2017 in Review

Its now a few weeks into 2018 and now I’m recovered from lurgy/flu/Nurgles Rot that seems to be doing to rounds again, I want to take a step back and take a look at how this blog has been performing. So I’ve been doing a bit of data mining, well – looking at the stats and come to some rough conclusions about who has been visiting and what is popular on Alegis Downport!

It can be a bit narcissistic to review your own blog I agree, but I try and write things that both the visitor and I enjoy so I like to find things that are interesting, useful and will hopefully generate repeat visits.

So, time for a bit of data crunching… get the performance review form out!

How the Blog Performed

Following a very slight decline in page views in 2014, I started to get more visits to the blog increasing significantly in 2016 with 5400 page views. I set a target for 2017 for 7000 page views – I managed to beat that significantly and get 8528 page views, which I am extremely pleased at! Visitor numbers also shot up from 2217 to 3653. I’ve tried to push blog posts with a bit more advertising and activity on forums and social media (even though I still refuse to join Facebook!) Monthly page views have gone up from 450/pm to 710/pm.

For ever single visitor that has read my writing, liked and posted comments – I would like to take this opportunity to say ‘Thank You!’ I am very grateful for your visits and feedback!

Where in the World?

No not PC World (sorry, that was a catchphrase from a dodgy TV advert), but what countries have my visitors come from? Top number of page views are from the United States – at 5206, followed by the United Kingdom at 1350. Though I am living in the UK (and British), I always post the prices of the products I review in US Dollars, simply because that is the largest proportion of my audience. The next three countries visiting (in page view rank) are Canada, Germany and Australia. However, its nice to see page views from countries as diverse and as far away as South America (Brazil, Argentina), Japan, South Africa and Congo – Kinshasa and Indonesia.

Most Popular Posts

This I find very interesting, because its useful from the point of view what is useful for the RPG community. Taking the homepage page views out of the equation, the top posts are:-

The Fantasy Traveller

These Stars Are Ours Review

Zozer Games Solo Review Part 1

Zozer Games Solo Review Part 2

Traveller Rules and Near Space

These Stars Are Ours Review (the core Cepheus Engine product by Stellagama Publishing) was the top posting through most of 2017, right from when it was first published. However it was pipped at the post in the last few weeks of the year by my take on the Classic Traveller rules set in a fantasy background ‘The Fantasy Traveller’ which has now reached twelve parts. The Zozer Games ‘Solo’ product which I split over two parts to make sure I gave it a comprehensive-enough review, has been read many times despite only being posted in September. Generally, the most recent product reviews from Gypsy Knights Games and Stellagama performed consistently well, just under these top five.

Oddly enough though, where I have been able find some of my Traveller miniatures or Laserburn kit, these have featured highly in the rankings. Certainly food for thought and what to look at in 2018…

So what of 2018? I have some reviews to complete and post from my products pile and based on the popularity of the posts last year, at least two more ‘Fantasy Traveller’ articles should be aimed for. If I can get hold of some of my RPG stuff stored in the deepest parts of my garage, that should present some interesting old-school angles on gaming. I want to keep the numbers of articles up per month as well, so I’d better start catching up!

To round off, I want to thank again all the people who have visited my blog, the same thanks also go to the publishers that kindly sent me products to review, especially John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games, Omer Golan-Joel of Stellagama Publishing and Paul Elliott of Zozer Games, my best wishes to you all.

Cheers, Steve

‘…may your starports be bureaucracy-free and your fuel always be refined…!’

The obligatory end-of-year photo of my pet Greyhound Millie, pictured here at one of Newquay’s many beaches, last October.

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Variant Psionics for the Cepheus Engine Review

I hope you have had an enjoyable Christmas holiday (however you may have celebrated it), for my final blog post of the year, I’m going to take a look at Stellagama’s latest release ‘Variant Psionics for the Cepheus Engine’. It is available from Drivethru RPG for $3.49 and contains 32 pages in a watermarked PDF.

The book aims to bring a more straightforward system for the use of psionics, based on the Cepheus Engine (CE) system. Having not read the CE set of psionics rules before – I’ll admit I’m not really a fan of psionics in SFRPG’s, I had an open mind when approaching VP for CE. It should be noted that the book can be used with other OSR / 2D6 SFRPG systems and not just Cepheus Engine.

The product starts with an introduction about the book, a few links to reference documents and some notes about the authors. The next section goes into ‘Psionics in a Cepheus Engine Setting’ and how common psionics are, dependent on what TL your world setting is. There is an interesting piece on how psionics are viewed in society; not all societies view such abilities with an open, receptive mind. Some low TL worlds may be openly hostile, even viewing such abilities as witchcraft (and all the subsequent consequences).

The next four pages go into psionics specifically in the Stellagama CE-compatible setting ‘These Stars Are Ours’ and how such characters are viewed in the Terran Republic and the secret societies that employ such individuals.

You are then presented with the rules for the development of psionic strength and training which is covered in a page. Psionic talents follow, broken down into five abilities; Awareness, Clairvoyance, Telekinesis, Telepathy and Teleportation. This is bulk of the book as you are presented with the various powers that you can wield, depending on your strength level. There are quite a few abilities presented here so there is plenty of value to be gained from the book.

Just like magic items in a fantasy realm, there are ways to enhance psionic abilities through technology or drugs. The section ‘Psionic Technology and Mastery’ looks into ways that psions can enhance their abilities and some of the pitfalls that can come with the use of such technology. There is some nice tech here; favourite has got to be the ‘Improved Teleportation Suit’ which enhances your ability to teleport great distances… if you’ve got the cash of course!

The last five pages of the book describe the psion career and character generation process. There are a number of optional rules and there is plenty of guidance on how to generate a psion’s characteristics.

Not being familiar with the Cepheus Engine Psion rules, I set both the CE PDF up and the Stellagama variant rules side by side in my iPad to work through. Because a certain amount of content is Open Game License, there is some text which is repeated from the original CE rules set. I did start to wonder if this was simply a reprint of the CE rule set? However the Stellagama text expands, clarifies and where necessary simplifies the rules. I found the Stellagama text much easier to read through and quicker to pick up. Some of the book is geared towards their house background ‘These Stars Are Ours’ (which is to be expected) but the open game license material is clearly indictaed and the variant rules presented help to make psion character generation a lot easier.

The book is nicely laid out, has a number of monochrome and colour illustrations dotted through the book and has been edited to Stellagama’s usual high standards. Is the product worth $3.49? Despite some initial concerns about the use of some repeated text, I feel that what the authors have met their aim in taking the original CE psion rules and enhanced them in such a way that you have a complete, easy-to-use rules set for creating characters with psionic abilities. Definitely worth considering if you want to run psion characters in your games, or using the TSAO background. I’d like to thank Omer Golan-Joel for very kindly sending me a copy to review.

As this is the last blog post of the year, I would like to wish all my visitors (thanks for all the links and comments!) to this blog a very happy and safe New Year! I would also like to thank the publishers who have continued to send me their fantastic products for me to look at and review (especially John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games, Omer Golan-Joel of Stellagama Publishing and Paul Elliott of Zozer Games) – I hope what you find to read on this blog useful and enjoyable!

Best wishes for 2018, Steve

For no other reason because I want to, here is a photo of my greyhound Millie enjoying some of her Christmas presents!

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Classic Traveller, Mongoose Traveller, OGL, Role Playing Games | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

RPG Releases and Merry Christmas

Its Christmas Eve and I have a chance to get a final blog post in before the big day. There have been a few interesting releases in the past few weeks so I’ll start by collating and mentioning them here.

First off Gypsy Knights Games have published ‘Wendys Guide to the Fleets of the Sequoya Sector’. This was released in November and is a sort of naval review of fleets and developments in a specific sector of the Clement Sector. Several systems fleets and background are described and though sounding like quite a ‘dry’ subject of material, GKG always put plenty of backstory and along with an additional set of deck plans for a fighting ship and new career, it looks like a great read. Out now for $9.99 on DTRPG.

The first part of the Kickstarter ‘Grognard: Ruminations on 40 Years of Gaming’ has been sent out to backers. This was a very nice Christmas present to receive when Marc Miller emailed out the link to download the various electronic reading formats. The Kickstarter had been delayed due to Marc discovering that he needed a heart operation, which pushed the publication back some weeks. I’m very glad to hear that Marc is making good progress with his recovery and all parts of the Kickstarter will be fufilled soon.

The book itself covers the period 2000 to 2015 when Loren Wiseman was editor of JTAS Online, for Steve Jackson Games and includes all the editorial posts that Loren made on JTAS Online; I’ve read through from the start of the book to 2002 so far and it makes for incredibly interesting reading. In some of the posts Loren is ‘speaking’ from the start of the internet age and makes some quite prothetic observations. Self-driving cars, the influences of mobile technology and how companies try to grab your attention when you are browsing the web, oh and of course some Traveller stuff of course!

I would like to make a more detailed review once my USB stick is delivered (with a copy of The SJG JTAS online) and I’ve had more time to read ‘Grognard’. In the meantime I’d like to wish Marc Miller a continued speedy recovery and good health for the new year.

Stellagama Publishing have just sent a copy of ‘Variant Psionics for Cepheus Engine’ for me to review. This introduces a complete variant system of psionics for the Cepheus Engine and other 2D6 OGL rules systems. If you want to take a look at the product on DTRPG, why not follow the link (available for $3.49 on DTRPG), or if you want to wait, I’ll be posting a review shortly.

The last bit of release news is something that I’m extremely interested in backing; its a book describing the heady days of Games Workshop. Dice Men: Games Workshop 1975 to 1985 is being funded through ‘Unbound’ (aka: United Authors Publishing) and is at time of writing, 36% funded. The book will include the story of how Games Workshop came into existence and its rise as the leading retailer of RPG’s and associated products in the UK. Personally I’m hoping it will include pictures of the Birmingham UK store from the early 80’s (the period when I first got into gaming) as these seem to be scarce and hard to find the internet.

Another fine ale beckons, so I’ll leave this short post there and wish everyone a very happy Christmas / holiday / winter festival celebration / snow god worship / however you may or may not celebrate this time of year! I’ll be back before the end of the year with a post or two.

Best wishes, Steve

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Classic Traveller, Clement Sector, OGL, Role Playing Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tree of Life – Altrants in the Clement Sector Review

One of the recent releases by Gypsy Knights Games, ‘Altrants in the Clement Sector’ is a supplement for their ATU product line which is compatible with ‘Clement Sector: The Rules’ and the Cepheus Engine rules set.

Available now from Drive Thru RPG, it can be purchased for $9.99 (discounted to $7.49 at time of writing) as a watermarked PDF, containing 81 pages. It is also available as a heavyweight softcover book for $22.99.

This is one of GKG’s more expensive titles compared to previous releases, so what do you get for your money?

The books overall premise is to introduce genetically-modified humans as individuals that can be part of a game as NPCs. Or if players wish to, create their characters based around the different abilities that are available depending on what ‘type’ of Altrant the player is basing their character around.

The introduction starts with the background on how Altrants came to exist in the Clement Sector, from their original inception as ‘Improved Persons’ created by Chinese scientists in the 2100’s by manipulating the genetic make up of unborn humans. Altrants were genetically engineered to cope with the different environments found off-world. These Altrants were used were it was too dangerous for ‘born’ humans – which essentially means they were worker slaves. A number of Earth nations sought to ban Altrant slavery, which some did achieve. However by the time of mid-24th century Clement Sector, Altrant slavery is still commonplace especially on some of the less-technologically developed worlds.

The next section covers where Altrants are found in the four main subsectors, namely Hub, Cascadia, Franklin and Sequoyah along with ‘The Colonies’. You get a brief description of how Altrants are viewed and treated on the respective worlds of each subsector.

The next section describes the types of Altrants most commonly found; starting with the ‘Achillies’, humans who have been altered at birth to be more effective soldiers. Aquans are Altrants created to be amphibious in order to better colonise water worlds. The Baaz are better at being in zero-G environments for extended periods. Gaishan are the ‘original’ Altrants, created by the Chinese for dealing with low gravity environments such as the Earths Moon. Khailt can cope with the extreme cold much better than ‘baseline humans’. Oskars are the opposite of the Gaishan, in that they were created for dealing with high gravity environments. The Pesoks were created by the Russians who are able to deal with dusty/arid worlds much better than baseline humans. Sirens were created to be sexual partners for baseline humans and are incapable of reproduction. Sniffers are Altrants who have had their breathing capability changed so they are able to breathe atmospheres that would otherwise require a filter mask.

The following section ‘Body Alterations and Altrant Creation’ details ways that characters can make alterations or enhancements to themselves – such feats are possible in the Clement Sector. The possibilities that are available to ‘baseline’ humans and creating an Altrant are explained, based on a points value, cost, time and tech level required. In some ways, it reminded me of the ‘chaos attribute’ tables in the ‘Warhammer Fantasy Role Play Books’, even including one of the old favourites ‘Prehensile Tail’. There is quite a variety presented here and it should present some challenges for players who wish their characters to have such ‘exotic’ enhancements and play them visiting a world that is not used to such visitors.

For those players that wish to play Altrant characters, you are presented with a character generation system, which is an enhancement of the Clement Sector: The Rules process. This is pretty detailed and you have the tools to build a background including subsector of origin, legal status, aging, common names and events according to what ‘status’ the Altrant is. Don’t forget: Altrants can be slaves or live in a mixed community.

The next four pages detail the background of four organisations that have something to do with Altrants, either fighting for their freedom or at the opposite end of the scale intent on their destruction.

The remaining few pages add an additional subsector and world details, plus some additional skills. Artwork is substantially provided for by Bradley Warnes, who has put together a large number of character scenes many of which are based on the Altrant described. There is in addition, a single piece created by Jennifer Leonard and Ian Stead.

This is a very well-written, balanced book in that it tries to describe what it is like to be ‘different’ in the 24th century. Unfortunately the human race hasn’t put aside its prejudices (as in Star Trek) and continues to find targets to isolate and attack. In some ways, this makes for more interesting and hopefully challenging way to play in the Clement Sector. In other fantasy games, the ‘traditional’ good vs evil races are quite easily identified and generally, characters in a party (Elves, Dwarves, Humans) work together towards a common goal such as fighting their way to the dragons hoard. In the Clement Sector, this book gives players the opportunity to explore by playing Altrants, what it is like to be ‘different’, deal with racism and hopefully with a careful referee, give people an appreciation of all sides and membership of a society. The Authors Note on the last page of the book gives some insight into the research process of the book and how by using the book, it can help to enhance games in the Clement Sector. I think that if you simply used the book to help roll up Altrant characters with special abilities, that help the rest of the party to get out of a sticky situation would not be getting the most out of the book and not get full value from it.

For me this is a definite purchase for fans of the Clement Sector that will help to substantially expand the its background. I would like to thank John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games for kindly sending me a copy of the book to review.

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Clement Sector, Mongoose Traveller, OGL, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Horizon Survey Craft Model

When Zozer Games published the Horizon Survey Craft supplement on DTRPG some time ago (which I reviewed here), I was quite enamoured with the design. So a few months ago (well, quite a while ago) I started designing my interpretation of the Horizon based on the description in the booklet.

After many interruptions and breaks from my 3D software (AC3D), I purchased the latest version that was compatible with my Windows 10 laptop and I finally finished the design just over a week ago.

I’ve published a 3D rendering over on my Digital Waterfalls Gallery site, but I thought it would be nice to poublish some alternate views of the craft with some snapshots from AC3D, on this blog. If you are flying one of these in a game of Orbital 2100 at the moment, I hope this provides some inspiration for you!

Unfortunately I can’t provide a link to the product as it’s been withdrawn from DTRPG, but perhaps the idea here could be used for an alternate TL9 startship design built in Cepheus Engine.

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Raytracing | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

21 Pirate Groups Review

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. 

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Clement Sector, Mongoose Traveller | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

The Sorcerors Cave 1978

We all have had our ways of finding a way into boardgames and RPGs, some are chance encounters such as reading a book, some are through friends or through TV. My interest started at school in 1981 when I heard of someone playing (through a mutual friend) a new game called ‘Dungeons and Dragons’. Being someone that had been brought up films such as the ‘Sinbad…’ series, ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ with Doug McClure or anything to do with sci-fi, I already had an overactive imagination, so to speak. After much nagging and cajoiling through the mutual friend (named Adrian, aka ‘Ade’) I managed to get involved with the group. Philip (or ‘Marshy’ as we called him) was the one that had all the rule books and games, including the D&D rules, ‘Car Wars’ and ‘Necromancer’ by Metagaming/Steve Jackson. I managed to get a few games during dinnertimes at school (despite being told ‘I wouldn’t get it’ at first – children can be so cruel!) and bought bits and pieces from Marshy and Ade with some pocket money I scraped together.

The first ‘proper’ foray into owning gaming stuff was ‘The Sorcerors Cave’ boardgame by Terence Donnelly and originally published by Ariel (in the UK at least) back in 1978. I bought this from Ade as he was done playing it and I was eager to own any sort of gaming ‘kit’. I recall playing it solo, as the game could be played this way or with friends. The aim of the game was to reach the fourth level dungeon and defeat the sorceror and collect as much treasure as possible. Along the way you have encounter cards for creatures such as trolls and the deadly medusa! The box was supplied with rules, dice, counters, encounter cards and dungeon tiles. The games biggest advantage is that the dungeon tiles could be placed and changed each game, giving a different game each time you played. The rules were quick to start and I got into playing pretty easily. Sorcerers Cave served me well into 1982, but the games started to drop off as I got into more ‘advanced’ RPG and board games in 1983, when things took off with Tunnels and Trolls and trips to Games Workshop.

The dungeon tiles were used for games with miniatures as they proved to be roughly the right size for 25mm gaming, but eventually Sorcerors Cave found its way into my bedroom built-in wardrobe where it lay for the next few decades.

I thought the box was lost when I moved out of my parents house, however whilst doing a bit of sorting out in the garage a few weeks ago, I came across a box that had been packed up and was full of gaming and miniatures kit, including the SC box.

The quick couple of photos I took show that its still in reasonable condition, surviving being stored for such a long time. Everything seems to be intact and no components lost. I didn’t have time to spend more time looking through it, so it was safely packed away again. Now I know I’ve still got the box, I plan to open it up again in the near future, when I have some more time to spend on it. 

For those that are interested, the original writer Terence Donnelly is still around and has some notes about how The Sorcerors Cave game was inspired and developed. His blog gives an overview how the game system works and some of the follow up products, the expansion pack and The Mystic Wood.

Though not as advanced as many games today, I still have fond memories of The Sorcerors Cave game as it helped me get started in an enjoyable lifelong hobby.

Posted in Role Playing Games | Tagged , , | 3 Comments