Three Little Books: Traveller The Breakthrough RPG

When I was but a lad of thirteen, there was this new game that everyone was talking about…and then there was this other game that fired my imagination.

The year was 1980, and the game everyone was talking about was Dungeons & Dragons. And according to who you asked, it was a harmless and fun imaginative past-time or the first gear shift on the highway to Hell (spoiler, it wasn’t Satanic in the slightest). However, the game that I discovered in D&D‘s shadow was a little gem called Traveller.

Always a greater fan of things science fiction over the sword and sorcery stuff, I picked up my first set of “three little books” Traveller at the Black Forest Hobby Shop in Kettering, Ohio and was off to other stars in light seconds.

Traveller is/was a role-playing game designed by the now-defunct Game Designer’s Workshop back in 1977. Originally designed as a generic set of rules for space-opera type play, it has evolved into an incredibly detailed universe with sophisticated politics and history. But in 1980 much of that complexity had yet to be written, and my friends and I (yes, I had friends) only needed the three little books that came in the original box set to contend with.

My guess is that the folks at GDW didn’t have a lot of money to invest in printing, as the game was laid out in these three staple-bound books with little interior art and not even a cover image–just a black book with a red stripe. The books were 1) Characters and Combat;  which told you how to create a character through a series of tables that somewhat randomly assigned you skills and attributes, 2) Starships; which listed fifteen ready to fly ships and a ton of rules on how you could design your own from scratch, and 3) Worlds and Adventures; which explained how you could create your own universe from worlds to governments.

To be frank, some of the rules were a bit weird or awkward so my friends and I just chose to ignore what was cumbersome and play it for the fun. And it was glorious fun indeed. We traversed lightyears in a week’s time and landed on frontier worlds. We engaged in starport shootouts and outer space dogfights. And we were free to invent and contrive whatever possibilities suited our fancy as movies like Dune, Alien, Empire Strikes Back, and Wrath of Kahn, dazzled our eyes and books like The Stainless Steel Rat, Dorsai, and Foundation filled out heads.

I had never before found a template that so suited my imagination and am still a fan of the game to this day. Traveller has proven the inspiration for much of what I write as a science fiction author today, and I make no apologies for that. But beyond my personal interaction, the game deserves credit for many innovative concepts that dominate gaming today. Ever heard of society described as having Teck Levels? Thank Traveller because that idea was found on page seven, Book 3) Worlds and Adventures.  How about characters having skills? If you didn’t know, in the original D&D characters had no skills, but chose a “class” whereby certain abilities were allowed and others forbidden. However, in Traveller, your character learned and could improve on skills without boundaries.

The game has earned numerous awards over the decades and been re-written dozens of times even before GDW went under. You can now play Mega-Traveller, Traveller New Era, GRUPS Traveller, Mark Miller’s Traveller, Mongoose Publishing Traveller, Far Future Enterprises Traveller, and on, and on. But as for me, I’m a down to basics kind of guy and three little books is enough.

So roll some dice over a table with like-minded friends and keep it flowing simple and free. Let your imaginations go wherever the heck you want them to and if you get the chance to play a good old fashioned game of Traveller, as we said int he 80s, go for it!

Good Trippy Fun: The Avengers!

No, not Marvel’s Avengers. I’m talking about the British television series that aired from 1961 to ’69.

I have recently re-discovered The Avengers and I love it. This very British, very 60s, TV show would appear on late night television when I was but a wee lad in Dayton, Ohio,  back when Jimmy Carter was president (we miss you, Jimmy, we really do). At the time I thought it was okay, but it wasn’t really geared for kids.

Watching it as an adult, I find it to be a much sillier show than I remember, but oh so much fun! The program ran for almost the entire psychedelic decade but peaked when the show’s regular hero, Agent John Steed (Patrick Macnee), was paired with the deadly and talented Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) from 1965 to ’68.

As acting teams go, you just can’t get any better than Macnee and Rigg. They simply had an outstanding rapport, and easily half the fun of the show is watching them joust with each other. I say “joust” because the relationship between the two characters was always professional. Emma Peel’s husband was somehow lost in the Amazon, and Steed was far too gentlemanly to proposition another man’s wife. Thus, they performed as a dazzling sort of “buddy cop” team, not a romantic couple, and it was sensational!

To be sure, Dame Diana Rigg’s Mrs. Peel character is far better remembered. She was a tough, smart, sarcastic woman to be reckoned with, and the inspiration for the Marvel Avenger-Black Widdow. Seldom had such a woman been portrayed before on big screen or small, and the positive feminist message remains inspiring to women and to people who like women.

However, Agent John Steed was no slouch either. Whereas Emma Peel represented the modern age, in her jumpsuits and sports cars, Steed was the old-fashioned man. As chivalrous as any knight, he had a penchant for vintage automobiles, bowler hats, and dapper manners. He was witty, clever and extremely good-natured, the kind of chap you’d gladly invite over for tea once a week.

Both characters were supposedly deadly masters of hand-to-hand combat…but oh boy…the fight choreography was laughable. Emma’s sloppy karate and Steed’s flailing about with his umbrella always triumphed over the villains, but only because the script said so, and it showed.

But speaking of the villains, you will never find a more kooky bunch of weirdos trampling across a television screen than in The Avengers. No ordinary villains for these heroes to fight–heavens no! Mad scientists, bizarre conspiracies, secret organizations, and super spies are constantly bent on destroying all that is right and good in Britain, and only Emma and Steed can stop them.

The show is everything we fondly remember the 1960s for. It was trippy, cool, silly, and fun. If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend you do.

Battlefields now on Amazon for free

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As some of you know, I got my start in writing by designing games. I must have played hundreds of role playing and miniatures games in my youth. As a high school student you’d find me doing my homework at a gaming table in the Black Forest Hobby Shop in Kettering, Ohio, just about any weeknight.

I especially loved historical war-games. Honestly, I think I learned more history in the hobby shop than in the classroom back then. My only barriers to enjoyment of this pastime were my poverty (washing cars only pays so much) and the overly complex rules systems available at the time.

To solve the poverty problem, I cut corners whenever I could. I found the cheapest miniature soldiers I could find, and then sped hours painting them to look awesome anyway. As to the over complex rules…well, I usually just ignored them. My friends and I soon found that in any one-hundred page rulebook there were only ten to twenty that were really necessary anyway.

And, damn, did we have fun!

Settling around a table of exquisitely modeled terrain, with a group of good friends while enjoying a fast paced game of conquest and heroes…what great afternoons that made.

So, one of the first games I wrote was Battlefields: From Broadswords to Bullets. It uses inexpensive and commonly available HO scale figures and consists of simple, fast-paced rules. Any historical era can be played with these rules and if you want to get really crazy you can send Roman legionnaires against American Civil War soldiers and see what would happen.

Right now I’m offering it as a free promotion on Amazon. But even after the promotion expires, I’ll still keep the price as low as possible. After all, this game is for the teenager who’s earning what he can by washing cars.

Have fun!

https://www.amazon.com/Battlefields-Broadswords-Bullets-Clayton-Callahan-ebook/dp/B01BOLUUDA/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1466824448&sr=1-4&keywords=clayton+callahan

Fed Up With Bigotry

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When I grew up in the 70s and 80s, race slurs were no longer said in polite company. Although not particularly diverse, my home town of Kettering, Ohio had a mix of folks from a wide variety of backgrounds. I found out early on that I was as likely to get along with a kid of a different race as I was to be bullied by another kid of that same race; thus bigotry proved itself a total failure in predicting human behavior.

I then went on to serve in the military with folks of an even wider variety of backgrounds. Once again, I discovered that a man’s religion, or cultural heritage had absolutely no bearing on whether I could get along with him or not. To put it bluntly, there are good people everywhere and jerks come in all colors and faiths.

I don’t consider myself a genius so I just took it for granted that most other folks could figure this out as well. After all, tolerance is not that complicated, right? Turns out that assumption was wrong, and ether I’m a genius or there are just a lot of dumb people in the world. I’m now I’m hearing slurs all over the place.

Since the Paris attack last week, it’s been mostly anti-Muslim slurs. However, anti-transgender slurs are coming in a close second and I’m sick of it all. People are people, regardless of background, faith, sexual orientation, race, or taste in music. Some people’s behavior makes them a disgrace to the entire human race. But most people are decent folks that I find easy to get along with, and some behave in a way that is a credit to us all.

In regard to Muslims, I’ll put it this way. I served in Iraq and while I was there some Muslims tried to kill me. Should I now hate all Muslims? NO! Because if all Muslims had tried to kill me I’d be dead.

Right now, I’m trying very hard to promote my books and entice readers to my work. However, if you are an un-repentant bigot…I’m not interested in your business. Sorry, but the truth is I’ve had all I can take.