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!

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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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New Cepheus Engine Releases

Before I start with the main feature, I just wanted to mention that I left my (now former) employer in local government on Friday, after a very enjoyable seven years in employment. It also marks just over 25 years working in front-line IT support in the education sector, which I have now left. I’m starting with my new employer (also local government) in less than two weeks, but with a bit of a career change moving into Information Governance. The biggest difference will mean that I will get at least three hours of my life back from the daily ~70 mile commute, which will now turn into a <5 mile round trip. Its a career and employer I have thoroughly enjoyed, but its time for a bit of a change. A side benefit is that I might get a bit more writing time back…! Thank you for listening.

Anyway onto Cepheus Engine; there seems to be a lot of goings-on in the Cepheus Engine world at the moment; plenty of new releases, some free content along with printed (dead-tree) versions. I’m finding that more and more I’m enjoying the latest Cepheus Engine releases coming out of publishers such as Stellagama Publishing, Gypsy Knights Games, Zozer Games and Moon Toad Publishing. I thought I’d do a round-up of the new releases that have come out over the past few weeks along with other content that I have found just before going on holiday (I’m writing this at the cottage I’m staying at with my family in Bowness-on-Windermere in the English Lake District).

Printed books purchased from Lulu.com; I ordered some books from lulu.com which I’d spotted. I picked up:-

Cepheus Faster-than-light from Stellagama Publishing

Cepheus Light Pocket Edition also by Stellagama Publishing

Dirtside by Zozer Games

Hot Zone by Zozer Games

Pioneer Class Station by Zozer Games

The delivery arrived pretty quickly (despite some confusing information about who was the courier) and I’ve brought the CE Pocket Edition with me on holiday. I’ve always been pleased with items that I’ve bought from lulu.com and these books are no exception. All the books except CE Pocket Edition (I’ll call CEPE from now on) are roughly A4 in size and feature a glossy cover and back. Inside the pages are bright white with paper what feels comparative to standard photocopier paper in weight. I’m going to be taking a more detailed look at the books and content at a later date, but in the meantime here are a few snapshots. A nice touch is that if you order the print books, you can contact Paul Elliott of Zozer Games with your order details and he will send you a copy of the same books in PDF format, redeemable via DTRPG. CEPE is a digest-sized book in 196 pages, condensing the Cepheus Light rules set (also by Stellagama) down into a nicely portable book.

Gypsy Knights Games Releases

Gypsy Knights Games have released ‘Interface: Cybernetics in Clement Sector’ which is (loosely) a companion to ‘Artificial: Robots in the Clement Sector’ though both are distinct products and do not require each other to be used. Whatever types of 24th century personal enhancements you want, you can probably find them in this book.

Also out from the same publisher is ‘Almighty Credit: Corporations in Clement Sector’ which covers as the name suggests major and minor corporations and finance in the GKG background ‘Clement Sector’.

Moon Toad Publishing

Want to build your own vehicle? Drive around in your own tank and squish some ground-cars? Well now you can with Moon Toad Publishings ‘Vehicle Design Guide‘. This has only just come out in the past ten days or so and I’m hoping to obtain a copy to review soon!

Cepheus Engine Forum

A new website forum has been launched (on the 18th of May) catering for many of the Cepheus Engine publishers. The forum can be found at: www.cepheusengine.com and is free to register.

Stellagama Publishing Releases

Stellagama have updated their ‘Cepheus Faster-Than-Light’ super-rules-light edition of the CE SRD book for 2D6 SFRPG gaming. The latest version features an updated cover and layout changes; biggest difference I’ve noticed is that the page count has gone up from 38 pages to 60. I’m going to take a more detailed look as to why at a later date. I should note that the print version on lulu.com has also been updated with a gorgeous new cover.

I have also found on DTRPG some free content created by Stellagama (variously by Omer Golan-Joel, Richard Hazlewood and Anthony C. Hunter), under the following headings:-

Cepheus Light Character Sheet

Cybernetics for the Cepheus Engine

Belting

Trauma Surgery for the Cepheus Engine

Cepheus Light Character Sheet

This download contains both A4 and US Letter PDF formats for a nicely laid out character sheet, in both landscape and portrait formats. Clear, functional and does the job.

Cybernetics for Cepheus Engine

A three page PDF of which two pages is actual content, the last page being the legal open game license statement. A shame that on a three-page PDF one third of the content is legal stuff, but thats the license so it has to be part of the package, free or not. The first two pages list a total of ten cybernetic enhancements that someone can buy (with a few variations for some of the enhancements). For example telescopic limbs; hacking module or subdermal armour. You get a description, cost per tech level and details of enhancements.

Belting for Cepheus Engine

This supplement is four pages long, three of which is actual game content. You could look at this as a massively-reduced version of Uranium Fever (also by Stellagama) which is a full set of rules for mining and prospecting. Belting could be used to fill in a gap in a nights session to see if a party with its prospecting ship could find enough minerals and make a few credits on the local minerals market. You get details about how to find asteroids, mining them and what they contain – the basics to get you by.

Trauma Rules for Cepheus Engine

Once all your core three stats are reduced to zero in Cepheus Engine, your character is dead. However Trauma Rules offers options (over two pages of content plus one license page) for your character to cheat death. There is a chance that through surgery, your character can be saved with help from a medical team / autodoc – as long as you are fast in getting that character the attention they need.

These are some really useful optional rules and all add to your Cepheus Engine game and even better they are free to download via DTRPG. I think its really good of Stellagama to offer short supplements like this and it would be great to see a few more like this to enhance your Cepheus Engine game. With all these releases Cepheus Engine seems to be going from strength to strength and its nice to see a wide variety of content being released.

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Clement Sector | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Cepheus Engine Fantasy Traveller Part 2 – Character Classes

I’ve been interested in the responses and comments on the ‘Citizens of the Imperium’ Traveller RPG forum following my first post in converting the Cepheus Engine SRD to a fantasy world. So for part 2, I’m going to expand the number of converted careers from the CE SRD into something that would look like a your typical player-character party. From the SRD I’m going to apply the same methodology as I converted the ‘Hunter’ career, to the following careers:-

Barbarian

Mercenary

Rogue

Scout

An entrance to a dungeon, castle, or something else?

Character Generation Process

Background Skills (all four careers)

Same as on page 25, choose 3 or roll a D6 plus 1 per Education attribute DM and all are at level 0. This also replaces the homeworld-specific skills in the CE SRD.

1 Animals

2 Linguistics

3 Survival

4 Tactics

5 Vehicle (Wheeled Vehicle)

6 Streetwise

Career Qualification

Rogues, Mercenaries and Scouts roll as normal to qualify. I would say not to bother for qualification for a Barbarian, on my fictional fantasy world of Grond it’s not something you really have a choice in; more through matter of circumstances that a Barbarian becomes a Barbarian.

Service Skills

All careers get all the skills listed in their specific table, at level 0.

The replacement skills for each career are listed below.

If you already have a skill at level 0, there is no additional advancement if you get the skill again.

Survival

Roll for survival:

Barbarian roll STR 6+

Mercenaries roll END 6+

Rogues roll DEX 4+

Scouts roll END 7+

Commissions and Advancement

Because Barbarians and Scouts do not have commission or advancement checks, they get to make two rolls for skills instead of one for every term. However at rank 0, Barbarian’s get Melee Combat -1 and Scouts (instead of Pilot -1) get Recon -1. Mercenaries and Rogues can make a commission check at their second term of service by rolling INT 7+ / STR 6+ (bringing them to rank-1 Lieutenant / Associate level) where they can then make an advancement roll on INT 6+ and Rogues advance on INT 7+.

Replacement ranks and skills tables for Mercenary and Rogue careers.

Skills and Training

Each term you can choose from the Personal Development, Service Skills and Specialist Skills tables. If you have EDU 8+ you can also roll on the Advanced Education table. Remember that Barbarians and Scouts get to roll twice every term, all other careers have one roll per term. Select a table and roll 1D6 for the skill that you receive at level 1. If you have already have the skill, then increase this by a further level. (See replacement skills tables above).

Once you have made your skill checks, you then roll for survival as per each careers chance of survival. If you make the roll, repeat the process. If you don’t, something terrible has happened to your character (killed by huge boulder, tripped over and impaled on your own sword, fell into a shark infested… you get the idea). Alternatively you can muster out and receive the benefits entitled to you according to the number of terms served. For every term that your character serves, they age by four years.

Mustering out and Material Benefits

Characters receive one benefit per term served. An additional benefit is gained if the character achieves rank 4, two additional benefits for rank 5 and three for rank 6.

Cash Benefits

Up to three benefit rolls can be taken on the cash table, all the others must be taken in material benefits. Characters with Gambling skill receive +1 on cash benefit rolls. Note that cash is in gold pieces (gp) rather than credits (Cr).

Material Benefits

Material benefits may be characteristic alterations, physical goods or or some sort of societal benefit. Descriptions for the items in the tables:-

Riding Horse

This includes a horse that is trained to respond to a rider, plus the necessary equipment so that a rider can ride the horse effectively as for as long as reasonably required.

Scroll of Free Passage

The bearer is allowed to travel through the land of one kingdom or defined regional area and contains a seal of authority that is recognised and accepted by law-abiding citizens. It allows the bearer to pass unhindered and without financial charge through that regional area.

Armour (piece or full set, as described in the armour table)

A piece or complete set of armour can be chosen from the armour table and worn as per the requirements and restrictions for that item.

Weapon

The character leaves the profession with an appropriate weapon, which can be a hand or missile weapon. Choice is made from the weapons tables. Where a weapon has already been chosen, subsequent receipts of a weapon can be taken as additional skill rolls or additional weapons as preferred.

Dagger

The character leaves the profession with a choice of dagger or variant. Choice is made from the weapons tables. Where a dagger has already been chosen, subsequent receipts of a dagger can be taken as additional skill rolls or additional daggers as preferred.

Changes to Skill Descriptions

Comms

The character is trained in the use of understanding and using methods of short or long-range communications such as smoke, flags or leaving messages, patterns or signs that can be interpreted by others with the same skill. Other methods could be verbal (eg. making animal noises) or leaving a burning fire in a particular place. Increases in skill level allows the complexity of communication method to be increased and chance of it being interpreted by someone else reduced.

Specialist Armour (was Battle Dress)

The recipient was had training to wear and make effective use of armour that requires this skill to wear, in order to get advantage of its use. Specific types of armour require this skill at different levels which will be specified by the armour at time of purchase.

Gunnery (Cascade Skill)

The various specialities of this skill cover different types of large ranged weapons. When this skill is received, the character must immediately select one of the following: Trebuchet, ballista, cannon, mortar or battering ram. Some weapons may not be available due to the tech level of the world.

Engineering

The character is able to construct, maintain or take apart with sufficient skill that the item can be reconstructed, equipment or constructions within the tech level of their world. For example the skill allows (within reason) the character to construct personal items (eg. A sextant) or put together building projects such as a small fort or defensive position.

Computer

This character is able to utilise calculations and equipment to help resolve complex mathematical problems. Typical equipment available would be a slide rule, abacus, books containing astronomical data and logarithmic tables.

Demolitions

The character is skilled at utilising explosives (which would be gunpowder-based on the world of Grond) in various amounts, for the purposes of blowing stuff up. Starting skill levels would allow the construction of personal weapons such as grenades, higher skill levels are required to facilitate large-scale demolitions.

Piloting

The individual is competent in operating methods of transport such as boats, ships or domesticated flying creatures.

Final Conclusion

So there we now have a few character classes with some mechanics converted to a fantasy background. For the next part (subject to change – ha!) I think I’ll take a look at either a weapons and equipment book like I did for the Classic Traveller ‘Fantasy Traveller’ series, or look at some opponents for our character classes… which means monsters!

Part one of this series can be found here.

This article is released under the Open Game License as defined under the heading ‘In respect to Cepheus Engine and Open Game License (OGL) Products‘ in the ‘About’ page.

Posted in Cepheus Engine | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Piracy and Privateering Review

Back to my (well-overdue) review pile, I’m going to take a look at ‘Piracy and Privateering’ (aka PaP from now on), written by Josh Peters and published by Stellagama Publishing back in October 2018. This is a product that is compatible with 2D6 OGL sci-fi publications such as ‘Cepheus Engine’, ‘Stars Without Number’ or ‘White Star’ but it could be used with other SFRPG’s such as Classic Traveller as it is written as a system-independent supplement. It can be picked up from Drivethru RPG for $4.99 as a PDF (normally $8.99) and contains 84 pages. There are no print on demand options available at the time of writing. Correction: there is a print-on-demand option availabe through Lulu.com – Piracy and Privateering PoD.

PaP immediately reminds me of the Gypsy Knights Games book released back in 2016 ‘Skull and Crossbones – Piracy in the Clement Sector’:-

…and there is an amount of crossover between the two products. However I’ll reserve comparisons between the two until the end of this review.

Bearing in mind this is a system and background-independent product, the introduction starts with a look at the ‘motivation’ as to why you would want to play a pirate character and the challenges this presents a referee. This introduction rounds off with a short overview of the books contents, required materials and a little about the author.

The section ‘Piracy and Privateering Campaigns’ takes an in-depth look at how a referee would go about setting up a PaP environment so that characters can follow such a venture. The author looks into the different types of setting where the possibility of piracy could exist and the chances that players could make this a sustained campaign. There are a lot of useful points looking at the practicalities of space piracy. Do you ‘wait and lurk’ hoping that retirement-level-value cargo just happens to come along? Or do you actively go out and get intelligence on when the most valuable cargos might be shipped, will the ship be escorted and will there be anywhere advantageous where the players can press home their attack? There are pro’s and con’s in how you deal with the crew, once you have your prey within your grasp. Unless you want to make a reputation for yourself, you’ll want to take the cargo and leave with as little fuss as possible. There are risks in taking the whole ship as well, as the owner would want to involve the authorities in tracking down those responsible; there is more chance of this occurring than if just the cargo was stolen, which could probably be claimed on the insurance. The differences between piracy and privateering are discussed in quite a bit of depth and what the ‘Letter of Marque’ means. States-sponsored piracy may seem like a good proposition but if you get caught without sufficient justification, the state won’t get you out of trouble…

The next section ‘Random Space Encounters’ sets up the background to the encounter tables and how to present a star system that could be raided for pirate plunder. The text discusses the valid point that in reality because space is so vast, there is little chance of an encounter occurring. However, because there are many travel zones and shipping lanes, refuelling points and stop overs these chances are not going to be zero. To enable this, a number of encounter tables are presented depending on a number of factors, which include:-

– The Encounter Terrain; mainworlds, gas giants and the various zones of a solar system where traffic could be encountered.

– Traffic; the number of starships and stop over locations that are in the system at any one time.

– How safe is the system; is the system well patrolled, a frontier world or a backwater?

This then feeds the the process to generate the encounter which is described in a clear, easy-to-read set of steps, followed up with tables based on the factors previously described. These are all non-system specific but you are given enough guidance so that you can adapt the tables into whatever SFRPG system you happen to be using. For example one of the ship type tables (courier / scout) is broad enough that it could be easily be adapted to Classic Traveller or Clement Sector / Cepheus Engine with complete ease. The encounter tables aren’t limited to starships though; you have tables for ‘item encounters’ which include things like ‘large stations’ (naval bases, research or mining stations to mention just a few), planetoids or hazards.

Pages 57 and 58 give you a detailed example of how to put all this information together, so that you have a fully-fleshed out encounter.

Page 59 looks into the economics of piracy. No, this isn’t like a boring college lesson at all; its all relevant information for your players to actually make some cash out of the raid they’ve just performed on that huge naval base. This discussion is full of adventure ideas; the players having to pay off bribes to insiders who have helped the players with the raid; keeping the ships crew happy and paid; where do you sell the cargo, especially if it is ‘hot’? You’re not going to get market value so you’d better set your expectations low if you think you’re going to retire on the payoff from that cargo you’ve just nicked! This isn’t just a discussion however, you are given some game mechanics with how to deal with such situations.

To round off the book, you are presented with several adventure ideas (in the style of GKG’s ‘21 Plots’ or the Classic Traveller ‘76 Patron’s’ books), plus two specific system encounter tables and some NPC’s. The book has a limited amount of stock artwork in monochrome and colour which complements the content of the book.

Comparing to GKG’s ‘Skull and Crossbones: Piracy in Clement Sector’, the page count is almost the same, but GKG’s product takes a more descriptive approach (obviously as it is based around their ATU Clement Sector) but there are some common themes such as the economics of piracy, payments and life as a pirate. However much of GKG’s product is built more around the Clement Sector-specific content such as starship deck plans (which PaP does not have) and less around the generic encounter building that PaP is geared towards. GKG’s book is one of my all-time favourite gaming products and though PaP has some similar content, I find it stands extremely well on its own and has its own distinct identity compared to GKG’s product. In many ways they complete each other; the additional discussion around being a pirate and running piracy operations is stronger than GKG’s book, but GKG has more to offer with personalities, starships and what some individual worlds (in the Clement Sector) policy is towards piracy.

Piracy and Privateering is a thoroughly enjoyable read and useful resource for running space-borne piracy operations, 2D6 SFRPG referees will find a huge amount of useful material for their games which can be easily adapted for their own gaming ‘universe’. I’d consider this an excellent resource and set of tools for your games – therefore it is highly recommended! I would like to thank Omer Golan-Joel for very kindly sending me a copy to take a look at and for bearing with me for such a late review.

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Classic Traveller, Clement Sector, Mongoose Traveller, OGL | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Artifical – Robots in Clement Sector Review

Finally, spring and lighter mornings are returning to the UK at last. Though the first three months of the year haven’t been any near like last years poor weather, somehow it’s seemed harder to get motivated to write for the blog. However some time in the sun and fresh air has brought about a renewed attitude and a change in personal circumstances, which I mentioned in my last blog post. After twenty-five years, I’m finally moving on from working in front-line IT technical support and going into the field of information governance, having handed in my resignation with my current employer today. Its been a long time in coming but I’m finally getting to specialise in a field that has piqued my interest and I’ve been doing more and more work in the past eighteen months. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with my current employer, but its the right time in my career to move on into a subject that I’ve found interesting and challenging. However I’ve got a period of notice to work and a lot of work to do in the meantime, as I want to leave my current employer in the best possible position for the future.

A very long time overdue, I’m going to tackle the review pile, starting with ‘Artificial – Robots in Clement Sector’ by Gypsy Knights Games (which I’ll refer to as ARCS from now on).

Robots are obviously a huge part of many sci-fi stories and worlds and though its been a while in coming, GKG have put a lot of thought and consideration into ARCS. The book is available from Drivethru RPG for $9.99 as a PDF or $24.99 for the softcover book (hardcover is the same price at the moment, normally $34.99). The book is 100 pages long.

Compared to other books from the GKG stable, this could be considered one of their medium-weight supplements which is reflected in the price. The book has a very attractive cover by Bradley Warnes; you immediately get a good idea of how much detail there is in the book by the contents section, which is seven pages long.

The books core aim is to give players and referees the ability to ‘build’ robots by following a design checklist. Breaking the book down into its main sections:-

After the contents pages, you are introduced to the world of Clement Sector robots with three pages of background how robot technology has evolved from the twenty-first to twenty-third centuries.

The design process is summarised on page 13 with a clear and concise break down of how to build your robot. I’m not going to repeat the whole process here, but highlight the key parts. As you work your way through the design process, at the bottom of several pages you have a design example which helps to clarify the step. I’m always pleased to see this sort of thing as it always makes getting used to a new system / process a lot easier.

The chassis forms the base for all the components and parts of the robot; a variety of shapes and types are described, from basic frameworks to biosynths, the ultimate robot chassis in the Clement Sector. A biosynth is essentially a replication of the human body, almost completely to the point that muscular and certain nervous systems act in the same way. Chassis sizes range from 1kg all the way up to 20,000kg! A table lists the available space with which you can add components and its strength rating. You have a huge number of options available for the chassis such as additional armour, types of false skin and protection against radiation.

The power supply is the key component in deciding on what the robots duration and how much power will be needed to power its attached components. There is as much here in creating your type of power unit as there is building a spacecraft; there is plenty of information describing the type of power unit, recharge times and operating times.

Page 28 looks at extraneous appendages aka ‘arms’. Depending on what your robot will be used for you can choose from different types of armature such as ‘assembler’ (specialised attachments used for construction for example), ‘standard arms’ (human-like), or ‘tentacle’ (Cthulhu has had some design input). The section then follows with how to break the arm down into components such as having characteristic increases, branching (multiple arms from the arms chassis connection) or hydraulics.

Page 35 has a couple of pages on what ‘head’ options are available. A head could make the difference between how an organic life-form interacts with the robot, acting almost as a point of focus for communication, in the same way that two organic life forms would with each other. Ok, is it just me that find those headless Zhodani warbots a bit sinister?

Want your robot to get around? You’ll need some form of locomotion which is covered in the next six pages. You have quite a bit of choice in this area, ranging from air cushion and anti-grav, through to legs and wheels to water-based forms of propulsion (and a few others in between). Each form of propulsion has a table with its respective capabilities and costs, plus a brief description.

Part 6 (page 43) delves into types of armament, if you intend your robot to have offensive or defensive capabilities. Robots can carry weapons on integrated or external mountings and these are covered in the next four pages of the book. Note though; a biological synthetic can’t accommodate an internal weapons mounting, for obvious reasons…!

Page 47 looks at the one part that controls the robot – the computer. A number of factors influence the computer that is used in the robot which in turn effect game stats. There is quite a bit of information here giving you the choice of how much sophistication you want to put into the robot, balanced with how much money you have of course!

Page 53 (Software Programs) is a comprehensive section describing the programs that run in the robots computer. This isn’t just a list of autonomous commands, you have things like the ‘emotion emulator’ where you can give a robot the ability to express facial capabilities such as being happy, sad, surprised etc. I do like the table of ‘personality patterns’ where you can have the choice of ‘grumpy disposition’, ‘dull with a matter of fact attitude’ or ‘friendly and engaging’. Ideal for making a ‘Marvin the Paranoid Android’ robot character I think! The task software list contains software that is the equivalent of the usual skills that characters can gain, except that robots have to have sufficient core memory storage (ok, characters have to have this as well in some way, in the ‘old grey matter). There are some additional task software descriptions such as ‘cargo handling’ or ‘security’ or ‘valet’ which are specific to robots only.

A nice addition to what software programs are available for robots (and perhaps a reflection of modern technology and the way that we use applications) is the list of ‘apps’. These small programs are designed to perform a specific function and are much smaller than the regular programs. For example, you have ‘Jimmie’s 20 minute meals’; guaranteed pukka meals for your passengers with streaming narration and video (shoot me now or the robot, please). Or there is ‘mapfinder’; get the best maps for your local area/planet (useful) or ‘Yolanda’s Children’s Library’ (imagine a rogue robot blasting this out as it runs after you armed with lasers on a locked down transport ship). A very nice addition.

Section 9 includes all the types of sensors, communications and electronics you could ever want. Everything from visual, audio, taste and communications from civilian to military-class capabilities.

Section 10 (page 70) rounds up with ‘Other Components’, anything that isn’t already covered in the previous nine sections.

Sections 11 to 13 cover the game stats and how robots would ‘work’ within the Clement Sector rules. You also get a comprehensive section on attitudes to robots within the different subsectors; don’t assume that all robots are allowed within each planetary society. Some planets because or religious, cultural or historical reasons allow robots (or not) to varying degrees. This is especially useful if you intend to play a robot character, which neatly brings me to the following section on page 82. Its a useful and thought-provoking addition to look at the challenges when playing a robot character, some of which are similar when playing uplift or non-human characters. Its not a simple way to get a character with enhanced abilities by playing a robot, there a are great deal of disadvantages as well. The book rounds off with a number of design types, organisations and robot examples which are always useful to compare against when building your own robot.

So what do I think of ARCS? Its a thoroughly well researched book, presenting lots of options and components with which to build your robot, whether it be as an NPC, character or simply for an interesting encounter. It is lavishly illustrated with gorgeous colour artwork by Bradley Warnes, Stephanie McAlea, Tithi Luadthong and Kittipong Jirasukhanont. The author Michael Johnson has put together an excellent gaming resource for the Clement Sector (and Cepheus Engine) that is also an interesting read exploring the aspects of playing a robot character. Along with the usual high-quality editing and layout, this is another excellent product from Gypsy knights Games which I can highly recommend. I would like to thank John Watts for sending me a copy to review (and bearing with me so long in turning around a review!)

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