Horizon Survey Craft Model

When Zozer Games published the Horizon Survey Craft supplement on DTRPG some time ago (which I reviewed here), I was quite enamoured with the design. So a few months ago (well, quite a while ago) I started designing my interpretation of the Horizon based on the description in the booklet.

After many interruptions and breaks from my 3D software (AC3D), I purchased the latest version that was compatible with my Windows 10 laptop and I finally finished the design just over a week ago.

I’ve published a 3D rendering over on my Digital Waterfalls Gallery site, but I thought it would be nice to poublish some alternate views of the craft with some snapshots from AC3D, on this blog. If you are flying one of these in a game of Orbital 2100 at the moment, I hope this provides some inspiration for you!

Unfortunately I can’t provide a link to the product as it’s been withdrawn from DTRPG, but perhaps the idea here could be used for an alternate TL9 startship design built in Cepheus Engine.

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Posted in Cepheus Engine, Raytracing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

21 Pirate Groups Review

21 Pirate Groups is the latest release from Gypsy Knights Games, it is a 31 page PDF which is available for download from Drivethru RPG for $4.99. This is a Cepheus Engine-compatible / Clement Sector rules release I’ve been looking forward to reading; Skull and Crossbones: Piracy in the Clement Sector is one of my favourite RPG supplements and this looks like the perfect accompaniment to the original release – so let’s take a look…

The book starts with a rather nice cover by Ian Stead and after the book credits, dives straight into the first pirate group. I was slightly surprised by this – nearly all (from memory) GKG releases have an introduction or something to ‘set the scene’ for the rest of the content of the book. I should emphasise it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the product, it was just something that I’d noticed probably because I’ve now read quite a lot of GKG releases and I’ve probably got incredibly used to their ‘house style’! The books format as being in a similar style to the other ‘21…’ releases from GKG, in that you get a single page describing a specific situation / environment or in this case, a pirate group. Each group has a detailed description of their tactics, how the group came into being, notable individuals and operating area or sphere of influence in the Clement Sector. At the bottom of the page is a list of the names of the groups spacecraft, class (eg. Rucker, Atlas etc) and ship classification (runabout, missile boat etc). The exception to this is the last one ‘Bloodsplash’, which has quite a story and covers just over two pages.


There is some really nice artwork by Bradley Warnes (character scenes) and spacecraft (Ian Stead) covering four pieces through the book. It was good to see the variety of backstories presented in the book, in that not all the pirates are bloodthirsty or massively successful; Some are downright useless as pirates, some are driven by a moral purpose in trying to support colonies that are simply trying to survive or because of their background, simply want the goods and will leave the passengers alone (well, within reason…!) Others are driven because of religious belief or because they have been attacked and wish to exact revenge.

A few examples of some favourites of these; ‘Fierce Jaguar’, operated by Humberto Cronin, ‘Parke’s Raiders’ operated by Garrison Parke and the ‘Red Talon Cartel’ operated by Robert ‘Red Talon’ Johnson. The writing style is of the usual GKG high standards and I read the book from cover to cover in one reading (!) There is plenty of detail in each group description and there isn’t one page which could be considered as a ‘duffer’ or a poor one out of the whole book. Though mentioned in one or two of the groups, my only suggestion for improvement would be perhaps a bit more detail on ship identification (markings, colours) and preferred ship attack tactics. However that would have pushed each groups description over a single page as each description is already full of text! On reflection, I think my reasoning for that statement is because I enjoyed the narrative so much, I wanted to know more about the pirate groups described!

I did notice that the line spacing was a bit inconsistent between pirate groups 1-10, it changes for 11-15 and resets back to the original for pages 16 to 21. It made me turn the pages back and forth a couple of times until I worked out what the problem was. However I should say that I am reading the first release and the book hasn’t even been announced on DTRPG at the time of writing (morning of 19th of October). GKG are consistently good in tidying up things like this and I’m sure it will be updated to keep the editing looking consistent. **Update 19th of October evening UK time, the book has just appeared on DTRPG’s catalogue**.

Did 21 Pirate Groups meet my expectations? Yes, most definitely; there are one or two slightly rough edges, but these are easily fixed or are simply minor observations in consistency when compared with other GKG products. There is plenty to keep players and referees occupied, interesting ways to set up adventures and ways to create ongoing campaigns with recurring personalities. Encountering pirates is bad enough, but there are some groups described here that you really don’t want to p*** off, let alone meet! Overall, a very much recommended release from Gypsy Knights Games! Huge thanks to John Watts of GKG for kindly sending me a copy to review. 

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Clement Sector, Mongoose Traveller | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

The Sorcerors Cave 1978

We all have had our ways of finding a way into boardgames and RPGs, some are chance encounters such as reading a book, some are through friends or through TV. My interest started at school in 1981 when I heard of someone playing (through a mutual friend) a new game called ‘Dungeons and Dragons’. Being someone that had been brought up films such as the ‘Sinbad…’ series, ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ with Doug McClure or anything to do with sci-fi, I already had an overactive imagination, so to speak. After much nagging and cajoiling through the mutual friend (named Adrian, aka ‘Ade’) I managed to get involved with the group. Philip (or ‘Marshy’ as we called him) was the one that had all the rule books and games, including the D&D rules, ‘Car Wars’ and ‘Necromancer’ by Metagaming/Steve Jackson. I managed to get a few games during dinnertimes at school (despite being told ‘I wouldn’t get it’ at first – children can be so cruel!) and bought bits and pieces from Marshy and Ade with some pocket money I scraped together.

The first ‘proper’ foray into owning gaming stuff was ‘The Sorcerors Cave’ boardgame by Terence Donnelly and originally published by Ariel (in the UK at least) back in 1978. I bought this from Ade as he was done playing it and I was eager to own any sort of gaming ‘kit’. I recall playing it solo, as the game could be played this way or with friends. The aim of the game was to reach the fourth level dungeon and defeat the sorceror and collect as much treasure as possible. Along the way you have encounter cards for creatures such as trolls and the deadly medusa! The box was supplied with rules, dice, counters, encounter cards and dungeon tiles. The games biggest advantage is that the dungeon tiles could be placed and changed each game, giving a different game each time you played. The rules were quick to start and I got into playing pretty easily. Sorcerers Cave served me well into 1982, but the games started to drop off as I got into more ‘advanced’ RPG and board games in 1983, when things took off with Tunnels and Trolls and trips to Games Workshop.


The dungeon tiles were used for games with miniatures as they proved to be roughly the right size for 25mm gaming, but eventually Sorcerors Cave found its way into my bedroom built-in wardrobe where it lay for the next few decades.

I thought the box was lost when I moved out of my parents house, however whilst doing a bit of sorting out in the garage a few weeks ago, I came across a box that had been packed up and was full of gaming and miniatures kit, including the SC box.


The quick couple of photos I took show that its still in reasonable condition, surviving being stored for such a long time. Everything seems to be intact and no components lost. I didn’t have time to spend more time looking through it, so it was safely packed away again. Now I know I’ve still got the box, I plan to open it up again in the near future, when I have some more time to spend on it. 

For those that are interested, the original writer Terence Donnelly is still around and has some notes about how The Sorcerors Cave game was inspired and developed. His blog gives an overview how the game system works and some of the follow up products, the expansion pack and The Mystic Wood.

Though not as advanced as many games today, I still have fond memories of The Sorcerors Cave game as it helped me get started in an enjoyable lifelong hobby.

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Diverse Roles – A Clement Sector Career Catalogue Review

Before going into the review, I’d like to send my sympathies to those affected by the terrible events in Las Vegas earlier today. A truly awful day.

Diverse Roles – A Clement Sector Career Catalogue is one of the latest releases from Gypsy Knights Games. A downloadable PDF is available from Drivethru RPG for $9.99 and also as a softcover book for $19.99. You get 96 pages, authored by John Watts and Michael Johnson. The book describes 19 career generation sequences which are compatible with the Clement Sector background, however the book can also be used with the Cepheus Engine SRD without modification.


So what do get for your cash? The best way I could describe the careers described in the book is by comparing it in the following manner; It’s not the same set of careers that you would see included with a core set of rules, or even in the first set of advanced rules or something like ‘Citizens of the Imperium’ for Classic Traveller. It’s more sort of a ‘third tier’ set of rules for those sorts of careers that aren’t exactly mainstream, perhaps some could even be considered a bit ‘exotic’. However, that’s not being derogatory in any way – the authors have written up a very useful set of careers which can be used in a number of ways.

The careers you get are: 

Adventurer

Arts

Belter

Bounty Hunter

Clergy

Corporate Shipper

Craftsperson

Fringe Marketer

Gambler

Instructor

Investigator

Organised Crime

Police

Politician

Port Authority

Prostitute

Scavenger

Thief

Engineer

The last one is paid some special attention, which I’ll go into later. So as you can see, the careers aren’t what you may consider as mainstream – but they can provide an interesting career diversion and open up interesting challengers for a player who takes on one of these roles. You could create characters from a number of popular sci-fi TV series using some of these careers, as a framework; Shepherd Book from Serenity (Clergy), Deckard from Bladerunner (Bounty Hunter) or Rey from Star Wars: TFA (Scavenger).

To start with, the career is broken down with the standard Cepheus Engine approach with roll for enlistment and choose an assignment. For all the careers presented here, you get three varieties each with a set of ranks and benefits for each. You have tables for skills and training and a D66 table of mishaps. These tables are very detailed – it must have taken a great deal of time to get all of these compiled – kudos to the authors!

Each career has plenty of variety and detail and having three variations adds value to the book. The engineer section is pretty comprehensive, offering eight variations covering aerospace, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, mechanical and space disciplines. Having come from a computer / electronics background myself, it’s nice to see the engineering career getting some ‘special’ treatment and recognition for its contribution to a space-faring society. The final section describes the process for creating non-random characters from the careers in the book. Artwork is limited to some very nice full page colour scenes by Bradley Warnes and an illustration of the adventurer career by Jennifer Leonard. You may think having so many careers the book may get repetitive; I didn’t get this impression, the text and tables are well laid out and there is some white space (plus the colour scenes) which breaks up the content nicely.

This is a very useful book to have, not just for Clement Sector adventures but for any Cepheus Engine games. A lot of time and work has gone into writing this book, especially considering it’s content is 80% tables! It is the sort of book that will have plenty of longevity in a referees or players rules set and I can highly recommend purchasing this from Gypsy Knights Games. I would like to thank John Watts of GKG for kindly sending me a copy to review.

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

Borderlands Adventure 1 – Wreck in the Ring Review

Borderlands Adventure 1: Wreck in the Ring is the first of a series of adventures set in the ‘These Stars Are Ours’ ATU, based around the Cepheus Engine rules system. It has been released by Stellagama Publishing and is available for $3.99 from Drivethru RPG, though at time of writing it is available for the reduced price of $2.99.

The adventure describes a contract job for the players group, where they are hired to help the patron recover salvage from a wreck located in the Gliese 408 system. The pay seems reasonable and as long as the players can find their way around zero-g and a vacc suit, they should be ok. The description of the wreck at the start of the adventure and the background to the Gliese 408 system begins reasonably enough, covering a page and a half. The main task for the players is to recover as much salvage from the wreck as possible, with various bounties available depending on what the players can recover. There are a few complications, but nothing I can say that would really challenge a party – the overriding problem is dealing with the environment they are working in, ie. a derelict spacecraft. The single biggest challenge to the players is a creature that was being transported in a secure berth and has lain dormant. This will reap a pretty good reward for the players, if they deal with it in the right way.


However, beyond that, there isn’t that much else going on in the adventure; overall its probably some relatively easy money to be made by the players. Encounters and things to avoid are referenced on the deck plans.

I think there could have been more added to the content somewhere, as the total number of actual adventure pages totals only nine out of twenty in the book. Because the initial set up of the background starts well, I was left wanting to know more. For example what was the real reason behind the loss of the ship? The first three pages cover an introduction and setting overview. The rest if the book is made up of a single page devoted to the glossary, a page of stats for the patrons crew members and two pages for the spacecraft wreck description and deck plans. The last page (deck plans), unfortunately I have to say is poorly laid out. The ships plans are printed on the top half of the page and look ‘squashed’, leaving a substantial amount of white space on the bottom half. Better use could have been made of the remaining space and page elements made more in line with respect to each other.

There are a few images throughout the book, a mixture of monochrome and colour which have been used to break up the text, sources including public domain / NASA and Ian Stead.

Compared to the recent Stellagama products recently released, I’m really struggling to recommend ‘Wreck in the Ring’ – its a below average release I’m sorry to say and the cost of $3.99 does seem a little overpriced. The currently reduced price of $2.99 may make the product a bit more attractive if potential purchasers still want to give it a go. However, knowing the people behind Stellagama, I’m sure they will address this in future releases. All of their previous releases in the ‘These Stars Are Ours’ series have been of a very high quality and I can highly recommend them (see some of the previous reviews on this blog). I would like to thank Omer Gowan-Joel of Stellagama Publishing for kindly sending me a copy of the book to review.

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

Zozer Games Solo Review Part 2

A link for the first part of my review of Solo can be found here.

In this second part of my review of Solo (link to Solo on DTRPG), I’m going to start with looking at the ‘Random Tables’ section. To help build some structure and give you some inspiration in setting up your adventure, Solo provides a number of tables with random encounters and reactions. The aim is simply not to go from one roll to another, but to use this to build the storyline and string the situations together. Writing it all down is a very effective technique which you are encouraged to do, there is nothing worse than trying to remember everything you’ve done / want to do and end up forgetting it.

You get eight detailed tables which cover reactions from NPCs and locals, law levels, what happens in a situation and types of starship reactions and encounters. These are generic enough so that you can use them in almost any game and say, assign specific types of starship to whatever ‘universe’ you are playing in. This section covers pages 37 to 52, from here you move onto the different types of campaigns part of the book.


The types of campaign are broken down into ‘Travellers’, ‘Star Traders’, ‘Naval Officers’ and the most extensive, ‘Survey Scouts’. The first campaign is broken down into a checklist followed by a series of events tables with examples such as situations to immediately throw the players into, onboard passenger ship events, ship malfunctions and world encounters. These are pretty comprehensive and use the D66 format.

The next campaign format some people may recognise; the ‘Star Traders’ section is based on an older Zozer Games title of the same name, which was published for the Mongoose Traveller first edition rules. I picked up the original Star Traders book some time ago so I was able to compare like for like. From what I can make out, this has been updated for the Cepheus Engine rules set, reformatted and text updated to fit in with the rest of the Solo book. You get a nicely written example of how to write and keep track of trading – this is a game in itself. You start with the checklist with some tables to work through, including a decent set of random encounters that help to spice up the trading runs. The Star Traders book was the inspiration for Solo as many of the techniques and solutions presented in the new book were incorporated from the original.

The third section ‘Naval Officers’ describes the Interstellar Navy and Space Patrols. This could be a very useful section for developing traits whilst creating characters and adding colour to events. One of the most useful alternative rules is a simplified system for space combat. This uses a way to compare the attacker and defender based on an assessment table of armaments and defences, which gives you a single dice roll to resolve the outcome. You then get some tables to determine damage and location. This allows you to concentrate on what happens to your party, rather than getting bogged down with too much dice rolling. 

The final section ‘Survey Scouts’ is the most comprehensive because it is potentially the most wide-ranging in scope. The section starts with giving you a structure with which to select your crew and a ship. You then move onto how to survey a system and how star systems are constructed, namely the different types of planets and how they are made up. There is quite a bit of information presented here so you could spend quite a bit of time building a system ready to explore. Next you have ‘Landing and Exploration’, where you are guided on how to get to the planet and some of the survey problems that you could encounter. The section rounds off with an example of play following the survey of a star system. The book finally has at the back a number of blank character, ship record, system survey, hex and subsector record sheets which can be printed out.

Going back to my original set of problems when playing a solo game, do I think that the Solo book addresses these effectively? It’s a most definite ‘yes’. No book can even think it can cover every potential situation or variation by having large numbers of tables and charts; in doing so I think such a book would be so unwieldy and daunting to use that it would never be taken off the shelf. Solo addresses this by getting the player to think and use their imagination – it takes a bit of getting used to because there is an amount of preparation to do, but its certainly worth it. The book also offers enough structure and supporting tables to be a very useful reference tool not just for solo play, but also for group play with a referee. At the same time though it does present lots of tables later in the book, it doesn’t fall down the trap of trying to be too comprehensive which is what it is trying to avoid. I found the writing style engaging and well edited, any book that provides lots of examples is a plus for me as this always reduces the amount of time getting used to a new set of rules and reduces ambiguity in its interpretation. You get various examples ranging from multi-page narratives to short paragraphs, all of which are useful. The book is light on illustrations, except for a dozen-or-so line art scenes.

Overall, I feel Solo is an essential product to buy no matter what SFRPG system you use. This isn’t just for solo play as I believe there are many tips, tricks, guidance and tables which will prove very useful for solo players and referees alike – this is a highly recommended purchase! Finally, I would like to thank Paul Elliott for very kindly sending me a copy of Solo to review. 

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Classic Traveller, Clement Sector, Mongoose Traveller, Role Playing Games, Traveller TNE, Tunnels and Trolls | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zozer Games Solo Review Part 1

Solo is a packed book that I have had on my ‘to review’ pile for some time, so I’ll apologise first of all to Paul Elliott (author of Solo) for not being able to publish this review sooner. Because Solo is such a useful product, I wanted to make sure that I wrote a review that did it justice, so I’m splitting it into two parts. This first part will cover the sections ‘Characters’, ‘The Plan’ and ‘Storylines’. The second part will look at ‘Random Rolls’ and the different types of campaign.

One of the ‘problems’ of the RPG gaming hobby is sometimes you simply don’t have any players to game with. This is especially true of old school gamers like me where real life, work, family make significant demands on our time and it can be difficult to set up a gaming session. For those in-between times where other players aren’t available, there is the solo gaming option. Different systems have provided solutions to this approach, Tunnels and Trolls is probably the most famous for its series of solo dungeons. Classic Traveller didn’t offer any similar ‘structured’ solo adventures in the same style as TnT, though there is DA4: Marooned Alone as the closest alternative (click the link to see how I got on with this a few weeks ago). CT does offer however many ‘in game’ ways to play solo, such as the whole character generation process and trading and I recall using AD&D some years ago which offers the random dungeon generator in the Dungeon Masters Guide (1st edition).

If your preference is to use one of the latest Traveller / SF 2D6 RPG systems, what are your options? Mongoose has some Traveller Solo adventures for Mongoose Traveller 2nd edition, but I can’t comment on these as I’ve never seen the book contents. For the Cepheus Engine rules set, Solo aims to provide a solution.
The book is split into five major sections;

Creating Characters

The (Solo) Plan

Storylines

Random Rolls

Types of Campaign

The book is available from Drive Thru RPG for $9.99 as a PDF (there is an option for a softback book format from lulu.com) and contains 153 pages. Starting with a (no pun intended) delve into the first section then, ‘Creating Characters’…

One of the most enjoyable aspects of gaming is to create characters and their background. Because Traveller / 2D6 SFRPG adventures tend to be more ‘group’ orientated (ie. you need many characters) Solo advises that you roll up a number of characters with which to play. As there are a number of things that can happen especially if you are commanding a starship for example, you stand more chance of advancing through a situation if you have many characters ‘at your disposal’. However, rather than simply rolling up a series of character stats, Solo encourages you to think of the relationships between your group and introduce how they react to each other. There is a really nice table in D66 format which lists some of the potential relationships that the party have had with each other, here are some examples:- ‘Bickers’, ‘Competitive Rival’, ‘Knows a Dark Secret’ and ‘Divorced Over Differences’. This all helps to build backgrounds for the party (and makes for some interesting ongoing situations onboard a starship!) Solo has some tools (such as the ‘Reaction Table’) with which to make best use of these relationships and other tools to add contacts, enemies and other NPCs. This assists you with the next section, ‘The Plan’.


As I mentioned earlier, Solo is based around the Cepheus Engine and first of all looks into the problems around solo gaming. In my experience, these can be summarised into four problems;

1. Trying to cover every single potential situation that could occur.

2. Trying to ‘randomise’ situations.

3. Attempting to make the situation ‘flow’ in a story-telling manner, so that it simply doesn’t feel like a series of dice rolls.

4. Not falling into the temptation of dismissing an unfavourable dice roll result and rolling again until you get the result you want, simply because its easier to deal with, or advantageous.

Solo addresses this by getting you to ‘take a step back’ and not necessarily worrying about having to try and cover every single potential solution, or to try and roll for it. Instead it tries to get you to think about the storytelling side of the situation and the flow of the adventure. This takes some preparation and a bit of getting used to, but the ultimate aim is to try and create more memorable adventures; its more satisfying to recall that you managed to fool the broker into accepting those dodgy credits and escape the cantina rather than thinking ‘My Bribery-1 skill helped me get an 8 and then roll a 10 to escape the cantina’. Thats the aim of the approach anyway.

Rather than trying to setup a complicated system with loads of dice, Solo has a nice resolution system where you simply roll a die based on the difficulty of the plan (which you have to decide on), which can then be resolved on one table as to what the consequence is. Its a neat system; you have to be honest with yourself and to a certain degree be disciplined in keeping to the roll result. However, because Solo encourages you to ‘storyline’ your adventure, this gives you the scope to elaborate and expand on the situation, which leads into developing the adventure further.

Storylines are the heart of any adventure, but you need some tools with which to set up the initial details. It can be very difficult to think of everything from scratch, without some sort inspiration or structure and frankly off-putting. Solo gives you advice how to best create a storyline, without getting too hung up on the details.

What I do particularly like about this book is that there are plenty of examples; though it is based on Cepheus Engine, it supplements it by simplifying some aspects and tailors it for solo play. To demonstrate what Paul is trying to put over, he’s provided lots of examples of how these processes work. This isn’t just a short paragraph or two, he takes each section and adds to it so as you work through the book, the whole process is demonstrated in great detail.

So thats first 36 pages covered; in the next part I’ll take a look at the remaining part of the book – random rolls and types of campaign.

**Update 14th Sept** – I’ve now publushed the second part of my review of Solo here.

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Classic Traveller, Clement Sector, Mongoose Traveller, Traveller TNE, Tunnels and Trolls | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment