Action Movie Physics Review

Well, its the Christmas holidays at last and it feels good to be able to start to catch up with writing about RPGs and reviewing the latest releases. Its been getting on for about seven weeks (with only one post in between) and in that time I’ve had my kitchen refurbished / redecorated and done a substantial amount of work around the house. However, now is the time to catch up with some writing and reviewing (is that already an RPG?) so I’m going to start with Gypsy Knights Games ‘Action Movie Physics’.

The game is available from DTRPG for $14.99 and contains 145 pages. This represents a different direction for GKG who are looking to expand their published portfolio beyond their core releases, located in the Cepheus Engine-based Clement Sector. The rules set is proprietary, sourced in part from Cepheus Engine and a mixture of D100.

The overall basis for the book is this; if you have ever seen those Hollywood action movies, especially those produced during the eighties and nineties (such as ‘Die Hard’, ‘The Terminator’ or ‘True Lies’ and wanted to recreate them in an RPG, now is your chance. Action Movie Physics (to which I’ll refer to as ‘AMP’ from now on) provides the structure for you to act out those style adventures. All those unlikely manoeuvres driving a car off a cliff and landing with nothing more than ruffled hair and some loose car side panels, leaping between buildings, then AMP is pitched at this precisely.

The book is broken down into six main headings:

1. The Basics and Skills (pages 11 to 34)

2. Character Creation and Experience (pages 35 to 51)

3. Combat and Chases (pages 52 to 74)

4. Reputation, Hero Points and NPCs (pages 75 to 86)

5. Equipment (pages 87 to 120)

6. Hazards, Animal Encounters, Adventures, Character Sheet (pages 121 to 141)

1. The Basics and Skills

The rules dive straight in by describing the characteristics that make up an AMP character; Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Willpower, Perception, Intelligence, Education and Charisma. You also have a range of skills, Reputation Points (how well the character is known in the setting) and Hero / Villain Points (used to directly modify dice rolls).

Skill rolls are made up of a combination of characteristics divided by two plus the skill level. You then consult the Difficulty Factor and Success Chance charts to work out if your roll was successful and how well you did it. This type of system forms the basis of many of the AMP checks on how well you pass or fail an action. The skill descriptions describe what encompasses what can be achieved using that skill and where appropriate, some skills have die modifiers or charts to apply. There are 36 skills available in the AMP core rules. A nice touch is you have three card games described with ‘Success Quality’ charts so you can see how well in game terms you can win your hand.

2. Character Creation and Experience

The AMP way of creating characters uses a mixture of life path results (similar to Clement Sector or Mongoose Traveller) and points to purchase further aspects of the characters abilities. There are a total of six tables provided to help build the characters background; they are assumed to be at least in their twenties before they start their adventures, so you have three sections to help build your characters history. You start with ‘Youth’ (covering ages 9-12) with a D66 table with a variety of events such as ‘You are taught to ride a mount. Gain a level in Riding’, or a significant event affects you personally. In addition depending on the roll, you then roll a D6 on the Life Events table where you potentially gain an ally / enemy / injury.

You then repeat the process for teenage years and then for when they are in college. Each character then has 200 points with which to choose skills. The base cost for these is 10 points plus 5 points per additional level but there are certain limits that you can buy skills. Following this you are presented with some additional attributes such as carrying capacity and various types of aspects of endurance. To round off, you have a clearly-presented 14-step character generation sequence and rules for amassing experience points and spending them. As a rough guide, as long as the player has participated in the adventure they should get around 500 experience points which can be spent on adding / increasing skills or attribute increases.

3. Combat and Chases

Combat is split into two parts, a Declaration Phase and Action Phase. Who gets to go first (in the declaration phase) is determined in a comparison of speed so that the fastest knows what the slowest is going to do. In the action phase, the speed comparison is reversed so that the fastest can act first (I think this is a very neat way of determining action priority). The various action types are fully described and the types of results. In reading through the combat section, I couldn’t help wondering if there should have been some sort of combat sequence table (like the character generation process). However after reading through a couple of times, I think my initial reaction was misconstrued as combat is quite simple; its the large number of actions available to both sides that make it look complicated. There is one thing that is missing from the combat section, which is a combat example. It would have been helpful to see how AMP combat works and using some of the actions available ‘in practice’.

In all action movies, there is usually some sort of chase, be it running, vehicular, water or in the air. This is where I think AMP starts to show its unique selling point; you are presented with rules for turns in chases, following, escaping, ramming, stunt manoeuvres, dealing with obstacles, accidents, character and vehicle damage and tailing. Along with an eight-step process for a chase, I think this can make for more exciting chase actions rather than simply rolling against relevant skills or making saving rolls.

4. Reputation, Hero Points and NPCs

Reputation, as the word suggests is a measure of how recognisable the characters is. There are advantages and disadvantages to how recognisable a character is and the score result is measured against a success quality table.

Hero points allow characters to change the results of actions or things happening in the environment around them. It allows them to perform stunts or improbable feats. All characters start with 3 hero points and can gain more by being particularly good at roleplaying or something that the Gamemaster likes. There is no particular thing that hero points can only be expended on, they can be used from modifying the result of a simple action die roll all the way to whether a character survives a fatal car crash (…just like in the movies!)

NPCs and how to make best use of them in games is given a decent amount of thought, for example how to create your average ‘goon’ (or red shirt / cannon fodder enemy) through to main villain.

5. Equipment

The AMP system is based in a ‘conventional’ world / background ie. late twentieth / early twenty-first century and doesn’t offer equipment or background descriptions outside this time period. A huge amount of equipment is presented including weapons (major makes of handgun, rifles, SMGs, support weapons (including sidewinder missiles!), cars, trucks, boats and aircraft. There are also descriptions and stats for grenades, personal armour, ammo, accessories (is that the right word for a silencer?) and vehicle modifications.

6. Hazards, Animal Encounters, Adventure and the Character Sheet

The final section fills in all those parts of the game system not already covered that you are likely to need. ‘Adventures’ develops the AMP background more and includes a D66 chart of adventure plots. The book rounds off with a list of films for inspiration (this is quite extensive covering two pages) and two pages of a character sheet which can be photocopied (note this is also available as part of the AMP download package from DTRPG).

There is a lot to like about AMP; its a pretty straightforward system to get to grips with that doesn’t feel as though it gets bogged down with too many tables that you have to constantly refer to. Much of the rules set is based on many familiar attributes from other 2D6 RPGs and the way that the skill base chance values are calculated make sense, which are related to the attributes they are based on. I think if you can get your head around the two core scores (Difficulty Factor and Success Quality) then that will put you in good stead for understanding many parts of the AMP system.

There a reasonable number of examples linked to each section, which I always like to see. I find having plenty of examples helps you to get up to speed with the system much faster. However the lack of a combat example feels like a noticeable omission and it would have been nice to see how combat works around a descriptive example.

The only other part of the book that I thought could do with bolstering up a bit is the ‘About this Book’ section (page 2). I felt that a bit more background at the start of the book (instead of the back of the book) that AMP would allow you to do would help to set up AMP games quite nicely. Artwork is provided by Stephanie McAlea, Jennifer Leonard, Bradley Warnes, Ian Stead and Nicolas Raymond and all pieces are to the usual high GKG standard depicting typical action scenes.


I thought this was a pretty good start for GKG into their first non-Cepheus Engine based RPG. Its well structured, there is plenty to read and get your teeth into. The book is clearly laid out and well edited. I think with a bit more background to ‘set the scene’ and examples to bolster the aforementioned sections up, this will make this into a really nicely-rounded system that should set up AMP as the basis for alternative backgrounds and environments. Definitely worth looking at if you want to try something a bit different or fancy recreating those unlikely movie moments! I would like to thank John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games for kindly sending me a copy of AMP to review.

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Tabletop Games Catalogue

I was contacted recently by a fellow RPG’er named Andy Lawfield who was trying to track down some old school RPG materials from back in the day. Though I wasn’t able to help with Andy’s FASA Battletech queries, I was able to help with his Tabletop Games (TTG) request. I’d kept hold of a TTG catalogue that I think I’d picked up at Games Day ’86 in London. Andy explained that he’d owned a copy of the TTG catalogue but unfortunately they’d been lost over the years.

Andy asked if I could scan the catalogue for him as it would be great if he could read through it again, as (like myself) he’d spent many a hour pouring over the listings planning his next purchases. He’d searched the internet for any available to download but had hit a dead-end and my copy was the only one he’d come across.

I was happy to oblige a fellow gamer and scanned the catalogue and flyer insert, which I then converted to a couple of Adobe PDFs.

So for the benefit of the rest if the gaming community, I’d like to share the catalogue and flyer and make them available to download here:

Tabletop Games TTG Catalogue 1986

Tabletop Games TTG Flyer Sept 1985

The flyer (3Mb PDF) was inserted into the catalogue (17Mb) but I have saved it as a separate file due to the change in layout.

If anyone has any tips where Andy can download (legitimately and legally of course) any FASA Battletech catalogues, please reply via comments section below!

*Update* Paul ‘Geist’ Gallagher over on the Traveller RPG forum on MeWe kindly posted some links to the ‘Alternative Armies’ website and the 15mm ranges they have available for both Traveller and Laserburn.

15mm Laserburn and Asgard Ranges

25mm Asgard Sci-Fi Range

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Trashkin RPG

In my Twitter feed a few months ago I picked up on a one-page fantasy RPG called ‘Trashkin’, where you play a vile-looking creature that lurks in the background of the more successful Humanoid heroes, hoping to pick up on the scraps of detritus that is left behind. You’ve been one of those heroes, the paladin with the shiny armour, the wizard with his magacal cloak and the wiley thief that steals anything that isn’t bolted down. After that humanoid party has made off with all the gold and loot worth grabbing, the Trashkin are the creatures that see if they can grab a few scraps of rubbish and will stab anyone that tries to take it off them. A sort of animal in humanoid form, the Trashkin are about the same size as a human child. They dress in old chicken skin or bits of rags and usually have some flies permanently circling their heads.

Trashkin is written by Grant Howitt (@gshowitt on Twitter) who specialises in one-page RPGs, it is freely available as a PDF to download either in its one page RPG hand-written PDF scan, or if you take a look at this Reddit thread, a couple of people have produced their own typed versions that are a bit clearer to read.

As a break from my usual posts on the blog, I thought I would have a bit of fun and have a go at writing up a character and seeing what I could do with it.

To roll up a character, you have four stats for which you roll D4+1 for each. You can roll to see what sort of creature tou are, or just pick one from the following list:

Racoonkin / Piegonkin / Ratboy / Foxfolk / Half-possum or Goatgirl

This is the character I rolled up:

Racoonkin – ‘Scruffbag’

Audacious: 5

Big: 3

Cunning: 5

Quick: 4 (5 natural)

Hit points / Copper coins: 13 (10 natural)

Weapons dice D6

Bandit mask +1 Audacious

Big brain +1 Cunning

Thumbs, +2 fine manipulation

Spell: Vorpal tin lid

Armour: Medium +3HP, -1 quick

Melee weapon: Short Sword +3 damage, -2 quick

This would be a golden treasure-chest to a Ratboy. Image: Creative Commons share-alike 2.0.

Combat involves using your Big rating to score on a D10 or less to hit. Trashkin only get to roll against their Quick rating to avoid getting hit, but monsters do not. You do enough damage equal to your weapon dice. You can ‘Bribe the Universe’ to reduce the value of your dice by 1 per copper coin spent, before you roll. Copper coins are a bit like ‘spending points’ in ‘Nights Black Agents’ to help you influence the chances of doing something.

Monsters have two stats, hit points and the damage they inflict. They don’t roll to hit, you just have to roll against your Quick to evade their strike at you.

Example combat between my Trashkin and a rabid dog: HP15 Teeth D6 damage.

Whilst surrying around the back streets of a rough-looking sea port, Scruffbag turns a corner and comes face-to-face with a mean, snarling dog. The dog surprises Scruffbag so it gets the first attack. I need to roll against my Quick score to evade the attack – I get a 5 so I only just miss making the roll and the dog inflicts a bite for D6 damage = 3 points. My HP are now 10.

I now get to attack and roll against my Big score (3) to hit and get a 6, so I miss. I roll against the dogs attack by rolling on my Quick score (7) so the dog makes the strike and hits me for D6 damage (5) points so my HP are now 5. I roll to hit on a D10 – but first I spend 6 copper coins (out of 13) to try and even up the scores, I roll a 9, so the CP reduce this to 3 and I get a hit. So I roll for my damage D6+3 = 4+3=7 damage on the dog, whose HP is now 8.

The dog makes his strike so I roll to evade – roll against Quick and I get a natural 4, I deftly step out of the way and evades the dogs strike.

I roll again to hit and get a natural 3, roll for damage 4+3=7, the dog now has 1HP. The dog makes a strike so I elect to use 3CP and I roll a 7, so I evade the attack on a 4.

I’ve only got 4 CP left so I expend 3 to try and get that killer blow and roll a 2 anyway. Roll for damage 1+3=4 so the dog expires in a yelp and a splatter of blood.

What have a I learnt about Trashkin combat? It can feel very one-sided and its not on the side of the players. The attribute scores are pretty low, weapon and melee weapon scores can help with damage but typically reduce your quick score due to the penalty of carrying stuff. Considering that your Big score is the main one to hit something, I got an above average score (on a D4) and still struggled to hit anything without expending copper coins to help me land a blow.

If I were to make some changes, I’d either change the attribute creation dice to D6’s, or change the combat D10’s to D8’s, to just try and equal things up a bit. This has been suggested in a post on Reddit, so I think I’ll go with that in the future.

Overall, what is the intention behind Trashkin? It gives players the opportunity to do silly stuff whilst playing quite disgusting looking creatures that can be found rummaging around in bins and piles of rubbish. Gold pieces or a shiny bracelet? Nah, I want that half-drunk bottle of gin or manky tin of corned beef. I do like the ‘rough and ready’ style of the RPG (the scanned version) and its humour with the bizarre-looking creatures such as ‘Racoonkin’ or ‘Goatgirl’ (its your birthday by the way) along with a simple range of weapons, armour and monsters (which are mainly the larger ‘folk’ found in FRPGs. Its pretty self-contained and is definitely worth an evenings play or as a break from a campaign session. I’ve got a couple of ideas for scenarios or even a solo adventure using the Trashkin rules, which I hope to post in the near future. Grant also has a Paetron page and has written a number of other one-page RPGs which are also worth checking out.

Being as its Halloween, however you intend to enjoy your evening (either bothering people for sweets or shouting at people who knock on your door to ‘bugger off’), I hope it is a good one! 🎃🎃🎃

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Hell’s Paradise Second Edition Review

There is quite a bit being released right at the moment from the Stellagama Publishing and Gypsy Knights Games gaming stables; The former has just published on DTRPG ‘Piracy and Privateering’, a supplement for the Cepheus Engine rules set. I’m looking forward to reviewing this, it will be interesting to see Stellagama’s take is on the subject of space piracy when compared to GKG’s ‘Skull and Crossbones – Piracy in the Clement Sector’ which I reviewed back in 2016.

Also just about to be published by GKG is their new set of rules ‘Action Movie Physics’, a completely new RPG which will be out on Friday. This looks really interesting; from what I have seen it mixes a bit of Cepheus Engine with some D100 and knowing GKG, it will be a very high quality product. It allows players to role-play as though they are movie characters and the stunts that they can achieve, which of course would be impossible in real life. I’ve never liked ‘superhero’-style RPGs (such as GW’s ‘Golden Heroes’), but this looks like good fun. I shall be taking a look at AMP very soon!

Finally, also coming from Stellagama Publishing at Halloween is ‘Cepheus Light’; 2D6 old-school rules-light SFRPG gaming. So there is plenty to read in the coming weeks – just in time for Christmas!

With Halloween rapidly approaching (and if you’re British like me, you’ll be doing your best to avoid the trick-or-treaters at all costs, usually by hiding underneath the window with the light off in the house for a few hours. However, you could always play ‘Hell’s Paradise’ by Gypsy Knights Games, a scenario set in the Clement Sector written by George Ebersole. Hell’s Paradise was originally published back in 2013 and I reviewed it as part of a GKG mega-review. This is a play-test proven adventure and has been used at quite a few conventions in the past few years, so its pretty solid in that respect.

It has been updated and made compatible with the Cepheus Engine rules set (CE), whereas the original was based on the Mongoose Traveller first edition rules (MGT1e). For those that aren’t familiar with GKG’s Hell’s Paradise, here is a quick plot synopsis: the players are members of the Cascadia Colonisation Authority operating the starship ‘CCAS Clara Barton’. Its primary duty is to provide aid for other CCA vessels if they run into trouble, whilst performing other missions on the frontier of the Clement Sector. The nine crew operates a Trailblazer-class scout and whilst based at Argos Prime, they are approached by an organisation who require assistance to be provided for a ship that has failed to arrive. I’m going to leave the plot description there for fear of giving too much away!

So what are the differences between the original MGT1e edition and CE version; I’ll try and do a side-by-side comparison without revealing anything about the plot. The CE version has one more page that the MGT1e (at 47 pages in total), but I think this due to minor changes in editing. The cover benefits from a new illustration by Bradley Warnes and working through the book, the first major difference is the change in the deck plans for the Trailblazer-class scout. The CE version on the lower deck holds a lot more more fuel and the layout is quite different to the MGT1e ship. Unfortunately the deck plans in the more recent version are a bit more difficult to read as the symbol key and main location lettering is in a smaller font than the original, making it a bit harder to read on (at least on my 9.7inch iPad) screen. This must be because of the change in the ships layout as the Atlas-class freighter described later in the book, is exactly the same in both editions and can be easily read. However this shouldn’t present any problems if the Trailblazer plans are printed out.

Next major difference is in the pre-generated characters pages; the MGT1e version is a quite straightforward stats / description with one pre-gen per page. The CE version has all the text re-laid out and new graphics (by Bradley Warnes) to illustrate what the character looks like.

The planetary system details and most of the illustrations are the same in both editions (the system map has been updated), except for a new additional mountain scene (also by Bradley) which helps to break up the white space. Stats for NPCs have been changed to reflect that this is Cepheus Engine compatible. The remainder of the book is pretty much the same, aside from a change in font which makes the layout look slightly different.

Overall the layout and additional graphics are the most significant changes and if you originally bought the first edition, then GKG will have sent you the updated edition for free via the DTRPG library (which is pretty good, I think!)

Hell’s Paradise hasn’t lost any of its ‘unsettling’ undertone and the second edition feels like a more polished product. If you don’t already have it, you can pick it up from DTPRG for a discounted price of $4.82 (instead of $6.99) between now and October the 31st.

Hell’s Paradise is definitely worth checking out if you want to give your players a bit of a fright in the run up to Halloween! Thanks go to John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games for sending me a copy to review.

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Cauldrons and Casseroles Review

After a few extremely busy weeks at work and home, it feels good to be on a short break away in the English Lake District. Besides stocking up on my favourite ale at the Watermill Inn (located just outside Bowness-on-Windermere), I’m going to catch up on some of my review pile that I’ve been wanting to read through. The first is one released by Stellagama Publishing; ‘Cauldrons and Casseroles’ is one of the more ‘unusual’ RPG-related products I’ve been asked to review, but one I’m more than happy to look at. C&C (as I shall refer to it from now on) is a cookbook / book of recipes that is aimed at the role-player / RPG gamer. Written by Hannah Saunders, it is available from Drivethru RPG, for $8.99 and totals 97 pages as a watermarked PDF.

So what makes it stand out from every other recipe book on the market? The author has broken the book up into several sections and interspersed a storyline (based around a party journeying on their adventure) which helps to bring a running ‘theme’ to the meals presented. There is quite a variety of things to tuck into; Bread and Sandwiches, Burgers Skewers and Sausages, Dips, Drinks, Fish, Pies, Poultry, Snacks and Sweets, Soups, Tarts, Tortillas, Vegetables and other dishes that don’t quite fit into any other category.

Each recipe is described with the number of servings, ‘Kitchen Sorcery Level’ ie. the level of difficulty in preparation, ingredients and method of preparation. The levels cover ‘1’ (a child could prepare it), ‘2’ (any adult) and ‘3’ (takes a bit more skill or effort, so have your familiar handy). To cover all preferences, measurements are provided in both metric and imperial systems. The various meals are pitched as a tasty alternative to the usual gaming staples, such as savoury snacks, pizza or biscuits (hob nobs? I’m looking at you The Grognard Files!) The author has made a good job of fitting in a running storyline to go with the meals, for example Elven-related meals are generally vegetarian or the Dwarven meals have plenty of meat. I did like the variety; they are meals that don’t require a huge amount of preparation or ingredients. I think the author has made reasonable choices with the ingredients in that you wouldn’t have to specifically buy in and use only once (such as bizarre or obscure spices), so it isn’t going to cost you a packet to feed your gaming group.

The recipes are well-laid out and the writing was easy-going, with a few illustrations and photographs of the dishes by the author (who also did the colourful cover) to help break up the text. I should mention that the book is predominantly aimed at meat-eaters or vegetarians, there is no mention of vegan options so I can’t recommend this book if that is your preference. Those with food intolerances will be able to pick out recipes suitable for them as there is a detailed list of ingredients for each meal. The contents page contains clickable links to the recipe page and there is a useful index listing each dish by type (eg. fish, pies, soups etc) though these lists aren’t hyperlinked.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about reviewing a recipe book, but by the time I finished reading, I was hungry! Its a good job I had something to nibble on whilst I read the book as there are a lot of really tasty-sounding dishes. For example the ‘Halfling-style Second Breakfast’ which is more or less an English-style breakfast sandwich (comprising of eggs, bacon, mushrooms, roasted potato slices), pub-style beef burgers or leek and potato soup – nice, homely grub, ideal for a winters night gaming! I think that’s what made me like the book; food inspires feelings and any book that can inspire or enhance an evening’s gaming gets my vote. If you are looking for something a bit different to help your players enjoy your game (or pacify them with a few Dwarven Dogs (sausage rolls wrapped in bacon – yum!) whilst you slaughter them mercilessly, I recommend that you grab a copy of ‘Cauldrons and Casseroles’. Personally I think I shall definitely be trying more than a few recipes out once my kitchen is refurbished in November! I’d like to thank Omer Golan-Joel of Stellagama Publishing for kindly sending me a copy to review.

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Dragonmeet Birmingham 1980s Flyer

From the last of the flyers that I recovered in a recent sort-out (along with the Games Day and Golden Demon Award), I have a Dragonmeet Flyer from one of the events held in Birmingham in the mid-1980’s. I have a little doubt as to what date that the event was held however; I’ve tried cross-referencing it against old White Dwarf magazine advertisements but I can’t find a date match. Best I can recall is I think it was either 1985, ‘86 or ‘87, probably the middle year and that it was the first Dragonmeet being held in Birmingham.

I think this might be the right advert for it, from White Dwarf:

I’ve at least found the location, the New Imperial Hotel in Temple Street. This is what it looks like now;

I recall waiting at the head of the queue (my cousin Carl and myself got there *really* early!) just inside the doorway. Once we got in, I remember it was a bit of a crush getting around as the various stands and exhibitions were scattered around the hotel. One live event that was taking place was of a Battletech demonstration; the gaming board was laid out with several players sat around the table. Me, being a cheeky sod sarcastically said (forever to my shame) ‘Oh look, Transformers!’ Apparently though I didn’t notice at the time, Carl later said that the player that I was stood over turned around and gave me (a well-deserved) filty look! Not many years later, this sarcastic little sod would play Mechwarrior on the PC *to death*.

There were a number of stands, I picked up a pile of figures from the Citadel stand, I recall visiting the Mythlore stand and picking up a leaflet about their LARP stuff and having a good look at some of the fantastic Tony Ackland artwork he’d brought along. The weapons and armour brought along from the Sealed Knot re-enactment society was pretty impressive; plenty of suits of armour and weapons on display. Some of the staff from the Games Workshop store in Birmingham were there helping out as well. We didn’t stay a huge amount of time, by late morning we’d done all the stands and seen all that we’d want to see so headed over to Games Workshop back in the Birmingham Shopping Centre (as it was known) to see what else we could spend some cash on.

The enduring memory I have of the day is of a crush getting around the rooms to see everything that was going on; it was great to see an event such as Dragonmeet come to Birmingham; I wonder if anyone else went to the same event?

The flyer is in a bit of an odd size, sorry for the rubbish scan but it was the best way to get all the pages in the PDF at the time. It can be downloaded from here: dragonmeet_programme.

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Spacecraft Design Guide Review

The ‘Spacecraft Design Guide’ is available from Drivethru RPG for $13.07 and is published by Moon Toad Publishing, written by Michael Johnson with artwork by Ian Stead. It is a Cepheus Engine-compatible product which can also be purchased in a print version for $20.26.

The book is pitched as an extension to the original Cepheus Engine spacecraft design rules; its quite a meaty book containing 154 pages. My initial thought was that this could be compared to the original Classic Traveller rules book 2: Starships and book 5: High Guard in the way as a supplement, it extends the spacecraft design rules which includes massive (1 million ton) capital ships.

After the extensive contents section (pages 2 to 14) and introduction (page 15), the book starts with the design process. These two pages belies the extensive contents of the book, which is broken down into six distinct steps.

1. The hull – the foundation of the vehicle (spacecraft or small craft)

2. The engineering section – power plant, jump drive, manoeuvre drive, fuel requirements

3. The main compartment – bridge, staterooms, functional equipment such as a computer, docking clamps

4. Armament – hard points for offensive weaponry and defensive capabilities

5. Small craft, vehicles, drones and cargo holds – any small ships that can be carried.

6. Crew – minimum required to operate the ship and passenger capacity.

The first major section is ‘Spacecraft Design’ starting on page 18. You get a description of what a spacecraft actually is (verses a small craft), standard designs, construction times – basically what is involved in actually building a starship at a shipyard. You then start with actually building your own, beginning with the hull. Spacecraft start with a minimum of 100 dTons – there are two tables listing various sizes from 100 dTons all the way up to 1,000,000 dTons (!) The following pages take you through what makes up the hull – structure and armour.

The second section – ‘engineering’ dives into what powers a spacecraft; jump drives, manoeuvre drives and power plants. There is one table in particular that I liked ‘Military Grade Drives’. If you can buy them, you can obtain these military-specification drives which are more resistant to damage and are able to rapid cycle.

I found the addition of ‘lower technology drives’, namely reaction drives and solar sails really interesting and nice to see alternative methods of propulsion included. Many books will cover drives around TL9 and upwards, but hardly a passing mention is made to lower technology drives. In an interstellar society, surely you would see makes and ages of all types of spacecraft which would include pre-jump drive technology? This is quite an extensive section and there are plenty of variations and types of drive and power plant available to consider.

Next is the main compartment; the bridge, controls and computers. In addition to small spacecraft, you also have information for capital computers. Accommodation is a vital part of any spacecraft; what I found interesting was the inclusion of ‘third class’; basically steerage class where passengers travel in a converted cargo hold. The cheapest way to travel, many worlds consider this to be illegal, but it doesn’t stop it happening. I’ve found many build processes for spacecraft seem to repeat many of the same things and don’t go into that much detail in including some of the more interesting and useful internal components that can be found on a ship. For example an office; seems like an obvious idea, but on a number of spacecraft unless you go to the bridge, don’t have somewhere for you to sit down and work at a computer terminal. Swimming pool and spa? Certainly sir, that will cost you 0.5MCr per ton per user; a luxury item, but something that you could build into your luxury liner, besides the usual accommodation for high passage. Another (seems like it now) obvious item but inherently useful is a UNREP (Underway Replenishment) system; basically it provides the same method to replenish a ship as a sea-going naval ship does today by using a transfer tube and running parallel to the ship which requires replenishment, the supply ship can transfer cargo and materials.

Part 4 introduces armament; types of mounting, weaponry (nice to see Mining Lasers included, my favourite weapon to use in the original computer game ‘Elite’ on the ZX Spectrum. You can kill a Thargoid in six shots with one of those!) There is quite a bit if kit listed; Smart missiles, nukes, sonic electronic ball breakers… sorry, got a bit carried away there, the last one isn’t listed! Its not just offensive weapons listed, but defensive measures are included as well, such as variations of defensive shields, for example as seen in many science-fiction settings such as ‘Star Trek’ or the ‘Terran Trade Authority Handbooks’. In the latter the Terrans traded the technology with the Alphans in exchange for anti-gravity, changing the design of spacecraft overnight.

Part 5 (Small Craft, Vehicles, Drones and Cargo Holds) describes a number of drones, probes, pods and capsules that you can build into your craft. Again, the level of detail describing the fittings and delivery systems really helps this book stand out for me.

The sixth part in the design sequence is the ships crew. There are some very useful recommendations listed which guide you on the number of crew required (or usually found) depending on what type of ship you are designing (eg. civilian or naval craft).

That rounds off the design sequence steps for a spacecraft, from page 88 onwards you are presented with a number of important ship functions and essentials, starting with ship software. Not just programs to load in the same way as in Classic traveller, but you can have ‘Avatar Interfaces’ which require a fairly sophisticated computer setup, including holographic controls and AI software. Running a ship involves cost obviously, so you are given some useful tables and descriptions on the types on monthly costs, crew salaries, repayment methods (no use taking out those short-term loans!) Fancy a new paint job? 0.1MCr per ton of hull on the exterior. Its something that is usually glossed over, so nice to see this level of thought going into the book. The spacecraft section rounds off with information about refits, refurbishment of a ship, technology adjustments, naval capital ship crews, capital ship section hit tables and a round-off page for the free trader design example.

Page 102 goes into the small craft design sequence; I found this particularly helpful as I’d run through the original CE rulebook but found there were some elements of doubt with a few of the engine and hull sizes, when I tried to build a small craft. A similar design process as the spacecraft section is presented, with component and element adjustments to suit the small craft (10-99 dTons).

Pages 121 to 137 provide additional rules to help address the greater firepower and bigger sizes of the vessels involved. Barrage damage tables – a 50 dice barrage from a capital ship? You really don’t want to take on one of these ships with a small shuttle and pea shooter of a beam laser…

Another interesting set of additional rules is ‘Orders’ where a captain of a spacecraft can issue one or more orders to their crew for each turn. Each order issued reduces the number of reactions by the amount determined by each order which in turn reduces the number of reactions the ship will be able to take.

The book rounds off with a few sample spacecraft of varying sizes and tech level.

As you work your way through the book, there is a running example of a build of a spacecraft that as each chapter is described, more is added onto the vehicle. In addition, there are plenty of examples which help to explain the many calculations (which aren’t that complicated) but I always find these useful in understanding a rule. The author has gone to a lot of trouble and consider a huge amount of components that could go into a spacecraft and extend the base Cepheus Engine rules. Its not just a list of tables and steps to follow, there are plenty of descriptions and examples of the calculations needed which help you to build your ship.

The book is presented with the same font and layout as the Cepheus Engine rules; if I had a criticism of the book it would be nice to have seen some spacecraft artwork to help break up the text. As such, you have a really tasty colour cover by Ian Stead of a delta-shaped capital ship, but unfortunately no other pieces in the book. I guess this may have been a layout decision to keep with the style of the original CE rulebook, bit of a shame that some additional designs by Ian couldn’t have been included.

That said, I really like and enjoyed reading this book; its clear, concise and extends the original CE rules by a substantial margin and comprehensively bolsters the number of choices you have to build you spacecraft, right from 10 dTon shuttles to 1 million dTon behemoth capital ships that can smash battle fleets. Having a good range of technology to choose from, from different tech levels increases the usefulness of the book by not just limiting it to a specific timeline. I can highly recommend this book; it is a very useful tool to have for your 2D6 SFRPG games, no matter what your setting. I’m sure you’ll find some inspiration to help enhance your games. I would like to thank Ian Stead of Moon Toad Publishing for very kindly offering a copy for me to review.

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Classic Traveller, Clement Sector, Mongoose Traveller, OGL | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments