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Book 0: Introduction to Traveller
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/29/2015 08:05:44

This book is a cut-down version of the Traveller ruleset, which enables you to take a look at the system before taking the plunge or to introduce new players to the game - at least, in terms of game mechanics and character generation. It's the sort of thing that might be quite handy to have with you at the table as a quick reference.

There's a very brief overview of what Traveller is, but a single page, before it launches into Character Creation. Here the character creation checklist is given along with the basics of generating characterists, deciding on a homeworld (to determine background skills) and then choosing a career to have pursued before the character turns to adventure and the game begins. It's all quite straightforward and would be clear apart from typo and layout issues that bedevil the entire book, at least the PDF version. Fortunately these are more annoying than actually making it impossible to read most of the time. The prior careers available are Army and Navy only, but these are presented to the same level of detail as in the Core Rulebook, so characters generated with this book will have no issues integrating with a party created using the more extensive choice to be found therein.

The next section is Skills and Tasks. Here the task resolution process is outlined, complete with a few examples and a probability chart (useful for Referees wishing to set an appropriate level of difficulty, or players interested in their chances of success). Then there's a run-through of the skills available, with notes on how and when they will be useful.

Then comes a section on Combat, which provides details of how a brawl is administered using this ruleset. It's somewhat curtailed in comparison with the Core Rulebook's treatment of the subject, but there's enough here for even a novice player to understand what is going on and make an effective contribution to the proceedings.

Finally, there's a section of Equipment. Again this is a cut-down version of what is available in the Core Rulebook, but there's sufficient to see a character armed, protected and with basic gear. There's a blank character sheet at the back once you are ready to give it a go.

As a basic introduction to the game this is all right, but it would be best used in conjunction with conversations with an established player when a newcomer to role-playing is concerned. In print, it is quite expensive for what you get (you would probably be better off just going straight for the Core Rulebook), but the PDF is free and so could be downloaded and given to someone who is thinking of joining an existing game so that they have some idea, at least from a game mechanics standpoint, of what they are getting into. Note that I have not seen the 'dead tree' version, so do not know if the botched type layout is there, but despite the PDF having been updated since its first release, they are still there at the time of writing this review - hence 3 stars, the actual content is worth 4!



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Book 0: Introduction to Traveller
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Traveller Main Rulebook
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/28/2015 09:05:45

Traveller has been around for a long time, with the three original 'little black books' appearing in 1977, and this incarnation of the ruleset recreates the excitement of the first, with the same simple and elegant ruleset underpinning everything, streamlined to meet contemporary gaming tastes.

It opens with introductory material including a bare-bones introduction to the concept of role-playing games, thoughts on suitable campaign types and a discussion of technology levels, which vary across known space. We then move directly into Character Creation, which as old hands will know, can be an absorbing pastime of itself never mind essential preparation for participating in an actual game. Starting by rolling characteristics, you then choose a homeworld and the career(s) your character has pursued before embarking on an adventuring career, the main purpose being to gain skills. It also builds a backstory for the character, who is generally quite a mature individual compared to other games. The backstory is based, like a lot of the career progression, on die rolls... and yes, it is possible to perish before you even start play! There's quite a wide range of careers available, over and above the predominantly military ones from the original game - as well as Navy, Marines, Army, Scouts and Merchants there are diverse careers like Entertainer, Rogue, Scholar, Agent (law enforcement), Drifter, Nobility and Citizen from which to choose. A neat addition is the 'skill package', a list of skills appropriate to the campaign type you want to play from which the characters take turn choosing skills that they lack, thus ensuring that the party can at least handle basic tasks that will arise. Add the mustering out benefits and you are ready to go. For those who do not like the basic system, there are variants such as point-buy characteristics and even skills, and details on generating alien characters. So far, a human has been assumed. This talks in general terms to begin with, but also introduces the standard Traveller races quite briefly, noting that each could fill a book by itself. (Over the course of time, these books have been brought out, you'll find them in the Third Imperium line.)

The next section is Skills and Tasks which opens with a explanation of 'Task Checks', the way in which actions are resolved. Most are either skill or characteristic based, with a standard 2d6 roll being modified according to the skills or other factors being brought to bear (brute strength, for example) and situational modifiers. For standard tasks, you need to get an 8 in total to succeed, but difficulty modifiers may be applied at the Referee's discretion to make it harder or more easy. There are plenty of examples, and these continue through the ensuing discussion of all the skills available and how they can be used to effect during the course of a game. This is followed by an extensive section on Combat, again well illustrated with examples and with a wide range of possible actions being presented.

Combat is not the only danger characters face, of course, and the next section - Encounters and Dangers - look at all manner of things other than brawls that could threaten life or limb or spoil your whole day - animals and environmental dangers (natural and unnatural), as well as how you heal, creating NPCs and more. The animals bit provides enough detail to let you invent strange critters to be encountered on the planets that you visit. Within the NPC section there are notes on giving them memorable personalities and a collection of ready-made Patrons to give the party something to do. This section rounds out with a wealth of random encounters and events that may be something going on in the background or else may turn into a complete adventure if not campaign.

Next comes a vast Equipment section which will let your character get his hands on virtually anything he might need for the forthcoming adventures. Not just weapons and armour (although there's plenty of those), there's all manner of stuff from drones to survival gear, medical equipment to communications and entertainment systems... you name it, it's probably there... apart from that necessity, a spaceship. This is dealt with comprehensively in the next section, Starship Design - again something that can be as much fun as creating characters. Examples are given, which can be used straight away if you do not wish to go through the whole process. Once you have a ship the following section, Starship Operations, explain the rules and concepts underlying its use, including operating costs and various dangers... and this is followed in turn by the Space Combat section.

The final sections deal with Psionics (powers of the mind, which you may or may not choose to allow in your game), Trade (with lots of tables to enable you to automate the process considerably yet model it fairly well) and finally World Creation. This provides an elegant system for devising planets in an awesome variety for the party to visit in their travels.

Well conceived and updated from the originals, this work recaptures all the excitement and sheer potential for adventure presented by those Little Black Books. A neat addition is little snippets of information scattered throughout in grey text boxes - anything from the tradition of Jump dimming to an adventure seed you could develop into a complete adventure - which are well worth ready. A worthy successor to the original Traveller which maintains its flavour, its essence, well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Traveller Main Rulebook
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Referee's Aid 1: Among the Trojans
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/25/2015 13:03:26

This is a quite different adventure setting for Traveller, utilising the entirity of a solar system (which one doesn't really matter, just pick a suitable system in your universe) rather than seeing it as virtually empty space through which you travel merely to get to the 100D distance to turn on your Jump drive. The Introduction explains this, along with notes on what the party will need to get around there - any small vessel, which doesn't need to be Jump-capable, or even friends who have one and will give them a ride. The idea is that there's a fair bit of 'local' in-system traffic and characters will be able to hitch or pay for transportation if they do not have a suitable ship of their own.

The next section, Background Data, is a mix of some basic stuff about the Third Imperium (genuine background this, it does not impinge on what's going on here but is more of a vague backdrop) and a wealth of information about what is likely going on across a reasonably well-developed system from settlements on planets other than the mainworld, moons or indeed in space stations to more transient folk engaged in exploration, mining or salvage operations. There are also notes on what's to be found there: gas giants, asteroids, moons, and smaller rocky but airless planets.

Then there's a developed example, the Kendelsei Outsystem. Kendelsei itself is a gas giant around which a fair bit of spacefaring civilisation has built up separate from the main world and those who generally jump in to visit it. It's got quite a few moons, as gas giants tend to, as well as other planetoids clustered in its Trojan points. A neat thing is that everything here as astronomically sound as well as working in a game context.

The next section is Space Travel in the Outsystem which talks about the different sorts of vessels likely to be found there. This is followed by Adventuring in the Outsystem, a short section that crams quite a few ideas into a few short paragraphs.

Many people take the trouble to generate an entire system rather than just the main world, but then concentrate all their efforts and plots on that main world (with perhaps a refuelling stop at the gas giant). Now here are some ideas and resources to help you bring the rest of the system to life. As it is likely that people are not going to stay only on the main world, it adds added realism to your alternate reality - and there is plenty of scope for adventures in the outsystem as well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Referee's Aid 1: Among the Trojans
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Borderland Profile: Tanith
by paul h. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/13/2015 18:11:06

The latest mini-supplement from Mongoose in the Borderlands Planet profile series, Tanith clocks in at 18 pages, though there’s only 14 pages of text, along with a couple of low-res grey-scale illustrations.

The planet of Tanith is heavily influenced by the mercenary trade, and as such the first page is dedicated totally to mercenary company operations and concepts. If you haven’t seen this in a previous supplement it’s actually good information. If you have (or say you’ve picked up a copy of Hub Federation Ground Forces from Gypsy Knight Games), then it’s mostly filler. But nicer than many other examples of filler out there.

While I haven’t purchased any previous system profile booklets in the series, I am very pleasantly surprised with the level of detail and backstory included here. Some of the older Traveller pieces detailed out the system, and MJD does the same here – which is great in my opinion! Now a referee has more to work with. Not only do you have a basic idea of what’s present in the system you have a history on the planet (Tanith), a listing of a refueling station located nearby owned by another stellar entity and a few lines about how the two don’t get along (i.e. potential plot points!). Furthermore they provide you with details on another planet in the system (about half a page worth) that you can use to provide more adventure opportunities for your players. And, if not, it’s always nice to have more, rather than less, detail about a system and its’ people and just why they might be there and what they are doing. The last page in this section (three full pages) has details on every other planet and anything of that might be of interest for a player to go investigate.

The following section provides more details on the port of Tanith, the surrounding region, some background on the operations and economics as well as a primer on local conditions. Since we are talking about a port of mercenaries there is plenty of info on what you might expect defensive wise on the ground, in orbit and what kind of ships you might encounter. I found it to be interesting to both a referee and player.

Since the supplement talks about Tanith being so friendly mercenaries, it’s only natural to write up a section on some of the denizens for (potential) hire. There are six pages dedicated to this, with each sample organization getting about three-quarters to one full page write-ups. Now some of that space is taken up by a TO&E listing (that’s table of organization and equipment), but for those that aren’t savvy on military structures or organizations it’s nice to have. And even if you are it makes for easy at-a-glance understanding of unit structures and capabilities. The additional verbiage on each unit just rounds out the whole thing.

The final five pages are devoted to potential adventure hooks. While none of the hooks go into great detail or provide things like d6 charts to generate enemies and loot, they do provide potential referee’s or players enough ideas upon which to build upon. And, in my mind at least, that’s half the battle. Sometimes getting the initial spark going is all that is needed. If you are the type of person that likes everything detailed out and handed to you, well, I think you might be disappointed with what’s here. But most everyone else should be quite pleased with it.

Aside from the low-res artwork there’s not much to complain about there. The information is presented well and in reasonable detail. It would be nice to see some further detail on things that do get mentioned. For example, remember the earlier detail about the fueling station operated by a potential rival being in-system? Just what kind of station or forces would be seen there? The high port is described as being little more than a mooring station for unstreamlined ships, and then it immediately goes into talking about how heavily armed with missile batteries, particle accelerator barbettes and a fighter squadron is also based there. So does that make it a 1,000 ton light battle station? A 5,000 ton space station? This trend continues into the mercenary company descriptions. Some information like troops being equipped with gauss rifles as standard gear is good, but descriptions of generic missile teams, or EW operators, or vehicles equipped with magazine-fed 180 rounds-per-minute mortars (but only carry 40 rounds onboard) kind of leave you hanging. If you did want to use one or two of the mercenary companies you don’t have the full unit descriptions available.

Overall I was very impressed with this, even with some of the information holes that seem to be there from my reading of it. The price point is very fair (another $2.99) for what you get. It’s a solid product for a fair price. And even if you aren’t looking to adventure in this area the information contained inside can be easily adapted to just about any Traveller setting or system.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Borderland Profile: Tanith
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Referee's Aid 7: Type-R Subsidised Merchant
by paul h. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/08/2015 21:11:36

The new series of ebooks has advanced to the venerable Type R Merchant, lovingly nicknamed the 'Fat Trader'. The booklet itself follows the same pattern as it's predecessors - the first part of the book gives background/source material, followed by sample operational information, deckplan, ship-walkthrough and some sample ship background material.

Other things also follow through - the low price of $2.99 for the supplement, the lifting of nearly all illustrations from the core rule book, and the same semi-res (not sure if it's low, and it's definitely not high) 3D deckplan layout.

Some new concepts/background material on freight handling are introduced here. First there is talk of 'specialist loading cradles' for ships that can auto-unload a ship, "many ships can be turned around in little more time than they take to get in and out of the cradle." There's additional mention of an overhead crane/gantry system to move cargo containers around inside the ship, "handlerbots" (prevalent at class C ports), and then having to use the slower internal crane at D and E ports. An assumption is that a "handlerbot" is a grav-capable piece of equipment, and it's already stated that it's a fully-automated piece of equipment. There is mention of cargo tie-downs for containers (1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100ton sized) and other cargo. Similar to what was in Firefly there is mention of small cargo mover that some ships purchase (Cr75,000) that also has the ability to move the container. The description listed later on indicates that this cargo vehicle is also called a handlerbot. There's nearly half a page background on containers in the book talking about various features and functionality. It's not super-detailed, but it's all interesting.

The next page is dedicated to speculative trade. The topics jump around pretty quickly, with no concept going much more than a paragraph. Most of it is pretty well known or discussed elsewhere (buy low, sell high, speculative trade, selling illegal goods, etc).

After the section on trade there's about two and a half pages going into more detail about the workings of the ship and the cargo holds, operational information nuggets, variations on the normal configuration (such as tankers) and a couple of paragraphs on converting the cargo hold to carry more passengers or for specialized missions, like science or whatnot. It's stated that some ships travel with holds depressurized to reduce the load on the ship's environment systems - except that there should be little load on them if nobody is going in/out of the bay. It does make more sense to keep them depressurized for security - except that means the containers and such are travelling in a vacuum (and unheated one at that) and we have absolutely no data on how well the containers can handle that environment for long periods.

Finally! A location of the mysterious third hardpoint! According to the explanation given, the two hardpoints (port and starboard) can take energy-based weapons but not any sort of weapon that requires ammunition as the standard designs have no provision for magazines. The third hardpoint is located exactly where the launch is carried. Which begs the question, if that is the case, is there really a hardpoint there? This is the first example I have heard of where an empty hardpoint is also used as an airlock/external craft docking clamp.

There's also some interesting verbiage regarding ammunition as a whole. CT missed the boat when it came to talking about the actual workings of the missile launcher. Just how many missiles at ready did a turret carry? Was it just one in the pipe? Or could you also store additional ones below in the hardpoint tonnage? This question has vexed many a player and also has generated a LOT of commentary over the various versions, including MGT's. Dougherty states clearly, Reloading is rather rare for most ships; a typical missile launcher carried one in launch position and two more ready to be autoloaded, which is plenty. So the answer to the perenial question, how to beat a Sicilain, err, I mean how many missiles are carried on-mount is canonically answered - three. The only other question raised here is the "two more ready to be autoloaded". Which, in my mind at least, means they aren't set up in a feed system. Of course, one could argue that since there is no adjacent magazine then of course they'd have to be manually loaded (from the two at ready in the hardpoint). I guess it would get rather crowded in there with a triple missile launcher in the turret and six missiles awaiting loading.

There's a short section on having players using the Type-R as their preferred means of campaign transport, but it's only about 1/3rd of a page in length and it's really not that useful of information to most players (too much success hauling cargo can ruin the referee's continual attempt to reduce the amount of gold they have earned). There's talk of giving them a 'very old' ship that requires more maintenance work (and costs) - except the rules really don't differentiate new from old as far as your maintenance costs go.

The last three sections are about operational costs, the 3D deckplan layout and explanation of the various ships environments and finally three sample ship descriptions. It's nice that some of the numbers have been broken out for you and how much it costs for X, while you can expect to make Y in return. Though some of the numbers are very useful (fuel costs Cr500/100). There is mention of the included low berths that the technology is pretty standard and freezing/revival is done by whoever has some medical training. And basically if you have complications or die, well, you shouldn't have been cheap and travelled in a low berth.

I've complained before and I'll complain again. The graphics are terrible quality. While the 3d res version is useful, zooming in just blurs things too much. The artwork is recycled low-res imagery from the core rulebook, and crammed onto the same page as the 3d deckplan is the one from the book. Though on this one "section 9. Engenering" is a type that made it through editing.

With the other systems, like the cargo deck, getting additional information and detail, why didn't the escape capsules get something similar? They are woefully ill explained and many designs don't even have them included. In the very first paragraph we get "The ship has one 20-ton launch and a full set of escape pods." And then... nothing. The design actually puts a pair of escape pods on the lower deck near engineering and escape pods in both port/starboard areas. Heck they even have dedicated escape pods in the crew-only section! Kind of what you'd expect from emergency equipment, but one would also (hopefully) expect more on their operation.

MGT is heading in the right direction with these supplements, but they consistently seem to miss the mark on some of the little things. While they are pretty inexpensive at $2.99 ea (for the ships at least), trying to cram all four deck plan illustrations on a single page makes no sense because there isn't a restriction on length. And if there were it would be very easy to get rid of easily two pages of filler illustrations that really do nothing for the book as a whole.

For the price it's definitely worth adding to your collection. With just a little more effort and thought they could easily put out a much better product. I guess the next real test is going to be the subsidized liner that we should be seeing shortly. I have high expectations, but sadly not much hope.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Referee's Aid 7: Type-R Subsidised Merchant
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Borderland Profile: Arunisiir
by Steven R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/08/2015 13:30:14

Came out just I was getting on to running 'Treasure Ship' in the 'Pirates of Drinax' campaign. First time I've bought a mini-book product like this. Lots of good info to help flesh out descriptions of the system and the actual planet itself. Pleased I bought it. Only thing I would have liked to see would be a chart/map of the system to accompany the text. Will keep an eye on any other profiles that come out. Would like to buy a hardback compilation of profiles like this in the future.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Borderland Profile: Arunisiir
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Spinward Encounters
by Dale W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/25/2015 10:53:21

For the developing campaign this is indeed an excellent source for one-up adventures. Since my campaign is well developed already, it was kind of a let down as to it usefulness, but all in all a good purchase nonetheless.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Spinward Encounters
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Borderland Profile: Arunisiir
by James B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/21/2015 23:24:44

This is certainly worth the price, and author MJD packs a lot of useful local background information into a small text. While the art is so-so and there is no planetary map, that does not detract greatly from the value to those GMs looking to expand the local Aslan plot hook in Drinax 2 or to set other adventures there. Both planetary and system geo-political information is given in detail, though alas there is no room for key NPCs. A Darrian red herring (or not) in system is an interesting twist also.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Borderland Profile: Arunisiir
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The Borderland
by Francis F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/15/2015 09:20:44

One of the best Traveller authors out there falls short with this effort sadly. Many players like myself are eager to carry on from the Pirates campaign and have more detail on the subsector, then to have a product which seems to be a subsector guide deliberately not want to provide detail? To be sure there are some broad strokes, a promise of further development and one system developed a bit but overall it is a rehash of general material from other products and what seems like filler to push up the page count. Honestly would advise others to pass on this product as there is not much value to be had therein.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Borderland
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The Borderland
by David T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/12/2015 13:40:18

Argh! I rushed to purchase this product as I like the other author's works I have and didn't read the reviews first.

It is extremely disappointing to get a rehash of other material for over a fiver, I've upped it from 1 to 2 stars because of the description of all the bodies of the Exocet system.

I'm puzzled why anyone would build a mercenary legion at TL9, when Polycarapace and ACR's come in at TL10 and why there are only 3 sentients in a platoon, if it's an error I'm surprised at it getting past editing.

Sorry big disappointment for me

David



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Borderland
by Tim C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/08/2015 10:02:55

I don't generally review my purchases, but this was poor enough to make me want to leave a note for other purchasers. I bought this pdf because I'm looking to run Pirates of Drinax with my group, and the idea of a sourcebook tightly focused on the main area of focus sounded extremely useful. Unfortunately, it's absolutely useless.

Up to page 10, we get an overview of the Trojan Reaches as a whole. Possibly necessary for those who haven't purchased the Trojan Reaches sourcebook, but entirely redundant for those that have, and doubly redundant if you have the free Pirates of Drinax campaign.

Pages 11-19 cover groups active in the area. Again, mostly rehashing material. There are a few new/interesting bits - details of Imperial fleet deployments in the area, the Grand Duchy of Requille (although one fleet is deployed to Bastion which - alas! - isn't on my map of the Trojan Reaches?). However, this section suffers from a frustrating lack of detail on some groups, and a major canon clash with the Drinax campaign. Some interesting sounding groups are mentioned - apparently, there exists a Borderland Alliance and a Noraxx Confederation, both local political groupings of stars. Unfortunately, we get no clues as to whom the members of these groups might be, or what they might be doing which could interest our players. I know GM freedom to customise is a good thing, but I want more than just the name of the groups.

The canon clash arises because the Imperium apparently deploys significant forces to Realgar to counter the pirate threat from Theev - think Space Tortuga. Sounds great, but the fact that the Imperium doesn't know the location of Theev is a significant plot point in PoD. The first scenario published specifically includes the location of Theev as a reward for the players, and even more damningly, the sixth scenario is all about the Imperium sending a punitive fleet to search for the pirate world! Obviously, I'll throw this bit out, but it just shows a lack of care and attention, given that I imagine most GM's purchasing this will be looking at PoD.

There's a couple of pages of detailed writeup for one particular system, which mostly seems to be fairly dry planetology descriptions. There seems to have been a drive in recent Traveller publishing to hammer home the point that systems are larger than their mainworld. Valid point; but I'll take a paragraph of cool description and a hook for a cool thing we could do over two pages of dry rockballs every day.

The rest of the book is just generic setting advice which would work equally well in any subsector in the OTU; hell, in any setting. It's not badly written; it just has no relevance to what the book is supposed to be about.

Severe disappointment. My hope is that the follow ups for Wildeman et al. will

  • cut down on the endless rehashing of existing material
  • undergo some checks to make sure they don't clash with PoD
  • provide us with some details/plot hooks for the worlds in question.


Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
The Borderland
by James B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/03/2015 12:37:20

Although it contains a decent overview and maps of the handful of worlds that make up the subsector, and with great technical and background attention to one particular system, The Borderland is merely filler from pp 25-37, over 25% of the book. Page upon page of descriptive but frustratingly generic information about types of worlds, roles of various ships and organization and type of military units, sometimes having no place in the setting presented, serve only to repeat information presented elsewhere (cf. Core Rules, Mercenary, High Guard). The background detail and NPCs presented in some of the author's other works (ex. Fiddler's Green) are absent-in fact, not a single individual personage (such as a pirate, Imperial noble, local planetary leader or infamous free trader) is named in the entire text. While one might argue that that level of detail is up to the individual referee, a little extra creativity about local color would have definitely made this a more attractive product.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Referee's Aid 4: A Guide to Star Systems
by Simon E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/02/2015 16:47:49

The book contains what I call "narrative" discussion of what is in a star system rather than science-based tables on how to generate the details of worlds and moons in a system. Example: a very thin atmosphere is like being on top of Everest (0.3 atm pressure) - you won't die instantly, but you will get light headed in a few hours and need medical assistance.

Well, all of that is true, but I can work that out for myself being a science nerd (as most Traveller referees are in my experience). So if a prospective Traveller referee is weak at science then they may find this useful, but for me it was the least useful book I have bought from Mongoose.

For me, as a Referee Aid, it was one star. However, I can see that it might be useful to let some of my less-scientific players read bits - but that usually means that I have been too lazy to verbally describe the world during play.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Referee's Aid 4: A Guide to Star Systems
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Referee's Aid 1: Among the Trojans
by Hoyle A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/20/2015 15:16:28

This is a well produced and interesting setting. It covers an outer system including a gas giant, several small planetoids and both trailing and leading trojan asteroid clusters. Each of these has its own culture, and complex links to the other locations.

The idea here is that the inner system can exist in line with your canon or canon-esque universe, with this outer system surrounding it. It does put some pressures on which canon world you choose, but this is easy to work with. I always strive for intra-system variety and the idea that there are complex populated environments which are otherwise undocumented is quite interesting to me. The premise is that the "normal guidebooks" and standard trade for a system don't bother with the outer system.

What this does NOT include is any kind of plot, plot hooks or timeline. That is, it is not an adventure module. For me, this is fine since I like to come up with my own story, but if you require this level of guidance, you might be best served elsewhere. There are a lot of kernels to work with though, in the style of "There's a settlement of folks that live down in the valley. They come up to trade but not much else. no one is really sure when they got here or why, but the rumor is..." (apologies to the writers for my paraphrasing)

This is a rich setting and feels very much alive. It immediately gave me new ideas for my ongoing campaign, and I feel that I will be able to insert this into an existing system as designed. My only worry is that this will now be the most interesting place in my campaign, and I have to find a way to keep the players there long enough to notice!

The bad: The list price seems a bit high for only 21 pages, even though they are dense. I'd have liked to have a detailed system map.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Referee's Aid 1: Among the Trojans
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Referee's Aid 3: Type-A Free Trader
by paul h. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/18/2015 17:25:58

I picked up the Free Trader supplement up the day I saw it was available. The price was the same as the previous one (Scout/Courier), a reasonable $2.99. Mongoose has said that the price point is the regular one, but DrivethruRPG has it listed for $4.99, but on sale at $2.99. A minor labeling discrepancy I suppose.

The supplement comes in at a decent 16 pages. The first two are dedicated towards the cover and internal index. The rest of the pages are dedicated to text and illustrations. The external ship image (which takes up about 2/3rds of a page) comes straight from the Core rulebook. The other images are 3D deck plans (more on those later). The external image doesn’t do much for the reader since its not new art, nor is it even high-quality art. I think more readers would have appreciated some color artwork here. There are some wonderful versions of the free trader out there that would have been a better use of the space, though I do understand that this was probably already paid for, and keeping costs down is something every publisher and business has to take into account.

The introduction runs about 2 and a half pages (excluding artwork). There’s a general overview of trade within the 3rd Imperium, some background on the concept of the free trader and how they fit within the overall trade dynamics and some background on mail and minor cargo movement to smaller, backwater worlds. In my copy there is some odd editing/spacing of the second paragraph of the introduction. I don’t know if that’s part of the master copy or just mine. In regards to the mail portion of the introduction, it’s not clear if what was written was meant to be canonical or not. The idea of exactly how the mail system works is spread out through a number of books, and at no point is much print space given over to ‘splainin it to Lucy. The core books refer to mail containers, being 5 Dton’s in displacement, and each one can net the carrier Cr25,000 for delivery (that’s somewhat of an assumption. The book just states that’s the rate for a single container, with no mention of what occurs if 2 or more are needed). The supplement states that each time the mail ship services a port of call it receives a flat Cr25,000. However, if we go all the way back to Book 2, from Classic Traveller, the explanation for mail in the supplement makes more sense. In Book 2, the Cr25,000 fee is paid (per single Dton, up to 5 Dton’s) on a per-trip basis. I believe that this is simply something that gets muddled in not only the translation, but also because it’s spread out over multiple books and supplements. The last portion of the introduction is a half-page on the concepts of jump mains and the differences in service. Vessels capable of J-2, J-3 or higher tend to avoid individual planets and instead service the long-haul, time-sensitive market. They bypass worlds and service larger ports in clusters, or make the jump between systems that lower jump-capable vessels cannot. All information that is contained elsewhere in the books, but it’s nice to see it wrapped up and placed in a supplement where it has total relevance.

The next section talks about the various Free Trader models, their history and how they go about making their presence known in the universe. There’s a nice nod to why the Free Trader is considered a tramp freighter. It’s cheap (relatively speaking) and easy to operate, which is why it’s seen all over the Imperium, most especially in the smaller markets and remote worlds. This section also touches on passenger traffic and some of the concepts that need to be considered when hauling people rather than crates around.

The revenue and overhead section is chock full of tasty ideas and numbers that will still the beating heart of any player or referee who likes to see and understand the underlying numbers related to space craft operations. There’s a very good example of what happens when you try to go too cheap on not paying your monthly maintenance costs. The remaining portion of the section discusses the revenue aspects of a Free Trader. There are even a few paragraphs in there on what a ship’s owner might make if they were to charter their ship out to someone else.

At this point we get to the next section – the deckplans and a description of the ship and its innards. There are four pages in this section, two each for the Free Trader and Far Trader. As with the previous supplement (Scout/Courier) we have a 3-d deckplan viewed from a somewhat overhead view, though not directly overhead. The plans for the Free Trader seem to be a duplicate for the deckplans listed in the Core Rulebook. It’s at this point where I think far more could have been done. First off, with the Free Trader, on the upper deck there is a cabin that has no label attached to it. It should be labeled as a crew cabin. It would have been nicer to see more views of the ship, perhaps with a side view showing the decks stacked properly on one another. Since they are so faithfully rendered, the deckplans carry over the inherent flaw – there is a single ladder going between the upper and lower decks (and it also doubles as access to the upper turret). This is, however, explained away in the supplement. It would seem that in reality there would be no way you could ever sell high-passage aboard a freighter that requires people to climb up a cramped ladder to gain access to their cabin and cramped spaces. Ah, reality!
At this point I’m not sure where the author got the deck plans for the A2 variant, also referred to as the Far Trader. Going back to classic Traveller, the Far Trader had a definitively different look to it than the Free Trader. The deckplan provided in the supplement is NOT what is listed in the core rule book or, to the best of my recollection, any of the various versions of the Far Trader published in previous editions. Not that there is anything wrong with introduction new variants. But it did strike me as very odd that the Free Trader was a faithful representation of the previous Free Traders, but the Far Trader was absolutely not. Fortunately the description of the ship does acknowledge the variation. One thing between the A1 and A2 is the mention and placement of weaponry. For the A1 there is mention that turrets can be fitted, but nowhere on the deckplan does it show where they are mounted. The A2 discusses placing them on opposite’s sides of the hull and the deckplans list where they would be mounted if they were to be placed. The final two pages are dedicated to three different ship examples – a classic Free Trader, a somewhat modified A2 Far Trader (modified to primarily carry mail in a detachable pod) and an A2 modified to be a naval auxiliary/armed transport for a system navy. Each of the descriptions only has about 1/3rd of a page with which to build the narrative for the specific ship.

Conclusion Overall I’m pleased with the direction that the supplements are taking. Personally I would not mind spending a little bit more money to get a more enhanced product. In general I think my chief complaint (and it’s not all that strong of one) is that what is there seems so close to what should be there. I would say about half of all gamers equally value the content (rules, tables, etc) with the story (side notes, explanations, history, etc). Both supplements feel like they are getting so close to rounding out the stories, but leave off the final few chapters. I’d really like for the supplements to finish the stories they are telling, at least as far as buying more into the descriptions and explanations.

The artwork definitely needs more work. Greyscale images make perfect sense when it comes to printing because color = more money. But when you are talking electrons the argument goes out the window. I fervently hope that the publishers hear this and understand that many gamers don’t mind spending more to get more. I’d also like to see the deckplans be published in a higher resolution format, ideally with a better angle (or multiple) to get a better feel for the ship. Again, we are talking electrons here, so adding in a few additional megabytes for more and better illustrations costs next to nothing for distribution.

I suspect we’ll be seeing more supplements coming, sooner rather than later with the speed that this one was released. While I haven’t purchased the Subsidized Trader from Moon Toad Publishing and artist Ian Stead, I suspect his supplement will give Mongoose a run for their money. He’s included excellent artwork in his publications to date and I think he sets a high bar for them to compete against. We, the players who purchase and keep the gaming community alive, can only benefit from a competition for our scarce game dollars. Ideally we get a good market where everyone is happy with the content. Ideally!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Referee's Aid 3: Type-A Free Trader
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