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Ships of Clement Sector 4-6: Traders, Scouts, and Small Craft

Ships of Clement Sector 4-6: Traders, Scouts, and Small Craft. Michael Johnson.
Gypsy Knights Games https://www.gypsyknightsgames.com
218pp., softcover or PDF

This review originally appeared on rpg.net in July 2015, was reprinted in the July/August 2019 issue, and is for the first (Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition) edition of this product; the currently-available version is the second, for Cepheus Engine.

There are only so many ways that one can review a book of deckplans and ship drawings…however, I am happy to report that GKG keeps on improving their product line, especially, when it comes to renders of ships. Not only do we get a diverse array of ships that can be transported into any Traveller universe, but we get an interesting array of ships with some of the best ship illustrations that one has seen in Traveller in a long time (well, not since the dawn of the initial Mongoose rulebook). The illustrations approach that of anime paradigm (which represents the Gold Standard for vehicle illustrations in SFRPGs). If there is a drawback is that they follow the traditional Traveller grid-paper pattern rather than super-sleek 3D renderings that more contemporary deckplans follow. The ships are interesting and varied – however – as the title suggests – these are small ships, not Capital ships, in keeping with the Clement Sector ATU. My problem is that I do like Capital Ships, but, nor do I need to see pages filled large fuel holding compartments or empty cargo holds.

Scattered throughout there is purple prose that gives a deeper feel for the ship. However, these come in the form of many voices. One thing that has been absent in Traveller products since DGP’s Starship Operator’s Guide has been the voice of an “Old Timer” and a detailed rendering of starship interiors. Now, I realize that is a well-nigh impossible task, as individual starships – particularly small ships would vary quite widely as one house would not resemble another home’s interiors even if built by the same builder in a subdivision. And, that customization would fill a book with lots of jarring images. However, it still might be useful to have more individualized voices, in which, we chart the perspective of different shipboard “careers” (engineers, pilots, medics, etc.) as they talk about different aspects of “their” ship.

Rounding things out might be some of the interesting personalities that operate these ships – both NPCs and the innovation that the Serenity RPG introduced – the ships themselves. And, given that these are mass produced starships what differentiates and sample customizations. All too often, we have seen starships just merely rendered as vehicles, but Traveller implies that they are something else – they are also a surrogate home. Even if there is a homeport, Starships and Characters grow together almost organically and to date – I have not seen a Traveller product that addresses that.

I was very pleasantly surprised by this volume. I had expected mundane ships with more banal deckplans. What I found was a worthy addition to my Traveller collection. GKG continues to blaze ahead and create new content for their Traveller universe that makes them akin to another small press that has gone down in Traveller lore – the above mentioned DGP. GKG, job very well done.