21 Pirate Groups is the latest release from Gypsy Knights Games, it is a 31 page PDF which is available for download from Drivethru RPG for $4.99. This is a Cepheus Engine-compatible / Clement Sector rules release I’ve been looking forward to reading; Skull and Crossbones: Piracy in the Clement Sector is one of my favourite RPG supplements and this looks like the perfect accompaniment to the original release – so let’s take a look…
The book starts with a rather nice cover by Ian Stead and after the book credits, dives straight into the first pirate group. I was slightly surprised by this – nearly all (from memory) GKG releases have an introduction or something to ‘set the scene’ for the rest of the content of the book. I should emphasise it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the product, it was just something that I’d noticed probably because I’ve now read quite a lot of GKG releases and I’ve probably got incredibly used to their ‘house style’! The books format as being in a similar style to the other ‘21…’ releases from GKG, in that you get a single page describing a specific situation / environment or in this case, a pirate group. Each group has a detailed description of their tactics, how the group came into being, notable individuals and operating area or sphere of influence in the Clement Sector. At the bottom of the page is a list of the names of the groups spacecraft, class (eg. Rucker, Atlas etc) and ship classification (runabout, missile boat etc). The exception to this is the last one ‘Bloodsplash’, which has quite a story and covers just over two pages.
There is some really nice artwork by Bradley Warnes (character scenes) and spacecraft (Ian Stead) covering four pieces through the book. It was good to see the variety of backstories presented in the book, in that not all the pirates are bloodthirsty or massively successful; Some are downright useless as pirates, some are driven by a moral purpose in trying to support colonies that are simply trying to survive or because of their background, simply want the goods and will leave the passengers alone (well, within reason…!) Others are driven because of religious belief or because they have been attacked and wish to exact revenge.
A few examples of some favourites of these; ‘Fierce Jaguar’, operated by Humberto Cronin, ‘Parke’s Raiders’ operated by Garrison Parke and the ‘Red Talon Cartel’ operated by Robert ‘Red Talon’ Johnson. The writing style is of the usual GKG high standards and I read the book from cover to cover in one reading (!) There is plenty of detail in each group description and there isn’t one page which could be considered as a ‘duffer’ or a poor one out of the whole book. Though mentioned in one or two of the groups, my only suggestion for improvement would be perhaps a bit more detail on ship identification (markings, colours) and preferred ship attack tactics. However that would have pushed each groups description over a single page as each description is already full of text! On reflection, I think my reasoning for that statement is because I enjoyed the narrative so much, I wanted to know more about the pirate groups described!
I did notice that the line spacing was a bit inconsistent between pirate groups 1-10, it changes for 11-15 and resets back to the original for pages 16 to 21. It made me turn the pages back and forth a couple of times until I worked out what the problem was. However I should say that I am reading the first release and the book hasn’t even been announced on DTRPG at the time of writing (morning of 19th of October). GKG are consistently good in tidying up things like this and I’m sure it will be updated to keep the editing looking consistent. **Update 19th of October evening UK time, the book has just appeared on DTRPG’s catalogue**.
Did 21 Pirate Groups meet my expectations? Yes, most definitely; there are one or two slightly rough edges, but these are easily fixed or are simply minor observations in consistency when compared with other GKG products. There is plenty to keep players and referees occupied, interesting ways to set up adventures and ways to create ongoing campaigns with recurring personalities. Encountering pirates is bad enough, but there are some groups described here that you really don’t want to p*** off, let alone meet! Overall, a very much recommended release from Gypsy Knights Games! Huge thanks to John Watts of GKG for kindly sending me a copy to review.