Subsector Sourcebooks Earth And Hecate Double Review

Independence Games have been steadily increasing their portfolio of sourcebooks for their setting ‘Earth Sector’, following the success of the Clement Sector setting. So I’m going to take a look at two of these sourcebooks, Subsector Earth and Subsector Hecate. As these books are similarly formatted, I’m going to review the two together.

Sourcebook Earth is available from Drivethru RPG for $9.59 as a PDF or as a softback book including the PDF for $23.59 and contains 168 pages. Sourcebook Hecate is available as a PDF and as a softback book for the same price as the Earth sourcebook and contains 100 pages.

Style and Structure of the Books

Each book is presented in the following way; a table of contents lists all the systems in the book followed by a subsector map in the usual 8×10 hex grid format. Depending on how close the group of worlds are, a flag of the aligned country is displayed on the nearest hex. The next page displays a table with a summary of the hex reference, name, UWP, Trade Code, PBG, Sun(s) and Allegiance. From here, each book has a detailed description (with at least a paragraph worth) of each system broken down by the following headings:

System Details: star type, astronomical name (eg. Alpha Centauri, Groomgridge 34 etc), number of planets and distances in the star system.

Physical Data: size and physical make up of the world (or asteroid belt).

Atmospheric Details: what its like to breathe (or not) on the world.

Hydrographic Details: is there water to be found on the planet, or is it barren?

Geographic Details: descriptions of everything from super continents and their physical make up, from pole to pole or whether the planet is a ball of rock with patches of ice.

Population Details: what the make up of the permanent population is; human (and country of origin), altrants or uplifts.

Government Details: is there a world government or is it balkanised like on Earth? There may be no government at all, instead it may be a small mining operation in which case the government is the operating company.

Legal Details: what is legal or illegal, such as narcotics or alcohol; is travel restricted or do you need travel passes? How are firearms managed and what is the police force like?

Cultural Details: is there a predominant religion? What is the cuisine like and what is the calendar based on (ie. local rotation of the planet), where does the population live and what are the srarports like?

Depending on the importance of the world and how populated it is, there will be more text describing the background to the system. This varies quite a bit and can cover subjects such as specific cities and highports, manufacturing details, exports or anything else of significance. Each world also has a planetary map showing the most significant features (coties etc). Following this is a page with the system structure (scale in AU) and connecting Zimm points.

Sourcebook Earth Specifics

The Earth Sector sourcebook includes 26 distinct solar systems surrounding of course, Earth. Most of the worlds that have been occupied in the Earth Sector have been claimed by (significantly, in respect to multiple worlds) the Federal Republic of Germany, China, the United States, Russia, Japan, India and Nigeria. Brazil, Mexico, the Pan-Islamic Caliphate and New Zealand also have settled individual worlds in the same sector.

Of course it wouldn’t be an Earth Sector sourcebook without a reasonable page count devoted to the Sol system itself. The same system structure is followed as the rest of the book but particular reference is made to select cities on Earth. The moon (Luna) is also included, as is Mars as these were settled early in the human expansion into space. Both the Luna and Mars also receive maps identifying significant features.

Also of note is Neu Berlin (Epsilon Eridani) where the conduit terminal to the Clement was located. Neu Berlin is a very close Earthlike system comprising of six continents, with a substantial population in the hundreds of millions.

Sourcebook Hecate Specifics

The Hecate sourcebook includes (a lesser number compared to the Earth Subsector sourcebook) 15 distinct systems; if I was to give you an idea where the Hecate system is located when compared to the Earth Sector, I would say ‘to the top right’! The worlds in this subsector have been settled by the Union of Scandanavia, Iran, Portugal, Canada and India. As I mentioned before, there is plenty of narrative in the text of each part of the worlds description; though there are no specific scenarios or adventures included in each book, you can get plenty of game ideas from the descriptions. For example the world ‘Fuglesang’ (0102) which has a small mining colony owned by Sweden, sounds like an ideal location for a scenario based around the film ‘Outland’.

The system Enheduanna is ruled by (initially) a self-styled king and then his own government, the historian and philosopher Ibrahim Kazzar. His followers established the colony in 2331 after the conduit collapse as the original intention was to establish a colony in the Clement Sector. Altrants and uplifts are banned from visiting as the society believes that these are an ‘abomination of science’ and are likely to be jailed (or worse) if they are unlucky to end up on Enheduanna.

These sourcebooks aren’t a dry list of worlds with a list of specifications; the stats are all there, but they have been written with an engaging narrative and the background has been fleshed out using the statistics to build upon.

There is plenty of high quality colour artwork throughout both books, scenes provided by a number of artists and all the maps are in colour as well.

Both books offer a huge amount of reading material and resource for your Earth Sector campaigns; they could be used in any other SFRPG games simply for the source material and adventure ideas – both are highly recommended and provide excellent value for your gaming needs. I would like to thank John Watts at Independence Games for kindly sending me copies to review.

I would also like to note that at the time of writing (28th November), Independence Games is running a ‘Black Friday’ discount on both Drivethru RPG for their PDF products and on their webstore. Enter the code ‘THANKS’ at the webstore for a 40% discount on the whole order. This code is valid until the 3rd of December 2020. The webstore can be found at https://independencerpgs.com

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Cepheus Atom Review

Cepheus Atom is a set of role-playing rules based on the Cepheus Engine rule set, suitable for creating and playing games set in a post-apocalyptic world. It is published by Stellagama Publishing and is available from Drivethru RPG for $2.99 for the PDF or for $5.99 for the PDF and soft cover book. It contains a total of 51 pages. Authored by Omer Golan-Joel, the book is very much a ‘nuts and bolts’ rules set without a formal background setting, here you are a given the tools to create your setting and develop your own adventure.

The book is structured into the following main headings:

Basic Rules and Characters

Common Equipment

Combat

Exploration

Contamination and Mutations

Encounters and Monsters

Relics

Basic Rules and Characters

As mentioned, the rules are based on Cepheus Engine, or more precisely, Cepheus Quantum; so instead of the usual six 2D6 attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence, Education and Social Standing) you have a rules-light approach where you roll dice for Endurance (toughness) and Lifeblood (resisting injury) and distribute 5 points between the six available skills.

There is an optional rule for creating mutated characters, so you can roll for some sort of attribute at the start of character generation.

Common Equipment

Cash as a form of currency in a post-apocalyptic world is pretty redundant so Cepheus Atom addresses this by employing ‘Trade Units’. One TU is the equivilient to enough food and water for one day – this I would note is one of the most valuable commodities around in this sort of environment. You are presented with tables detailing the typical types of items that you might need to survive in your devastated world; Armour; Common and Heavy Weapons, General Equipment and Vehicles. Much of what is listed is of the hand-to-hand type or improvised; advanced equipment isn’t generally available or can only be found in ancient ruins.

Combat

The next four pages cover personal and vehicle combat, which is then followed by…

Exploration

Getting around your blasted, damaged world is not going to be easy and you are advised how to do this, such as how far you can travel according to the terrain type, forced marching and what happens if you get lost. A post-apocalyptic world will no doubt (if you watch some of films mentioned below) will have some pretty freaky weather, this is covered on the unusual weather table. Just hope you don’t roll a six or you might end up glowing green…! Finally the author looks at what characters should do if they wish to set up camp, urban scavenging and foraging, contaminated zones and other hazards, underground movement and use of light.

Contamination and Mutations

This is where things really start to get hostile for the characters; depending on whether you are human, near-human or a mutant, the effects of contamination, poison or other diseases will be different. Several tables on the following pages describe the various types of mutation that you can pick up – its good to see that these are balanced with both beneficial and detrimental mutations (eg. Fast healing, thick hide verses minute size or bleeder).

Encounters and Monsters

To provide that ‘fodder’ for random encounters or creatures for the players to deal with, the referee is provided with some tools to put these together. The ‘monster format’ is detailed, how they could react in encounters and special attacks. The next six pages list a number of random tables according to the terrain type. There is quite an eclectic mix; everything from Morlocks, Neddlemen, Koboloids, Robots, Ettercaps (whatever one of those is) and ‘the Glowing One’ to mention a few!

It wouldn’t be an apocalypse without killer robots of some description; you get three pages with background on how players can make use of robots, repair them, types enountered and how they react.

Relics

Rounding off the book is the final section on relics, or artifacts left by the previous civilisation. The main place for trading in these (if you can find them) is bartertown. You can typically find a number of these and the referee will randomly generate these when the players turn up. The remaining four pages list a number of tables for randomly generating different types of items, such as gizmos (small stuff such as astronaut pens, gas masks, citizenship cards), medicines (antibiotics, stims), armour (rad suit, power armour, riot shield) or weapons (pulse rifle, handgun, sonic rifle).

Though there isn’t a list of inspirations, I got thinking about the movies that could give a referee some ideas for setting up games set in the world of Cepheus Atom.

Therefore, for your enjoyment and delectation, here is a small list of post-apocalyptic films for inspiration, that could fit ideally into Cepheus Atom games:

Damnation Alley (1977)

The Mad Max series (1979 – 1985 and 2015)

The Quiet Earth (1985 – what an ending!)

Escape from New York (1981)

Akira (1988)

A Boy and his Dog (1975)

The Day After (1983)

Threads (1984)

The Thing (1982)

The Omega Man (1971)

I am Legend (2007)

28 Days Later (2002)

A more comprehensive list can be found at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_apocalyptic_films

Much background material can also be found for this sort of game in the ‘B’ movies from the 1950’s and 60’s, so you won’t be short of ideas for setting up games.

Artwork is provided by Hannah Saunders and public domain sources; illustrations include a number of mutant creatures, many of which have extra limbs or spiky bits. Cepheus Atom is ideally suited for single nights play or a short series of linked adventures. Its flexible enough to to suit a variety of apocalypses (!) depending on what you are into and is written in such a way that it promotes ‘fun’ and not too serious games. It is suitable for inserting as a world the players could travel (or crash land!) to and the referee has an instant set of tools with which to pull together a game. Cepheus Atom is highly recommended and I feel represents exceptional value. I would like to thank Omer Golan-Joel for kindly sending me a copy to review.

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Opportunity-class Light Trader Review

The Opportunity Class Light Trader is the latest spacecraft release by Independence Games. Pitched as a small craft useful for small trading runs and courier work, it is equipped with a Zimm Drive capable of a two parsec range. The book is available as a PDF from Drivethru RPG for $5.99 and a combined price of $14.99 for the PDF and softcover book.

The design of the ship is simple but attractive; cockpit at the wedge-shaped front with good front-facing visibility, a streamlined main body containing the staterooms and cargo hold with a couple of stubby wings, two tail fins, fuel scoops and engines at the back. Cargo is loaded via door at the left side and capacity depends on model and variant. The ship is aimed at customers of Corolys Shipbuilding Company who want to have the chance to own a small spacecraft and have the freedom to trade and ply the space ways. Corolys have made efforts to improve the design over the years by introducing variants meeting a number of requirements and reducing the initial cost with the introduction of new powerplant technologies.

Depending on what model you opt for, the cargo space can be a bit limited; this impacts on the running costs and some traders have had to get rid of their ship due to not being able to make the repayments. Other captains take on high-risk and high-value cargos to try and keep on top of their running costs; to defend itself the ship features one hardpoint to mount a weapon. The craft is designed for a typical crew manifest of four but can have up to eight depending on the requirements and number of passengers. In addition, the Austere-class variant can accommodate a ship’s vehicle of up to four tonnes in size, typically a grav vehicle.

The book itself is 30 pages long and is split into the following sections:

Background and Development

Specification (and internal arrangements, layout and features)

Game stats and deck plans for the following variants:

Opportunity I Class Light Trader

Austere-class variant

Opportunity II Class Light Trader

Maximus-class variant

Engagement-class variant

Dispatch-class variant

Star Reach-class variant

The book is interspersed with plenty of high quality colour and monochrome illustrations by Ian Stead, Jennifer Leonard, Valeriy Kachaev with deck plans supplied by Michael Johnson. Though its relatively short on page count, there is plenty of detail and background material including several variants of the Opportunity-class, which makes for a flexible and resourceful product. This is an ideal starship for a small group of player-characters, perhaps just starting out on their adventuring career; you could think of it as a modern ‘Type S’ Scout/Courier from Classic Traveller.

I would consider that this book is well worth adding to your collection as it provides plenty of content and a useful starship for travelling in your Earth Sector campaigns. Another high quality product from the team at Independence Games; I would like to thank John Watts of Independence Games for kindly sending me a copy to review.

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Clement Sector, Earth Sector, Independence Games | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment