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Ships of Clement Sector 10: Lee-class Merchant Vessel

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2016 issue.

Ships of Clement Sector 10: Lee-class Merchant Vessel. Michael Johnson.
Gypsy Knights Games http://www.gypsyknightsgames.com
26pp., PDF
US$4.99/UKú3.35

I picked up my copy of Lee-class Merchant Vessel based almost purely on past experiences with Gypsy Knight Games’ quality work. That and the art. Never, ever forget that artwork helps sell—especially when you are talking science fiction. I have been continually impressed with the Clement Sector product line. Even though I don’t game in that setting, it’s actually quite easy to drop most any of their vehicles, source material, or ships into your standard or alternate Traveller setting. They definitely adhere to a small-ship universe concept, which isn’t at all a bad thing. While their warships tend to be on the smaller side, their adventure-class ships are perfect for small groups of adventurers hoping to make a megacredit or three doing dangerous missions or dodging pirates while making a hopeful killing delivering cargo.

Like in many of their previous supplements, there are several pages of fiction accompanying the actual ship design. I have found this to generally be rather enjoyable, as it seems to breathe more life into the ship setting. While the fiction isn’t terribly detailed, it is still enjoyable to read. Perhaps one day GKG and their author(s) would put together a compilation of sorts, discussing the activities on the decks of each class of ship as they move towards a momentous rendezvous in space somewhere.

It was also nice to read that one of the main characters was an uplift, something you really don’t encounter too much in regular Traveller fiction. Usually an uplift is replaced with one of the minor alien races. Not that this is a bad thing! Uplifts feature prominently in the Clement Sector and they deserve page space like any other sophont out there. Besides, who can resist a monkey in a Hawaiian-style shirt?

Like many of the previous ship supplements, the technical portion begins with an overview of the history and origin of the Lee class, discussing why some of the design choices were made, and adding flavor to the whole thing. While I can always look at stats on a ship, I really don’t, for example, know why the classic Beowulf-class Free Trader came to be. With the Lee, you are told what the inspiration for the design was, why the maneuver rating was kept low, and the advantage of having a 6m-high cargo hold vs. the standard 3m.

The next section goes into more detail on the ship’s specifications. Here we are told how many turrets it normally mounts (one from the builder, but fire control tonnage is set aside for a full complement of four). I had to ask where the fourth turret was located as the most excellent artwork clearly shows examples of the three dorsal mounts. It turns out the single ventral mount is located beneath the chin of the bridge. I also exchanged with the publisher my thoughts on the lack of ammunition storage. The placement of the turrets excludes having magazines shown on the deckplans. The description does mention that no provision for ammunition storage is made, as the ship is a merchant and not a fighter. That’s all well and good, but I personally wouldn’t want to go into battle with only a single round in the turret. Any pirate or privateer would know that a Lee would be easy pickings unless the owners chose all energy weapons. It is mentioned that mounting a single laser/missile/sandcaster launcher in a triple turret is common—though I think this concept may change with the introduction of the Mongoose Traveller 2.0 rules for mixed turrets.

The ship deck descriptions call out all of the main features of the upper, lower and cargo hold. They also nicely detail some of the interesting features. For example, a collapsible catwalk that connects the port and starboard engineering spaces can be folded in/out depending on what kind and size of cargo is being carried. The hold itself is pretty roomy at 160 dtons, with access doors both port and starboard as well as the rear. Like the subsidized merchant, the cargo hold has internal doors that can be closed or left open as needed.

Something I like to see on deckplans is both a rational layout (e.g., having extremely large open spaces on a spaceship that sometimes run the length of the ship seems stupid to me), but also one that has the little things you look for—things like lifts between decks, storage spaces for space suits next to airlocks, even little things like galleys and their accompanying food storage areas. While there are still (in my opinion) poorly-placed access points in the middle of deck walkways, they are pretty minimal here. While I suppose you could always have magical 52nd century ladders appear and disappear, from a purely safety point of view it’s best to put access portals like that off to the side. It’s a minor complaint, and one nearly every Traveller deckplan has done. Which doesn’t make it right in my book, but it’s no worse than anything else.

There’s only two pages of actual deckplans, but really, no more are needed. Much of the rest of the book is taken up with artwork, even more of a selling point because the artwork is by Ian Stead. That man sure can draw some beautiful starships. I do wish that Mongoose would find the money to buy more of his artwork. If he ever follows down the path of Stewart Crowley, I think I will be adding to my sci-fi art book collection.

Finally, we come to the section that outlines the ship’s crew who were previously introduced to us in the fiction at the beginning. The art portraits are sufficient for what is required, and they run true to similar character portraits throughout the Clement Sector supplements. Once you get used to them the artwork is fine, but it’s a bit different than the starship drawings. Then again, one would expect character art and starship art to be a bit different. Each crew member gets a short description, including their skills, and little bit of what drives them to be on the Nebula’s Ghost. Last, and certainly not least, is a d6 list of adventure seeds that a referee could use to help flesh out encounters or settings with the Nebula’s Ghost or any other Lee-class merchant. As an added bonus there is size comparison chart, similar to the recognition silhouettes of enemy aircraft, which shows the relative size of some of the ships that inhabit the Clement Sector.

At a price point of just $4.99 the supplement is almost a no-brainer to pick up. It has great art, good ship specifications, and can be easily used in either its native Clement Sector setting or dropped into any Traveller campaign. As an adventure-class vessel it can easily be used by your players or encountered by them somewhere. With its relatively large hold it would be interesting to see a Q-ship or perhaps even a light carrier variant. Overall it’s a solid product. I would like to see the ship section get a little extra text work, tightening it up to read more concisely. That’s more of a personal view than anything else. It’s easy to recommend this to anyone who enjoys supporting smaller publishers and/or adding new ships to their game setting. Five stars!