2300ad: Ships of the French Arm
This review originally appeared on rpg-resource.org.uk in March 2016 and was reprinted in the July/August 2016 issue.
Ships of the French Arm. Colin Dunn.
Mongoose Publishing http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
The idea of this book is to enable you to populate the spacelanes and starports of the French Arm with an array of different ships which the party might interact with in some way during their adventures. Perhaps it is just a stray blip on a sensor screen or someone parked on a neighbouring pad, or they may get the chance to visit (voluntarily or otherwise)—hence deckplans are included—or maybe even serve aboard for a while. It’s all part of the rich diversity of life that this game presents, making it appear ‘real’—after all, not every ship you’d be likely to see is going to be the same, no more than every car you see on the road is identical to the rest! It is estimated that there are about 12,000 spacecraft in the French Arm, of which some 2,500 are actual starships capable of travelling between systems. Few, however, are in private hands; most belong to governments, companies or other organisations.
First, though, there is a chapter on Starship Operations. The design system used here is slightly different from that in the 2300AD core rules; in particular, reaction drive systems and interface travel have been altered which has brought about changes to the time it takes a given craft to reach orbit from the planetary surface, so new tables are presented so that you can calculate timings. There are also notes on ortillery fire, fuel costs and the way in which ship data is presented in the rest of the book, with an explanation of terms used.
The following chapters provide a range of example ships in considerable detail that really makes them seem real. First off are Interface Vessels and Small Craft, followed by Drop Pods, Lifeboats and Life Pods, Military Starships, Civilian Starships, Commercial Ships, Liners, Courier Ships, Mining and Survey Ships, Robots, Missiles and Drones, Surface Probes and finally Unknown Vessels. Each vessel comes with background notes, exterior view sketch, full statistics and deckplans, so whatever your needs, it’s likely that you will find something appropriate here.
The ‘Unknown Vessels’ section is a little different. Here, three distinct yet unidentified vessels are described in terms of sensor readings, observations and the tall tales told in spacer bars. Make of them what you may, or leave them as something mysterious that the party might spot in their travels…
Overall, this is a useful book to have to hand to make the spacelanes of the French Arm come to life in your game.