Sunday, February 24, 2013

My RPG Collection: Shelves 1 & 2

Often you see threads on RPG forums of people asking how large other's collections are, and when I read through them I find that there are generally 3 types of role-player represented.

  1. The Minimalist - The role-player who perhaps just plays in a couple of games, or who perhaps runs games but doesn't keep many books. Many role-players make up their own items entirely without needing entire gamelines that are published. Then there are those who have switched mostly to electronic books. Whichever they are these games have only a handful of RPG books, generally no more than a couple dozen.
  2. The Game Liner - Those who only play perhaps one game and collect almost everything they can for it. The game line of choice is fairly extensive, but not always complete.
  3. The Collector - The person who collects RPG books seemingly as a hobby onto itself. While these gamers often to game with their books, it is not always the case. Many role-players actually just buy to read these days. Often these gamers will collect multiple lines in intense detail, and have parts of dozens of other lines, collectors editions, rare items etc generally spanning the entire history of the hobby.
I seem to have fallen into the latter category, I am most definitely a collector who buys anything of interest to me and has formed a large stack of books over the years. I don't have an exact count, but it's way upwards of 1,000 items. 

So what I thought I'd do was document in more detail what is in my collection and point out any gems, rarities etc. Since it is large (I have no kids, no debts, no vices other than books and flying and we have two professional incomes which is why I've managed to buy so much) I'll be splitting it in to multiple parts. Not sure but this could take some time to get through.

So onto the first two shelves. I'm arbitrarily starting at the top left of the collection and working through each case and then onto the other boxes and bits and pieces around the house.

Shelf 1
This shelf is rather a mixed bag. A copy of Eclipse Phase (purchased after flicking through the freely released PDF) followed by my Transhuman Space collection. I think I have everything released in Print for Transhuman Space, but I'm not sure.

Next up is the GURPS WWII line. I think I'm missing a few items there that I've not bothered to look to hard for.

Coming up after are a few real gems of games. A|State I love the setting, it's very Perdido Street Station mixed with Cyberpunk and more mystery. Not much of a rule system but a great setting and it's a shame it didn't get more exposure.

Starblazer Adventures was a Christmas gift from a friend. Based on the old comic strip Starblazers it's a great little golden age style game that I haven't given completely the time to read through. 

Tucked in beside is my only copy of an Unknown Armies book, the second edition rulebook. Seems like a great game, must re-read and then run.

Sengoku is Gold Rush Game's samurai RPG, seen here along with the adventure campaign Shiki. It works quite well but I bought it mainly for background as for the most part it's straight historical Japan with optional fantastical bits.

Recon. Ah I recall this fondly from my school years, playing Vietnam games based off war movies. We had great fun with it. This copy was bought a few years ago as a nostalgic replacement for books I sold many years ago.

Almost the entirety of the rest of the row is Traveller (until you get to the 40K stuff.) Here is mainly my Megatraveller collection (complete I think from a GDW perspective) but also any large format items from Classic and Megatraveller published officially and third party. The real rarities and favourites here have to be the Digest Group Publications (DGP) items. Starship Operators Manual (one of the best RPG books ever written in my opinion), Vilani and Vargr, all the large format Traveller's Digests.

Also include are the classic Traveller Alien series, the Traveller Adventure, fanzines such as Signal GK (about 6 issues), the small format GURPS Traveller items, the GURPS Traveller deckplans, Power Projection miniature rules, Traveller Bibliography and a couple other items from third parties like Judge's Guild.

Last in the row are some Warhammer 40,000 related items. While not RPG books they're great items. The original first printing two Realms of Chaos books (I shall never part with these they are much sought after), the paperback collected Liber Chaotica (mysteriously now out of print and worth about 3 times what I paid for it) and The Inquisition companion to the Black Library Inquisition based novels. 

The only item left on the shelf is the box set of Story Forge cards. I'll do a proper review of these at some point, but for now I'll just say these are great for coming up with character backgrounds, plot lines and adding colour to anything you're creating.

Shelf 2

Okay this shelf is a simple one. It's all Traveller.

This shelf contains all my large format Traveller books outside of the Classic and Megatraveller eras. I have everything else represented here Mongoose Traveller, T20, New Era, T4 and GURPS Traveller. GURPS is complete as is T20, but T4, New Era and Mongoose are missing items. For T4 it's missing teh Naval Architect's Manual (I never came across it) and First Survey (I refuse to pay money for such a flawed book, but we can discuss that separately.) And yes I know I have two copies of Reft Sector. I do keep a list on a website of my collection but sometimes I forget to look at it while I'm at my FLGS. 

From this shelf my favourites are the T4 books. Not for the rules, but for the setting information. I love the Milieu 0 foundation of the Imperium era, it just speaks to me. The GURPS Traveller books are also exceedingly well done and written. 

You may also notice tucked in are the three Bablyon 5 books published for the Traveller gameline (Trouble with Drazi is the thin one hiding in between.) I got these as completionist items to round out my B5 collection, but that's an entirely separate box. 

So there are the first two shelves. I've never sold any Traveller items during one of my selling phases, so many of these I've had 20 years or more (the Megatraveller stuff mainly.) The only repurchase on those shelves is the previously mentioned Recon book.

Hope you found it interesting, I'll be back with more at a later point. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Case of the Missing Blog Post

So the other night I sat down to write a short blog post/article on a specific aspect of one of my favourite RPGs. It's something I've written for before and I'm trying to get back into my writing, so much so that as some may know I'm toying with starting my own small imprint later this year once I have the material.

Anyway, I sat down to do a quick 20 minute post or article, and it was 4 hours before I stood up from my desk (my physio won't like to hear that.) What had started as a short item had ended up 24 pages long, with lots of notes for sections and rules to insert. I estimate when I finish it it will be about 50-60 pages long. So it kind of got away from me, but it had all been in there being mulled around for a while. So basically a blog post turned into a book, one that I'll put aside for publishing at a later point.

So where does that leave the blog? Well it means I've got nothing meaningful to enter here. So instead I'll just say go and buy the new issue of The Unspeakable Oath #22. The latest issue of one of the greatest RPG magazines ever published.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Gameline Overview: Delta Green

Delta Green is one of those settings that most people have heard of. A setting for Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green came out of the old days of Pagan Publishing and has proven to be far and away the most popular works they've ever produced.

For those who don't know, Delta Green is about an illegal conspiracy within the US Government of agents who work for a common cause fighting the forces of the Mythos. The activities of Delta Green are not sanctioned by the US Government, and are certainly not funded not even as a black project. While it was originally a government agency, Delta Green was officially disbanded in 1969 following a disastrous operation in Cambodia (the details of which are still sketchy today.) It now operates as a rogue element hiding behind fake identities, false accounts and a cell structure based on terrorist groups in order to remain hidden.

Set mainly in the 1990s, Delta Green fight the entities of the Cthulhu Mythos, help keep magic off the streets and investigate the mysterious Greys that the US Government has signed treaties with through the Majestic-12 agency. It's agents are knee deep in horror, and usually only end their duties in a violent fashion or through insanity. More than one agent has chosen their own way out of the world in order to escape the horrors they've seen.

While I could continue trying to describe it I refer you instead to a famous fiction piece written about it based on the famous Choose Life opening from Trainspotting. Unfortunately I don't know the original author.

Choose federal law enforcement. Choose the military. Choose NASA or the CDC. Choose lying to your superiors. Choose to ruin your career. Choose no friends. Choose divorce. Choose life through the bottom of a bottle. Choose destroying evidence and executing innocent people because they know too fucking much. Choose black fatigues and matching gas masks. Choose an MP5 stolen from the CIA loaded with glasers, with a wide range of fucking attachments. Choose blazing away at mind-numbing, sanity-crushing things from beyond the stars, wondering whether you'd be better off stuffing the barrel in your own mouth. Choose The King in Yellow and waking up wondering who you are. Choose a 9mm retirement plan. Choose going out with a bang at the end of it all, PGP-encrypting your last message down a securely laid cable as an NRO Delta wetworks squad busts through your door.
Choose one last Night at the Opera.
Choose Delta Green.

While Delta Green may seem similar to a very popular conspiracy show involving aliens and the supernatural from the 1990s, Delta Green first saw print in the acclaimed magazine The Unspeakable Oath #7 in early 1993, a full year before the release of the X-Files.

While Call of Cthulhu is usually a dark horror game, the publishing for Delta Green has generally concentrated on an even darker side to the horror, mostly concentrating more on the horrors that men do rather than some mysterious monsters. This helps drive the game home into a much more personal horror than Call of Cthulhu on its own generates.

The main setting book Delta Green was published in 1997, and won the Origin's Award that year for best roleplaying supplement. Delta Green: Countdown, a supporting setting supplement, was released in 1999. At 426 pages I believe that at the time it was the largest RPG supplement published in English to that point (it has since been beaten many many times, and in Cthulhu publishing is only beaten by the monster Beyond the Mountains of Madness campaign.) These two books represent possibly the finest RPG supplements ever produced for any game, and are a must have for any gamer.

After Countdown three mini supplements were released concentrating on various areas of the setting, but were never circulated through stores. I believe they were only available direct from Pagan Publishing. As a result they have become collectors items. These three books, Eyes Only volumes 1 & 2 were published in 1998 while volume 3 came out in 2000. The first volume, Machinations of the Mi-go underwent a revision and slight enlargement in 2000 (I think, I don't own a copy.)

While Delta Green is still very popular, publishing for it has been sporadic. After the release of the Eyes Only books there were no more official supplements for the setting, outside some magazine articles, until the main rulebook reprint with D20 stats in 2007. 2007 also marked the year that the Eyes Only compilation, with additional information, was issued.

2010 saw the long delayed release of Targets of Opportunity containing all new material plus a revamp of Greg Stolze's long awaited Cult of Transcendence write-up.

No more official supplements have been forthcoming since Targets, however under Arc Dream's publishing umbrella things are looking up for the setting. A new version of Delta Green is in the works and there are promises of further support for the line.

Despite the few releases, Delta Green fans are a patient lot. Every single release is more than worth the wait, and with the quality so high we'd rather get quality rather than quantity.

As of the time of writing, several of the books are available for electronic purchase. See the bibliography below for the links for these books.


RPG Books


For more information visit

Friday, February 8, 2013

Traveller: Milieu 0 Overview

I found this on my drive the other night, it's an overview of the Milieu 0 setting for Traveller that I wrote up intending to submit it to JTAS as run by Steve Jackson Games, but never got around to it. Since Milieu 0 is my favourite Traveller setting era, and home to my favourite and longest running campaign, I thought I'd post it for other's education.

Milieu 0 - An Overview
  The traditional setting for Traveller, that of the Spinward Marches around the Third Imperium years 1105-1116, has proven popular over the years. However as many referees are aware this is not the only area and time period that you can use in your Traveller game. Megatraveller introduced us to the galaxy of the year 1116 and onwards, a time of civil war and chaos brought upon by the assassination of Emperor Strephon. The Megatraveller period marked the end of the Third Imperium.

  Milieu 0, as the time is called, is a time at the opposite end of the Third Imperium’s life. It is the time around the formation of the Imperium. It is an exciting period in the history of the universe that we know and love, a time of birth and exploration. A time of contact and discovery. The core worlds are not as prosperous as they are towards the end, nor is the Imperium anywhere near its final size. In this time the existence of races such as the Zhodani, Aslan and Hiver are unknown to imperial humaniti. However to fully understand this period it is necessary to go back in time.

  The Long Night. This is the name given by Imperial historians to the time before the Third Imperium. The Long Night was the result of the collapse of the Rule of Man. The Rule of Man was established in what would be Imperial year -2204. Built on the ruins and conquests taken from the Vilani Grand Empire of the Stars (Ziru Sirka) the Terrans established their rule over much of known space. Unfortunately the Terrans were unprepared for the difficulties in governing such a large body of space and the rule of the second Imperium collapsed after barely four centuries of existence.

  With the fall of the Rule of Man many civilizations collapsed completely. Interstellar trade dried up and score of planets who were dependant on the flow of trade to feed their populations simply died out. Known space entered a dark age, each system was on it’s own to fend for itself as best it could. Many wars broke out between systems over resources, food and technology but after a few decades the starships simply stopped moving between the stars.

  For over a millennia this situation persisted. The majority of known space was silent. Planets regressed technologically and socially and still many more planetary populations were destroyed by plague, famine, internal war or natural disaster. For many the old stories of ships that sailed through the void of space were nothing more than a myth, something to tell your grandchildren over the fire at night.

  Not all was so bleak. In a few places civilization and technology managed to cling on and survive. These pockets of light kept life going sometimes as planetary governments and even in a few cases as multi-system civilizations.

  The world of Sylea was one of these worlds. Sylea continued to trade in limited means with neighbouring worlds and it was this trade, and the determination of its people, that enabled it to survive. In -650 the Sylean Federation was founded, a lose confederation of worlds that banded together for mutual benefit. Over the next six hundred years the federation expanded throughout the Core Sector and spanned scores of systems. Unfortunately the method of government hadn't changed with its expansion and the sheer size of the federation began to show around the edges. Naval forces couldn't respond to piracy effectively, lesser worlds were not having their voices heard and the government had become so cumbersome and bureaucratic that it couldn't respond to any situation in sufficient time. Many agreed that this could not continue.

  In -30 Grand Duke Cleon Zhunatsu became a member of the Grand Senate and resolved to remake the federation into something that could govern space, not just the current area but the entirety of what had once been the Rule of Man. Over the next thirty years he manoeuvred within the senate. He built an economic and political powerhouse around himself and in the year 0 all his hard work came to fruition. The Sylean Federation was disbanded and a new Third Imperium arose in its place. This new Imperium laid claim to all the worlds of the previous Imperiums and set about bringing them under its wing.

  The Third Imperium of the year 0 is one of expansion, consolidation and reorganization  Expansion of its sphere of influence to bring all the worlds previously claimed by the previous Imperiums under its influence. Consolidation of the worlds within its sphere and their integration into the Imperium. Reorganization of the principles of government to lay the foundation for the Imperium in the millennia to come.

  At the time of the formation the Imperium, the scout service had explored relatively little of nearby space. Several hundred years before contact had been re-established between the Sylean Federation and the Vilani homeworld of Vland to Spinward and coreward but not much more exploration had taken place. In the coreward and Spinward directions systems had been contacted and mapped out as far away as sixty parsecs from Sylea, but rimward and trailing expeditions had been much less. As a result one of the main aims of the newly formed Imperium was to scout as much space as possible and bring its records up to date.

 Adventuring in this milieu is very different to other Traveller eras; as yet there is no defining Imperial culture across the stars (if one ever exists). Trade routes are only beginning to open up with newly contacted worlds and heavy trade only exists around the Core Sector. Xenophobia is rife among the Imperial frontier and technology is haphazardly distributed. Jump Drive technology is many years behind and J-3 level drives are only just making an appearance. In the core worlds a Tech Level of 12 has just been attained and it will take centuries for that level of invention and scientific knowledge to propagate itself through space.

  Known space is full of the unknown. Data held in the central databases is over a thousand years old and needs updating. Much of that information is corrupt, missing or just plain wrong. The newly established Imperial Interstellar Scout Service spends it’s time mapping systems, updating records and exploring worlds where man has not set foot for over sixteen hundred years. Exploration and first contact are top of its priorities. The chance to see something new is ever present and the frontier is a genuine one.

  Imperial expansion is generally formed by trade agreements and the tying in of newly contacted economies to sanctioned traders and ever increasing Imperial goods. This can present great profit to a trader who is able to ply his wares to the natives, and even greater profits to be made from trade with the unknown. The risks for the small trader are much higher than at any other time in the Imperium’s history, but the payoff is that much greater. Smuggling from interdicted or undiscovered worlds provides a steady income as wealthy patrons from the core vie to be the first to own items from unknown worlds.

  The pace of expansion is quite rapid in all directions, apart from rimward. Emperor Cleon is wary of the possibility that a portion of the Terran government has managed to survive the Long Night and lurks in that direction. As a result exploration and expansion has been prohibited from reaching further rimward than the Massila Sector. At least until the Imperium is ready for the task.

  Of course there are often worlds and collections of worlds that do not wish to be part of this larger empire. Those that resist are bypassed by the expansion and the Imperial Navy assigned to watch over them. In the early years of the Imperium many of these ‘Pocket Empires’ are discovered and bypassed. Over time these will be subsumed into the Imperium and not all of them by peaceful methods.

  All these elements combine to make Milieu 0 a different adventuring experience to normal Traveller, the new frontiers being pushed back into the unknown serves to create a more frontier and exploration based atmosphere. Players cannot call up their trusty Library Data when they need information, new life forms are discovered every day and there are threats to the Imperium out there that no one knows of. Who knows when the exploring scouts will encounter someone else who has similar dreams of empire?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

RPG Virtual Tabletops

Role-playing has, since its beginnings, been an activity that you did around a tabletop with your friends. Nothing beats the feeling of coming together once a week or whenever with a long established group and being entertained into the small hours of the morning. However with many of us these groups fracture as people move onto new jobs in new cities or people get out of gaming. In some cases people simply cannot find a group to play with in their local area.

Initially these problems used to be solved by play by mail, or later play by post on an internet forum. However for over a decade there has been another solution, the virtual tabletop.

The wonders of the internet have allowed an entire market segment to open up in the role-playing industry devoted to providing a tabletop experience on the computer, with your players anywhere in the world.

Virtual tabletops range in abilities from a simple text based interface that is basically a glorified chat room, through integrating character sheets and game system rules into the interface, allowing the management of handouts and campaign assets within the software, all the way to having fully interactive maps complete with counter assets for all PCs and NPCs and even fog of war functionality.

Not every VT has all of these features, and the feature set has increased over the years. So here is a list of ones I've used over the years.

  • GRiP. Published by RPG Realms and written I believe by the late Hunter Gordon (who sadly passed away  January 28th 2013.) I'm not sure exactly when it came out but I know I used it from mid 2000 and some of the files in the folders are dated mid 1999. There is a GRiP version 4, but I don't believe it's supported anymore. Since Hunter became ill the forums are full of spambots and I don't see any immediate evidence that anyone else is assisting in it. Anyway GRiP was basic by modern standards. It allowed the GM to build their own character sheets and program their way to making them interactive and functional. Clicking on a skill for instance could be configured to roll that skill and display the results in the chat panel. Both players and GM could chat in and out of character in the text interface. GRiP did support sending of files for handouts, but didn't support interactive maps and counters. I stopped using it in later 2003 to move onto...
  • kLoOge. Yes that's how it's spelt. Anyway kLoOge was an improvement over GRiP in that it supported using counters for characters and objects which could be moved around on maps. In fact the maps were integral to the software and the players had to be on maps to interact. It has the full range of chat functions, private messaging, interaction as player or character etc. Rule sets can be loaded or configured into it along with character sheets etc. The map functionality supports fog of war revelation to the players, and free hand drawing. If you were using a popular ruleset for which you could easily get configuration files, such as D&D, it was pretty easy to use as a bit of familiarization. However of you wished to build your own rulesets it could be a nightmare to get them working. Definition files were configured in XML and if you didn't know what you were doing it could go wrong. The amount of customization and the power of it however was staggering and it is still supported and recommended. I used it actively from 2004 until 2007 when I left the UK and my online gaming group disbanded due to time zone issues. More information on Klooge can be found at
  • Most recently I purchased Fantasy Grounds. It promises to be a powerful system, very actively supported and with a sizable community. It is one of the top flight players in the field today and does pretty much everything apart from voice communication that you could want from a Virtual Tabletop today. I haven't had a chance to run anything with it, as I've found it not intuitive to get functioning (no instructions came with the Call of Cthulhu ruleset I purchased for it.) I need to spend some time with it and try it out. However I intend to use it and it seems it will definitely meet my needs.

Of course as I said there is a market segment out there now, and an industry for it. As a result there are many more Virtual Tabletops than what I've tried above. The ones I'm aware of at the moment, though have not tried, are.

For more information on the topic, check out the really useful Virtual Tabletop wiki, which includes comparisons of various software.

Don't forget to let me know your experiences with such software, and any tips on using Fantasy Grounds are much appreciated.