The is the second of two articles covering FASA’s published adventures in the Sky Raiders trilogy for Traveller. You can read the first here.
The Keith brothers, so prominent in creating Traveller materials during early years of the game, did not end the story of the Sky Raiders with The Legends of the Sky Raiders, but continued it on The Trail of the Sky Raiders and The Fate of the Sky Raiders. While both sequels can be played independently without having run through the previous one or two, the motivating rationale and exploration of Mirayn in Legends turns into more straightforward exposition. I think a more satisfactory story begins with Legends.
The is the first of two articles covering FASA’s published adventures in the Sky Raiders trilogy for Traveller.
The Keith Brothers, J. Andrew and William, were prolific and significant contributors to Travellerin the 1980s, often writing under pen names to avoid entire products being obviously written by the two. They wrote the classic Murder on Arcturus Station (you can see my review here). In 1981, they published via FASA (a notable RPG published with licenses to produce TravellerRPG supplement and adventure material), the first in a trilogy of adventures: The Legend of the Sky Raiders. This was followed in 1982 by The Trail of the Sky Raiders and The Fate of the Sky Raiders.
The trilogy is a planet hopping adventure focusing on hunting down the mysteries of the Sky Raiders, a lost civilization. The Legend of the Sky Raiders minces no words in the tone and type of adventure they are going for:
“Dedication: To Indiana Jones, who would feel right at home here.”
Once upon a time, there was an age in which no one had heard of Weeping Angels or The Timeless Child, an age before the fez but after jelly babies, an age before Daleks could fly when there had been only six Doctors. I’m talking about 1985, the year TheDr. Who Role Playing Game was released by FASA, a company then known as the original publisher of the Shadowrun tabletop roleplaying game and the science fiction war game BattleTech.
The Dr. Who Role Playing Game came in a boxed set with three books of rules: The Player’s Manual, a Game Operations Manual, and a Sourcebook for Field Operatives. There were at least three different printings of this game with the first printing having a cover painting of the Fourth Doctor and companion Leela while the second and third printings had covers of a photograph of the Fourth Doctor and Leela. Also, while the information was the same, the various rules books inside the box had different covers for each of the three printings.
For the past three years, Kickstarter has had an annual event known as Zine Quest:
Our annual Zine Quest prompt bestows creators with this valiant mission: Bring your RPG to life with maps, adventures, monsters, comics, articles, and interviews. To participate, launch a two-week project for a single-color unbound, folded, stapled, or saddle-stitched RPG zine on A5 or smaller paper.
The zines tend to be small in size, and thus relatively inexpensive. This year, I participated, purchasing a few supplements for Mothership (you can read my review of this RPG here) and Mörk Borg along with a few full-fledged RPGs. One of these was Bounty Hunter, which I received in PDF and hard copy a few weeks ago.
The game was created by Guy Sclanders, a personality on YouTube who offers often excellent advice for gamemasters (GMs) and reviews on his How to Be a Great GM channel. Bounty Hunter focuses on an original setting and a non-traditional mechanic for RPGs: it is diceless.
Though it no longer exists, the gaming company known as TSR, Inc., will always be associated with Dungeons & Dragons. However, TSR published a lot more tabletop roleplaying games than D&D. The science fiction game Star Frontiers to this day has a strong fan base, and the game Gamma World continues to find some love. That being said, many of TSR’s other RPGs tend to have been forgotten by a wider audience though they might still have a community of followers.
Such a game is Gangbusters.
Designed by Rick Krebs and originally published in 1982, Gangbusters takes place in the America of the 1920s and 1930s in the fictional Lakefront City. This is a game of cops and robbers, of gangsters and crime lords and Tommy guns. Historical figures such as Al Capone or Pretty Boy Floyd might make an appearance along with fictional characters like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe, but players also have the opportunity to play the bad guys. Or they can play the good guys and join the side of the law. Or they can be something in between, like a newspaper reporter or photographer.
The original version of Gangbusters included multiple maps, two ten-sided die, and a 64-page book of rules. Today 64 pages might not seem like much for a rules book, but Gangbusters had plenty of information packed into those pages.
When I started playing RPGs all the way back in the early 1980s, I did not have a group of players at my age to play games with (well, at least none that I ever found). Hence, I subjected my brother to Travellerand Star Frontiers — and eventually Marvel Super Heroes, Twilight: 2000, and others. RPGs had always presumed that the game would have a game master (GM) — sometimes called Dungeon Master, referee, storyteller, keeper, and others — and the players.
The GM is largely responsible for crafting the story, running all the non-player characters (NPCs), adjudicating the rules, and responding to player decisions by adjusting the story as necessary. Hence, I acted as the GM and my brother played the characters in the story. Typically, far more players are looking for GMs to run games than GMs hanging around without players. This is, of course, highly dependent on the games being run, location, and so on. With online gaming, it is usually more challenging to coordinate time zones.
That said, GMs may have trouble finding players to play anything but the giant of all RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons. However, D&D often serves as a gateway to other RPGs, and the incredible success of Cyberpunk Red and Aliensshows that as more players enter the hobby, a fair number are willing to expand beyond the D&D horizon.
Firearms from the Old West era have always fascinated me. It’s not simply the physical attractiveness of such weapons, though some are quite pleasing to look upon, but it’s the mechanics and the operation of these firearms which has always drawn me. Single-action revolvers, lever-action rifles, cap and ball weapons, even scatter guns of the period, they all take a certain amount of basic knowledge and skill to operate, to even load, let alone fire. There has always been something about the physical manipulation of such weapons which has interested me, far more than most modern firearms which are more deadly but don’t usually require the same operations.
This is the third of three articles covering GDW’s published adventures in the “American Campaign” for Twilight: 2000’s first edition. The first, “From the Mountains to the Oceans,” can be read here, Part 2 is here.
The final three adventures ofTwilight: 2000’s American campaign leap from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles to Baja Mexico. Twilight: 2000, GDW’s apocalyptic World War III RPG first released in the 1980s, always kept a firm eye on the individuals — usually US soldiers negotiating this challenging environment — while incorporating broader events. For the American campaign of adventures, the primary broader event has been the rising power of New America — a fascist tyranny run by the mysterious Charles Hughes — using its power and the competing US government’s two halves (MilGov and CivGov) to establish control over ever more area. New America has been a prominent opponent in the earlier adventures Airlords of the Ozarks, Urban Guerrilla, and Gateway to the Spanish Main.
In the half century or so that makes up most of video game history, there have been plenty of games which have featured swords and swordfighting. From fantasy games to ultra-realistic combat games, most have not gone for any realism except perhaps graphically, though there have been a handful of notable exceptions such as Bushido Blade and Kengo. Until fairly recently that has not been much of an issue. The average video game player, if there can be said to be such a person, has seemed to be more interested in flashy graphics and action than in realistic swordfighting, or at least that is what the gaming market has mostly provided. Yet the last couple of decades have brought about the popularity of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) with more and more practitioners and proponents joining the leagues every day, along with those who have interests in other martial arts. And these people, the folks who train and compete with swords, they know their swordfighting. Which means when they want to play a swordfighting video game, they want realism not only in how swords look but in how the bladed weapons perform on the screen.
Finally there is a video game for them.
The game’s title is Hellish Quart. Produced by Jakub and Kate Kisiel of the Polish studio Kubold, Hellish Quart is a 3D physics-based, one-on-one swordfighting game in which each fencing move of the characters on screen have been motion captured.
Hellish Quart is currently an Early Access game, which means there is more work yet to be done on it, and so far it is only available for play on a Windows platform. But don’t let any of that fool you. If you are interested in serious, historical fencing, this is a game you will want to look into.
This is the second of three articles covering GDW’s published adventures in the “American Campaign” for Twilight: 2000’s first edition. The first, “Going Home Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be,” can be read here.
For the characters at the start of their adventures in Twilight: 2000 — presuming they start with the default location in Poland — the situation in America is essentially unknown. They may learn more clearly that the United States government has split into competing units: the so-called MilGov and CivGov. However, the nature and extent of the collapse of society and the rising of powerful alternative forces would largely be unknowable.
The nuclear strikes against America overwhelmed governmental services either because they were taken out in the strikes (the main body of the federal government), the vast quantity of desperate refugees put civilian leaders in no-win situations for shelter and food, or the collapse of the intricate infrastructure of food production and delivery stripped civilian government of any authority as people turned to baser instincts for survival. Even the Roman emperors understood the importance of food supplies and ensured that the citizens of Rome had free supplies of bread.