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    Skull and Crossbones: Piracy in Clement Sector
    by Jeffrey Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/10/2021 16:16:45

    This review originally appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of Freelance Traveller.

    While piracy has been accepted as more-or-less given in the default Traveller setting, there has been little development of it, either as a career or as a background for adventure. Gypsy Knights Games/Independence Games has changed that, providing this extensive sourcebook for piracy in their Clement Sector setting.

    Looking at the Table of Contents, the book promises much, by section: a history of piracy in Clement Sector, strategy and tactics, havens, famous pirates and pirate bands, pirate life, two common pirate ships, efforts to combat it, gear, adventure seeds, and encounters. It starts to deliver immediately, with a look at some pirate action in the form of a story beginning in media res, appearing to tell how the narrator was captured and “inducted” into the pirate crew.

    The historical section looks first at an overview of piracy over the entire inhabited sector, starting with piracy against ships coming through the conduit from Earth, and expanding toward the frontiers, then dropping nearer the centers. It then goes on to look at each of the inhabited subsectors separately, focussing on particular worlds and their responses to piracy. It is clear that both local politics and interstellar “geography” influence both the nature of and the response to piracy in specific systems; this in turn sets up tensions within the sectors and subsectors that can provide fodder for adventures, or even campaigns—and all this becomes visible before we’re 30 pages into a book that feels like it’s far longer than the 87 pages it is!

    Strategy and tactics is no more than a summary of the various types of piracy that can occur. There is some brief summary discussion of boarding actions, with relevant tasks to roll. It should be noted that one tactic described, the use of moles, technically straddles the line between piracy and the different (but equally serious) crime of barratry.

    Pirates need to operate from a base somewhere, and also to be able to dispose of their takings. The section on pirate havens offers both, operating under a variety of rules (though always generally friendly to the pirates). Even though pirates are outlaws, the pirate havens have laws and codes of conduct of their own; they’re not anarchic free-for-alls where large brawls or near-wars between ship crews are something to expect. They’ll all have similarities, but there’s just enough information presented to inspire a creative referee to expand on into a location with a flavor of its own.

    Many who have never experienced piracy first-hand, either as the pirate or as a victim, may well think that it’s “romantic” in some way. The section on famous pirates and bands “plays” to the “romance” to some extent, giving a capsule version of each pirate’s or band’s story, similar to what you might have seen in a Freelance Traveller “Up Close and Personal” or a GDW JTAS “Casual Encounter”. Many of the stories here show how easily the line between privateering and piracy can be crossed—or perhaps how indistinct the line is in the first place.

    Even among pirates, there are rules, traditions, and customs. While some of their aspects may be distasteful to those who live within lawful societies, they nevertheless do form a code of conduct that most pirates will conform to. The section on pirate life provides a good look at the way pirates behave among themselves. Fundamentally, pirate society is a society, merely operating on some different assumptions, and as a society, it needs rules, customs, traditions, agreements, and all of the other appurtenances of society that enable people to live with each other and work for the good of all.

    While there are commonly-used ships that are often used for piracy, there can also be ships designed specifically for it. The section on pirate ships provides a look at two designs used exclusively by pirates: the Demon-class “lembus”, a well-armed and fast ship, and the Ironbard-class “longship”, a ship designed for attack and plunder, with large amounts of cargo space. Each has specifications, a stat sheet, a deck-by-deck description, deck plans (in the classic monochrome line-drawing plan view), architectural elevation views (side, fore, aft, top), and rendered images.

    Where there is unlawful activity—like piracy—there will be activity to counter it. The section on anti-piracy efforts gives an overview of a variety of measures used to increase the risk inherent in piracy, from direct attacks on piracy (self-defense and letters of marque) to legal deterrence (harsh punishment and prize courts [bounties]). A missing factor here is how to referee the various measures (e.g., tasks and other rules).

    Pirates have equipment suited to their peculiar needs, and there is a section describing it. Each item gets a basic description, a tech level, and a cost (in Hub Federation Credits). Some items (e.g., the ‘parrot-drone’ and the boarding suit) will include additional information specific to the item; regardless, you get enough of a description to be able to use the equipment in play. Note that it’s also not difficult to think of ‘legitimate’ (non-piracy) uses for much of the equipment described.

    Adventure Seeds and Random Encounters are also included, though only a dozen of the first. These seeds are not the “long seed” format of a setup with denouements, but are instead one- or two-sentence descriptions of an idea. More and longer would have been nice—but the book is so material-rich that most referees should be able to come up with their own ideas fairly easily.

    There is enough artwork to keep the book from being a solid block of grey text. All three artists (Bradley Warnes, Ian Stead, and Michael Johnson) have done excellent work.

    Indexing is … not trivial … so perhaps it’s a bit much to ask. However, having the table of contents link to the respective pages in the book is something that most word processors can do almost trivially (and most page-layout programs can probably do so as well), so it’s mildly saddening to see that it wasn’t done in this book.

    It is not by any means an exaggeration to say that this can be the considered the definitive piracy sourcebook; while it is focussed on the publisher’s Clement Sector setting, it provides enough ‘insight’ into piracy as a job and as a lifestyle that a good referee should not find it either difficult or burdensome to convert this material to any other Traveller setting. A solid buy recommendation.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Skull and Crossbones: Piracy in Clement Sector
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    21 Starport Places
    by Jeffrey Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/10/2021 16:00:46

    Disclosure: The reviewer was “comped” a copy of this at TravellerCON/USA in connection with a project discussed with the author. This review originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Freelance Traveller.

    “Starport” places is arguably a misnomer; while all of the locations presented are described as being at one or another starport in the publisher’s Clement Sector setting, few of them are actually starport-specific, and most could easily be set elsewhere on a planet.

    That noted, the 21 places cover a wide variety of establishments, from the obvious dining and lodging establishments to specialty shops, to repair facilities, to entertainment—there’s a casino, a nightclub, and a boxing arena. Each includes an overview, one or two NPCs, and at least a partial floor plan. Among the less-commonly-seen types of establishments are a chapel, a charitable social-service organization’s office/hostel, a storage facility, a bureaucratic office (visa office), a security office (which could stand in nicely for a police station), and a trauma unit, which could double as a small hospital.

    Some of the places are quite definitely imaginative, e.g., The King’s Lodge, with its “stable” and “dungeon” guest areas, as a ‘themed’ hotel. Others are riffs on real-world ideas, such as Koko’s Sailing Away as a ‘themed’ show-bar/dinner theatre, and the Short Stay Capsule Hotel being essentially identical to the Japanese idea.

    The overviews give a summary of the place’s backstory, enough to capture the “flavor” that the authors had in mind for it. In some cases, there are references to Clement Sector setting background, but it’s not difficult to recast the descriptions to fit a different campaign universe while keeping the same flavor, e.g., using Big Al’s Biscuits as the ‘template’ for an AstroBurger Express, or the Captain’s Guildhouse suite floorplan for a similar Travellers’ Aid Society facility in the Third Imperium setting.

    None of the floorplans are printed at sizes that would allow them to be used directly as miniatures “battle maps”; some of them are, in fact, too small to be readable (and often blurred enough that even a strong magnifier isn’t much help). The descriptive text helps somewhat, as area numbers can usually be made out even on those where text on the plans themselves is simply too small and at too low a resolution to read, but on many of them, the legends are unreadable. Having the PDF is essentially mandatory, as I’ve yet to find a way to ‘zoom’ a printed page.

    There are one or two places where the floor plan and the descriptive text seem at odds with respect to the image intended; for example, the description of the Bumpy Road Steakhouse suggests a somewhat “upscale” dining establishment, but the plan shows crowded, almost cafeteria-like dining areas.

    Overall, a good idea that has a few issues in the execution. Even with those issues, though, it’s a worthwhile resource to have, and one which just might inspire your own imagination to go beyond it.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    21 Starport Places
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    21 Plots
    by Jeffrey Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/10/2021 15:53:58

    Reviewer's note: This review originally appeared in the February 2013 Freelance Traveller.

    I have been sadly remiss; I promised the principal author a review of this product back in mid-2011, shortly after receiving a complimentary copy in e-mail. I cannot even plead “too much hands on my time”; a quick look at Freelance Traveller’s back issues or the Consolidated Listing will show that I’ve written reviews of other products, and non-review articles, in the interim; I can only abase myself and say that I just plain forgot.

    Although the version originally sent to me was the first release of the product, this review will focus on the second version, which is the currently available one. The differences are outlined in the third section below. When I sent an advance copy of this review to the publisher, along with my apologies, they alerted me to the existence of the second version, and forwarded a copy, which I looked over for completeness and accuracy in this review. Most of my comments apply equally to both versions.

    On the Shelf

    I have the PDF to review, so I can’t speak to the binding of the softcover. At only 24 pages, though, I can’t imagine it being much more than the typical magazine, saddle-’stitched’ or stapled, with no separately visible spine. It likely would easily get lost in a pile or on a shelf.

    When seen face-on, you see a “clean” design, without a lot of decoration making it hard to read. The company name is written vertically in their distinctive font on a pink stripe along the left edge, bordered by a red stripe separating that from the rest of the cover. The remaining (main) portion of the cover is divided horizontally into thirds; the top third is black with red text naming the product in a sans-serif font, over a photo-render of an industrial setting, centered on a person who might be a mercenary carrying a long gun (a rifle or shotgun) at high port ready to bring it down and fire. The lower third is once again solid black, and the lower right corner carries the Traveller Compatible Product logo.

    On Inspection

    The title tells you exactly what to expect, and delivers exactly what it promises. There is a title page and a page ‘explaining’ what the product is up front, and a page of Open Game License at the end, but the ‘meat’ of the book is 21 adventure ideas, one per page, in the standard format that the Traveller community has come to call ‘Adventure Seeds’ and which have been ubiquitous in fan venues of all types. Each seed consists of a paragraph or two setting out the general idea behind the adventure, and six alternative outcomes, with the referee and the party left to develop the details. The seed instructions are to determine which alternative outcome is used randomly, but there is no compelling reason that a referee should feel obligated to do so; I would merely write “Possible directions to take this adventure:”, or perhaps suggest that the outcome can be selected “in any manner that seems good to the referee”. This, however, is a nit to which little effort should be devoted to picking.

    Differences Between the Versions

    The cover has been restyled; the original version’s company name and separator stripe was somewhat thinner, and the artwork was the bottom four-fifths of the cover, rather than just the middle third. The artwork for both editions was taken from the same original; in the first version, it was cropped a little on the left and right; in the second, it was more heavily cropped from the bottom, so that the second version cover art appears to be roughly the top half of the first version cover art.

    Internally, some of the text has been elaborated on in the second version, with additional descriptive material in both the setup paragraph and the list of possible outcomes. The page layout elements are also slightly more æsthetically pleasing in the second version. It should be noted that the original version did not claim a tie to the publisher’s Quick Worlds and subsectors (as it predated most of them), but the tie in the second edition isn’t all that strong, and can easily be ‘edited out’ by the referee. Finally, the Open Game License is printed in a smaller font in the second version, so that the entire license fits on a single page (and makes the difference between the second version’s 24 pages and the first’s 26).

    Overall, the second version should be considered preferable to the first version. Æsthetically, the minor differences in font selection and layout elements make a big difference; set side-by-side, the first edition looks more amateurish in comparison. More importantly, the more-elaborated text gives each of the seeds a little bit more ‘flavor’; while it doesn’t make any of them stand out, they are just that little bit less likely to garner the “Meh, it’s a seed” reaction.

    Conclusion

    There’s really little that can be done in one or two paragraphs to make any single seed stand out from the myriad of others—but then, the ultimate value of a seed is in what the referee and the party can do with it.

    The chief value of this volume, and its similarly-named companions, is in the convenience of having a bunch of seeds handy, so that one can quickly get started on a session when there wasn’t a chance to pre-plan, or if part of your regular party can’t make it, or for a quick one-off at a con, or… For that purpose, the PDF is a good value (about $0.25 per seed) if one’s imagination is likely to get ‘stuck in neutral’, and a judgement call by the referee otherwise; the printed edition (about $0.50 per seed) is strictly a judgement call by the referee.

    While I do not say that you should avoid purchasing this as a single item, my instinct is to wait for it to be part of a bundle at a discounted price.



    Rating:
    [3 of 5 Stars!]
    21 Plots
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    Ships of Clement Sector 13: Strikemaster Class Brig
    by Neil L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/23/2020 10:27:10

    This ship not likely to fall into player's hands (it's a pure warship, after all), but it's got a lot of possibilities. It's a 400 tonne escort, the sort of ship operated by a navy for protection from piracy and general duties. If you don't want to run a navy campaign, it carries 6 troops and a ship's boat. You can have the players sent to defuse trouble on planets (like Star Trek's Away Teams). If one of these turns up on the other side, your players are in real trouble. You get a scene-setting piece of fiction at the start, a history of the ship and an interior description. There's deckplans for the ship and the ship's boat. What really makes this product worth buying is the artwork. Lots of colour diagrams of the ship, pictures of it in action and some very well done 3D art of the crew and interiors. I've seen some RPG art that looked like it was done using 3D female models more suited to the walls of a teenager's bedroom, these people looked like they belonged on the ship. I loved the excellent texture-mapping and incidental details. I think the artwork is what makes this worth buying. There are many supplements that contain shiips you could design yourself, but the artwork and interior plans bring the ship alive.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Ships of Clement Sector 13: Strikemaster Class Brig
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    Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture
    by Pavel K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/08/2020 11:51:27

    Beautiful illustrations. At the end of every chapter there are design examples so you will end with complete ship. Perfect.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture
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    Subsector Sourcebook: Earth
    by Tim M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/10/2020 18:10:04

    Tons of information packed inside this book. I really love how they actually give Government Details, Legal Details, Select City Details, Cultural Details, Population Details etc... instead of just the generic UPP codes which leaves everyone guessing. There is also more then enough room for the GM to fletch out and customize/personalize the setting. Another really great Earth Sector/Clement Sector book!



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Subsector Sourcebook: Earth
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    Ships of Clement Sector 1-3: Hub Federation Warships
    by David A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/02/2020 08:08:11

    Some excellent designs and engaging back-story material. You might want to get someone who speaks German to do German translations, though. 'Ausschreibung' is the OTHER sort of 'tender', you want 'begleitschiff'; and you've used the verb 'to torpedo' instead of the noun... ;-)



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Ships of Clement Sector 1-3: Hub Federation Warships
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    Tech Update: 2350
    by Tim M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/04/2020 10:22:27

    Countermeasures, Computer atanomy, very good Software Chart, Heavy Torpedoes, Heavy Railguns, mindcomp implant types, ECM drones... and guns :) Very happy with this, great work!



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Tech Update: 2350
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    Diverse Roles: A Clement Sector Career Catalog
    by Nick M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/31/2019 09:23:19

    The mustering out with the ability to cash out pensions, art, shares.. excellent! Also our local Framing Supply player (art store/collector) is happy she has her own "class". Engineering being broken down into specialities was also much liked by my group. Really terrific book which we will be using for Clement Sector as well as Traveller!



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Diverse Roles: A Clement Sector Career Catalog
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    Interface: Cybernetics in Clement Sector
    by Robert M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/11/2019 13:12:18

    I was expectring this to be better than anything Mongoose did, like their Cybernetics book for 1E. Which I recommend you buy instead of this. This will only be of use to you if you use the Clement Sector as your campaign, or you want a pre written career path in Cybernetics. The Cyberware they have in the book is good, and they do a fair amount for eyes, arms, head and legs, but for the torso they only offer medichines and Dermal Armor options. Thats it. Plus Mongoose made more offerings for all parts. The author uses some key words that indicate to me that he is familair with Transhumanism, and the Celement Sector has a world dedicated to Transhumanism, but this book falls seriosuly short of giving any such offerings you see in other Transhhumanist offerings, such as Eclipse Phase and Mindjammer. They need to give serious consideration to stepping up their game with this book.



    Rating:
    [2 of 5 Stars!]
    Interface:  Cybernetics in Clement Sector
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    Unmerciful Frontier: The CCA Sourcebook
    by James J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/18/2019 10:55:48

    Planetary Generation (Why I bought this, I have not heard of Clement Sector other than in Passing) It seems to be an interesting mix of influences from (likely) Classic Traveller book 6 Scouts, Grand Survey's Details of Atmospheres, and a serious focus on The Luminosity of Parent Stars, but looser than something like GURPS Space 4th Edition, or Traveller:Interstellar Wars...but with a prevalence for Clement Sector Specific Details, most lesser worlds of a system will be (If inhabited) captive govt, research stations, military bases, with the occassional High Law prison or independant world.

    I think I can say if you like the idea of bold exploration by Scouts / Colonists / Corpporations going into a mostly unihabited Area of space to break rocks, mine moons, sets up colonies, i.e. you have embraced the Clement Sector's Setup / Paradigms, this is the book for you. If you are seeking a more open ended kind of Science Fiction Basic Principles, roll it out and see what you get, GURPS Space 4th is the more detailed, not so setting specific.

    I can see a lot of work went into this product. Again, if you are a fan of Celement Sector, this is a great resource, very detailed. If you came here for system Generation, and you have not been a Traveller fan since the old days, and do not have access to the system generation stuff from older systems, this does an okay job, given the setting parameters.

    I much respect the amount of work that went into this product. 4 Stars.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Unmerciful Frontier: The CCA Sourcebook
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    Clement Sector Core Setting Book
    by Brian I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/13/2019 22:49:38

    I thoroughly enjoy the Clement Sector setting and line; my favorite ATU (Alternate Traveller Universe) via Cepheus. It's got a very Traveller 2300 feel for me without being T2300 or a knock off thereof. It has the feel of a human-centric setting on the general frontier, with Earth not forgotten but out of the picture, and no real star emprires or whatnot. It's a small(er) ship universe, with Jump 2 limit. All the colonies themselves are painted sufficiently to get play going, and not so tightly as to not further develop, or rewrite entirely if you prefer.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Clement Sector Core Setting Book
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    Unmerciful Frontier: The CCA Sourcebook
    by Shawn F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/07/2018 16:52:58

    Do you like scouts in your Traveller game? Because if you like scouts, this is a great resource for you. While it's intended for GKG's Clement setting and its Cascadia Colonization Authority, it's plenty generic enough to pull all kinds of inspiration for your own scouting and exploraiton games. It details various scout careers (not just explorers, but sapper and security troopers for early colonization efforts) with ranks, detailed life event charts, mustering out benefits, etc. There's plenty of details on equipment, uniforms, vehicles, and the CCA's exploraiton procedures, organization, chain of command, and so forth. Perhaps the most useful is a system generator for the Cepheus Engine with plenty of variety and details -- atmosphere, oceans, biosphere -- it's all here. It's packed full of formulas and all kinds of options for creating your own unique places for your scouts to die, err...visit. You could easily use the system generator for any sci-fi game. If you are running a socut campaign, or just playing a scout and want to know what he did for all those many terms, here's the place to look.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Unmerciful Frontier: The CCA Sourcebook
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    Ships of Clement Sector 16: Rucker-class Merchant
    by Richard N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/17/2018 18:56:11

    Another gerat ship book from GKGs filled with several variants of the Rucker-class ship alogn with hisrtoy, stories, crews and adventure hooks. The detailed descriptions of each variant is great.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Ships of Clement Sector 16: Rucker-class Merchant
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    Ships of Clement Sector 1-3: Hub Federation Warships
    by Richard N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/17/2018 18:53:22

    Like other ship books for the Clement Sector this book contains much more than just a bunch of ships, deck plans, and specs. There are NPCs, adventure hooks, along with history of several ships.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Ships of Clement Sector 1-3: Hub Federation Warships
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