#ClementSector : The Rules #RPG

Clement Sector: The Rules – An Alternate Cepheus Engine Universe; Watts, Johnson, and Kemp; Gypsy Knights Games, 2016. PDF $14.99 (accessed 22 Oct 2016)

Clement Sector: The Rules (CSTR) is Gypsy Knights Games rules set for playing in their Clement Sector setting. CSTR is an Open Game License (OGL)-based set of rules deriving from Jason “Flynn” Kemp’s Samardan Press Cepheus Engine System Reference Document. CSTR gives referees and players a complete Cepheus Engine-based rules set tailored for the unique aspects of the Clement Sector Setting.

CSTR is a 217-page product loosely organized in a similar fashion to the Cepheus Engine System Reference Document.  The first section, The Basics, introduces the now-familiar 2D6 classic sci-fi task resolution system of roll 2D6>8. In a difference from Cepheus Engine, CSTR defines a natural roll of 12 as an “Exceptional Success” and a natural role of 2 as an “Exceptional Failure.” This can be a bit confusing because at the same time the usual Cepheus Engine “Effect” definitions of “Exceptional Success” and “Exceptional Failure” are also retained.

Character generation is laid out in the next section with an extensive 26-step checklist. In another break from strictly following Cepheus Engine, characteristics are generated by rolling 3d6 and keeping the best two die. Chargen in CSTR is of the expanded kind found in Mercenary or High Guard of the older Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition. The result is a more robust character with more skills than a comparable one generated using solely Cepheus Engine. Setting-tailored details are also here, such as Aging (Clement Sector postulates extended human lifespans) and a tailored skill list and cascade. To assist in understanding chargen, an extensive (5+page) example is given. What is NOT provided in CSTR are the career tables. For Clement Sector careers, CSTR calls for the use of a second product, the Clement Sector Core Setting Book Second Edition.

The Equipment section includes robots and other vehicles. These can be a bit harder to understand because nowhere in CSTR nor Cepheus Engine is vehicle construction defined or otherwise given. The OGL Traveller Vehicle Handbook SRD does exist (being released in 2008 along with the base Traveller SRD) but Cepheus Engine and CSTR avoid going into that area. The lack of fully defined vehicle rules does not make the game unplayable, but does limit the expandability of this section.

Personal Combat is very extensive. As envisioned by the setting designers, personal and vehicle combat is a major aspect of the Clement Sector setting and as a result the combat rules are fully fleshed out.

Space Travel in earlier generations of rules would be known as Spacecraft Operations; here the unique FTL drive of the setting, the Zimm Drive, is explained. There is a very nice rule included for Characters and the Law which adds detail for characters encountering law enforcement as well as arrest and sentencing. Trade and Commerce is relatively unchanged from Cepheus Engine and focuses on speculative trading, another core component of the Clement Sector setting.

Space Combat is another extensive section. Technically composed of three major rules sections, the first (basic) Space Combat is the CSTR version of Classic Traveller Adventure-class ship combat with its focus on characters. The second section, Advanced Space Combat, is the CSTR version of Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition High Guard for Capital ships. The third section is an Appendix that adds setting-specific rules unique to the Clement Sector, most importantly a Railgun Spinal Mount.

Like character generation, the Space Travel and Space Combat is notable for what once again is NOT included in CSTR. For ship construction (small craft, Adventure-class, and Capital ships) CSTR directs you to the Clement Sector book The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture Second Edition.

Environments and Hazards is a very straight-forward port of Cepheus Engine. Worlds provides the rules for generating the Universal World Profile (UWP) but, given that much of the Clement Sector setting is already defined, CSTR directs readers to the Subsector-series of books (like Subsector Sourcebook 1: Cascadia 2nd Edition). Planetary Encounters are detailed, though Patron Encounters CSTR recommends the 21 Plots-series of books (starting off with 21 Plots 2nd Edition). Similar, Starship Encounters has very generic ship descriptions, but for more details it is recommended to look at the Ships of the Clement Sector-series (like Ships of the Clement Sector 13: Strikemaster Class Brig). CSTR concludes with Refereeing the Game.

Art throughout CSTR appears to have been taken from previous Clement Sector publications. Especially notable is the ship art by Ian Stead. Character art is what I term “CGI poser” and fortunately avoids being too cartoonish; instead it seems to communicate the setting as envisioned by the authors in a fairly effective manner.

Although CSTR has an long Table of Contents, it lacks an Index. The pdf version is also not bookmarked, making someone like myself dependent on my tablet reader search function. I also wish that Skill or Task definitions were consistently called out. For instance, matching velocity and boarding a hostile ship (a highly likely event in the Pirate-infested Clement Sector) is communicated in the rules as follows:

If the enemy ship is still moving, then the prospective boarders must match the target’s velocity and dock with it (a Difficult (-2) Pilot task), …. (p. 106)

This could alternatively be formatted – and more easily recognized – using the Task Description Format (p. 43) as something like:

Match Velocities and Dock with Hostile Ship. Pilot, Dexterity, 1d6 minutes, Difficult (-2).

I found it interesting that at least one setting-specific alteration to Cepheus Engine was not included in CSTR. Given Clement Sector has no nobility structure, the Social characteristic is used to reflect wealth and class. Tailored rules are found in the Clement Sector Core Setting Book on p. 195. Whereas setting-distinctive rules like Aging and the Zimm Drive were included in CSTR (as well as the Core Setting Book), the equally setting-distinctive SOC and Wealth rules were not included. Was this a simple oversight or clever marketing plan?

Clement Sector: The Rules accomplishes what it sets out to do; provide a setting-tailored version of Cepheus Engine to maximize play in the Clement Sector setting. Unfortunately, it is not a “one-stop” collection, needing to be expanded by the Clement Sector Core Setting Book for character generation and the Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture for ship construction. To help referees and players, Gypsy Knight Games offers a Core Bundle of pdf’s for $38.37 on drivethrurpg.com which includes the three necessary books along with the Introduction to the Clement Sector (also available as a free separate download and a great intro overview of the Clement Sector setting – well worth the look!). This is a very good deal compared to Mongoose Traveller Second Edition. To get the equivalent in rules material in Mongoose Traveller Second Edition one needs to buy the Core Rulebook (pdf $29.99) and High Guard (pdf $29.99). But this still leaves you without any “setting.” To get something similar to the Clement Sector Core Setting Book one might have to invest in a sourcebook for the Spinward Marches – once it becomes available.

Can one play in Clement Sector without CSTR? You certainly could use the Cepheus Engine System Reference Document or the soon-to-be out-of-print Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition rules in place of CSTR. The disadvantage to that approach is that one loses out on the collection of setting-tailored rules CSTR provides; instead you would have to constantly be making home-brew adjustments to fit rules to setting. To me, it is far easier to get the items in the Clement Sector Core Bundle and start adventuring!


Clement Sector: The Rules; Copyright (c) 2016 Gypsy Knights Games.

Cepheus Engine: A Classic Era Science Fiction 2D6-Based Open Game System. Copyright (c) 2016 Samardan Press.

“The Traveller game in all forms is owned by Far Future Enterprises. Copyright 1977-2016 Far Future Enterprises.”

#SciFiFriday #TravellerRPG Legal Wars – Give me Advocate-1!

When can you write about the Traveller RPG? Can you sell what you write?

Traveller, in all its forms and editions, is copyrighted. Copyright protects the publishers (Far Future Enterprises and its licensees) from unauthorized copying or publication. Traveller and associated words and terms are trademarks. Trademark protection protects the publishers from unauthorized use of marks.

We have a liberal Fair Use Policy. If your activity is non-commercial, you can make copies to support playing the game, you can scan copies for your computer, you can write short programs and spreadsheets which automate processes within the game. You can make copies of pages as handouts for players. You can make web pages in support of Traveller.

Fair Use Explicitly Applies to non- Mongoose Traveller editions….Only Mongoose Traveller is governed by both the OGL and TTL….


3. May I rewrite the game in my own words, scan parts of the book, or create any other derivative works.

No….You can write about the Traveller universe, and put it on your web site… but you can’t reproduce the rules (or reproduce re-writes of rules, etc.) except for about a page (because we give you permission to do that, provided you post the proper acknowledgement).

Far Future Enterprises Fair Use Policy, (C) 2008

Here is the copyright notice in the Mongoose Publishing Traveller Core Rulebook, (C)2008:

Traveller (C)2008 Mongoose Publishing. All rights reserved. Reproductions of this work by any means without the written permission of the publisher is expressly forbidden. All significant characters, names, places, items, art and text herein are copyrighted by Mongoose Publishing.

This game product contains no Open Game Content. No portion of this work may be reproduced in any form without written permission.

In September 2008, Mongoose made available the Traveller Developer’s Pack. The pack included a series of Open Game License (OGL) System Reference Documents (SRD) for Traveller, Mercenary, High Guard, and Vehicles. These SRDs pertain exclusively to the rules of Traveller, not any setting.

Legal rights were explained in the Read Me First document of the Developer’s Pack:

I want to produce material based on older and out of print versions of Traveller, and publish them on a non-commercial basis.

Consult the Fair Use Policy Document.

I want to produce and publish my own original material using the current Traveller rules – both commercially and non-commercially.

Consult the Traveller Logo License.

The Read Me First document also stated:

What Can’t I do?

The following is not permitted under the Traveller Developer’s Pack – if you wish to attempt one of these projects, you should contact Mongoose Publishing for further information at msprange@mongoosepublishing.com. This is not a comprehensive list, and you should get in contact if you want to do anything not covered by the Fair Use Policy or Logo Licenses.

  • Publish material for older and out of print versions of Traveller, and release them commercially.
  • Publish software based on the current edition of Traveller.
  • Publish Original Traveller Universe material beyond the confines of the Fair Use Policy or Foreven Free Sector Logo License.

This arrangement was fine; third party publishers like Zozer Games and Gypsy Knights Games could legally publish alternate settings using the then-current Mongoose Traveller (MgT) first edition Core Rulebook. That is, until Mongoose stopped selling the first edition, thus making any commercial release based on the first edition rules ILLEGAL.

Mongoose Publishing currently sells the second edition of MgT. Like the first edition, the game contains no Open Game Content. At the same time the second edition was released, Mongoose entered into an agreement with OneBookShelf (the company that brings us DriveThruRPG.com) to create the Travellers’ Aid Society (TAS) and brought the Community Content Agreement (CCA) to the Traveller gaming community. The CCA allows for commercial uses of the MgT Core Rulebook “…provided that they only use the game system rules and game terms found in the current [my emphasis] edition Traveller books published by Mongoose Publishing.” The real interesting part of the CCA is how the agreement grants Mongoose broad rights to YOUR IP:

“User Generated Content” shall be defined as the copyrightable elements included in your Work, such as original characters, scenes, locations and events. User Generated content shall not include the illustrations and cartographic artwork included in your work. Per the terms of this Agreement, you expressly agree that your User Generated Content, once submitted to the Program will become Program IP and useable by other members of the Program as well as the Owner as described in this Agreement.” Web Post by Harl Quinn – 05-02-2016

What this means is if you are a third party publisher who wants to sell an original setting using the MgT second edition rules, the only way you can legally do so is to use TAS and GIVE UP your IP to Mongoose (not to mention that posting to TAS also means you give up a larger portion of the financial proceeds of the sale to Mongoose and OBS).

The combination of no Open Game Content in the “current” MgT second edition and the CCA effectively means there is no allowable commercial use of the “current” edition rules other than that specified by the CCA. Most importantly, any IP you place in TAS no longer belongs exclusively to YOU; Mongoose and ANY OTHERS can use YOUR IP freely.

Gypsy Knights Games in the comments adds: “I would like to correct one small thing in this post. While it is true that Mongoose and anyone else who likes can use any part of your IP in any way they want, it is important to note that the person using your IP must also be part of the CCA/TAS agreement. It is a small distinction but I think it is an important one.”

Mongoose is not the only publisher with a CCA. Wizards of the Coast has their Dungeon Master’s Guild,  Margaret Weis Productions has their Cortex Plus Creator Studio, and Monte Cook Games has their Cypher System Creator. I can appreciate these folks trying to protect their IP, or in the case of Margaret Weis protecting several licensed IP.
I also totally agree with the third party publishers who don’t like this arrangement. I wrote about that earlier this year, when the outlook looked very bleak. I didn’t see anybody taking the Evil Hat Productions approach of releasing most of their line under not one, but two proper-use licenses.

Thankfully, the future looks much brighter now, thanks to Jason “Flynn” Kemp of Samardan Press. Mr.Flynn has taken the Traveller OGL SRDs and created the Cepheus Engine System Reference Document: A Classic Era Science Fiction 2D6-Based Open Game System. Quite a mouthful, but important for the Advocate skill-holders out there.

Please Note: This product is derived from the Traveller System Reference Document and other Open Gaming Content made available by the Open Game License, and does not contain closed content from products published by either Mongoose Publishing or Far Future Enterprises, and it makes no claim to or challenge to any trademarks held by either entity. The use of the Traveller System Reference Document does not convey the endorsement of this Product by either Mongoose Publishing or Far Future Enterprises as a product of either of their product lines. – Cepheus Engine System Reference Document (c) 2016.

The impact of the Cepheus SRD has been near-instantaneous. Zozer Games has published Orbital 2100: A Solar System Setting for the Cepheus Engine Game. This week, Gypsy Knight Games released Clement Sector: The Rules (An Alternate Cepheus Engine Universe). The GKG rules follow a major rework of their entire (formerly) Traveller RPG-releated line to make their products OGL compliant, even going so far as to strip the word “traveller” from all their books. These products are great because the rise of Cepheus has given me my 2d6-based Sci-Fi adventure gaming mojo back!

You know what? I’m OK with that.

I’m OK because after years of disappointing Mongoose content and watching the roll-out of their second edition (which fails to impress me) I now understand Mongoose is making a naked attempt to take back commercial profits of an IP that the OGL SRD release gave away. Mongoose wants to make bank not only on the Classic Era Third Imperium setting, but any other setting that uses “their” rules engine.

Since 1979 I have gamed with Traveller, but Jason “Flynn” Kemp, Paul Elliott at Zozer, and John Watts at Gypsy Knights Games have together taught me I don’t need “Traveller” to play a fun 2D6-Based Classic Era Sci-Fi RPG.


Post Script: But wait, isn’t there another “current” Traveller RPG out there? All this legal wrangling over MgT second edition also got me thinking about Traveller5. According to the front plate in the T5 Print Edition 5.1:

Copyright (C) 2015 Far Future Enterprises.

All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without express written permission from the publisher.

FFE maintains a FUP Fair Use Policy (available on request) detailing reasonable uses of the Traveller5 game system (including references to the material, copying, web presences, and derivative works) while still respecting its copyright and intellectual property.

It appears that T5 is not Open Game Content but allows reasonable non-commercial use. Not being governed by the Open Game License will require negotiating commercial-use with FFE.

“The Traveller game in all forms is owned by Far Future Enterprises. Copyright  1977-2015 Far Future Enterprises.”


#TravellerRPG #Solo #ClementSector

IN PREPARATION for some travel time this year, I picked up Star Trader: A Solo Trading Game for Traveller designed by Paul Elliott and published by Zozer Games in 2013. Star Trader (ST) lays out a system using Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition rules to play a solo trading campaign. The system uses a 10-step “Trading Checklist” to direct the player through play. ST also has modified Ship Encounters tables and an alternate space combat resolution system to speed play.The focus of ST is trade, and therefore the Trading Checklist focuses on the time from just after arrival to departure with a bit of extra fluff covering encounters while in/outbound to a planet and situations in Jump Space.

The solo-play approach got me thinking about expanding the Trading Checklist. In doing so, I drew upon the Traveller Main Book (Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition) and several Clement Sector setting materials, especially the Clement Sector Core Setting Book, Second Edition (Gypsy Knights Games). After a bit of some work, I came up with CSTravSolo that includes Outbound, In Zimm Space, and Inbound procedures. My checklist is not intended to be exhaustive; rather, it is a compilation of common skill checks with modifiers. Think of it as a guide for play!

A great advantage of the Traveller RPG series is that the “game” is actually made up of numerous “sub-games.” The most famous is Character Generation (CharGen) which (in)famously is known for having a chance for the character to die during the process. The combat procedure in Classic Traveller spun off skirmish games (Snapshot or Azhanti High Lightning) as well as a full-up miniatures battle game (Striker). The space combat system went through several versions including Mayday and Trillion Credit Squadron.  ST continues this trend by expanding upon the “trade” sub-game.

The Solo Traveller RPG project provided a great opportunity to dig a bit deeper into the Clement Sector setting. In addition to the Core Setting Book, there is great information provided in the other books of the line, especially the Subsector Guides. The Clement Sector, as an Alternate Traveller Universe (ATU), does not follow all the rules or conventions of Mongoose Traveller’s Third Imperium. Indeed, the wrinkles it introduces make it more appealing to me than the retreaded materials that Mongoose seemingly specializes in.

I will be honest and state that I purposely did not try to use Mongoose Traveller Second Edition since they do not support the Open Game License (OGL). Gypsy Knights Games has been working to change their products from Mongoose Traveller First Edition into OGL before the 1st Edition license expires. My solo project showed me that their product line is very rich and provides great adventure support.

#TravellerRPG 2nd Edition Core Rulebook Release

This week Mongoose Publishing dropped the release version of their Mongoose Traveller RPG 2nd Edition Core Rulebook. This is the final edition of the Beta that came out last September that I previously blogged about here, here and here. Of my many concerns with this new edition, today I will only talk about the pricing strategy.

Mongoose offered the Beta rules for $20. For this price one got the Core Rulebook, High Guard (starship construction rules in a .doc draft), Central Supply Catalogue (equipment in a.doc draft), some deck plans , a character sheet, and an adventure. The purchase price of the Beta was good towards the purchase of the final release edition. When the final release dropped this week it retailed for $29.99; so after the voucher one had to pony-up an additional $9.99 to buy the book (electronic version only). As I said before, I expected to pay an additional cost since Mongoose always seems to be on the expensive side of publishers.

Using DriveThruRPG, I looked to compare prices of other similar genre corebooks. I found that Mongoose is indeed priced very high. The Traveller Core Rulebook is 241 pages meaning it has a per-page cost of 12.4 cents. The Firefly RPG Corebook (Cortex Plus system) is 364 pages selling for $19.99 or 5.5 cents per page. Mindjammer (Fate Core system now but after its Kickstarter campaign will get at Mongoose Traveller version) sells 500 pages for $26.99 or 5.4 cents per page. A personal favorite of mine is Diaspora (Fate Core system) which sells 270 pages for $12.99 or 4.7 cents per page. Even the Traveller 5 (T5 system) tome of 759 pages selling at a whooping $34.95 (!) works out to “only” 4.6 cents per page. The price disparity is just as bad even if one looks at “generic” corebooks like Cortex Plus Hackers Guide ($19.99 for 264 pages – or 7.5 cents per page), Savage Worlds Deluxe ($9.99 for 160 pages or 6.2 cents per page) or worse yet Fate Core (“Pay What You Want” or around $5.00 for 308 pages – a measly 1.6 cents per page)!

So what does the $29.99 for the Traveller Core Rulebook get you? The download contains the Core Rulebook (both full color and B&W printer-friendly), deck plans (not labeled as nice as the Beta set), a subsection map (blank but with a legend that is not useful if you are non-Imperium), and a character sheet (no color and again not as nice as the Beta set).

Unlike Firefly, Diaspora, Traveller 5, or Mindjammer, Mongoose Traveller 2.0 is not fully playable with the core rulebook only. Judging from the text on p. 4 of the Core Rulebook, in the future one will have to purchase High Guard to get the ship construction rules, Tour of the Imperium if one wants the setting of the Third Imperium, the Central Supply Catalogue for ironmongery and various equipment, and The Vehicle Handbook for vehicles. Adventure modules will also be sold separately. So while one could play “with the corebook only” in reality it will be necessary to purchase High Guard to even come close to having a functional core set of rules. It will be interesting to the price point of these future products. In Mongoose Traveller First Edition, Book 2: High Guard currently costs 9.7 cents per page. The far superior (IMHO) third-party publisher Gypsy Knight Games sells The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture (a High Guard-like book used in their Clement Sector setting) for 8.7 cents per page.

I am sure some will cry foul and say my comparison purely on the basis of per-page cost is unfair. The new Traveller Core Rulebook is in full color similar to Firefly but unlike Diaspora or Traveller 5 or Mindjammer. It certainly has more art than Diaspora or maybe even Traveller 5. After listening to many podcasts I have had it drilled into me that the most expensive part of an RPG publication is the art. I find it difficult to imagine that the art in the new book is of such quality or quantity that it raised the price that much higher than its competition.

At the end of the day I am reminded that I had previously sworn off buying Mongoose Traveller products. On the basis of cost alone, I am not sure I got a great bargain. In future posts, I will look closer at the game mechanics and the content of the Traveller Core Rulebook to help me judge if I got a really good bargain or not.

#TravellerRPG Mongoose 2nd Edition Beta – Halloween Update

In late October, Mongoose dropped another update to their Mongoose Traveller Second Edition (Beta) Core Rulebook. They dropped a .doc version of High Guard (starship construction rules). They had already dropped a .doc version of Central Supply Catalog (CSC for ironmongery and vehicles) earlier in the month. With these three “books,” the core rules for MgT2E is pretty much complete.

My verdict so far: “I’m whelmed.”

In the Core Rulebook, one of the biggest changes was to the core mechanic through the introduction of “Boon/Bane.” This mechanic called for a roll of 3d6 and selecting either the highest two die (Boon) or lowest two die (Bane) for your roll. The first draft tried to put Boon/Bane in many places but resulted in many confusing rules contradictions. In later drafts Boon/Bane remains but is a shadow of its former self and seemingly now treated as a far-off optional house rule that isn’t necessary for the game.

The other major change was to ship construction since ships now have power requirements. Although this change has good roleplaying potential (“Need more power, Scotty!”) it also adds more complexity to the ship construction rules which we finally get to see in the High Guard draft. At this point, I am not sure the additional roleplaying or combat limitations that ships power production and uses have actually make the game that-much-more interesting.

So now I have to ask myself, “What makes MgT2E different and better than first edition?” At first I would have answered with “an updated core mechanic and more detailed ship combat rules.” Now I see a core mechanic not far from 1st Edition (or even Classic Traveller) and new ships power rules that don’t really add much to the game.

The Traveller RPG has always been a series of smaller games (character generation, personal combat, vehicle and ship combat, world building, trade, etc.) that (fairly) smoothly integrated together to make a rich and robust play experience. Mongoose embraced this approach with their First Edition, but seemed to be stepping away from that approach in later publications. One has to look no further than Mercenary 2nd Edition (confusingly part of the First Edition rules) where Mongoose dropped the Mercenary Ticket generation system and tried to make a Mass Combat system based onto personal combat rules. IT DIDN”T WORK. So far, MgT2E seems to be carrying on that line of rules development.

As a Beta purchaser, Mongoose promised a $20 voucher towards the final product. It will be interesting to see if the final product comes in at $19.99 or if it will be more. Mongoose tends to be on the expensive side and that is part of the reason I usually throw my money towards smaller publishers like Gyspy Knights Games. The smaller publishers seem more affordable – and an overall better value – than Mongoose has been to me in the past.

#TravellerRPG – Being Social in the Clement Sector

The Clement Sector for the Traveller RPG from Gypsy Knights Games (GKG) is my go-to setting these days. I appreciate how, through just a few simple changes (like the Z-Drive I discuss here) , GKG is able to make a very familiar-like setting so-much-more interesting.

GKG has not only mixed up technology in the Clement Sector, but also has altered one simple characteristic – SOCIAL. In the Clement Sector, SOC “reflects the amount of wealth and prestige enjoyed by the character [and] not a noble rank in a large empire” (The Clement Sector Core Setting, p. 49). Unlike other characteristics that require much work or study to raise, SOC can be raised simply by spending more money! Indeed, to keep your SOC status, one must spend a minimum amount per month (see Career Companion, p. 17). If you don’t spend enough, your SOC falls, and raising it back up takes more time.

GKG also uses SOC to create more interesting worlds. For example, in the Introduction to the Clement Sector (free from DriveThruRPG) the world of Osiris is a tiered society and the SOC characteristic reflects which tier group the character is from. Each tier has its own privileges and responsibilities – like higher tiers pay more taxes but are far more likely to get a pass on small crimes from the police. Now here’s the catch; any character visiting Osiris is a “non-citizen” – the lowest tier – and will be treated as such. The PCs SOC score is automatically 2 (with a -2 DM) which will affect EVERY social interaction the PC has while on planet. A simple change in how one uses SOC, but it opens up so many more interesting role-playing and story opportunities!

I am sure that GKG and the Clement Sector is not the first Traveller RPG setting to use “SOC as wealth” and replace noble ranks, but it is great to see the new characteristic treatment integrated so cleanly into the setting and be useful for influencing social interactions and adventuring. SOC as wealth in Clement Sector is yet another reason I enjoy this setting so much.

Traveller RPG Tech – Clement Sector Zimm Drive

Many people forget that the Traveller RPG is actually a generic system. In the years since the Little Black Books came out in 1977 the Third Imperium (3I) setting has come to define the Traveller RPG to the point that many believe that the Third Imperium is Traveller. Fortunately, Gypsy Knights Games’ Clement Sector setting breaks the 3I paradigm through a few simple changes. For a taste of the Clement Sector I strongly encourage you to download the free Introduction to the Clement Sector from DriveThruRPG to see the setting differences in the Clement Sector setting.

In the Clement Sector, the FTL system is the Zimm Drive. Instead of the standard Traveller Jump Drive that moves a ship across 1-6 parsecs of space in a week, the “Z-Drive” covers 1 AU in about 1.44 seconds, one light year in 26 hours, or 1 parsec in 84 hours (3.5 days). The Zimm Drive is limited to a practical range of  2 parsecs (actually 2.44) in 168 hours or 7 standard days. Ships greater than 5000 DTons cannot be equipped with the Z-Drive, and ships between 2000-4999 DTons have a risk of the bubble collapsing. The Z-Drive uses the same space and fuel requirements as a standard Jump-2 Drive in Mongoose Traveller (MgT).

This simple technology change actually has a great impact on adventuring in the Clement Sector. In MgT, to travel in-system a distance of 1 AU using a 1G acceleration drive will take 68 hours; at 6G the best one can do is 27.6 hours (MgT Pocket Rulebook p. 145). In the Clement Sector, a ship can fire up its Z-Drive and get there in 1.44 seconds. If one is trying to get to the outer system, in MgT at 6G it will take between 55-68 hours, whereas in the Clement Sector setting it take a mere 1.85 minutes. This forces changes in how one thinks about fuel, trade, and combat.

In the Clement Sector one can use their Z-Drive instead of Maneuver Drive to travel far distances within systems, but doing so requires a change in how to think about fuel consumption. In MgT, ships can jump less than 1 parsec, but it counts as a Jump-1 event for time and fuel (Pocket Rulebook, p. 141). Z-Drive performance in the Clement Sector can literally be “dialed” to the needed range. In my games, I added a fuel tracker for the Z-Drive which gives the ship 200 hours of “Z-Time” that can be used as appropriate. Need to get to that Gas Giant to top off the tanks? That’s going to cost you 2 minutes of gas!

The Z-Drive also changes the speed of intersystem trade. The quickest way to get around in-system is no longer a Maneuver-6 Drive, but a Z-Drive. Taken together with the Z-Drive size limits, bulk freighters are uneconomical; thus the need for smaller merchant ships is greater (i.e more adventuring opportunities).

The Z-Drive changes the nature of in-system combat compared to the usual Traveller approach. In the Clement Sector, a fleet could enter the outer system, refuel at the far gas giant, organize itself, and then “micro-jump” to the 100-diameter limit. The final approach micro-jump takes less than 2 minutes compared to several days in a standard Traveller setting. In the Clement Sector there is no need for a “long approach” battle. This has an impact on planetary defense forces which must stay within 100 diameters of the target they are protecting. In effect, non-Z-Drive become “static defense” forces whereas Z-Drive defenders become the “mobile” force.

In summary, the Zimm Drive in the Clement Sector from Gypsy Knights Games is both familiar to Traveller players and just different enough to make it interesting. The changes the Zimm Drive brings to travel, trade, and combat will require players (and GMs) to think about the setting differently – one can’t automatically fall back on the “3I way.” This is yet another reason the Clement Sector is so interesting a setting to play in.

Ships of the Clement Sector – Gypsy Knights Games

In honor of TravellerCon, Gypsy Knights Games is having a sale on their Traveller RPG line. I like GKG’s Clement Sector setting so I took advantage of the sale and brought my Ships of the Clement Sector (SOC) collection up to date.

GKG’s Clement Sector setting is a small-ship universe. The largest ships in this collection are the 2,500 dT Moltke-class cruiser and the 2,540 dT (fully loaded) Vulcan-class Attack Boat Tender. At the other end of the displacement spectrum one finds the 10 dT Work Pods (SOC 4) and System Defense Boats (SOC 9). Although I bought it prior to the sale, I would be negligent not to mention the excellent Historical Ships of the Clement Sector 1: Trent-class Destroyer which is a pre-gravtic design with spin habitats and nuclear propulsion.

In terms of production values, the SOC series is blessed by great ship artwork. The people poses are, well, acceptable. But a ship book is about the ships, and the graphics and background stories are well done and go a long way towards making the setting and ships interesting.

As part of the playtest of Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition (now in Public Beta testing) I see the new rules will change how spacecraft are handled in the game. The biggest difference looks to be power production and consumption. Although I see GKG putting up a good public front, I also read/hear a bit of anger in between the lines at the changes that are coming. I am fully with GKG on this matter; their awesome The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture is what Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition needed to consolidate all the ship construction rules spread out over so many books and supplements. To have Mongoose literally “change the rules of the game” after all the great work GKG has recently done is tough on a business.

So do GKG a favor and send them some well deserved money. With the SOC series they have earned it!

Traveller Tuesday – Clement Sector ATU

DrivethruRPG had a science fiction sale during the month of May and I splurged on several items. After watching from afar for awhile I invested in a series of books from Gypsy Knights Games (GKG). The Clement Sector is GKG’s alternate Traveller Universe (ATU) setting that uses the Mongoose Traveller (MgT) RPG rules.

The Clement Sector: A Setting for Traveller is the foundational setting book. The pdf version is 140 pages and provides a broad background of the setting including the history, politics, and religion. Sector and subsection maps with Universal World Profiles (UWP) for the entire sector is provided. Chargen uses the Traveller Main Book (TMB) with setting-specific expansions and changes. The major change is in technology with the “Zimm Drive” which effectively limits starships to under 2000 dTons solidly making The Clement Sector a small-ship setting. Five sample starships are provided, along with setting-tailored rule changes or modifications. Overall, The Clement Sector is directed to the referee and provides most of the necessary support to start adventuring in the Clement ATU.

Career Companion is a sourcebook (61 page pdf) focused on chargen and includes rules for uplifts and altrants (genetically modified humans). Most importantly are the ATU changes to the aging rules; in The Clement Sector the average human lifespan is 254 years. The other major chargen change from the base Traveller rules is SOC versus Wealth. Your SOC characteristic represents not your social status but your “apparent” wealth. This makes the characteristic fluid as one can change their SOC simply by spending more – or less – money each month on appearance, clothing, or lifestyle. Career Companion also includes new career tracks tailored for The Clement Sector as well as an advancement system. Career Companion is equally useful to the referee or players.

The Clement Sector Player’s Guide (115 page pdf) is in many ways an expanded Career Companion. It expands chargen by adding more background (languages, events for youth/teenage/collegiate life) as well as more career options. It also introduces Character Packages, a collection of directed career builders. New skills are also introduced. Like the title says, this item is aimed at the Players though referees will find it useful too.

The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture (114 page pdf) is the shipbuilding bible for The Clement Sector. The book presents a ship design sequence that merges the adventure class ships from the TMB with Book 2: High Guard. Though not credited, I think even some of Adventure 3: Trillion Credit Squadron makes it not the tables. It also covers Small Craft and Pre-Granitic Drive spacecraft. My major criticism of this book is the lack of ship designs; indeed there is only one ship and one small craft presented.

The one interstellar polity in The Clement Sector is The Hub Federation. I purchased three Hub Federation-related items:

  • The Hub Federation (62 page pdf) provides players and referees background into the history, government, and worlds of the Hub Federation. Focus is on system details of the worlds. This is definitely an adventure-seed book for referees and an encyclopedic-reference for players.
  • Hub Federation Navy (95 page pdf) is the sourcebook for naval characters in the Hub Federation. Setting background specific to the Navy, including organization, uniforms, and fleet composition is provided. There is also an expanded chargen with additional career tracks . Surprisingly, though a navy-focused book, there is not one-single ship design in the entire product. GKG apparently is trying to get you to buy their Ships of the Clement Sector series instead. At least ONE design would have been appreciated!
  • Hub Federation Ground Forces (104 page pdf) is the sourcebook for army and marine characters. A little bit of flavor-fiction starts off this product, an item lacking in Hub Federation Navy. Like that product, history, organization, uniforms and expanded career tracks are presented. Unlike Hub Federation Navy, Ground Forces includes toys such as Assault Landers, a Strike Carrier (think marine assault ship), as well as vehicles and weapons. The addition of ships, vehicles, and weapons makes this a much more useful book than the navy one.

Taken together, these products are more than enough to start playing in the Clement Sector ATU. Although all the products have background and history, the level of detail is superficial enough to give referees lots of room to build their own setting within the broad brushstrokes GKG provides.