Lune-Class Freelancer and Spacecraft Design Sheets

Following on from my Ship Book: Panga-class Merchant review, I’m going to move swiftly onto the Lune-class Freelancer and Ship Design Sheets, also by Ian Stead of Moon Toad Publishing. I’m writing this article whilst sat in a sunny breeze, overlooking Freshwater Bay in the Isle of Wight, one of my favourite places to relax when on holiday. My Vargr editor-in-chief (my pet Greyhound) Millie will be checking the spelling of the article from the comfort of the back of her transport vehicle!

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The former book is a 42-page PDF available from Drivethru RPG for a very reasonable $7.51. The format is watermarked PDF and follows a similar format to the Panga-class Merchant product previously reviewed.

The Lune-class is pitched as a possible alternative to the typical 200-ton Beowulf-class free trader that many adventuring parties start out with. Instead, it is 300-tons in size and offers a number of advantages over the Beowulf; namely it can carry a crew of six, has jump-3 capability and 4G acceleration. There are three hard points and can carry a small launch of sufficient size, it can carry a limited amount of cargo.

Lune Class Freelancer

Delving into the book, the first nine pages written by Ian Stead and Eric Lyon-Taylor provide the introduction, some examples of notable ships, deck descriptions and non-Traveller ship specifications.The following four pages then describe an example crew, the text bolstered with more fine (character, rather than vehicle) artwork by Bradley Warnes. The remainder of the book is given to game specifications, well laid-out deck plans and descriptions of the Lune-class variants (being the M-merchant and G-gunship), spacecraft record sheets and the Gillow-class launch (with its assault version). All the game information about the ships described are of the writers usual high quality and detail. There are plenty of line, monochrome and colour pieces of artwork to ensure that the text does not get too heavy to read.

I’d be more than happy to trade my Beowulf-class ship in for a Lune-class spacecraft (er, if I had one), it offers a greater degree of flexibility for more varied operations by its crew, as long as the players can afford its new 181MCr price tag! It is a nice-looking ship, it means business and is the sort that would serve a crew for many years.

The book is great, I found it interesting to read and thought-provoking in where or how I could use one of these ships in a game. If I had a criticism, I would have liked to have read more about the history of the ship and its background as this fell slightly shorter of the extensive description in the Panga-class book. Howesver the book is highly recommended if your players are in the market for a new spacecraft, or you are looking to use one in a campaign.

Moving onto the Spacecraft Design Sheets, this is a Mongoose Traveller game aid to help with the ship design process and collates much of the tables and charts from the Traveller main rulebook and High Guard. From the 17 pages in the book, 13 are the actual tables and charts needed to create spacecraft from small ships, right up to capital ship size. This is a functional product, it crams a large amount of information into several pages to make it easier to build spacecraft. The charts are clear, even though there is quite a bit of information to go through (a there really that many charts and tables?!) There aren’t any scenes or images to break up the text, as the book is designed to be printed and if necessary laminated and make a creative process easy to go through. The Spacecraft Design Sheets in PDF form are a snip at $2.50 from Drivethru PRG.

Spacecraft Design Sheets

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the charts (I’m not of the mind to double-check all the numbers) but I’m sure Ian and his writer-assistant Michael Johnson have double-checked everything to make sure its accurate. A very useful piece of reference material that will prove its worth purchasing.

I’d like to sincerely thank Ian Stead Moon Toad Publishing for sending me copies of the books to review and providing me with a good holiday read!

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Panga-class Merchant Review

I’ll start this posting with a quick mention of this months Freelance Traveller magazine, which has a great review of the printed version of the ‘Cascadia Adventures‘ by Gypsy Knights Games. There are some very complimentary comments about the artwork I produced for the books, in ‘Critics’ Corner’. Timothy Collinson – if you’re reading this, thank you!

Ian Stead of Moon Toad Publishing has sent me a copy of one of his latest releases, the ‘Ship Book: Panga-class Merchant’ to take a look at. The book is 49 pages long (including one page open game license and one blank page at the end of the book) and describes the Panga-class merchant spacecraft along with its several variants. The book is Mongoose Traveller RPG-compatible and can be used in any compatible Traveller setting. It can be picked up from Drivethru RPG for the very reasonable price of $7.65.

So what do you get? An incredibly-detailed ship book, covering the basic variant, which is still being debated whether the craft has been a successful design or not. It has some similarity to the Broadsword-class mercenary cruiser, in that it’s basic shape is a sphere, though a squashed one at that. The design has a total of five decks, though only three are used and the lower two are used as fuel tanks. The design is unusual in that partly to make up for its poor performance and limited cargo capacity, it can mate with a ‘pod’ that extends its capabilities and performance. There are a number of variants for these pods (freighter, assault, passenger and survey) and are worth considering if you are a captain of a Panga-class spacecraft.

Panga Class Merchant

The book is broken down into the following sections; the first five pages cover an introduction and history of the Panga design, a description about the Panga pods followed by a brief description of the main users of the Panga type and finally a single page (non-Traveller) covers the descriptive specification. Then the meaty interior description lists the five decks that make up the Panga craft. This is extremely thorough, including what you would find in the ships lockers and all the locations in the ship. The next eight pages describe some example vessels and a 76-Patrons style adventure, with plenty of colour illustrations.The next two pages show a blueprint-style set of deck plans and isometric views (in full colour) of the ship itself. Personally, I’m not so keen on the blueprint style (I can’t stand the Apple iOS7 style with light blue lettering on white) but it is a nice touch to show the deck plans in a different way.

The next eighteen pages list full Mongoose Traveller specifications along with deck plans for the standard Panga, variants and the pods. The deck plans are gorgeous (black on white) and are clear and well laid-out. The next five pages list some new equipment, including full specs for a new ATV, which for those of a certain generation reminds me of the missile-ATV from the popular Gerry Anderson series ‘UFO’. I had a die-cast ‘Dinky’ toy when I was a kid and loved its ability to fire missiles across the living room at my brother…! The final six pages are broken down into three spacecraft record sheets with details filled in for the three Panga variants.

The way that the ship is described certainly gives the craft a lot of character – I could quite easily see a bunch of PCs using one of these, with all its quirks and oddities!

The book is filled to the brim with with plenty of high-quality monochrome, line and colour artwork as you come to expect from Ian. In the supplied scenario for one of the example ships, a nice touch is the character UPPs with images for each of the characters (by Bradley Warnes) shown as ID cards (‘multi-passes’… a mention from the Fifth Element?) The level of detail that Ian has gone to covering the variants and associated equipment of the Panga-class craft, makes you feel that you are getting your money’s worth by buying the book. In addition, you get a number of JPEG images showing isometric views of the Panga in a blueprint-style illustration, plus deck plans that can be printed in 15mm scale. There is very little white space, Ian taking the opportunity to fill just about every bit of the book with an illustration or view of the Panga, inside and out.

Negatives? Only a few, I spotted a few typos and one or two paragraphs are slightly misaligned, but these are really minor (I am being picky here) and most certainly do not detract from the value that you feel you are getting from the book.

The Panga-class merchant ship book is an excellent book to own, Ian has done his best to feel that you are getting plenty of value from purchasing the book and I can highly recommend it. My thanks to Ian Stead of Moon Toad Publishing for kindly supplying me with a copy to review.

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21 More Organisations Review

Where have the past few months gone? Can’t believe its been that long since I wrote a review article for Alegis Downport, work, studying and life in general have made things blur and the weeks have shot by. However, its now the summer and its a good opportunity to catch up with some product reviews and a few mentions.

First off, I’ve picked up a copy of ‘Shadow of the Storm’ from the Kindle market place, by Martin J. Dougherty. This is a novel written in the OTU background, following the adventures of a starshp captain set in the Solomani sector / Third Imperium. I’m going to give the book a read over the next few weeks and I’ll post a short review as soon as I can.

In Moon Toad Publishing news, Ian Stead has published two new ship books; ‘Ship Book Panga’ and the ‘Lune Freelancer’. He’s also released the ‘Ship Design Sheets’ which I’ll also be taking a look at very soon.

I also submitted an entry for the Amber Zone adventure contest a few weeks back, so I’m eagerly waiting for the results of the competition. From what I’ve seen so far, the standard is very high!

John Watts from Gypsy Knights Games hasn’t been letting the grass grow under his feet, with the publication of ’21 More Organisations’ for the Clement Sector ATU background which I will review here.

The book describes a number of organisations and individuals that the adventurer may come across in the Clement Sector and is a follow up to the original ’21 Organisations’ that was released earlier this year. The book is 41 pages long and is available in watermarked PDF format from Drivethru RPG for $5.99. The product is interspersed with plenty of colourful character artwork by Bradley Warnes, which is of his usual high quality.

21 More Organisations

The 21 Organisations featured in book detail the background from individuals and small companies right the way through to multi-system organisations. There is quite a lot of variety here, along with a character generation system for ‘Alpha Delta Force‘, one of the prominent paramilitary groups operating in The Clement Sector. There is a lot to feed scenarios and things for the players to get involved in, a few notable favourites include the ‘Reliable Starship Escort Service‘ who offer shipping escort duties for the right price, the ‘Hard Chargers‘ who are a group of nomadic travellers who travel in a fleet of spacecraft, never venturing to planetside and finally the ‘Cascadia Fugitive Marshalls Service‘ which also has character generation stats provided. I read this book from cover to cover and thoroughly enjoyed every page, each featured organisation is different enough for the book not to feel they are either repeating themselves, or they are similar in nature. The number of pages covering an individual organisation is uneven, for example there are five pages for ‘Alpha Delta Force‘ and one and a half or the ‘Crawford Foundation‘ but the level of text is just right for each respective description.

Reading the book gave me a few ideas for scenario’s featuring some of the organisations from the book.

Scenario 1 – an executive from Harbringer Productions wants the players to film a documentary aboard the Hard Chargers. The players will need to use their ingenuity to get amongst the group and somehow produce a film about them.

Scenario 2 – the Cascadia Fugitive Marshalls Service want the players to get someone sheltering aboard the hard chargers. They will need to pass themselves off as a member of the hard chargers, find their target by working their way across several ships and get them to the marshalls without alerting the group. If they do, it could be very difficult to effect an escape.

Overall, the book is an excellent addition to the Gypsy Knights Games portfolio, there is plenty to read and inspiration for scenario ideas. I can hughly recommend it to anyone who wishes to expand the background for their Clement Sector campaign. I’d like to thank John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games for forwarding me a copy to review.

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Traveller Bundle of Holding Offer

A quick post to mention this very good offer via FFE and Marc Miller; the Bundle of Holding website has a great offer to get you started in a Classic Traveller campaign. There are two offers – the first to get the rules and a starter adventure and if you level up, you can get a stack load of supplements. Part of the payment goes to charity, as nominated by Marc Miller.

Got a bit of spare holiday cash? Why not pick up some gaming material and feel good by contributing to some good causes at the same time… nip over to bundleofholding.com but be quick as there is only about a week left for the offer to run!

Following my review of the Cascadia Adventures in print, Freelance Traveller Magazine’s August issue has a review of the same book, with a rather nice mention of yours truly’s artwork and deck plans!

I’ve also been kindly sent some books to review from Ian Stead of Moon Toad Publishing. These, along with a review of Gypsy Knights Games ’21 More Organisations’, I’ll be posting here in the next couple of weeks.

Enjoy whats left of the summer break!

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Cascadia Adventures in Print

A very nice surprise arrived in the post today, a print copy of the Gypsy Knights Games ‘Cascadia Adventures’ which has just been released at Drivethru RPG. I’ll declare my involvement with this project straight away, in that I produced some spacecraft and associated deck plan artwork when the books were originally released as separate PDF’s back in July 2012. This book is an amalgamation of the three books into one publication.

The glossy finish soft back book is 94 pages in length covered in the now familiar Gypsy Knights Games house ‘style’ of black main cover, with prominent red lettering and grey vertical side bar. The copy I received is A4 in size and feels like a premium quality book. The pages are bright white heavy copy paper, which again makes the book feel like a good value production.

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The book includes the three adventures ‘Save Our Ship’, ‘The Lost Girl’, and ‘Fled'; However my intention in this review is to cover the differences between the print edition and the original PDF copies. A major difference is that a substantial amount of character art (digital models, DAZ Studio / Poser style) has been added, by Bradley Warnes illustrating what the supplied characters look like, along with the NPCs featured in the book and various scenes from the adventures. These of course, are of up to Bradley’s usual high standards.

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The text reproduction I couldn’t find fault with; the colour I had a couple of very minor issues, which I’ve noticed before in other print-on-demand services. There are some shadows (especially where red has been used in the image) the print reproduction is slightly lighter than what it should be. This (to me) is noticeable on the ‘Dust Runner‘ scene on page 3, simply because I know what the original image looks like. However, I should point out that this image gave another printers trouble in the Traveller 2013 Calendar, so must be something with my scene! I should stress they are minor observations that for the average purchaser, the scenes look absolutely fine and you won’t be disappointed with the book.

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For $19.99 as a print book this is a really nice addition to a referees library; a group with get quite a few hours worth of play out of the adventures and you’ll get additional value from the book by reusing the NPCs in other scenario’s. Overall, you will most certainly be pleased with purchasing Cascadia Adventures!

Finally, I’d like to thank John Watts for forwarding me a copy of the book, which I am very grateful for!

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Career Companion Review

Gypsy Knights Games Career Companion is a 61-page supplement for their Traveller RPG ATU ‘Clement Sector‘ available from Drivethru RPG for $6.99 as a watermarked PDF, or as a softcover book / PDF bundle for $15.99. The book describes some of the humanoids and careers that a Clement Sector character might encounter, or wish to follow as a career development.

The book is divided into three distinct sections; ‘uplifted and ‘modified’ humanoids’, career descriptions and additions to the rules set to fit the Clement sector background.

The first section describes the various ‘uplifted’ humans and non-humanoids that can be found in the Clement Sector of 2342; there are the uplifted Dolphins and Apes, Bears and Yeti’s (yes, Yeti’s!) and Kraken which have a text description and colour illustration. Many of the uplifted animals were bred for specific reasons, some for slave labour. Stats are provided if players wish to play one of these creatures as a player-character, which are short but concise. Then there are the humans who have been genetically altered to suit exo-Earth environments; the Altrans who were the result of many nations way to ‘improve’ Humans for the exploration of space. Some are better suited for low gravity environments, some have improved breathing abilities. Stat alterations are provided, though players should note that there referee would challenge them playing such a character as many Altrans are classed as second-class citizens on a number of worlds in the Clement Sector.

Career Companion

The careers section describes eight tracks with three or four variants per track, totalling the bulk of the book at 39 pages. The track is standard Mongoose Traveller format with enlistment, advancement, benefits, skills and mishaps tables for each. Some of the careers include Pirate, National Navy, Orbital Construction Worker and Spy. The variety is good and there are some useful careers that player-characters can use.

The book is interspersed with a variety of full and part-page pieces of artwork by Bradley Warnes and I want to say first of all, the illustrations are gorgeous and answers a common criticism of many RPG books of not enough ‘people’ in books. Artwork is hard to find, especially artists who are skilled in humanoid models and can provide them sufficiently and of a consistent quality. I’ll freely admit this isn’t something I can do, however my focus ever since I was young was on spacecraft design following the sci-fi depictions produced by the late, great Peter Elson. What makes the scenes stand out are that there is sufficient variety, fitting the background text and they have been produced to an outstanding quality.

If I have to make a criticism of the models, (and I’ll emphasise that its a slight criticism), its something that is common in using such digital models. The faces of some of the models are ‘expressionless’, ie. they are looking straight ahead with mouths closed, so they look slightly ‘vacant’. This doesn’t apply to all the models featured in the book and I don’t know how difficult it is to alter the expressions of the faces, but it would be great if the faces could be altered slightly to show more emotion or interaction with the scene. However, to re-emphasise, the book benefits greatly from having lots of character scenes and Bradley Warnes should be highly commended for his artwork.

The final section introduces some Clement Sector specific rules modifications (which are of course optional) but they help the referee to get around such problems such as ageing (actual age and apparent age, when modified by longevity drugs), maintaining social standing when not part of a large interstellar empire and finally, character advancement. This final suggestion for a rules change is an interesting one and is an elegant way for characters to improve skills and personal statistics. This has been a long-running debate over the years in the various editions of the Traveller RPG, GKG’s suggestion for character advancement is nice, simple system and is a refreshing change to more traditional systems that involve amassing thousands of experience points.

As a career book when compared to the Hub Federation Navy, I really enjoyed reading this book; probably because Career Companion is a more ‘general’ book describing a variety of careers and add more ‘colour’ to the Clement Sector. Hub Federation Navy has a similar format, but I felt that book lacked a bit of additional background material to make the book more ‘distinct’. The rules modifications are a nice touch and do add value to the product; at $6.99 for the PDF version it is a well-worth purchase for players and referees alike, not just in use with the Clement Sector background, but any Traveller ATU. I would also like to thank John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games for kindly forwarding me a copy of Career Companion to review.

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Amber Zone Writing Contest Announced

The guys over at the Amber Zone have launched their opening contest. Its a writing competition to develop a scenario like the old Journal of the Traveller’s Aid Society books from the Classic Traveller days. There are a lot of prizes, with sponsorship support from Gypsy Knights Games, Spica Publishing, DSL Ironworks, Greylock Publishing Lines and various other individual contributions.

This looks really good, not just for the prizes on offer but also the opportunity to write a new scenario and to see what other people will come up with.

Hmmm… I feel inspired! Get writing – the deadline is 6th of July 2014!

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