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.

ca1frontcover

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.

ca1backcover

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.

ca1open

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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New Gypsy Knights Games Releases

A quick posting for those Travellers who are looking for something to read over the coming half-term holiday (at least here in the UK anyway!) Gypsy Knights Games have released two new products to supplement their Clement Sector background: 21 Plots: Samaritan is another in the popular line of short adventures with six possible outcomes, in the same vien as the Classic Traveller book 76 Patrons.

Literally just out in the past few hours, Ships of the Clement Sector 4: Small Craft features as the name suggests, small craft designs and craft. I shall be looking forward to reviewing these whilst I finish composing my latest review: the Career Companion.

If you’re on holiday next week like I am, I hope wherever you happen to be travelling to, may your jump fuel be refined and mishap roll-free!

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How to Build Cities in Space

I was musing through my news feeds this morning and came across this interesting article on the Guardian newspapers website about ‘How to Build Cities in Space’. Its quite a lengthy article on the current state of developments in establishing a permanent human presence in either low Earth orbit, the Moon or Mars. Though private enterprises are picking up speed, there are some important considerations and research that is coming out of government-funded research (eg. NASA, the ISS). The article is thought-provoking as there are some aspects that might be useful for the Traveller RPG referee, especially for near-future settings such as Outer Veil or Orbital.

Its fantastic to see increased development and interest in establishing space colonies, but we have a long way to go!

The article can be found at The Guardian.

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20 Years of Digital Waterfalls and Raytracing

Bit of an artwork / technology post today, as an aside from the usual gaming posts. Today is the 20th anniversary of the ‘birth’ of Digital Waterfalls, my alter-ego name for my raytracing artwork. It was formed with an old college friend of mine Dave Bennett as a way to ‘showcase’ our digital art skills and we had a joint site for a number of years. Dave eventually started leaning towards the web design side of things (which he does full-time now), whilst I kept my raytracing as a hobby and have kept on with it, steadily developing my skills.

As a bit of a ‘celebration’, I’ve uploaded a new image to my gallery site at Digital Waterfalls, to the Traveller RPG gallery. It’s something that has been in development for a number of years (off and on), specifically how to create realistic explosions using particle systems, in a raytracer such as POV-Ray. It’s something that is particularly difficult to create in software and hammers the CPU when rendering. Using a 2.2GHz Core2-Duo laptop with 3Gb of RAM, the render takes 1-2 hours to complete, POV-Ray employing both CPU cores. I have however been experimenting with low-power single board computers, such as the Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone Black. I’ve installed POV-Ray onto Arch Linux on the BeagleBone and left it to render, which it completed in just over 27 hours. The aim is to leave such tasks running and to hopefully use less power than running my usual Windows laptop setup. Wether it has or not, is for further investigation but its enjoyable experimenting with these things!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the image over at Digital Waterfalls, here’s to many more years raytracing!

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Hub Federation Navy Review

After an extended period away from Traveller stuff due to real-world commitments (far too long to be honest), I’m going to get back into the swing of things with a review of Gypsy Knights Games latest publication, the Hub Federation Navy Sourcebook which John Watts has kindly sent me a copy to take a look at.

The book is available from Drivethru RPG as a PDF for $8.99 and as a softcover book for $19.99, written by Michael Johnson. The book is broken down into the first few pages covering the background and how the Federation Navy came into being, following the collapse of the conduit between the Clement Sector and Earth. The structure and organisation of the navy along with uniform descriptions are covered next, with the following ten pages describing characters and how a Federation Navy career fits into the Traveller game context.

Hub Federation Navy

The bulk of the book (around fifty pages) is made up with descriptions of the various career tracks starting from General Duty, Engineering and other support ranks, through to Naval Inteligence and Senior Command ranks. Overall, eleven careers are extensively covered with full Mongoose Traveller descriptions and events tables. The book has 96 pages which are rounded off with five appendices detailling fleet organisation, German and Royal Navy ship listings and hull and command lists. English to German ship classification translations are provided and the book is extensively illustrated with colour images. Bradley Warnes has proved most of the images, being computer generated scenes featuring scenes of people (uniform, battledress, combat, pilots etc) which are of the highest quality. Ian Stead has also provided a number of spacecraft scenes of naval craft (of Ian’s usual high standards) though most of these (if I recall correctly) have been used in other books.

The books premise is based on the merging of the German and Royal Navies, to form a unifed Federation Navy. This was thought-provoking for me on how ‘realistic’ this would be; of course this is science-fiction, but considering some high profile media discussions (including some in the past couple of weeks) about potential navy defence cuts and the UK’s ability to meet future threats and commitments, I did wonder on the viability of the premise. My thoughts were based on the German and Royal Navies long traditions and history, including when they were both at conflict in the last two World Wars and when in joint exercises as part of NATO commitments. There was a lot of debate a few years ago when the British Army lost a lot of high profile regiments, due to defence cuts and mergers, so is it realistic to expect that both navies would simply forego all that history and become a unified force in another part of the galaxy? The author does mention (briefly, in a couple of paragraphs) that the Royal Navy still resists the change as they could be considered the ‘minor partner’, but it would have been nice to have this undercurrent expanded a bit more.

The flipside is that ‘the need to’, would be the driver for change; the Army implemented the changes because they had to and we have newly-named regiments. Back in the Clement Sector, the integraton is stll ongoing having only just started; only five to years have elapsed so far. However, it is already demonstrated that joint operations do successfully take place with current NATO exercises, so considering the Hub Federation Navy is set three hundred years into the future, this ‘realistically’ shouldn’t be a problem.

Perhaps it would have been interesting to cover in more detail how the integration process went and what resistance there would have been (which is only human nature) and expanding the background material a little more.

The book is mainly geared towards players who want to create characters who will follow the naval career path, which it does extensively. Though the book does this very well, you wont find a huge amount of other reference material and I felt it was the kind of book you would use at the start of a character’s career generation process and only refer to it as and when you needed a career event. I think it would have been good to cover information on naval tactics, how the navy conducts operations, weapons and equipment and ‘general life’ aboard ship, which would have made it a more ’rounded’ product about the Hub Federation Navy.

Overall, I think the Hub Federation Navy is a good book bearing in mind its ‘specialist’ use, it easily matches the quality of other Gypsy Knights Games products and if you are looking to create naval characters using the Clement Sector background, this is a must-purchase. I’d also like to thank John Watts for forwarding me a copy to review.

Oh, and by the way – early purchasers of the book should check for emails from Drivethru RPG as an amended version is available for download, with some corrections and edits.

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