Well it’s the summer holidays and after a busy period at work preparing and starting various IT projects, I’m on leave at last so its time to catch up on some gaming reviews!
I’m going to take a look at the second book I’ve been kindly sent a review copy of from Stellagama Publishing, ‘From the Ashes’. The difference between the previous book I looked at and this one is that From the Ashes is published under an Open Game License (OGL) and hence does not contain any ‘closed’ or proprietary content from Mongoose or Far Future Enterprises. This basically means there is no specific mention of material from the Third Imperium (3I) or any Traveller-setting background information. I believe there has been a certain amount of controversy around the changes to the way that the Traveller SRD (System Reference Document) has been updated; I don’t fully understand the changes and I’m not going to go into them here. From the point of view from OGL materials however, simply expect to see Traveller game mechanic-compatible products, but no mention of the 3I. What it does do though is that it allows publishers such as Stellagama or Gypsy Knights Gaming to publish interesting materials or new backgrounds such as the GKG ‘Clement Sector’.
From the Ashes has made me aware of a new set of Traveller-compatible core rules called the ‘Cepheus Engine System Reference Document’ which are more closely aligned with the Classic Traveller set of rules, rather than the Mongoose set. Published by Samardan Press Publications, I have bought a copy of the new rules set on the strength of having ‘From the Ashes’ to look at and I’ll be taking a look at these in a later review.
From the Ashes as the product name suggests, is a supplement which describes optional rules and modifications for when characters are either mortally wounded or are close to death and there is a very slight chance of reviving the character. It is 15 pages long and is available to purchase from Drivethru RPG for $1.69 (normally $2.25) as a watermarked PDF.
The book is divided into the five sections which to start with, offer alternative rules for when a character is mortally wounded and sufficient medical attention can be obtained during the ‘golden hour’ following the wound. The section is broken down into how difficult it is to revive the character, but what also happens after; After all its perfectly reasonable not to expect that after your PC has just taken a couple of slugs from a .44 Magnum pistol not to have some form of permanent disability or injury? You get some tables to roll on for the initial surgery results and a long term injury outcome – the useful thing about this is that the tables aren’t tied to a particular tech level, but the descriptions are flexible enough to cover most tech environments.
The next section offers a useful replacement for the injury table used in the character generation process, which takes into account a characters endurance (END) and adds some detail behind the injury received. The next page describes rules for ‘Personnel Critical Hits’ which makes your game more lethal; either use with caution, or if you (the referee) are feeling particularly vindictive against a group of characters <grin>!
Rules describing technologies to replace body parts with metal and cybernetics are detailed in the section ‘The Future Prometheus’. This is a couple of pages long, with a long table on the chances of conversion to a cyborg and detail on the outcome. By the same merit the cyborg conversion needs a minimum of TL12, the final couple of pages detail recovery and regeneration by organic means which requires a minimum of TL16. Basically if you have enough money and if there is at least the characters brain left over (!) you have a chance of replacing the characters injured body organically. Again, the chances of this are not without risk and a number of side effects are detailed on the following page. The book is rounded off with the obligatory Open Game License declaration.
This is a really useful book; there is a lot of scope to inflict damage to characters by making games more lethal and expanding what happens to that character when they get badly injured. There is a lot of detail with each of the options presented and flexibility within them according to what tech level world you are on. Though there aren’t any illustrations aside from the cover, the book isn’t any less diminished from it and its very well written. What I do like is that there is huge scope for adventures and leads from the end of a game, to follow on from. The referee could build a scenario where the characters are tasked with rescuing an NPC’s body by making sure they reach a world with a sufficient tech level to restore their health; but what if it goes wrong? If the outcome isn’t what is expected, the characters could find themselves in a sticky situation…
Overall, a bargain price supplement (even at full price) that will fit in well with any version of Traveller you happen to own and I think referees will get a lot of use out of it. I would like to thank the writer Omer Golan-Joel for very generously sending me a copy to review.