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"Man's Battle for the Stars"

2300 AD is a science-fiction role-playing game first published by Game Designers Workshop (GDW) in 1986 as Traveller: 2300. The game in fact had little to nothing to do with GDW's popular Traveller RPG, and when the system was revised in 1988 it was also re-branded as 2300 AD.

The setting is an extension of the background of GDW's Twilight: 2000 game, effectively showing what happened during the next 300 years. Mankind has started to spread into space, and faces its first major competition in the form of the Kafer.

2300 AD was intended to be more "hard science-fiction" than GDW's Traveller. Apart from FTL travel the typical trappings of Space Opera are mostly absent, and the game boasted a "Near Star Map" based on real stellar catalogues.

The basic rules mechanic was a variation of the "Task" system originally developed for Traveller, using a d10 instead of 2d6, but most of the other mechanics were original to this game. Traveller and Twilight 2000 received later editions using GDW's house system. A sourcebook to convert 2300 to the rules system was planned, but GDW closed down before it was written. The character generation system was similar to Traveller's, with a "life path" system. Only human characters were playable. The core book also included pages of detailed tables to generate new star systems to explore.

The space combat system was its own game, with a basic version in the core rules and a greatly-expanded version in the boxed set Star Cruiser. Scenarios for Star Cruiser were also included in several of the rpg adventrues.

The entire original line is available on CD in .pdf format from Far Future Enterprises, the current copyright holder for Traveller.

A d20 version called 2320 AD was released in late 2007 as a campaign setting for the T20 system.

Moongoose Publishing, a current producer of Traveller material, has also produced a set of sourcebooks that use the Mongoose version of Traveller as their core ruleset. Most of their material is revisions of the original game line, but there are some original items as well. With Mongoose's second edition of Traveller they have released new 2300 AD books using this ruleset.

This game provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 2-D Space: Both averted and played straight. The map of human space is thoroughly and sometimes confusingly three-dimensional, but starship combat uses a flat map.
  • After the End:
    • The entire game is After the End for the earlier Twilight: 2000 game. 300 years After the End. Earth has recovered from the nuclear war, but the current balance of power between Earth's nations had its beginning in the Twilight War.
    • During our Bronze Age, the Eber were a spacefaring civilization possibly more advanced than humanity is currently, with stutterwarp ships and three colony worlds. Then they had a nuclear war. The only survivors just barely re-invented the steam engine.
    • On its trip the the Pleilades, the Bayern encounters a planet with a civilization that destroyed itself in a nuclear war about a hundred years earlier. The only survivors are on a moonbase. Also a case of But What About the Astronauts? and I Will Fight Some More Forever. The survivors are still fighting the robots of the other faction, and it's up to the crew of the Bayern to defeat the robots and possibly help the survivors re-colonize their planet.
    • The Kafer also had three nuclear wars during the 1800s. It served to unify their planet under one governmental system - the one that institutionalized violence. They have completely recovered by the time they encounter humans.
  • Alternate History: Since we didn't in fact have a nuclear war in the late '90s, 2300 AD is an alternate history.
  • Asteroid Miners: The Nyotekundu sourcebook/adventure is all about asteroid miners. Well, gas giant ring miners.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Nyotekundu features one in the cover art, although it's actually a gas giant ring. In the actual supplement the ring is described more realistically - you might see as many as three chunks of ice close enough to be more than a shiny dot.
  • Averted Trope: As part of its mission to be "Hard" science fiction, 2300 averted several topes common to other sci-fi RPGs:
    • Aliens Are Bastards: The aliens have very good reasons for acting as they do, even when they act like brutal psychopaths.
    • All Planets Are Earthlike: Most of them are actually quite a bit less hospitable than Earth.
    • Artificial Gravity: Human-built ships have spinning sections to simulate gravity, and no known species has anything different.
    • Casual Interstellar Travel: This one is averted only in comparison to Traveller or other less "hard" settings. Starships are expensive enough to be mostly owned by large companies and nations rather than individuals, and it's a little more expensive and a little less routine to travel than booking an airplane would be today. Nevertheless millions of humans have left Earth for other worlds and thousands of ships ply the spacelanes.
    • Global Currency: The French Livre is the unit used in the books, but each nation still has its own currency.
    • No Biochemical Barriers: Carnivorous life on Aurore finds Earth life to be dangerously poisonous, and vice versa. Unfortunately it usually finds out that humans are deadly only after it has taken a large bite out of one. Many other colony worlds have similar incompatibility with Earth life.
    • One World Order: Earth still has about as many nations as it does today, and several worlds have the colonies of more than one nation on them. The Sung have multiple nation-states as well; at the time of first contact with humanity, "Akcheektoon" held primacy.
    • Subspace Ansible: There is no means of communication faster than a stutterwarp ship.
    • United Europe: Europe's nations still can't get along with each other, although they have more or less cooperated in colonizing the French Arm.
    • United Space of America: Earth and its colonies are still divided between nations. The major arms of exploration are the French Arm (France, Britain, Germany, and other European nations), the Chinese Arm (Manchuria, Canada, Brazil and other South American nations), and the American Arm (America and Australia).
  • Back Story: The history between Twilight: 2000 and 2300 AD was created by the designers by playing what they called "The Game" - a socio-political military simulation where each of the players took three or more nations and ran them at 5 or 10 year turns from 2000 to 2300.
  • Balkanize Me: Many nations of the 20th century didn't survive the Twilight War intact:
    • Catalan became independent of Spain in 2013.
    • China broke up into China, Canton, and Manchuria after the war and hasn't reunified.
    • By 2050, India was 8 seperate nations: India, Rajasthan, Bombay, Mysore, Madras, Bengal, Bihar, and the Punjab. They haven't gotten back together and often war over territorial and religious differences.
    • Texas is an independent nation and even has colonies on other planets.
    • On the flip side of the trope, Germany wasn't re-unified until 2292, about 300 years after it happened in the real world.
  • BFG: Plasma guns.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Kafer have some insectoid traits, hence the human name for them (German for "beetle"). The Xiang are also vaguely lobster-like.
  • Binary Suns: A large portion of the systems on the Near Star List are double systems, and many human colony worlds therefore have two suns.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: In keeping with their Starfish Aliens status, all of the alien races have unusual biology when compared to humans:
    • The Kafer analog to adrenaline makes them smarter. It also means that regular violence is necessary to keep their civilization from falling apart when they get too stupid from lack of stimulation.
    • The Eber have very narrow connections between the different specialized lobes of their brains, giving them all a case of Split Personality when they switch their consciousness between lobes.
    • The Klaxun are Plant Aliens who hibernate during the long winter on their planet, and sight is a new evolutionary development that hasn't yet spread through the whole population. Their thought processes are quite slow by human standards.
    • The Pentapods have no sense of individuality and don't differentiate between themselves and their biological technology. It's because the Pentapods humanity knows are actually the sentient biological robots of vast underwater organisms who use them to explore the galaxy
    • The Sung are perhaps the most human-like in their outlook on life, but they are a Winged Humanoid species with four eyes, half of which see into the infrared, and they believe they have a moral duty to enslave lesser species.
    • The lobster-like Xiang change sex as they age, and are all tied to a symbiotic plant called a "dirt mother" for a good portion of their lives, and therefore can't travel much until they reach the adult male stage. They have no desire for advanced technology, prefering to pursue artistic expression.
  • Cool Airship: Blimps and zepplins have made a comeback, being used for cargo and passenger transport.
  • Cool Starship: The American Kennedy class cruisers are the fastest ships in space and well-armed to boot. The French Suffren class cruiser that plays a central role in Mission: Arcturus and the Astronomischen Rechen-Institut's Bayern in its namesake module might qualify as well.
  • Corralled Cosmos: The limitations on the Stutterwarp drive mean that if systems are more than 7.7 light years apart there is no way to travel directly between them. The American Arm is a dead-end because of this.
  • Cyberpunk: The Earth/Cybertech sourcebook introduced this into the setting, somewhat jarringly.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • The Slaver War - humanity's first space war against an alien race. The Sung had solar sails and ion drives. Manchuria and Canada had stutterwarp ships. The Sung capitulated rather quickly.
    • The War of German Reunification - France, already exhausted by the Central Asian War (2282 to 2287) got curb stomped by the Germans, with France itself nearly invaded, and were forced to allow German reunification. Until then France was pretty much the undisputed world leader.
  • Death World: Several of humanity's colony worlds are quite dangerous, and most of the outposts are on worlds without breathable atmospheres.
  • Deflector Shields: Some starships have magnetic fields holding ablative particles in suspension that work like these, to protect against incoming lasers or particle weapons.
  • Determined Homesteader: Many of Earth's colonists are these.
  • Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Earth is the center of human-controlled space, and the Kafer are the only other race known to control more than a handful of planets.
  • Earth That Was: a variant in one of the many little alien secrets known only to the GM: the Ebers' mysterious "lost colony" is actually their original (nuked) homeworld.
  • The Empire: France inaugurated the Third French Empire in 2298 (just 2 years before the setting), but France has really been the major power on Earth since the Twilight War. They're not necessarily evil, however.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Some of the planets humans have colonized are quite dangerous.
    • Aurore in particular has acid-spewing crawling shag carpets and tree-sized mushrooms with foot-long claws that will try to eat humans even though we are deadly poisonous to them.
    • Cold Mountain has flying blinds and burrowing rigatoni that try to kill you. Not to mention the flying hollow sharks full of glass knives...
  • Fantastic Racism: Between humans and aliens.
    • Humans are viewed as boogeymen by the Kafer, while humans see Kafers essentially as space orcs.
    • The Slaver War fought between Manchuria and Canada and the Sung was caused because the Sung believed they had a moral duty to enslave the more primative Xiang.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: The stutterwarp drive "jumps" the ship instantly a few hundred meters, and does it hundreds of thousands of times per second to reach faster-than-light speeds. It also has two built-in limitations. The drive rapidly loses efficiency in a gravity well; taking off from the surface of a planet or even maintaining orbit below a certain altitude via stutterwarp alone is impossible. In addition, ships must "discharge" their drives in a gravity well every 7.7 light years, or the drive will break down and produce large amounts of lethal radiation, killing the crew and stranding the ship.
  • First Contact: This has already happened a few times, and there was even a war fought (and won) against the Sung, but most of the races humans have met to this point are more primitive than they are. Some of the published adventures involve first contacts as well.
  • Fungus Humongous: Aurore features mushrooms that grow up to four meters high.
  • Heavyworlder: The colonists on King have been genetically modified to survive in the heavy gravity there, and need rebreathers to survive in more earthlike (thinner) atmospheres. They are also short and immensely strong.
  • Hostile Weather: Present on many human colonies, and a theme in the adventure Energy Curve.
  • Hufflepuff House: The French Arm was the main focus of the published materials and was the center of the Kafer War meta-plot. The Chinese Arm has three alien races in it, one of which is featured and further detailed in Ranger. The American Arm, on the other hand, has one interesting high gravity planet and...not much else. It's just a dead end nobody else wants. Until the adventure in Challenge magazine where a brown dwarf gives humanity a back door into Kafer space.
  • Humans Are Special: Humans are one of the first races to develop the Stutterwarp drive in our part of space. Most of the other alien races encountered in the printed adventures and background are more primitive, like the Sung, or have regressed to a pre-spaceflight technology, like the Eber. Humans also control the largest number of worlds of all the races they've encountered. Humanity isn't too special though: the Kafer and Pentapods have also developed Stutterwarp and the Kafer control a small interstellar empire.
  • Innocent Aliens: The Xiang and the Klaxun are both stone-age primatives and relatively peaceful. The Xiang were enslaved by the Sung until the humans fought a war on their behalf and the Klaxun world is being scouted by the Kafer when humans first meet them. The Ylii in the Kafer sourcebook and Challenge magazine, technically several related races and species forming a society together, have made themselves almost incapable of aggression after having nearly wiped themselves out in a genocidal war. It's this pacifism that has saved them from being completely eradicated by the Kafer. Kafer find it literally mind-numbingly boring to kill them and therefore find no urgency in killing or subjugating them.
  • ISO Standard Human Spaceship: Most human ships are indeed blocky, gray, utilitarian vessels, often with large spinning sections for gravity. In a possible subversion, Kafer ships are generally like this too.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Most of the nations of Earth use high-tech assault rifles as their primary weapons, though they also have lasers.
  • Living Ship: The Pentapods have these.
  • Mega-Corp: Several are in the game, and some are more or less beneavolent.
  • The Metric System Is Here to Stay: The game uses metric units exclusively.
  • Meta Plot: The Kafer war.
  • Mexico Called; They Want Texas Back: During the Twilight War Mexico invaded the southern states and captured the southern portions of Arizona, New Mexico, and California (including Phoenix, Tucson, and Los Angeles). In 2300 they are still part of Mexico. Texas was conquered by Mexico too but successfully rebelled in 2099, becoming independent. Mexico also annexed all of the central American nations north of Panama during the 22nd century.
  • Military Science Fiction: A strong influence on the game, with several of the printed adventures centering around the Kafer War and putting the players in the roles of mercenaries or soldiers.
  • Mirror Chemistry: Many garden worlds have dextro-based biospheres, rendering their plants and animals inedible if not poisonous to humans. Colonists get around this by importing "pay dirt" from Earth; they isolate and sterilize patches of ground, mix in the pay dirt, wait for the flora, fauna, and fungi that came with it to establish themselves, and start planting vegetables. Until the crops start coming in, however, it's food packs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
    • In the Bayern module, characters who enter the cluster nodes created by the AGRA Intelligence may end up mirrored due to accidentally being rotated through the fourth dimension; fortunately, the Bayern's labs can provide dextro food to sustain them.
  • Mook Commander: Most of the alien Kafers have a low IQ and are just about worthless in a fight. In order to engage in combat they must be physically abused, which stimulates them into increased intelligence and combat ability. This abuse is provided by the Kafer officers who are more intelligent, usually by hitting their men with clubs, whips, or cattle-prods.
  • Naming Your Colony World: Earth's colonies include just about all the variations.
  • No Warping Zone: The stutterwarp's efficiency drops off greatly in a gravity well, meaning stutterwarp ships are still going really fast within a solar system, but no longer exceed the speed of light. They can just barely maintain orbit around a world.
  • Organic Technology: The Pentapods are big on it, since their species evolved underwater and never had the option of using metal or fire in their industrial development. This leads to a good deal of human-Pentapod trade, as each species is fascinated by the other's way of doing things.
  • Plant Aliens: The Klaxun of Energy Curve.
  • Plasma Cannon: The BFGs of the game.
  • Poison Is Corrosive: The animal life on Aurore (and some of the plants) make use of acids in attacking their prey. Because of incompatible biology these acids are also poisonous to humans.
  • Powered Armor: The major nations all have their own designs (with a few crossing over to the Mini-Mecha end of the scale).
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Kafer only really feel alive when they are in combat, and it actually makes them smarter. Their whole society is constructed around giving their citizens regular adrenaline jolts.
  • Psychic Powers: Humans don't have them (apparently), but some of the aliens in the adventures do.
  • Rancher: Many colonists are this.
  • Reporting Names: All of the Kafer technology encountered by humans have reporting names, since very few humans even know any Kafer words, let alone the names of their gear.
    • Alpha, Beta, and Delta are Kafer battleships. ''Golf'' and ''Foxtrot'' are fighters, while Whiskey and X-Ray are missiles.
    • Kafer vehicles are called things like "Crawler", "Bugbus", and "Deathsled".
    • Even Kafer gear has descriptive names like "Flashlight" for a laser rifle and "Thud Gun" for an assault rifle, or "Worry Thing" for what turns out to be the equivalent of a Kafer toothbrush.
    • Amusingly, the Kafer Sourcebook reveals that the actual Kafer names for their technology are just about as inane as the human reporting names for them, with samples being "big explosion maker" or "latest thing made by vah'ech*".
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens:
    • The Kafer believe in using violence and pain to reach enlightenment, and it actually works for them. Unfortunately they think it works for everyone else too.
    • The Sung believe that more developed cultures have a moral duty to enslave lower-tech ones for their own good - and conversely, that once you've subjugated a culture you have to share all your knowledge with them.
  • Science Fiction: Intended to be on the hard side.
  • Settling the Frontier: A major theme of the game, with a lot of new frontier to settle.
  • Shout-Out: Two in the Aurore sourcebook to Robert A. Heinlein: Taanstaafl (the name of the free colony on Aurore) is from The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and "pay dirt" is from Farmer in the Sky.
  • Slave Race: Until we straightened them out, the Xiang to the Sung. And the Ylii, to the Kafer.
  • Space Fighter: Handy in battle as launch platforms for missiles. All Earth nations and the Kafer use them.
  • Space Marine: Most nations have some, and the movie Aliens was an obvious influence on the game. American space marines are especially prominent in the adventure Mission Arcturus.
  • Space Navy: Also several. The board game Star Cruiser is all about space battles between them, usually involving humans fighting other humans.
  • Space Battle: Until the Kafer war humans had only ever fought each other in space, except for that curbstomp of the Sung.
  • Space Elevator: Two of them - one on Earth and one at Beta Canum Venaticorum, which features in the adventure Beanstalk. The Beta Canum elevator is the prototype which proved it could be safely done on Earth.
  • Space Plane: Quite common, since the Stutterwarp drive can't be used too close to a gravity well.
  • Space Station: There are several of these too, around most of the major colonies and Earth.
  • Split Personality: The Ebers have a "compartmentalized" mind, which effectively gives them all split personalities.
  • Starfish Aliens: All of the aliens in the setting are designed to be these.
  • Stealth in Space: You can't hide a ship in space, but a major tactic in the space combat system is keeping your ships unidentified in order to confuse your opponent as to which is which. Once they light up their sensors or get too close the jig is up.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: The AGRA Intelligence in the module Bayern. It's also alien enough that it can do major harm to the humans without intending it.
  • Tank Goodness: The Vehicle Guide seems to focus more on military hover tanks than civilian vehicles. Awesome, but Impractical?
  • Terraform: Several human colony worlds are being terraformed to something a little more earthlike. It's going to take a long time.
  • Tidally Locked Planet: There are several of these in human space, the most prominent of which is probably Aurore.
  • Title by Year: This game is also known as Traveller 2300. 2300 AD is the default year in which the game takes place.
  • Unobtainium: The stutterwarp drive makes use of Tantalum, and wars have been fought over Tantalum deposits.
  • We Will Wear Armor in the Future: High-tech materials have made armor useful again.
  • White Man's Burden: The Sung believe that advanced civilizations have a moral duty to dominate lesser civilizations and then educate them up to their level... and that the lesser civilizations have a corresponding moral duty to serve their educators. It wasn't their fault that the Xiang didn't want the advanced education and technology they were offering in exchange for their enslavement. They also don't understand why the humans are so reluctant, now that they have submitted to human authority, to share the secret of stutterwarp. To them, humans have Blue-and-Orange Morality.
  • Winged Humanoid: The Sung. Their wings are fully functional on their homeworld.
  • World War III: A major part of the backstory.