Thursday 27 January 2022


This Bastionland Editorial was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.


Since last week's first dip into Classic Traveller I've gone through the rest of the book pretty much cover to cover.

The Blog Tales to Astound has written the definite series of posts exploring these books in isolation from the rest of the Traveller series. In particular there's a lot of content supporting the fact that the designer, Marc Miller, mostly played a stripped back and improvisational version of the game. 

I think the fact that I'd heard about that before going into the book set me up with a false sense of security. 

I wasn't ready for the Matrices.

Precise travel times, often down to the second, for 6 measures of acceleration across 22 distances. I can live with that. It's over the top detail but it's useful to know how long these things take.

Jump potential, mass, and build time for 24 classes of jump drive. I mean, the whole ship building system is pretty crunchy, so I feel like this isn't a massive intrusion here.

But the personal combat section is the one that turned me off. At first I see that promising  mechanic that always seems to be lurking in the background here. Roll 2d6, add your modifiers, and aim for 8+.

Add your skill points in your weapon, obviously.

And make sure you apply the right modifiers for having a high enough STR/DEX to make the most of this weapon. The score required and modifier granted depending on weapon, of course. 

Then check the modifier for your weapon at the current range

Then go to a separate table to get a modifier for your weapon against the specific type of armour the target is wearing. 

Oh and subtract 4 if the target is in cover, or 1 if they're in concealment, but only if they've already attacked and revealed themselves. And 3 if you drew your weapon this turn.

Also subtract the target's Blade skill if they're parrying, or a different number for different ranges if they declare they're evading.

It reaches such levels of stacking that I totally understand why so many people run Traveller with "roll 2d6 plus some modifiers based on what the Referee decides". But there's no escaping that this book, rules as written, is one that's going to send you deep into some table to find a precise answer time after time. 

I'm sure it's not that difficult once you've acclimatised to it, and gone through a few combats to get used to things, but it definitely doesn't appeal to me. 

It reminds me of one of my regular design goals of distillation, one of the mantras of which is "Replace rules requiring referencing with principles to internalise". 

I would have much preferred a page of guidance for how to apply referee-adjudicated modifiers in combat. Maybe a checklist of elements to consider when making that ruling?

In spite of all this Matrix-bashing, I can't bring myself to hate on Traveller. Something still draws me in. Maybe next week I'll know what I'm planning to do about that. 

Tuesday 25 January 2022

Into the Odd Commentary with Johan Nohr

The first of the Into the Odd Remastered Audio Commentaries is up!

This episode welcomes Johan Nohr to talk about creating a new look for Into the Odd.

Expect a new guest for each episode over the next five weeks.

Thursday 20 January 2022


This Bastionland Editorial was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.


I've never read Traveller. 

This is despite hearing so many people talk about it in response to Foreground Growth and generally liking most of what I hear about it's design and gameplay. 

So today's the day. I ordered a print copy of The Traveller Book, which is the three original books plus a sample adventure. Let's see if there's anything that leaps out at me in the first few pages. 

p9 - This is the first page of proper text and we're introduced to "self-appointed goals", another area that I'm extremely interested in. Great to see it so front-and-center, though admittedly also slightly tucked away in a full page of text.

p10 - "The rules provide for solitaire and unsupervised play, but the highest form of the game, the ones that is the most fun, requires that someone act as referee."

I'm interested to see whether this is expanded on! Also unsupervised play makes it sound like forbidden fruit.

p12 - What makes a good referee? Apparently Imagination, Improvisation, Proportion (being neither over generous or restrictive), and Organisation. Seems pretty good to me, though I think many of us would wince slightly at the last one. 

p13 - Information the GM's setting is advised to be split into four categories, which I'd summarise as:

1: The PCs know it.

2: The PCs can find it out easily.

3: The PCs can find it out with difficulty.

4: The PCs can't find it out by their own efforts.

Whiiiiich, as a "give information" preacher, gives me a little twitch. If you're putting info in your notes that the players stand no chance of discovering, then is that wasted time? I guess it might help with your portrayal of the world to know this huge secret, but I'm not convinced. 

p15 - "One of the most important parts of being a good referee is keeping proper track of the passage of game time."

Hmmmm... this was a real vibe of this era of RPGs.

p18 - So I knew all the jokes about dying in character creation, but by the book it actually looks way more common than I expected! The optional "injury" rule feels much more practical. Perhaps they die on a second injury. 

p19 - "When a character reaches 34 year of age... aging begins to take its toll"

Presented without further comment.

It's around this point that I should confess I'm enjoying this book a lot more than I was expecting. Perhaps that will change as I get beyond the first chapter, but I definitely feel there's something special about this in comparison to other games I've read from the era. 

p21 - I understand that "Gun Combat" and "Gunnery" mean different things, but them both existing as separate skill entries, that actually need to be handled differently, really gives reinforces that old game vibe. It even repeats this with "Blade Combat" and "Blade" as distinct skills!

Melee weapons are handled so weirdly. Maybe it'll make more sense when I read the combat rules, but it essentially seems like there's one ideal weapon for any given STR score, and you should just consult the list to find your dream weapon. With a good STR of 10, my traveller seems destined to wield a halberd or pike, which seems hilarious when I picture them lugging the thing through a space station. 

p22 - Aaaargh! I was just starting to love this system, but now I see that having the skill "Administration 2" doesn't mean a nice simple +2 to your 2d6 roll relating to Administrative Affairs. Nooo, you have to look up each individual skill to find that Administration actually grants +2 for each level of skill, and you get an outright -3 if you lack the skill entirely. Just when I thought we had a nice straightforward system here. Hopefully this isn't a harbinger of things to come. 

I can already sense the distant presence of 40 years' worth of house rules to this game that make things more straightforward, but I can only judge what's in here, for now. Naturally, if I were to run this I'd probably be chopping off a whole lot either way. 

Though for all that I hate the idea of having to consult this skill chapter during play, I kinda love that computers have a 1-in-6 chance of just fatally crashing when needed, and a 27% chance of having a detrimental bug even if it's not fatal. 

Okay, we've hit the end of the character chapter. Feeling very mixed on this. My heart likes it, my head hurts slightly, but let's end by rolling my first ever character.

Major Dunne Reason   887646   30yrs

3 Terms Army  Cr22,000

Brawling -1, Rifle-1, SMG-1, Fwd Obsvr-1, Mechanical-1, Dagger-2

1 High Passage, 1 Mid Passage, 1 Low Passage

Amazing this guy got as far as he did with such a low Education score. Seems like he's mostly good for getting free rides and stabbing people, but it's a start!

Looking forward to seeing what the rest of the book holds. 

Tuesday 18 January 2022


Last time I spoke about a modular approach I'm trying out for Ask the Stars.

Well, this coincided with last week's dip into Classic Traveller, which of course means I had to combine the two. 

So there are now two brand new Ask the Stars modules awaiting testing. 

INTERGALACTIC is sort of the core, giving you a spacefaring character and rules for drifting around space, seeking business opportunities at greasy starports, and spending your profits on better gear.

PLANETARY deals with going down to onto worlds, exploring their settlements, dodging hostile lifeforms, and even dipping into the corporate world. 

The PRIMORDIAL module that I shared last week needs some work based on what I've learned from these two, so you can expect that to get an update some time this week. Then my to-do list has no fewer than *checks* eleven other modules I'd like to make, so this might keep me busy for a while.

And for those bitten by the planet creation bug, I'll be creating five planets using five different systems  (including this one) over on tonight's stream, 9pm GMT. 

Check them both out in the Ask the Stars folder.

Friday 14 January 2022

Modularity, Ask the Stars, and Primordial

This week saw the return of Bastionland Broadcast, where I looked through the fantastic 2400 games by Jason Tocci, which you should all go and buy as they're an absolute steal.

I've been staring at these games for a while, mulling over ideas of trying them out with a one-shot

Or perhaps a series of one-shots that connect into one game for a big finale.

Or perhaps just taking two books and mashing them together.

All in all, aside from the actual quality of the things (which is super high), I think I'm just as excited about the modular format. It's nothing new, of course, but sometimes it just takes the right implementation of an existing idea for it to stick with you.

It got me thinking whether this format could work for various related ideas I've been mulling for a while, but haven't quite managed to find the proper structure to bring to life. 

Presenting Ask the Stars, which at the time of writing contains a single module, Primordial. I have grand ideas for six additional modules around this idea, and one that takes things on a more distinct diversion.

As I create more I'll pop them into this folder, but I wanted to see if I could create a similar type of game, where you can go to the table with just the very core, or a few additions of your own choice.