Game Planner Micro-Review

For this final post for the month of November, I have picked up a copy of ‘Game Planner’ from Drivethru RPG, written by Felbrigg Herriot. It is a scenario generator for Mongoose Traveller first edition, containing 8 pages of tables. The process is very simple; phase 1 you roll a D6 and you consult the first section of the charts, which lists the type of scenario. This then gives you an event with another number. Jump to that number and roll again on the chart. This gives you a specific type of scenario, again listed on the first page of the book. The remaining book lists the choices that you can make from phase 3, which provides the final bit of detail to help you construct your scenario.

For example, roll on the table for phase 1 (General type of scenario) – a 4 = an assault. Then roll for phase 2 (type of scenario – what type of assault) a 1 = stronghold. Then refer to table 24 for phase 3 – a 5 = military camp.

In addition, you roll again to help construct sub-plots, allowing the referee to build up the structure of a scenario. Its a nice idea that works well, its a shame that the instructions are supplied in a readme.txt file separate to the main book, which gives a feeling of inconsistency in the package. However, there are two additional files supplied, the book has been written in ‘Pocketmod’ format which allows you to fold an A4/letter printed copy into a small booklet, which you can carry around with you. The editing could have done with a bit more proofreading, as there are one or two spelling mistakes.

Overall, not having the instructions as part of the main book doesn’t really matter as you get the idea pretty quickly and is good value at $1.49. 

I have also seen a notification on my Drivethru RPG inbox that the ‘Ships of the Clement Sector 16: Rucker-class Merchant’ has just been released, so I’ll be downloading this later today and checking it out!

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SOCS 15 Milligan-Class Hospital Ship Review

SOCS 15 Milligan-Class Hospital Ship is the final book in the set of three Gypsy Knights Games ‘Ships of the Clement Sector 13-15: Escort and Support‘, available from Drivethru RPG as a Softcover colour book for $24.99 or as a PDF download (for just SOCS 15 only) for $4.99. It is 32 pages long and describes an important component in any fleet operations – hospital and medical facilities.

The ship is a 1000dT displacement spacecraft that provides complete medical facilities with evacuation transport capacity, served by two medical cutters and a fast transfer launch. Medical ships have been used since the middle of the 19th century and facilities and function have evolved in following conflicts through the centuries. If anything, having a medical component in a fleet is even more important in the Clement Sector due to the vast distances involved between worlds.

Whereas many (wet-navy) ships used for hospital purposes are simply re-purposed civilian cruisers or liners, the Milligan-class is a bespoke specialised design which Anderson & Felix (the main shipbuilders in the Clement Sector) have now taken over the construction of new ships since the collapse. An important capability of the ship is being able to land on planetary surfaces, which helps to minimise the amount of time the injured are waiting to receive medical attention. This ‘golden hour’ has been proven time and time again, for example as most recently by the British Army Chinook helicopters evacuating injured personnel from the theatre of operations and getting them back to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, where they can be seen by surgeons. 

Not just being part of a fleet, its entirely possible for one of these ships to be based somewhere (space or planet side) to provide a near-permanent medical facility.

The book describes how the ship is divided into three distinct decks, which can be isolated at various sections should the need arise. Double airlocks are also available in specialised isolation wards, essential when dealing with infectious diseases or viruses for example.

 

The deck plans are extremely detailed and cover just about every type of emergency or medical requirement needed. There was one design element I noticed, but this may be my 21-century thinking (and limited medical procedures knowledge here) forming this opinion; location 11 shows an isolation ward, containing 10 beds. However, as the recent Ebola virus outbreak shows, isolation procedures were vital due to the risk of cross-contamination between patients. I would have thought having a number of individual isolation wards would have been just as vital, especially with the risk of infection from unknown space-diseases (!) Perhaps the procedure would be to get the patients into the low berths at location 21, which is right next to the medical cutter docking bays. That minimises the route distance getting the patient from the cutter to isolation, perhaps that would be the 24th century approach?

Its rare to find a major problem with the Gypsy Knights Games products, they are always very well written, edited and illustrated (this book authored and deck plans by Michael Johnson with additional material by Bradley Warnes, who also supplied the artwork with Ian Stead. You get a complete breakdown of all three decks with location descriptions and deck plans, with details on the three service craft (one small shuttle and two medical cutters). The book is compatible with the Cepheus-Engine 2D6 SFRPG / OGL rules set. There is a great deal of background on how the design came about, along with its current operators (both naval and civilian) and some short operational ‘excerpts’. You also get a page of background on one of the major civilian operators of the Milligan-class; the ‘Lady of the Lamp Society’ and the book is rounded off with two NPC descriptions. I must say the one looks a bit like a serial killer – I won’t say which so you’ll have to buy the book to find out! The last page has six adventure seeds centred around the Milligan-class spacecraft.

Its good to see books like this featuring support craft, all too many publishers churn out books that look similar or have the same type of spacecraft. A very worthwhile purchase from Gypsy Knights Games, my thanks go to John Watts for sending me a copy to review.

Before I close this post, there are a couple of books that I wanted to mention; the first has just been released by Stellagama Publishing, called ‘The Space Patrol’. It is a 2D6 OGL / Cepheus-Engine compatible supplement that details rules and background for creating Space Patrol characters, background to the organisation and ships they use to patrol the spaceways. I’ll be reviewing ‘The Space Patrol’ soon.


Secondly, coming soon from Gypsy Knights Games is another spacecraft book – SOCS 16: Rucker-Class Merchant. I’m particularly excited to see this book as the original design is one I came up with for GKG a few years ago just as John Watts was launching the Clement Sector background. I produced a few covers and some deck plans for the Rucker-class, which were published in ‘Save Our Ship’ and ‘The Lost Girl’. Unfortunately due to real-life and job demands, my artwork has had to take a back seat and I only get chance to work on a few images a year, posted over at my art gallery Digital Waterfalls. Ian Stead is working off my original design, so I’m really interested to see his interpretation and the background to the Rucker-class! This should be out in early December – can’t wait!

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SOCS14 Boyne-class Replenishment Ship Review

The past week or so has seen the launch of two new Cepheus-engine / OGL compatible gaming aids; the first from Gypsy Knights Games; ‘Wendy’s Guide to the Fleets of Hub Subsector’, which describes fleet and naval backgrounds of the Clement Sector. Secondly, there is the ‘Space Patrol’, published by Stellagama Publishing. They will be both reviewed here soon! That’s the news, so lets jump into the review… 

Second in the ‘Ships of the Clement Sector 13-15 – Escort and Support’ collection, the Boyne-class Replenishment Ship is also available on Drivethru RPG as a single PDF for $4.99. Using the OGL / 2D6 Cepheus-Engine rules, it describes a 1000dT starship originally developed for the Royal Navy to support their fighting ships and became a successful export in its own right. It’s a very nice design; Ian Stead who has provided the starship artwork, has provided plenty of highly detailed illustrations. It’s a ship that looks the part and can more than hold its own with a total of ten hard points mixing offensive weaponry such as beam lasers and missile launchers, with sand caster defensive weaponry.

A number of nations bought the Boyne-class, despite some shortcomings which became apparent later in its service life, due to its size. Having the ability to scoop for fuel, it is supported by two transfer launches and two modular cutters. You get ship specifications and deck plans for both small craft.

Boyne-class

The book itself is 38 pages long and follows the same format as previous ‘Ships of the Clement Sector’ where it is divided into a situational commentary, introduction and how the ship came about, deck breakdown and deck plans (by the author, Michael Johnson) for the Boyne-class and service vehicles. There is plenty of artwork by Ian Stead and additional material by Bradley Warnes. There are some NPC stats for a military officer and six useful adventure seeds. However, you just don’t get the Boyne-class, which could limit the books usefulness, you also get the details of the commercial version of the ship – the Aranui-class.

The main differences between the Boyne-class and Aranui-class are a reduction in the amount of armament and the refitting of some parts of the ship as cargo holds. This bumps up the total cargo capacity to over five hundred tons – a substantial carrying capacity. There are five pages covering the the Aranui’s specifications including deck plans. The final main section describes a crew that operates an Aranui-class in the Clement sector, the merchant ‘Eveline’ commanded by captain Roxanna Trace. You get six pages describing four members of the crew (some useful NPC-stats here) and background to the merchant vessel, such as the trade route they take across the Clement Sector. To round off the book, you get another page with six more adventure seeds geared towards the Aranui-class.

Overall, this is a really nicely detailed book on a very useful spacecraft. The Boyne / Aranui-class is definitely something that the players could aspire to owning and having a 510 ton cargo capacity, there is plenty of room for long (profitable?) shipping runs – definitely a useful addition to your Clement Sector collection! My many thanks to John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games for kindly sending me a copy to review.

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Tunnels and Trolls Memories Part 2

Continuing my review of how I got started in Tunnels and Trolls, inspired by the GROGNard RPG files podcast. I was introduced to the solo dungeons by my cousin Carl, who bought ‘Buffalo Castle’, ‘Naked Doom’, ‘Arena of Khazan’ and the large-format ‘City of Terrors’. All the dungeons I’m writing about are the A5 format produced under license by Chris Harvey Games in Walsall, West Midlands. I never bought any of the Corgi colour versions, preferring the monochrome Chris Harvey versions with single-colour card covers. Comparing Buffalo Castle and Naked Doom, they couldn’t contrast each other even more if they tried; Buffalo Castle I found to be a bit easy, but a sod to make your way around. Too many adjoining corridors in between stuff happening. Naked Doom is a ba***rd of a dungeon; there is a 90% chance that your character will die in it, but it was immensely enjoyable! Finally seeing the Rob Carver graphic at the end ‘If ya got it, flaunt it’ gave me a huge sense of satisfaction in completing it.

Arena of Khazan is tough, but beatable. You become a gladiator fighting in the arena and can potentially earn a large amount of cash quickly by fighting various opponents. What I did like about the book was the variations and special combat situations where both you and your opponent could use unusual combat tactics. It added colour to otherwise what could end up as a ‘monster-bash-collect-the-cash’ type of adventure. When you get the hang of the betting system, you can make some cash quickly; invest it in arms and armour for the next rounds and you’ve have a chance of beating it. I’ve only managed to beat the dungeon one or twice by running through 10 fights and getting the 1000gp bonus.


Finally the City of Terrors (in the large A4-ish format with the gorgeous Liz Danforth and Rob Carver artwork); I’ve spent weeks in this mega-solo, be warned there is a good chance you won’t come out looking like you did before…! There are some truly odd situations that you can get into, but it does last and was incredible value for money.

Amongst these solo’s, I also ran through the GM adventures ‘Dungeon of the Bear’, ‘Catacombs of the Bear Cult’ and ‘Uncle Ugly’s Underground’ just about managing to complete them. Just like Big Jack Brass on the Grog-pod I’ll never forget the trolls in the Zoot-suits that were the elite troll guard in Uncle Ugly’s. At the same time, it was things like that, that you remember; the bizarre humour, the slightly unhinged fun gained by dodging giant crossbows, the feeling that the dungeon denizens were working as a collective to kill your characters and after a hard days slaying, would go down the pub afterwards for a pint.

After Carl sold all his TnT stuff to me, I carried on playing and got one of my friends Andrew at school interested. So I introduced him to the solo dungeons and we trotted off to Games Workshop in Birmingham where he bought a load, including:

Beyond the Silvered Pane

Sword for Hire

Sea of Mystery

Misty Wood

Gamesmen of Kasar 

Blue Frog Tavern

…whilst I picked up The Sewers of Oblivion by Mike Stackpole.

Andy DM’ed the dungeons after running through them solo and I ran through the Sewers of Oblivion. Credit to Mike Stackpole, the latter is a brilliant dungeon and extremely tough. It took several attempts to beat it with all the twists and turns, which made it all the more satisfying when I eventually did.

By the summer of 1985, exams were taking over and Andy and my TnT sessions were having to take second preference to revising. Just before I left school, Andy said he wanted to sell his TnT stuff as he needed money to contribute to buying a bike (I think) so I bought all the above dungeons off him. Games Workshop had stopped selling TnT stuff as it was becoming more of a ‘house’ store selling GW branded productions, so this was my last chance to pick up some TnT stuff.

I kept all the TnT books very safe and well looked after over the coming years, getting the books out every so often when something would remind me of TnT and re-running those solos again.

Despite it being maligned by certain members of the gaming community (unfairly, for whatever reason) TnT has had a big influence on me and my gaming over the years which formed the basis of ‘The Fantasy Traveller’ articles, where I’ve married Classic Traveller into an FRPG format. Despite the limitations of the solo format, I for one am grateful for the writers and Flying Buffalo for providing me with many hours of enjoyment and the most important things for me in gaming – ‘fun’ and ‘humour’!

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SOCS13 – Strikemaster-class Brig Review

Catching up with some Gypsy Knights Games products, I’m going to take a look at ‘Ships of the Clement Sector 13 – Strikemaster Class Brig’ in todays post. Available on Drivethru RPG for $4.99 as a watermarked PDF, it is a 24 page supplement detailing a specific spacecraft set in GKG’s sci-fi setting ‘Clement Sector’. It can also be used with the OGL Cepheus-Engine 2D6 set of rules. The ship is also available in softback book format as part of the SOCS13-15 Escort and Support compilation for $24.99.

The book follows the now-familiar GKG format of a few pages of a descriptive background / situation related to the ship featured, background to how the ship type came into being and specifications. You then get a breakdown of the ships decks and structure, along with game statistics and service vehicles. There are plenty of deck plans by Michael Johnson (who is also the author), topped off with copious colour and monochrome illustrations by Ian Stead and Bradley Warnes. In addition, you get an NPC’s details and a page of adventure seeds, which can be randomly determined by a D6.

Strikemaster

The Strikemaster is one of the most common military ships in the Clement Sector, typically finding itself on escort duties, anti-piracy or working in pairs extending a fleets sensor range by relaying information. You could see it as a interstellar-capable version of the System Defence Boat (SDB), equipped with four hardpoints featuring a variety of weaponry such as a particle-beam barbette, beam lasers, missile racks or sand casters. It has the useful ability to make planetary landings as it is a streamlined ship, or scoop fuel from gas giants. It’s a 400dT design which has the capacity to carry one ships boat, the details of which are also provided in the book. There are some excellent illustrations, including one by Ian Stead of three Strikemasters in close orbit above a planet, it reminds me of a shot from the film ‘Starship Troopers’ during the planetary invasion of the bugs world Klendathu. There are also various side view designs showing variations on the decals.

The ship is a nice solid design, nothing that you would call unusual but then again a good, solid, reliable specification is what the USSN (United States Space Navy) requirement called for. In some ways I came to a similar conclusion about the book, its not an unusual design but there is plenty of good quality content and the ship is something that would fit quite nicely into more than one adventure or campaign. Definitely another good quality product from Gypsy Knights Games worth picking up. I’d like to thank John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games for kindly sending me a copy of the book to review.

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Traveller Rules and Near Space

A couple of important pieces of news this week, along with a mini-review. First off the news – Gypsy Knights Games has released ‘Clement Sector: The Rules’, a full Cepheus-Engine 2D6 derivative set of rules for their sci-fi setting. This is pretty significant as there have been quite a few changes and upheavals in the Traveller RPG rules and supplements world. The changes involve the licensing of the Traveller RPG and the release of the second edition of the Mongoose Traveller rules set. Rather than trying to explain it myself, Rocky Mountain Navy has posted an excellent article about how the licenses affect publishers who wish to use the Mongoose 2nd edition and why many of these publishers have moved to release future material under the Cepheus-Engine rules set. This is more like the original Classic Traveller / Mongoose first edition / OGL rules set.

A number of other publishers have been updating their products to fit in with the Cepheus-Engine such as Zozer Games, with their ‘Orbital’ supplement, which has become ‘Orbital 2100’. Gypsy Knights Games have been releasing all their new material under the OGL license and in what seems to me to be a sensible move, have released their own rules set for their Clement Sector background and supplements. In some way this fills in a major component in their product line and perhaps makes them completely ‘independent’ of having to rely on a rules set publisher, such as Mongoose. This way, the publishers get to keep their intellectual property without having to hand it over to Mongoose, for the right to simply be able to publish supplements. In some way, it’s a shame because the Traveller RPG is becoming even more fragmented with variations on rules sets, but on the other hand it may make third-party publishers all the more stronger as they will have even more freedom to develop SFRPG material. In the end, hopefully the RPG market and players will all benefit.

In the past few days, I’ve been sent a copy of the Clement Sector rules by John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games, which I’m going to be reading and reviewing very soon. It looks like a fantastic product and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it. In the meantime, I’m going to take a look at ‘Near Space’ by Stellagama Publishing, a 2D6 Cepheus-Engine compatible supplement.

Near Space is a 20 by 16 star map of the local neighbourhood of stars around our own Sol star system. It is based on actual, real stellar data to provide the most accurate star map, as of the summer of 2016. Many games and films feature such worlds, so why not have a supplement that you can use in your SFRPG 2D6 games?

It is a short book, containing only 12 pages of content; don’t be put off by this though as there is a wealth of useful material here. The book is divided up into the following sections: Introduction; which includes some background about the authors and how to use the product, some rules expanding the world creation system based on astronomical classifications and explanations around the types of world, broken down by temperature and atmosphere. There is a comprehensive star list of all the worlds included on the map, along with UWPs. Ian Stead has provided the artwork for the maps and planetary scenes used in the book.

Near Space

The maps are clear and you are provided with several different versions in colour and monochrome for easy printing along with a large A3 version (dimensions – over a 20 by 16 parsec grid. The star map is based upon current astronomical knowledge of known stars that have been discovered so far by various means, such as ground-based telescopes or space observatories such as Hubble or Kepler. I’ve always enjoyed maps of the local star systems, originally fuelled by reading the Hamlyn TTA books when I was a child. They described world’s that were just within man’s reach after the invention of the DeVass warp generator and the discoveries made in the mid-life 21st century. The computer game ‘Frontier – Elite 2’ used the same local space map as background, presented as a 3D map. Frontier started at Ross 154, listed as a habitable world – as well as in the Near Space supplement. Ross 154 must have something going for it!

To back this supplement up, I would recommend visiting SolStation – a website that lists all the known stars within certain distances of our home star system, Sol. SolStation is a great resource which can help to provide additional background on what our nearest stars are really like, as far as we know now.

The second version of the provided maps aka the ‘HSC’ versions have a few stars added to make the map a little easier to use, for gaming purposes. That way you have the best of both worlds (no pun intended!). Though it’s a short book, there is enough content in this beautifully presented supplement to make this an essential purchase which can be adapted to any referees setting. The cost of the book is set at what you can pay (average is around $2.80) but I’d recommend being generous – it’s another great product from Stellagama Publishing! I’d like to thank Omer Golan-Joel for kindly sending me a copy to review.

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Classic Traveller, Mongoose Traveller, Mongoose Traveller Second Edition, OGL | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tunnels and Trolls Memories Part 1

I’ve been listening to the latest podcast from ‘the Grognard RPG Files’ which has been taking a look back at ‘Tunnels and Trolls’, my first and one of my favourite RPGs. The discussion between the lads at Dirk Towers (namely Dirk the Dice and Judge Blithy) covered their experience of getting into and playing TnT (as I shall refer to it now). Whilst listening to it driving to and from work (the podcast is about 90 minutes long), all the memories of my first delve into a TnT dungeon came flooding back. 

So here is my take on TnT somewhat in response to the Grognard lads experience – I wonder what yours was like with TnT?

My cousin Carl introduced me to TnT in July 1983; I’d stop over at my aunt and uncles and crash out in a sleeping bag on the floor in Carls room, which helped with those all-night dungeon-delving sessions. My first party was a mixed group of delvers with Humans, Elves and Dwarves, so there was a good balance of attributes between them. The first dungeon was what I’ve always considered as the ‘biggie’ – the ‘Dungeon of the Bear’. Filled to the brim over three levels with traps, monsters and treasure, if there was ever an embodiment of a hack and slay dungeon, this was it. My party came out of the dungeon (just about!) but I only managed to get as far as the first level and reaching the entrance to the second. I needed to cash in those experience points and bump those stats up, re-arm and re-supply and get ready for the next session. I was hooked!

But what was it that hooked me about TnT and not wanting to play The Other Game? I’ve always had a bit of an artistic streak and I came into gaming through painting miniatures. When I started to pick up RPG books at Games Workshop in Birmingham, I would flick through their pages and study the rules but it was the artwork that caught my eye equally. The unique style of the Liz Danforth and Rob Carver art in the TnT rules set and dungeons instantly attracted me and I picked up a copy of the TnT rules myself so I could make up my own dungeons and play the solos myself. 

The fifth edition rules cover (I’m talking about the orange-yellow cover with black line art version with the three delvers ready to step into the dungeon and all its adventures really sparked the imagination in me. This was backed up with the examples provided where the delvers are described with a running commentary how they get on fighting a pair of Orcs. These examples helped me to get my head around the rules set so I knew I was playing the game ‘properly’, something that was discussed in the Grognard podcast. That sense that you understood the rules correctly and the way that you were ‘complying’ with the way the game should be run was important. The simplicity of the TnT rules, the way that all the stats could be written out on an index card was what made the game addictive; and those 5th edition rules have the best weapons and armour charts of any RPG anywhere. I would spend hours pouring over those charts, trying to work out how much offensive capability my hapless delver could squeeze out of 3D6x10 gold pieces. That ‘delvers package’ for 20gp was a bargain in any market… 

In the Grog-pod, the lads discussed the spell names and why it put them off the game somewhat. Judge Blithy suggested it was the certain type of humour that was evident in the TnT games and preferred the more ‘serious’ spell names that could be found in The Other Game. Personally it was a level of humour that I got into and transferred to my own games; to me an RPG game should be fun and that means a certain amount of humour. I’m not saying that the Armchair Adventurers Club games were devoid of humour, it was that I got into the TnT-style and it was something that wasn’t necessarily for them; Judge Blithy specifically mentioned the spell names such as the classic TTYF (‘Take That You Fiend’, a form of fireball spell), ‘Fly Me’ or ‘Oh-Go-Away’. Everybody is different and as long as your game is enjoyable for you, then thats fine. 

Whilst I’ve been putting this article together I noticed that the second part of the TnT Grog-pod is out, so I will give that a listen. In the second part of this article, I’ll take a look at the solo dungeons and how I built my collection up. 

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