There has been quite a bit going on in the Traveller RPG scene so I’m going to start with a Gypsy Knights Games book mega-review, including:
Clement Sector Core Book
The Dawn Colonies
Dawn Adventures 1
Dawn Adventures 2
This is a huge book of 140 pages and forms the core sourcebook for the new GKG setting that John Watts has been developing. It is available from Drivethru RPG for $15.99 as a watermarked pdf, or $24.99 for the dead tree softcover book and $29.99 for the hardcover book.
I should declare a certain amount of interest in the creation of the book, namely the cover artwork, another colour piece and a set of deckplans. I haven’t had any other input in the creation of the book so I’m going to be as impartial as possible. The aim of the book is to set the referee up with sufficient material to run adventures in the Clement sector, an alternative background setting for the Traveller RPG. The book is broken down into the following sections:
History of the Clement Sector and how this region of space became separated from the rest of human space (4 pages).
Sector maps totalling 36 pages.
25 pages of character generation which fits in with the Clement Sector history.
The next 36 pages cover starship operations, the Zimm-drive (the FTL method of propulsion used in the Clement Sector background) and deckplans for 5 starships.
The next 19 pages are roughly equally divided between organisations, corporations, politics and religion.
The book is then rounded off with a couple of pages on Aliens and 6 further pages covering adventures and campaigns, with an index and the obligitory gaming license statement.
Clement Sector postulates that in the near future, humans have discoved how to travel between the stars in a FTL capable starship. Nearby worlds have been settled, until the discovery of a wormhole which when travelled through, took people to the other side of the galaxy. Whilst this route was open, worlds there were settled as an additional expanse of humanity. However, after a few years of continuous use of this bridge between the stars, the wormhole suddenly collapsed, stranding the settlers of the Clement Sector. Independently, humanity is starting to prosper on the other side of the galaxy and this is where the referee sets the scene for adventures…
The subsector descriptions follow what has been published so far – for example, the Franklin or Superior subsectors have more of a description on their page than other, unexplored sectors. Aside from a spectral type for these unexplored worlds, there is little else. Some worlds do not have a naturally-occuring Zimm drive route.
Character creation has been adjusted from the main travller rulebook to reflect the setting, in that there are no major planetary empires (with the exception of the small Hub Federation) and any reference to empires from the Main Traveller book should be adjusted for single worlds. In addition, careers, skills and homeworlds have also been adjusted to fit in with the isolated Clement Sector background. Aging has also received a major change, in that skill rolls do not need to be made until 76 years old, because of the effects of anti-aging drugs.
Full specifications for five spacecraft that can be typically seen plying the sector spaceways are given; the Rucker-class ‘odd job’ merchant vessel, the Luxury-class’ yacht, ‘Trailblazer-class’ scout, ‘Atlas-class’ frieghter and finally the ‘Farragut-class’ destroyer, all complete with deckplans. All ships of course could be used in any other Traveller setting with little or no modification. Starship operations explain the differences between the standard Traveller rules and Zimm-space travel and why ships cannot exceed 5000-tons in size. Communication between systems still requires the use of spacecraft couriers, though in-system communication is handled by the use of lasers.
The section on noteable political groups and corporations is particulary interesting, with as diverse groups from the Solar Purity, who believe humans should not be this side of the galaxy; the Loyal Order of the Mystic Platypus (whose values aren’t as daft as their groups name may suggest) and the Blue Star Line, who can provide passage to anyone at a price to suit.
The book has a substantial section on running adventures in the sector with plenty of suggestions; indeed, the book as a whole is peppered with ideas so the referee won’t be left wanting for scenarios. There is also plenty of other pieces of artwork, to brighten the book and balance the text, including deckplans by Ian Stead.
Does the Clement Sector book achieve its aims as a lynchpin product for the other sourcebooks? In my opinion, yes; there is plenty of material to set up the ATU background and get players started with adventures in the Clement Sector. It sets you up for the other subsector sourcebooks. However in some ways you’re also left wanting to know more. John Watts could have written many more pages and produced a massive guide – but I think its a testament to the content of the book that you’re left hungry for more material – thats what makes the Clement Sector interesting and enjoyable to be in.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to obtain a copy in hardback of the book and its gorgeous! As much as I love and use PDFs on mobile phone, tablet and PC devices, there is something to be had by holding a printed book in your hands. It just feels more ‘substantial’ and I think you appreciate the contents as you turn each page. The only criticism I would mention is that some of the artwork where there is a lot of blended colour, does seem a little darker than the PDF version. However it certainly doesn’t detract from the overall look and feel of the book and the publisher(s) have done a great job.
The Dawn Colonies
Moving onto the next book in my review, the Dawn Colonies ($6.99, Drivethru RPG PDF) details four worlds of the Dawn subsector. Dawn has more of a ‘frontier’ feel to it, some of the worlds only being recently settled. The book has extensive planetary and system details over its 50 pages, which cover the now-familar format of similar Gypsy Knights products with planetary statistics, government and law, notable personalities and background history of the planet. There are some unusual features of some of the planets and interesting backgrounds; Argos Prime, with its subterranean seas; the ‘frontier’ feel to Dawn and the rough-and-ready environment and Tranquility, named after the original moon landings and the colonists who live there.
To get the best value from GKG planetary background books, you need to thoroughly read the descriptions – there is so much that a referee can glean from the text to help set up adventures and make them enjoyable. It is all too tempting to skim the books, see the familiar GKG-style layout and quickly dismiss the book out-of-hand. To get best value, read the book and note the snippets of information that will help to set a game up.
The book has plenty of colour maps, interspersed with colour art pieces of excellent quality. In addition, there are a number of random encounter tables and naturally-occurring creatures to add some colour to any trip to the systems of the Dawn Subsector. Another fine addition to the Clement Sector background, which leads me nicely into the next two books…
Dawn Adventures 1: The Subterranean Oceans of Argos Prime and Dawn Adventures 2: Hells Paradise (sounds like a Gordon Ramsey holiday programme…!) are adventures based in the aforementioned Dawn Subsector. Both are $5.99 each, the first book having 53 pages, the second having 46 pages.
Dawn Adventures 1 (what I will call DA1 from now on) is written by a new writer John Watts has employed – George Ebersole. Content of the book has the first 13 pages repeated from the Dawn sourcebook, namely Argos Prime system information and ship plans from the Clement Sector book, to help set up the adventure. The remainder of the book is new material, ie. the scenario. I won’t go into a great deal of detail here for fear of spoiling the book for anyone who might play it, other than it involves the players help deal with a major disaster. It reminded me of a giant 76 patrons adventure, expanded over 40-odd pages, where there are six possible outcomes, all of which are explained in a great deal of detail. The writing style is easy to read and there is plenty of information to help run the adventure.
The only negative thing I found was the location of certain pieces of information, namely the pre-generated characters. Personally, I’ve never used pre-generated characters but for speed some referees may wish to use them. The odd bit I couldn’t work out was why the character stats and their background was at the back of the book, rather straight after the initial introduction to the adventure. Perhaps it was for ease of reference, but still seemed odd to me. The map in my review copy I thought was of poor quality – the font and layout just struck me as being ‘out of character’ with other GKG releases and will hopefully be corrected in future updates. I should say that one thing that GKG are good at is updates to their PDF’s – if a problem is found, John Watts is very quick in turning around the updated version and publishing it to the download stores.
Overall, its not a bad adventure at all – interesting to read, I liked the six possible choices / 76 Patrons style of possible outcomes and for value, not too much information is repeated from other sourcebooks. This is a difficult balance to achieve, especially when trying to write a book that can be used stand-alone, but I think the writer has hit the right balance which makes the book a worthwhile purchase.
Dawn Adventures 2: Hells Paradise (or DA2), is the second adventure written by George Ebersole using the Dawn subsector background. The layout is more sensible this time, having the map back to its comparible high quality and nine pre-generated characters at the front of the book, just after the introduction. A new world in the Dawn subsector (TXE-605) is detailed along with a good quality colour map.
The adventure follows on from the events from DA1 and involves the players on a search and rescue mission acting on behalf of the Cascadia Colonisation Authority, looking for a missing ship from a rival organisation. Again, I won’t reveal any further details about the adventure but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it – it makes for tense play and a gripping conclusion. A number of elements from films such as ‘Aliens’ and ‘Event Horizon’ pervade; though it does remind me of an old ‘Terran Trade Authority Handbook’ story from the ‘Spacewreck’ book – I won’t reveal which one as that will give the game away! However, referees I recommend you buy this adventure – top marks – you won’t regret it!
Finally, I’d like to thank John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games for supplying me copies of the above books for review – I hope you enjoy playing them as much as I did reading them!