Tuesday #TravellerRPG – “Give me a fast ship, for I intend to go in harm’s way” with The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture (3rd Ed) fm @IndependenceG6 #CepheusEngine

One of the many reasons the Traveller RPG system keeps me coming back to it even after 40 years is the many “sub-games” that the system includes. Not only is character generation its own game, but other world building elements of the rules are games in their own right. One of the more important subgames in Traveller and the modern Cepheus Engine rules incarnations is ship design. The new third edition of The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture from John Watts at Independence Games is the ship design and advanced rules compilation for The Clement Sector (TCS) Alternate Traveller Universe (ATU).

Clement-ready

The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture, 3rd Edition (hereafter referred to a A&F) is a 252-page, full color pdf. Author John Watts describes it as thus:

This updated third edition of Anderson and Felix Guide to Naval Architecture has been written for use within the Clement Sector setting. Clement Sector is a small ship setting, with restrictions on the size of starships bought about by the Zimm drive, the setting’s only means of FTL interstellar travel. Further, Clement Sector has an overall maximum technology level of 12 though some technology, notably computers are higher.

Even with these restrictions, the Anderson and Felix Guide to Naval Architecture can be used in any setting with the referee or designer simply substituting back element of those settings requirements or for that matter, any type of alternative setting-based guidelines wished. There is plenty of information in A&F to interest any referee or designer, including the pre-gravitic module, which allows for more detailed designs. I do hope you enjoy the book.

A&F, “Authors Note,” p. 20

John brings up a great point here; though these books might be sold under The Clement Sector setting label, A&F, like so many Independence Games products, is really “universal” in that you can use the rules beyond the house setting.

Modular

A&F is arranged in seven “Modules.” Several are familiar, some are setting specific, and others not what one might expect to see.

Module 1 of A&F is the Clement Sector version of Spacecraft Design. To many Traveller RPG or Cepheus Engine veterans this module should be very familiar. Just note that because the Clement Sector is a small-ship setting that Adventure-class ships top out at 1,800 displacement Tons (dT) and Capital Ships are no larger than 20,000 dT.

Module 2 of A&F should likewise be familiar as it is for Small Ship Craft (less than 100 dTons). There is also a provision to make “Drones” which is not just a remote control craft, but an autonomous vehicle.

Module 3 of A&F covers pre-gravitic drive spacecraft. For all you fans of The Expanse this is how you get close to building Rochinante! More realistically, this is a great module to use to build something like Odyssey from 2001: A Space Odyssey or even USS Sulaco from Aliens (better yet, check out HOSTILE from Zozer Games).

The pre-gravitic drive Trent-class is maybe my favorite design…

Module 4 of A&F is “Zimm Drive Alternatives.” While you might be tempted to this this is where you will find the “standard” Jump Drive of Traveller RPG you should be (delightfully) surprised to find “alternate” drive technologies like the Alcubierre Drive instead.

Module 5 of A&F is Advanced Space Combat. These are the rules for capital ship combat in the Clement Sector. Again, nothing really new here (hello High Guard) but the setting specific adjustments of technology can be inspiration of how to “fit” the classic Traveller RPG approach to technology levels into your personal campaign design.

Module 6 of A&F provides six sample spacecraft. All of these have appeared in previous Clement Sector products but all here are brought up to third edition standards. Which is to say if you have the “outdated” versions you can still play with them as the changes are not necessarily major.

Module 7 of A&F is one I don’t recall seeing before. “Module 7 – A Primer of Creating Deck Plans” provides guidelines and tips for drawing your own deck plans. For myself, I’ve been drawing deckplans for almost 40 years so I thought I didn’t need this module. However, after reading it I see lots of ways I can step up my personal deckplan game and make them more interesting without necessarily more work.

Non-Naval Architecture

As much as I love A&F, it is not without a few (minor) issues. Personally, I like a complete table of contents but really wish the pages were hyperlinked. Also, the ToC might be a good place to use two-column the print as the single column format is 20(!) pages long. The index is double-column, but again not linked. I know; small quibbles and, after all, in the pdf you just use the search function anyway, eh?

“Second Star to the Right, Straight on ’til Morning”

The Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture is the “round-out” book for the Clement Sector Third Edition core rule book. Taken together, players, referees, or designers now have everything (and I mean everything) they might desire to make their own adventures in the Clement Sector—or any small ship ATU setting of their choice.

I should also mention that purchasers of the first or second edition of A&F were given a coupon for a substantially discounted copy. If you were a previous buyer and can’t find you coupon LOOK HARD because the price is well worth it!

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#RPGThursday – Third times a charm with Clement Sector Third Edition fm @IndependenceGa6 #TravellerRPG

John Watts at Independence Games is a giant. His Clement Sector Alternate Traveller Universe (ATU) is composed of nearly 90 products. Maybe recognizing that the sprawling setting material is almost as expansive as the Clement Sector itself, the latest product, Clement Sector Third Edition (or Clement Sector v3) consolidates.

Some might say that a 675-page product scarcely qualifies as “consolidation.” Here is how Mr. Watts explains his intent:

This volume exists so that all the pertinent information concerning the Clement Sector could be found in one volume and would save newcomers to the system from having to purchase multiple books to have an understanding of the setting. Therefore, the first change from the second edition of Clement Sector is that this book contains the entirety of The Clement Sector Core Setting Book, Clement Sector: The Rules, and Ensemble Cast. The advanced space combat rules from Clement Sector: The Rules are now found in Anderson and Felix Guide to Naval Architecture.

Clement Sector v3, p. 657 “Changes”

John goes on to explain how Clement Sector v3 brings in key elements of no less than eight (8!) other major Clement Sector products. With so much consolidated under one cover, has the Clement Sector actually become too bloated?

I contend the answer is a resounding NO! Mechanically speaking, Clement Sector v3 remains wedded to the Cepheus Engine rules system with just a few changes. John states the “major change” in this edition is the “change from the Characteristic of Social or Social Standing to Charisma” because, “I have always felt that Social Standing really had no place in Clement Sector” (p. 657).

Let’s take a look at that major change. I refer you to page 140 of Clement Sector v3 and “Charisma (CHA)” where the rule—in its entirety—reads, “Charisma shows how well the character can influence, charm, or inspire other people.”

That’s it. That’s John Watts’ “major change” to the game mechanisms in this ATU setting.

Alright, alright. The Clement Sector ATU is an unabashedly different “small-ship ATU” with a different FTL handwave, that being the “Zimm Drive” versus the classic Jump Drive. In terms of Third Edition rules there are a few other changes that Mr. Watts makes. Like adding the skill “Draw.” Or removing the “Steward” skill and replacing it with “Chef” and “Etiquette.” Or removing the “Zero-G” skill and folding it into “Survival (Freefall).” Or how “Vacc Suit ” and “Battle Suit” are now covered under an umbrella “Suit” skill. Importantly, none of these changes lose the space opera focus of Clement Sector.

Sure, in some places I think Clement Sector v3 goes a bit overboard. Like in character generation where you have the choice of not only generating your own character, but also information on parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. In some ways Clement Sector v3 takes the random Traveller/Cepheus Engine life path character generation process to an extreme in an extensive “Character Origins” section that covers over 30 pages. But I note that much of the extra “fluff” is optional; a character is playable without it.

Personally, my OneBookShelf library has over 30 Clement Sector products in it. To be honest, finding what I wanted to use as a Referee was becoming a bit of a chore, in part because one can search within only a single product but not across the product line. By consolidating so much material in one product, I now have that “one stop reference” I can use to build and adventure with.

Good on you, Mr. Watts, for recognizing that the expanse of your product line may be a bit much and for bringing so much of it together under one cover.

If you have not played around in the Clement Sector ATU here is your chance. Take it! At $24.99 it is not the cheapest, but it is far more affordable than buying a $30 core rulebook “update” and then having to add a $29.99 setting book like some other publishers do…


RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2021 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

#SundaySummary – My Kursk Kampaign with @RBMStudio1, Standard Combat with @MultiManPub, Going Social with @consimworld, a Dice-y Podcast with @ADragoons, and Going West with @IndependenceGa6

Wargames

I continue to work on my Kursk Kampaign History-to-Wargame (or is it Wargame-to-History?) project. This is a special series I am working on to look at the Battle of Kursk using both books and wargames. The “core wargame” I am using is Trevor Bender’s Battle for Kursk: The Tigers are Burning, 1943 from RBM Studio as found in C3i Magazine Nr. 34 (2020). I don’t know if the series will feature here or at Armchair Dragoons yet.

Multi-Man Publishing found some wayward stock in their warehouse. Good for me because I was able to pick up another Standard Combat Series title; Karelia ’44: The Last Campaign of the Continuation War (2011). As with every SCS game, I am interested in the “gimmick” rule; in this case the “Boss Point” system which varies game length.

Do you know that ConSimWorld has a new social site? I’m trying it but am really unsure. I can be found there as (you might of guessed) RockyMountainNavy. What do you think?

Boardgames

Not a very busy boardgaming week except for recording an episode of Mentioned in Dispatches for the Armchair Dragoons. Look Listen for the episode to drop next week. In the meantime check out my meager dice collection here.

My pre-order for No Motherland Without by Dan Bullock from Compass Games should be shipping next week. As a guy who spent nearly 1/3 of my military career on the Korean peninsula to say I am “interested” in this title is an understatement.

Role Playing Games

I’m not really into Western RPG’s but I am sure tempted with the release of Rider: A Cepheus Engine Western from Independence Games. I love what John Watts has done in The Clement Sector setting for his Alternate Traveller Universe and am sure he has brought the same level more love to this setting. Here is how he described Rider in a December blog post:

Rider will use the Cepheus Engine rules as a base with modifications made to fit with the “Old West” setting. Rider will draw inspiration from both fictional and historical Western lore but will definitely side with fictional portrayals. To paraphrase Larry McMurtry (who was misquoting “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence”), we will be “printing the legend”.

Books

As part of my Kursk Kampaign series this week I read parts of The Battle of Kursk by David Glantz and Jonathan House (University of Kansas Press, 1990) and The Battle of Prokhorovka: The Tank Battle at Kursk, The Largest Clash of Armor in History by Christopher A. Lawrence from Stackpole Books (2017).


Feature image nolimitzone.com

#RPGThursday -Finding Earth in The Clement Sector from @IndependenceGa6

What is it about the Original Traveller RPG that keeps me coming back? I mean, I don’t play in a session that often although the RockyMountainNavy Boys have repeatedly expressed an interest. This last week, Independence Games, the new name for Gypsy Knight Games, had a sale and I couldn’t resist picking up several items in their The Clement Sector collection.

I like The Clement Sector setting. It’s a small-ship universe that tops out around TL12 or 13. It’s fun to adventure around in mostly because Gypsy Knight Independence Games gives plenty of seed material but little restrictions on where you can take your adventure.

Earth_Sector_Cover_540x
Courtesy Independence Games

The first item I picked up was Earth Sector: A Clement Sector Setting. As author and publisher John Watts puts describes it:

Earth Sector is an extension of Independence Games (formerly Gypsy Knights Games) Clement Sector setting. For those familiar with the Clement Sector setting, Earth Sector is set in Earth Sector after the Conduit Collapse of 2350. Earth Sector, while it can be played without knowledge or familiarity with the Clement Sector setting, is best experienced if you are conversant with the full Clement Sector story.

It is our intention with Earth Sector to branch off from Clement Sector, much as the Conduit Collapse forced the seperate evolution of both sectors. Earth Sector will be its own setting united by the past background before 2331 and then branching off in a new direction afterward. This is the first book in that adventure, and it is our sincere hope that you enjoy where this goes.

Earth Sector is a 300 page product with lots of background. All the major nations of the Earth are detailed, along with the obligatory sector maps and data. New characters from among the various subsectors are introduced as each is unique in some way. There are also multiple career paths detailed, again tailored for this sector and time in space.

As much as I like The Clement Sector and how Independence Games generally approaches the setting, there are two parts of Earth Sector I don’t enjoy. First, like John Watts says, you need familiarity with the background of Clement Sector to fully use this book. There is no timeline in Earth Sector, for that you need to get something like Introduction to Clement Sector or the Clement Sector: Core Setting Book to see the history. Come on! A simple timeline to help orient oneself is not to much of an ask, eh? Second is the aliens in Earth Sector. This is all a matter of taste and to each their own. For my aliens I tend more towards a hard sci-fi or a Space Opera approach. In Earth Sector, the Monikarans, semiaquatic carnivores similar to Earth’s otters, beavers, or weasels, pushes too far into Space Pulp for me. In no way it this a showstopper for me; the Independence Games setting doesn’t hinge on this race so it can be ignored or something else substituted in easily.

Tech_Update_2350_Front_Cover_Promo_540x
Courtesy Independence Games

The second book I picked up was Tech Update: 2350. The cover clearly identifies this as both a Clement Sector and Earth Sector product. The book details updates to technology, on both sides of the Conduit Collapse, in the twenty years since the incident. If there is a part I really like, it is the updated Computer rules. If there was one area the designers of Original Traveller missed it was computer technology. Even Mongoose Traveller and early Clement Sector retain much of the old or outright ignore the original version. In Tech Update: 2350, Independence Games lays down a marker on new Computer rules that are a believable reworking of the original version.

Knox_Cover3_540x
Courtesy Independence Games

The third book I purchased is Knox-Class Frigate, another is a long line of ship sourcebooks from Independence Games. Like Tech Update: 2350, this book is branded for both Clement and Earth Sector. These are 1,000 dTon ships with a 4G maneuver drive and a Zimm Drive (interstellar FTL) of 2 parsec range. The ships are very heavily armed with a 2x 50 ton Meson Bays and 2x 50 ton Particle Beam Bays.

Unmerciful Frontier
Courtesy Independence Games

The last item I picked up is another ship book. Lance-Class Gunboat details an older design from the days before gravitic drives. In many ways, a Lance-class looks like Independence Games version of the Rochinante from The Expanse. The Lance is a 300 dTons boat with a Fusion Plasma Reaction Drive delivering 12 hours of 3G thrust. It is armed with a 50 ton Spinal Particle Beam Mount, a Railgun Barbette, a Triple Turret. It is a ‘tower’ design with decks perpendicular to the main thruster. I like these older boats and looking at their designs as it helps me explore the full depth of world-building the rules offer.

IMG_0508
Lance-class Gunboat from Independence Games

#RPGThursday – Balancing Act: Interstellar Relations in the Clement Sector (@GKGames, 2019) #TravellerRPG #CepheusEngine

It has been a long while since I bought any new RPG material. In early May, John Watts of Gypsy Night Games held a sale and I took advantage of to pick up a couple The Clement Sector products I had missed out on.

Balancing Act: Interstellar Relations in the Clement Sector is a 135-page sourcebook and new game subsystem. As the publisher’s blurb puts it:

Can you relate?

This book concerns the relationships which have been established, broken, strained, and improved between the worlds of Clement Sector over the time between their establishment during the 2200s and the current situation in Clement Sector as of 2342. It will take each world, one at a time, and detail how well or how poorly each world government gets along with its neighbors.

It also includes a game within a game called “The Balancing Act”. This game will allow you to take on the role of a head of state in Clement Sector and go up against other leaders as you attempt to push your world ahead of your competition. These rules can easily be used in other settings and games where one might wish to become a leader of a world.

Now you can rule your own world!

The first 92 pages are the sourcebook. Here, John Watts really excels at doing what all his The Clement Sector books do best; provide hooks. There is lots of information here about all the different worlds and their relationships with one another, but at no point does it feel directive to the reader. Instead, what I find are many plot seeds ready to be explored by the players without a preset conclusion. As vast and expansive as The Clement Sector is, John Watts make sure it still if YOUR universe.

The second part of the book details the game, The Balancing Act. I have read the rules, created a few Leaders and Agents, and played with the mechanics so this is still a very preliminary reaction.

Each turn in The Balancing Act (hereafter BA) is one standard week long. Each turn is further divided into phases. Each Leader starts out with two Agents and each gets two tasks (actions) in each week.

My first reaction it that BA is…interesting. Leaders and Agents each have four Attributes but it is unclear if these are connected in a meaningful way to the Universal Personality Profile (UPP) of a character. Two of the four Attributes, Intelligence and Education, would seemingly be the same but I don’t see an explicit rules connection. If one is playing BA as a separate game it’s not needed, but if one is adding BA to a campaign the question arises. Worlds have Planetary Attributes and again the connection to the Universal World Profile (UWP) is unclear.

Projects are large-scale tasks taking multiple turns to complete. Some projects may take years (i.e hundreds of turns) to complete. This is where I feel the time scale of BA breaks down. Weekly turns is very tactical but Projects can be very strategic. Mixing the two of them together makes for some interesting (unrealistic?) situations. For instance, look a the project Upgrading a Starport from C to B (p. 111). This is a Difficult (-2) task that takes from 52-312 turns (1-6 YEARS). It costs 1bln HFCredits; spending 10 billion cuts the time in half. Let’s look at the Success/Failure spread:

  • Exceptional Success: The starport is upgraded to B-class in half of the time.
  • Success: The starport is upgraded to B-class.
  • Failure: The starport is not upgraded. The task can be attempted again in 52 turns.
  • Exceptional Failure: The starport is not upgraded. The task can be attempted again in 108 turns.

Does it seem right to “know” the result of a failure at the beginning? If I know the upgrade is an Exceptional Failure and I am going to have to wait two years to try again, I have 108 turns of different investment coming since I know it’s not worth investing in that new fleet or factories because the starport ain’t happening! Maybe the answer is to make this a hidden roll with the result only known to a GM who can then release the result when appropriate. However, the rules of BA are silent on a GM leading me to believe a GM is not used. Hmm….

Five scenarios are provided in the book with times ranging from 20 weeks to as many as the players want. Maybe BA is scaled best for scenarios of five years or less? Will have to try a scenario or two to see for myself.

As I read and experimented with BA, I found myself making inevitable comparisons to Classic Traveller Trillion Credit Squadron and Dynasty from the Mongoose Traveller collection. I’ll just say that in TCS the players are the head of the military whereas in BA they are leaders of worlds. Dynasty, being focused on generations, is a totally different timescale and approach to long-term changes. I can eventually see TCS integrating with BA (same timescale); Dynasty is best forgotten.

On balance (heh heh), The Balancing Act is a very useful sourcebook and inspiration for campaigns. I am going to reserve further opinion on BA until I experiment more with the game; I think it has potential but am unsure about parts.


Feature image Gypsy Knights Games via DriveThruRPG