Ephemeris is an open-ended Science Fiction role playing game. In many ways, it’s more like Dungeons & Dragons than it is like Traveller. There are set species and set character classes, but the universe itself is an open one. The homeworlds for the various species are given, but as to who controls each sector of space, that is up to the players and the game masters. Also, the politics between species are left up to the players and game masters.
In this sense, the game is like Dungeons & Dragons without the Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms campaigns. It’s just the rules, and a universe for the players to create.
Each character has seven attributes. They are: Intelligence, Common Sense, Charisma, Sanity, Strength, Agility, and Endurance. Each character will have a score in these attributes between 2 and 12, although species modifiers can push those numbers higher.
There are six species in the game.
The Althani tend to be very warlike and are very strong, as they come from a planet with a pretty substantial gravity.
The Arbonix are the only species capable of flight. They’re often dismissed as being fragile creatures, but they are deadly in a fight.
The Culthan are often referred to as the mad race. Their species evolved on a planet that had its orbit disrupted by a large asteroid strike. As a result, the gasses of their planet have slowly been freezing out, and the Culthan have been driven mad by their suffering planet. They are very intelligent, but their issues with sanity make them a difficult race to deal with. The Culthan almost always seem to be at war with one of the other species.
Humanity is the new species on the block. Many see them as upstarts that don’t deserve their place among the major species, while others view them as injecting new vitality into the hyperspaceways. It all depends on who you ask…an on what humanity has been doing lately.
The Melanathee are the oldest of the species. They claim that other species existed in the past, but no one is really sure if they’re telling the truth or not. As the oldest of the species, the Melanathee are very intelligent, but they tend to view the other species as being inferior to them, and so they can often be very difficult to get along with.
The Tulmath are the most well-liked of the species. They usually try to avoid starting wars with the other species and are often more than willing to share their research with the other species. Due to their likeability and good-naturedness, the Tulmath tend to make great Traders.
There are nine character classes in the game.
Bandit: This is a catch-all category of characters that tend to live outside the laws. They are often pirates and bounty hunters, and with the proper enhancements, they can make great hackers and data thieves.
Cyber Wizard: These are characters that use cybernetic enhancements that are implanted in their bodies to simulate magic. They can be very powerful characters, but all of the cybernetic enhancements tend to take a toll on the character’s Sanity. Another problem that they might face is that Cybernetics could be illegal on some worlds or even in entire sectors of space…in which case, the Cyber Wizard’s mere existence could be viewed as a crime.
Diplomat: The Diplomat is the character that makes things work. They forge the treaties, make the alliances, and stop the wars. It might seem like the Diplomat is the type of character that would just sit around, but in the 22nd Century, Diplomats have found that weapons can make a great diplomatic tool.
Explorer: The Explorer is the character that always wants to be on the edge of known space, discovering whatever there is to discover. Never knowing what dangers might lurk on a new planet, an Explorer must be well rounded with good combat skills and good science skills. Any party that is going to be where no one has been before will need an Explorer, because many of their skills are actually improved when they’re looking at the unknown.
Law Enforcer: Civilizations always have laws, and they always need people to enforce those laws. The Law Enforcer can be police, security, or any other type of guard that might be needed throughout the galaxy. They tend to have the second best combat abilities, and they are deadly in any fight. With the right kind of training, a Law Enforcer could be used as a bounty hunter.
Nanist: The Nanist is someone who specializes in the use of nanotechnology. Much of their skill is used for healing, but they have a number of Transferences that make them an ally on any type of exploration. In some cultures, the Nanist could be viewed as something like a religious figure. Like the Cyber Wizard, the Nanist faces the danger that nanotechnology could be illegal on some planets, or in entire sectors. They could find themselves on the run from the law throughout much of an adventure.
Scientist: The Scientist is a catch-all category for any character who specializes in research into a specific science. They can be Astronomers, Biologists, Chemists, or any of the other classes of scientist. Like the Diplomat, this might seem like an uninteresting class, but science in the 22nd Century can be very dangerous…as there are other species or corporations that want control of knowledge, so the Scientist must learn to defend themselves. In this way, they’re more like Indiana Jones than a modern day scientist.
Soldier/Mercenary: This is the military class of the game. Trained to fight, these characters make for deadly foes in a straight up laser or plasma battle, but they are not unbeatable…although as they reach higher levels, it becomes much more difficult to kill them…
Trader: These characters are the ones that make the galaxy work. They move the goods from one planet to another. They must be skilled at piloting, at wheeling and dealing, and must be handy with a plasma pistol when the need arises. Because of all of their exposure to Hyperspace, they also begin to become immune to the deleterious effects of that space within space as they advance in levels.
Characters are rounded out with a variety of skills, everything from piloting to weapons skills to sciences. In addition, Cyber Wizards gain spells and Nanists gain Transferences as they advance in levels.
Each character will have access to a variety of goods. The broad categories of which are: Computer Programs, Nanos, Cybernetics, Weapons, Armor, General Equipment, and Ships. These items can be purchased with credits the characters earn throughout their adventures, and of course, they can also find these items…or remove them from dead foes.
Like any role playing game, the campaigns can be a series of unconnected episodes…or they can follow a grad theme that takes the characters all the way to 20th level.
Gravity and atmosphere are two of the biggest opponents that characters will face. Each species is accustomed to a specific gravity, and exposure to higher or lower gravities will change the characters dice rolls. It’s recommended that each species breathe a different atmosphere (since that’s more believable), but we’ve left it up to the game masters to decide if they want to do that…because the dynamics of running a campaign with a variety of species breathing a variety of atmospheres can be intimidating. In addition, the lack of atmosphere of a vacuum can be very dangerous, and there are rules in place for what happens to a character when exposed to vacuum.
Characters receive experience for completing tasks and missions, and the experience is set up so that lower level characters advance much faster than higher level characters. There are two reasons for this…one: the universe is a very dangerous place, so the faster you can advance, the better your chances for survival, and two: players always like to play higher level characters, so we might as well get them there fast.
Combat is handled with the rolling of six-sided dice. Each character has an attack bonus and a defense bonus. To these numbers they add modifiers based on their attributes, their skill with their weapons, their weapon or armor bonus, and other modifiers. When a character attacks, they roll two six-sided dice and add their modifiers. Whatever they are attacking, rolls a defense roll and adds its bonuses. If the attacker’s roll is higher, they’ve hit. The difference between the two rolls is then multiplied by the weapon’s damage factor…and thus you have the amount of damage sustained. It might seem complicated, but once you try it, you’ll actually find that it’s very easy to work with.
Hyperspace is one of the most dangerous parts of the games. Pilots must roll to successfully enter and leave hyperspace. A bad roll can be devastating. In addition, there are dangers in hyperspace like hyperspace eddies and even a few lifeforms. Combat in hyperspace is never a good idea, and it can go very badly for anyone foolish enough to try it. Perhaps the worst part of hyperspace is that the sentient mind really can’t comprehend what hyperspace is, and as a result, characters exposed to hyperspace run the risk of Hyperspatial Insanity. Basically, each time a character travels in hyperspace, they must roll two six-sided dice. This roll must be equal to or lower than their Sanity score. If the roll is higher, the character immediately loses one point of Sanity…and the loss is permanent. If a character’s sanity drops too low, they will begin to suffer from a mental illness.
Cyberspace is briefly discussed in the initial rules, but it’s a subject that will probably have to be addressed in a lot more detail in a later supplement.
Even though the initial rulebook is over 400 pages, there’s a lot of information we couldn’t get in it…so we’ll be posting more on the site, and we might come out with more supplements as time goes by. If you have ideas for what you’d like to see added to the game, please let us know by dropping an e-mail to editor at nomadicdeliriumpress dot com, and we’ll take them under advisement.
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