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Cepheus Engine Vehicle Design System
by David C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/08/2022 11:55:29

Wonderfully focussed and straightforward system. Does for vehicles what the Spacecraft design system does for . . . well. . . .spacecraft! :)



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cepheus Engine Vehicle Design System
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Cepheus Engine System Reference Document
by Jeffrey Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/10/2021 16:34:26

This review originally appeared in the January/Feburary 2017 issue of Freelance Traveller.

A description of the genesis of CE would necessarily get into a discussion of some issues best described as political. I’m not really interested in going there, and you’re not really interested in reading what I’d write were I to go there.

CE represents a complete set of core rules—and only core rules—for a game similar to Traveller. The author specifically notes that he has drawn on the Mongoose Traveller SRD (for their first edition of Traveller, withdrawn with the publication of their second edition) and “other Open Gaming Content”. The result is a game that will be familiar to most of the Traveller community.

The CE SRD is broadly divided into four sections: an Introduction; Book 1, Characters; Book 2, Starships and Interstellar Travel; and Book 3, Referees. Each book is a solid treatment of topics relevant to the book’s overall subject.

The Introduction is just that, an introduction—to roleplaying as well as to CE. It starts by laying the groundwork for someone new to the hobby, beginning with answering the question “What is Roleplaying”. It then builds concepts, explaining the fundamental ideas of the roles in the game (i.e., player vs. referee vs. character), characteristics, skills, careers, game play, die rolls, and so on. The progress through concepts gets more and more specific to CE.

Book 1: Characters covers, chapter by chapter, character creation, skills, psionics, equipment, and personal combat. Each chapter assumes that you understand the material from the previous chapters, as well as from the Introduction.

The CE character generation procedure is a hybrid process, based in part on the process given in the Mongoose Traveller 1ed SRD, and in part on earlier character generation processes. Careers (there are 24 of them) are unitary, rather than offering specializations, but characteristic checks are used for resolving terms, rather than fixed DMs, yes-or-no, applied to a roll. Except for the Scout career, ship shares are awarded rather than possession of a ship itself, but the type of ship isn’t specified, allowing a party to pool their shares as part of an effort to acquire a ship.

As in past versions of Traveller, the “default assumption” is that player-characters are human. However, the generation procedure does touch on aliens, to the extent of giving a few sample alien races and defining the meaning of alien race traits that can be applied to characteristic generation. The reader is referred to Samardan Press’s Flynn’s Guide to Alien Creation for more extensive rules on alien creation (reviewed in Freelance Traveller, July 2011).

The section on skills describes the standard format of a task definition, with variations. No examples of a task definition are given, and discussion of adjusting the time taken to do the task uses “time frame” where the task definition uses “time increment” (and neither seems fully explained). The reader is expected to be fully conversant with the concept of a ‘check’ as explained in the Introduction, as that information is not repeated here. (It would be better if it were repeated here, or in a separate “referee’s recap” section; having all the information and definitions together makes for quick reference.) Skilled vs Unskilled is explained, along with conditions under which the difficulty of a skill check might vary from the expected. A full list of available skills and their definitions is provided, and it is specifically noted that the referee can add additional skills if needed for a particular campaign. Unstated, but perhaps implied, is that skills can similarly be eliminated or ignored if the needs of the campaign so require, which should satisfy the “Old School” roleplayer who prefers a minimal set of skills.

A mechanism for increasing skill during play is provided; it involves weeks of training (the number of which is determined by the character’s total skill levels plus the desired new skill level). However, a ‘week of training’ is not defined, nor is it stated whether you must train to acquire skill-1 in a new skill before you may train to acquire skill-2 in that skill (I would certainly play it that way, but it’s not stated). It should be noted that there is no indication of whether it is more difficult to learn one skill than another; starting from the same point, under the rules as written, it takes just as long to go from Archery-2 to Archery-3 as it does to go from Computer-2 to Computer-3. The link to the total number of skills means that if one wishes to raise two different skills from level-2 to level-3, it will take a week longer to raise the second than it did the first.

The treatment of psionics in CE seems like something of a tacked-on afterthought; this is consistent with its treatment in similar systems that CE is based on and intended to emulate. The characteristic governing a character’s psionic ability is also used as the measure of how intensely and with what limitations a character can use his/her psionic abilities, as well as providing a modifier for psionic-based tasks (similar to other characteristic modifiers). The net effect is that regardless of the level of acceptance of psionics in a particular campaign setting, the likelihood of psionic abilities occurring, and the likelihood of a psion being trained, the setting will be relatively low in psionics, compared with various SF stories in which psionic abilities occur.

The ability to use psionics is divided into ‘talents’; each talent represents a specific set of what are variously called in SF ‘powers’, ‘skills’, or ‘abilities’ (referred to as ‘abilities’, henceforth), each of which is described in the subsection on the talent. Having a talent allows the character to use any of the abilities, at any time, at the level that the character has the talent. For the purpose of task checks, the talent level is treated as a skill level. The base difficulty of a psionic task check is defined strictly by the ability being used; other factors that might be thought to affect how difficult a task is (such as distance) instead affect the cost in psionic strength.

One specific note: Most other treatments of teleportation ignore conservation of energy and conservation of momentum. As presented in CE, these are not ignored, and characters attempting certain types of teleportation tasks will take damage.

There is a brief discussion of a limited amount of available psionics-related technology; this includes drugs to enhance and suppress psionic strength, artificial shields, a ‘teleportation suit’ that compensates for energy differences resulting from teleporting, and adding psionic interfaces to non-psionic devices (including weapons). One specific limitation of the psionic interface is that a device equipped with a psionic interface cannot be used by non-psions.

The section on psionics closes with a brief overview of how psionics may be regarded in society (psi-hostile, psi-neutral, psi-friendly); no additional rules are presented, nor is there any discussion of the implications or effects of psionics on societies.

Equipment is principally a basic catalog of equipment. There is an overview of Technology Levels, described in familiar (and broad) terms. Generally, a world’s TL is an indication of its knowledge and ability to produce, and the TL of an object is a representation of its complexity and effectiveness. A single paragraph notes that the CE uses the Credit as the currency unit; examination of the various equipment tables and comparison with identifiable equivalent real-world goods appears to place the CE Credit at rough parity with the 21st-century Terran US Dollar, Euro, or Pound Sterling, with prices roughly consistent with what one would pay in a major metropolitan area such as New York. Descriptions are basic; there is no mention of minor distinctions in design or detail (such as longsword vs katana vs scimitar, all subsumed in ‘sword’, or coupe vs sedan vs station wagon/estate car, all subsumed in ‘ground car’). That’s not to say that the offerings in the catalog are scanty; where appropriate (such as with weapons), there are extensive lists, and some lists offer additional options (for example, adding laser sights or telescopic sights to a rifle).

Personal combat is round-based, with initiative being checked at the beginning of combat only. There are options based on the type of action and certain skill availability to temporarily adjust initiative for a particular round, and characters have a limited number of actions that can be taken in each round. The rules even encompass (potentially important) minutia such as panic fire, stance, thrown weapons, cover, communications, and so on. Vehicle combat is also supported, and there’s even a brief discussion of how to handle personal/vehicle weapons firing at starship-scale targets. As injury can occur in combat, the effects of injuries, and what’s involved in healing, are also covered.

Book 2: Starships covers travelling off-world, both interplanetary and interstellar. For interplanetary travel, it provides a table of travel times for various distances at various accelerations, and a formula for calculating the travel time for any distance not given in the tables (or for when more accurate figures are desired). For interstellar travel, all the details are discussed, including routine operations and finances.

Several topics not often encountered (at least in the games I’ve played in) are also covered, such as airlock requirements in ships and how big an airlock is, distress signals, ship-to-ship docking, boarding actions, and landing on worlds. Ship’s security is also covered, with physical and electronic aspects of deterrence and detection discussed, and a few active measures to combat breaches.

On-world travel and encounters with the law are also discussed here, although one can argue that they’re misplaced.

The mercantile system is a goods-based system, so you have a hold full of interesting and idea-promoting Grocery Products (6000 Cr/dton) instead of anonymous A-9 Ag Ri Cr6000. DMs are available for planetary trade codes and for broker skill, but are limited to the “largest” DMs (that is, if a good offers DMs for trade codes Ag and Ni, and you’re on a world that has both trade codes, you don’t get both DMs). This is ambiguous; should one consider a -3 DM to be larger than a -2 DM because -3 has a larger magnitude than -2, or should it be the other way around because if you plot both DMs on a standard number line, the -2 is to the right? I would prefer a statement that is less ambiguous, such as “Use the Sale DM that is most favorable to the seller; use the Purchase DM that is most favorable to the buyer”.

Ship design and construction discusses the definition of the displacement ton, defining it as the volume of one tonne of hydrogen, and giving a numeric value of 13.5 cubic meters (but allowing rounding to 14 to simplify calculations). Deck plans are implicitly drawn using squares of 1.5m by 1.5m by 3m high, making two deck plan squares equal to one displacement ton.

Both standardized designs and custom designs are discussed, with standardized designs giving a 10% discount on cost. Customized designs incur the cost of the services of a naval architect, at 1% of the final construction cost. A selection of standard designs, mostly at TL9 and TL11, are provided, but it is explicitly stated that the referee may designate other designs as standard if appropriate for the campaign. Design descriptions are given in block-text form, with no alpha-numeric profile string to summarize.

There are provisions for a few alternatives to the standard interstellar drive and power plant, with basic descriptions and differences in fuel consumption or performance noted. There are no explicit rules or guidelines for creating alternative technologies for these or other components, but the referee willing to put in a little number crunching work can probably come up with some designs that won’t be too unbalancing for play, even if they result in a setting very unlike the default assumed CE setting.

Small craft are built using the standard starship design sequence, with some minor modifications (for example, omitting the interstellar drive). There are some other limitations on small craft, but those are set out clearly, and you should find designing starships and small craft both to be usefully quick.

Space combat rules parallel personal combat rules; there are naturally some differences. These center around the different length of a combat round in space, and provide for relevant character skills based on the character’s assignment. Actions may be taken at the personal level, not just ship actions, but because of the difference in scale, most personal actions are irrelevant. Where they might matter (such as using psionics against an enemy ship or its personnel), they generally count as minor ship actions.

Special rules for such things as boarding actions and special weapons are included, as is a discussion of damage to ships and how it ultimately affects the ship. Damage control in included in the rules, as a significant action during combat. There are also provisions for using ship weapons against personal scale targets, just as personal combat provided for the reverse.

Book 3: Referees covers the minutia that are often ignored in play, but which really shouldn’t be—things like encumbrance, environmental extremes and dangers, disease, and so on. The effects on characters of such things as poisons, acids, and diseases are covered, as is exposure to radiation, vacuum, weather, and so on.

It also covers preparation, from building worlds to building animals, defining adventures (with two structures for an adventure outlined, and others possible), setting up encounters and what will be needed for them, and even tips on handling the “Omygodididntplanforthat” situations that players always seem to manage to get into no matter how carefully you planned. The first thing that the rules say about refereeing is that the objective is to have fun. The second is called “Rule Zero”, and states that the referee always has the right to modify the rules.

There are discussions of difference in gaming style, improvisations, adjusting task rolls, avoiding task rolls (for those who take the position that ‘it’s role-playing, not roll-playing’), dealing with situations not envisioned in the rules, and even playing solo as a tool for preparation.

Designing an adventure really happens on two levels, and while CE doesn’t go into a lot of detail on the non-mechanical level, it does point out that an adventure needs a plot and conflict. Conflict is pointed out as not necessarily being combat or other violence, but instead is a struggle against some sort of opposition, whether deliberate and focussed against the player-characters, or just the conditions that the characters face in the process of accomplishing the mission. The plot is simply the synopsis of the adventure—what’s supposed to happen to accomplish the goal.

Overall, CE is an excellent, low-cost entry point into SF role-playing, and allows the player or referee to draw on a wealth of extant material for later expansion. It’s not groundbreaking for the player who has experience with any of what Freelance Traveller calls “Classic-compatible” Traveller, nor does it expand on what’s already out there—it fits into the slot of a “basic rulebook”. I’m not recommending either purchase or avoidance; if you feel it fits in your collection, well and good; if not, also well and good.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cepheus Engine System Reference Document
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Cepheus Engine System Reference Document
by Daniel C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/13/2018 00:24:22

When I first bought the Traveller Black Box I fell in love with the idea of a generic rule set for Sci-Fi. Over time the link between the rules and the setting of the imperium grew. As I looked around I never found a Sci-Fi rule set to replace Traveller, but I wanted more and wished it were not so tied ot the imperium.

Along came Mongoose Traveller 1st edition and while ti quickly became my favorate edition of the Traveller rule set it still seemed to push the link between the imperium and the rules. Then came Mongoose 2nd ed and I felt the rules just went in a direction I didn't want to go. Then an unexpected opportunity showed up. The Cepheus Engine. This core rule document, well worth buying, had a blend of the best of the original, the mongoose 1st ed, and was free standing ready for me to add the setting I wanted to use. I love this rule set.

If you want to play a traveller like game but not be pulled into the imperium, this is the rule set for you. Clean and open, this set can be used in so many different ways. I strongly recomend it to anyone who wants to play Sci-Fi.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cepheus Engine System Reference Document
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/23/2017 15:02:03
My review so far of the Cepheus Engine System Reference Document has been positive and hopefully I'll be able to use the system soon.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cepheus Engine SRD, Modifiable Version
by Gerry M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/04/2016 18:05:47

Cepheus Engine is Open Source Traveller!!!! I am very nimpressed with this system. Characters tend to go be on the lines of original Classic, Combat is slightly unique Starships are a match with Mongoose. I am a fan of Open Source Software. I use Linux MInt as a primary OS. Cepheus Engine is just that open source. I am a creature of habit and am locked into a Custom Classic Traveller Campaigns and can't shake the nostalgia from that system which is my true love. I know if I ever wanna create anyhting CE is the way to go. I truly believe Cepheus Engine is the future of old school 2D6 Sci-Fi gaming. Five Stars not only for the game contact for the freedom for us gamers from the red tape!!!!! If had to switch 100% to any game CE would be it....



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cepheus Engine SRD, Modifiable Version
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Cepheus Engine SRD, Modifiable Version
by Michael T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/18/2016 21:27:00

Arriving quietly and without fanfare, the Cepheus Engine may prove to be a great facilitator for the expansion of SF gaming in the future. Although billed as a system reference document - which it is - this book is fully usable as a role-playing game. Paired with a setting (such as the Cepheus Engine-compatible Orbital 2100 by Zozer Games) there are years of gaming here. The only reason it escaped a 5-star rating is that, in my opinion, it sells itself short. A little more formatting would have taken Cepheus Engine past its Traveller SRD origins and made it more table-friendly. There is no interior art, which is a plus in a generic book covering essentially the entire gamut of possibilities of SF gaming - any illustrations of environments, spacecraft, or even equipment would inevitably stunt the imagination of players and referees.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cepheus Engine System Reference Document
by Gerry M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/20/2016 22:32:32

I think this is an exceptional peice of work. I am a Classic Traveller fan and still play a Classic game. This makes me wanna switch to this system. It is like open source software instead of using microsoft!!! I really like what this platform with its Open Game License is capable of doing for all of the amazing writers out there familiar with the Traditional Science Fiction 2D6 system. Most Excellent work !! 5 Stars!!!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cepheus Engine System Reference Document
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Cepheus Engine System Reference Document
by Omar J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/13/2016 11:56:10

An excellent offering of old-school sci-fi role-playing rules similar to Classic Traveller. Cepheus presents clearly-written rules in classic flavor for everything from generating a new character in a few minutes, to building an interstellar starship, to generating a sector of space for the players to explore. Best of all, the rules are 100% OGL, so you can use this as a basis for third-party material or even repack the rules and republish them as your own variant.

In other words, the Swords & Wizardry of Traveller.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cepheus Engine System Reference Document
by Paul E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/07/2016 02:25:14

A tour de force piece of work from Jason Kemp, the Cepheus Engine is an outstanding recreation of the Mongoose Traveller 1st edition rules, building from the Traveller System Reference Document and other Open Gaming Content made available by the Open Gaming License, yet it does not contain copyrighted material (references to Traveller and the Traveller universe) from products published by Mongoose Publishing. This means it is a fabulous Traveller tool-kit with the serial numbers filed off that I can twist, build and manipulate into my own universe. Wasn't this what the intention of the Little Black Books was back in 1977? In that way it feels like going back to Starter Traveller or the original LBBs, but with all of the rules clean up and logical rewrites of a modern game system. Since I'm a LBB guy through and through and through, the Cepheus Engine presses all my buttons!

Do you need this? Yes! If you play first edition Mongoose Traveller, the CE is a setting free version (that you can modify and print 0- it comes in a Word.doc). If you player Classic TRaveller, this has all of that atmosphere but gives Classic a logical reorganisation, with a systematic task resolution and faster-play combat rules.

I recommend this game!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Flynn's Guide to Magic in Traveller
by SIMON E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/21/2016 03:01:17

Excellent rules that should save referees a lot of work, if they want to explore a fantasy setting using Traveller's core rules. If the author feels any revision is needed for the new edition of Traveller, I'd be at least one definite buyer! (I love the choice of illustrations, too.) I would have preferred it if magic had been integrated with psionics as the default, to make it more compatible with the existing Traveller universe. It's easito imagine a remote planet of low technology, where psionic powers are amazingly refined! But the rules are readily adaptable.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Flynn's Guide to Magic in Traveller
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Cepheus Engine System Reference Document
by Jacob R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/06/2016 17:06:44

Really nice book. Basically Traveller but friendly to the OSR community. Get it; enjoy it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cepheus Engine System Reference Document
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Cepheus Engine System Reference Document
by Dalton C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/05/2016 09:02:47

This is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to get the original feel of Classic Traveller without all the 3I material packed into it. Build your own future and this package gives you the tools to do so which has not existed since the original LBB's from the early 80's.

Being OGL and presented as a complete package vs a hodgepodge of rules that are missing key bits, this allows for those who want to customize for thier own furture universe to do so with ease.

Well worth the money and this product will have me looking for other products by the same publisher.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cepheus Engine System Reference Document
by P-O B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/04/2016 16:09:34

The Cepheus Engine. What is it? It is a new set of Traveller rules from Samardan Press that doesn’t say that it is Traveller. (But it is Traveller.)

The rules look very much like a cleaned up version of Classic Traveller, book 1-3 plus supplement-4 and selected parts from book 4 (PGMP and FGMP) and 5 (small ships). You can also find some bits of Mongoose Traveller in it. So far there is no setting except that a few aliens are named as an example.

You know what this could be? The perfect proto-Traveller rules.

Since the Cepheus Engine is a refined set of CT rules, you will recognize most of the rules and can quickly start using them.

First, the character generation and skills are similar to what you already know. Then psionics (important to us at the Zhodani Base) is also what you would expect.

Next in the equipment list you find a tech-level overview table, with the same tech-levels as in Traveller. The currency used is Credits. You can find familiar Traveller items like Fast Drug, TDX, and Air/Raft. The first internal book ends with a combat chapter.

Next book is about Starships, Travelling, Trade and Space Combat.

The Final book is the Referee’s book. In this book are the rules for generating worlds. (It is interesting to see that hydrographics is generated as in CT book-6. That is the same as in MongTrav.) There are rules for all sorts of encounters, including the familiar animal encounter tables from CT. There are also some short help about refereeing and adventures.

This is really the new rule-set we didn’t know we needed. This is proto-Traveller Deluxe.

Review first posted at the Zhodani Base.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Flynn's Guide to Magic in Traveller
by Jesse R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/01/2015 17:49:23

Clear rules but other than the fact that it uses Traveler's skill system there's really very little that links it to the Traveller universe. I had hoped for something that might have suggested ways of actually incorporating magic into Traveller.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Flynn's Guide to Magic in Traveller
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Flynn's Guide To Alien Creation
by Matt W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/06/2014 13:16:00

Great product with a straightforward, easy-to-follow process for generating interesting sapient alien species for your Traveller setting. Includes clear examples. It references a few things in the Mongoose book like the Behaviors subsection in the Encounters chapter, so you'll want that handy. It only took me a few minutes to randomly create an interesting alien for the setting I'm putting together for my next game.

The only thing I wish it had was a printable worksheet, because I'm unorganized, but that's a pretty minor quibble. In all, highly recommended if you want to freshen your game up with a few new species.

p.s. The author also has a great blog over at his site and happily (and quickly) answered a few of my questions.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Flynn's Guide To Alien Creation
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