Games Workshop Memories from the GrogPod

The lads over at the Grognard Files have published a couple of episodes about the history of Games Workshop including an interview with one of their key employees, Tim Olsen. After listening to the first part, Dirk the Dice asked for contributions from listeners, to share their memories of Games Workshop ‘back in the day’. I sent an email to Dirk and he included some of my contribution in the second part of the podcast, for which I’m very grateful. Because however of limited time available, he wasn’t able to include all my email so I thought I would post it here for your perusal.

Games Workshop Birmingham was my ‘local’ store and spent many a happy time visiting and spending whatever pocket money I could scrape together there. However when pulling together these notes, I couldn’t find any pictures on Google of the Birmingham store, when it was located at unit 37 inside the Birmingham Shopping Centre. Absolutely nothing – no shots of either the front or inside the store, without trawling through old copies of White Dwarf magazine. Therefore I do have one request – if anyone does have any photos of reasonable quality that they wouldn’t mind me posting as an addition to this article, I would be very grateful (drop me a response in the comments section).

Something else that was discussed following the podcast publication, favourite or first miniatures. That’s to Dirk again for dropping this scan on Twitter – I was able to pick out my first miniature given to me by a school friend in 1982 – B2 – Magic User (DA33):-

Onto the email I sent Dirk – I hope you find the thoughts interesting:

‘I listened to your podcast today on my work commute, as always a very enjoyable reminice of RPG gaming from ‘back in the day’. Being an old school gamer, I had many parallel experiences and memories of Games Workshop and I hope you don’t mind me sharing them with you and your podcast listeners.

For me, Games Workshop’s Citadel Miniatures always meant more to me rather than RPGs, when I first started gaming in the early 80’s. Though I’d picked up a few cast-off Ral Partha figures from school friends in 1982, my trips to GW in Birmingham didn’t start until the early summer of 1983. Based at unit 37 of the Birmingham Shopping Centre, I used to catch the bus or train in with my cousin Carl; for me its not just what was on the shelves like many people, but oddly a lasting memory was the smell of the shop. A heady mix of coffee that had been cooking on the percolator for far too long, shelves of fresh new books and the occasional blasts of underarm perfume from one of the staff known as Ted. Those early trips involved asking Ted ‘can I see tray such-n-such’ and feeling slightly intimidated by a watching Ted, whilst you rifled through the tray, looking for that Dwarf figure you’d set your eyes on from the Citadel catalogue.

The shop layout as I remember was a sales counter as you walked in on the left hand side, shelves of RPGs and supplements continuing on the left, the figures display / blister packs next with the second sales counter at the back. This is where I probably spent most of my time as the right hand side was mainly wargames and board games which I wasn’t interested in. One particularly noteable ‘feature’ if you can call it that, was the big box Traveller Deluxe set, stood high above the figures shelves. It always intrigued me but at £14.95, that was a lot of money I could spend on figures… so I never bought it. I finally managed to pick up a copy from eBay several years later though.

As I said, it was always the figures for me and RPGs were secondary in the early to mid-eighties so imagine my surprise after entering the Midlands regional heat with a selection of painted figures for the first Golden Demon award in 1986, I was one of the winners! I had my figures displayed in the glass cabinet in the Birmingham shop! I was able to go onto the finals in Nottingham and though I didn’t win anything (people with far bigger budgets and more skill than me won), I will always have that memory. Oh, and during the judging, my Ogre did catch John Blanche’s eye so it did get fondled by one of the great GW artists for a short while!

Dirk and Blythy discussed the lack of hobby and model shops in Bolton and Manchester, in some ways I was lucky in having Games Workshop, Games Centre, Virgin Megastore and Beatties all within easy walking distance in Birmingham city centre. The latter was a great resource for purchasing plastic models for adapting parts and converting the Citadel figures. A shout out must go to ‘Mulliput’ – the model makers friend and essential model making clay. Used to make the bases more decorative and fill in those gaps in model making conversions, Milliput was purchased in huge amounts to feed my Citadel ‘habit’.

It must have been 1990-91 when GW Birmingham moved to a different location in the Pallasades as it was renamed (from the Birmingham Shopping Centre) and my gaming group decided to go over for the grand opening. It was extremely busy and many of the new Warhammer lines were selling well. Near the main counter, were the ‘bargain bins’ so I wandered over. The staff had obviously had a clear out and many of the lines such as AD&D modules or gaming supplements, were being sold off to clear the stock room out. Most of the bins had been emptied, but I picked up a few books and some Metagaming titles cheaply. After this, the store was heavily into promoting their house titles and pushing Warhammer Fantasy Battle (which I was never into), so my trips to GW became more and more infrequent. 

Eventually, our gaming group broke up (jobs, real life and all that) in 1992 and I didnt have anything else to do with RPGs until 2009, when I started to pick up copies of Classic Traveller via the internet. Ordering RPG material off the internet doesn’t quite compare to those early eighties trips to Games Workshop, where the chance to go and look through the RPG goodies was definitely its strongpoint – along with that smell of burnt coffee!

Thanks again for a cracking podcast and for making middle-aged men go misty-eyed over lead figures and past adventures!’

If you’re interested in reading my Tunnels and Trolls posts that were mentioned in the podcast, you can find part one here and part two here.

I’ll round off with a small thought following the terrible events last Monday at the Manchester Arena; from Birmingham and the Black Country, to our friends in Manchester…


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Laserburn Memories

I’ve been wanting to revisit one of my favourite old-school gaming rules from back in the day, Laserburn. I’ve kept the rules safely tucked away along with my Tunnels and Trolls dungeons, for years. So in the interest of trying to pull together those memories, I’ve been doing some digging on the ye olde internets and compiled this article which I hope you may find interesting.

My first memory of Laserburn was when my cousin Carl bought a copy of the rules set from (I think) the Virgin Games store in Birmingham. The store took over from the Midland Educational store (another favourite when I was little) in Corporation Street and soon became a useful source of hard to find gaming material as Games Workshop became more and more a ‘house’ product company. The rules are for 15mm and 25mm miniatures skirmishes, sold as having a RPG element, but I think this was a bit of a sales pitch to widen its appeal.

The book is very similar to the TnT rules and solo dungeons; A5 pamphlet style, 40 pages with a cream-coloured card cover. Illustrations are hand-drawn line art and the typsetting reminds me very much of paragraphs stuck together and photocopied. If the copier density was set a little too high, you would see vauge lines bordering the said paragraphs. The rules were cheap – just a few quid apiece, for the main rules set and supplements. Authored by Bryan Ansell and Tony Ackland (the god-like figures of Citadel and Games Workshop fame) and was essentially the forerunner to Warhammer 40K; re-reading the rules I get the feel some elements of the game found their way into the later WH40K. Weapons such as bolt rifles and hand flamer are examples of this.

My copy of Laserburn with its quick reference cards and hand-made weapons effects templates.

Hand-drawn tables… no Microsoft Word here (but probably easier to lay out with a pencil and ruler…)

The ‘missing link’ between Laserburn and WH40K, I reckon is the advert from the oft-promised-but-massively delayed ‘Rogue Trader’, Citadels answer to Traveller (snapshot below from the first Citadel Compendium). This was advertised in 1983, but eventually became the first edition for the WH40K universe.

Never found out who Dr Gostalo’s Amazing Inter-Galactic Psycho Circus was… and ‘Fear and Loathing in Los Asteros’ sounds like a dodgy club I may have been to in central Birmingham…!

Rather than trying to remember the game mechanics as the last time I played was around 1987, there is an excellent article over at the penultimateharn blog which explains the system and how to play. Because the game encourages the use of templates to determine hits, Carl had cut some card templates for eg. grenade effects or the ‘sun gun’ weapon which I inherited when I bought the Laserburn rules from him. Because of this, I ended up playing the game using 25mm miniatures, rather than the 15mm version, of which I had a load of Traveller boxed sets. For me, this is where it starts to get a little interesting; I had also picked up some 25mm sci-fi miniatures from somewhere, I couldn’t recall exactly where, but I remember most of the miniatures and their poses. After a bit of searching on t’internet I found them here; it turns out that they were Grenadier 25mm Imperial Marine Traveller figures, which turn out to be quite rare in the UK.

I know I’ve got them stashed away in the garage somewhere (I really, really must clear it out one day), I know I have at least the following:- T1 Officer, T4 Medic, Firing T2, Kneeling w/RAM T6, Assulting T8 and PARC-3 Rocket Launcher T12.

Image link – – Grenadier Traveller 25mm boxed set.

These were painted in an initial white garb scheme, with black limb joints (Star Wars stormtrooper style) and then replaced the white with a red-orange colour scheme (‘cos thats good for camouflage!) I set up a game with my brother using these figures and remember once you got the hang of the rules, it was quite a reasonable system to use.

Though the number of games played with the rules was limited, I probably have more affection for the rules because of their ‘rough and ready’ production values. I love the photocopied-bound-with-a-bit-of-card and plain line art, the font used reminds me of the early Citadel catalogues I used to spend hours pouring over, planning my next purchases. Because of these production values and hence cheap book prices, I was able to expand my RPG rules set and if anything, gain a lot of inspiration in other games.

On another trip to Virgin Megastore, as the RPG section was gradually winding down, some Laserburn supplements became available (from stuffed in a back room somewhere I guess) which I eagerly purchased as it was the first and last time I would see the LB books on sale in a store. I picked up ‘Advanced Laserburn and Aliens’ and ‘Forces of the Imperium’ from this final sale.

The other books are very similar in production values and in some ways to illustrations mirror what miniatures were available at the time.

Above – Advanced Laserburn and Aliens page. The production style didn’t change in the three years between the original rules and the publication of this product.

A snap of a TableTop Games (TTG) catalogue and some of their 15mm range, circa mid-80’s, possibly picked up from a Dragonmeet I went to.

Laserburn is still available – along with additional supplements over at Alternative Armies. Well worth a look if you fancy exploring the world of Laserburn and 15-25mm skirmish gaming.

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Wendy’s Guide to the Fleets Double Review

Quite a bit of news to get through in this post, first of all two pieces of sad news posted via the Zhodani Base (;

The first is the sad passing of Donovan Lambertus of DSL Ironworks, who produced a number of third-party supplements for the Traveller RPG. The second is also another passing of a Traveller RPG friend Gregory P. Lee, who produced the recent Cirque supplement under the Greylock Publishing Lines name. Both Donovan and Gregory were kind supporters of the Amber Zone contest and I was one of the lucky recipients of some of the DSL ironworks PDF’s and Cirque soft back book, from entries to the Amber Zone contests. Unfortunately I’m on holiday in the North of England at the moment and don’t have to hand what Greg wrote in my copy of Cirque, which I’ll add at a latter date.

Update: now back home, a snapshot that of the copy of Cirque that Greg kindly signed for me:

They will be greatly missed along with their contributions to the Traveller and sci-if gaming community. Wherever you are, please raise a glass to their memory.

Onto the reviews; I’m going to take a look at the two releases (so far) from Gypsy Knights Games under the name ‘Wendy’s Guide to the Fleets of…’, namely in this case ‘…the Hub Subsector’ and ‘…the Cascadia Subsector’. I’m going to review the two books together as they are very similar products.

Both books are sourcebooks / reference books for the named subsectors, in Gypsy Knights Games ATU ‘Clement Sector’. In some ways, there is a tiny bit of repeated material from previous editions of ‘Hub’ and ‘Cascadia’ sourcebooks, but from what I can see any previously used material has been brought up to date to be Cepheus Engine compliant. ‘Hub’ is 71 pages long and ‘Cascadia’ is 76 pages in length. They are both available from Drivethru RPG for $9.99 apiece; print-on-demand options are also available. Michael Johnson has authored both books, along with contributing art from Ian Stead, Michael Johnson and Bradley Warnes.

Both products are pitched as ‘summaries of fleet listings and naval developments, technology and defence news’. What does this mean from the point of view of content? For ease of review, thankfully (! – from the point of viewing!) both books are very similarly laid out. Covering two respective subsectors in the Clement Sector, they are broken down into three distinct sections; naval listings, a career generation path and rank charts and a major spacecraft description and stats.

When I initially flicked through the first book to be released (Hub) I was a little wary of books that list fleets for seemingly the sole purpose of filling a book with lists. Back in the day, I recall seeing some RPG supplements (published years ago) that were simply this – army lists of goblins, orcs, dwarves etc but not really putting any context or background as to why they exist and the publisher charging a load of cash to buy it. But, I kept an open mind and started to plough through the book. Thankfully, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the content and how the book has been put together.

The first section, the fleets listings and background is broken up into descriptions of the various fleets operating in the systems within the subsector. You get not just a list of ships operated by that fleet, but some background information on how the it operates and how government policy. Subsequent paragraphs describe fleet uniform (standard dress, duty and war dress). Depending on the size of the organisation, some fleets are larger than others, ranging from small anti-pirate patrols operating three or four converted merchants), to major battle fleets with everything from large cruisers to patrol cutters.

What made this section stand out for me is the descriptive content which help to build the background to each organisation. There are quite a few scenario ideas; for example officers from the Sophronius System Navy forcing officers to ‘disappear’ if they don’t agree with the dictator’s doctrine and the players have to find out what happened to the officer. The Talca Deterrent Force’s entire fleet of Rucker-class system security vessels have been grounded due to a problem with the supply of spare parts, so the players are asked to take on a patrol, with some TDF crew on board. Only problem is that the TDF crew are deliberately sabotaging the TDF vessels for nefarious reasons and the players crew is next to be hit…

The next section you are presented with a career generation path; this is where there is a little repeated information between both books, in that you have the ‘System Navy Career Path’ described, which is followed with tables of variations of ranks, for all the navies described. There is plenty of excellent artwork, ranging from colour illustrations of spacecraft featured in the books to uniform illustration and advertising posters.

The final section you get (for Hub) ‘Sword of God-class Light Destroyer’ and “Cascadia’ you get the ‘Alfred Thayer Mayan-class Heavy Destroyer’. Full ship descriptions, statistics for Cepheus-Engine rules and deck plans are provided. The former is an interesting design; shaped like a Manta-ray, its operated by the ‘Kingston Navy of the Faithful’, it is a design that defies classification, but fulfils a number of roles – a multi-role strike ship perhaps?

Bearing in mind the slight wariness I had with these two books, I’m pleasantly surprised by the amount of content packed into such a book – it’s unfair to compare it against another ‘listings’ RPG books from other publishers. The upshot is to read all the text – there is plenty of source material here to make both books a worthwhile investment and inspire referees. The books add colour and background to adventures – get the players who may be on an infiltration mission to find out what the correct uniform is for the Roskilde System Navy… if they get it wrong they could be in a whole heap of trouble…! I also noticed a number of ship types whose names I didn’t recognise – hopefully more from the ‘Ships of the Clement Sector’ series? I’m assuming there will be similar books for the other Clement subsectors – in which case I look forward to seeing more from ‘Wendy’s Fleets’! I would like to thank John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games for very kindly sending me a copy of both books to review.

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Sixth Birthday and a Look Back

March the 28th is the sixth birthday of this blog – hooray and happy birthday to us! For today’s post I thought I would take a look back at some of the products I have reviewed and why they stick in memory for me. I’ll make one exception, the SOCS16 Rucker-class Merchant by GK Games; I love the book and what the guys at GKG did with my original design, but I thought that was a bit too much self-promotion in including it in the list.

Before I take a look at the past product reviews, a quick mention of some of the latest Cepheus Engine / 2D6 SFRPG releases.

From Zozer Games, we have ‘Solo’, a (as the name suggests) gaming aid for Cepheus Engine rules. This looks really interesting; I’ve got my own solo gaming rules for Classic Traveller, which are basically the trading rules married with some house encounter rules. Paul Elliot at Zozer has sent over a copy for me to review, so I’m looking forward to reviewing this very soon.

From Gypsy Knights Games, the steady expansion of their Clement Sector continues; the two latest releases are ‘Hub Federation Navy Second Edition’ and ‘Wendys Guide to the Fleets of the Cascadia Subsector’. Again, I’ll be delving into reviews of these as soon as I can.

Finally we have the lastest issue of Freelance Traveller magazine. Always a great source of material and articles, an excellent resource for a free download!

My top Five Favourite Products from Previous Reviews

I thought it was worth taking a step back after six years of reviews and have another look at all the products I’ve reviewed. I’m not going to list them in any number order, as they are all excellent products for various reasons, so I’m going to just list them with equal ranking.

Gypsy Knights Games – Clement Sector

GKG’s main SFRPG setting and what all their products are based around now. I originally reviewed this back in 2013. The core rulebook has gone through a couple of revisions; originally starting out as an ATU for Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition, dodged the bullet by avoiding going to Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition at the last minute and now is set firmly in the Cepheus Engine compatible camp. I find myself more and more leaning towards CS as my go-to background for SFRPG-ing. The background has grown into a very well developed whole system that has explored not just adventuring in general, but the politics, terrestrial non-humans (‘uplifts’), tons of spacecraft, adventure ideas and campaigns and finally the worlds of Clement Sector. Best of all, the products are very reasonably priced so you can pick fron the range and build up your collection at a steady pace. I highly recommend you take a look at the GKG CS product line, its a rich and developing ‘universe’ that is worth spending time in.

Zozer Games – Orbital / Orbital 2100

I’ve got a soft spot for Orbital (as it was when I reviewed it), having now been updated to Orbital 2100 and Cepheus Engine-compatible. I like the near-future background, approximately 100 years from now (Clement Sector is set in the 24th Century). There are no jump drives, its all very realistic and accurate technology that is either available now, or is on the drawing board now. In particular I like the spacecraft – I’ve got a rendering of one of the products (‘Horizon DRV’) in development, so I can produce mash-up’s of Shuttle engines with ISS-inspired modules and futuristic landing craft. The product line isn’t anywhere near as comprehensive as the Clement Sector, but with TV shows such as ‘The Expanse’, you can get a lot of inspiration and a ready-to-use background with Orbital if a near-future background is your preferred scenario!

Stellagama Publishing – These Stars Are Ours!

I only reviewed this earlier in the month, so I won’t go over the product in too much detail again. But – a couple of things that still stick in my mind after leaving the review to stew – its an up-and-coming background that is showing a huge amount of promise, with furure products on the horizon. The alien backgrounds are very well developed (I do like the Ciceks – badass lizards!) and with extra material, this should be a fun ATU to game in.

Gypsy Knights Games – Skull and Crossbones – Piracy in Clement Sector

A supplement that has stuck in my mind after reviewing it last year; I love the background material, the spacecraft and the characters. Who wouldn’t like to be a pirate on the run from the law? A really well balanced book that also explores the morality of being a pirate and what happens if the law catches up with you…!

Stellagama Publishing – The Space Patrol

To round off the list, I’ve gone for ‘The Space Patrol’; again another very well written and thoroughly detailed supplement about the galaxy’s lawmakers, which I reviewed at the end of last year. Interesting and useful, a quick flick through the book reminded me how much I liked this book when I originally reviewed it.

Conclusions from taking a look back?

Its great to see so many high-quality books and publications coming out, especially after the ‘break’ from Mongoose Traveller and moving to the Cepheus Engine rules as a basis for ATU’s. What I do like about the third-party market is that there is a wealth of gaming material out there, much of it very high quality and some ways, the break from Mongoose 2nd edition has done the some SFRPG publishers a favour. The reins are free and imaginations are running wild – long may it continue!

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These Stars Are Ours Review

These Stars Are Ours! is a new science-fiction setting for the Cepheus Engine 2D6 rules set, published by Stellagama Publishing. It can be purchased for $19.99 from Drivethru RPG and contains 209 pages. It is written by Omer Golan-Joel, Richard Hazlewood, Josh Peters and art provided by Ian Stead, Axel Lofving, Earl Geiger, Luigi Castellani. The book is pitched as a fully independent setting for the Cepheus Engine 2D6 SF gaming rules, which it requires for play. Throughout the book, though the Cepheus Engine is used and repeated where needed (to make it easy for reference) and where appropriate for the setting (eg. When following the Terran career path), additional rules and guidance is provided.

The premise of ‘These Stars Are Ours’ is a futuristic setting in the year 2260. The human race (‘Terrans’) have reached the stars and built an empire, but only after nearly two hundred years of oppression by a race of aliens known as the Reticulans (yes, they look like the greys from popular UFO stories). The Reticulans came to Earth in 2082 and through stealth and guile, eventually came to rule over the Terrans, absorbing Earth into their star-spanning empire. The Terrans became pawns and were made to fight the Reticulans wars against other neighbouring empires, due to the Reticulans being smaller and more lithe than the other races.

Eventually, a small incident sparked an uprising among the Terrans which became a full-blown revolution across a number of occupied worlds. The Terrans reclaimed Earth for themselves and drove the Reticulans back, setting the scene for now, the year 2260. 

Let’s take a look at each main chapter in turn:

Chapter 1 – you are presented with the background to the United Terran Republic, history and lead up to the present year 2260. You get a full breakdown of the military structure to the UTR, psionics, hybrids, corporations, technology, the colonies, religion, legal system, criminal and terrorist groups. The United Terran Republic is a young, up-and-coming player in interstellar politics, finally free from Reticulan oppression, setting the scene for adventure and intrigue. 

Chapter 2 – Aliens. Here you have presented all the major and minor types of sentient creatures that inhabit the TSAO ‘universe’. Each alien is thoroughly described under the headings ‘Biology’, ‘Psychology and Society’, ‘Culture and Spirituality’, the aliens sphere of influence aka their empire, their Military and playing one of these as a player character. This is really extensive section and its obvious a huge amount of work has gone into building the background of TSAO. There are a few line art illustrations which are sufficient to show what reach being looks like and in comparison to each other.

Chapter 3 – Characters and Careers. The really good thing about this chapter is that there are extensive character and career development paths that include in equal measure, not just Terrans but any of the aliens that have been previously described. There are quite a few tables including events for all the careers, mishaps and descriptions for lasting injuries and argumented equipment that can compensate for injuries. You’re taken through a character creation checklist, with details how to generate stats and background for any of the races presented. When reading through this, I noticed one of the material benefits is your own civilian flying saucer spacecraft – you don’t get one of those in many retirement packages! 

Chapter 4 – Starships. For me, this is probably the weakest part of the book. There are six spacecraft described, two Reticulan’s flying saucers and one each for the four major races. The ships that are described are good designs, nicely illustrated with full deck plans; however I wonder because there is so much material setting up the background and races, the spacecraft section was deliberately left a little short. Otherwise if the same amount of effort was put into the spacecraft section as the rest of the book, you’d have another hundred pages on top of the existing two hundred! As such, you end up having to rely on the standard designs from the CE rules, but these don’t have any illustrations or desk plans. Alternatively you could use some from alternative publishers. Hopefully there will be more spacecraft covered in a future supplement as it would certainly do the background justice.

Chapter 5 – Terran Borderlands. This section covers the worlds and astrogation data for the sector that TSAO is set in. The level of detail picks up again compared to the previous and you get a detailed description of each world with its current name (in 2260) and it’s astronomical name (eg. Wolf 359) with stats and allegiance. There is quite a bit that can be used to inspire adventures here; make sure you read every bit of detail! You also get an additional rule that has been added over the normal CE rules, being the worlds temperature. The habitable zone in which a star resides is the starting point for life to exist on a planet and secondly, liquid water. The rule is a nice touch which helps to bolster a planet’s UPP without being onerous to generate.

Chapter 6 – Patron encounters. No new rules setting would without adventure seeds and events to get your games started. There are a dozen single-page patron adventure seeds described here; all of them will need a little work by the referee to get things set up, but all are perfect for getting started in the TSAO setting. My favourite is ‘Marian Kelvin’ where the PCs have to purchase a very valuable bottle of wine. There is an opportunity for some humour with some of the complications presented, I’d like to offer a suggestion to bolster this encounter. Take a look at the third episode from the brilliant ‘Black Books’ series one called ‘Grapes of Wrath’, by Graham Linehan (Channel 4, UK) as comedic inspiration. In addition, there is another page of TAS news service excerpts with further ideas, in Appendix A.

Appendix B – Sources of inspiration. No surprises here, all excellent suggestions from the world of film, literature, TV and video games. Many will will be staples of any SFRPG setting, but there may be a few that you haven’t heard of.

The overall impression I get from this book is the huge amount of material and development that has been condensed into 209 pages. There isn’t much white space – just about every page has been filled with information about the setting. However, the book is very well written and edited, so it doesn’t feel like heavy reading. Artwork is limited to colour illustrations of the spacecraft and a few scenes by Ian Stead, the remainder being fine line art from the other artists previously mentioned but this doesn’t detract from the quality of the book. I highly recommend that you read every section; there is such a wealth of material presented here, it will certainly keep you going for a good while and inspires plenty of adventure ideas. Its nice to see a new setting which bolsters the Cepheus Engine rules set portfolio. Though the price is $19.99 (and minor reservations about the short spacecraft section aside), I think this is a very worthwhile purchase and worth investing some time to run some games in. I look forward to seeing supplementary material to bolster TSAO in the future! I would like to thank Omer Golan-Joel for very kindly sending me a copy of TSAO to review.

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The Wondrous Menagerie Review

Welcome to the review of the latest release from Gypsy Knights Games – ‘The Wondrous Menagerie’ (which I shall refer to from now on as ‘TWM’). It is available for $9.99 from Drivethru RPG, for which you get an 82 page watermarked PDF. The price is little more expensive than the recent releases from GKG, however what you get is a very comprehensive sourcebook packed with material. 

TWM starts with a short introduction and a couple pages of contents. The book then dives in with five pages of the history of Uplifts, right from the late twentieth century to the (Clement Sector) present day of the twenty-fourth century. The Clement Sector (CS) doesn’t have an identifiable alien race, so Uplifts are designed to provide this sort of ‘exotic’ element in CS games. An Uplift is a terrestrial animal which has been genetically altered to enhance certain abilities, such as intelligence, walking upright, enhanced dexterity or some other ‘special’ ability. Many were enhanced to the point they are close to humans in intelligence and dexterity. Unfortunately Uplifts were used for little more than slaves by some governments and organisations. Their legal status isn’t always the same as humans and many Uplifts are segregated away from the rest of human life, even though they are ‘expected’ to perform many tasks that humans don’t want to do.
In some ways, I initially found reading that there was a great deal of slavery and not as much respect for man’s fellow creatures as I would hope for, a little depressing. Perhaps I have a little of the hope from ‘Star Trek’ in me in that as the human race advances technologically, you would hope that we would try and treat each other with more respect and work together. I know its only a game setting, but in light of current events around the world, it would be nice to think there is hope for the human race! More on this though later in the authors notes, which helped to put this background into context.

The book then describes the differences between class 1,2 and 3 Uplifts and the various creatures abilities. You get descriptions for Apes, Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Orangutans, Bears, Bovians, Pandas, Cats, Dogs, Dolphins, Elephants, Horses, Kraken, Lions, Quetzals, Tigers and Yeti. This is a thoroughly well-written section and covers just about everything about the creatures abilities, society and their interactions with humans.

Starting on page 54, the next section describes Uplift characters and rules, should you wish to play one. Additional character creation charts are provided for each type of Uplift, including events and rolling for their legal status. Because of the difference in creatures ageing processes, there are quite a few tables to refer to which indicate any ageing rolls and modifiers to apply. You are then presented with the Uplift slave career track, described over 6 pages.

To help make the character generation process as well rounded as possible, you get a page detailing how to name an Uplift along with some examples. The next three pages describe three political groups and their belief structure, with a final page on characters detailing some unique skills. Though I’m not of a religious persuasion, I did find it interesting which Uplift races would choose to participate in the different human religions.

John Watts has provided a useful ‘authors note’ on playing Uplift characters; I found this extremely useful and rewarding in how to get the most out of the book. Playing an Uplift presents some unique challenges and helped me to understand how and why the background to Uplift life is set up in the way that is has (for example, slavery is common on certain worlds). Uplifts have a different view on the world and playing one could give a unique experience into their situation. One thing that I thought would have been useful to mention was why some tasks couldn’t be performed by robots instead of Uplifts? Or is it simply a case that AI in robots hasn’t progressed as far as I might think and genetically- engineering terrestrial animals has become an easier solution?

The final page is rounded off with a monochrome silhouette height comparison chart, showing the differences between the races presented in the book. The book is packed with some excellent character artwork by Bradley Warnes – favourites have got to be the grizzly bears in blue and white one-piece utility suits and the panda in a flight suit acting as co-pilot aboard a starship!

This is a thoroughly well-written, well-researched and thought-provoking book and well worth purchasing. It adds an additional dimension to playing in the Clement Sector – no self-respecting captain should be without a ships panda! I would like to sincerely thank the author John Watts for sending me a copy to review.

I would like to mention it was saddening to hear of the passing of Loren Wiseman, one of the co-authors of the original Traveller RPG. My sympathies to his family and friends, may the legacy of his writings be long remembered.

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Rucker-class Artwork – Re-entry Vehicle

I’ve been mucking around with the Rucker-class model again in POV-Ray. I wanted to use the large curved ‘saucer’ section to my advantage to help show off some sort of flames as the craft skips into the atmosphere of a planet, starting it’s re-entry decent.

The planet and starfield is first genrated in Bryce and used as a background which is then imported into POV-Ray and rendered with the Rucker-class model. After adding some flames with some filters, I’ve got the result pretty much as I wanted. I could have spent some more time on the background I think, but its more of a proof of concept to get the flames and sparks experienced during re-entry.


Edit: Just released by Gypsy Knights Games is ‘Wonderous Menagerie: Uplifts in the Clement Sector‘, now available for $9.99 from Drivethru RPG. I’ll be taking a look at this soon!

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Classic Traveller, Mongoose Traveller, OGL, Raytracing | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments