From The Ashes is a short supplement for the Cepheus Engine (‘CE’) and the Traveller SRD (‘SRD’) published by Stellagama Publishing written by Omer Golan-Joel. It covers five expansions characters united by the theme of character death and recovering from fatal injuries.
It firstly adjusts the usual meaning of ‘character death’ within normal play. If all three physical characteristics are reduced to zero, instead of rolling up a new character, From The Ashes provides straightforward rules for rushing a character to trauma surgery and recovering. But the devil is in the detail: there may be some permanent new injuries. This can add history to characters – the loss of a limb or eye makes them more interesting.
Secondly there is an adjustment to character generation, replacing the standard injury table which draws upon the definitions carefully established in the first expansion. It makes character injury during generation harsher but with more detail.
The supplement then provides for simple optional rules in combat for critical hit bonuses for Effect 6 hits, aligning hits against personnel with hits against vehicles. This does make the game generally more lethal.
Finally, two higher technology solutions to near-death injuries are presented: Cybernetic replacements at TL12, and complete body renewal at TL16. However, both come with possible serious side-effects in the spirit of the trauma rules.
At 15 pages total with 10 pages content, this is a very readable supplement that offers a variety of interesting expansions for characters who suffer from fatal injuries and have one last roll of the dice depending on the TL of their surroundings and the skill of the doctor operating. At the same time, character generation and combat get a bit more fatal. The result can be used by Referees to rescue NPCs from death but now they have one leg, or are blind, bitter and have history with the PCs.
But, of course, the primary aim is for PCs to have options to trade death for the possibility of an interesting set of scars.
It is a really good story set in a universe that I love. The asteroid mining colony of Freeholm is experiencing some troubles… They hire some protection for their colony and it’s visitors. It gets really interesting and deadly.
However, this book needs some serious editing. I cannot believe that they released it in this state. There are not only lots of spelling and grammar errors. There are even parts of the book that are contradicting other parts of the book.
The Cepheus Engine. What is it? It is a new set of Traveller rules from Samardan Press that doesn’t say that it is Traveller. (But it is Traveller.)
The rules look very much like a cleaned up version of Classic Traveller, book 1-3 plus supplement-4 and selected parts from book 4 (PGMP and FGMP) and 5 (small ships). You can also find some bits of Mongoose Traveller in it. So far there is no setting except that a few aliens are named as an example.
Since the Cepheus Engine is a refined set of CT rules, you will recognize most of the rules and can quickly start using them.
First, the character generation and skills are similar to what you already know. Then psionics (important to us at the Zhodani Base) is also what you would expect.
Next in the equipment list you find a tech-level overview table, with the same tech-levels as in Traveller. The currency used is Credits. You can find familiar Traveller items like Fast Drug, TDX, and Air/Raft. The first internal book ends with a combat chapter.
Next book is about Starships, Travelling, Trade and Space Combat.
The Final book is the Referee’s book. In this book are the rules for generating worlds. (It is interesting to see that hydrographics is generated as in CT book-6. That is the same as in MongTrav.) There are rules for all sorts of encounters, including the familiar animal encounter tables from CT. There are also some short help about refereeing and adventures.
This is really the new rule-set we didn’t know we needed. This is proto-Traveller Deluxe.
For the so called “Small Press” (that we like here at the base) this is another option for publishing new supplements without loosing half of their income to Mongoose.
The players are contacted by Susana Guusinkaa who tells them she runs a local charity, Zhovra Paqrkantsechto, that helps those in need on the on the planet Gatina in the neighbouring system, focusing in particular on those affected by the armed conflicts that intermittently occur on that balkanized world. They are currently raising funds to help a group of poor villages in the nation of Aluzinta who have had to leave their homes due to fighting occurring between their own government and that of the neighbouring country of Bajrith. The villagers are currently living in a camp made of temporary shelters in a safer area of the country but the conditions are very bad and many of them are suffering from exposure or malnutrition. Illness is also rife in the camp and some of the villagers are suffering from wounds they received before leaving their village. The aim of the fund-raising is to evacuate those most in need back to Fonda for the advanced medical care available there.
Unfortunately Susana has just received news that the situation on Gatina has become much worse due to a local militia involved in the conflict moving into the area where the camp is. This militia is made up of soldiers from a part of the planet that has deep historical animosity with the people living in the area the villagers are from. There is extreme danger to the villages from the presence of this militia and she fears that there will be a massacre if the villagers do not move on, however they are currently unable due to the presence of the sick and wounded who cannot travel. Therefore in order to avoid a potential tragedy Susana is trying to implement her plan immediately despite not all the required funds having been raised.
She asks if the players will provide transport for some of the villagers from Gatina to Fonda. She will pay standard fare plus 20% for each one (as many as the ship has the capacity to handle), both ways, even though she will be the only passenger on the outwards leg. Unfortunately due to difficulty with raising the funds on short notice it is not possible to pay the players until they return to Fonda, however she assures them that the charity has sufficient assets and pledged donations to cover the trip.
Fonda is a Zhodani client state and Psionics are used openly. Susana has some minor Psionic talents in telepathy and clairvoyance. Her awareness of the conditions on Gatina is partially through the use of these talents.
If the players insist on investigating further before accepting the job then Susana will attempt to hire another starship and the referee should determine if this is successful or not. If unsuccessful she will again attempt to engage the players, or if situation number 6 will leave the starport and seek somewhere to hide on planet. For each day of delay situation number 1 may escalate to number 2 and number 2 may escalate to number 3 (roll 9+ per day).
1. Once the ship has jumped into the Gatina system Susana will be in contact with her operatives and local government officials on planet to assess the current situation and to get authorisation for landing. It will soon become evident that the story of imminent danger was exaggerated – the militia is still a long way from the camp and the villagers are not in any immediate danger. Susana will direct the players to an appropriate landing area near the camp and then triage the villagers to select those most appropriate for transportation back to Fonda. They will board without incident and the trip back to Fonda will be uneventful. However on Fonda there are strict quarantine and immigration restrictions on arrivals from Gatina, as well as some local resentment of the resettlement of Gatina refugees in Fonda which this trip may be seen as. Consequently there will be delay offloading the villagers after landing on Fonda. This will take a number of days to resolve (1D) and there may also be a protest from a small group of locals (8+). Players with appropriate skills (admin etc.) may seek to resolve the bureaucratic impasse more quickly. The protest will not be dangerous unless the players over-react. Payment will be forthcoming once the villagers are debarked.
2. Once the ship has jumped into the Gatina system Susana will be in contact with her operatives and local government officials on planet to assess the current situation and to get authorisation for landing. It will soon become evident that the situation has deteriorated significantly and that the villagers are in imminent danger. Whilst descending to the designated landing site the ship will be shadowed by local military aircraft, although due to the low tech level their weapons will not be sufficient to threaten the spacecraft and they will not attack. During triage and loading of the passengers there will be encounters with local infantry units. The infantry will be generally hostile and threatening but will not immediately attack, however the situation may escalate depending upon player actions. Susana will attempt to convince the players to transport the rest of the villagers to a safer area some distance away, which will take them about three trips with a fully loaded hold. If the players decide to do this (no extra money is on offer as all of it is being spent on this mission as is) then tensions with the local military will intensify including, when loading for the final trip, the appearance of armoured vehicles which have enough fire-power to threaten the ship itself. There will be no problems on return to Fonda and payment will be forthcoming once there.
3. Once the ship has jumped into the Gatina system Susana will be in contact with her operatives and local government officials on planet to assess the current situation and to get authorisation for landing. From this she and the players will learn that unfortunately they were too late to save the villagers as the militia have already moved into the area, destroyed the camp and killed its inhabitants. Susana will ask the players if they will aid in finding any survivors and in documenting the sophont rights violations that have occurred. Any help they are willing to give will be accepted even if it is just doing a scan of the area from orbit. Orbital scan will be uneventful. On 4+ there will be 2D survivors hiding in the area around the former camp, who may be located from orbit but more easily tracked down from the ground. 1D mass graves will be evident from orbit which the players will be asked to investigate, along with the site of the former camp. If the players land they will find that there are military units remaining in the area that are a potential danger, particularly if they discover what the players are up to. If the players aid with the investigation and rescue any survivors they will be paid in full on return to Fonda. Otherwise getting paid the full amount will be difficult, although Susana will pay in full for the trip if the players are persistent.
4. As number 1 however once on the ground it will become apparent that the condition of the camp is not as bad as the players were told. The villagers seem in the main to be healthy, although quite miserable, and there is little evidence of disease and injury. In addition there are some of Susana’s operatives present (1D) who are reasonably well armed. The triage will consist of choosing particular passengers, who do not appear to be the most in need and also have some luggage to take with them. The story told to the players is largely a fabrication, Susana is actually charging large amounts of money to transport people in somewhat desperate circumstances to Fonda with the intention that they permanently settle there. The players actions in this circumstance will determine further events. If they do transport the passengers there is a chance they will not be permitted to debark on Fonda (10+). On this eventuality Susana and her associates will attempt to circumvent the prohibition in various ways such as obtaining fraudulent authorisation or attempting a clandestine landing elsewhere on Fonda (expecting the players to aid where necessary). They are also not above throwing the passengers out of an airlock whilst in space. If the players press for further money Susana will offer up to double the initial outlay. Any further disruption by the players will elicit threats and, if it continues, violence from Susana and her associates.
5. As number 1 however the camp will appear to have been abandoned. There will be, however, the requisite number of well dressed passengers waiting, most with large heavy luggage and a few of them armed. These are not actually villagers but are accomplices of Susana and mules they have hired to smuggle precious metals off planet. The precious metals have been looted from the treasury of Aluzinta by corrupt government officials. Players may negotiate higher payment if they realise what the situation is, as per number 4, however these criminals are even more inclined to violence if the players attempt to interfere. If the players go along with the plan there will be no other problems transporting the passengers to Fonda however if they return to either system they will likely be questioned by authorities regarding this journey and may ultimately face extradition to and prosecution in Aluzinta.
6. Susana is not actually part of a charity, which does not in reality exist. She has Cr 500,000 in her possession which has been obtained from a local criminal via a confidence trick and she is in need of a quick trip off planet. Gatina seems to her to be a good place to lay low. Once in the Gatina system she will direct the players to a landing site in a wilderness area not far from a major population centre. She will then attempt to leave the players with the excuse of finding the villagers, claiming they are not trusting of strangers so the players cannot accompany her initially. If they let her go she will not return, and head instead to the near-by city where she will get local transport to somewhere else on the planet. The players may be able to track her down after this but it will be very difficult. There are also likely to be problems with the person from whom the money has been stolen if they return to Fonda.
Some of us may remember Alan Dean Foster’s terrible Star Wars book The Splinter of the Minds Eye. But it was a long time since I read that book. What I still remember about it was that it didn’t really fit into the Star Wars canon very well. So maybe it was just that problem and it may not have been that poorly written.
Anyway, I decided to give his “The Damned” series a chance. A Call To Arms is the first book. The cover looked cool, but it turned out that the aliens in this book was quite poor warriors. Most aliens was quite poor at most things. They were like 0-points aliens from GURPS Aliens. All aliens had disadvantages. No aliens was good at warfare.
The reason given for the aliens to be bad at warfare was that an advanced race would (normally) have to abandon all sorts of violence to become an advances race. This is something that would normally happen in the race’s prehistory. This is a quite interesting idea.
The problem was that there was a big interstellar war going on… A race called the Amplitur wanted all other galactic races to join what they call the Amplitur Purpose. A number of races think this is a bad idea and has formed what they call the Weave. Neither side has any good soldiers. Then the Weave find the Earth… This is just the start of the book.
The book is really good and the different races are well describes. The plot is interesting. I think there are lots of ideas that can be mined for your Traveller setting here. This may even inspire you to come up with a new Traveller setting.
This book is the first one in The Damned Trilogy. I will try to find and read the other two.