Sep 132012
 

adventure1-beltstrike[1]By Megan Robertson

Fancy being an asteroid miner? Do do you think the little guy needs protection against the big corporates?

Publisher’s blurb: “In the Sonares system the Schaeffer belt offers riches to those equipped to exploit it – the hardy men and women who ply the dangers of the asteroid fields: the Belters.

“When Lothrain Free Company invests in a mining platform, in a bid to gain ground on its immediate competition and the powerful Maas Industries, it triggers a series of events that drive Schaeffer belt tensions to new highs. Everything is at stake: Lothrain’s interests and reputation; the Maas stranglehold on the most profitable areas of the belt; and certain people within the Sonares system will stop at nothing to either put Lothrain out of business, or take the mining platform for themselves. The characters find themselves embroiled in secrets, intrigue and deception all the way as they attempt to recommission the platform. They will have to face piracy, the duplicity of other Free Companies, the shady world of Maas’ dirty tricks department and the secrets of the Schaeffer belt itself – secrets so explosive that they could ignite war across the entire Sonares system.

Beltstrike provides everything needed for adventures set in the depths of the asteroid belt. Character creation, rules for prospecting, plus the equipment needed for a career in belting. The Beltstrike campaign then takes the characters through the unfolding events of the Schaeffer belt as Lothrain Free Company struggles to realise its position against those who would see it fail.”

Megan’s review

This is a whole lot more than an ‘adventure’ – as well as a complete campaign, there’s a wealth of information about asteroid belts, those hazardous and chaotic assemblies of loose rocks that are a feature of many star systems. There are notes on generating Belter characters, on mining operations in space, the ships and equipment you need and more.

First up, Asteroid Belts covers their astronomical and astrophysical nature – and it’s a pretty accurate account. In the far future, planet-dwellers regard them as the dumping ground of their solar system whilst others regard them as treasure-troves, ripe for mining for resources. Oh, and despite all the stories, they are nowhere the hazard to astrogation that most people think, in fact it can take careful and precise navigation to intersect with one you actually want to visit! This section goes on to discuss the various types of asteroids, and what resources they have to offer those intrepid enough to attempt to mine them.

This leads naturally into prospecting operations, beginning with the rules for surveying asteroids and determining what they have to offer. Once a prospector has decided an asteroid is worth his attention, he needs to stake a claim to it before mining can commence. This is followed by details of mining operations, both in terms of what goes on and in terms of game mechanics. There’s a wealth of detail here, easily enough to run asteroid mining operations in their entirety if that is what you want to do. There’s even an expansion on the core rulebook rules for zero-G, given that most asteroid mining operations are conducted in micro-gravity conditions.

Next comes a section all about Belter characters, those who were born or who work in asteroid belts and space habitats. Those born there have certain starting characteristics and abilities – for example they tend to be less strong but with greater dexterity than the planet-born, and their vacc suit and zero-G skills are well-developed from an early age. Those who work there soon learn such skills if they want to survive, and there is a full Belter career path given for those who would like to have this in their background. To round this out, there is considerable detail on the ‘belter lifestyle’ to help you understand what your character has been doing and so incorporate typical Belter attitudes and habits into your role-playing.

This is followed by a section on expeditions, equipment and ships which covers both the organising of trips into an asteriod belt (for mining, for research or whatever purpose) and the gear necessary to undertake them. There are even full details and plans for both a solo prospector’s ship and a full-blown mining platform.

The rest of the book contains a detailed account of an asteroid belt, the Shaeffer Belt, and a campaign and individual adventure ideas based there. You can use the Shaeffer Belt as is, or mine it for ideas to create your own wherever in the universe you want to locate it. Even if you run your game in the official Traveller universe (OTU), you can slot it in to an undeveloped hex – several possible subsectors are suggested – as it is supposed to be a bit of a backwater, little known outside of the few who call it home (or at least, the place where they work). It’s to be found in the Sonares system – which is fully described – a place where the indigenous inhabitants have not yet discovered Jump, and so have been limited to travel around their own system. Most of the asteroid belt is open to independent prospectors, plenty of scope for intrepid adventurers. Plenty of background and history for the system is provided, complete with a colonised world, a recent massive conflict, space habitats and a charismatic military dictator, so it is not just somewhere to put the asteroid belt but an interesting place in its own right with things to get involved in other than asteroid mining.

Characters coming from the Sonares system are catered for, with notes informing the character generation process. The various space habitats – both space station and hollowed-out asteroid – are well-described, enabling them to serve as someone’s ‘homeworld’ or as a place to visit.

As if this wealth of information does not provide enough material to empower your game, this is followed by several adventures, beginning with The Factory, the first scenario in the Beltstrike Campaign. It involves the Lothrain Free Company, a prospecting and mining outfit, that the characters can work for – there are even some fully-developed NPCs which can be used as characters if you want to jump straight in. They are asked to check out a mining platform that the company is intending to purchase… this is followed by several short scenarios to ‘fill in’ time before the purchase is made and the characters get involved in refitting the mining platform and getting it operational, and then onwards to making money… and perhaps getting involved in an all-out war!

What is interesting about this campaign is that it presents the Traveller universe (be it the OTU or one of your own devising) as a place where ordinary people live and work… yes, adventures happen, but adventure is not the reason for its existence as an alternate reality. We, as players, know that of course it’s only there for us to have games in, but for our characters it is their reality… and this setting and campaign really bring that to life. Not that these scenarios are boring, by any means. Adventure and excitement – and gun play – are to be had here, but within a setting that does not stretch imagination too far (once you’ve accepted a universe in which interstellar space travel is commonplace, at any rate). Here are adventures in which people are important, their plots and ambitions, their lives and careers… technology is but the backdrop for the human drama.

If this kind of ‘realism’ appeals, this campaign could make a valuable contribution to your gaming pleasure.

Book Details:
Author: Lawrence Whitaker
Publishers’ Reference: MGP3804
ISBN: 978-1-906103-68-2
Paperback, 96 pages
Date: March 2009

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Jun 222011
 

91708[1]By Leonard Pimentel

Overview

This supplement from Gypsy Knight Games, provides you with 21 plot hooks, each of which is fleshed out in six different ways, giving you a grand total of 126 simple plot threads.

Style

Production-wise, this supplement could have been better. There is very little artwork, which is fine, but it’s all in a style of CGI that seems to be cropping up more and more in small-press roleplaying products: human figures with photorealistic clothes and gear and vacant doll-like expressions. Unfortunately, the lack of expression on these characters’ faces prevents this kind of artwork from being evocative (as made painfully evident when R.Talsorian Games decided to use photographs of actual dolls for its often (and perhaps unfairly) maligned Cyberpunk v3.0). Additionally, the interior layout is completely plain and lacks any design elements at all except for the fact that the plot expansion options are in table format. Finally, the text itself could use minor polishing and could have benefitted from the skills of a professional copy-editor. In short, more should have been done to make this product appealing. Style Score: 2 out of 5.

Substance

This supplement provides what it promises, as long as you understand it promises plot threads rather than fully fleshed-out plots. It includes a number of interesting ideas and lays them out in an exceptionally straightforward manner. While these plot threads need to be expanded for play, they can certainly spark the imagination of a Referee who needs an adventure idea, and they can do so quickly. Additionally, this supplement can be used for almost any science fiction game or, for that matter, for any game in which the players own a large vehicle suitable for long-distance travel. Which leads to one quibble: most of the plot threads assume the character party is travelling around in their own ship. Should this not be the case, this supplement will be much less useful. The only other quibble is that almost all of the plot hooks include one or two options in which everything is exactly as it seems and the resulting plot thread is, frankly, uninteresting. Thus, a good 20 to 40 of the plot threads are rather dull. For a supplement about plot threads and nothing more, it would be hoped that all of the plots would be somewhat interesting. Substance Score: 3 out of 5.

Conclusion

This is, at best, an average product. But it is one I would nevertheless recommend buying because it provides Referees with the one thing they can never be without: plots. Additionally, these plots are delivered in a raw, almost stripped-down format that makes them quickly and easily accessible and fuels creativity. In fact, this bare-bones presentation could make this supplement more useful than one with an overabundance of fluff in which a Referee could get lost as he searched for ideas on the day of, on the way to, or even in the middle of a game session.

21Plots is available from:

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