Hyperlite: The Sirius Treaty
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Freelance Traveller’s June 2011 issue.
The Sirius Treaty, UNE Edition. Tim Bancroft.
Sceaptune Games http://www.sceaptunegames.co.uk
Sceaptune Games targets Traveller players with a standalone game and setting that potentially as intriguing and as rich as any released for Traveller.
On the Shelf
The cover of Hyperlite: The Sirius Treaty is dominated by a planetary scene suggestive of an alien settlement of a satellite in close orbit around a world, which dominates the sky of the settlement. “Hyperlite” and “The Sirius Treaty” appear above the picture, colored to give the letters a 3D appearance; below the picture, a similar line logo appears to the left, and Sceaptune Games’s logo to the right.
The book is organized reasonably, and not difficult to read, although the use of a large x-height sans-serif font as the body-text font calls for a greater line height than was actually used. A serif font with a slightly smaller x-height would have been a better choice. Liberal use of block notes, sidebars, tables and the occasional illustration keeps the text from being a grey wall.
On Closer Inspection
The book includes both rules and setting information, but while they’re intermixed to some extent, it’s not difficult to separate them out, so that one could use the rules without the setting or vice versa. The introductory matter (8 pages) gives a broad overview of what an RPG is and what the Hyperlite setting is, without being a complete “infodump”. The conventional usages of Hyperlite are outlined so that the first-time reader doesn’t immediately get lost in jargon.
Hyperlite’s terminology does not match Traveller’s; in most cases, the experienced Traveller player or referee will find that the change is gratuitous, and mental substitution of Traveller terminology will be almost automatic.
Sceaptune states that Hyperlite “… uses SF OGL, a system based on Traveller, an Open Gaming License (OGL) Roleplaying Game (RPG) specifically built to support science fiction. …”, but neither includes a copy of the “SF OGL” nor information allowing the reader to find it, and also does not note what content is OGL content and what is product identity and thus protected. Both of these may have ramifications for Hyperlite’s long-term survival.
The introductory material is followed by 13 pages giving a closer look at the setting. Hyperlite is less focussed than Traveller on spaceships and interstellar war or trade, and more on planetary adventures at relatively low levels of technology. This section explains why, and does so in a coherent manner.
The following section is character generation (35 pages); this will be quite familiar to players of Mongoose Traveller, though there are some innovations—most notably, the default term length is only three years instead of four, and not all careers use the same three-year term length. Another innovation is that all characters finish their career generation with a two-year term in a setting-specific career, and enter play not as retired free agents, but as members of a special force on assignment. Many of the careers will be familiar as well, though under different names.
The task system follows, explaining in twelve pages how to resolve tasks, the different kinds of tasks that exist, and the sources of favorable and unfavorable DMs. This section also has a list of skills, and discusses the concepts of familiarity, assists, and task chains.
As mentioned, Hyperlite is more focussed than Traveller on planetary adventure. The next five pages discuss environmental hazards, such as poisons or diseases, local weather conditions, fatigue, injury and the recovery therefrom, and, oddly enough, interrogation by “Invigilators”, enforcers of the title treaty.
Eight pages of explanations of combat follow. This is strictly personal/tactical combat; neither group/strategic combat nor ship combat is covered. As written, a combat scene can be complex, but the author explicitly recommends discarding rules to suit your own style and desires for complexity.
A section on campaigns follows, with two pages of basic descriptions of campaign types and equipment, two pages of equipment overviews, and four pages on how to create campaigns in line with the author’s vision for Hyperlite. This is followed by a four-page scenario, and a planetary map. The map looks like a “photographic topological” map, and does not have any sort of grid or key on it, but clearly matches the standard Traveller icosahedral world map. There are sufficient visual clues that, between the map and the description, a person skilled at using graphics packages such as gimp could merge this with the Traveller map form if it was deemed necessary or desirable.
Following the campaign section is a deeper treatment of equipment and technology, covering in twenty-four pages an overview of tech levels in Hyperlite (which are a reasonable match to Traveller tech levels within the covered range), armor, augments and implants, communications and sensors, drugs and medicines, survival gear and supplies, trade goods, travel and transport, and weapons.
Many people feel that SF and Space Opera aren’t complete without aliens, whether hostile, friendly, or indifferent; Hyperlite caters to that with eight pages giving a basic description of six alien starfaring species. For the most part, the longest-established mainstream clichés of SF aliens have been avoided; while portrayed in a way that makes them at least somewhat understandable to humans, they manage to be interesting as well, rather than being summed up as “ho-hum, another insectoid hive mind” or “another bunch of samurai cats in space” or so on.
Finally, nine pages are allocated to world creation, including both sophonts and animals. The system generates world profiles that look like Traveller’s, but the process has been modified to eliminate the extremes and increase the number of (broadly speaking) Earth-like worlds.
But Is It Traveller?
One might choose to argue either side of the question. It is a self-contained game, not requiring ownership of the core rules of any previous version of Traveller, nor the SRD for any extant game system. It does not use any of the existing Traveller settings, and supplements from either Traveller or Hyperlite would require conversion to use with the other. On the other hand, it would be easier to convert between Hyperlite and any of the Classic-Traveller-derived rulesets (Classic Traveller, MegaTraveller, T4, or Mongoose Traveller) than between Hyperlite or Traveller and any other science-fiction/space-opera game system, and the Hyperlite ‘default setting’ feels as much like Traveller as many books (e.g., Vatta’s War or Honor Harrington), TV shows (e.g., Babylon-5, StarGate, or Firefly), and movies (e.g., Serenity) do—and more like what old Traveller hands would think of as “Traveller” than such officially sanctioned/licensed Traveller settings as Hammer’s Slammers, Judge Dredd, or Strontium Dog.
Under the circumstances, I’d say that Hyperlite is Traveller, both as a player/referee and in my capacity of editor of Freelance Traveller—that’s why, effective with this issue, reviews of Hyperlite and future Hyperlite products are no longer filed under “Other People’s Toys”, and Freelance Traveller will happily accept articles of all types—including fiction—that is inspired by Hyperlite, in addition to our long-standing acceptance of Traveller material for any other version or setting of Traveller.
The focus of Hyperlite and of most “stock” Traveller settings are somewhat different, but the differences act to make the two products potentially synergistic rather than duplicative or antagonistic. In its current state, Hyperlite may not be for everyone—there’s only limited information and opportunity for those who would prefer mercantile campaigns, for example—but there’s still plenty to appeal to the Traveller target market. There’s no reason to avoid buying this product; even if the Hyperlite setting doesn’t appeal, it’s still a particularly rich lode waiting to be mined for your Traveller campaign.