Thursday, January 30, 2014

Minimal News

  • Good post over at Hack and Slash on the nature of heroism in RPGs, and how incentivizing heroic play actually makes it less heroic, because heroism is about risk and sacrifice.  I quite like his Solution #4, which ACKS supports through reserve XP awards (karma).
  • By request, added functionality for generating characters of just a particular class to the Henchinator script.  Not elegantly, but it does work and doesn't break anything else.
  • Been playing a lot of Crusader Kings II... poorly.  Yesterday I learned about the perils of legitimizing my bastard sons, having foreigners tutor my heirs, being captured on the field of battle and imprisoned, heretic court chaplains, and inbreeding my heirs.  On the plus side, I also learned how to strip my vassals of their titles and claim them for myself without incurring tyranny penalties (wait until they rebel, crush the rebellion, then revoke their titles for treason)!  It's a process, but one which yields a wealth of inspiration for a domain-level ACKS game.  Loyalty rolls for everyone, all the time!  Hopefully tonight I will not lose my duchy.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Outer Veil Meets Space Hulk

Outer Veil marine campaigns just clicked in the shower, while considering Space Hulk and recent events.

In the skies above a hundred worlds, abandoned and decrepit habitats built by the corporations during the first colony rush rust in their orbits, ripe for salvage.  Forgotten vaults once the scenes of gruesome survival and misjumped ships now inhabited only by mutant cannibal rats hold lost treasures and unknown perils.  But sometimes the civilian buzzards aren't prepared for what they find, and it falls to a few good men in powered armor, skilled in boarding, zero-g combat, and demolitions, to make these habitats safe for reclamation, or to destroy them if this is deemed impossible...

But it doesn't take a battalion to clear your average ghost ship or derelict orbital, especially when the opposition is usually small (but vicious) mammals or unarmored (but vicious) degenerates with primitive weaponry, and so the units deployed for this purpose in small, fast starships are typically platoon-sized or smaller and under the command of a junior officer or NCO.  Tours aboard these "bughunter boats" last between six months and a year (followed by a similar period of shore duty), during which time they proceed through inhabited space along a flexible patrol route, serving both to show the flag and assist local authorities as necessary in addition to their primary mandate of habitat-clearing.  Of course, the usual cases, with the small mammals and the unarmored degenerates, are not the interesting ones...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Midnight Monolithicity - An Alternative Solution

In the previous post, I discussed how in canon Midnight, it is essential for players to exploit the divisive nature of the powers of darkness in order to win breathing room to perform acts of good.  An alternative solution, however, is to replace the monolithic Izrador with a pantheon of dark deities, or even demon lords (one inspiration for this post is Courtney's post on the demon-nature some week or two ago), each with its own agents, champions, church, realm, and armies.  This gives us something more like Warhammer's cosmology of evil, or Dark Sun's dragon-kings.  This ideological and temporal variety means that players are more likely to find evil powers who are acceptable to their sensibilities (the better to tempt them), and would give a DM more leeway in functioning economies and easier-to-work-with legal structures.  On the flip side, part of the reason Midnight works is that it is a darkened mirror of Tolkein, from which many of D&D's tropes springeth.  By splitting Izsauradoron into many competing facets, we make this resemblance less recognizable, and I suspect the setting would lose some of its lustre as a result.  Depending on how the world arrived at an evil-dominant cosmology, we might also lose that one glimmer of distant hope in Midnight, that the Old Gods are still waiting outside the Veil.

So I'm not convinced this is a particularly ideal course for Midnight proper, but a "Demon Realms" game combining Midnight, Dark Sun, and Raveloft might be fun in its own right.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Dangit, Dad (Also: Patrons of Midnight)

A discussion with my father over the weekend regarding my strengths and weaknesses as a DM led us to the realization our sense of what makes a good campaign setting may be poorly callibrated, as a result of running few published campaign settings prior.  This led to a search for the exceptions to our trend of homebrewing low-detail settings.  On that list of exceptions were Eberron (played straight and run well by mine brother), Old World of Darkness / Vampire (tropes averted, heavy weapons and trenchcoats abounded), and...  Midnight.

And now ACKS Midnight is on the brain again.   Thanks, dad, for contributing to the Gamer ADD Epidemic.

'course, since it's in my head, I may as well write about it...

One of the main challenges of Midnight, I believe, is the monolithic nature of the Enemy.  It creates a sort of paralysis upon first entering the setting - "ye old and forgotten gods, we cannot hope to survive a fortnight with these forces arrayed against us, nevermind overthrow the Shadow!"  This is why I hold Lords of Shadow (or whatever the book on the Night Kings and their designs was called) to be the most useful Midnight supplement ever published (as far as DMing material goes, at least) - it is largely focused on the internal rivalries and intrigues among the forces of darkness.  These are critical!  These are the tools canny PCs use to survive in the Fourth Age!  The Patron in Midnight is most likely not the Elven Queen in her far-off forest fastness; it is the legate willing to overlook the players' transgressions in return for plausible deniability in his quiet war for promotion with his rivals in the church.  It is the ambitious third son of a Traitor Prince who needs bodyguards and assassins in his father's court.  It is one of Ardherin's minions or apprentices who seeks aid in acquiring contraband books and other sensitive items at his master's behest.  It is a renegade orcish captain who has fallen in with the White Mother sect, and whose plans requires covert messengers to other likeminded orcish bands.  Better yet, the role of Patron is filled by all of these at once, with the party playing each servant of darkness against the others.

The wizened village hetman, the last of the ents, the elven courier with his dying request, the escaped slave, the woodsman, the Lady of the Lake, and that infamous smuggler Gnome Solo with his dwarg manservant all have their places as patrons, of course.  But it is the forces of darkness, not the forces of good, which give Midnight its flavor, and it is in service to the powers of darkness that players might find the relative safety and autonomy to pursue good ends on the side (while also being tempted with promises of wealth, power, and ease for swearing themselves to darkness, body and soul...).

A game of moral dilemmas, of falls from grace and heroic sacrifices, of lifeboat utilitarianism and no-win situations, of loyalty unto death and betrayal most foul...  A game of choices more difficult and more varied than "where are we going to go a-viking this week, and which of our henchmen are we going to save from the spider venom?"  Such is Midnight.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Scaled Continent: Lessons Learned

  • There is such a thing as too many players at the table, especially when they all have henchmen and you can't see each other.  ACKS with DM+3 is a very different game from DM+5.  At DM+3, we saw cohesion and lack of player capability overlap.  At DM+5, we saw disintegration of cohesion (see: Tim's assassin forays away from rest of group) and massive capability overlap (contention for front-rank slots by many fighters).  Grim Fist was DM+4, and that worked out pretty well.  Alex Macris' games seem to run at DM+6, but he built the system, so one would expect him to DM it optimally.
    • Playing over internet without video seriously aggravated this issue.
    • Fighter-centric game problems might eventually be solved by ACKS Heroic Fantasy book?  Or not adventuring in narrow corridors.  It's interesting that our group seems to really like fighters; I think that of eight players, four either were playing a melee fighter or had a melee fighter henchman (or both in two cases), while only two had dedicated ranged fighter or ranged explorer henchmen.  Dungeon-biased party composition.
  • Play to the things that motivate your players (duh?).  Treasure and exploration for their own sake, while romantic, don't appear to cut it with my player-base.  Money and exploration are both means, and there was a lack of interesting ends.  I have a slight aversion to unifying distant existential threat, because of a past experience where one player hyper-focused on it and set the group's agenda, but avoiding it entirely was probably not the right solution.
    • I believe this also contributed to lack of players taking scheduling initiative, which meant the irregular scheduling mode of operation broke down and the game became regular.  Timezones basically precluded weeknights anyway, though.
    • Lacking elements that I believe my players enjoy:
      • NPCs with agendas.  For all that we complain about the Elminster effect and how ACKS isn't like that, having a handful of high-power (possibly malicious) NPCs around is actually good in ACKS.
      • Coherent narrative; partly impeded by total playerbase size, partly by my intended style of game.
  • In platoon-scale Domains at War, lizardmen can crush something like three times their number of human mercenaries as a result of HD advantage (2d8+ vs 1d6) and racial +Morale, and lightning bolt is probably less good than fireball.  Sorry about that, Mark.
  • I may have made the barrier between civilization (Voltager) and wilderness (Continent) too big - 500 miles of ocean is "daunting".  Conversation with dad suggests that this may have also contributed to lack of scheduling initiative.
  • Trade under the standard rules still isn't quite doing it for us.  Probably needed bigger markets.
  • One player's feedback suggests that ready availablility of RL&L for purchase made death inconvenient rather than terrible, and hence the game was less exciting.  The primary consequence of dying was probably that you were basically done for the session because you needed weeks of bed rest; the side effects folks rolled were mostly nuisances rather than serious handicaps (especially when RL&Ling the giant hawk henchbeast).  Perversely, this problem is best solved by lowering market classes.
  • Treasure maps pointing to lairs rather than full dungeons actually worked pretty well.  The only trouble is that a lair with as much treasure as the treasure map roll yielded almost certainly meant dragon, cyclops, or something else rather formidable.
  • Hex stocking wasn't a big problem, but I did fail to use dynamic lairs again.  Random wilderness encounters were reasonably random and respected by players without dominating the game.  Nobody tried hex-clearing (yay?).
  • Again, world needed to be more active.  This was coming, with monsoon season and political upheaval, but not to the once-a-session-at-the-pizza-break levels that I had planned.
  • DM / genre fatigue is a thing, and timing when starting a new game is important.  If you take too long between when you have the idea and when the game starts, something else will start to look appealing.  In this case I waited a couple weeks trying to find a local group before falling back to internet.  This was a mistake, I guess?  Holiday unavailabilities did not help matters at all either.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

In Defense of Mongoose Traveller

My cat published this one before it had any body text.  I'm sorry about that (the cat is not).

Readers of my recent posts comment threads may note a number of favorable
thoughts on Classic Traveller, at Mongoose's expense.  In the Core, Mongoose did a lot of abstraction away from CT in things like armor handling and starship combat.  In the supplements, Mongoose has put many poorly-edited, poorly-thought-out subsystems that don't work well in play, along with a vast number of superfluous careers that don't add much to the game

However, a discussion with Tim about ACKS vs Traveller led me to the realization that MgT is very well-designed in one respect besides that it's subtly balanced.  The context was the general complaint that ACKS has encouraged me to go Hard Simulationist - the fault is my own that I do my best to simulate a world to the maximum extent supported by the rules, but in this case it has been the undoing of my games for the last year and a half.  MgT, in comparison, has a number of rules that exist in support of coherent narratives - Contacts, Allies, Enemies, Rivals, the Connection Rule, the Skill Package, and Patrons all spring to mind.  Most of these help take Traveller's random character generation and use it as a springboard for an emergent narrative, and of this set, only Patrons were present in CT.  So I have to give Mongoose credit for that - they took a strongly simulationist / gamist classical system, and grafted a small set of narrative-supporting mechanics on top in a way that felt organic and played well (I distinctly recall that those were some of our favorite rules in actual play in MgT).

What's more is that these mechanics are largely associative.  When we think of narrativist mechanics, I typically think of action points / willpower / conviction-type "win button" mechanics which permit the players to keep the story moving in the direction they favor, or of Wushu-style action resolution mechanics that are primarily narrative-driven.  As Justin Alexander noted back when, these are both dissociative; they treat the consistency of the game-world as inferior to an outside force, the narrative, which behaves in a manner most inexplicable to the characters.  MgT's mechanics, while also operating in support of the formation of a coherent narrative, do so from a completely different angle - rather than "X would be a coherent narrative; make it so", they provide a palette known to both players and GM of elements that could sensibly exist within the world and which, when used judiciously, tend to produce a satisfying narrative.  Meanwhile, they also ground the PCs in the universe, alleviating Drifting Murderhobo Syndrome.  They're simultaneously simulationist and narrativist, and that's somewhat remarkable in a rule.

So I think that's part of why we've had so much fun with MgT in the past - it nicely supports simulationist (world ecologies), narrativist (connections and rivals), and gamist (starship loans, trade) play within a simple, mostly-well-done core.  "A good all-rounder", I suppose.

Traveller: Outer Veil

Picked up Outer Veil over the weekend, by none other than fellow ACKS-and-Traveller blogger Omer Joel!  Interesting setting.  Had a few small gripes, but also found a lot to like about it.

Outer Veil opens with 20 pages of setting background, including a history of human space travel starting in 2033, background on the ten main megacorporations that dominate manufacturing in human space, and the structure and policy of the primary human interstellar governing body, the FNH (Federation Nations of Humanity).  Things are set in 2159 AD, about 30 years after a major civil war which saw a significant reduction in corporate power and the rise of the FNH.  Jump-2 has just recently been invented; low-TL11 is the standard, with meson weapons not yet developed.  No nonextinct sentient aliens yet encountered, and psi exists but is only usable through recovered alien artifact booster tech (reverse-engineered and duplicated in the last two decades, still very poorly understood and unpredictable).  This chapter made me nervous for two reasons - one is that as a near-future setting, the politics may cut a bit close to home for some folks (self non-exempt).  The other was that the FNH sounded like a well-meaning but monolithic government, and I was concerned about the ability of players to exercise agency under such conditions.  The jury is still out on concern #1, but it turns out that concern #2 was unfounded.

Chapter the second is 24 pages of modified careers.  I am, as a rule, not a huge fan of careers, but I do like in particular what was done with the Agent career, namely its conversion to the Justice Commission career.  Nice hat-tip to Judge Dredd in the description text, there - more on this one later.  I also saw an event on one of the tables that I liked, which required a roll to avoid gaining an alcohol or drug addiction.  That seems like something suitable to Traveller chargen.  Some of the other events were rendered troublesome by career specializations; for example, the Citizen career is divided into Bureaucrat, Service, and Worker.  A pair of events on the Citizen event table included "you are assigned to work with hazardous materials", and "your job is to push papers".  One of these seems appropriate for bureaucrat and not worker; one seems appropriate for worker but not bureaucrat.  I guess I'd rather see d36 tables specific to each subfield of new careers, rather than d66 tables that are too specific for their intended generality.

On the plus side, the new careers tend to have about the same survival+promotion difficulty as the Core careers; Mongoose screws this up a lot.  There's also some gear and modified starship availability rules as regards mustering out - I quite like the addition of the machine pistol.  The subsidized merchant rules could be useful.  I dislike the skills from Mercenary that are reprinted here, but that's because I tend to feel that they're overspecialized (and Instruction is poorly implemented), not because they don't belong.

The chargen chapter is followed by 37 pages of starships.  This is where my concerns about central authority started to abate - when the heaviest starship in the manual is 600 tons, and you're looking at a 300-ton frigate as the heaviest government / military ship in most Veil systems because shipbuilding capabilities haven't grown as quickly as the sphere of human colonization, a picture of sparse law enforcement really starts to emerge.  Anyway, they're decent ships.  Lots of Jump-1 with fuel for two jumps.  I like the addition of hydroponics equipment as an option in ship design for the reduction of life support costs.

We then get three pages on belt mining and conducting planetary surveys!  I admit that I marked this as "come back and read later, because while I do love belt mining, none of the rest of my group ever cares."  The survey rules, again, are suggestive of lots of unexplored or lightly-explored space.

Finally, the meat of the book at 52 pages is comprised of starmaps, listings of planets, and short descriptions of a select few per subsector.  Having not bought a Traveller campaign setting before, I had no idea that they usually covered an entire sector; we've been playing within single subsectors, historically.  So this is a ton of scale compared to what I'm used to.  Pretty well done; some of the planetary descriptions got the brain rolling.  Good mix of described points of interest with enough empty worlds to add your own material.  And yes, lots and lots of low-law, not-quite-empty-but-certainly-poorly-policed space out on the fringes, as well as some simply unexplored space out beyond that.  Good stuff.

This is followed by 4 pages of referee information (helpful / good, again got the gears turning), 4 pages of patrons (pretty decent), and 7 pages of sample adventure that I haven't read yet because it's rather late but the maps and handouts look alright.

Other miscellaneous comments: Some minor proofreading issues ("Secessionists" is occasionally used as a singular noun / oddly, for example).  The art is, as other reviewers have noted, CGI and not amazing.  I had the colors on my pdf reader inverted because I hate reading black text on a light-emitting white background, so it was gonna be ugly anyway; not a huge deal for me.  I actually like what the inversion did to the megacorp logos and some of the starship art.

I think if I were to run this, I'd want to do something like the following:
  • Have a Justice Commission PC, in one of several capacities.  Could be a secret agent aboard a free or subsidized trader (suspected pirates?), could be a passenger on a trader when things get interesting and then he decides to stay / deputize everybody, or it could be a dedicated Commission ship from the start.
    • Naturally, someone else in the party has to be the Lovable Rogue, who plays the foil to the agent and suggests effective but morally suspect courses of action
  • Setup is that the Commission is vastly undermanned in some outer part of space, and there's more trouble than the PCs are likely to be able to solve.  They're also left to operate largley independently and to apply the law at their discretion; check in with HQ every couple months, and they'll let you know if they've got any leads for you, but mostly you're on your own.  World engines / progression tracks kick in; while you're solving one problem, others appear or progress.
    • When I say "undermanned", I also mean underfunded - "Sorry, we couldn't get you a ship, so we're buying you two middle passage tickets a month...  There's a free trader headed to Mos Eisley leaving tomorrow named the PC Express; we want you to investigate a pair of murders that occurred in a cantina there.  Rumor has it known Secessionists were involved."  
    • And then the ticket / passage prices go into the player funding pool to supplement cargo, bounties, subsidy, whatever.
      • Note to players - I propose trying the cargo system from Classic Traveller's Merchant Prince. Way less rolling; purchase prices are deterministic, only sale prices are random, and goods from a single source are all grouped together rather than being individual cargos (eg, "40 tons of stuff from mining world X" rather than "35 tons of common metals, 4 tons of industrial gemstones, and 1 ton of radioactives").
  • Possible easy hooks / opposition:
    • Secessionist malefactors
    • Unsanctioned colonies
    • Pirates
    • Psi-gone-wrong incidents of all sorts (always fun)
    • Megacorp illegal research, brush wars, and other underhanded doings
    • Corrupt FNH local branch officials
    • Apocalypse Now-style renegade military dictators who've set themselves up with the good life on the frontier
    • Planetary militias on the take from local crime lords
    • Xenoarchaeologists trespassing in forbidden areas
    • Rival Commission agents seeking to muck up your operations to further their careers, or rogue agents out to cause general mayhem
  • Basically it's Dark Heresy without all the darkness and the heresy.  The PCs are an investigative team for the Good Guys, authorized to independently exercise their judgment and Solve Problems.  I'm a bit tired of running black-and-grey morality, and I imagine some of my players likely are too.  Been a while since we fought the good fight.
  • Finally, Justice Commission offers several advantages over the Marine, Navy, and Corporate Troubleshooter campaign options.  Over military, it has that my players have more familiarity and relative comfort with law enforcement, that militaries tend to act in homogeneous units (which would suggest that the entire party should be marines, if that's the structure) rather than highly intermixed with civilians, and that the driving goal / mandate of the military campaign is less clear than "Bring Law to the Lawless."  As for the corporate campaign, my players have recently demonstrated that they're really not driven by profit.  Justice also feels like it permits a wider range of possible plots to me.
The problem, of course, is that this is incompatible with the ambitions of piracy that I have been discussing with my players.  But on reflection, one issue I think with ACKS has been that I have been completely disregarding narrative structure in favor of total simulationism/gamism.  And it may be that that is less than ideal, in terms of maintaining player interest and involvement.  The investigative game (Reynolds and Tam, PI) is liable to induce something more resembling a coherent narrative; it's about people and organizations, rather than about going places, stabbing things, and taking their shinies (which, ultimately, is not all that different from the proposed piratical structure).  But this is not really part of the review, and probably warrants its own post.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Classic Traveller: Closing Thoughts

So, takeaways from Classic Traveller:
  • Weapon vs armor to-hit tables solve my gripes with MgT's armor as DR (namely that weapons that both pierce armor and don't instantly pulp anyone not wearing armor end up involving irritating math at runtime).  Turns out CT already had that one figured out.  I don't think the overhead would be terrible as long as folks copied the mods list for their weapon down beforehand (turns out character sheets are just caches); a close table lookup is faster than a division and a subtraction, as most armor-piercing schemes for Mongoose entail.
  • I like their psi rules, where psi is "spend points, magic happens", without a roll.  Turns out that back when, Trav skills were more like feats than skills, which gives me some extra freedom to maneuver should I ever desire to pick the Fantasy Traveller project back up.  Also gradual talent increases and Special talent are neat.
  • Edu improvement is as it should be.
  • Encumbrance seems slightly more reasonable.
  • Starship combat is a funny thing.  We've had trouble with Mongoose's being sort of boring before, if I recall correctly.  I don't know if CT's solves this problem, but it does add maneuver (which Mongoose handles very abstractly) and reprogramming (which Mongoose does not handle at all).  On the downside, more complexity and needs a gridless wargaming table and vector tracking and whatnot.
  • Morale, surprise, reaction rolls, hirelings, and other OSR-type mechanics are good fun and I should use them in Mongoose.  Glad to know the elder travellers shared this wisdom.
  • The limited selection of careers has sparked some discussion among my crew, and I think the fact that the initial system basically only supported military+merchant+thief might help explain why noncombat characters in both T20 and Mongoose are less than amazingly compelling to play.  Basically, the system just wasn't designed with them in mind; they're late-stage grafts, afterthoughts.  The conclusion we drew for future Mongoose games was "make sure PCs each have at least one term from Agent, Army, Marine, Merchant, Navy, Scout, or Rogue - you can have civilian terms if you want, but get some prior adventuring experience."  In our case, the explanation may be "we're recruiting crew for a privateer vessel, and if you're not a veteran or a criminal, you're probably not hired."
    • Though the addition of hirelings has led to the suggestion of having an "away team" hireling from an adventuresome career, coupled with a "command crew" PC who stays on the ship or at base.  This was not really feasible previously. 
In short - there are some good ideas here that I would like to steal and atavize back onto MgT.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Classic Traveller Book 3

  • Law Level table only covers weapons
  • Misc equipment costs are in here, including food.  No standard of living table by SOC.
  • Reaction roll table modified by being a military retiree (+1), world population (-1 if 9 or more), and nothing else.  Oooo-kay.
  • Animals don't actually have stats; it's more like HD.
  • Also the question of animal armor, which I had been wondering out, is resolved reasonably.
  • Hiring local guides provides a +/-2 DM to the random encounter table when you're seeking a particular type of animal.  Good for safaris.
  • Rules for frequency of psionic institutes.  I am stealing these.  Scholarship rules for characters of high ability, too.
  • I quite like their psionics rules, I think.  Harder max caps on abilities, but no rolls to use most of them, and skill level gradually improves on its own until it reaches your personal maximum ability.
  • Also having a "Special Talent" category on the table is either an awesome idea or a GM nightmare, depending on the circumstances.
  • Good closing note:
    • Care must be taken that the referee does not simply lay fortunes in the path of the players, but the situation is not primarily an adversary relationship. The referee simply administers the rules in situations where the players themselves have an incomplete understanding of the universe. The results should reflect a consistent reality. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Classic Traveller: Starships and Travel

  • Passage costs don't take distance into account at all.  This is silly, as it costs more to maintain a high-jump ship.
  • Working passage is a good idea, though.  Don't remember seeing that in Mongoose.
  • Hijacking rules are unclear.
  • Concrete drive failure probabilities.  I approve.
  • Banks require a business plan before they'll finance a starship for you.  lol.
  • More detail on how to run subsidized merchants, though.
  • Life support is twice as expensive as in MgT
  • Nice, fixed berthing costs, rather than random per starport.  That eliminated a source of records-keeping hassle.
  • ...  where's my giant table of speculative cargos?  Not in the section on cargo, that's for sure.  Huh.  (Oh, it's at the very end of the second book.  OK, carry on then)
  • Shuttle and ship charter prices are clearly listed
  • Acceleration maths!
  • Not a whole lot different in starship design, but the costs of designing and building your own are clearer.
  • Weapon selection - lasers, missiles, and sandcasters only.  None of those crazy mesons and dampers and nukes and crap.
  • Having a crewman fill two jobs effectively reduces his skill in each by 1, and grants him 75% pay from each.  Good rule.
  • Small craft with weapons require a gunner in addition to a pilot (but see above).
  • Starship combat: VECTOR MOVEMENT.  This is a reasonably credible starship combat minis game, folks.
  • Detection ranges are measured in light-seconds on game-scale, or mm on table-scale. 
  • A single hull hit depressurizes the hull.  Hope you're all wearing vacc suits!
    • Oh.  Further down, "Starships (and other vessels) depressurize their interiors before combat whenever possible, the passengers and crew resorting to vacc suits for safety and comfort. This procedure minimizes the danger due to explosive decompression as a battle result."  So yes, you should all be wearing your vacc suits.  That seems mighty wasteful of air, though...
  •  Repairs seem liable to cost a lot more.  (2d6-2)*10% of the original component, as opposed to "a couple tons of 10kCr spare parts".  Guess it depends on the component.
  • Includes building planet templates, complete with formulae for concentric rings indicating varying degrees of gravitic acceleration.
  • Starship computer programs, and manually swapping between storage and RAM, are a huge deal.  This is where T20 got its programs.  I'm not really sure whether I like Mongoose's handling of this (basically "programs are extras and they're too expensive for you").  At least here you can write your own (and hope it doesn't crash at an inopportune time).
  • There are rules for improving skills and attributes!  It just takes years, and goes away if you quit practicing.
    • You can boost your Edu by 2 points a year for 5kCr/year, up to a max of your Int, though, which nicely solves Bones' Dilemma.
  • There's no dedicated Broker skill - Admin and Bribery both provide DMs to  speculative cargo prices instead.