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


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!

Posted in Role Playing Games | Tagged | 2 Comments

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.


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.

Posted in Role Playing Games | Tagged | Leave a comment

Tabletop Games Catalogue

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

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

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

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

Tabletop Games TTG Catalogue 1986

Tabletop Games TTG Flyer Sept 1985

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

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

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

15mm Laserburn and Asgard Ranges

25mm Asgard Sci-Fi Range

Posted in Citadel Miniatures, Laserburn, Old School Gaming, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Trashkin RPG

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

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

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

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

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

This is the character I rolled up:

Racoonkin – ‘Scruffbag’

Audacious: 5

Big: 3

Cunning: 5

Quick: 4 (5 natural)

Hit points / Copper coins: 13 (10 natural)

Weapons dice D6

Bandit mask +1 Audacious

Big brain +1 Cunning

Thumbs, +2 fine manipulation

Spell: Vorpal tin lid

Armour: Medium +3HP, -1 quick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hell’s Paradise Second Edition Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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