Spacemaster

25/02/09

In 1997, while conversing on the Babylon 5 discussion board, I had a conversation with Joe Cochran of Chameleon Eclectic. At the end of the conversation, he suggested that I submit material for the Babylon 5 roleplaying game. As I put together my submission, I noticed that Iron Crown Enterprises had yet to release a new version of Spacemaster. An e-mail to their web representative revealed that no author had been assigned to the project. I was delighted. Spacemaster was my favorite roleplaying game of all time. It was delighted just to get to pitch the idea.

I put together a proposal for a single supplement for Rolemaster Standard System called Future Law. It contained a sample of my writing for the Back Cover and a sample profession, the Fighter. I never expected to hear from them. I fully expected to get the job working for Babylon 5. I mean, I had an in.

Of course, I never heard back from Chameleon Eclectic. A month later, however, I received a call from John Curtis of ICE. He said he had received my proposal and he had a few concerns. It took a while for me to realize that he was telling me how he wanted me to write the book. Even better, he wanted two books, Future Law and a genre book I would create, designing a new Spacemaster universe.

I was on cloud nine. This was only slightly spoiled the next day when he called me to tell me that he was giving me a co-writer, Ron Carnegie. Evidently, he had submitted a proposal at the same time.

Ron and I worked out some of the initial concepts. We decided that he would write the section on psionics and star system creation. We went back and forth on the psionics until I came up with the idea for the current system. I had two ideas for the universe, the current one and another that must remain secret. He suggested we do both. We did.

Sometime during that year, Ron decided that he needed to drop out. There were certain dictates made to us (which don’t apply today) that he felt would hinder the game. I paid him for the work he had done (both sections had only minor work done) and continued the project alone. Somewhere in there, the genre book was cancelled.

Now John Curtis insisted that he needed 250,000 words, seeing as ICE could put 1,000 words per page. I don’t know if he was just thinking of the old Rolemaster Companions, which had much denser text than the RMSS line, or if he expected me to fall short. Whatever the story, after I had shrunk the font and dropped the line spacing to 1 1/2, the resulting document was 850 pages and had to be bound in two volumes for shipping.

I wish I had weighed it. I understand, after the fact, that this document became something of a legend at ICE. I think they used it as a doorstop. At any rate, it wasn’t long before they called me and ask me to expand the book into an entire line.

So 1998 began with me working on Spacemaster Standard System. The author that was supposed to write Blaster Law (then titled Weapons Law: Energy Weapons) had dropped out, so now I was writing the entire line. I worked through most of the year on it, was sidetracked on a Run Out the Guns! supplement that never happened, and was told that the project was being restructured again. Rolemaster was going to be reprinted so that it could be played out of one book, and they wanted Spacemaster to be the same.

During this time, I went through two new editors, the first named Craig O’Brian and the second Brian Olson. Both were good men, but there are always some false starts when you get a new editor. Invariably, they will change things to fit their vision of the line.

In 1999, I received enough materials and files on Rolemaster Fantasy Roleplaying. I worked on the project throughout the year. By 2000, I had finished Spacemaster: Privateers. They were soon followed by all three Tech Law books. I continued with my deadline schedule and finished up Privateers: Races and Cultures and a revision of Blaster Law.

By this time, things had stopped moving forward on the ICE front. They had declared a restructuring bankruptcy and things were stalling. I was still sending them documents, but Vehicle Manual was becoming more and more delayed. When it failed to reach publication, I stopped working on future products and decided to sit back and watch.

In November of 2000, ICE closed it’s doors. The story is sordid, but not because of ICE’s role in the matter. Rolemaster had been left in a fairly complete state. I and other authors had some books in the production queue, but I’d have been happy to play the game as is. Spacemaster, however, was woefully incomplete. It was a tragedy, but there was nothing to be done.

Then in November of 2001, I received good news. John Seal had purchased the IP to RM and SM and had hired the former ICE owners to start a new company to handle the roleplaying properties. Spacemaster lives again.

Errata

Inevitably, errors crop up in any publication. Several problems have cropped up in Spacemaster: Privateers which need to be addressed. The current list is as follows:

 

Spacemaster: Privateers


* The pilot was erroneously given a +10 to the Scientific/Analytical * Engineering category. While they probably have insights to share in this area, they do not have the background in physics to warrant this bonus. They do frequently have to tinker with their craft, however. The +10 should be applied to the Scientific/Analytical * Technical category.
* Two of the professions have psychic costs which are slightly off.
* The Recon profession should have the following progression:
Psychic * Category 1: 10/10
Psychic * Category 2: 12/12
Psychic * Category 3: 25
Psychic * Category 4: 50
Psychic * Category 5: 75
Psychic * Category 6: 100

* The Technician should have the following progression:
Psychic * Category 1: 6/6/6
Psychic * Category 2: 8/8
Psychic * Category 3: 10/10
Psychic * Category 4: 12/12
Psychic * Category 5: 25
Psychic * Category 6: 50
* The following critical tables have the wrong data for their results: Blaster, Burn Through, Laser, Plasma, Stunner. The proper versions will be printed in later printings, as well as Blaster Law. Meanwhile, they are available for download here.
* Races with a natural attack get the natural attack skill as everyman. The Falar, Kagoth, the Tulgar and the Valiesians can develop natural attack as a everyman skill.
* The Kagoth receive body development as an everyman skill.
* The Falanar receives the Species Standard language, not human. Also, TransSpecLang is not a language (it is editorial dross). Any time you see TransSpecLang, replace with Species Standard.
* Any reference in any books to Jeronan as a language should be changed to Royal Tongue.
* Tulgar receive a +25 to tracking due to their keen sense of smell.
* The Bounty Hunter training package has incorrect values. They should be:
Criminal 20
Explorer 26
Pilot 26
Psychic 35
Recon 20
Scientist 32
Soldier 25
Technician 30
* A clarification: All dates in this book are in base 10.
* A clarification: Weapon skills are grouped by weapon type. All blaster pistols, for instance, use the same skill.
* There should be a Law skill. It is located in the Tech/Trade • Professional category.
* The Map in the book is difficult to use. For the original map, usable in Campaign Cartographer 2, click here. A map viewer is available for the Profantasy site, here.

Tech Law: Equipment Manual

* Grenades: Grenades are more deadly to people close to them. There are no modifiers to the attack roll on the grenade itself (not to be confused to the roll for determining where it landed) but the blast radius of the target. Use the following chart to determine the blast radius of the attack.
* Distance from Grenade Modifier
In Contact +100
Up to 2m +90
Up to 4m +80
Up to 6m +70
Up to 8m +60
Up to 10m +50
Up to 12m +40
Up to 14m +30
Up to 16m +20
Up to 18m +10
Up to 20m +0
Up to 22m -10
Up to 24m -20
Up to 26m -30
Up to 28m -40
Up to 30m -50
Up to 32m -60
Up to 34m -70
Up to 36m -80
Up to 38m -90
38m+ -100

Distance from Nuclear Grenade Modifier

1st Blast Radius Obliterated
2nd Blast Radius +100
3rd Blast Radius +80
4th Blast Radius +60
5th Blast Radius +40
6th Blast Radius +20
7th Blast Radius +0
8th Blast Radius -20
9th Blast Radius -40
10th Blast Radius -60
11th Blast Radius -80

* Grenade Launcher ranges:

0m-1m: +10*
2m-8m: +0*
9m-16m: -25*
17m-80m: 0
81m-150m: -100

*Minimum safe range in combat is 38m.

* Clarification: Monoswords are not wooden. They are made of a special synthetic alloy.
* Certain races have bonuses to skills that are not listed in Spacemaster: Privateers. These skills are intended for release in Future Law. While this was intentional, the text of the book doesn’t address what to do with these skills. A GM is encouraged to either not allow development of these skills without Future Law, or to use his best judgment in assigning effects to these skills.
* A Grav Chute can be used to move by a light person. Use the following rules of thumb: A meter a round per 50 KG under 300. Adjust for gravity as logic dictates.


Tech Law: Robotics Manual

* The Main Line Battle Robot is listed as having weapons causing BE 25. This should be BE 13 (See Blaster Law).
* The Cyberdeck description is missing a section of the first paragraph. The first paragraph should read:
“This device is used to attempt to hack into computers. It operates through an Interface Jack, Data Translator, and then a Neural Interface, each sold separately.”
* It should be noted that Radical Programming is a catch all category for granting personality traits to an android.
*Weighted swing should not reduce criticals to A-25 and A-50, but A-20 and A-40.
* SIs aren’t really suited for jobs that require intuition, like gunnery. They should only be really effective for things like straight analysis and database handling.

Tech Law: Vehicle Manual

* Torpedo tubes were left out of Vehicle Manual. A torpedo tube takes the same volume and mass as a pallet. Add to this the mass of all the torpedoes in the magazine. The volume of the torpedoes is the same as their mass. It is assumed that any torpedo can be loaded into any tube the same size or larger than the torpedo.
* Fighter Racks were also left out of Vehicle Manual. A fighter rack has a mass of 1.1 times that of the fighter it carries (essentially, .1 times the mass, plus the fighter itself.) It has a volume equal to the fighter mass, which essentially accounts for the flight deck, the area inside the ship adjacent to the racks, where the flight crew operates.
* The Jeronan fighters had slightly skewed stats in Vehicle Manual. Here are the corrected stats:

Death Howl II Heavy Fighter
Crew: 1
Cargo: 1 Kiloliter
Mass: 350.43 Tonnes
Hits: 350
CAT: XIV
Vacuum Power Rating: 214 (0)
DB: 95
Superior Material: 25
Defense Screens: 30
Evade Program: 40
20 Decoys
Rating 8 PD, 6 Attacks
EW: 25/5
Cost: 54,000,000
Top Speed: 15.98 G’s (Loaded), 16.104 (Unloaded), 5,000 kph Airspeed
Translight Capability: None
Atmospheric Capability: Full
Armament: 6 MK 10 Blasters (Flexible Mount), +90
1 MK 10 Missile Launcher (10 Missiles, Turret), +91
Features: Microfrequency Comm Rig
Advanced Sensor Suite
Quantum Comm Rig
Shielded Weapons
Well Shielded Drive
Cramped
Auxiliary Systems: RIF Generator
Life Support
Vacuum Power Generator
Advanced Sensor Suite
Drive (1.849 Gs Loaded, 1.836 Gs Unloaded, 2,000 KPH Airspeed)

Slashing Blow III Medium Fighter
Crew: 1
Cargo: 1 Kiloliter
Mass: 244.22 Tonnes
Hits: 244
CAT: XIV
Vacuum Power Rating: 144 (0)
DB: 90
Superior Material: 10
Defensive Screens: 30
Evade: 50
10 Decoys
Rating 6, 3 Attacks
EW: 25/5
Cost: 25,400,000
Top Speed: 16.38 Gs Loaded, 16.48 Unloaded, 6,000 Airspeed
Translight Capability: None
Atmospheric Capability: Full
Armament: 4 MK 10 Blasters (Flexible, +90)
1 Missile Launcher (5 Missiles, Fixed, +90)
Features: Microfrequency Comm Rig
Advanced Sensor Suite
Quantum Comm Rig
Shielded Weapons
Well Shielded Drive
Cramped
Auxiliary Systems: RIF Generator
Life Support
Vacuum Power Generator
Advanced Sensor Suite
Drive (.817 Gs Loaded, .826 Gs Unloaded, 1800 KPH Airspeed)

Wolverine Light Fighter
Crew: 1
Cargo: 1 Kiloliter (1 Tonne)
Mass: 116.6 Tonnes
Hits: 117
CAT: XIV
Vacuum Power Rating: 80 (0)
DB: 90
Superior Material: 10
Defensive Screens: 30
Evade: 50
10 Decoys
Rating 3 PD, 1 Attack
EW: 25/5
Cost: 8,500,000
Top Speed: 16.298 Gs Loaded, 16.510 Gs Unloaded, 6,000 Airspeed
Translight Capability: None
Atmospheric Capability: Full
Armament: 2 MK 10 Blasters (Flexible, +90)
Features: Microfrequency Comm Rig
Advanced Sensor Suite
Quantum Comm Rig
Shielded Weapons
Well Shielded Drive
Cramped
Auxiliary Systems: RIF Generator
Life Support
Vacuum Power Generator
Advanced Sensor Suite
Drive (1.761 Gs Loaded, 1.801 Unloaded, 2000 KPH Airspeed)

* Cramped: This ability cannot reduce a critical below an A in severity.
* [pg 42], The Terrain Effects Chart. The headings under the chart description are listed as Wheel / Terrain, Walker / Track, Hopper, Surface / Jumper, Effect and Gravitic. They should read Wheeled / Tracked, Walker / Hopper, Jumper, Surface Effect and Gravitic.
* If you have multiple weapons in a mount, you multiply the damage done by that number, but not the critical. For instance, is you have six blasters, and you roll of 26B, you actually cause 156B damage.
* [pg 99], Armor Belt Mass should be divided by 100 in the equation.
* I never say how to repair hits on ships. Use the following rules: The cost multiplier of the armor belt in credits per hit, times the multiplier for the CAT, per hit. If it has no armor belt, use 100 credits per hit multiplied by the cost multiplier of the CAT. If it has a superior quality bonus, multiply the cost by its multiplier of the CAT and the quality multiplier.
* The attack charts were poorly modeled in the Vehicle Manual. New ones are available for download at the Iron Crown website (www.ironcrown.com). Do NOT use the errata directly above without these attack tables, the ones in the book do too much damage at the lower levels.
* Security levels on ships: Unless otherwise noted, assume 3 on normal ships and 5 on military ones.
* Missiles do not close range by a mark number. Handle them the same as torpedoes.
* There is no fuel cost for a fission reactor. As a rule of thumb, figure 100 for nine months usage, per point of energy.
* For cost, a Torpedo Launcher is the same as a pallet with multiple shots.
* A launcher can multiple magazine of different types of ammo, and can fire a different type every round.
* A torpedo launcher takes the same power as a pallet.
* A fighter rack has the cost of mass of fighter*20/3 and a crew of mass of fighter/200. Fighter racks are not one size fits all.
* You don’t round up when determining strong points.
* When using EW to counter another ship’s EW, you only drop the other ship by the sam value as the EW you used. For example, if a ship has +50 in defensive EW and you successfully counter with +10, you drop theirs to +40.
* Torpedoes add +50 to their attack rolls in addition to their mark numbers.
* Weapons are fixed unless otherwise stated.

Blaster Law

* The ranges on the sonic stunner are wrong. They should be:
0-1
2-5
6-10
11-20
21-50
* Page 95 of EM has a weapon malfunction table. If you don’t have it, just have the weapon “jam” and require 1-10 rounds to “clear.”
* [pg 21], The cover table has the wrong Aperture Energy categories. They should be: 1-2 3-5 6-8 9-11 12-13

Future Law

* In the convict TP, move the ranks in Awareness to Alertness.
* Same with the heavy, but in Sense Ambush.
* In the Media Personality, the ranks in the Communication skill should go to the Comm Category.
* Any references to an FTL Travel skill should be FTL Pilot.
* Human’s Very Ancient age category should be 171+
* [pg 71], Fear of psionics should not be there. Roll 33% of the Major Mental Flaws on the first table and the rest on the second.

Collected Rulings

* To represent the hazzok, use the melee table. The hazzok causes slash criticals.
* Gauss weapons use the same attack charts as firearms. It doesn’t matter how the round is propelled.
* Your weight penalty plus armor quickness penalty plus three times strength is used to figure out your maximum pace, not base movement. The speed of a normal walk, or even a jog is not reduced, you just lose the top end of the movement (Dash, then fast sprint, etc.)
* Moleculetronics are not effected by Electro-Magnetic Pulses.
* Firearms work in outer space or under water. Even normal cartridges have enough air inside to fuel the reaction.
* Anyone can use unrestricted or recreational drugs without a first aid roll. A GM might want to use a SD maneuver to see if someone OD’s when using a drug to which he’s addicted.
* Restricted pharmaceuticals should be accompanied by a routine Drug Therapy maneuver. This is to prescribe dosage for ingested drugs, and to actually inject it for injected drugs.
* For the most part, weapon cells work for every energy weapon. The power caps for hold out weapons only work with hold out weapons. Imperial power cells are twice as large and the two cannot be used interchangeably.
* A hold out weapon is a very small weapon, like a tiny .22 pistol.
* For characters that get unspecified scientific ranks during adolescence, simply distribute the ranks and get your GM’s approval. There are no other guidelines.
* Martial Arts Companion, from Rolemaster, is suitable for use with Spacemaster. It would be best to use the least fantastic option for the styles (no near-magic chi powers, unless the GM really wants them in his campaign).
* The Architects created the same biosphere over and over again. There are horses on most planets.
* In Spacemaster: Privateers, there is a rating on ships for “EW.” This stands for Electronic Warfare. The first number is the active EW, the second is passive (this makes the ship harder to spot without jamming the sensors and alerting everyone to your presence).
* When a ship has weapons listed as #xMark # (6xMark 10, for instance) it means the weapons are fired as one unit, and their damage is multiplied by the number of weapons.
* Towing ships for salvage is a matter of two things, size and mass. The quantum drive shrinks space in front of the ship and expands it behind, allowing the ship to appear to be traveling faster than light. This means that a crew can maintain vehicles or repair damage while coasting at FTL speeds. It also allows for towing. Assume that a ship can’t tow another vehicle bigger than it, the end of the vehicle would extend beyond the safe envelope around the ship and the spatial differential would rip it clear. Otherwise, just multiply the ships acceleration by it’s mass to get it’s thrust, add in the mass of the new ship and redivide to calculate the new acceleration.
* Sensors in Spacemaster are practically instantaneous.
* When an android hits the end of its operational period, it is warn out, and begins to fall apart.
* If an AI wanted to, it could download a section of the Sensenet into a dummy system and once it’s disconnected, experience the downloaded simulation.
* By the same token, AI’s query the datanet trough safe interfaces that allow only one connection at a time. For example, the AI connects to the system (disconnecting it from the datanet) and makes a query. The system then disconnects from the AI and downloads relevant data from the datanet. The system then disconnects from the datanet and reconnects to the AI with the relevant data.
* Weapon grade blasters and lasers are visible in an atmosphere, due to scattering (and sometimes superheating the atmospheric gasses). They are invisible in a vacuum unless there is a lot of dust. They cause enough of an atmospheric disturbance to make a sound.
* All energy weapons cause atmospheric lensing. This means that the heat distortion from their own beam will cause them to bend as they are refracted by the air.
* In a vacuum, blasters use the same range increments as lasers. Plasma weapons double their range increments.
* For an aquatics skill, use Alien Environments.
* If you need a paratrooping skill, put it in Combat Maneuvers.

 

Racial Theory

There are two main schools of thought on the matter of alien races. The first is that the humanoid form and earth-like biology are optimal, and that any evolutionary path is going to follow a similar trend as we’ve seen on earth. Food will be compatible, psychologies similar (or at least recognizable), and forms familiar. Most science fiction falls into this category, for convenience.

The second school of thought is that our form, our thoughts and our biologies are one of a myriad of possibilities. If two alien races met, they would have no common frame of reference. They would have no idea where to look at the other creature, as neither would have any recognizable face. They would have no way of communicating with each other as they would have no recognizable language (or even the concept of language). They would not be able to eat each other’s food, because they would not have similar biologies (if they even had biologies, as we know them). They would probably require a lot of examination to even determine that the thing in front of them were intelligent, assuming that they could determine that the thing in front of them was even life.

I am firmly in the second camp.

In all fairness, this is more of a spectrum of thought, with myself on one end with many other like thinkers and a group of others at the far extreme. Meanwhile, the majority of people fall somewhere in between.

Everyone would like to think that their view of the universe is the way it really is, but this is not the forum for that debate. The problem is that if this humble author’s view is the hard science approach, then how do you approach writing a science fiction universe?

You see, it’s all fine and dandy to think you’re on the scientific high ground and produce truly alien races, but the more alien a race is, the more unplayable they are. It’s not acceptable to put a race in the game, then give them a psychology that requires a lunatic or a cutting edge psychological theorist to play.

This leaves us with three possibilities.

No aliens at all. Humanity is alone in the universe, or has yet to discover any other beings.

 

Enemy aliens. Place one race of aliens in the games, then pit them against humanity. Allow only the GM to run them. This does require the GM to take the burden of getting inside their alien thoughts.

 

Create an artifice. If playable aliens are contrived, create a contrivance. Create some artificial mechanism which forced all the races to be similar enough to play.

 

 

Players seem to gravitate to games play other races. This is not a solid rule, as Legend of the Five Rings has proven, but give players various races and they’ll stretch themselves into the role. I did not want to deprive the players of Spacemaster that experience.

Thus the Architects were born.

Once you’ve invented a contrivance to make all races human-like, you can either make humans the cause of it all (via genetic engineering) or you can make humans themselves a blatantly artificial race.

The Architects were created as the fathers of all races. They created an ecosphere of animals, then chose seven to raise to sapience, on different worlds across the universe.

And that brings us to the Spacemaster universe.

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