The Eight Worlds -- Overview
The Eight Worlds is a science fiction role-playing game, loosely based on the original three book Traveller rules set, that began at MIT in the early 1980s and has run continuously ever since. The original Traveller rules were innovative, imaginative, and a landmark in gaming -- arguably the first real playable science fiction role-playing game -- but they had several inadequacies. They contained a comprehensive set of rules for designing starships, but didn't really explain how those ships were to be flown or fought. The ground combat system was quite rudimentary, and had some odd features -- one example was laser rifles, which were incredibly powerful, but could be rendered almost entirely impotent by a simple layer of 'reflec' armor, which made one wonder why anyone would ever bother to buy them. And the society itself was a bit too high-tech for our tastes, with technology that was undeniably neat, but so advanced that it could be difficult to relate to guess how it would behave. Things like 'anti-gravity sleds' may be all well and good, but what happens if one anti-gravity sled flies above another, or lands on top of another. Do their 'anti-gravity fields' add together? Cancel each other out? What is the power consumption in hover? Do anti-gravity devices obey conservation of energy or could one use them to build perpetual motion machines?
Finally, the original Traveller rules seemed oriented towards passengers. This was reflected in the name of the game itself, which was Traveller rather than something like Pilot or Astronaut. We didn't want to play passengers! We wanted to play starcrew! After all, what's the point in having all those neat starships if you don't get to fly them, fight them, and blow them up?
For these reasons and others, we ended up developing our own rules, which diverged to the point where they could have been copyrighted as an entirely different game. If we'd been commercially minded, we might have made a few more changes, then published and marketed them. Instead, I've begun to scan and transcribe our old notes for others to use.
This is a huge project, for the notes fill several books and campaign logs, and were not always written with others in mind. To keep things moving, I plan to post new sections as soon as the basic tables are ready, before I've had a chance to add the necessary supporting text, figures, and examples. For the first few weeks or months, the layout and organization will be rudimentary, and may change in unpredicable ways. So please bear with me if some pages seem cryptic or incomplete. If you have any particular questions or requests, feel free to post them to the Traveller section of the Flying Cloud Forum or send me an email.
Eight Worlds Currency
The Eight Worlds uses an inflation-adjusted system of currrency adminstered by the Denominational Unification Council for the Advancement of Trade (DUCAT) -- one of the few multinational organizations the Eight Worlds possesses. A quick summary is provided below.
Dice and Variation Schemes
Random outcomes on the Eight Worlds are determined by the roll of 6-sided die because these are easy to handle, more generally available than other shapes, and make a nice clattering nose when you roll them. For most quantities that vary over a fixed range -- things such as cost, age, or hit probabiity -- this is sufficient. But some qualities are open-ended and have no predetermined limits. These might include things such as how badly an jump drive malfunctions or how beautiful the exotic engineer who arrives to fix it is, and how long she lingers after the other crewmen are gone, waiting for... but I digress. To schemes are used to handle such situations: the Bueaty Scheme and the Demon Dice Scheme.
The 'Beauty' Scheme
The 'Demon Die' Scheme
This can go on for quite some time. In the original Caltech campaign, it was used to determine size multipliers for monsters. The record was a hippogriff with a size multiplier of 42 (14 '6's in a row, followed by a '4'), which worked out to a 500 meter wingspan. It was an interesting encounter. In the Eight Worlds this system is commonly used to determine how bad something is -- how badly a drive malfuntions, how badly a character injures themselves if they roll snake-eyes on a skill check, etc. The most dramatic result -- though not the record -- was the crash that lead to the Great Allanlock Spaceport Fire of 3155 that destroyed 30% of the city.
The Skill System
Skill and training are basic to the Eight Worlds rule system. When a player wishes their character to use a weapon or perform a task that requires some skill, they roll 2d6 and add the character's skill. If the result is equal to or higher than the required value -- this can vary depending on the armor and cover of the targer or the difficulty and circumstances of the task -- they succeed. If it's lower, they fail.
To advance from skill N-1 to skill N requires N additional Skill Points. Thus, one Skill Point to go from Skill-0 to Skill-1, two additional Skill Points are required to advance from Skill-1 to Skill-2 (for a total of 3), three additional Skill Points are required to advance from Skill-2 to Skill-3 (for a total of 6), etc. Skill are represented by triplets of numbers such as 1-1-3, where the first number represents the current skill level, the second represents the number of additional Skill Points earned toward the next level, and the third represents the number of failure points -- a training aid that will be described below. Skill Points can be acquired in several ways:
Prior experience: Just as in Traveller, players may send their characters through miltary or civilian service and use the Prior Experience Tables to determine what they learn. Each 'skill' acquired via the Prior Experience Tables counts as two (2) skill points. Thus, one 'skill' will get you to Skill 1-1-0, two will get you to Skill 2-1-0, three will get you to Skill 3-0-0, four will get you to 3-2-0, five will get you to Skill 4-0-0, etc.
Training: A character can pay for training. Training costs range
from 1 F/month for individual weapons skills to 10F/month for
bridge crew skills such as Pilot or Nav (which also require a minimum
Education of 8). In general, each training session requires one month of
full-time effort and allows the player to make one training roll to acquire
an additional Skill Point. The roll required is
Shipboard Life: For every six months thta were not spent training, a character may take one training roll in any activity they could plausibly have been doing during that time period. This could include skills in which they ordinarly could not train due to insufficient Education and skills such as Jack-of-all-Trades in which training is not ordinarly possible. Shipboard Life is cool. Use it wisely
This skill system works incredibly well. It is simple, easy to remember, and has all the qualities one would expect. In particular, higher levels of skill are harder to acquire, but training gets easier with time.
Last modified: 2 February 2010