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Cover of 1986 edition
|Designer(s)||Frank Chadwick, Timothy B. Brown, Lester W. Smith, Marc W. Miller|
|Publisher(s)||Game Designers' Workshop|
|Publication date||1986 (1st edition - titled Traveller: 2300)|
1988 (2nd edition - titled 2300 AD)
|Genre(s)||Hard science fiction|
|Originally titled Traveller: 2300|
2300 AD is a hard science fiction tabletop role-playing game created by Game Designers' Workshop. Intended as a "harder" alternative to GDW's earlier Traveller science fiction game, the first edition was titled Traveller: 2300, but as the game used neither the rules system nor the setting of the original Traveller, the game was renamed in its second edition. Originally, the game was conceived as a replacement for Traveller, approaching the same space-adventure theme with more contemporary influences (instead of 1950s and 1960s Space Opera) and more rigorous rules design. However, Traveller remained popular while 2300 AD was received coolly, leading to a major refit of the original game into Megatraveller while 2300 AD was kept on as only a secondary line.
The game was revived twice after GDW ceased publishing. It was first brought back in 2007 by QuikLink Interactive, as a supplement titled 2320 AD for the Traveller20 game (based on the d20 System). In 2012, Mongoose Publishing released a 2300 AD setting sourcebook for their version of Traveller.
- 1 Setting
- 2 Technology
- 3 Sentient species
- 4 Sentient species mysteries
- 5 Influences
- 6 Publications
- 7 Reception
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The game setting follows on from that of GDW's military role-playing game Twilight: 2000, in which a worldwide conventional war with limited nuclear exchanges at the end of the 20th century nearly brought about the end of civilization. In the intervening three centuries, mankind has rebuilt and returned to space. A Space Elevator orbital interface has been constructed, connecting the city of Libreville, Gabon to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit. Also, practical means of faster-than-light (FTL) travel have been discovered, leading to the exploration and colonization of planets orbiting nearby stars. The post-Westphalian nation-state remains dominant, and most space colonies are considered the territories of various nations back on Earth. This fin de siècle society is analogous to the European colonial era of the 18th and 19th century.
The dominant power, both on Earth and in space, is the Third French Empire, founded in 2298. France was able to survive the nuclear war relatively unscathed by abandoning its NATO allies and officially withdrawing from hostilities at the start of the Third World War, retaining enough assets and skilled people to develop a significant head-start in the race for postwar rebuilding, political leverage, and technological improvement. Competing powers include the United Kingdom, Manchuria, Germany, and an alliance between the weakened United States and Australia. All of these control certain extrasolar planets themselves. There are three major lanes of explored space, called Arms, named after the nations which dominate them (the French Arm, the American Arm, and the Chinese Arm). Lesser routes leading off the arms are called "Fingers".
It is still early in mankind's expansion into space, and exploration has reached little beyond 40 light years from Earth. As of the time period of the game, each of the three Arms is saddled with a particular difficulty. The French Arm is the route along which the alien Kafer are pushing an aggressive invasion into human space. The Chinese Arm is beset by an insurgent terrorist faction. The American Arm has reached a dead end, further expansion along it impossible under available technology.
Mankind has met with several intelligent alien civilizations, all of which are decidedly strange and non-human, from the genetically-engineered Pentapod to the vicious Kafers.
A faster-than-light device called the Stutterwarp Drive allows mankind to achieve practical travel between planetary systems. Ships can usually reach a speed of 3.5 light years per day; the real limitation of the Stutterwarp drive is that it can only propel a ship up to a maximum of 7.7 light years before it needs to enter a gravity well into which it can discharge accumulated lethal radiation that would otherwise kill the crew. Because ships need to reach a world within this distance, the effect of this limitation is the creation of lanes along which travel and commerce are conducted and along which wars are fought, the Arms mentioned above.
Overall, the technological level of 2300 AD is not significantly more advanced than that of late 20th century industrial society. What is depicted refines or updates established technologies, boosted by a few scientifically reasonable breakthroughs anticipated at the time of thee game's publication. The "wonder-tech" of space opera is deliberately absent, with the notable exception of faster-than-light travel. For example, most personal combat is still conducted with guns firing chemically projected rounds even though energy weapons do exist. Also, no sort of gravity manipulation exists, so spaceships must be built to account for micro-gravity conditions, and transferring from orbital space to a planetary surface (or vice versa) is still expensive. The properties and limitations of the Stutterwarp drive and all other technologies are defined in considerable detail, to prevent the use of technological deus-ex-machina to resolve intractable situations.
The following sentient species are known to humans in 2300 AD:
- The awesome and enigmatic AGRA Intelligence
- Ebers: confined to one planet in 2300, they once had an interstellar civilization with a presence on at least three other planets, although all that is left of them on those planets are ruins from a destructive war.
- Kafers: the primary adversary species in 2300 AD are humanoids with mandibles and integument similar to some Terran insects and a hard dorsal shell (thus the name derived from German Käfer, "beetle"). Their technological advancement is equivalent to humanity's, including interstellar travel capability. Kafer individuals normally have a low intelligence, approximate to a human IQ of 40. However, in stressful situations their equivalent to an adrenaline reaction functions as a neural accelerant, increasing situational awareness, speed of reasoning, and creativity. The more often an individual Kafer experiences stress-induced intelligence, the more intelligent they remain in a non-stressed state. To take advantage of this, Kafer society contains a great deal of ritualized violence and is extremely warlike. Ruled over by a small minority of "permanently bright" individuals, the kafers are paradoxically both terrified and excited by humanity, since humans resemble the "smart barbarians" that periodically destroyed developing civilizations on their home planet, and therefore represnet the real competition needed to inspire their civilization to advance. In the year 2301, the Kafer start an invasion of human space that will be costly to both attackers and defenders and serves as one of the major dramatic events of the game line.
- The primitive Klaxun
- The nuclear war-devastated Little Guys
- The long-dead Medusae
- Pentapods: an amphibious species with a preference for aquatic environments, with a biotechnological technical infrastructure (including starships that are massive living beings). The fact that some Pentapods show signs of genetic engineering and are treated as tools by other Pentapods masks a deeper secret regarding their origins.
- Sung: a species of winged humanoids of smaller stature than humans, whose technological development is close to but not as great as humanity's; they are currently only capable of interplanetary travel.
- Xiang: a species inhabiting a gas giant's moon in the Sung home star system, formerly enslaved by the Sung but now free after a brief military action by a number of human nations. Relations among the Sung are governed by a principle that the strong dominate the weak but provide the weak with requested assistance to bring them up to their masters' level, and they took advantage of the fact that the Xiang never made such requests. The Sung now consider humanity to be their superiors in this system and are chafing at humanity's refusal to improve them by showing them how to perform FTL travel.
- The Ylii, a multi-species culture enslaved by the Kafers.
These aliens are mainly speculation on how a sentient being would result from a certain evolutionary path. In particular, the Ebers and Kafers represent well-described, highly "alien" forms of intelligence that seem reasonably evolutionary feasible.
Sentient species mysteries
Every sentient species has certain mysteries that are unknown to humans in 2300 AD and which can be unlocked through adventure and research. One of the main parts of the drama in 2300 AD campaigns is the unfolding of these mysteries.
Some of these mysteries can help humanity in its "battle for the stars", while others are simply curiosities, and a few are dangerous and even potentially disastrous for humankind.
In many cases, human nation states would be willing to go to war with each other to get some of these secrets and some are a necessity for humankind to survive the future war with the Kafers.
The background history of 2300 AD is a continuation of the nuclear war depicted in the Twilight 2000 role-playing game by the same company. A custom strategy game called "The Great Game" was used by the authors to develop the background history for 2300 AD.
Finally, the authors added a Cyberpunk campaign to the game with the publication of the Earth/Cybertech Sourcebook and two adventures for the same, "Deathwatch" and "Rotten to the Core" contemporaneous with the Cyberpunk movement of the 1990s. GDW catalogs advertised the game as "2300 AD - the Cyberpunk game of a Dark Gritty Future". The Earth/Cybertech Sourcebook states that Cyberpunk can be a fringe element in any society, its members being cyberpunks by self-definition.
- Traveller: 2300 boxed set – 1st edition core rules
- 2300 AD boxed set – 2nd edition core rules
- Star Cruiser – Starship construction rules and tactical space combat boardgame.
- Aurore Sourcebook
- Colonial Atlas
- Earth/Cybertech Sourcebook
- Equipment Guide
- Ground Vehicle Guide
- Kafer Sourcebook
- Nyotekundu Sourcebook
- Ships of the French Arm
- Deathwatch Program (Cyberpunk subcampaign)
- Energy Curve
- Kafer Dawn
- Mission Arcturus
- Rotten to the Core (Cyberpunk subcampaign)
- 2320 AD – a 2007 sourcebook for the Traveller D20 rules, it advances the 2300AD timeline by 20 years, including consequences from the expected outcomes of published 2300AD campaigns and adventures.
Core setting book
- 2300AD – converts the original setting to use Mongoose's version of the Traveller ruleset.
- Tools for Frontier Living
- Ships of the French Arm
- Atlas of the French Arm
- Hard Suits, Combat Walkers, and Battlesuits
- French Arm Adventures
- The Tricolore's Shadow
- Terror's Lair
- Rescue Run
- Salvage Rights
- Black as Pitch
- The Grendelsaga (collects Rescue Run, Salvage Rights, and Black as Pitch)
- Libreville - Corruption in the Core Worlds
Third party products
- Operation: Overlord (Kafer War adventure, published by 3W Games)
- S.S. Virginia (deck plans, published by Seeker Gaming Systems)
- U.S.S. Hampton (deck plans, published by Seeker Gaming Systems)
2300 AD was ranked 50th in the 1996 reader poll of Arcane magazine to determine the 50 most popular roleplaying games of all time. The UK magazine's editor Paul Pettengale commented: "The realistic science and technology leads to a gritty, realistic feel. Perhaps one of the best alien species ever created for an RPG, the Kafers are truly alien, with a unique physiology, psychology and society."
- *Codling, Stuart (February 1990). "Earth/Cybertech Sourcebook". GamesMaster Magazine. 2 (6): 29. Review
- Pettengale, Paul (Christmas 1996). "Arcane Presents the Top 50 Roleplaying Games 1996". Arcane. Future Publishing (14): 25–35.