Ship Book Pukharra and Interview with Ian Stead

Ship Book Pukharra is Ian Steads latest work, independently published by himself as ‘Moon Toad Publishing’, available through Drivethru RPG. The book describes a fast scout ship, complete with deck plans and Mongoose Traveller ship stats. It is available as a downloadable PDF for the very reasonable price of $4.70. For this you get 22 pages, including a front and back cover and one page for the open game license.

The Pukharra, as the ship class is called, is a 100 dTon-class fast scout for four crew members. The book is structured with the first page covering a little background of the scout and its original design requirements, the next covering a general specification description. The following four pages contain descriptions for the four decks. An additional two pages list the crew for the ‘Smiling Jack’, an example crew for a Pukharra scoutship. Seven more pages contain full Traveller vehicle stats and deckplans, which are helpfully colour coded. The final two pages describe a sealed air raft, again with full game stats.

Cover art

The ship makes for an unusual sight in the spacelanes and from the way that Ian has described the interior layout, you get a sense of what it would actually be like to be in the ship. I did try to think would it be worth adding scenes to show what the ship looked like, but I know that from my own attempts, interior views of vehicles are extremely time-consuming and the writing more than covers this aspect.

What makes this book stand out is that it is lavishly decorated with Ian’s high-quality artwork. Numerous line art images along with colour scenes are used throught the book, depicting the ship in flight or on the ground, to give the reader a sense of scale and proportion compared to a human and other vehicles. The air raft description also includes an isometric view along with top, front-back and right views. The vehicle makes for an excellent ship to surface transport – its a shame you can’t go out and buy one now!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Ian’s book and have no hesitation in recommending it. I think it sets a new standard for this type of supplement and I look forward to seeing more of this type of work from Ian. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Ian for kindly sending me a copy to review.

An Interview with Ian Stead

As a sort of feature, I thought it would be an opportunity to ‘interview’ Ian and find out more about his art and how he got into ‘Traveller’. Here it is the transcript, I hope you find it as interesting to read as I did!

What is your age and how did you get into the Traveller RPG?

I’m 43 (44 next month).

Somewhere around 14, 1984 ish, I was in secondary school and the DnD bug bit me. I was reading this book called ‘What is Dungeons & Dragons?’ it mentions Traveller and I thought that’s for me. Started buying White Dwarf too, found the Traveller stuff fascinating, especially the ‘Travellers’ strip. Bought the LBB with my money from a paper round, played it, then designed lots of ships… that was the fun bit for me. I even ran the adventure ‘Sorry’ from White Dwarf magazine at a school RPG games day.

How did you get into sci-fi art?

From an early age I drew and I drew a lot. If it wasn’t war it was spaceships, often huge spaceships. Being brought up on a diet of Doctor Who (Tom Baker!), Space 1999, Blakes Seven, Thunderbirds etc does that to you. Then of course there was receiving my copy of the TTA book: Spacecraft 2000-2100AD as a sunday school prize that did it for me, I wanted to do stuff like that. I did Art college and all that, I feel I was dissuaded from doing any sort of sci-fi art there.

So about 10 years ago, I started dabbling in 3D art and then did a few pieces for publication and now I’m back doing it. Things really hit off after I started doing work for Mongoose.

What graphics tools do you use?

Sketchup, Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. I use a action set called Cosmic Pack from Digital Heavens for planets and such like.

How long does it take you to produce a typical starship colour image and a set of deckplans?

I think the quickest I have done one is about 5 hours. I’d say can knockout a ship and plan in under 6 hours, it’s quite tricky to pin an exact time on it. The size of the vessel is often the biggest factor.

The Pukharra was quite quick, just lots of of tweaking afterwards made it longer. I’ve got quicker, my only constraint at the moment is a lack of time, hence the plan to go freelance. My deckplans determine how the ship looks. I can create a model from the plans.

Who is your favourite artist and what do you find inspiring about their work?

Has to be the late Peter Elson. It’s the details, the shapes the colours. Love it, who says a ship has to be battleship grey? His ships have a functional look, I so miss his work. My favourite piece is the ‘Outposter’ or as it is called the ‘Lima’ in the TTA: Great Space Battles book. It’s a big red lovely vessel floating in a deep blue sky. Look at the hull and the detail, it’s amazing. I had to make a model of it. It was such a hard thing to do, alas it misses some of the detail, I hope I did him justice.

Do you have a favourite piece of work you have produced and if so, why?

It’s a hard choice. I’m very proud of the cover I did for Zozer Games ‘Orbital’ I had an ambition to do a cover for a book and that’s the best one yet I think. It’s simple, not much going on, just a big realistic hard sci-fi vessel cruising to Jupiter. I’ve done other covers, but that’s my favourite.

It’s an old one but this image:

Cover art

…which was inspired by the TTA: SpaceWreck book, so much detail, a huge vessel, dead on the sands of another world, what happened? Did the crew survive? How long has it been there? It reminds my I should do more wrecks.

You’re just about to go freelance – what are your intentions and where do you intend to take Moon Toad Publishing?

Time has always been my biggest constraint and there’s the tiredness from commuting. Going freelance means I can achieve more, I don’t think I will get rich, but I’ll get so much more done. Definitely more ship books in the pipeline and works for other companies too. Looking at a vehicle book and a gun book too. It’s a good thing I can write ok, do the art and the layout too.

Ultimately I will be doing something I love, yes designing ships for a living!

Then I would love to create a setting from scratch.

What are your artistic ambitions and have they been achieved yet?

I achieved two things I wanted to do, get self published, done that with Gorgon and completely solo with Moon Toad and do a book cover, I think Orbital and the covers for Gorgon did that nicely.

Want to develop and get back into 2D painting too, so miss that. It’s odd how I’ve gone 3D then combined 3D with 2D. I’ve started doing ‘renders’ that look like line art, inspired by Rob Caswell’s work on Traveller in the past.

I’d like to get into 3D printing too. I would love to do more TTA style stuff too. I think though the style has creeped into to a few of my pieces nicely.

Finally, if people want to get in touch regarding commissions, what is the best way for them to contact you?

Well or leave a message on the blog

Then there’s by Interocitor, Telepathy or via Sub-Etha.

Thank you very much Ian for taking the time to be interviewed and the very best of luck with the new venture!

About AlegisDownport

Musings on the Traveller RPG world, technology, astronomy and digital art.
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