Earth Sector by Independence Games (IG) is a milestone in the (former Gypsy Knights Games – GKG) release schedule. It marks a substantial expansion of the Clement Sector universe and the prospect of a huge number of new releases from Independence Games.
Before I start the review, I would like to mention that the old Gypsy Knights Games name is no more, the website now having being replaced with a new link:
…and a new Twitter handle: @IndependenceGa6
The new website now renders much better on a mobile phone and existing GKG titles will eventually be re-labelled under the IG name.
Earth Sector is available from Drivethru RPG for $19.99 as a PDF or $29.99 for a softcover book. If you want to go premium, $54.99 secures you the hardcover colour book and both print books also get you a copy of the PDF. The book comprises of 302 pages, authored by Independence Games owner John Watts and contributing artists (amongst others) Ian Stead, Jennifer Leonard and Bradley Warnes.
Earth Sector should be considered an extension of the Clement Sector books, so you will need the rules books from Clement Sector (such as Clement Sector: The Rules), though you could use the generic Cepheus Engine 2D6 SFRPG rules or Cepheus Light from Stellagama Publishing with a little adaptation.
First of all, a (future) history lesson for those that aren’t familiar with the Clement Sector background and where Earth fits in. The Clement Sector is a group of worlds located on the other side of the galaxy settled by humans set in the 24th century. The Clement Sector was accessed via a worm hole ‘conduit’ and allowed the human race to expand and colonise several sectors of space. Unfortunately the conduit collapsed in 2331, trapping the humans located in the Clement Sector and any further link with Earth. So far, the GKG products have concentrated on the Clement Sector with little or no mention of what has been happening on Earth. Now with the establishment of Independence Games, the focus is back on ‘this side’ of the worm hole but a few years after the collapse, being set in 2350.
The most substantial difference between the worlds of the Clement Sector (CS) and the settled worlds in Earth Sector (ES) are that CS worlds are essentially independent and have their own politics, defence, government and ways of life. ES worlds are controlled by the nations of Earth and are generally linked or grouped together in roughly the same sector of space.
With this in mind, its time to look at the Earth Sector book itself.
With a short introduction on pages 2 and 3, the real ‘meat’ of the book starts on page 12, with a detailed look at the spacefaring nations of Earth who have colonised worlds in the sectors and sub-sectors surrounding Earth. The qualification for the term ‘spacefaring nation’ in the book is for a country on Earth to have colonised worlds in or outside the solar system or have some sort of notable space presence. The description for each nation is broken down by Leader, Primary Starport, Solar Colonies, Extrasolar Colonies and Major Cities along with an illustration of the nations flag.
The background text looks into the major events that affected that country from about 2040 onwards through the present day. Much of the discussion is centred around how the country developed economically and the colonies that is has managed to establish right up to the ‘present day’ of 2350.
This is quite an extensive section and a huge amount of thought has gone into developing what is a few hundreds years worth of source material for a large number (18 are described) of nations.
Page 40 looks at how the Earth Sector and component star systems are made up and their respective locations. On page 44 you are presented with a sector level map (4 by 4 sub-sectors) showing the worlds settled by each of the Earth nations and their relationship to each other. The map is well presented and colourful, but I did notice that when I zoomed in to read the name of each hex / world, the font couldn’t be rendered properly and the lettering looked indistinct.
However this is largely corrected by the higher resolution maps which form each alternate page from P.44 onwards. Each sub-sector has a page listing the worlds therein with Hex Location, Name, UWP, Trade classification, PBG, Allegiance and Sun spectral type. There are on average four prominent worlds which have a notable description underneath. My personal favourite is Durga 0510 ‘Arthurs World’; ruled by an eccentric man who styles himself as ‘King Arthur’. Feels like a world worthy of a scenario or two…
Page 76 describes the differences between generating Earth Sector characters based on the original Clement Sector rules. It should be noted that Clement Sector indigenous ‘aliens’ are not available to play in the Earth Sector. To put it plainly, the following pages are a list of tables (numbered 1 to 3) which list what origin subsector, planet of origin and background skills according to what your planet of origin is. Ending on page 97, this could be quite a ‘dry’ section to work through but there are plenty of colour illustrations to break up the table layout which makes the reading a bit more pleasant. Page 98 expands on the character development with table 4: primary languages which is presented in the same style as tables 1 to 3. Each planet of origin has its primary languages listed against it. There are a few new skills listed on page 109; page 110 breaks down your characters background generation into ‘Youth’, ‘Teenage Years’ and ‘College Years’. These ‘phases’ are really designed to give your character a lot more background and add notable events to their life, which could influence what happens in their later life.
Now your character has left school and is of an age where they are ready to start their career; what choices do you have? In the Earth Sector book, you are presented with 14 careers which have been modified for use within the Earth Sector; you are given a choice of; Belter, Celebrity, Colonist, Diplomatic Service, Explorer, Free Trader, Medic, National Ground Forces (soldier), National Navy (space, rather than wet), Pirate, Prisoner, Sports (you are an athlete or coach of some description), Spy or Vagabond. Each career has listed how to progress in the career, benefits, skills and training, mishaps and events in the same style as the Cepheus Engine books.
The Clement Sector background doesn’t just rely on non-Terran ‘aliens’ to build its background but also has ‘uplifts’. For those that are not already familiar with CS uplifts, these are animals native to Earth which have been biologically engineered to give them increased brain capacities and capabilities more in line with what humans can do, eg. Walk upright, manipulate tools, make use of languages and make sentient decisions. Again, reference is made back to the Clement Sector Core Setting books, but you are presented with a number of uplifts which are specific to the Earth Sector. A few notable uplifts I’d like to mention; Cats – do they really need uplifting? Have you seen the cat videos on YouTube? Dogs – uplifted Boxers, German Shepherds and Siberian Huskies are all very well, but an uplifted Greyhound… now that *would* be a creature that would be difficult to catch…! I’ve tried catching my three-year-old Greyhound and she can *shift*! The following pages have tables which list the various types of events (depending on age) which would have affected the uplift. Don’t forget these are characters (if you wish to play one) that would have been subject to prejudice and segregation as in some communities, uplifts are considered a ‘lower class’ of life form. To reflect this you have the ‘Uplift Slave Career’ path included in the text. I should note that in the careers mentioned above, many have ‘assignments’ which are specialisations within that career path.
Aliens do ‘exist’ in the Earth Sector, as described on page 224. Its an interesting approach in that you aren’t presented with alien races that become immediate technologically-equal opponents to the human race. You are presented with two races which are TL3 and TL1 societies. They don’t pose a threat to humans and you do have a number of tables and background material with which to generate characters from those races. It has been mentioned however that in spacer legends ruins and evidence has been found on outlying worlds of long-gone alien races… so who is to say that something might turn up in the future…
Page 240 moves on from the career-based aspect of the Earth Sector to the available technologies in a 24th century Earth Sector. There are a few changes compared to the Clement Sector, in that with Earth reaching TL13 in 2345 (and being only the world to do so so far), a number of options become a reality, such as cloning an entire body. Holograms become almost impossible to distinguish from a ‘real’ person. Zimm drives get an upgrade in that TL13 allows for ships as large as 7500 tons and for smaller ships to have greater stability.
Page 243 looks at the mechanics of ‘Travel and Operations’, specifically ‘Currency’ and how money changes hands through space. Its interesting to note that many nations still use their own currency though the ‘universal’ Credit is available to use. Following this, you are presented with fuel management calculations and how to feed your ship’s Zimm drive; the next couple of pages detail how a Zimm drive and Zimmspace works along with how a pilot would need to navigate it successfully. Rounding off this section are short discussions on how ‘Time’ is managed on worlds, ‘Trade and the Captains Guild’ and ‘Vessel Registration and Inspections’.
Page 250 looks at ‘Interstellar Relations’ how each nation perceives and deals with another. There are over thirty pages of tables and though you might be able to work out what some of the stats are, I would recommend that you obtain a copy of ‘Balancing Act: Interstellar Relations in the Clement Sector’ to get the full use of these as there are quite a few references made to codes from ‘Balancing Act’. The table include lists of the nations relationship with each other and the solar / extra solar colonies.
The book rounds off from page 288 onwards with a description of six significant corporations and organisations, followed by four pages on ‘Adventures and Campaigns’, ‘Common Themes’ (the types of games typically run and what the underlying theme would be) and finally ‘Rumours and Truths’ which looks into what is known (or not known) about alien races and the conduit collapse.
My immediate reaction when I first started to read Earth Sector was to compare it to the original GDW ‘2300’ OTU as there are some similarities to the timeline and Earths nations expanding out into space. This is where the similarities end, as if anything Earth Sector’s nations are even more divided; there isn’t a technologically advanced alien race (the Kafers) which has shown itself to unify the human race against (excepting the rumours from the Chinese operating in Ubuntu Sector…) No particular nation seems to have established an empire on Earth and expanded into space (2300’s French Empire), though the United States and China are probably the closest you get to this in Earth Sector. Despite the significant cost, many nations have struck out into space on their own and established colonies on extra-solar worlds. Though there have been natural disasters which have affected many countries and small localised nuclear exchanges, there is no World War III. Earth Sector feels that it bucks the trend a little where many comparable SFRPG’s have backgrounds where many of Earth’s nations have collaborated and joined together to explore space.
The Earth Sector book feels very much like a ‘nuts and bolts toolbox’ book where it isn’t a complete sourcebook on its own but fills in specific aspects of the Earth Sector background, draws on the core Clement Sector mechanics (which you will still need) and starts to set things up for running games. There is plenty of gorgeous colour artwork throughout the book which makes the text layout easy and pleasant to read. As Independence Games release more material for Earth Sector, this will ‘ground’ the background more and make it feel more complete. I don’t see this Earth Sector book as something that immediately enables you to start running complete Earth Sector games, but it provides the essential ‘infrastructure’ to set out who the protagonists are, what has happened this side of the conduit following the collapse and help to provide the referee as to what has happened this side of the conduit collapse and advancing a few years on. There are a few interesting nuggets which elude to something ‘greater’ going on (eg. a report of what someone saw at the moment of the collapse, evidence of long-gone aliens on distant worlds) which may be developed further by Independence Games. If you intend to run Earth Sector games, this will be an essential purchase; a referee won’t necessarily feel that they can utilise the book straight away, but as I mentioned as more source material is released by Independence Games it will sit on top of this ‘infrastructure’ book and the referee will refer to it more and more. The first of these is ‘Tech Update 2350’, which is out now on DTRPG. Covering the changes in technology since the conduit collapse twenty years ago, this will be another essential purchase for those that wish to run Earth Sector games. I will have a review of this posted soon!
I’d like to thank John Watts of Independence Games for kindly sending me a copy of Earth Sector to review.