This article originally appeared in the March/April 2021 issue.
Cepheus Journal. Multiple editors.
3 issues, 40-48pp each, PDF
Free for download
Cepheus Journal is a fanzine focusing on Cepheus Engine, without focusing on a specific setting or genre. The editorial/publishing team of five includes several individuals well-known and well-respected in the Traveller fan community. They have undertaken to release issues as often as they can get sufficient material submitted to make up 32 pages or more; at the time this review was written, three issues had been released, ranging from 40 to 48 pages in size.
To date, they have printed material from several authors whose names would be recognized in the Traveller community; several of them run their own extensive Traveller websites, and some have also released commercial Traveller product.
Although Cepheus Engine was developed from Mongoose’s Traveller System Resource Document, and both the Cepheus Engine and Traveller SRD introductions made an implicit assumption that settings would be based in the SF genre, there have been subsequent non-SF settings released for Cepheus Engine, and Cepheus Journal has jumped right in to supporting them. So far, every issue has had at least one article for Stellagama Publishing’s Sword of Cepheus fantasy setting, and there have been several articles that focus on applying Cepheus Engine rules to historical settings from the fourteenth century up through the late twentieth century. As with Freelance Traveller, which is specifically credited as an inspiration (thank you! –ed.) in the “From the Editors” in Issue 001, there is a wide variety of article types, from rule discussions to background info to ship designs to character profiles to adventures to …, with the intent that the reader feel free to use any of it or not as he/she sees fit.
Liberal, but not excessive, use of artwork supplements articles well and additionally prevents the magazine from becoming a ‘wall of grey’ – something that Freelance Traveller has yet to master.
Articles are well-written and well-organized; none of them feel like the authors are being forced into an editorial straitjacket for structure or language. Each author has his/her own style, but the editors have brought it all together in a whole that’s a pleasure to read through, even if there are articles whose content you won’t be using.
The editors of Cepheus Journal have chosen to format their PDFs to the ISO A4 page size (I actually think that the ISO A series page sizes make more sense than the ANSI page sizes.—ed.). Page design elements and margins are arranged to avoid impairing readability, and such that if printed as “actual size” from Adobe Reader on US Letter paper(wider than A4, but not as long), none of the content is lost.
Body text uses the Avant Garde font or a close clone; this is a nicely-readable geometric sans-serif font at the high resolution that is common in current desktop and portable devices, but at the lower resolution of older or lower-cost portable devices, the large x-height relative to the line height and cap (capitals) height makes it necessary to set the reader program to enlarge the page image rather than displaying the whole page. This leaves the user scrolling around the page to read the content, which can be awkward and distracting. The titling font (which appears to be Franklin Gothic or a close clone) in a lighter weight, or a ‘designed for the screen’ font like Tahoma or Verdana Pro, might have been a better choice for the body text to accommodate lower-resolution devices. There were some very minor typographic errors involving the use of closing ‘smart quotes’ where opening quotes should have been used, and most readers likely won’t spot them.
Graphics seem clear at high ‘zoom’ levels, with no pixellation; this suggests high-resolution or vector originals.
If you read Freelance Traveller for material and inspiration, you should unquestionably add Cepheus Journal to your reading list for the same reason.