Sixth Birthday and a Look Back

March the 28th is the sixth birthday of this blog – hooray and happy birthday to us! For today’s post I thought I would take a look back at some of the products I have reviewed and why they stick in memory for me. I’ll make one exception, the SOCS16 Rucker-class Merchant by GK Games; I love the book and what the guys at GKG did with my original design, but I thought that was a bit too much self-promotion in including it in the list.

Before I take a look at the past product reviews, a quick mention of some of the latest Cepheus Engine / 2D6 SFRPG releases.

From Zozer Games, we have ‘Solo’, a (as the name suggests) gaming aid for Cepheus Engine rules. This looks really interesting; I’ve got my own solo gaming rules for Classic Traveller, which are basically the trading rules married with some house encounter rules. Paul Elliot at Zozer has sent over a copy for me to review, so I’m looking forward to reviewing this very soon.

From Gypsy Knights Games, the steady expansion of their Clement Sector continues; the two latest releases are ‘Hub Federation Navy Second Edition’ and ‘Wendys Guide to the Fleets of the Cascadia Subsector’. Again, I’ll be delving into reviews of these as soon as I can.

Finally we have the lastest issue of Freelance Traveller magazine. Always a great source of material and articles, an excellent resource for a free download!


My top Five Favourite Products from Previous Reviews

I thought it was worth taking a step back after six years of reviews and have another look at all the products I’ve reviewed. I’m not going to list them in any number order, as they are all excellent products for various reasons, so I’m going to just list them with equal ranking.

Gypsy Knights Games – Clement Sector

GKG’s main SFRPG setting and what all their products are based around now. I originally reviewed this back in 2013. The core rulebook has gone through a couple of revisions; originally starting out as an ATU for Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition, dodged the bullet by avoiding going to Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition at the last minute and now is set firmly in the Cepheus Engine compatible camp. I find myself more and more leaning towards CS as my go-to background for SFRPG-ing. The background has grown into a very well developed whole system that has explored not just adventuring in general, but the politics, terrestrial non-humans (‘uplifts’), tons of spacecraft, adventure ideas and campaigns and finally the worlds of Clement Sector. Best of all, the products are very reasonably priced so you can pick fron the range and build up your collection at a steady pace. I highly recommend you take a look at the GKG CS product line, its a rich and developing ‘universe’ that is worth spending time in.

Zozer Games – Orbital / Orbital 2100

I’ve got a soft spot for Orbital (as it was when I reviewed it), having now been updated to Orbital 2100 and Cepheus Engine-compatible. I like the near-future background, approximately 100 years from now (Clement Sector is set in the 24th Century). There are no jump drives, its all very realistic and accurate technology that is either available now, or is on the drawing board now. In particular I like the spacecraft – I’ve got a rendering of one of the products (‘Horizon DRV’) in development, so I can produce mash-up’s of Shuttle engines with ISS-inspired modules and futuristic landing craft. The product line isn’t anywhere near as comprehensive as the Clement Sector, but with TV shows such as ‘The Expanse’, you can get a lot of inspiration and a ready-to-use background with Orbital if a near-future background is your preferred scenario!

Stellagama Publishing – These Stars Are Ours!

I only reviewed this earlier in the month, so I won’t go over the product in too much detail again. But – a couple of things that still stick in my mind after leaving the review to stew – its an up-and-coming background that is showing a huge amount of promise, with furure products on the horizon. The alien backgrounds are very well developed (I do like the Ciceks – badass lizards!) and with extra material, this should be a fun ATU to game in.

Gypsy Knights Games – Skull and Crossbones – Piracy in Clement Sector

A supplement that has stuck in my mind after reviewing it last year; I love the background material, the spacecraft and the characters. Who wouldn’t like to be a pirate on the run from the law? A really well balanced book that also explores the morality of being a pirate and what happens if the law catches up with you…!

Stellagama Publishing – The Space Patrol

To round off the list, I’ve gone for ‘The Space Patrol’; again another very well written and thoroughly detailed supplement about the galaxy’s lawmakers, which I reviewed at the end of last year. Interesting and useful, a quick flick through the book reminded me how much I liked this book when I originally reviewed it.



Conclusions from taking a look back?

Its great to see so many high-quality books and publications coming out, especially after the ‘break’ from Mongoose Traveller and moving to the Cepheus Engine rules as a basis for ATU’s. What I do like about the third-party market is that there is a wealth of gaming material out there, much of it very high quality and some ways, the break from Mongoose 2nd edition has done the some SFRPG publishers a favour. The reins are free and imaginations are running wild – long may it continue!

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Classic Traveller, Mongoose Traveller, OGL, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

These Stars Are Ours Review

These Stars Are Ours! is a new science-fiction setting for the Cepheus Engine 2D6 rules set, published by Stellagama Publishing. It can be purchased for $19.99 from Drivethru RPG and contains 209 pages. It is written by Omer Golan-Joel, Richard Hazlewood, Josh Peters and art provided by Ian Stead, Axel Lofving, Earl Geiger, Luigi Castellani. The book is pitched as a fully independent setting for the Cepheus Engine 2D6 SF gaming rules, which it requires for play. Throughout the book, though the Cepheus Engine is used and repeated where needed (to make it easy for reference) and where appropriate for the setting (eg. When following the Terran career path), additional rules and guidance is provided.

The premise of ‘These Stars Are Ours’ is a futuristic setting in the year 2260. The human race (‘Terrans’) have reached the stars and built an empire, but only after nearly two hundred years of oppression by a race of aliens known as the Reticulans (yes, they look like the greys from popular UFO stories). The Reticulans came to Earth in 2082 and through stealth and guile, eventually came to rule over the Terrans, absorbing Earth into their star-spanning empire. The Terrans became pawns and were made to fight the Reticulans wars against other neighbouring empires, due to the Reticulans being smaller and more lithe than the other races.

Eventually, a small incident sparked an uprising among the Terrans which became a full-blown revolution across a number of occupied worlds. The Terrans reclaimed Earth for themselves and drove the Reticulans back, setting the scene for now, the year 2260. 

Let’s take a look at each main chapter in turn:

Chapter 1 – you are presented with the background to the United Terran Republic, history and lead up to the present year 2260. You get a full breakdown of the military structure to the UTR, psionics, hybrids, corporations, technology, the colonies, religion, legal system, criminal and terrorist groups. The United Terran Republic is a young, up-and-coming player in interstellar politics, finally free from Reticulan oppression, setting the scene for adventure and intrigue. 

Chapter 2 – Aliens. Here you have presented all the major and minor types of sentient creatures that inhabit the TSAO ‘universe’. Each alien is thoroughly described under the headings ‘Biology’, ‘Psychology and Society’, ‘Culture and Spirituality’, the aliens sphere of influence aka their empire, their Military and playing one of these as a player character. This is really extensive section and its obvious a huge amount of work has gone into building the background of TSAO. There are a few line art illustrations which are sufficient to show what reach being looks like and in comparison to each other.

Chapter 3 – Characters and Careers. The really good thing about this chapter is that there are extensive character and career development paths that include in equal measure, not just Terrans but any of the aliens that have been previously described. There are quite a few tables including events for all the careers, mishaps and descriptions for lasting injuries and argumented equipment that can compensate for injuries. You’re taken through a character creation checklist, with details how to generate stats and background for any of the races presented. When reading through this, I noticed one of the material benefits is your own civilian flying saucer spacecraft – you don’t get one of those in many retirement packages! 

Chapter 4 – Starships. For me, this is probably the weakest part of the book. There are six spacecraft described, two Reticulan’s flying saucers and one each for the four major races. The ships that are described are good designs, nicely illustrated with full deck plans; however I wonder because there is so much material setting up the background and races, the spacecraft section was deliberately left a little short. Otherwise if the same amount of effort was put into the spacecraft section as the rest of the book, you’d have another hundred pages on top of the existing two hundred! As such, you end up having to rely on the standard designs from the CE rules, but these don’t have any illustrations or desk plans. Alternatively you could use some from alternative publishers. Hopefully there will be more spacecraft covered in a future supplement as it would certainly do the background justice.

Chapter 5 – Terran Borderlands. This section covers the worlds and astrogation data for the sector that TSAO is set in. The level of detail picks up again compared to the previous and you get a detailed description of each world with its current name (in 2260) and it’s astronomical name (eg. Wolf 359) with stats and allegiance. There is quite a bit that can be used to inspire adventures here; make sure you read every bit of detail! You also get an additional rule that has been added over the normal CE rules, being the worlds temperature. The habitable zone in which a star resides is the starting point for life to exist on a planet and secondly, liquid water. The rule is a nice touch which helps to bolster a planet’s UPP without being onerous to generate.

Chapter 6 – Patron encounters. No new rules setting would without adventure seeds and events to get your games started. There are a dozen single-page patron adventure seeds described here; all of them will need a little work by the referee to get things set up, but all are perfect for getting started in the TSAO setting. My favourite is ‘Marian Kelvin’ where the PCs have to purchase a very valuable bottle of wine. There is an opportunity for some humour with some of the complications presented, I’d like to offer a suggestion to bolster this encounter. Take a look at the third episode from the brilliant ‘Black Books’ series one called ‘Grapes of Wrath’, by Graham Linehan (Channel 4, UK) as comedic inspiration. In addition, there is another page of TAS news service excerpts with further ideas, in Appendix A.

Appendix B – Sources of inspiration. No surprises here, all excellent suggestions from the world of film, literature, TV and video games. Many will will be staples of any SFRPG setting, but there may be a few that you haven’t heard of.

The overall impression I get from this book is the huge amount of material and development that has been condensed into 209 pages. There isn’t much white space – just about every page has been filled with information about the setting. However, the book is very well written and edited, so it doesn’t feel like heavy reading. Artwork is limited to colour illustrations of the spacecraft and a few scenes by Ian Stead, the remainder being fine line art from the other artists previously mentioned but this doesn’t detract from the quality of the book. I highly recommend that you read every section; there is such a wealth of material presented here, it will certainly keep you going for a good while and inspires plenty of adventure ideas. Its nice to see a new setting which bolsters the Cepheus Engine rules set portfolio. Though the price is $19.99 (and minor reservations about the short spacecraft section aside), I think this is a very worthwhile purchase and worth investing some time to run some games in. I look forward to seeing supplementary material to bolster TSAO in the future! I would like to thank Omer Golan-Joel for very kindly sending me a copy of TSAO to review.

Posted in Cepheus Engine, OGL, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

The Wondrous Menagerie Review

Welcome to the review of the latest release from Gypsy Knights Games – ‘The Wondrous Menagerie’ (which I shall refer to from now on as ‘TWM’). It is available for $9.99 from Drivethru RPG, for which you get an 82 page watermarked PDF. The price is little more expensive than the recent releases from GKG, however what you get is a very comprehensive sourcebook packed with material. 

TWM starts with a short introduction and a couple pages of contents. The book then dives in with five pages of the history of Uplifts, right from the late twentieth century to the (Clement Sector) present day of the twenty-fourth century. The Clement Sector (CS) doesn’t have an identifiable alien race, so Uplifts are designed to provide this sort of ‘exotic’ element in CS games. An Uplift is a terrestrial animal which has been genetically altered to enhance certain abilities, such as intelligence, walking upright, enhanced dexterity or some other ‘special’ ability. Many were enhanced to the point they are close to humans in intelligence and dexterity. Unfortunately Uplifts were used for little more than slaves by some governments and organisations. Their legal status isn’t always the same as humans and many Uplifts are segregated away from the rest of human life, even though they are ‘expected’ to perform many tasks that humans don’t want to do.
In some ways, I initially found reading that there was a great deal of slavery and not as much respect for man’s fellow creatures as I would hope for, a little depressing. Perhaps I have a little of the hope from ‘Star Trek’ in me in that as the human race advances technologically, you would hope that we would try and treat each other with more respect and work together. I know its only a game setting, but in light of current events around the world, it would be nice to think there is hope for the human race! More on this though later in the authors notes, which helped to put this background into context.


The book then describes the differences between class 1,2 and 3 Uplifts and the various creatures abilities. You get descriptions for Apes, Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Orangutans, Bears, Bovians, Pandas, Cats, Dogs, Dolphins, Elephants, Horses, Kraken, Lions, Quetzals, Tigers and Yeti. This is a thoroughly well-written section and covers just about everything about the creatures abilities, society and their interactions with humans.

Starting on page 54, the next section describes Uplift characters and rules, should you wish to play one. Additional character creation charts are provided for each type of Uplift, including events and rolling for their legal status. Because of the difference in creatures ageing processes, there are quite a few tables to refer to which indicate any ageing rolls and modifiers to apply. You are then presented with the Uplift slave career track, described over 6 pages.

To help make the character generation process as well rounded as possible, you get a page detailing how to name an Uplift along with some examples. The next three pages describe three political groups and their belief structure, with a final page on characters detailing some unique skills. Though I’m not of a religious persuasion, I did find it interesting which Uplift races would choose to participate in the different human religions.

John Watts has provided a useful ‘authors note’ on playing Uplift characters; I found this extremely useful and rewarding in how to get the most out of the book. Playing an Uplift presents some unique challenges and helped me to understand how and why the background to Uplift life is set up in the way that is has (for example, slavery is common on certain worlds). Uplifts have a different view on the world and playing one could give a unique experience into their situation. One thing that I thought would have been useful to mention was why some tasks couldn’t be performed by robots instead of Uplifts? Or is it simply a case that AI in robots hasn’t progressed as far as I might think and genetically- engineering terrestrial animals has become an easier solution?

The final page is rounded off with a monochrome silhouette height comparison chart, showing the differences between the races presented in the book. The book is packed with some excellent character artwork by Bradley Warnes – favourites have got to be the grizzly bears in blue and white one-piece utility suits and the panda in a flight suit acting as co-pilot aboard a starship!

This is a thoroughly well-written, well-researched and thought-provoking book and well worth purchasing. It adds an additional dimension to playing in the Clement Sector – no self-respecting captain should be without a ships panda! I would like to sincerely thank the author John Watts for sending me a copy to review.

I would like to mention it was saddening to hear of the passing of Loren Wiseman, one of the co-authors of the original Traveller RPG. My sympathies to his family and friends, may the legacy of his writings be long remembered.

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

Rucker-class Artwork – Re-entry Vehicle

I’ve been mucking around with the Rucker-class model again in POV-Ray. I wanted to use the large curved ‘saucer’ section to my advantage to help show off some sort of flames as the craft skips into the atmosphere of a planet, starting it’s re-entry decent.

The planet and starfield is first genrated in Bryce and used as a background which is then imported into POV-Ray and rendered with the Rucker-class model. After adding some flames with some filters, I’ve got the result pretty much as I wanted. I could have spent some more time on the background I think, but its more of a proof of concept to get the flames and sparks experienced during re-entry.

reentryvehicle

Edit: Just released by Gypsy Knights Games is ‘Wonderous Menagerie: Uplifts in the Clement Sector‘, now available for $9.99 from Drivethru RPG. I’ll be taking a look at this soon!

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Classic Traveller, Mongoose Traveller, OGL, Raytracing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

SOCS17 Atlas-class Freighter Review

The latest in the Gypsy Knights Games ‘Ships of the Clement Sector’ series, the seventeenth book is the ‘Atlas-class Freighter’ which is now available from Drivethru RPG for $7.99. The fifty-page PDF follows the same format as previous releases from GKG in the same line, in that you get copious illustrations by Ian Stead, Bradley Warnes and Michael Johnson. There are two narrative sections describing a situation which features the starship in question, which helps to set up the book quite nicely. Like the previous Rucker-class release, you get not just one ship, but four variants in total.

The book continues with the background on how the Atlas came into being, the brainchild of a certain James Lancaster, a shipping magnate. Taking advantage of new drive technologies, the Atlas came into being at a displacement of 800 dTons fulfilling a need to standardise on some of the ships owned by Lancaster Shipping. Now a one hundred-year-old design, the Atlas has proved to be an incredibly successful design which can be found throughout the Clement Sector. Though not streamlined, it does have the ability to land at dirt side space ports, equipped with a total cargo carrying capacity of 345 tons across six external pods (57 tons each). The spacecraft can also be equipped with either a Utility Pinnace or Ships Boat, which are attached to the Atlas externally, on top. The cargo pods can be used in a variety of ways and a number of variations have been introduced over the years, including low berths or missile racks.


You get a complete walk through of all the decks, describing what can be found in the various rooms and what is available for passengers as it has capacity for 10 middle-passage passengers (in double-occupancy) with the standard design. The deck plans are split across two pages (one deck each) for all four variants along with a ship specifications listing. The four standard variants described are:-

  • Standard model
  • Colony Ship
  • Armed Merchant
  • Missile Ship

The colony ship utilises four out of the six pods to accommodate 440 low berths for colonists. The two remaining pods at the rear retain the normal cargo capacity. Upon landing, the cargo pods can be detached and used for accommodation.

The armed merchantman variant is equipped with additional hard points to help defend against pirate attacks; it should be noted though that the Atlas isn’t the ultimate freighter with plenty of armament and cargo capacity. The Atlas has no hull armour so if you get hit, the ship will take an amount of damage which could seriously impair the it. The advantage being is that if you can get an overwhelming strike in first, you are more likely to survive and beat your opponent.

The final variant is the missile ship; this is another bonkers variant (like the Rucker-class missile ship in SOCS16) where a substantial amount of the ship has been converted to carry missile launchers and ammunition. Page 33 illustrates this perfectly, with missile bays opening from the top of the cargo pods, launching their deadly cargo. Even a missile ship of this size has some limitations in that only two pods can launch at once at the same time as recharging the next two bays and bring them online to launch. Seven reloads of missiles complete the cargo bay usage.

Along with the full descriptions of the four Atlas variants, you also get specifications and deck plans for the Utility Pinnace and Ships Boat. To round the book off, you get an NPC ships captain and twelve adventure seeds, split equally between traders and military to cover all the variations of the Atlas.

This is another cracking book from Gypsy Knights Games with usual high quality writing from Michael Johnson and illustrations by the aforementioned artists. The Atlas reminds me of the ‘Python’ in the space trading game ‘Elite’ on the ZX Spectrum. It was the ship everyone wanted to take on and beat (aside from the Thargoids…!) – but you would get your ass kicked if you weren’t well armed! Definitel well worth picking up from Drivethru RPG; I would like to thank John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games for very kindly sending me a copy of the book to review.

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

Alegis Downport 2017 in Review

It’s 2017 and it’s time for the inevitable review of the year. To be honest, I was expecting the usual email from WordPress.com with a breakdown of my stats, but it never arrived. Looking at other websites I subscribe to, they haven’t been posted either, so I wonder if WordPress has changed its policy and is no longer sending these out? Oh well. 


Dad – stop taking pictures of me for your bloody blog!

I like to do a site stats review as it gives me some idea of what posts are the most popular, where I get my visitors from as it gives me some sort of idea of what to write over the coming year. So, without further ado, lets have a bit of a look what people found interesting at Alegis Downport…

Total number of visitors for 2017 was 5400; this is fantastic and nearly a 50% increase on last years total number of visitors of 3716. Average per month has gone up from 309 last year to 450. The most popular day was the 12th of September with 114 views and there are now 111 articles on the blog, up from 86 last year. Top three countries that my visitors came from were the United States of America, United Kingdom and Canada. The most popular day was the 12th of September with 114 views and there are now 111 articles on the blog, up from 86 last year. However it’s nice to see some visitors from as far away as Taiwan, Ecuador and New Zealand! I have tried to make a concerted effort to get posts done on a regular basis, though the start of summer are still low points with posts and number of visitors.

The top three posts were ‘Traveller Rules and Near Space’, ‘The Fantasy Traveller’ and ‘The Space Patrol Review’. The first and last of these I suspect are linked from Facebook (even though I’m not on Facebook) where a number of referrals have come from. The middle post shows the continuing interest of using and converting the Traveller rules set in a fantasy environment. Overall, its the reviews (especially for Gypsy Knights Games and Stellagama Publishing) products that generate the bulk of the traffic to the website.

Conclusion? 

I don’t see much need to deviate from current writing plans, I intend to continue to write reviews as products are sent over to me, but also still put in some variety with ‘The Fantasy Traveller’ series and the occasional single, non-series article (my Traveller Ships Crew Miniatures post seemed to be incredibly popular). I do publish thanks when publishers send me products to review, but I would like to send a couple of ‘big’ thank you’s – to John Watts and Omer G. Joel, of Gypsy Knights Games and Stellagama Publishing respectively who are very kind in sending me over copies their latest releases to review. Gents – I very much appreciate you doing this and this blog would be less without your support! I would also like to thank each and every visitor, from wherever in the world you may be; your support by visiting Alegis Downport, posting comments and ‘likes’ (not just here, but on Twitter as well) is really appreciated! 

I hope 2017 is safe and healthy for you all – best wishes, Steve.

PS – a couple of releases just appeared on DrivethruRPG – SOCS17: Atlas-class Freighter by Gypsy Knights Games and Far Horizon by Zozer Games, the former I’ll be reviewing shortly!

Posted in Role Playing Games | Tagged | Leave a comment

Horizon Survey Craft Review

For my last blog post of 2016, I’m reviewing the Horizon Survey Craft by Zozer Games. This is a free download available at Drivethru RPG and is compatible with the Cepheus Engine game rules. It’s a book that seems to have been on DTRPG for a while having being added to their catalogue back in 2012 but for some reason, I never saw it on Zozer Games product listings until recently, probably because it has recently been updated to the CE rules set.

The books ten pages of content starts on the third page (cover being first, with credits on second) with a brief mention of the setting it is designed for (Orbital 2100 / a TL9 setting) where humanity has conquered the solar system. There are no Zimm / jump drives – everything is using near-current (believable) technology and the limits that imposes. Earth and Luna are in a state of Cold War and look to gain advantage over each other, with the prospect of war never far away. For more on this background, why not take a look at the Orbital 2100 setting? I reviewed the book back in January 2013 – the product was called simply ‘Orbital’ then, before the update to the Cepheus Engine rules and name change to Orbital 2100.


The remainder of this and the following page describes how the Horizon Survey Craft came about, its game specifications (100dTon ship), specifications for the 5dTon Spider lander which it typically carries and external appearance. You then get a page of deck plans, showing all six decks and their components. You then get a one and a half page walk through with the pilot from end-to-end of the ship; this is a good way to add a description of the ship without getting too dry about what each deck is like. There is a brief mention of the variants available of the ship, a notable one is the type which has extra sensors and is used to keep an eye on Earth activities without drawing too much attention, much like the Russian trawlers that used to monitor UK military activities in the 80’s and 90’s. To round the book off, you get the stats for the pilot mentioned earlier and three other crew members of an example ship, the DRV 364 ‘Red Shift’.

As a free download, the Horizon Survey Craft is a bargain and contains more content than some paid-for single-page scenario’s. You don’t get any 3D art like some books, simply the deck plans and a simple drawing of the external view which is more than adequate. The book could be used in almost any setting that is at least TL9, or one where low-tech spacecraft are still used. It’s nice to see specifications for more primitive spacecraft types for 2D6 sci-fi, something that was in short supply a few years ago for the Classic Traveller rules set. Well worth a download – you never know when it may come in useful for your games!

As this is the last blog post of 2016, I’d like to thank all my visitors and people that have commented on the blog. WordPress will send me a stats summary in the next couple of days, but I know that there has been a rough 50% increase in visitors this year, which has been absolutely fantastic! Thanks again, here is to a safe and happy new year!

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