This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue.
Sector. John Watts.
Gypsy Knights Games http://www.gypsyknightsgames.com
140pp. hardbound, softcover or PDF
Reviewer’s disclosure: I was “comped” a copy of this at TravellerCON/USA.
Designing a universe is hard to do well. Nevertheless, John Watts has managed to do it, in a way that aims squarely at a segment of Traveller players that might well feel “left out” of the past thirty-five-plus years of Traveller development: Clement Sector is very definitely a “small ship universe” with somewhat limited technology—the general maximum is TL10-12, though with certain limited exceptions. More, there are large areas that are mostly unexplored, and there exists only one multi-world polity (of no great size), within the easily-managed space of a single sector. The result is a Traveller setting that allows the player-characters to be more than ‘bit players’—what they do can have potentially major influence on a campaign’s development ‘down the road’. There’s also room to play some of the ‘development games’ that have been published, such as Merchant Prince or Dynasty, and perhaps (with some conversion work), TNE’s World Tamer’s Handbook or T4’s Pocket Empires.
The book starts off with a capsule history of Clement Sector, including the development of the Zimm Drive, the discovery of a wormhole near ε Eridani, the subsequent colonization of what came to be called the Clement Sector, and the collapse of the wormhole leading to the isolation of the setting.
This leads to a discussion of the sector’s astrography, using the same sector/subsector structure established in other settings and the de facto standard for Traveller. There are one-parsec clusters, but no real ‘mains’ in the classic Traveller sense. The limitation of the Zimm Drive to 2 parsecs, plus the layout of the sector, leads to trade routes, choke points, and de facto ‘rifts’ that figure into the character of the sector. The astrographical overview is followed by subsector maps and listings, with descriptive text, for each of the sixteen subsectors. It should be noted that most of the sector is uninhabited; only seven subsectors have any inhabited worlds at all, and in three of those, inhabited worlds are a definite minority.
This overview of the setting is followed by character creation rules specific to the setting; general character creation conforms with the Traveller Core Rulebook or appropriate expanded careers in additional books such as Mercenary, High Guard, Merchant Prince, and so on. The differences are called out explicitly; for example, SOC in Clement Sector never involves titles of nobility; rather, increasing SOC represents increasing wealth and power/prestige, and spending to maintain lifestyle is essential. Also, there is only one multi-world polity; for the most part, characters in government or military careers will work for a specific world government, which should be indicated on the character sheet. One important difference is lifespan; the setting establishes an expected lifespan of as much as 250 years, and aging doesn’t begin until age 76. There are other differences, including with regard to skills; reading this section of the book is absolutely essential.
Setting-specific careers are also provided; the Hub Federation Navy is not quite the same as the Navy of the Core Rulebook or High Guard, though either of the latter can be used for the planetary defense forces of other worlds in the setting. The Cascadia Colonization Authority (CCA) career track covers exploration of new worlds with an eye toward future colonization; this subsumes some of the mission of the Scouts in the standard setting. There is also a Colonist career, focussing on actually being one of the people that settles on a new world, as opposed to exploring for others to follow later.
Tech in the Clement Sector setting is much more consistent than in the standard setting. While the general tech level establishes the expectations, there are setting-specific differences, and these are set out in the next section of the book. For the most part, they are situations where one specific technology is available at a higher level than implied by the setting, e.g., Clement Sector TL12 computers are actually the equivalent of standard-setting TL13.
Following the tech differences is a section on setting-specific equipment. It should be noted that the availability and TL of equipment conforms to limitations of the Clement Sector setting, rather than the standard limitations.
Spacecraft (including starships) are another area where the Clement Sector referee absolutely must read the setting material—there is a hard upper limit on the size of starships; Interstellar ships must be smaller than 5,000 dtons, and the risk of Zimm drive failure rises as the ship size goes above 2,000 dtons. In-system ships have no hull size limitation. A selection of typical Clement Sector starships follows, for various missions. Each is presented with an illustration, deck plans, and data sheet, plus a couple of paragraphs each describing the ship’s intended mission and variations. As they’re all starships, therefore small, the deck plans are quite readable.
Following the starships is a section on travel and starship operations. Again, the focus is on the differences between Clement Sector and the standard setting. There is also information on timekeeping and currencies, both of which differ significantly from standard Traveller.
The Clement Sector setting isn’t really large enough to have megacorporations, but there are organizations that will be frequently encountered, and overviews of some of them are provided.
Setting politics is a topic that is often discussed in Traveller forums, and Clement Sector has them. An overview of the political situation in the Hub Federation and some of the significant non-Federation worlds presents an image of a sector at a high simmer, potentially ready to erupt with multiple conflicts—or with plenty of opportunities for player-characters to get in on the intrigues. Complicating matters even further are some religious organizations that exercise a great deal of influence on one or more worlds, and they’re outlined as well.
One apparently deliberate omission from the Clement Sector setting is living aliens, though there is explicitly evidence of nonhuman intelligences having lived on several worlds in the sector. No explanation of their former presence or disappearance is given; they are left as enigmas to fuel adventures.
The book wraps up with a collection of campaign ideas, some of which could be brought into a standard-setting campaign. In many cases, having other Clement Sector or Mongoose products is a plus.
Artwork is sparse, but of high quality. Much of it appears to have been rendered using one or another 3D package, which gives a slightly mannequin-oid look to human figures, but the artwork is well-placed and doesn’t distract from the ‘meat’ of the book, while helping to break up large multi-page blocks of text. Liberal use of sidebars and section titles breaks up the text further, and the use of ‘clean’ fonts at good sizes go a long way toward reducing eyestrain while reading this book.
Unarguably good value for the money: This is a well-designed setting with lots of potential.