Grand Safari Review

Happy New Year everyone! For this first post of 2015, I want to spend a bit more time on one of Gypsy Knights Games’s recent releases, ‘ Grand Safari’. I felt on my last post that a mini-review wouldn’t do the book justice so he’s something a bit more substantial.
 
Grand Safari is a 154-page book available from Drivethru RPG
for $9.99 for the PDF or $19.99 for the PDF / softcover book combo. The book is part-adventure / part-supplement based in GKG’s Traveller RPG ATU. The book is split into the following sections:
 
1. Introduction
2. Pre-generated characters
3. Getting started and skills day
4. The adventures (numbering six)
5. Planetary descriptions
6. NPC descriptions
7. Spacecraft and vehicle descriptions
8. Additional adventure ideas
 
The introduction obviously sets things up for the adventure locations and how to make best use of the book. You’ll need some additional GKG supplements namely the ‘Clement Sector’, ‘Dade Colonies’ and ’21 More Organisations’ which are also available from Drivethru RPG. The aim of Grand Safari is for the PCs to take part in a series of linked adventures set in a largely unexplored region of the Clement Sector, named the Hannibal subsector.
 
Grand Safari

The pre-generated characters each have their own page giving full stats, a descriptive background and a colour illustration by Bradley Warnes. The next section describes how to start the adventure, who the ‘Gentlemans Club of Dashwood’ are and the first ‘adventure’, ‘Skills Day’ which are a series of tests for the players to build up their ‘Safari Points’ which are the measure for the players ultimate success in the safari. Skills Day could take some time to run – if you have lots of players there will be a great deal of dice rolling, but it instills competition between the players.

The actual adventures are quite short in description – an average of one or two pages each. However because of the way the book is structured, there isn’t any need for much more content than this. Again, success is measured by the awarding of ‘safari points’ – there are some straightforward tasks and some with a few twists…!

The planetary descriptions section form the majority content of the book and this is no bad thing; you have a complete subsector of unexplored worlds or systems which only have minimal surveys to plunder for adventures. The subsector forms the basis for the adventures in the book so you glean all the additional setting information from here. You get a full planetary system overview with orbits and hydrographic data. There is also a number of enounter / random event tables plus stats (and some illustrations) of the creatures that can be found on the world. There are a decent array of worlds to explore – nineteen in total, covering ninety pages.

The next section covers significant NPCs and the ships crew of the ‘MV Livingstone’ – the starship the players use for the safari. Full deck plans are provided for the MV Livingstone – an 800dT Atlas-class freighter along with an ocean-going safari ship suitable for use on water worlds.

The final page contains descriptions for three additional adventures set in the Hannibal subsector.

I’m thoroughly impressed with Grand Safari – there is plenty of adventure content, supplementary material that can be used within and outside the game – for any other game sessions the referee may be running. Its well written, there are some gorgeous illustrations of the significant persons and creatures and I only found one typo which I’m certain will be updated by GKG very soon (they have a habit of making corrections and improvements and send these to purchasers on a quick turnaround). This is a highly recommended supplement for the Traveller RPG referee – go and buy it!

Finally, I’d like to thank John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games for kindly sending me a copy of Grand Safari to review.

In other news, the winners of the Zhodani Base ’76 Patrons’ contest have been published – 23 entries were submitted including one from me, though I didn’t win there are some really good entries and I suggest you check them out!

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Alegis Downport : 2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 58 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Presents for the Christmas Traveller

Now that Christmas is upon us, here are some mini-reviews of a few products for the Traveller player and referee. I originally intended Gypsy Knights Games ‘Grand Safari’ to be reviewed here but rather than doing it a dis-service with a short review, I’m going to look at it in more depth next week.

Gypsy Knights Games – Hub Federation Ground Forces

This is quite a weighty tome released by GKG and written by Michael Johnson to supplement their Clement Sector ATU. It goes into a great deal of depth starting with the planetary defence force structure and marines, before moving onto the character generation checklist. The next thirty pages cover the specialist career tracks that can be followed by PCs, with the next section covering about thirty pages of vehicles and a final appendix describing various battles and actions the ground forces have been involved in.

Hub Federation Ground Forces

My gut reaction when reading this book was to compare it to Hub Federation Navy and where I felt left wanting for more background material in the Navy book, ‘Ground Forces’ more than made up for any gaps in content. The character development is extremely detailed illustrating a variety of situations along with the example character career track. There is a very fine section on additional vehicles illustrated by Bradley Warnes, which includes the 24th century version of the ‘Jeep’, two hovertanks, a hover APC and a single seat fighter. Bradley Warnes figure artwork is as usual exemplary as is the spacecraft artwork by Ian Stead and deck plans by the author Michael Johnson. As previous recent GKG releases, the sections are interspersed with extracts of commentary from specific events of situations, which is a nice touch. There aren’t any adventure seeds, however there is plenty of background and situations described so I don’t consider this to be even a minor flaw with the book.

An excellent book and worth picking up – 104 pages priced at $9.99 from Drivethru RPG as a watermarked PDF or special offer at $19.99 for the softcover and PDF.

Moving swiftly on ‘Ships of Clement Sector 6: Jinsokuna Chirashi-class (Swift-Flyer) Yacht‘, describes a 400dT yacht that serves a variety of roles. Everything from a standard yacht, to favourite of pirates, to ship featured in a hit holovid programme called ‘Superpirate’. The design of the ship (illustrations by Ian Stead) is immediately recognisable as something that wouldn’t look out of place in a Japanese anime cartoon! There are lots of small wings and protrusions and the whole shape reminds me of a manga robot with its arms outstretched in front of it. However the design gives the impression of something that you wouldn’t want to mess with in the spacelanes.

Ships of Clement Sector 6: Jinsokuna Chirashi-class Yacht

Full descriptions for the three decks of the ship along with stats are provided, along with deck plans covering the four variants of the ship. When I initially looked at the book, it did give the impression of being a bit repetitive as on first glance, the differences between the four variants appeared minimal. However, closely reading the floor plans and stats, you do notice the differences and there is definite value in GKG providing these extra stats and you have craft that can be used in a variety of situations, straight away. Another interesting addition is the inclusion of NPCs and ship stats for the holivid ‘Superpirate’ plus a number of adventure seeds. The only issue I have with the book is that some of the isometric views of the ship could have been a bit bigger on a couple of pages, to fill up some of the white space. However the Swift-Flyer is a great adventuring ship that is a worthy addition to the GKG ‘Ships of the Clement Sector’ line and I can see a number of players groups picking this as their starship. 64 pages priced at $4.99 from Drivethru RPG

A final mention on the GKG front, the latest addition to the ‘Ships of the Clement Sector’ series – ‘Perth Class Frigate’ has just been released for $4.99, so I’ll be taking a look at this over the next week.

The last item that I want to mention (rather than review) is the Traveller 2015 calendar – which a dozen artists (including myself) have contributed artwork and the whole project was pulled together by Ian Stead.

Traveller Calendar 2015

Originally instigated by Andrew Boulton, this years calendars profits will go towards Bryan Gibson’s funeral expenses, Bryan a veteran Traveller artist sadly passed away earlier this year. A PDF version is available from Drivethru RPG for $2.68 (reduced from $4.00) or the dead tree version that you can hang proudly on the wall from lulu.com for £17.74.

I’d like to thank John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games for forwarding me copies of the books above for review and to Ian Stead a copy of the Traveller 2015 calendar PDF. Whatever you are doing or however you may be celebrating the festive season, I hope you have an enjoyable time! Merry Christmas!

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Traveller Calendar 2015

In time for Christmas, the Traveller RPG 2015 calendar has been released; due to various reasons there was no 2014 edition, however thanks to Ian Stead co-ordinating submissions from 12 artists from around the world (including myself), the new calendar is available for purchase. It has been produced in honour of Bryan Gibson, a long time Traveller artist who sadly passed away earlier this year and all profits go towards the designated charity.

Traveller Calendar 2015

If you would like to purchase a copy (and it really is worth it!) you can grab a PDF version from Drivethru RPG for a very reasonable $4.00, or a print-on-demand copy from lulu.com for £17.74.

In other new-release news, Gypsy Knights Games have released another supplement Ships of Clement Sector 6: Jinsokuna Chirashi-class Yacht, a multirole craft that can be found in the Clement Sector ATU. The book is available for $4.99 and I’ll be taking a look at it shortly.

I’ve also just submitted my entry for the Zhodani Base ’76 Patrons’ writing contest; the competition is fiercer than ever with (at the time of writing) 19 other entries being sent in. One way or another, there will some great adventures to read over the coming Christmas break!

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Ships of the Clement Sector 5 – Traders and Scouts Review

First off, a bit of news… just over a week or so ago I was extremely pleased to hear that I’d been highly placed (from what I can make out from the ordering of the prize list) in fourth place in the Amber Zone adventure contest! I’d submitted an entry called ‘One Second to Midnight’, a rescue scenario with a twist… set on a world at war with a (for those of us that can remember) 1980’s feel to it. I’m very chuffed and grateful to those who thought it worthy of such an accolade and for the prizes; PDF of the DSL Ironworks Escape Shuttle, $10 Drive Thru RPG voucher and a printed copy of the Kickstarter Traveller5 ‘Cirque’ book which I’m looking forward to receiving.

If you want to take a look at the scenario, click on this link, or jump to the Amber Zone by following this link. My sincere thanks to BeRKA, Mike, Anders, Dylan and Eric for running the competition and the sponsors (Gypsy Knights Games, DSL Ironworks, Greylock Publishing Lines and Spica Publishing) for their support.

Since my last post, Gypsy Knights Games have released the ‘Hub Federation Ground Forces‘ sourcebook and earlier this week, ‘Grand Safari’, a set of linked adventures set in the Clement Sector. If you want to take a look at it in the Drivethru RPG store, point your browser at:- Grand Safari at Drivethru RPG.

Today I want to take a look at Gypsy Knights Games ‘Ships of the Clement Sector 5: Traders and Scouts‘. This is a PDF available from Drivethru RPG for $9.99 and is a total of 81 pages long. The book features some of the smaller spacecraft that can be found plying the spacelanes of the Clement Sector. Visitors to this site may or may not know that I’m a big fan of spacecraft books, having owned the TTA ‘Spacecraft…’ books since I was a kid, so I approached this book with just a bit more of extra eagerness than usual! Furher information about the TTA series can be found at my TTA art gallery / background at Digital Waterfalls.

The book contains complete descriptions and specifications for seven spacecraft that can be found in the Clement Sector ATU. Mongoose Traveller ship stats are provided, along with some pretty top-notch artwork. Ship types range in size from 100dT to 200dT (four types described), one 400dT, one 500dT and one final ship at 1000dT size. The four small craft are your typical traders and runabouts; what makes these interesting are the detailed descriptions how the craft came into being, history and deck descriptions. There is a page of Mongoose Traveller stats, along with a page of isometric line art of the ship, showing each one from four angles. A further 3D view is provided (again in greyscale / line art) plus some colour artwork also by Ian Stead. The ships are very well designed, some nice looking craft that wouldn’t look out of place in any science-fiction RPG. The 400dT craft (a long-range scout) is quite a squarish-looking design and despite its wings and fins, looks like it has the aerodynamic efficiency of a house brick! The remaining two designs, a 500dT exploration craft and a 1000dT tanker, complete the books spacecraft.

Traders and Scouts

For me, I’m more inclined to compare the book format to the TTA ‘Spacecraft 2000-2100AD‘ book, simply because it doesn’t have a dry, ship specification format like some books, but there is a written history and background which I appreciate more. The range of craft is reasonable in as much it isn’t a book with lots of the same variation. What is also a nice touch is that the book is broken up with three to four pages of a ‘situational story background’ that relates to the next craft.

In addition, there are stats for four NPCs, the background to a named craft and two pages of adventure hooks for traders and scouts. Additional art by Bradley Warnes completes the books presentation.

Though the book is priced at $9.99 for the PDF which may seem a tad expensive, a lot of effort has gone into providing a lot for your purchase; another way of looking at it that’s just over $1.40 per starship, which in my view is pretty good value. I like ‘Traders and Scouts’ a lot and whether you’re looking for some spacecraft to fit into your Clement Sector campaign or your Traveller RPG in general, you’ll certainly find good value in purchasing this book – recommended!

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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!

20140828-215159.jpg

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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