Skull and Crossbones – Piracy in Clement Sector Review

Its the bank holiday here in the UK and typically (where I am now) its raining. So what better way to spend a wet Saturday evening and review a new Clement-sector product from Gypsy Knights Games?

Skull and Crossbones is one of the latest releases from Gypsy Knights Games, released on Drivethru RPG at $9.99 for the PDF or softcover book and PDF bundle for $19.99. It uses the OGL Traveller-compatible game engine and in the past few days, a Traveller Cepheus Engine version as part of the same download package has been released. It is not licensed under the Mongoose second edition Traveller rules, however there is nothing stopping a referee in using ‘Skull and Crossbones’ and adapting the game mechanics if you wish to use the MG2 Traveller edition. The book is 88 pages long and is written by John Watts, along with contributions from Bradley Warnes, Ian Stead and Michael Johnson.

The book starts with an ‘Introduction to Piracy’ in the Clement Sector, describing how the first incidents occured and how it has spread across the sector before and after the collapse.

The next section details how much piracy there is in the four major subsectors, including Hub, Cascadia, Franklin and Sequoyah. However, on the frontier worlds and sectors such as Dade and Winston, piracy is rife due to the ease of establishing bases and the (lack of) ability of the frontier worlds to deal with piracy. A lot of detail is presented in these sections; information on an individial world governments stance on piracy and their approach to dealing with it. It varies widely, some due to historical reasons, some due to the size of their own defence force and some due to political reasons. There are a huge number of hints that can be used for adventure ideas and encounters.

The following section describes ‘pirate strategy and tactics’. There are a number of ways that piracy can take place such as boarding actions and marauding; these are described in detail along with game mechanics and modifiers. Not all pirate actions are due to a particular ‘traditional’ pirate group or crew, some are commited by corporations against other corporations as actions in a long-standing feud. The way that pirates deal with their victims also varies, some may just want the cargo, others may want the cargo, the ship, some of the crew to sell as slaves and dump the rest on an asteroid (if they’re lucky).

skull and crossbones

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirates need a base with which to operate from and these are covered in the ‘Pirate Havens’ section. Pirates like all starships, cannot operate indefinitely and need somewhere to rest, rearm, repair (the three ‘R’s?) so that they can continue their activities. The code of operations on certain worlds are covered, along with examples of percentages that mafia families will take to allow you to trade (or they’ll make sure you never taste space again…!)

Piracy in its various forms always brings certain personalities to the fore and these are described (along with copious amounts of gorgeous colour illustrations by Bradley Warnes) in the section titled ‘Famous Pirates and Pirate Bands’. There are some really interesting groups and individuals described here; one of my favourites is the ‘Free Apes of Leonidas’, a group of uplifted apes who remind me of the film ‘Planet of the Apes’ in their (violent) attitude to humans. I don’t think you’d want to stay around if you came across this group! Another group called ‘Stannis’ Raiders’ has shades of ‘Blakes 7’ (a popular sci-fo TV series on UK television in the late 70’s and early 80’s) and I recognise the (mixed) names of the characters and actors mentioned from the programme.

Pirate Life can be very brutal and hard, but there is a ‘code’ with which pirates are expected to live by. This section describes what those codes are and what it is like to lead a life of piracy. Pirate life ranges from some of the initiation traditions, meeting out justice when someone commits a crime and how crews are dealt with after being captured by a pirate crew. An interesting inititation is ‘Bubble Riding’ where a prospective crew member is given a vacc suit and line attached to the outside of the ship, just long enough so that they are dragged along inside the Zimm space ‘bubble’. This is enough to send some mad, some are killed but those that survive are given a badge of honour to wear for their achievement.

Pirates need ships and if they can’t capture others, they make their own; two types are described along with colour illustrations by Ian Stead and deck plans by Michael Johnson; the ‘Demon-class Pirate Lembus’ and the ‘Ironbard-class Pirate Longship’. Full game stats are listed along with side and ‘action’ illustrations. In reading how the ships are constructed, I did wonder at a pirate groups ability to build such sophisicated craft, to a standard set of plans. I compared this to the story ‘a Pirate World’ in the TTA book ‘Great Space Battles’ where the mutants of Capella would raid merchants, using craft built from stolen parts gathered from the graveyard of Beta Pavonis. Spacecraft manufacturing is a complicated and expensive business and if the roumors described in ‘Skull and Crossbones’ are correct, then the authorities have a huge problem on their hands! Ah, idea for an adventure… players infiltrate a pirate group… some have to go through different initiations… risk of getting a ‘Bubble Ride’… then try and find out where the pirate manufacturing facility is based and get the information back to the authorities. If the players survive, then I’m sure there are some pirate personalities that would put a pretty bounty on the players head…!

Pirates don’t get it all their own way and there are anti-piracy efforts under way; one example is a ‘Letter of Marque’ which gives the holder (under certain restrictions) to legally attack pirate ships and their crews. Again, plenty of scope for adventure ideas if the players are brave enough to act as privateers for a government.

Throughout the book there are several pages describing the now-familiar (GKG-style) action situation / commentary; I always enjoy reading these as they help to put some life into a books game mechanics and turn what could be quite a dry / game-engine orientated book, into something that sparks the imagination.

The final pages list some adventure seeds for pirates, non-pirates and random encounter tables for different types of starport and type of world.

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Skull and Crossbones’; I particularly like the rules / mechanics-lite approach (eg. not including large amounts of roll for this, DM for that) and Johns style of concentrating on creating the environment and descriptions of the setting. There is *tons* of useful material and ideas to spark the imagination that belies the excellent price of $9.99. I can highly recommend this book from Gypsy Knights Games and I would like to John Watts for kindly sending me a copy to review.

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Classic Traveller, Mongoose Traveller, Mongoose Traveller Second Edition, OGL | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

From the Ashes – Review

Well it’s the summer holidays and after a busy period at work preparing and starting various IT projects, I’m on leave at last so its time to catch up on some gaming reviews! 

I’m going to take a look at the second book I’ve been kindly sent a review copy of from Stellagama Publishing, ‘From the Ashes’. The difference between the previous book I looked at and this one is that From the Ashes is published under an Open Game License (OGL) and hence does not contain any ‘closed’ or proprietary content from Mongoose or Far Future Enterprises. This basically means there is no specific mention of material from the Third Imperium (3I) or any Traveller-setting background information. I believe there has been a certain amount of controversy around the changes to the way that the Traveller SRD (System Reference Document) has been updated; I don’t fully understand the changes and I’m not going to go into them here. From the point of view from OGL materials however, simply expect to see Traveller game mechanic-compatible products, but no mention of the 3I. What it does do though is that it allows publishers such as Stellagama or Gypsy Knights Gaming to publish interesting materials or new backgrounds such as the GKG ‘Clement Sector’. 

From the Ashes has made me aware of a new set of Traveller-compatible core rules called the ‘Cepheus Engine System Reference Document’ which are more closely aligned with the Classic Traveller set of rules, rather than the Mongoose set. Published by Samardan Press Publications, I have bought a copy of the new rules set on the strength of having ‘From the Ashes’ to look at and I’ll be taking a look at these in a later review. 


From the Ashes as the product name suggests, is a supplement which describes optional rules and modifications for when characters are either mortally wounded or are close to death and there is a very slight chance of reviving the character. It is 15 pages long and is available to purchase from Drivethru RPG for $1.69 (normally $2.25) as a watermarked PDF. 

The book is divided into the five sections which to start with, offer alternative rules for when a character is mortally wounded and sufficient medical attention can be obtained during the ‘golden hour’ following the wound. The section is broken down into how difficult it is to revive the character, but what also happens after; After all its perfectly reasonable not to expect that after your PC has just taken a couple of slugs from a .44 Magnum pistol not to have some form of permanent disability or injury? You get some tables to roll on for the initial surgery results and a long term injury outcome – the useful thing about this is that the tables aren’t tied to a particular tech level, but the descriptions are flexible enough to cover most tech environments. 

The next section offers a useful replacement for the injury table used in the character generation process, which takes into account a characters endurance (END) and adds some detail behind the injury received. The next page describes rules for ‘Personnel Critical Hits’ which makes your game more lethal; either use with caution, or if you (the referee) are feeling particularly vindictive against a group of characters <grin>!

Rules describing technologies to replace body parts with metal and cybernetics are detailed in the section ‘The Future Prometheus’. This is a couple of pages long, with a long table on the chances of conversion to a cyborg and detail on the outcome. By the same merit the cyborg conversion needs a minimum of TL12, the final couple of pages detail recovery and regeneration by organic means which requires a minimum of TL16. Basically if you have enough money and if there is at least the characters brain left over (!) you have a chance of replacing the characters injured body organically. Again, the chances of this are not without risk and a number of side effects are detailed on the following page. The book is rounded off with the obligatory Open Game License declaration.

This is a really useful book; there is a lot of scope to inflict damage to characters by making games more lethal and expanding what happens to that character when they get badly injured. There is a lot of detail with each of the options presented and flexibility within them according to what tech level world you are on. Though there aren’t any illustrations aside from the cover, the book isn’t any less diminished from it and its very well written. What I do like is that there is huge scope for adventures and leads from the end of a game, to follow on from. The referee could build a scenario where the characters are tasked with rescuing an NPC’s body by making sure they reach a world with a sufficient tech level to restore their health; but what if it goes wrong? If the outcome isn’t what is expected, the characters could find themselves in a sticky situation…

Overall, a bargain price supplement (even at full price) that will fit in well with any version of Traveller you happen to own and I think referees will get a lot of use out of it. I would like to thank the writer Omer Golan-Joel for very generously sending me a copy to review.

Posted in Classic Traveller, Mongoose Traveller, Mongoose Traveller Second Edition | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Bronze Case Review

The Bronze Case is a new release by Stellagama Publishing for Mongoose Traveller 2nd edition and is released under the Open Game License / Community Content Agreement for the Travellers’ Aid Society. The 20-page PDF is available via DrivethruRPG for a very reasonable $4.99.

The book details an adventure that can be run as a quick evenings game or form a diversion during a larger campaign. The background describes the players getting involved (somewhat by accident) with the central character named Amy. Without giving too much of the adventure away, Amy as the name of the adventure suggests has a bronze case that various parties want to get hold of.

thebronzecase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The adventure is well structured, broken down into five distinct parts. The style of writing is engaging, without the reader getting too bogged down by hugely detailed descriptions or conversely by being overly simplistic. The world that the players are currently located on does have some restrictions which will hinder the players in assisting Amy and their overall objective. There were a couple of situations in the adventure that came to mind that I think the most appropriate background music would be from the original ‘Terminator’ films where Arnold Schwarzenegger strides in slow-motion and storms the police station; a nicely-written situation that got the imagination going…! It’s a fast-paced adventure; the referee will need to keep on their toes to make sure the players do not get any respite or chance to recoup. That way they will be able to make the most of the opportunities to damage the players as much as possible. There are some tough characters, so once the players get out of the other side of the adventure (assuming they are one piece!), there is scope for these tough’s to reappear should the referee wish to bring them back and be a recurring thorn in their side.

A nice touch I’d like to mention; the writer has made the flow of events quite straightforward and describes a couple of outcomes which either allow the adventure to continue or to end there, with some form of result for the players.

There are full character statistics provided for Mongoose Traveller, but if you are looking for a book with lots of artwork, this is not it. There are a couple of black-and-white illustrations by Luigi Castellani which are of the highest quality (see the cover above) which for the size of the adventure, is about right; any more and I think it could be interpreted as ‘padding out’ the book. In some ways they remind me of some of the Traveller T20 publications (I can’t remember exactly what but it was some adventures or supplements I’d seen with a similar style of monochrome artwork). It’s a well edited and laid-out book, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

The Bronze Case is an enjoyable, action-packed dash which should prove to be reasonable challenge to a bunch of PCs. I highly recommended it and I look forward to seeing more from Stellagama Publishing. I would like to thank Omer Golan-Joel for being kind enough to send me a copy to review.

 

Posted in Classic Traveller, Mongoose Traveller, Mongoose Traveller Second Edition | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Clement Sector Second Edition Release

April the 15th is a very significant date in the Gypsy Knights Games universe, a few hundred years into the future the wormhole that serves as the link between Earth and the other side of the galaxy, suddenly collapses and strands everyone in the Clement Sector thousands of light years from Earth. 15th of April 2016 is also another significant date, being the release date for the second edition of the Clement Sector sourcebook. The book has been significantly expanded and has now been released under the Open Game License (OGL) which removes any sreferences to the Traveller RPG. However the book is in now diminished for it as CS has always been an independent setting that has never relied on the Third Imperium background.

People who have already bought or been gifted CS will find they have an updated download available from Drivethru RPG. Its a huge change but from my initial run-through of the book, it is most certainly worth it – its a cracking read and if you haven’t already picked up a copy, I highly recommend that you do so.

Clement Sector can be purchased in various formats from Drivethru RPG.

I’ll be reviewing the second edition very soon!

Posted in Classic Traveller, Mongoose Traveller, Traveller TNE | Tagged , | Leave a comment

New Traveller RPG Releases from FarFuture.net and GKG

Well, this is excellent news; I had an email arrive in my inbox yesterday from Marc Miller over at Far Future (FFE), your one-stop shop for reprints and PDFs of the original Games Designer Workshop materials. Some time in production but very glad to see its release, are two new CDROMs available to purchase. The first is called ‘The Lost Supplements’ / Apocrypha-3, a copy of the disc contents is available by clicking on this link.

The disc contains such lost supplements such as ‘The Arctic Environment’ by the Keith Brothers and the thirteen issues of the ‘Traveller Chronicle’. Both CDROMs are available purchase from FFE for $35 each.

The second CDROM contains materials published using the Traveller HERO system; notably, it contains such supplements such as ‘The Bowman Arm’ and the ‘Spinward Marches’ system and adventures. I’d read about these but never found anywhere that they could be purchased, until now. If you want to look at the CDROM contents, click on this link.
There has been another release from Gypsy Knights Games, notably another in their ‘Ships of the Clement Sector’ series, namely the Broken Hill Class Prospector. This is the twelfth book in the series and I will be posting a review very soon!

Posted in Classic Traveller, Mongoose Traveller, Traveller TNE | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Five Years of Alegis Downport

Alegis Downport is five today – happy birthday to this blog! I can’t believe that five years have passed since the first blog post on this day back in 2011. A huge amount has changed in those brief five years, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to review my first post and compare what I originally wanted to do when I set up this blog, to what I have actually achieved.

I would like to mention before proceeding an apology to regular visitors – sorry for the lack of posts over the past few weeks, due to a family bereavement. Some things have to take a back seat and you concentrate on the more important things in life before routine can resume.

Looking back at my first post Welcome to Alegis Downport there were a few key aims I wanted to achieve:-

See what I can make creating some form of solo rules/adventures.
Create sector/subsector environments, worlds and background.
Adapt and develop new 3D artwork suited for the Traveller background

So lets have a lookat each one in turn; ‘creating solo rules/adventures’,  the solo rules side of things hasn’t really happened, perhaps because of the inherent difficulty in creating such a thing. However, I have some unpublished solo rules for space trading which was adapted from the Classic Traveller rules set, which I have used for some solo gaming around trading and encounters. One of the days I’ll get round to compiling these into an article or two. The adventures side of thing hasn’t been too bad – I’ve sent in regular entries to The Zhodani Base and The Amber Zone, one of which won the Zhodani Base 76 Patrons contest in 2011 – The Builder. I’ve just sent in my latest entry for this years competition, overall I think I’d consider that as ‘achieved’.

The second aim – ‘create sectors / worlds and background’, seems to have been achieved but in a way that I didn’t expect. The first posts along this line were in creating a fantasy world but using the Classic Traveller rules set. These have become the series ‘The Fantasy Traveller’, of which there are now ten parts and have received nearly 1600 views, which I’m more than happy with. Obviously there is a demand to meld the Traveller RPG rules set with a fantasy background, so I’ll continue to add to this where I can.

The third part ‘adapt 3D artwork for the Traveller background’ has been exceeded beyond what I originally hoped for. I’ve been very lucky in receiving a number of art commissions including a number from Gypsy Knights Games which in turn have become the covers for both PDF and printed books. I am extremely grateful to John Watts at GKG for helping me achieve this long-held ambition of mine!

There are two things that aren’t mentioned above which I didn’t predict; firstly reviews of Traveller RPG products have become a major feature of the site. I thoroughly enjoy reading and reviewing the new books and from the site stats, plenty of visitors get enjoyment from reading them as well. The top rated post Lune Class Freelancer and Spacecraft Design Sheets has so far been read individually over three hundred times. Gypsy Knights Games products feature highly as well and are an extremely popular part of the website, however there are too many to mention here individually.

Secondly I’ve made some good friends and got to know people from around the world who share the same or similar interests as me. The Traveller RPG community that I’ve been in contact with have been kind and generous individuals and I hope that one day I can meet up with them to shake their hand and say ‘thank you’ for their contribution to this blog.

Here’s to the next five years and thank you to my 4864 visitors (to date) who have viewed 18,233 pages over the past five years and to all my future visitors to this blog!

 

Posted in Classic Traveller, Mongoose Traveller, Role Playing Games, Traveller TNE | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fantasy Traveller Part 10 – Non Human Characters in Traveller

Whilst I have been writing these articles about using Classic Traveller in a fantasy world context, I’ve written them with two environments in mind. The first is using them as a games system within a fantasy world, the second to provide a planet within the imperium with a very low tech level background that adventurers from the current imperial timeline can travel to and immerse themselves in.

The later is restrictive in that it doesn’t allow for non-humanoid characters from the ‘traditional’ races that you see in other FRPG games, including Dwarves, Elves, Goblins and suchlike. However, I’d like to suggest some stat adjustments when rolling up characters from these other humanoid races, for the former fantasy world environment.

Using my Tunnels and Trolls 5th edition set of rules (which has very much been my go-to reference during the whole of these articles over the past few years) here are some suggested statistic changes for when you roll up a new character. The stat changes are made before they embark on any career generation process.

FT10table

There are some limits when making the adjustments to the initially rolled UPP statistics; if a modified stat falls below 3, then the adjusted value remains at 3. By the same merit the maximum UPP value that can be achieved after adjustment is 15 / F. I’ve included a few from the ‘monster’ races as a tip to the Flying Buffalo ‘Monsters! Monsters!’ rules set, a self-contained expansion of the TnT rules which I think brings a little extra variety to the character generation process.

I’m currently working on a huge weapons list which expands the Classic Traveller weapons and armour charts and tables, which I hope to post in the next part of this series.

Posted in Classic Traveller, Mongoose Traveller, Tunnels and Trolls | Tagged , , | Leave a comment