehicle sports assignment. However, it got me thinking about what other ways the sport could change in the future.
Which brings me to drone racing. Similar to how boxing and UFC compare to battle bots, drone racing can be the more dangerous version of auto racing. If a drone gets torn apart, the audience cheers; meanwhile, people still have shrines to Dale Earnhardt. With drones zipping around, you can have obstacle courses that move and change. The drones can get shot at or shoot at each other. Various power ups and ammunition can be grabbed mid-race. It feel like a real life Mario Kart. Put it in space with artificial gravity and you can have a genuine Rainbow Road.
In my home D&D 5e game, I have a rule: if you want something that is not in the books but is reasonable, the answer is, “sure.” Several of my players have taken me up on that so far. One has a longbow that uses Strength instead of Dexterity. Another wields a punching shield as a melee weapon; all I did for that one is take a warhammer and rename it “punching shield” and called it a day. We agreed it doesn’t give a shield bonus to her AC. I do this because what matters to the players is how they see their characters. What do I care if someone wants to wield a gnomish razor whip that has identical stats to a short sword? It is mechanically balanced and the player gets to imagine their character using their whip to wrap multiple razors around a troll’s arm instead of a blade slashes across the troll’s chest.
But now they are level 9. They are well into the time where they’ve left mundane weapons behind unless absolutely necessary. So they want custom magic items. I thought I would share them here and let people comment on them. Today, we have Cegra’s boomstick. It is based on the javelin of lightning with this character’s specialized wacky flavor.
Some background first: I’ve defined a boomerang as a club that has the thrown (range 20/60) property, returns to the wielder, is a martial weapon, and costs as much as a longbow. So the line in the weapons table reads:
Boomerang 50 gp 1d4 bludgeoning 2 lb. thrown (range 20/60), returning
Weapon (boomerang), uncommon
This boomerang is a magic weapon. When you hurl it and speak its command word, it whistles as through the air. Make a ranged weapon attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes damage from the boomerang plus 4d6 thunder damage. All creatures within 10 feet take 4d6 thunder damage or half as much on a successful DC 13 Constitution saving throw.
The boomerang’s property can’t be used again until the next dawn. In the meantime, the boomerang can still be used as a magic weapon.
Grav belts are a staple of Traveller, but their style is dated, if we are totally honest. They belong in a time where Kyle MacLachlin, Sir Patrick Stewart, Max von Sydow, and company were resisting the bloody Baron Harkonnen. It seems antiquated in a day and age where kids have a wheel in their shoe to skate across the floor or have “hoverboards.” Let’s talk about a few variations that deliver on the same idea that are more “modern.”
Gravplatform (TL 12)
Measuring just over a meter square, a grav platform is designed to transport a person a relatively short distance compared to a vehicle. It is useful for everyone from construction personnel needing to get up to high places to homeowners wanting to get on top of their roof. Controls involve a series of foot gestures and adjusting how you shift your weight. Operating time is 1 hour, and it allows a user to stay airborne at Idle speed.
Cost Cr. 1,000
G/Shoes (TL 14)
Tiny gravity repulsers embedded in shoes allow teenagers to take to the sky. Intuitive controls let them walk up a flight of stairs that don’t exist or skip down a street without touching the pavement. Their altitude is limited to 5 meters, and they descend to a gentle landing before the battery runs out. The kinetic motion of walking on the ground provides a small amount of recharge, making exercise fun and rewarding. Operating time is around two hours before needing to recharge. Maximum speed: Idle.
Cost Cr. 500
G/Board (TL 13)
For the ultimate thrill, grab yourself a g/board and jump off the highest mountain. With nothing between you and the atmosphere, you will descend to the ground at incredible speeds feeling the ultimate rush as you near 700 kph. The holographic HUD projects in front of the user’s eyes, helping them find the perfect path through any canyon, mountain range, or urban skyscape. With the magnetic locks, your feet will always stay connected to your g/board, ensuring you have a safe landing. The emergency autopilot takes over should some kind of medical incident occur during a flight. No matter the location, the G/Board is one hell of an adrenaline rush. Max speed: Very Fast. Operating time: 4 hours.
Cost Cr. 500,000
Since my first Traveller game, I’ve heard nothing but jokes about low berth passengers. “Why would anyone take that? You might die.” “It’s the way to go for those that don’t like their lives.” While there is a chance, I no longer think it is the ludicrous option that I use to.
Background: for those not familiar, Traveller has a standard mode of transit known as low passage. Here, a person climbs on an Alien/Aliens-like cryo tube (called a low berth unit) where the person is frozen and is thawed again when the whole trip is over. There’s a catch, however. Thawing a person required a Medic check and failing that, the person does.
Dice Math: the Traveller Core Rulebook states that it is a Medic check. Since no difficulty is given and no characteristic states, I think it is fine to go with 8+ and EDU, respectively. If you’re going to use low berths on a regular basis, it is reasonable to assume that the character operating them will have an EDU of 9 (+1) or higher and a Medic of 1 or more. Let’s assume these minimum scores are the case. Then the medical person is taking their time, reducing the difficulty to 6+. If the person possesses a computer running Expect Medic and only gain a DM+1, that means I get dice roll only has to be a 3 to pass. Add in another DM+1 as the END for the passenger and the check can’t fail. Having an assist from someone else or an autodoc also helps. At my table, if the person makes this check often enough, I’d drop the difficulty from Average to Routine, before they take their time. So unless you roll like only a handful of players I’ve ever known, low passage becomes a very low risk option.
In universe reasons: “But you might not wake up,” sounds bad, but then you compare it to, “you could get into a car accident and die on your way to work,” and it sounds much more reasonable. We all know that people die on highways, but we all do it (or did it, before the pandemic) on a daily basis. Here, the risk is similar.
“But why would you do that?” Well, it costs 1/10 the price of a small cabin with bare minimum food for a solid week. Going low passage means you take a nap, and you arrive. Truth be told, it’s not a bad deal.
“How do you know if the person waking you up is any good?” When you go to a doctor’s office, their degrees are on the wall. There are reviews available online. You can search to see if they are involved in any malpractice lawsuits. That would be available in the future. Heck, there’s probably a Yelp-like service that keeps tracks of all thawing survivals-vs-fatalities. If that number is bad, you just don’t do sign up with that crew.
Thinking of it like this, low passage is not as crazy as the book makes it sound. Consider adding it to your game if you routinely leave it off, like how I use to.
It would be fair to say that 2020 really threw me off my game. April of last year, we posted the deck plan of a ship on Instagram, saying that it was coming soon, and I did not get back to it the rest of the year. It was not just this ship; there are several other projects we’ve nearly completed that went unfinished once the pandemic hit. So in the new year, the first thing I am doing is finishing up projects that are in such a state, starting with the Corona del Rey.
The Corona del Rey or the King’s Crown in English is one of the most common transports in the former Torres Monarchy of Alespron Subsector/Foreven. Even though its government is subverted and its territory was taken over by the Zhodani Consulate, the Corona del Rey-class of transports still fly in this region of space. If anything, the region being subjugated has caused this class of ship to spread farther afield as those that do not want to be under Consulate rule make their way across the stars.
At 650 tons, this class of ship is perfect for a group of travellers looking to trade up from a standard Free Trader or a Subsidised Merchant. Not only that, it is used to being in the lawless backwater that is the Foreven Sector and features considerably better armor than either of those ships. The stock version has only a single weapon on each of the four pop-up turrets, but that is one of the first upgrades new owners make to this class of ship. It is rare to find a used Corona del Rey without better weapons.
This will be available soon at DriveThruRPG, once our editors sign off on it. Check out all of our Traveller titles at DriveThruRPG today.
It is about this time of year that some GM’s run holiday-themed game sessions. That got me wondering, how many GM’s actually do that? Fantasy or science fiction, it doesn’t matter, holidays work in both. Does your star-travelling furry race celebrate Life Day? Do your dwarves celebrate the freezing of the ground? If you have any stories you’d like to share, the comments section is open to you.
It is nearly the end of the year and it is time for our annual State of the Enterprise. This is the annual wrap-up to tell you how our year went, our look at the industry as a whole, and our look at the year ahead.
2020 and the Industry
While this is the year of COVID, in the RPG World, this is the year that accelerated changes that should have been made years ago. Take Virtual Tabletops (or VTTs) as an example. Before this year, they were out there, some people played on them, but they were largely a fringe thing. This year, they became the way to continue playing your game when you couldn’t see your regular game group.
There are a number of advantages of playing virtually than in person. Take my own home game from this year as an example. One of the players in my group had meetings right before the game started. Because both were virtual, she was able to go from one to another without skipping a beat. Had it been in person, she would have had to wrap up the meetings, drive to where we held the game, and then start. Sure that would mean we’d start later, but our games end when they do because another in the group has to go to work. Time crunches like that have a tendency to end groups. But we made it work because no one had transportation issues. Then there’s the gamer in our group that moved. He didn’t move far, but far enough that a weekly game was off the table. Playing over a VTT, he missed two weeks, not in a row even (one for showing the house, one for the bulk of the move). Had it been in person, we’d be looking for another group member to replace him. We’re all glad we don’t have to do that.
I don’t see this change reverting back post-COVID, not to the levels in the before times anyway. Sure there will be in-person gaming again, but I believe there are enough people that enjoy gaming in their pajamas and running to their own fridge whenever they want a snack that virtual gaming is a change that is here to stay. Add in the number of groups with tight schedules and members separated by distance or physical capabilities or whatever that VTT gaming is a major change in the landscape.
So what does that means for publishers like JBE, well it means that we should all be working to make our supplements available on Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, and the like. I honestly believe that publishers that do not will be remembered by history in the same way gaming publishers 20 years ago that wouldn’t make their books available in PDF are remembered today, as the dinosaurs of a bygone era that won’t last. WotC D&D is the exception to that; D&D, however, is very much on Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds. If I was a new publisher, I’d make sure that every PDF release I created had a corresponding VTT release (even if it is only for one platform). Is JBE there yet? Well, that is a great segway to our next section.
JBE in 2020
To answer my own question, no we are not up to every release having a corresponding VTT release, but we are working on it. At the moment, we’re working on making our most popular catalog releases available for Fantasy Grounds. Why FG? Because I know the platform. I’ve had a license for several years and run a weekly game over it. I’m learning Roll20 but I do not have the same level of proficiency with the platform yet. Having said that, We do have a webstore for both Fantasy Grounds and Roll20. Both contain space battle maps designed for sci-fi games like Starfinder and Traveller. Additionally, we have supplements at Fantasy Grounds designed for D&D 5e, 13th Age, and Traveller. If there is a supplement of ours that you feel we should elevate in our production cue, please let us know. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
As far as new supplements go, the story is in Pathfinder and Traveller. Pathfinder saw the start of the Book of Beasts: Character Codex Subscription. When completed this set of twelve supplements will feature 240 NPCs for your Pathfinder game, focusing on classes the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Player’s Guide, Ultimate Magic, and the Advanced Class Guide. This NPC Codex-style book has readymade NPCs that you can use in your game. So far we’ve completed the Warpriest, Magus, and Witch Codices completed. These codices are taking longer to produce than we had anticipated which is why we only completed three this year. We’ve got several planned for 2021. I’ll talk more about that in a second.
Traveller has two major releases: Foreven Worlds: Careers Beyond the Claw and Solomani Worlds: Vehicles from the Rim. You’ll note the second covers the Solomani Rim region of space. JBE has stayed with Foreven Sector since the beginning. At first, it was all we could play in. When Second Edition MGT came out, we could play anywhere published by Mongoose. However, we stuck with Foreven because we were there already. However, this year, we wanted to stretch our wings and play in a different sector of space, using different aliens and higher levels of technology. As such, we made the jump to the Solomani Sphere region. Mongoose published two sectors in this region during the 1e era: Solomani Rim and Alpha Crucis, and we are expecting those sectors to be covered in Mongoose’s upcoming Solomani Front book, so we made Vehicles from the Rim with those sectors in mind. To answer the question I’ve gotten several times: does this mean we are done with the Foreven Worlds? Absolutely not. We love the Foreven Sector and have several projects in the works for the sector that we are not be giving up. Don’t worry, the Solomani worlds is a different way for me to stretch my creative wings. We are just as serious about both sectors. Look for more from us in the future (see below for details).
Along those lines, we released two supplements for Traveller over Fantasy Grounds. Getting the d66 Compendium and Foreven Worlds Careers Beyond the Claw released on the platform was a struggle for licensing reasons. However, those have been resolved and we are moving ahead with more Traveller supplements for Traveller. If you play Traveller, you really should stick with his platform since you can get all the material here.
For minor Traveller releases, we restarted our d66 list series. Officially they are under the Cepheus Engine instead of Traveller, but as a reviewer put it, Cepheus Engine is Traveller with the serial numbers filed off. Why did we do that? Short answer: licensing for VTTs. When you create a supplement for a virtual tabletop, it can be specific to one game system or generic for every game system. It can’t be designed for one game system but easily usable for every system. So when we converted the d66 Compendium to Fantasy Grounds, we could either remove the Traveller logo, Foreven logos, and all Traveller related names and ideas removed from the book and make it usable for Starfinder and all other sci-fi games out there, or make it exclusive to Traveller. If you know us, removing large swaths of the book and depriving fans of lists of names and places that they wanted was not something we were willing to do. D66 Compendium 2 is released under the MGT 2e license so there is no changing that. So when we started coming up with ideas for Compendium 3, we decided from the outset to make it usable in any game system. This means we couldn’t use any Third Imperium aliens, names, or places. We’ll miss coming up with corporation names that imply familiar locations and events. However, that is far less of an issue than you would think. Many star systems, subsectors, and subsectors in the 3I setting are public domain names. Deneb for example is a sector in Traveller as well as a real star. Fornax is a constellation in real life and a star system in Traveller. There are a whole lot more than those two; Traveller is hard sci-fi after all and using real names for real stars is part of that. So look for more setting-based names and ideas in the future.
I do hate to admit, we never got out our new 13th Age and D&D 5e supplements that we had planned for this year. So what did we do for these two systems: we worked on converting our existing material to Fantasy Grounds. The 13th Age Class Option Bundle provides new class options for four classes. We also have the Book of Heroic Races: Age of Races which covers 10 new races for 13th Age. While we didn’t finish converting new supplements this year for 5e, we still have our Book of Heroic Races: Player Races 1 and Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider.
As far as actual numbers go, I decided to do a quick snapshot to make comparisons easier. I did an 80% off sale for November, calling it our Black Friday Sale. As you can see in the chart on the right, Traveller got more than half of all sales. This is the number of bundles sold, not dollar value (which would be even more exaggerated considering the Traveller bundle was the most expensive, followed by Pathfinder, then 5e then 13th Age). Disclaimers: This is one month from one website. This does not include VTT sales. Having said that, the results are pretty clear. Simply put half our market is sci-fi and half is fantasy. However, we have to work 3 times as hard for that fantasy market since we have to put it out for three different systems.
JBE and 2021
This was always the part I waited for as a gamer because this had all the juicy spoilers about upcoming books. First off, let me get the boring bits out of the way. JBE is closing down our webstore on Jan 1, 2021. I’ve already contacted those that purchased from us they will be receiving download links from DriveThruRPG. The two biggest reasons are: 1) Traveller by far is our biggest seller, and we can’t sell it there. Those products are exclusive to DriveThruRPG. Why have a store if you can’t put your star products inside it? 2) Focus on what we do best. As the principal writer, layout person, and promoter of JBE products, every minute I was working on the webstore was time I wasn’t creating new products. So we are just going to focus on creating quality products and leave the retail side of things to our trusted vendors like DriveThruRPG and the Open Gaming Store. There’s more sure but it really came down to these two.
Onto the exciting parts. We have a WHOLE LOT of products that got sidelined for a number of reasons this year and previous that we want to finish up. First and foremost: The Prelude to War Adventure Path. This four-adventure series has had only two adventures out for quite some time. Fans have wanted the final two adventures and we have their turnover drafts sitting on my computer. I really wanted 2020 to be the year where they got finished up and that didn’t happen. We will be finishing them in the coming year. Next up is a 5e supplement for spellcasters. The Book of Heroes: Conjurable Creatures gives cleric, wizards, and druids a greater variety of creatures they can summon up with the conjure creatures spells. We deliberately stopped working on this when the pandemic hit, figuring we’d wait and see what happened. With the vaccines arriving, we’re returning to work on this and will have Fantasy Grounds versions of these creatures at some point. The Slayer Codex is more than half done and others in the series are in the works.
There are two products for Traveller I’m working on (which depends on which computer I’m on at any point in time). First is in a cluster of stars in the Solomani Worlds. Basically, if you liked Mongoose’s Spinward Marches The Bowman Arm, you’ll love this. I really enjoyed that supplement and decided to focus on a different group of star systems and define them like never before. There are plenty of systems with little detail in the region and I feel these deserve some love. Next up is a farming space station back in Foreven. With some systems being little more than mining outposts, people need food. So I have been creating a 20,000-ton space station that can produce close to 1,000 tons of food, luxury food, and spices every day. We are mapping every single square of this station. Short of the long, the PDF will include a high res version of the station all on one poster so you can see how it all fits together. The Photoshop files are so big they push my computer to its limits. Literally, I can make a change and it takes a while for it to be implemented (and I didn’t skimp on my computer when I got it at the end of last year). A farming station is going to be rife with intrigue since there are going to be corporate spies, raiders, and many more dangers waiting right around the corner.
Then there are projects that we have been itching to work on. We have created many monsters for Pathfinder over the years and would like to convert them all to 5e and 13th Age. We have a number of class ideas that would great in all three games. We have more classes that need additional options. With a whole slew of new careers just released in the Aliens of Charted Space books for Traveller, each of them has only a 2d6 events table. I am looking for the time to turn them into d66 tables.
As anyone who has played Pandemic can tell you, you can still have outbreaks even when there is a vaccine. So for the time being, make sure to mask up, wash your hands, and stay home when possible. JBE won’t be attending any physical conventions next year, but we will be doing like this year and attending a number of virtual conventions. In fact, I attended more conventions in 2020 than any previous year. I’ll be doing this again in 2021, but in a bigger way since I’ve had time to practice. If there’s an online convention you would like us to attend next year, drop us a link in the comments and we’ll be sure to take a look at them.
Be sure to watch this space as we bring you some exciting products all throughout the new year.