Artifical – Robots in Clement Sector Review

Finally, spring and lighter mornings are returning to the UK at last. Though the first three months of the year haven’t been any near like last years poor weather, somehow it’s seemed harder to get motivated to write for the blog. However some time in the sun and fresh air has brought about a renewed attitude and a change in personal circumstances, which I mentioned in my last blog post. After twenty-five years, I’m finally moving on from working in front-line IT technical support and going into the field of information governance, having handed in my resignation with my current employer today. Its been a long time in coming but I’m finally getting to specialise in a field that has piqued my interest and I’ve been doing more and more work in the past eighteen months. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with my current employer, but its the right time in my career to move on into a subject that I’ve found interesting and challenging. However I’ve got a period of notice to work and a lot of work to do in the meantime, as I want to leave my current employer in the best possible position for the future.

A very long time overdue, I’m going to tackle the review pile, starting with ‘Artificial – Robots in Clement Sector’ by Gypsy Knights Games (which I’ll refer to as ARCS from now on).

Robots are obviously a huge part of many sci-fi stories and worlds and though its been a while in coming, GKG have put a lot of thought and consideration into ARCS. The book is available from Drivethru RPG for $9.99 as a PDF or $24.99 for the softcover book (hardcover is the same price at the moment, normally $34.99). The book is 100 pages long.

Compared to other books from the GKG stable, this could be considered one of their medium-weight supplements which is reflected in the price. The book has a very attractive cover by Bradley Warnes; you immediately get a good idea of how much detail there is in the book by the contents section, which is seven pages long.

The books core aim is to give players and referees the ability to ‘build’ robots by following a design checklist. Breaking the book down into its main sections:-

After the contents pages, you are introduced to the world of Clement Sector robots with three pages of background how robot technology has evolved from the twenty-first to twenty-third centuries.

The design process is summarised on page 13 with a clear and concise break down of how to build your robot. I’m not going to repeat the whole process here, but highlight the key parts. As you work your way through the design process, at the bottom of several pages you have a design example which helps to clarify the step. I’m always pleased to see this sort of thing as it always makes getting used to a new system / process a lot easier.

The chassis forms the base for all the components and parts of the robot; a variety of shapes and types are described, from basic frameworks to biosynths, the ultimate robot chassis in the Clement Sector. A biosynth is essentially a replication of the human body, almost completely to the point that muscular and certain nervous systems act in the same way. Chassis sizes range from 1kg all the way up to 20,000kg! A table lists the available space with which you can add components and its strength rating. You have a huge number of options available for the chassis such as additional armour, types of false skin and protection against radiation.

The power supply is the key component in deciding on what the robots duration and how much power will be needed to power its attached components. There is as much here in creating your type of power unit as there is building a spacecraft; there is plenty of information describing the type of power unit, recharge times and operating times.

Page 28 looks at extraneous appendages aka ‘arms’. Depending on what your robot will be used for you can choose from different types of armature such as ‘assembler’ (specialised attachments used for construction for example), ‘standard arms’ (human-like), or ‘tentacle’ (Cthulhu has had some design input). The section then follows with how to break the arm down into components such as having characteristic increases, branching (multiple arms from the arms chassis connection) or hydraulics.

Page 35 has a couple of pages on what ‘head’ options are available. A head could make the difference between how an organic life-form interacts with the robot, acting almost as a point of focus for communication, in the same way that two organic life forms would with each other. Ok, is it just me that find those headless Zhodani warbots a bit sinister?

Want your robot to get around? You’ll need some form of locomotion which is covered in the next six pages. You have quite a bit of choice in this area, ranging from air cushion and anti-grav, through to legs and wheels to water-based forms of propulsion (and a few others in between). Each form of propulsion has a table with its respective capabilities and costs, plus a brief description.

Part 6 (page 43) delves into types of armament, if you intend your robot to have offensive or defensive capabilities. Robots can carry weapons on integrated or external mountings and these are covered in the next four pages of the book. Note though; a biological synthetic can’t accommodate an internal weapons mounting, for obvious reasons…!

Page 47 looks at the one part that controls the robot – the computer. A number of factors influence the computer that is used in the robot which in turn effect game stats. There is quite a bit of information here giving you the choice of how much sophistication you want to put into the robot, balanced with how much money you have of course!

Page 53 (Software Programs) is a comprehensive section describing the programs that run in the robots computer. This isn’t just a list of autonomous commands, you have things like the ‘emotion emulator’ where you can give a robot the ability to express facial capabilities such as being happy, sad, surprised etc. I do like the table of ‘personality patterns’ where you can have the choice of ‘grumpy disposition’, ‘dull with a matter of fact attitude’ or ‘friendly and engaging’. Ideal for making a ‘Marvin the Paranoid Android’ robot character I think! The task software list contains software that is the equivalent of the usual skills that characters can gain, except that robots have to have sufficient core memory storage (ok, characters have to have this as well in some way, in the ‘old grey matter). There are some additional task software descriptions such as ‘cargo handling’ or ‘security’ or ‘valet’ which are specific to robots only.

A nice addition to what software programs are available for robots (and perhaps a reflection of modern technology and the way that we use applications) is the list of ‘apps’. These small programs are designed to perform a specific function and are much smaller than the regular programs. For example, you have ‘Jimmie’s 20 minute meals’; guaranteed pukka meals for your passengers with streaming narration and video (shoot me now or the robot, please). Or there is ‘mapfinder’; get the best maps for your local area/planet (useful) or ‘Yolanda’s Children’s Library’ (imagine a rogue robot blasting this out as it runs after you armed with lasers on a locked down transport ship). A very nice addition.

Section 9 includes all the types of sensors, communications and electronics you could ever want. Everything from visual, audio, taste and communications from civilian to military-class capabilities.

Section 10 (page 70) rounds up with ‘Other Components’, anything that isn’t already covered in the previous nine sections.

Sections 11 to 13 cover the game stats and how robots would ‘work’ within the Clement Sector rules. You also get a comprehensive section on attitudes to robots within the different subsectors; don’t assume that all robots are allowed within each planetary society. Some planets because or religious, cultural or historical reasons allow robots (or not) to varying degrees. This is especially useful if you intend to play a robot character, which neatly brings me to the following section on page 82. Its a useful and thought-provoking addition to look at the challenges when playing a robot character, some of which are similar when playing uplift or non-human characters. Its not a simple way to get a character with enhanced abilities by playing a robot, there a are great deal of disadvantages as well. The book rounds off with a number of design types, organisations and robot examples which are always useful to compare against when building your own robot.

So what do I think of ARCS? Its a thoroughly well researched book, presenting lots of options and components with which to build your robot, whether it be as an NPC, character or simply for an interesting encounter. It is lavishly illustrated with gorgeous colour artwork by Bradley Warnes, Stephanie McAlea, Tithi Luadthong and Kittipong Jirasukhanont. The author Michael Johnson has put together an excellent gaming resource for the Clement Sector (and Cepheus Engine) that is also an interesting read exploring the aspects of playing a robot character. Along with the usual high-quality editing and layout, this is another excellent product from Gypsy knights Games which I can highly recommend. I would like to thank John Watts for sending me a copy to review (and bearing with me so long in turning around a review!)

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Eight Years of Alegis Downport

Its been eight years since I launched this blog, so happy birthday to me (if thats possible!) As much as I have tried however, its been a tough couple of months since I last posted what with things going on in real life. However there is some light at the end of the tunnel and I am just waiting for some very positive news to be confirmed in the next week or so. Once I have got that out of the way I’m expecting to have a lot more time to catch up and contribute to my Traveller et al musings. Before anyone asks, no I have not won the lottery! I feel a bit guilty not reviewing or posting anything for nearly two months but sometimes real life has to take priority, I’m about to make a big change in my life, so my time for the moment has had to be made in that direction.

I’m currently working on a review of Gypsy Knights Games ‘Artificial: Robots in the Clement Sector’ which I will have posted in early April, along with some recently released products also from GKG and Stellagama Publishing. Though things have been a bit quiet recently in the Traveller RPG / Cepheus Engine world with a limited number of releases and Google+ about to shut down, refugees have been finding sanctuary on the MeWe social network and things are expanding there almost daily.

Since I launched this blog back in 2011, there have been nearly 45,000 visitors at time of writing, more than I could have ever possibly imagined. I’m immensely grateful for the continued support and comments, here’s to getting back on track!

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Cepheus Light – Traits Review

Cepheus Light – Traits is a supplement published by Stellagama Publishing and is available from Drive Thru RPG for $1.00 as a downloadable PDF. With Cepheus Light Stellagama stripped out many of the rules and more complicated content from the Cepheus Engine SRD, concentrating on the ‘core’ game mechanics for running a 2D6 SF RPG game. This has a lot of advantages in that you can get a game set up and allow a game to ‘flow’ very quickly. However, depending on your preference this can leave some background details and ’embelishments’ out of a character’s history. Many people prefer to make this up as they go along, but some prefer to let the rules book guide what their character will be like by trusting the throw of the dice.

For those that prefer the latter, Stellagama have released this small supplement for their Cepheus Light rules set. It is light on page count, being only eleven pages in length. A light page count isn’t always an indicator of quality though, so what do you get for your dollar? The book contains 44 ‘traits’ that can be used to enhance or build up a characters background. A trait is classed as an ability or area of training which can partially overlap characteristics or skills. You could think of traits as experience that is applied to skills, or the sort of instinctive advantage that is gained as you build up experience, as you receive one trait per three terms of service. I should note that there are no disadvantageous traits listed – these are positive things that a character can have.

Because many of the traits are skill based, you usually have to have some sort of pre-requisite; for example the ‘Assassin’ trait has a pre-requisite of ‘Melee Combat’ skill. However there are some that have characteristic requirements, such as the trait ‘Hardy’ (ie. resistant to injury, not the silent film actor) has a requirement of having 9+ on their Endurance score. What sort of benefits do you get? You might have the ability to run a bit quicker than everyone else (15m instead of 10m in a combat action), or when making a saving throw, instead of rolling two dice you get to roll three and discard the lowest score. Each trait is described with a short paragraph including any requirements and the advantage gained and you are allowed to pick any trait on qualification as long as you meet the requirements. All the traits listed are advantageous, there is nothing that can be considered as detrimental from the choices available. As you can expect with a page count of 11, you’re not going to get much in the way of art which is limited to a couple of small illustrations. There is no random generation table as that wouldn’t work because the skills have pre-requisites

I’m really impressed with the amount of content that the author (Omer Golan-Joel) has managed to pack into this product. There is a lot to like about how it ‘enhances’ a characters background and adds those little ‘features’ which helps to make a characters skill stats that bit less ‘sterile’. For one dollar you can’t argue with its value – buy it! Finally I would like to thank Omer Golan-Joel for sending me a copy to review.

Other News

If you want to grab a copy of CE: Traits, please bear in mind that Drivethru PRG will be down for about 12 hours (possibly longer) on Monday the 28th of January for maintenance and a migration task.

Other Cepheus Engine Releases

Stellagama Publishing have published Cepheus: Faster Than Light, a stripped-to-the-bones 2D6 RPG system that is compatible with Cepheus Light. Available for a suggested price of $3.00 or pay-what-you-want.

Also available is an editable version of the same product, in Microsoft Word docx format which you can adapt for your own needs.

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2018 in Review

Having worked off the excesses of New Year’s Eve with a full English breakfast and settled down to do a bit of writing, its time to have a look at what has been going on in the ‘Downport over the past year.

Perhaps perversely, one of my favourite things to do at the end of the year is to round up what were the most popular articles on the blog, page visits and interactions for the previous year. It helps me to take a step back and see what visitors are enjoying reading, which influences what I decide to write in the coming twelve months.

Site Stats in Numbers

2018 saw a total of 11,882 views from 5116 visitors, 38 likes and 46 comments. Thats up on 2017’s total of 8,528 views (by 3,354) by 3653 visitors, 30 likes and 40 comments. My target was to increase site visits and hit 10,000, so I’m very pleased this has been achieved! However the closure of Google+ later this year may hit 2019’s total, so we shall see. Before anyone suggests it, no, I will not join Facebook! Site stats are my own personal target and help to motivate me to write for the blog. I don’t deliberately place adverts on the posts, except what WordPress force into the article; I have no control over these which is the price of a free blog account.

Top 10 Most Popular Posts

Some context has to be taken with these, the penultimate blog post for 2018 ‘Cepheus Light Three-Format Review’ leapt into eighth position despite only being posted on the 28th of December. The top ten posts by page views were:

1. The Fantasy Traveller

2. Zozer Games Solo Review Part 1

3. Laserburn Memories

4. Spacecraft Design Guide Review

5. Zozer Games Solo Review Part 2

6. Uranium Fever Review

7. Cepheus Engine Fantasy Traveller Part 1 – Basic Character Generation

8. Cepheus Light Three-Format Review

9. Laserburn as Classic Traveller LBBs

10. Traveller Rules and Near Space

Analysis

Worth mentioning just outside the top ten are quite a few of Gypsy Knights Games reviews, peppered with Stellagama Publishings products (including ‘These Stars Are Ours’) and individual ‘Fantasy Traveller’ articles. My attempt at using the Classic Traveller rules in a fantasy world continues to be the top post. The Zozer Games product ‘Solo’ has been a consistently popular product month-on-month that people have been looking for reviews. A huge surprise has been the popularity of the old Tabletop Games ‘Laserburn’ 15mm rules. A look at this mornings stats (1st of January) reveal every article I’ve posted about Laserburn has had several page views, with most from the United States. Someone is feeling nostalgic!

Focus for the Coming Year

Reviews will form the bulk of the blog posts through the year, starting with the list I posted on the 30th of December. I want to continue the expansion of my Fantasy Traveller articles into the Cepheus Engine / Light system and rewriting some of the Classic Traveller-based articles into CE / CL. Classic Traveller stills needs some love though, so I’ll continue to support this in some way. Laserburn has been a surprise for me in its popularity and this is something I’d like to continue to write for. I managed to pick up a copy of ‘Scavenger’ earlier in the year which is the only solo adventure published for Laserburn. I was working through this before the kitchen refurb halted everything for several weeks so I’d like to write something around ‘Scavenger’ this year.

I’ve also got another writing project ‘under the hood’ going at the moment, which I’ve been working on since last August. I’m not sure where this is going to take me or what it is going to develop into, so depending on my confidence with this I may post something about it later in the year.

There has been some resurgence in Tunnels and Trolls by Flying Buffalo, following on from several successful Kickstarters which I have taken part in. I enjoy the T&T adventures for my own bit of gaming when I can, but I don’t know where this fits into this blog, other than serving as a continual source of inspiration for the Fantasy Traveller posts. I may test the water with a review of one of the Kickstarter releases and see how it pans out.

I have written the occasional article on some of the less popular systems or products, though they don’t get a huge number of page views. I do like to dip my toe into a different system, even if it is just to give me a break from the norm.

Finally, one other aim I would like is to get to the UK Games Expo this year. The venue is not that far from me but holidays and other family events always clash with it. Perhaps this year…?

Thanks again for all the support from my visitors and publishers who send me stuff to review! It might be January 2019… but there is still eleven months to get flying cars as featured in ‘Bladerunner’… you never know!

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Rounding Off 2018

This will be my final post of 2018 as I wanted to round off the year with some thanks and a quick look at one final product. I thought hard about whether to do a ‘product of the year’ but decided against it as there have been so many quality products from the likes of Gypsy Knights Games, Stellagama Publishing and Zozer Games, its bloody difficult to choose. Therefore I’d prefer that each product is measured on its respective merits as I’ve reviewed them (thats a cop out Steve…!)

First of all I’d like to thank the following people: Omer Golan-Joel at Stellagama Publishing, John Watts at Gypsy Knights Games, Paul Elliott at Zozer Games and Ian Stead at Moon Toad Publishing for very kindly sending me copies of their new releases and products to review. As much as I would like to, I don’t always get to review products straight away as real life or work very often gets in the way. However I make a list and make sure I try and write about every product I am sent. I would also like to thank all the people that work with the aforementioned publishers for helping to create such brilliant gaming tools, books and products that are so enjoyable to read.

For me, 2018 has meant a gradual move away writing about Classic Traveller in my ‘Fantasy Traveller’ series and start to base it more around the Cepheus Engine rules set. With the publication of ‘Cepheus Light’, I think this will make things at bit easier to write new articles for this series, but also to convert the old articles as well. The more books I see released using the Cepheus Engine rules set, the more convinced I am that this is the natural successor for Classic Traveller; time will tell and hopefully 2019 will continue with more supporting material for it.

The last item I want to take a quick look at is the hardback print book of the Clement Sector Core Setting; the rules set was released by Gypsy Knights Games some time ago but I wanted to see how the print book differed between first and second editions. The book is published through Drive Thru RPG’s print-on-demand service and is currently available for $49.99 (the softcover version is $29.99). The book arrived well-packaged in a sturdy corrugated cardboard cover and really does look gorgeous in its black edging and colour cover. Its also a tidy weight, coming in at 270 pages. The hardback cover is nice and thick, giving you a feeling of quality. The pages inside also feel good, the paper is bright white and doesn’t feel flimsy. Print quality is very good, GKG have used a mixture of monochrome and colour images to break up the text and the reproduction is very high quality, with the high resolution detail of the images retained.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the print quality of the Clement Sector Core Rules; its made me seriously consider purchasing some more books from the DTRPG print-on-demand service. PDFs are fine and portable, but there is something about having a physical book that is so satisfying.

My first post of 2019 will look at the stats, trends and a review of 2018, but in the meantime, I will be reviewing the following (In no particular order):-

Hostile (PDF and print book) by Zozer Games

Artificial: Robots in the Clement Sector by Gypsy Knights Games

Cepheus Light: Traits by Stellagama Publishing

Piracy and Privateering by Stellagama Publishing

Polixenes Class Courier by Moon Toad Publishing

I would also like to mention that the latest issue of ‘Freelance Traveller’ (issue 91) is out in time for the new year, for your reading pleasure. It can be downloaded by visiting the FT website here.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who has visited this blog, commented and favourited the posts. The feedback and site visits encourage me to continue writing! However you intend to spend the new year, I wish you, your family and friends a very happy new year and 2019!

My Vargr crewmate relaxing in the ship’s quarters. Think the handcomp is going to get pushed off the settee though.

Cheers, Steve

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Clement Sector, Freelance Traveller, OGL, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Cepheus Light Three-Format Review

Right, its time to do a three-pronged review of Cepheus Light, by Stellagama Publishing. I’m going to be taking a look at the PDF version, the printed book and the editable Microsoft Word document. The PDF and MS Word document are both available to download from DTRPG; both the PDF is available for a ‘pay-what-you-want’ cost, with a suggested price of $10, along with the MS Word version for the same suggested cost. The printed book can be purchased from Lulu.com (on-demand printers) for £15.10 currently, though I think it cost me a bit more just before Christmas, so the price is worth watching as there are sometimes discounts available.

Cepheus Light as the name suggests, is a cut-down version of the full Cepheus Engine rules set published by Samdarin Press. Omer Golan-Joel and Josh Peters have taken the core components of the CE rules and rewritten them as their interpretation (which is allowed under the CE System Reference Document and license). Why do this you may ask? There is an advantage in stripping out the core rules of CE and making only the core mechanics available in order to make a game more accessible, easier to set up adventures or enhance the main parts of the system. As a comparison, the original CE rules set is 207 pages long, whereas Cepheus Light (I’ll call it CL from now on) is 164 pages. At 80% of the original size, its not that much of a difference in page count; so what is the difference between the two?

CL starts with a brief introduction about the book and the system including basic games mechanics. Very usefully, the PDF version has clickable links in the contents section, which helps navigation immensely. Page 9 kicks off with character generation and this is it becomes noticeable in the difference between CE and CL; the number of careers has been reduced from 24 down to 12, namely: Agent, Army, Belter, Colonist, Elite, Marine, Merchant, Navy, Pirate, Rogue, Scholar and Scout. The generation process follows the same familiar structure (survival, skills, promotion etc), but the authors have added six detailed examples of how to follow the creation process.

Skills are slightly different in that some have been amalgamated or altered slightly, but they are compatible with CE and skill levels work in exactly the same way.

Equipment has all the essentials and there is plenty to choose from, covering 22 pages including personal armour, weapons, kit and vehicles across a variety of tech levels.

Combat is broken down into the basic steps to follow, with additional detail on the different actions and attacks available such as using ranged weapons or hand-to-hand combat. Again, another nice touch is two detailed examples of combat, using characters from the previous section. This is spread out over eight pages where the authors set the scene, describe how each character places themselves in position and the actual combat rolls and resolution. Great stuff! You also get a section on vehicle combat, spread over five pages.

The section ‘Off-World Travel’ introduces interplanetary and interstellar travel. Another example of how the page count has been reduced is the table of typical interplanetary travel times; the table in CL is roughly half the size of CE, but still feels just as functional because instead of exact distances in kilometres, you’re given destination names such as ‘Small Gas giant to Jump Point’. Interstellar travel and running a starship is still just as bloody expensive (unfortunately though the page count is less in CL, you still have to pay off your starship for 40-odd years, sigh…) You can still play the ‘solo’ trading game in the same style as the original Classic Traveller rules, using the ‘Trade Goods’ table which has been transposed from the CE rules. The starship design rules still cover starships and small craft and the build process is clearly described. Pages 105 to 107 include an example of building a 300-ton TL10 Light Military Transport, which is followed by sixteen pages of example spacecraft most of which have some very nice colour illustrations.

Space Combat is something that has divided some players, in that it has felt either overly complicated (those formulas in Classic Traveller…shudder) or overly simple. CL addresses this by describing the rules and actions available, backed up with a seven page example of a deadly space combat between a trader and a pirate.

Generating worlds feels like it has been shortened so that it feels like Classic Traveller again (Book 3), functional but not overly complicated and not to the level of detail as in Book 6: Scouts. I’m not sure and I haven’t tried it, but I wonder if you can get some of the weird results as in CT, where you can end up with an airless planet with a population in billions? Only way to find out is to try it… World generation is rounded off with a two page example.

Appendix A looks at Aliens and Psionics with a few examples of the types that could be encountered and the modified game stats (Greys, Reptiloids and Insectoids – a little bit of crossover from Stellagama’s ‘These Stars Are Ours’). Does anyone actually use Psionics in their games? Can’t say I ever have, but this section has been moved from near the front of the CE book to this appendix in CL.

Finally you have Appendix B which lists sources of inspiration, such as books, games and films. The main parts that appear to have either been moved around the book (a bit) or removed completely are chapters 13 onwards from the main CE book, namely ‘Planetary Wilderness Encounters’; there are no rules for animals. Social and starship encounters, some of the more detailed refereeing tips and ideas for adventure formats have also been removed.

There are plenty of illustrations in a mixture of colour and monochrome by a variety of artists which help to break up the text. I found the change in layout and size of font made the book much easier to read, which plenty of white space without it feeling like it was lacking in content. CE is a very detailed book and it covers a huge amount of material, but I found it hard going sometimes and it felt like there was a bit too much information to wade through. Cepheus Light extracts the key components and presents them in a clear, easy to understand manner. My favourite part? I love the examples which help to explain and apply the rules and because there are so many, this is what helps to bring up the page count to 80% of the CE book. The examples address what I have felt was a big shortfall in not just the CE book, but also Classic Traveller in helping you get up to speed with the rules. I find these useful as I have gaps of several months between remembering rules and they are a useful reminder!

Cepheus Light Softcover Book

I also managed to get a copy of Cepheus Light in printed form, ordered from Lulu (and funded by my mon-in-law) as a Christmas present! The quality of the book is excellent and is presented in softback format, 210mm wide and 279mm tall, so it is slightly smaller than A4. You have a glossy card cover with matt white pages, text in black or grey for headings and monochrome or greyscale pictures. The only flaw I found in the reproduction was that the Cepheus Engine logo at the top of the cover was slightly cut-off; however the inside of the book shows correct spacing / no problems at all. Some of the images differ from the PDF version I guess so that the printed version would look better in greyscale.

I’m thoroughly impressed with the print book version of Cepheus Light, the authors have done an excellent job of producing the book and I’m impressed with Lulu.com’s final output. It took about 6-8 days from order to delivery, which I think is very reasonable.

Cepheus Light Microsoft Word Document

This is available from DTRPG as a downloadable MS Word document file which can be fully edited; it is listed as pay-what-you-want, with a suggestion of $10. The file is roughly 300kb in size and retains all the colour editing and tables from the PDF version. All images have been removed, so you can use it as the basis for your own RPG rules. I think this is an excellent idea to make this available and would consider using it myself for a few ideas I have.

Overall, I really like Cepheus Light and think it hits the right balance between an introduction to 2D6 SFRPG games or you don’t want to read through all of the CE full rules set. I think this will be my ‘go-to’ modern gaming handbook for my own writing for now on – I highly recommend that you get a copy, I don’t think you will be disappointed! I would like to thank Omer Golan-Joel for very kindly sending me a copy in PDF format to review.

Posted in Cepheus Engine, Classic Traveller, Mongoose Traveller, OGL, Old School Gaming | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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.

Conclusion

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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