Expanding Existing Systems

I have been working on quite a few projects this week including a couple of reviews, some programming to save time with my Classic Traveller (CT) game and also looking at expanding the material in CT for my game.  I am happy with the CT rules system as a whole as they give a decent workable system that a lot of people know.  Not to mention the fact that it cost me only $40 to get every book in the system sent to me via CD.

All images are courtesy of the X3 game screenshots 🙂

But there are some restrictions in CT.  Specifically looking at the way the game has aged over the years.  Science Fiction writers have progressed past the style that was used in the past and movies have also moved on in leaps and bounds.  I want my game to reflect these newer trends so it does not feel like an episode of “Lost in Space” or “Blakes 7”.  Please note, I am not bagging those shows either, it is just times have moved on from the representation of those shows.  For example, the idea of living starships like in Farscape or Peter F. Hamilton’s work.  Arcologies run by AI that used to be human.  The idea of post human evolution where you transfer your consciousness into a purpose built system that keeps your mind alive without the issues of body to worry about.

I love the feeling that Traveller gives in a game

All of these things are missing in CT.  But then you dig further and find a lot more is missing.  Exoskeletons, unique weaponry of various format, EMP grenades, computers that operate better than an Apple Mark II and the like.  These are the things that I want to add to my game so the players do not feel so hemmed in by the lack of technology in the CT books.  I initially decided that I should just translate all of us to Mongoose Traveller (MgT) which seems to be the system that most people seem happy with (although most say they use a hybrid of systems).  The problem with that idea is that I really don’t know what is in it and it is also a significant investment compared to CT.  I have talked before about moving it to FATE which would basically allow any piece of gear that the players would like to be available but it also reduces the focus on the merchant side of things.

Changing systems is not really the answer for me.  I have a bunch of sci-fi systems but my players (or at least a few of them) signed on because it was Traveller.  They love the game and the tropes that it brings.  So do I, which is why I took this game on.  Where do I go?  What do I do?  What is the solution to my conundrum?  Well, I do have a solution but it will take a little bit of time to implement.  I am going to expand the rules set to include the things that I like and some of the things I don’t but my players would like to see.  I will start with an overhaul of the ships computing systems as it is what I know (I am a teacher of Computer Science with a Bachelor of Computing with First Class Honours) and then broaden out from that point.

I will follow through into weaponry and combat gear through to a useful list of other gear that will help characters in skill use and other interactions.  Once that is done I will build up some newer style starships, arcologies and various other miscellany that will modernise the system to an acceptable level for my players and I.  While I am doing this I am intending on writing some Java based programs that will allow me to use them in combat, trading and other situations that will automate a lot of the rules in CT making my game run smoother and focus more on the roleplaying.  I saw a comment once that said my game was like an 80’s rock band.  We have a bash with a little bit of success but really there is no substance to it.  To a degree this is true.  I want to make the story as interesting as the feeling of the game and to do this I need to get real about spending some time making it better.

I know all of the above is specific to Traveller but I wanted to make a point.  Games systems are great until they aren’t and they can stop being great for a variety of reasons.  CT is because it is aged and what you see in the movies just could not be reproduced as a whole in this system.  But this happens with other systems too and it is a problem.  With Fantasy style games this is not so much of an issue unless some new style of fantasy is released which is rare but modern game systems and futuristic ones suffer from it a lot.  I remember the first edition of Shadowrun and how that swiftly got outdated as various other systems built off of its success and the near future fiction started to become more and more advanced as people built on William Gibson’s novels.

Space, the biggest sandbox of them all!

This is the first time ever that I have decided to expand the current system to a major degree.  Of course I have added a few things here and there in the past BUT never to this extent.  If you have spent a good deal of time expanding a system I am keen to hear from you.  What issues did you have?  What did you find the most difficult about balancing your new entries?  For me I am a bit nervous about what I am going to be building and it’s relationship to the Tech Level (TL) in Traveller.  Does the current structure built around the CT system have what I need to slot it in etc?  Do you still use your expanded rules set?

For those of you that are into CT and have read above what I have written, yes I do intend on sharing.  I will share some of the technologies I add as well as the programs that I make to assist with some of the rules I have trouble nailing down in play.  If you have material that you think I would like to take a look at because you have already done some of this please feel free to get in contact with me!  Tell me your tales of expanding your systems so I can understand what I am letting myself in for!  Until next time, keep rolling!

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