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Clement Sector Player’s Guide

This review originally appeared on rpg.net in December 2015, and was reprinted in the September/October 2016 issue.

Clement Sector Player’s Guide. John Watts.
Gypsy Knights Games http://www.gypsyknightsgames.com
113pp., PDF
US$9.99/UKú7.75

The Good

As a freebie or low cost, this is a great product; as printed booklet (assuming you can survive the shipping costs from DriveThruRPG), this is a great product. That said, it is product very much designed to supplement both the 1e Mongoose Traveller Core Rulebook and GKG’s Clement Sector Core Setting book; it is chock full of Traveller goodness that really bring to life the Clement Sector. It fills in vital statistics niche that Mongoose has yet to do in the 1e products, by introducing concepts, like chargen for the adolescent years through a random or points buy system. And, it is worth remembering that Traveller is sometimes criticized as a game where Older Adults kick ass. So, if you do have a problem with that you might not like this product, but, it is likely you have the same trouble with Traveller-like games. Which is the beauty of rules now provided for adolescence. You can build equally rich characters who have only completed one term (internship) of an active service, as those veterans, who are already in the 50s and set to retire with a starship their own. Furthermore, it adds the level of language which granted are Terran languages, so transferability may be limited to games similar to the Clement Sector and/or Solomani space. And, if that were not enough there are six new careers: celebrity, free trader, system defence forces (Wet Navy and Ground Forces) and a vagabond. Along with a new suite package.

The Bad

It is largely material that one would hope could be contained somewhere else either as an appendix to the Clement Sector book or in a more revamped and consolidated book. And, as it an add-on for MgT 1e and, in spite of, GKG commitment no additional costs will be incurred by the buyer of their products—it is still a product of MgT 1e thinking and paradigms. When this item was free, I thought it was a bold and courageous move on behalf a truly excellent small publisher. But, when the PDF jumped to have a price point, it is hard to say that there is $10.00 worth of content encompassed within. GKG does have frequent sales and price reductions (so I do think it is value to money) but I can see that hitting the barrier for the newbie to Clement Sector. As GKG’s line requires some buying into (both as a metaphor and as an actual practice) keeping this at a very low price point (especially, as the USD continues to rise) might be a corrective.

Secondly, and, this is the crime of Traveller itself, and, especially MgT—there are lots of Tables and Charts. In an era, where industry leaders are moving away from ‘rules’ per se and toward more narrative, this product has a long way to go. It does have the purple prose and fantastic illustrations well paired with the text but a player’s guide is there to stimulate and encourage the imagination. Looking at how Wizards of the Coast did the Players Handbook for 5e or Chaosium’s Investigator’s Handbook (for Call of Cthulhu 7e) is a model to follow. Of course, WotC has Hasbro’s plethora of professional game and graphic designers at their disposal. However, difficult it may be to achieve it, does set the standard for player’s guides.

The Ugly

Well, related to the fact, there is a lot of text that directly does not speak to the new player. I was somewhat perplexed that the Medic career path was not included, as that was a very early GKG product that could have had a revised and second look, especially, in light, the popularity of medical and quasi-medical dramas (like CSI). Also, there was nothing in the book that could be handed out to players, as the introduction to the Clement Sector, as what usually happens is one person buys a book and shares it with the rest—and that is usually the Referee—thus a quick guide to the Clement Sector milieu would not go awry.

The Bad and the Ugly does not mean that this is a terrible product, instead, it is a product that speaks to the converted both to MgT and the Clement Sector—sadly. As I happen to like both makes the review difficult. However, GKG has been on the vanguard of change, it is distressing to see that this product does not live up to previous offerings. Getting buy-in for SFRPGs is a difficult task, unless part of an established universe and even then, how to bring in new players. GKG has also to prepare for the tweaks that MgT 2e will/might bring. Therefore, I understand the pressures that they are under but this product or a similar product will need improvement before reaching a wider market. Perhaps, when Traveller achieved hegemony over the SFRPG market these chrome fittings would have been unnecessary, but, Traveller may dominate the market now due to widespread distribution of Mongoose products and their sales good. Traveller has lost the imagination of many newbies because it is perceived as too difficult. Clement Sector and GKG were a useful remedy by concentrating adventure into one standard sector with familiar tropes. I just wish more of that was reflected into this product. The writing is solid and artwork is good. But, as someone recently remarked about the original Dungeons & Dragons, Gygax could so easily design tables and charts, because he saw them every day as an insurance underwriter. RPGs have been steadily moving away from the Rolemaster School of Roleplaying. It is hoped that future GKG be part of that trend rather than reverting back to another and now-dated model. So the strength of the good points, especially, if you already have buy-in to what GKG is attempting to accomplish is balanced by the bad and uglier parts. So it is with that reluctance that I approach this product. The product satisfies a niche.