Cepheus Quantum Review and Publisher Updates

Bit of a mixed bag for this post, so an announcement first; I’ve been very lucky to be awarded second place in the Zhodani Base ‘Amber Zone’ contest for 2019! I’d like to thank BeRKA and Jono for the award for my scenario ‘Oceans Dirtside’. Well done to winner Mark Suszko for his scenario ‘A Shot (and a beer) in the Dark‘, to Marcus Maximus for his third place entry ‘Research Double-Cross‘ and to everyone that took part, I’ve enjoyed reading all the other entries.

Gypsy Knights Games have just published an addition to one of the ‘ship books’ series, namely the ‘Lance Class Gunboat’. The interesting thing about this is that it looks like GKG is going to expand into covering the Earth Sector in their Clement Sector background / ATU. I think this is a great move and I look forward to seeing how GKG envisages the Earth Sector in the 23rd and 24th centuries.

Just out this weekend (26th of October) is Stellagama Publishing’s ‘Liberty Ship‘ for its ‘These Stars Are Ours‘ setting, though it is compatible with Cepheus Engine in general. I’ll be reviewing both the Lance Class and Liberty Ship shortly.

Stellagama Publishing have updated their Cepheus Light product on DTRPG; though there aren’t any changes to the content itself, the layout has been changed so that the page count has gone down from 164 pages to 109, utilising a more compact layout. Its price has changed from a PWYW (rec: $10.00) down to a fixed price of $5.00. The revised print on demand softcover book version has just been made available (27th of October) and can be purchased this time through DTRPG for $15.00 (which includes the PDF version) as a special offer price. Previous print editions were available through Lulu.com. If you have already purchased this as a PDF through DTRPG, then you will receive the updated version free in your library.

Talking of Cepheus Engine and this posts main review, Omer Golan-Joel of Stellagama has taken the CE rules set and condensed them (using some sort of shrinking ray no doubt) down to a single sheet of rules, named ‘Cepheus Quantum’ which is available as a free download from DTRPG.

The rules allow for a referee to set up a game extremely quickly with a minimal amount of set up. You can create a character and run an RPG session using the set of core mechanics. Available in both European A4 and US Letter formats, the first side of the page describes the basic mechanic of resolution which of course uses two six-sided dice. This is then modified according to difficulty and your skill rating.

Character creation is a little different, condensed down into two attributes (Endurance and Lifeblood) which basically act as hit points and determine when you receive wounds that impair your ability to continue. For space reasons, Omer has chosen to take out all the usual CE character stats which initially makes the game feel a little ‘alien’ to the usual rules, but does make sense and I think works well.

You get the choice of twelve careers and are assigned a number of predetermined skills with the option to assign a point to one of the six available skills (Combat, Knowledge, Physical, Social, Space and Technical). Rolling up 2Dx1000 Credits, you have tables to choose Armour, Weapons, General Gear and Vehicles. I’ve pinched this reply from Omer on DTRPG as I thought it was worth expanding on what the skills encompass:-

Combatany ground or vehicle combat or related activities, from guns to swords to artillery to demolitions.

Knowledgescience, general knowledge, general knowledge, medicine, art.

Physicalathletics, stealth, recon, acrobatics, and so on. May also include lockpicking at the Referee’s discretion.

Socialall social skills, such as Streetwise, Deception, Carousing, Liaison, etc.

Spaceanything space-related; piloting starships, shooting ship weapons, using a vacc suit, etc.

Technicalvarious technical tasks, repairs, hacking, jury-rigging, and so on.

The first side of the page is then rounded off with a set of Personal Combat rules. The reverse side of the page starts with Vehicle Combat and what sort of damage weapons can do. Depending on how high your dice roll is, you refer to the regular or critical damage table. Even spaceship combat is covered; a nice quick system which has a table identifying location should your craft be unlucky enough to get hit. The rules are clearly laid out in two columns per page with text that is easy on the eyes to read. Most of the second column on the reverse page includes the legal statement and Open Game License, plus a QR code for a link to Cepheus Light. Its a shame that such an amount of space has had to be sacrificed for a two-side set of rules, but Omer has managed to shrink the OGL statement down as much as is physically possible. The legal stuff is necessary to make publishing this sort of thing possible.

For free, you can’t argue with this set of rules; it condenses the core mechanics down to an easy-to-pick-up product that you can use to set up a game with friends (even if they have never played an RPG before). I can see this product appearing with a short scenario so you have a complete evenings play in a single book, similar to what Flying Buffalo have done with many of their recent scenarios where they include a set of mini-rules with the book. I look forward to seeing more releases like this – keep up the good work Stellagama!

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Clement Sector, Role Playing Games, Stellagama Publishing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vehicle Design Guide Review

The Vehicle Design Guide is published by Moon Toad Publishing and is available from DriveThru RPG as a PDF for $19.43 or as a softcover book for $27.38 (which includes a copy of the PDF). The guide is compatible with the Cepheus Engine 2D6 SFRPG rules. Have you ever needed to build an ATV for your adventures or a squadron of armed flyers for your players to escape from? Now is your opportunity with the Vehicle Design Guide (which I’ll refer to as the VDG from now on) which seeks to address a bit of a gap in the market (at least where construction is concerned) for the Cepheus Engine rule set.

Authored by Michael Johnson, with significant contribution from Paul Elliott and Ian Stead (who also provided the illustrations), the book is pretty weighty figuratively speaking, coming in at 178 pages, plus several blank forms which are available to download separately. (Edit 26/10/19) I would like to add the following comments thanks to Michael (MichaelSTee) over at the Citizens of the Imperium (COTI) discussion forums:

The Vehicle Design Guide (VDG) is based to some degree on the system written by Colin Dunn (mostly), and published in Mongoose’s Supplement 5-6 Vehicle Handbook, in 2012. As I understand it, Colin was instrumental in getting Matt of Mongoose to release an SRD of the document.

Thanks Michael for the additional piece of information! John Watts from Gypsy Knights Games also commented over on COTI that all Clement Sector vehicles are built now using this toolkit. The original Cepheus Engine Vehicle Design is available from DTRPG (for those who are interested in comparing it).

I must admit I was a little daunted when I first skimmed through the book, in that it describes *a lot* of vehicles and modes of transport and the options available to customise them. The range stretches from TL1 horse and cart right the way through to TL15 anti-grav transports. Within these constraints, the guide aims to provide the available technology that is appropriate for the tech level; for example internal combustion engines upto TL7, more exotic power sources for TL8 upwards.

Page 10 starts with the steps to design the vehicle, which is broken down into seven distinct steps:-

1 – Chassis Selection

2 – Chassis Modifications

3 – Universal Modifications

4 – Add Armour

5 – Add Weapon Mounts and Weapons

6 – Add Modifications

7 – Creating a Vehicle Record

The book introduces an additional concept known as ‘spaces’ as a method to measure the capacity used for various functions. It is the amount of usable volume for every customisable component, weapon, electronics and optional feature. It splits away from the parts of the ship that are part of the chassis, such as control areas, engine and fuel and are not part of the total customisable spaces for the chassis type. The next couple of pages illustrate what a Vehicle Record Sheet looks like completed and an explanation for each heading. Pages 14 to 22 cover new vehicle rules and refinements which are reflected throughout the rest of the book. Its quite an eclectic mix; there are mentions of everything from wagons and rickshaws to propeller driven aircraft and sensors, stealth and electronic warfare systems!

The Chassis Selection (Step 1) starts with human or animal powered vehicles, with a format that is reflected throughout the book; a description and tables listing the performance by tech level and its construction, listing the number of spaces taken, cost, structure and hull points, agility, TL and shipping size. Depending on what the method of transport is, you also get tables and rules with any specific modifiers needed. The level of detail in this section is huge; different types of motorcycle, types of wheels (such as tracks, half-tracks, off-road capability, towing limits), trains, hovercraft, light and heavy ground vehicles, grav vehicles such as air/rafts, grav cycles and cars, helicopters, mechwarrior-style ‘walkers’, ships, airships, aircraft and ‘exotic’ designs such as Ornithopters and one of my all-time favourite vehicles, the Ekranoplan (which if you’re not familiar what one is, uses ground-effect to ‘skim’ over a body of water).

Page 60 includes a sub-section on the design of massive vehicles such as battleships, aircraft carriers, ground crawlers used for mining or huge walking vehicles.

Page 63 starts to refine the the chassis with ‘Universal Modifications’ where you can for example, increase or decrease agility, speed or physical structure changes (which affect the hull and structure ratings). Everything costs Cr so the listed modifications include whatever percentage / absolute cost it is to add or take away the modification.

Armour is looked at starting on Page 67; want to add enough armour plate to stop a World War II-era Tiger tank? You could, but the side-effect is that the speed reduction per step will probably render the vehicle inoperable…!

Page 72 covers Weapon Mounts and Weapons. Gearheads will appreciate the tables listing projectile and energy weapons that are as diverse as naval cannons, field artillery, Electromagnetic Gauss Guns, Laser Cannons, Fusion Cannons, Flamethrowers and Ballista’s. The section usefully looks at not just the weapon, but the projectile and its effect. There are sonic electronic ball-breakers (ok, perhaps not!), ok just about any type of lump of lead or shot that you can fire through a long pointy tube.

Modifications starting on page 86 starts with types of passive defences such as exotic high-TL Meson Screens or Gravitic Deflectors (aka ‘Defence Shields’ as they are more commonly known in some sci-fi circles) but also physical armour such as steel plate that you might see on a battlefield tank. Active defences include missiles, anti-missile laser systems, chaff, flares and decoys. A vehicle has to protect its occupants so you are presented with various types of life support systems such as airlocks, hostile and corrosive environment protection. Electronics and computers include a nice touch ‘Quantum Entanglement Communicators’, using technology which is only just being discovered. By the time TL12 comes around, these encrypted communications devices will become readily available. Its nice to see the author including cutting-edge technology mentioned in the media now, which could become the norm in the near future. The section also includes accommodation modifications, internal and external components, equipment and tools.

Section 8 – Vehicle Maintenance in a couple of pages, describes what maintenance programme is required in order to keep your vehicle in fully working order.

Section 9 – Vehicle Combat System offers an alternative combat system that encompasses all the stats and functions that are included in the book.

The final section (10) contains 55 pages of example vehicles, which cover just about something from every major type of transport mentioned in the book. I don’t know if it was deliberate or an oversight, but some of the illustration spaces were blank (eg. The exoskeleton powerlifter and the rock crawler) which seemed a bit odd when all the other vehicle pages had an illustration.

The final few pages include blank Vehicle Design Records which are also available to download separately as part of the purchase from DTRPG.

The layout across the book is reasonably well-balanced and every bit of white space is used, if not for text then a line art or 3D illustration is used. Because there is so much information, a few pages felt slightly cramped in order to try and fit everything on the page and probably could have benefitted with a slight increase in page count to make things not as ‘squashed’ together.

I feel as though I’ve only scratched the surface of the VDG as the author has tried to cover every conceivable mode of transport and option that can be bolted onto it, in an reasonably easy-to-use process to construct a customised vehicle. I must make a special mention for the 3D monochrome illustrations by Ian Stead, there are some really nice images of futuristic missile launchers, MBT’s (Main Battle Tanks) and exploration rovers – more please!

The ‘spaces’ concept takes a bit getting used to and can be quite alien to someone who is used to the usual Traveller dTon method to measure capacity. If I was to suggest some improvements to the book, I would have liked to see some sort of flow chart to explain the design sequence a bit more clearly, along with some page references to help you find the steps a bit more easily and get up to speed a bit more quickly. However there are a number of completed vehicle records so it is possible to ‘reverse engineer’ these and check that you are following the steps correctly. The design sequence isn’t massively complicated, but the book is so hugely comprehensive and contains such a massive amount of detail, I’m all for making these sorts of processes easier to get started with.

Does the VDG achieve its aims to be the ‘go-to’ book for Cepheus Engine vehicle design? I think mostly; for the amount of content and for the number of vehicles from just about every tech level you could think of, it hits top marks. For me, the design sequence process needs a little bit of additional clarity and refinement so that it doesn’t get swamped amongst all the other content. Once you get your head around the additional rules and used to the design sequence, I reckon this is valuable resource which you can utilise for any number of games. Though its one of the more pricer Cepheus Engine books, I think its definitely worth a look if you want to make a commitment to building your own vehicles; the sheer amount of content and additional rules make this a resource that you would return to when setting up a game. You’ll most definitely ‘get a lot of mileage’ from this product! (Groan) Finally I would like to thank Ian Stead for kindly sending me a copy of the Vehicle Design Guide to review.

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Outlaw – Crime in Clement Sector Review

Outlaw: Crime in Clement Sector is one of the latest releases from Gypsy Knights Games. It focusses on the more salubrious side of the type of games that can be played, ie. the different types of crime, its organisations, careers and typical tasks. It is available now from DriveThru RPG for $9.99 for the PDF, or $24.99 for the PDF and standard print softcover book, containing 129 pages. Will you find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy in electronic format? Lets find out…

The author John Watts has divided the book into the following sections:-

Crime in the Clement Sector (the types of crime)

Organised Crime

Crime and Punishment

Careers

Criminal Activity Tasks

Outlaws: Playing the Organisation

The book starts with a couple of pages with a discussion on the motivations and perception of crime. Crime isn’t always necessarily committed by people who don’t always need the money or valuables. People who have got themselves in desperate situations, or through no fault of their own are sometimes forced into committing criminal acts. Different worlds also have different views on what constitutes breaking the law, based on any number of factors which could include anything from age, religion, local laws and perception of what could be considered a minor or major act of crime. I think this is an important point to consider as not everything revolves around the player characters smuggling some dodgy goods or robbing a bank and the author sets things up in a respectful manner. Its an important point to note that no matter what, some crimes are just too heinous, whatever world you are on and John Watts carefully describes these as they are events and actions which equally can take place within the background to a game. They are not events that should be considered as actions player characters can take and the book is very careful to make sure its content is not considered as condoning any form of crime. The descriptions that follow cover 33 different crimes; just about everything from adultery and arson, through fraud and murder to prostitution, smuggling and treason. Each crime description contains several paragraphs describing the nature of the crime, game stats with success / failure and where appropriate, tables. The descriptions describe the crime in context to the 24th century Clement Sector, for example how the crime is viewed on a certain planet in one of the subsectors. The offences are also broken down into major or minor which have punishments appropriate to the severity of the crime. These differences help provide plenty of ideas for scenarios and background material for games. A useful table is presented on page 28; ‘worlds which that item is illegal’ which lists various items such as the obvious (alcohol, class 1 drugs) through to items such as sugar and caffeine (so you’re screwed if you fancy a cup of hot brown on the worlds Hendershot, Antryl or Roskilde…) Other useful tables describe what visa passes you will need for visiting the various worlds of the Clement Sector, including making planetfall, or visiting the orbital or downport.

The ‘Organised Crime’ section looks at a number of organised crime groups, including the Mafia, the Russian Bratva, the Irish Mob, the Agberos and the Yakuza. The author has gone into a great deal of detail looking at the structure of the The Mafia in particular, which the other organisations are based on to various degrees. Joining the 23rd century Clement Sector Mafia involves having the right decent (ie. usually Italian) and doing some work for them. By becoming an associate that member can start to work up the hierarchy within the rules operated by the organisation. However some groups are based around strict racial boundaries; this isn’t just limited to the various races that abound in the 24th century Clement Sector (such as Altrants or Uplifts) but also the original country that the organisation that originally came from Earth.

In addition to The Mafia-style groups, criminal groups can also join together to form conglomerations (also known as cartels or syndicates). Typically these operate within the sphere of a single world with the aim of working towards a mutual aim, instead of trying to destroy each other. An example of this, the world ‘Chance’ is described and how many of its operations became so successful they eventually became fully legitimate. There are some benefits in part of organised crime; ways of evading arrest, manipulating the law, use of ‘cleaners’ (hired to hide evidence of wrongdoing), hitmen or knowing a very helpful lawyer that is sympathetic to the organisations cause…! Rounding off this section is a description of street gangs and the types of crime that they typically get involved with.

‘Crime and Punishment’ in the Clement Sector describes what happens when criminals do get caught and what they can expect from the law enforcement authorities. Most worlds follow the usual structure of a trial, bail and sentencing process. If you’re lucky you’ll get parole, at worst, a death sentence. You get a well-structured game system to work through to help aid your games should a PC get caught doing something they shouldn’t. Lets hope the die rolls are low-scoring on this one!

Careers – seven new careers are presented here; Cleaner, Driver, Drug Dealer, Forger, Hitman, Prisoner and Smuggler. You are also introduced to ‘The Interstellar’, a sort of ‘Travellers Aid Society’ for criminals which is used as one of the benefits for the Cleaner, Driver, Forger, Smuggler and Hitman careers. Each career is given the full Clement Sector character generation treatment. Building on the careers, ‘criminal activity tasks’ develops the standard task rolls by providing some advice on some actions that a criminal character may attempt. These range from committing arson (!), blackmailing a target, defeating different types of lock and embezzling from a corporation. This is by no means exhaustive (there are 22 in total) but there is a good range comprising of persuasive to physical tasks.

The final section is a separate game in itself: ‘Outlaws: Playing the Organisation’ is a strategic game for several players where instead of playing player characters, you act as a leader of one of the sectors criminal organisations. You have a number of agents and use these to follow a number of steps to control their turf. The actions take place over weeks in game time. You create a leader and agents and have a number of tasks (eg. capture, sabotage, increasing turf control) along with long-term projects which take an amount of time and cash. For example you could upgrade the starport from class C to B, or build an army and start a turf war. There are a number of tables listing the worlds of the Clement Sector along with the stats which influence how effective your operations will be. The last page lists four scenarios with targets for players to achieve and the number of turns with which to achieve them.

Outlaw: Crime in the Clement Sector doesn’t disappoint as a product that delves deep into the underworld of the 24th century. I liked the separation between the character-based descriptions (80 pages) and the strategic game (37 pages) which makes the product that bit different (in a positive way) when compared to some other RPG products. The style of writing strikes a careful balance between the sort of things that players may wish to get up to and making sure that no boundaries are crossed. What are major crimes now are still major crimes in the 24th century, whether you are on Earth or thousands of light years away in another part of the galaxy. There aren’t many ‘narrative’ sections in the book, as per some other previous GKG releases. There are a few character illustrations by Bradley Warnes (of his usual high quality) to break up the text, but nearly every single page is full of text to some degree or another but without feeling heavy going. The is an exceptional product which could prove useful in almost any 2D6 SFRPG / Cepheus Engine game – this is another highly recommended quality product from Gypsy Knights Games. I would like to thank John Watts for kindly sending me a copy to review.

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Quick Review – Rucker Class Merchant Print Book

I’ve been looking forward to Gypsy Knights Games releasing a print book version of ‘Ships of the Clement Sector 16: Rucker-class Merchant’ for some time and John Watts at GKG has been hard at work making a number of the older titles in their portfolio available via print-on-demand (POD). I wanted to specifically pick up a copy from DTRPG as I wanted to see what the Rucker-class looked like in print. You can read more about my involvement in the design of the Rucker here and a review of the PDF version of the book here:-

SOCS16: Rucker-class Merchant Review Part 1

SOCS16: Rucker-class Merchant Review Part 2

I ordered a copy through DTRPG’s POD service earlier this month and currently costs $14.99. I was charged £16.80 plus a 49p non-sterling credit card transaction (£20.25 including shipping). I received an email to say the book was on its way after about 5 days and the book arrived in a sturdy card sleeve three days after the email. The book is a softback book and is 215mm by 279mm in size, not quite as tall as A4 and a bit wider. It consists of 64 printed pages with a couple of blank pages at the back. The spine is glued and seems like it will last a good many years of use.

The cover and back are glossy in colour featuring artwork by Ian Stead. The print quality is pretty good with a dark moody image on the front and lighter scene on the back.

Inside the book comprises of a number of monochrome and colour images, with black text on white paper. The paper quality feels good and seems to be of a slightly heavier weight than your average photocopier paper that you might use in your printer.

I won’t go into the actual content as this has already been covered in my two-part review. The text quality plus the monochrome deck plans are of a very high resolution and even the finest of lines on the deck plans can been seen with no loss of quality. The colour images (by Ian Stead and Bradley Warnes) suffer slightly in some of the more complex colour images (such as character scenes), from a slight ‘washing out’ of the picture where lighter yellows are used. However the less complex scenes (where the colour mix is a little ‘flatter’) aren’t affected in this way. The book has a large number of monochrome and colour scenes and isometric views of the Rucker which balance the text out quite nicely. Otherwise there are no other blemishes or marks as a result of the printing.

Overall, I’m impressed with the book and it always feels great to have a print book version of a PDF you already have in your possession. I’m glad I purchased a copy and along with another book I picked up from DTRPG also in the past couple of weeks, their point-of-order-to-delivery service seems reliable and of a good enough quality that I shall most certainly be ordering from them again.

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Patrons and Amber Zones

A short mention of a bit of an anniversary today which I’d like to mark; twenty years ago today I was in Cornwall for the 1999 total solar eclipse. Though it was cloudy at Watergate Bay (on the north coast of Cornwall), it was still an awesome experience seeing the moons shadow rushing towards us as we stood on the cliff looking towards Newquay. There must have been hundreds of people stood with me on those cliffs and thousands more in Newquay a couple of miles away. I managed to find a couple of photos taken with one of the first digital cameras that became popular (an Epson PhotoPC 600).

The moon’s shadow heading towards us…

Under totality…

We even had a display from the Red Arrows display team and a Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. It was a wonderful holiday with friends, one of which is sadly no longer with us. One day I hope to experience a total solar eclipse without the cloud!

Apologies for the slightly blurred picture, taken in the surf shack / bar next door to our hotel…

Moving on to the title of this blog post, BeRKa over at the Zhodani base has posted a Amber Zone competition back in June and whilst I’m writing my own entry for this year, I realised that I dont have any links to the previous ‘76 Patrons’ and ‘Amber Zones’ that BeRKa has been running over the past few years. So I’ve compiled this list for the previous scenarios that I entered, along with a link to the full list. I think this is a brilliant resource that BeRKa has put together and I thought it was worth highlighting as a source of useful gaming inspiration.

My own entries for the ‘76 Patrons’ competitions:

2011: ‘The Builder’https://zhodani.space/2011/10/24/the-builder/

The players are asked to transport a gang of burly construction workers but the results may not be what the players expected…

2013: ‘The New Messiah’https://zhodani.space/2013/09/12/the-new-messiah/

The players are asked to transport a religious leader across space to help spread his word. However odd things start to happen aboard their ship. Is the leader all as he seems?

2014: ‘The Venatorian Club’https://zhodani.space/2014/12/20/the-venatorian-club/

The PCs are tasked with acting as bodyguards looking after a group of wealthy people who want to want to go hunting. However the group may have other ideas about what – or who – is hunted.

2016: ‘Technical Support’https://zhodani.space/2016/04/17/technical-support/

The CEO of a large finance company believes there is some irregular activity going on in his company and he wants the players to pretend to go under cover as IT support officers and find out what is going on.

My own entries for the ‘Amber Zone’ competitions:

2014: ‘One Second to Midnight’ https://amber.zone/2014/08/30/amber-zone-one-second-to-midnight/

The patrons daughter is trapped on a world which is rapidly becoming engulfed in a global war. However the players won’t have much time as something catastrophic is about to happen and they don’t want to be on the planet when it happens.

2015: ‘Ice Cold on Alexandria’https://amber.zone/2015/11/15/amber-zone-ice-cold-on-alexandria/

Trapped on an ice planet, the players are asked to help rescue the patrons father in order to help fund their ship repairs. Nothing has been heard from the base and what they have been researching may not be too friendly.

The full list of entries and adventures is available here if you find yourself short of some ideas for a gaming session, there are some cracking ideas from a number of very imaginative people!

Posted in Adventures, Cepheus Engine, Classic Traveller, Clement Sector, Mongoose Traveller | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Dirtside Review

Since my last post back in July, I’ve been trying to work out what I have in my review pile or ideas to try and get back into the RPG’ing swing of things. My new job is going great, but its taking a bit of getting used to in respect to the change of routine and fitting in writing for the blog and maintaining a set of ‘creative’ ideas. So I thought I’d take a look at one of the books I purchased via Lulu a few months ago, now I have a couple of hours to myself.

Dirtside is published by Zozer Games and is available via Drivethru RPG in PDF for $5.99 or Lulu.com in printed softback book form for $11.00. It is 69 pages long and is aimed at the Cepheus Engine (CE) gaming system, though with little modification it could be used with Classic Traveller or most other 2D6 SFRPG gaming systems. To be honest I hadn’t come across Dirtside or even heard of it until I was searching for CE products on Lulu.com and happened upon it via a search. The book’s strap-line is a ‘comprehensive wilderness survival rules supplement for Cepheus Engine and Hostile’. In case you are not aware, Hostile is a complete CE-based RPG inspired by files such as ‘Alien/Aliens’, ‘Outland’ or ‘The Expanse’, also published by Zozer Games. It is set in near / real space and utilises star maps based on current knowledge of what star systems astronomers and scientists have discovered upto the present day. I picked up a copy of Dirtside a couple of months ago by purchasing the print version. If you buy a print version and get in touch with the author Paul Elliott, he will send you a copy of the PDF version for free, which I think is extremely generous of him. See the details on Lulu.com how to do this.

On skimming through the book, it instantly reminded me of one of my favourite Classic Traveller adventures ‘Marooned / Marooned Alone’ which I took a look at back in August 2017. It has quite a few similarities but with one exception, in that it doesn’t have an adventure combined with the book. Marooned I think was based a bit more the other way around, in that the adventure was the main aim of the product and the extra wilderness rules added with the book.

The printed book is provided in A4 format and features a glossy colour softback cover, inside the book uses bright white paper of good quality and is a mixture of colour and monochrome. It starts with a look at setting up your world environment and that staple of most RPG’s, the hex map. It describes the various scales going from planetary down to the sort of size that could be used to measure normal daily travel (regional), either by walking or using a vehicle. This is where you start to fill in the map, using the key for the terrain types. Rather usefully you get a colour version and a monochrome version showing alternative symbols. The next couple of pages look into the types of climate that you could find and how these influence each other.

Now you have your world, its time to look at the ‘Travel Checklist’. You are presented with a set of steps with which to work through so that you know exactly how far you can travel over a period of time. Helpfully, you have an example ‘Driving Distance Sheet’ which lists a way to structure each day in turn with the number of hours travelled, hex number and the type of event. Very useful in keeping tabs on what happens and where you are. Its important to note that players won’t always have a vehicle with which to travel across the world; walking and general physical activity is also mentioned.

If a player is hiking across the world to their destination, they will have to be self-sufficient in that they will have to carry what they need to survive. The author presents some easy-to-use rules with which to impose on the player and adjust their ability to walk to their destination. What is also interesting is that you also have a table adding a nice twist – the influence of gravity. When I mean the influence of gravity, its anything beyond the standard 1G that you find on Earth-like worlds. Denser gravity is going to slow you up, lower gravity is going to make the going *much* easier. If the environment allows it, you could construct a sled or make use of a beast of burden to help you transport your equipment. For this you are given some guidance on how they may make transporting your equipment easier. To round off this section, you are given some help on hunting, gathering, healing on the move and fatigue; the final point is especially important when you are being chased across a hostile environment and taking a rest could prove to be fatal.

The next eleven pages start with nine tables detailing events (on 3D6) that could be encountered depending on the type of environment the player finds themselves in eg. Jungle, mountain, forest etc. Each event is described in detail on the following pages – there are 52 of these in total and include any game stats necessary to influence the game.

Surprisingly, ‘Animal Encounters’ is only given two pages of coverage. However there is a reason behind this; in order to make the game more streamlined the author has taken the CE rules and made them simplified so that you don’t have to worry about the game mechanics too much and any detail you or the referee can fill in the blanks.

Page 41 delves into ‘Hazards’ – aka the various ways that the planet you are stood on can kill you. This section starts with looking at ‘Exposure’ and what will happen when you are exposed to the elements, such as frozen wasteland or an inferno world. There are some useful examples which show what happens to a characters stats when trying to travel in an unsuitable environment and how easily you can die from exposure, be it cold, atmosphere or heat. However there are ways to combat this and a number of types of protective gear are listed and how well they will protect you. Besides these environmental hazards, you also get rules for the effects of falling (according to gravity type), starvation and dehydration, operating vacc suits and radiation. The next four pages include some specific advice on ‘Desert Survival’ and ‘Arctic Survival’.

The final eleven pages describe quite a selection of survival equipment, including some pretty useful pre-packed survival kits. Besides these you have an amount of camping kit, navigation and observation, hunting, health and protection and tools. However in the absence of kit that you brought with you (or lost) its nice to see a section on improvised kit and how you can adapt raw materials into making rudimentary survival gear based around appropriate skills.

Dirtside feels like it is evenly balanced between the solo player and the referee. A player who also has a copy of Zozer Games’ ‘Solo’ could set up a survival game based around the content presented in the book with reasonable ease. This is an extremely useful supplement and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It makes me want to revisit ‘Marooned Alone’ with the Cepheus Engine rules and re-run that desperate dash across Pigliacci… Well worth purchasing and if you decide to go for the print version, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Classic Traveller, Zozer Games | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Long Road to Redemption Review

Its been a few weeks since I wrote a blog post, I’m now into week five of my new job and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. There is a huge amount to learn including various regulations and publications so its taking up quite a bit of time during evenings and weekends. I’m also booked on a certification exam in September so I’ve got some revising to do! However its setting me up for what is a new career path so its worth putting in the effort. It does mean that the blog won’t see quite as many posts as last year due to balancing time with the new job and the exam. I did get upto quite a rate of posts on the blog at one point last year, especially in August. However this year will be a bit quieter so I’m going to focus most of my posts on reviews and new releases, especially for Cepheus Engine and related products.

Talking of which, ‘Long Road to Redemption’ is the latest publication from Gypsy Knights Games. Though GKG publishes a substantial number of supplements and sourcebooks, there aren’t a huge number of adventures in comparison for its Clement Sector background so its always nice to see a new adventure published. The book is available from DriveThruRPG and costs $9.99 for the PDF, $22.99 for the softcover colour book and the same for the combined PDF/book. The book has 68 pages is written by John and Wendy Watts. As part of the package, you also get separate PDF handouts for the pre-gen characters included in the book.

The adventure is structured into four major parts;

1. Setting up the scene which includes basic ship operations, pre-gen characters and general tasks.

2. The first half of the adventure ‘The Doll Run’.

3. The second half of the adventure ‘Dashwood and a New Adventure’.

4. Planetary data, NPC and Pirates.

Part 1:

The adventure’s two halves can be played in either order or by omitting certain sections and though it is pretty free-format, there is some guidance and structure on how it should be played. Essential Scenes are what are required to move the story forward, Optional Scenes can be used at the discretion of the referee and Contact Scenes are moments which the players can ‘unlock’ by visiting certain personalities in the game.

You are provided with five pre-gen characters complete with colour artwork by Bradley Warnes, game stats and background. The crew also has a starship; ‘MV Contrane’s Opus’, a Lee-class merchant vessel to which are are supplied with ship stats and deck plans. The first part is rounded off with some crew general task descriptions and task resolutions for things like ‘Locating a Zimm Point’ or ‘Landing the Ship’.

Part 2:

Entitled ‘The Doll Run’, this can be played as a separate adventure entirely. The players are asked to transport a containment of bobblehead dolls from a toy manufacturer on Boone to Dashwood. The plot description goes into quite a bit of detail to help set the scene and cover quite a few possibilities as to what might happen in arranging the deal. Following this, the adventure sets up a few destination possibilities within the subsector (Fiume, Chriseda, Bowemiwak, Dade, Osiris, Arnemuiden, Dashwood; each planet has a unique set of encounters which include the three types of scenes previously mentioned. These help to establish the background plot for the Arrival on Pisgah where most of the action is focused on. Quite a bit of thought has gone into working out many of the possible choices that the players may take, including where their next destination may lie. This is covered by the extensive number of travel points and how long it will take to complete a Zimm jump and interplanetary travel times using Zimm drive and non-Zimm means to get where you want to go. Sometimes it felt a bit heavy going with the number of possible options described, but this does make it very easy for the referee and saves them from having to work out fuel consumtion, where to refuel etc so there is a great benefit there in keeping the game flowing.

Part 3:

‘Arrival at Pisgah’ is where the bulk of the action takes place and sets the players up with a rescue mission. However there is the opportunity to make some enemies here if they aren’t successful so my only advice to players who may be reading this is to make sure your ship (if not using the pre-gen Lee-class freighter) has ‘the right equipment’ to prolong a certain situation out…! The adventure rounds off with a decent punch up with the adventures main protagonists.

Part 4:

Describes the planet of Pisgah in the same format as all other GKG books with system details, physical data of the planet and a couple of maps. There are several pages of NPCs (though with no illustrations) and the final three pages detail a certain pirate group involved in the adventure.

Though the actual adventure itself isn’t world-shattering in what the players are expected to do, it is a good, solid set of encounters with a main phase that has a great deal of thought into describing what is going on and consideration into what possible options the players could take. I think this helps the referee out immensely by laying the groundwork to make the adventure easy to follow and minimises the work the referee has to do in-game. However I would recommend that the referee reads through the book thoroughly so they are familiar with all the options and choices that are available. It is extremely well-written and as usual with GKG products, contains a wealth of information and background that enhances what is already a very rich background in the Clement Sector. Along with the usual high-quality artwork from Ian Stead, Bradley Warnes, Joel Lovell, Michael Johnson, Jennifer Leonard and John Watts, this is another high-quality product from the GKG stables. Definitely worth checking out if you are currently exploring the Clement Sector and I hope to see some more adventures soon! I’d like to thank John Watts for kindly sending me a copy to review.

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