Saturday, January 23, 2021

Appendix S - Readings Into Gordon R. Dickson's Child Cycle For Original Traveller & Cepheus Engine Rpg

 The fact of the matter is that we played military themed old school Traveller rpg &  Cepheus engine rpg campaigns with Vietnam, Gulf War, & Afghanistan veterans as well as their wives. The fact is this puts a very different spin on military/Eighties action film inspired campaigns such as mine especially a  Hostile rpg alternative one. And this brings up Gordon Dickerson's Child cycle which sits in stark contrast to David Drake's Hammer's Slammers. 

The Spirit Dorsai is a part of an anthology by Gordon Dickson according to the wiki entry; "The Spirit of Dorsai is a collection of two science fiction stories by American writer Gordon R. Dickson. It was first published by Ace Books in 1979. The collection includes linking material and the stories are part of Dickson's Childe Cycle. The first story, "Amanda Morgan", is original to this collection. The other, "Brothers", originally appeared in the anthology Astounding, edited by Harry Harrison." Don't let the Star Wars inspired cover fool you this is pure old school Traveller/ Cepheus Engine rpg material right here. Let's dive straight into the Child cycle wiki entry for a very solid summery; "The series is sometimes referred to as the Dorsai series, as the Dorsai people are central to the series. The related short stories and novellas all center on the Dorsai, primarily members of the Graeme and Morgan families.

While, on the face of it, the Childe Cycle is a science fiction series, it is also an allegory. In addition to the six science fiction novels of the Cycle, Dickson had also planned three historical novels and three novels taking place in the present day. In an essay in his book Steel Brother (Tor, 1985), Dickson describes how he conceived the Childe Cycle, the panoramic "consciously thematic" treatment of the evolution of the human race, and the planned contents of the six never-written novels. Each group of three novels would include one focused on each of three "archetypes, the Philosopher, the Warrior, or the Faith-Holder." The first novel's protagonist would be mercenary John Hawkwood, who lived from the 1320s to 1394. Hawkwood "has been referred to as the first of the modern generals." He defeated a Milanese ruler who might have stymied the Renaissance. The second historical novel was to deal with the poet John Milton (author of Paradise Lost) in the period he served as a "Faith-Holder" and "Fanatic" ... "propagandist for the Cromwellian government." The third historical novel's focus would have been on Robert Browning whose "poetry is a vehicle for his philosophy." The three twentieth century novels would have focused on: "the life and character of George Santayana to showcase a Philosopher," a World War II "Warrior," and a female "Faith-Holder" in the 1980s. The latter novel was expected to deal with issues of space colonization, beginning a thread continuing through Necromancer and concluding with the full formation of the Splinter Cultures" 
And this weaving of the science fictional cultures together along with John Hawkwood's journey is pure Traveller fodder right there. But let's discuss the real meat & potatoes here. At the time when I read the series I was reading Frank Herbert's Dune. And science fiction this contrasts harshly with the   Childe Cycle as  a science fiction series, but also an allegory. Divided & diverse  forms of humanity & human philosophy made manifest across the stars. This fits exactly the contrasting military & technological levels within Traveller & Cepheus Engine. 

Gun runners & weapons manufacturers are going to have a field day with this fact & its one of the primary lights behind my use of Modern War: Conversion System From Zozer Games. This is a fantastic little system to put the guns,planes, etc. in the hands of the people. And in this case its a system that enables the DM to eye ball a piece of military hard ware determine stats for & then drop it right into their games. The DM's last night were really impressed with it last night. 

Even with psionics & exotic human abilities the modern technologies still has its place within our games especially Hostile rpg. Its only the fact that several of the Dorsai technologies were mentioned last night that they may make an appearance according to the Child Cycle wiki break down; "A large part of the series focuses on the exploits of the Dorsai. In the face of escalating countermeasures, the Dorsai choose to use relatively simple weapons, which are both reliable and effective. The other militaries follow suit.

By the 23rd century, the average civilian sports hunter has a more technologically advanced weapon than the average soldier. In fact, "advanced" small arms are treated with derision, such as the "Dally Gun" which Cletus uses to break up an ambush in Tactics of Mistake. The Dally Gun is possibly derived from a Cadillac Gage weapons system of the 1960s, the Stoner 63, which (like the "Dial-A-Gun" from the story) was designed with interchangeable components for reconfiguration as needed for a particular mission. While the Stoner 63 received significant use with the SEALs of the U.S. NAVY up until 1980 (with high praise regarding both durability and reliability, although it was a bit heavier than other comparable systems), the Dally Gun was considered a failure.

The main infantry weapon throughout the Cycle is the cone rifle.  The rifles are little more than launching platforms with triggering mechanisms. Because the cones (which explode on impact) accelerate after being fired from the rifle, they are more deadly at long ranges than short.

Also used are spring rifles, utilizing a 5,000 sliver magazine in a non-metallic mechanism to fire a sliver up to one thousand meters.

Power guns (energy weapons) were available as early as Cletus' period, where his aide is nearly killed with one. Sonic cannons are also used as weapons." 
Again these are weapon systems that we've seen in old school Traveller & they have their place but Traveller isn't about weaponry or military themes so much as its a character driven game. 

For my own Hostile rpg campaign these technologies are top secret & Dickson's science fiction has more of an influence on the strains of humanity rather then the end product. The Dorsai & Child cycles are classic for a reason & remain some of my favorite readings. 

Where are the weapons going from  Modern War: Conversion System From Zozer Games? Over to the beleaguered  human forces in These Stars Are Ours campaign setting from TSAO: These Stars Are Ours! From Stellagama Publishing. 

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