From: Gypsy Knights Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung
Open game licenses are tricky and the revival of many old school game engines have tried their best to take advantage of them. In the case of Gypsy Knights Games, their license with Mongoose Traveller had run its course and they were left to find a new alternative for the core rule system. Enter Samardan Press and their Cepheus Engine, which is based on the classic 2d6 system of Classic Era Science Fiction 2D6-Based Open Gaming System (aka old Traveller). For the past year or so, Gypsy Knights has been busy working to convert their products to the Cepheus Engine. Starting with this book, it is a new era for the Clement Sector.
From page 16: Clement Sector began its published life in 2011 as an alternate setting for a popular science fiction roleplaying system.
You can obtain the Cepheus Engine SRD by donating any amount of money in DriveThruRPG. However, it is not needed as the Clement Sector: The Rules PDF contains all you need. There are some slight adjustments to the rules, skills, careers, etc to fit the setting but the basics are more or less the same. While this PDF gives you some of the basic stuff like core rule system and the like, the Clement Sector Core Setting Book (2nd edition) also provides more, including tables for Character Generation.
As the name implies, this is a rule book and has very little setting information. However, the setting itself has not changed and much of this information is contained in the Clement Sector Core Setting Book. At its heart, the Clement Sector is a setting of human exploration, expansion, and exploitation. Humans are the dominant species and very few aliens (if any) have been encountered. For informational and contextual purposes, I will include a short summary of the setting.
In the 23rd century, Earth humans discovered a Einstein-Rosen bridge or wormhole (The Conduit) near the Epsilon Eridani system and used it to discover the Clement sector on the other side of the galaxy. Even with the “Zimm Drive” (this setting’s version of FTL), it would take a long time to reach the other end of the wormhole.
For a time, that wormhole remained stable enough that humans could colonize the plethora of worlds found on the other side. Before long, the humanity had established 16 sub-sectors including Franklin, Winston, Dade, Sequoyah, Cascadia, and Hub (previously reviewed first edition books). Then the wormhole collapsed after about 130 years of colonization and expansion. Clement was left on its own. The setting starts a little over a decade after the collapse.
The setting is rich in culture – some familiar and some imaginatively warped or mashed together. Instead of aliens, the setting has Uplifted animals – apes, dolphins, bears and other animals have been genetically upgraded to be intelligent. They also have transhuman Altrants – humans that have been genetically altered for a specific purpose.
The core system is very familiar to anyone that played classic Traveller. Even though they can not make any reference to the copyrighted name, it is basically classic Traveller. It is a basic 2d6 roll versus a target number of 8. Eight is always the target number. What makes it vary are modifiers to the roll. It is a rather simplistically elegant system that is easy to remember. Old school. It does not have a lot of game play flair but it get the job done when and where it needs to. At times, the system requires an Effect, which is how much the total either exceeded or missed the target number of 8. This can determine a degree of success or add to damage of an attack.
The book itself is broken down into 16 sections. The first five cover the core of what roleplaying games are about – the Basics (rules), Characters, Skills, Equipment and Personal Combat. The Basics generally go over foundational concepts of role playing, core system concepts and mechanics as well as common themes of Clement Sector adventuring. As described above, the system is elegant with an old-school feel.
Character creation for a character in the Clement sector is more than just a few numbers and skills. The player generates stats and skills along with a full background starting from Childhood through Collegiate events. This section references tables that are not included in this PDF but are found in Clement Sector Core Setting Book. This system completely fleshes out a three-dimensional Clement Sector character.
Skills are straightforward. Listed are basic skills and their specializations. There are a few more than in the basic Cepheus Engine system as well as a few more specializations. Equipment includes a considerable list of general gear, armor and weapons. Tech levels are adjusted for the setting. As for weapons, standard slugthrower type weapons are standard but there are also lasers and gauss.
Like most any sci-fi setting, the Clement Sector can get violent. The Personal Combat section covers all that you need to deal with that kind of violence. The Clement Sector Rules system changes the Cepheus Engine slight by asking the players to roll initiative each round. I prefer a system that does this, giving everyone a chance to affect each round in their own way. Actions are either free, minor or major (similar to d20), and there are various battlefield effects that might change the effectiveness of those actions.
I have always found it interesting how this system has no hitpoint but instead damage is taken directly from stats. First Endurance, then Strength or Dexterity. Once either of the latter are reduced to zero, they are unconscious. Once all three are reduced to zero, they are dead. This makes for a pretty gritty and deadly system, with pistols capable of 2d6 damage and large weapons cause up to 4d6 and 5d6. Armor is important.
From page 17: This simple system is used for nearly everything in the game, with variations based on the modifiers added to a roll and the effects of success and failure.
The last four covers the sci-fi fundamentals of Space Travel, Trade and Commerce, and Space Combat. Included in the space combat and travel section is a special appendix on the largest ship builder in Clement – Anderson and Felix and their additions to starships. This is further expanded on in the The Anderson and Felix Guide to Naval Architecture.
In this kind of sci-fi RPG, the players find adventure because they are involved in some kind of space travel or trade. In many cases, they own or lease a ship. These sections cover the day to day operations they may do as a crew. The biggest change between this and standard Cepheus Engine is the Zimm Drive, which is a setting specific technology. There are a lot of tables and math in this section to calculate time of travel, etc and if you really want to get down to the nitty gritty of space travel, this is the section for you. Have your spreadsheets ready.
If things get real nasty, and the party is involved in space combat, the rules are contained in the Space Combat section. My problem with any science fiction game that includes this is that it boils the game down to a miniature game and draws the attention from the players. I am not a fan of that kind of thing, so it would be up to the Referee/GM to keep the focus on the players while dealing with ship to ship combat. If this is what you are into, this book supplies all you need to do it, utilizing the Cepheus Engine to its fullest extent.
The last chapters cover various miscellaneous subjects like Environments and Hazards (which can be quite a lot in sci-fi), Worlds and the Universal World Profile, and a series of Encounter tables. One of the things I found useful from Traveller and used in many of my other sci-fi games was their encounter tables and the adventure seeds that grew out of them. Patron Encounters were my favorite. These can be directly related to the various 21 Plots supplements by Gypsy Knights. The book finally ends with notes on how to run as a Referee (Game Master) and how to write an adventure.
In conclusion, at its core, Clement Sector is a throwback to old school Traveller with a fresh look at how it can be played. The Cepheus Engine is a perfect marriage for it, as it takes very little conversation from the 1st edition stuff. From a rule system standpoint, this book sets you on the right path for a solid RPG system that is strongly rooted in old school gaming. There is a reason why the classics are coming back with this old school revival movement – because they were good and simple. This is definitely one of those systems.
From a setting standpoint, it is not your typical space opera or science fantasy type game as it has its roots in realistic sci-fi. It takes human social structures, groups and norms and advances into the future, without the standard tropes of pointy-eared aliens and tentacled ancients. My advice to any Referee that wants to play this setting – engage your players into the setting, link them directly to it and give them a reason to care about it. Characters can not be just randomly placed into this setting. They need to be part of it.
Codex Rating: 17
Clement Sector: The Rules
From: Gypsy Knights Games
Type of Game: RPG Core Rulebook
Authors: John Watts, Michael Johnson, and Jason Kemp
Additional Material: Ian Stead
Artists: Bradley Warnes, Ian Stead , Stephanie McAlea, Algol, Oleg Gapeenko, GrandFailure, DesignWest
Editor: Curtis Rickman
Cover Layout: Stephanie McAlea
Number of Pages: 217
Website: Gypsy Knights Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung