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Supplement 5-6: Vehicle Handbook
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/07/2015 08:40:16

Designed to replace Supplement 5: Civilian Vehicles and Supplement 6: Military Vehicles, this work presents a far slicker and more streamlined vehicle design system that can create virtually any planetside vehicle you care to name swiftly and efficiently. The idea is that it should be used for those vehicles that characters can interact with - you can drive a car or a truck, ride a bicycle, and so on - but the more massive ones like air craft carriers, cruise liners and supertankers ought to be regarded as scenery rather than designed to this level of detail. Perhaps not true to the 'gearhead' approach so beloved of Traveller players, but it is a viable option: design to an appropriate level of detail.


The first chapter is entitled Crash Course in Vehicle Design. This provides an overview of the vehicle design system. You start by determining three things: the Tech Level of the proposed vehicle, its chassis type and the number of spaces. The chassis type tells you what sort of vehicle it is, and the number of spaces determines how big it is - each 'space' being sufficient to transport a regular-sized human (or equivalent from an alien race, of course). After that, it is merely a case of applying modifications to describe the precise vehicle you are after. The modifications can, of course, include armour and weapons if you intend it to be a military vehicle.


A template is provided for recording your design, and this is followed by a whole bunch of rules to cover every aspect imaginable - animal-powered vehicles, sailboats, aircraft and more. Each vehicle has a 'shipping size' which is the notional amount of room they need when being transported on a starship. There's an abstraction for calculating the mass of a vehicle for those occasions when it might become important, as it isn't otherwise factored in to the design system.


Next comes more detailed information on each chassis type available, starting with bicycle, rickshaw, wagon and cart which are lumped together as animal/human powered wheeled vehicles. Then you get non-powered boats and ships (rowing boats and sailing ships), balloons, then light ground vehicles (motorbikes, cars and pick-up trucks) and then heavy ground vehicles (trucks and tanks, stuff like that). Trains have their own category, but other ground vehicles can be modified to travel on rails as well. Next are hovercraft, grav vehicles and helicopters, each subdivided into heavy and light versions, and so it goes on... airships, light and heavy aircraft, light and heavy jets, light and heavy aerodynes, and then on to walkers, ships and submersibles.


The next section looks at Adding Armour and Weapons to your vehicle. Everything has a base armour rating (a function of tech level and chassis) but depending on the use to which you want to put it, you might want more. Traveller players being Traveller players, they are also likely to want weapons so there's plenty of detail about different types, how they are mounted and auxillary things like fire control systems... This is followed by a neat section of Universal Modifications, which abstracts out things like wanting an exceptionally fast vehicle for its type and lets you add that without needing to provide a wealth of detail about how. Or you might want an autopilot, or an open top... the possibilities are quite vast. Communications, accommodation and other modifications fit in here as well.


Next comes Battle Dress. If you want to have a massive suit of powered armour, this is where you come to design it in all its glory. There are options for weapons and other systems, defence mechanisms and more.


This is followed by some Vehicle Design Examples to show you the system in action. These explain how they have been derived as well as presenting you with the finished article and, of course, its statistics. There's a good selection here, including old favourites like the air/raft, ranging from low to high tech levels and modes of operation. If you're not inclined to get to grips with the design system, you'll probably find something to suit your needs here. They are roughly grouped by use (civilian or military) and type (aircraft, ground vehicles, etc.), and this is the largest section of the book.


Finally, there are specialised listings of vehicles used by the various Third Imperium races and in specific locations or settings available within Mongoose Traveller. So if you play Judge Dredd, you can have a Lawmaster (if you can get it to work) created using this vehicle design system, along with a range of other iconic vehicles from Mega-City One; likewise there are vehicles specifically designed for Strontium Dog and Hammer's Slammers.


Overall it is an elegant vehicle design system and filled with a wealth of examples this book should prove a useful if not essential resource for all Traveller games.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Supplement 5-6: Vehicle Handbook
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Shadows of the Dusk Queen (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2015 08:10:20

A mysterious forest, legends about an evil soceress who vanished completely but might now be coming back... is this enough to get your party to go and investigate? If not, perhaps they just happen to be travelling through the forest or have been hired to check the place out - a few hooks such as these are provided but in essence the adventure begins when the party enters the forest, no matter how they got there. Just where the forest might be located is left to you as well - it may even not be in Midgard if you are not using that setting.


A brief Adventure Background lets you know a little about what is going on, and then we're off, beginning with an encounter with a treant with obscure motives, but who could be quite helpful if handled the right way. If the party are there by chance, however, this encounter might prove rather baffling as the treant assumes they know what's going on! Fortunately, if the characters are too puzzled, other forest denizens have been provided who have a good understanding of the situation and are prepared to help out - indeed it's suggested that you use them to keep the plot flowing if it stalls due to the party being unsure about what they ought to be doing.


This is a location-based quest adventure. Each location is described and the events or encounteres associated with them given in detail, along with applicable monster stats. Interestingly, many enounters are with creatures subtly modified from 'book standard' to suit the shadow fey feel, stirges that can hide in shadow and the like. There are some nice illustrations embedded in the text and, in a neat move, they are provided in an 'Art and Maps' appendix if you like to show your players what their characters see.


The assumption is made that the characters will seek to prevent the Dusk Queen (as the evil sorceress terms herself) from making a return to her former power: in this case there's a fine cinematic end-battle to be had. The 'Art and Maps' section not only provides a one-page floor plan of the setting, there's also a full sectional battlemap for those who want to use miniatures or pawns for the climactic brawl. And there's a little hint about things to come in the promise of a sequel to this adventure...


This is a well-presented scenario, a little forced in the assumptions made about what the characters will do perhaps, but enjoyable nevertheless - and if the threat posed is presented well and the eerie menace of the setting played up, successful characters should have a feeling of real accomplishment, of having prevented a genuine menance developing in the area.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of the Dusk Queen (Pathfinder RPG)
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Supplement 6: Military Vehicles
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/03/2015 07:55:58

However much you may spend your time out in the black, sometimes you need to go planetside and once there you may want to get around. If your purposes are military in nature, or you have a need to protect yourself, this book ought to be of use. It contains a detailed vehicle development system and a selection of pre-made vehicles from which you can choose whatever best suits your purposes.


The vehicle design system takes you step-by-step through the process. All vehicles in this book have been designed using this system, and it is suggested that if you want to use vehicles from the core rulebook you find the versions in here and use them instead. It's identical to the design process presented in Supplement 5: Civilian Vehicles but with a greater emphasis on things like armour and weapons, naturally, and with the numerous examples referring to military vehicles rather than civilian ones. Choices will be limited by Tech Level and by the intended function of the vehicle that you are designing.


If you'd rather pick a pre-made design, there are plenty to choose from, neatly organised into various categories: aircraft, grav vehicles, hybrids (which can operate in more than one terrain type, e.g. amphibious vehicles that can travel on land or in water), land vehicles, walkers, and watercraft. Grav vehicles are available from TL8, most of the others are available from TL1 through TL9-10... at higher levels most people use grav technology wherever they are trying to go. Each vehicle is presented with a brief description, a full set of statistics and in most cases an illustration as well. Naturally, these are fairly generic examples: if you like to use manufacturer names and models in your descriptions you will need to come up with those for yourself.


As you'd expect, these are all vehicles designed for combat - even the motorbike example has machine guns the rider can fire - and so might be of particular interest to mercenary groups equipping themselves for planetside tickets, or to those working out what vehicles may be used by the armed forces (and perhaps law enforcement) on a given planet. Like Supplement 5: Civilian Vehicles it's useful both if the party needs a particular mode of transportation or if you like to put real detail into the vehicles that they encounter during their travels. Sometimes a leather personnel carrier (i.e. your boot) is not enough, with this book you can ride in style to give battle.



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Supplement 6: Military Vehicles
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Supplement 5: Civilian Vehicles
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2015 09:48:44

Previous supplements have provided an abundance of spacecraft of all sizes, shapes and uses: now it is the turn of planetary transportation. This book presents nearly a hundred vehicles of various kinds that the party might use planetside, and if none is right for your needs there's a vehicle design system to let you create your own. The same system has been used to create the pre-made ones presented here, which include some from the core rulebook which have been done over with this system. It's recommended that you use these rather than the original versions, although the differences are not that great.


The different types of vehicle addressed are aircraft, grav vehicles, hybrid (i.e. multi-terrain) vehicles, land vehicles, walkers and watercraft. Most listings go up to Tech Level 9 or 10, whilst the grav vehicle ones start at TL8 - after all, if you have grav technology, you do not need to be too concerned about the surface over which you are travelling and will only want specialised vehicles for different terrains for sport/leisure use or when you have an extremely specific need best met by other than a grav vehicle.


First of all, however, the design process is laid out in detail. Like most Traveller design processes, it's something you go through step by step making various choices. It's all very clear and leaves you with a clear understanding of how planetside vehicles are defined - thus equipping you to comprehend each of the ones presented later, even if you do not want to create your own. If you do, of course, you now have the tools you need!


The collection of pre-made vehicles follows, each laid out in a standard format which begins with a brief description of its nature, appearance and uses followed by its statistics and usually a sketch. The range is wide, but generic - if you want different makes or brands of motorcycles, say, you will need to modify the single basic one to suit your needs. Familiar standbys like the air/raft appear, as well as vehicles from present and past (even a gypsy-style wagon). Aircraft include dirigibles and helicopters as well as prop-driven and jet aeroplanes, with canoes and submarines rounding out the watercraft section.


You might be questioning the need for such detail - well, it all depends on what you want to do in your game. If planetside transportation becomes significant, you need to know... I still recall a game some 30 years ago which involved a madcap rush across a planet to escape a revolution. All the party could find was an internal combustion land vehicle much like a contemporary car... and all we could muster skillswise was Jack-of-All-Trades 1 and a willingness to try to drive! Yet that low-tech game is still a stand-out memory of all the Traveller games I've ever played, including the scream from one player that brought around the heads of an entire convention hall, and of course the numerous retellings in bars thereafter. You may not be planning anything of that nature, but it illustrates just how wide a range of activities, and resources, a Traveller game can encompass. So even if you don't think you need such detail now, there may come a day... It all adds to the realism of your alternate reality if you can, when necessary, drill down to this level.


And yes, I was the player with J-o-T 1 and more courage than sense.



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Supplement 5: Civilian Vehicles
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V20 Dread Names, Red List
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2015 08:32:10

Did you think being a vampire was all about having others be afraid of you? Think again: this book centres around those that many vampires fear... some seek to eliminate them, others - through fear, conviction or for other reasons - support these Anathema and seek to keep them from harm. Whether the Anathema or the hunt for them play a central role in your chronicle or are just peripheral, this book presents a wealth of background information and other details to help them come to unlife in your game.


Chapter 1: History and Tradition dives straight in to show how the Anathema are interwoven with the Camarilla as a whole. The Camarilla have always striven to impose order on the night, to establish rules and guidelines whereby vampires can operate in relative safety. As part of this, they established the traditions, the laws that bind the kindred together with a set of commonly-accepted beliefs. Now, when a vampire transgresses, it is up to the Prince whom they serve to decide what to do with them - but it can lead to a call for a blood hunt to find the offender and subject them to final death. Some lucky vampires are given an ultimatum to leave that Prince's territory or else, but generally a call to a blood hunt involves everyone who owes allegiance to that Prince joining in the hunt. Those who appear on the Red List, however, have not just broken the odd tradition or stepped over the line once too often: they are persistant offenders deemed liable to endanger the entire Camarilla by their actions - and the Red List is maintained outwith individual Princes' jurisdictions (which annoys many of them, of course!) by the Justicars on behalf of the Inner Circle. Needless to say, it's all very political, with each clan nominating a Justicar to act on their behalf. A legalistic process is used to add a name to the Red List, one which does not give the accused any chance to dispute the process. There's plenty of history here, although younger vampire often never hear about it.


Next, Chapter 2: 13 Anathema presents the worst, the 'Most Wanted' of the vampire world. Each is listed in considerable detail, complete with a portrait and full stats, as well as their backstory and even role-playing hints should the party happen upon them in person. Surprisingly, one of them is a mortal, an occultist and book-seller whose hobby of turning supernatural beings into his personal slaves is what has led to his inclusion. The stories are rich and compelling, standing ready to be mined for snippets to weave into your game... although it is at times hard to discern just what makes these vampires so much worse than all the other kindred. Artefacts and rules snippets as appropriate are also included.


Then, Chapter 3: Role of the Alastor details those who hunt Anathema. Many younger vampires are barely aware of what an Alastor is and does, let alone who actually is one, as it is only recently that they have become a little more open after operating in the shadows since their inception. To become an Alastor one must either kill an Anathema or be spotted as a likely candidate by a Justicar. There are different ranks and roles, plus duties and responsibilities, for the would-be Alastor to understand. There's also plenty of advice on how to carry out this role, the ways in which to become an effective Alastor. Useful for the would-be Alastor amidst the party, or for the Storyteller who wants the coterie to interact with an Alastor at some point in the plot.


Chapter 4: Character and Traits then covers what a character will need if they wish to take upon themselves the mantle of an Alastor, retooling material from the core rulebook and adding more specialised details. It's written from the standpoint of creating an Alastor character from scratch, although it might make an interesting plot twist to have appointment to their ranks actually occur during play. There's plenty of advice as to which traits, disciplines, merits and flaws would make good choices, as well as some new ones to make available to your would-be Alastor.


Then comes Chapter 5: Storyteller's Toolkit, which proffers advice on running a chronicle involving the material in this book, including plenty of plot seeds to involve the Anathema in whatever you have going on. It examines appropriate moods and themes for your chronicle, and suggests that the most suitable styles of play are action or investigation (or indeed a bit of both) and discusses how to use these styles to best effect. There are also ideas for how to introduce the stuff of this book into an existing chronicle rather than starting over with a new one just because you'd like to use some of the material and ideas here. If you do not like the 13 Anathema presented earlier (or if one is dealt with permanently during the course of your game), there are notes about creating alternate ones of your own.


Finally, there's an Appendix: Path of Evil Revelations. Here we learn of a path followed by infernalists in all its dark glory, as well as dark thaumaturgic rituals.


This work adds a new level of complexity to vampire politics, taking the normal squabbling to a wholly-new level. Many players (and Storytellers) will revel in it, whilst those who prefer a more physical game can relish the challenge of taking on some really Big Bads... and doing so without attracting the ire of other Camarilla notables. There's a lot to think about here, but it could add a whole new depth to your game.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Dread Names, Red List
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Supplement 4: Central Supply Catalogue
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/26/2015 08:11:39

More than a mere 'supply catalogue', this book not only presents a vast array of items that Traveller characters might wish to have in their possession, it links them to Tech Level and provides the information a referee might need to decide whether or not each item is actually available. To this end, it begins with a lengthy discussion of what lies behind the bare numbers of a Tech Level, and looking to the dizzy heights of TL20 or beyond.


This initial discussion continues with a look at what Tech Level means within a society and how imports may exceed local Tech Level, often by quite a lot, although you'll probably need to import support personnel to keep high level items running as well. Also it may not be uniform: some areas such as transportation or communications may be higher (or lower) than the average TL of a world that appears in the records. The nature of society changes as TL increases as well, with more leisure time and the need for more sophisticated forms of entertainment as well as greater trade opportunities as it rises, with more people being engaged in activities other than day-to-day survival. There are also notes on low-tech versions of items, representing invention, prototyping and the creation of low-tech solutions to higher-tech problems. Likewise, a higher-tech version of a lower-tech item can be devised. All quite interesting and well worth a read if you want a realistic and varied approach to technology across your galaxy.


This all depends on being able to craft and to understand devices, and rules are provided to enable such cross-TL endeavours. Even once you have determined what is possible, the next question is how legal it might be... and that depends on what the item is, where you want to have it, who you might happen to be, and on a web of permits and restrictions that balance out the needs of local worlds and galactic society - the Imperium, if it exists in your universe - as a whole. Even if you have the correct paperwork, and the necessary funds, it may not be easy to actually find that particular item you're after... All this discussion is underpinned by the necessary game mechanics to enable you to administer the processes involved within your game. This section rounds out with some miscellaneous rules for computer hacking, sensor use, firing artillery and a selection of non-lethal weapon and drug use.


We then move on to the actual items in the catalogue, grouped as Personal and Light Support Weapons, Support and Artillery Weapons, Personal Protection, Survival and Field Equipement, Electronic and Medical Equipment and finally Subsistance and Living Expenses. This makes it easy to find what you're after, or allows you to browse to your heart's content in an area that interests you.


Each section starts with some general discussion of what's there before diving into actual items, which are ordered by TL (lowest to highest) and come with description, statistics and quite often an illustration... although at times you are left guessing as to which drawing in a picture refers to which item in the accompanying text! What's nice is the detail in things like ammunition type and accessories to go with your shiny new purchase. There are also some neat advertisements for specific products, although in general everything is kept pretty generic - a 'shotgun' rather than manufacturer and model details. Needless to say, personal weapons get far more coverage than any other items but there are some neat things tucked away within the survival and medical gear sections.


The discussions on how to handle Tech Level and associated material elevate this work above a mere equipment catalogue, but if it's a shopping spree you're after there is plenty to be had here.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Supplement 4: Central Supply Catalogue
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Supplement 3: Fighting Ships
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2015 07:40:02

Following on from Supplement 2: Traders and Gunboats this book concentrates on warships, the large military vessels that keep the black safe for all citizens of the Imperium... or which might mix it up when pocket empires clash. Just how much use you'll have for them depends on the nature of your game, they may just be 'ships that pass in the night' as background to those for whom space travel is just the means to get to the next adventure, home to serving military, a time to reminisce for veterans, or something to be worried about for parties up to no good...


All ships have been designed using the rules in the Traveller core rulebook and Book 2: High Guard, some will be familiar, reworkings of old favourites whilst others are quite new. They are organised into five sections, making it easy to find the precise ship you want. The sections are Small Craft (basically carrier-borne fighters), Small Starships, Cruisers, Carriers, and Battleships.


Each vessel comes with a brief description outlining its role, full statistics, deckplans and quite often an artist's rendering as well. Even the largest ships show how necessary it is for military spacefarers to be able to do with very little space, and the smaller ones make present-day submarines look roomy! Anyone playing an ex-Navy character should note... and compared to the Marine barracks on those ships that have them, even a crew stateroom looks spacious.


The range of different vessels makes it easy to create your own battlegroups, and - like many aspects of the Traveller system - it would be easy to while away your time setting up navies, naming ships and devising their histories. If your mind is filled with images of movie starships, some of these come quite close - notably the Gionetti-class light cruiser, which looks rather like the Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer. It might be fun to use the rules to build some of your favourite vessels from other spacefaring tales, too, using these ships as inspiration.


Even if your party does not have serving or retired military personnel amongst them, there are plenty of ways in which they might have occasion to interact with a warship - perhaps they are invited to a cocktail party with the Captain, or are evacuated from a world in the throes of civil war or natural disaster... just flipping through can spawn myriad ideas. Overall, this is another book that helps round out the background of your galaxy, making it come to life with more detail, ships that may only be seen in passing but which are every bit as 'real' as the one the characters are in.



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Supplement 3: Fighting Ships
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Supplement 2: Traders & Gunboats
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/23/2015 07:26:44

Where would a traveller be without his starship? Stuck one one planet, that's where... and even if an adventure keeps the party planet-bound by choice or fate (or enemy action) at some point they are going to move on. It's integral to the game, it's not called Traveller for nothing! In the early days, there were just a handful of ships described, and nearly every party romped around the galaxy in a Type S scoutship or a Far Trader (and they are still popular choices), but just as if you look out of your window you'll see a vast selection of cars and trucks and other vehicles, so will the space of the far future be filled with a dizzying array of different vessels, large and small. Here's a selection. Some the party will see, some they will interact with in some manner, maybe one or two they can call home... others they might covet, or fear.


Organisation is good, to help you put your hands on just the ship that meets your needs. There are drones (unmanned vessels), small craft (non-Jump capable) divided into civil and military types, civilian ships, criminal vessels, auxiliaries (military vessels in the main but not warships), system defence boats and full-blown warships to choose from. All have been designed in accordance with the rules in the Traveller core rulebook and Book 2: High Guard.


Each ship (apart from the drones which only have descriptions and statistics) comes with a brief description, full statistics, deckplans and quite often a sketch as well. There's plenty to look at here, and just leafing through is fun. Some are familiar, re-workings of craft that have been seen before, and others are wholly new.


A lot of these ships, of course, are quite unsuitable for the average party of characters - that doesn't mean that they might not find that one of these 'unsuitable' vessels is all that they can lay their hands on! - and it will depend on what they are trying to do which of the more suitable ships will fit the bill. There are several cargo/trade ships for those who'd like to make their living as merchants, a few luxury yachts if they would prefer to travel in style, and a few more unusual ones like the Animal Class Safari Ship, designed to carry hunting parties to frontier worlds in search of exotic game... complete with facilities to bring specimens back for sale to collectors or zoos if the hunters don't want to kill them outright.


Many groups will head straight for the Criminal Ships section, and there are ships designed for piracy, smuggling and salvage operations (this last is not necessarily a criminal activity but...). Some of the Auxilliaries will interest those characters engaged in mercenary operations, the Light Assault Transport catches the eye, complete with drop-pods to launch troopers straight into battle if you don't want to send them down by shuttle. Groups who want to go into the passenge business might like the Type M Subsidised Liner, whilst if your game involves serving military personnel, any of the warships might be their home - and veterans may have served aboard in their past. And if not, who knows what the characters will encounter in their travels.


Overall it is a good selection of useful ships with which to populate your galaxy. Some the characters may come to know intimately or even call home, others will be no more than a blip on the sensor screen or something seen at a distance around a docking facility... but they add variety and the air of a galaxy where life goes on whatever the party is doing!



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Supplement 2: Traders & Gunboats
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Supplement 1: 760 Patrons
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2015 08:45:48

Right back to the origins of Traveller a standard mode of adventure has been the 'patron encounter' where someone turns up, gives the party a task and then the referee rolls a D6 to see what's really going on. This work continues that trend, its title harking back to the original Classic Traveller book 76 Patrons, but presents a bewilderingly vast array of people to meet and deal with during your travels, many of whom are not offering a job, at least not precisely.


The encounters are divided up based on social standing - reflecting the sort of people a given group of characters might meet depending on the places they frequent and who they are... but it's flexible enough that you can pick whatever seems right for you, or you can randomise it completely if preferred. All patrons are either protagonists or antagonists - the protagonists are disposed to work with the characters or to hire them, whilst the antagonists are generally putting obstacles in their way, causing problems or even wishing the party harm. Again, you can roll for the type of encounter, or just decide.


The patron types are Military, Spacer, Upper-Class, Middle-Class, Lower-Class, Mercenary or Wild Cards. Each type is associated with different career paths but while the encounter may be more likely if the characters have the appropriate background it's not a hard and fast rule, and of course the party is likely to be quite diverse unless you specifically set out to have a party composed solely of former Scouts, say, exploring the galaxy for their own ends after resigning from the IISS. Some encounters will require the party to have certain skills, or be in an appropriate place, but they have been designed to be as flexible as possible.


So, what do you do with all these encounters? Some may be as simple as describing who is sitting in the next booth at a bar. The party may even ignore them and move on - or interact and an adventure might come of it. Others will impact on what is already going on - for example a ship's medic who may be less than enchanted with his job and the party may either notice this or, if they require his services, suffer for it. The encounters are very open-ended, yet flipping through ought to spawn plenty of ideas.


One delightful example is a xenobiologist who is an expert on previously unknown lifeforms and planetary genetic evolution but he cannot seem to do his job at peak effi ciency when the marines and ground soldiers keep blasting and killing every foreign lifeform they stumble across - this reminds me of a real-world academic zoologist studying worms in the Falklands Islands who sat listening to reports of troop movements during the war between Britain and Argentina for the control of the islands and cursing whenever they came near his experimental plots! Many of the encounters have a similar air of realism which serves well to breathe life into your game: real people with their own concerns who don't just exist to interact with the party but have lives of their own.


The Wild Card patrols, the last lot presented, are the really strange ones. Knights in shining armour, faith healers, madmen and cannibals... even a deity or two (or are they delusional?). They are all certainly individuals that will make the party stand and stare. Time agents, hosts to parasits, serial killers, a courier who is about to drop dead but his message MUST get through... these and more are to be found here.


The good thing about this book is the diversity of potentially interesting people within its pages, the bad thing is that whilst vivid images are conjured up by reading them there remains to be quite a lot of work to do before you have a full-blown adventure ready to roll. Unlike the original 76 Patrons, few of the encounters present anything as simple as a job offer, they are more of the nature of 'here is this person, this is what he is doing and why' and it is left to the referee to decide how to weave them into the ongoing story. What this is good for is populating any location with an assotment of vivid realistic individuals. Adventure may or may not follow depending on the outcome of the interaction.



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Supplement 1: 760 Patrons
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Book 1: Mercenary Second Edition
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2015 08:19:26

In this second look at mercenaries within Traveller the focus is again on those who hire out their services as combattants to anyone who can afford them. The Introduction muses on the role of mercenaries within the galaxy, and on how it is a viable campaign choice. There's also a glossary of mercenary slang: learn to talk the talk and who knows, you may be able to hire on and walk the walk too.


The first section, Career Options, looks at the formation of a mercenary. Most individuals intending such a career (and indeed many of those who come to it by chance) begin with service in an organised state-sponsored military force. However, here the character generation system is rolled back a little to present options for attending university or a military academy before enlisting, or entering any other career. Those wishing to go to a military academy must first decide if it's one for the army, the navy, marines, air force or wet navy - they'll get appropriate basic training as well as the other advantages of their academy education such as automatic entry to the chosen service with a strong likelihood of gaining a commission and the opportunity to attend flight school if it's an air force or naval academy. Both university and academy graduates may also attend medical school if they want to become doctors. There's a set of 'lifepath' events to use whilst the character is getting his education. Remember that connections made then are often life-long. It might be worth coordinating with other members of the party to see if they can share some background.


Some new skills - combat engineering, instruction and training, and interrogation - are presented followed by an extensive review of specialties pertaining to combat skills, something that has been requested by players ever since the first edition of this book came out. I'm a bit puzzled by the sentence "The various combat skills for hooting weapons are now divided into the following specialities", but have reached the conclusion that an 's' must have escaped and they're talking about shooting weapons, particularly as much of the discussion revolves around gun combat.


We then look at Careers in the Armed Forces. In advanced worlds that make use of grav technology, the distinction between the conventional arms of service that we are familiar with get blurred, and planetside military service is lumped together as 'Army', while on less developed worlds there may still be a difference between soldiers on land and those who take to the air or go to sea. Thus wet navy and air force careers are provided here for those who'd like such a background. There's also an addition events table for wartime use, which applies to any military service, as well as expanded event tables suitable for use in place of the ones in the core rulebook for Army and Marine careers. This section rounds out with notes on Medals and Awards and on Becoming a Mercenary. The medals listed are the standard ones familiar to all Traveller players, and they are well worth incorporating into your game - I still recall a rather shy character of mine who was soundly embarassed over his Starburst for Extreme Heroism by my referee!


Next comes a section called Better Combat Potential. This looks at a range of different types of weapons and how to use them to best effect, before moving on to discuss scaling combat. In Traveller there is scope for two sorts of combat, the personal level (as in an individual brawling) and the spacecraft level. There's also mass battle, discussed later on in the book, but that's really personal combat writ large. Individual characters are unlikely to have much effect on a spaceship without access to specialist destructive weaponry, and should a spaceship weapon target an individual... well, it's probably time to roll up a new character!


Getting down to the nitty-gritty, the next section is Building a Mercenary Force. This looks at every aspect from recruiting to structure and organisation and the sort of wages differently-skilled mercenaries ought to be able to command. There's a note on the concept of a mercenary licence - after all most worlds won't take the arrival of an organised armed force lightly (not 'likely', another of the rare but annoying typos!) - and details of the running costs of a mercenary unit. How much the characters will be involved in all this depends at what level they operate within the mercenary company, but it is useful background and adds an air of realism to what is going on. If you are abstracting this, perhaps to build the company that the characters will join, there are some useful tables to help generate the members of the unit quickly, and a pre-made sample company you can use (or use as an example).


The next section deals with Mercenary Tickets - the mechanism whereby a mercenary company hires out its services. A ticket is a specific mission contracted for between a client and a mercenary force, and they can be handled in a manner analogous to Patrons - there's a task to be performed, a reward for doing it and so on. Just like Patrons, tickets come in different forms depending on the sort of job that is to be done, and there are some 17 samples all ready to be undertaken, as well as plenty of hints on devising your own.


This is followed by a section Battles and Wars which looks at mass combat. The sort of mercenary company that's been discussed so far is more likely to fight a battle with a similar force than engage in brawls at an individual level, so this section offers game mechanics for handling it. Of course, individual characters will likely get a chance to fight at a personal level during the course of a battle, the system here copes with what is going on around him at a larger scale. The next section, Strongholds and Sieges, continues the theme of combat writ large, looking at how to construct, defend and attack structures... and, being Traveller, how to do so in non-Earthlike environments. In some ways, the system is reminiscent of that used to create a starship design, and it's not something that will appeal to all players. Some, however, will love it and it's another area that can provide hours of entertainment for when you cannot get a bunch of role-players together.


A section on Vehicles and Equipment follows - our mercenary company needs more than a base, after all, and this section discusses how to arm and equip them with everything from boots to tanks and aircraft. Finally, an Appendix lists every single firearm that has appeared in the Mongoose Traveller line to date with all pertinent details; and a second Appendix contains loads of generic mercenary personnel to round out your company's roster. The last Appendix shows what a light infantry unit needs depending on the Tech Level at which it will operate.


This is an elegant work, addessing the role and nature of mercenaries within Traveller well, and almost providing a 'game within a game' in which you can play around with the creation and operation of mercenary companies and engage in battle. This may be the core of your campaign, or something that goes on in the background, whichever, if you want mercenaries in your game, get this book.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book 1: Mercenary Second Edition
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Traveller Compendium 3
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/18/2015 09:08:06

This, the third collection of Traveller-related articles, concentrates more on additions to game mechanics and background materials than on new adventures. It is divided into different sections, which makes it fairly easy to track down whatever you are after... provided that you know it's there!


The first section is Rules. It starts with a piece on martial arts, presenting different 'styles' which characters may choose to train in by selecting one whenever they have the chance to gain Melee (unarmed) or Melee (any) during character creation. There are notes on a cestus as new equipment, adventure ideas based around martial arts tournaments and sample martial artist NPCs to fight. The next article is called On Assignment, and gives a glimpse of how things work in Mongoose Publishing office games during character creation, looking at how (if) characters can switch between assignments in a given career.


The next section is Starports. Here several are described in considerable detail, complete with plans and all manner of information that could easily lead to the odd side-adventure whilst visiting. The descriptions make it easy for you to describe what is there, and the plans are of good quality, crisp and clear. Whilst they are designated as being the starport in a specific place, it will be relatively easy to transplant them elsewhere as necessary to suit the needs of your game.


Next up, the Third Imperium. Here there is an article on Aslan Dynasties, showing how to create an Aslan clan and develop its history. It also takes a look at the many ways in which Aslan war amongst themselves. Another article tells of the Irklan, a human religious sect from a desert world with a tradition of survival and hand-to-hand combat training. There are a few formatting errors here, irksome rather than making the text unreadable, but it's a well-developed cult especially if you have characters who fancy being - or fighting - ninjas and similar martial artists. Notes provide for characters having a career as an Irklan or - possibly more likely - receiving training as an initiate once they have discovered the cult. And then there is a pirate vessel, the Resplendent Fury... if in the Gvurrdon sector, you'd better keep a wary eye out for them. Their base and notable personalities are included, as well as plot hooks.


This is followed by a section called Other Worlds. Here there is a vast selection of patrons for use in the 2300AD setting, and an article called Mutant Menace that describes two types of mutant, the phage and the shifter. Next comes a section on Vehicles, a collection of unusual vehicles that you might wish to add to your game - even a submarine or two and a 'tactical supression platform' used to quell riots. This is followed by a section on Aliens, which presents three alien races that might be encountered.


Then we get on to Adventures. Pride and Plasma Guns embroils the party in a noble's schemes, searching a starport for some fugitives and providing some memorable individuals who may play a recurring role in your game. The Price of Milk sees the party hired by another noble, annoyed that the day's shipment of milk had been stolen and so he'd had to drink his coffee black! If you have played Spinward Encounters, you might be interested in Further Adventures on 876-574 which is a collection of adventure hooks based on this backwoods planet. Derelict involves the party in investigating a derelict ship in a decaying orbit somewhere outsystem, while Mercy to the Fallen involves a member of the minor race Luriani, a performer who is in need of protection for a forthcoming tour... but wants to hire people who can play and form her band as well as look after her! The Ball Identity concerns someone who has lost his memory and wants the party to help him find out who he is.


The next section is called For Referees. This contains all manner of useful bits and pieces for referees including an extensive article on Jump Space, some words of wisdom on undercover missions and a rather dodgy piece called Where No Woman Has Gone Before, which trots out tired sexist comments about women in the role-playing hobby. Fortunately it's only a page long. There's also a scenario called The Star Dragon which provides an exotic new threat to present to your characters. There are Patrons at Court, handy if you move in such rarified circles, and Sealed Orders, an adventure for the senior crew of a small warship during the Fifth Frontier War. And, should there not be enough in this book to keep your campaign running for a while, there's an Adventure Generator which is rather fun to play with!


Finally, The Shipyard presents several new vessels, complete with plans (nice clear ones) and plenty of information to help you incorporate them into your game. There's a good range to add variety to encounters in the black or at a starport.


Another useful collection of items to enhance your game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Traveller Compendium 3
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Traveller Compendium 2
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/16/2015 09:10:18

This second compilation of Traveller material draws on more than Signs and Portents (the Mongoose Publishing e-zine), wtih material from the Living Traveller campaign as well. It's better organised than the first volume, with nine full adventures followed by a collection of shorter 'scenario hooks' and then an array of more general articles.


The adventures start with an update of a real classic, the adventure Annic Nova that first was seen back in the days of Classic Traveller, where the party explores an alien vessel found drifting in space. This is followed by a wide-ranging selection that can send your party to low tech worlds, to test games software, to foil terrorist attacks, and avoid space collisions amongst others. Whatever sort of adventures you prefer, there's likely to be at least one that appeals - and however much you prefer writing your own there's always that week when there is no time to prepare for the next game session!


The 'scenario hooks' are similarly inventive although as each is only a couple of paragraphs long, you'll need to put in a fair bit of effort to turn them into full-blown adventures. Included in this section are an assortment of well-detailed NPCs who themselves might spawn an adventure and who certainly will make colourful additions to whatever is going on. They are a series of 'old flames' designed to be people the characters knew (and loved) in the past... but for each, now, there are a range of options as to how they feel and what they will do with the individual who once was the object of their affections. These are followed by a selection of patrons who might have something of advantage to offer the party - aid, a job - and who can be added to the rich panoply of people that they interact with in their travels.


The final selection of articles opens with one on keeping your ship's finances straight. Utterly boring to some, but vital to those who enjoy the merchantile aspects possible in Traveller with all the trade rules... not to mention that if you get them wrong the bank may come after the party, irrespective of whether they prefer adventuring or trading! Even if you don't want to indulge in bookkeeping, reading this is still recommended, even if only for ideas about what a purser might do aboard ship. This leads rather neatly into another piece called The Flying Money Pit, in which a party down on its luck somehow ends up with title to a somewhat decrepit starship - it's a kind of campaign outline with plenty of suggestions as to how to weave a plotline around the acquisition and repair of this vessel, not to mention paying off all the debts accrued. There's also a piece on mass battles, a set of glorious ingame reasons why a particular character is missing to use when a player fails to turn up for the game, notes on how to weave banks into your campaign (see comments on finances above), the concept of parallel dimensions, rules for the availability of, well, whatever the characters are trying to get hold of, a detailed rundown of a company called SuSAG (again familiar to long-time players), and some strange lifeforms and even stranger items to encounter. Finally, there's a new career of a Xenologist - someone who studies flora and fauna across the galaxy (and one of my favourite careers when not the starship cook, as it happens!).


Overall, a fine selection of material to enhance any game. Some of the illustrations - especially deckplans - could be crisper than the rather blurry JPEG images used, but that's about the only complaint. Just about everything is useful and can add to your Traveller game.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Traveller Compendium 2
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Traveller Compendium 1
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/15/2015 08:44:37

This is the first compilation of articles relating to Traveller from Mongoose Publishing's e-zine Signs and Portents. Even though it was issued free, it could be a bit of a hunt to find the article that you wanted and since it ceased publication in 2011, it's getting harder to find at all! So this and the subsequent two volumes are the best way to get hold of some of the best Traveller related artilces that graced its pages: a wealth of adventure ideas, new careers, novel bits of kit and more.


It starts off, however, with a muse from Gareth Hanrahan, lead author of Mongoose Traveller, that looks at the very nature of the game, before continuing with the first scenario, also from his pen. It's a multi-stranded adventure involving a disaster on a mining moon with plenty of opportunities for the party to get involved. Other adventures follow thick and fast, all good fun especially if you need one in a hurry.


There's The Starchild, involving an explosion in a subway that leads the party into all manner of dark conspiracies and plots. This is a comprehensive adventure that could provide a dramatic start to a campaign with the potential to lead into some other published adventures (or of course those of your own design). Or perhaps the lure of a potentially-sentient plant species takes your fancy in Fair Game... or other strange wildlife in Adapt and Overcome, set on a backwater world. And then there's The Fall of Rigella Namsey, a merry romp in a rather more civilised setting, action with a leavening of humour, or a spot of bounty hunting with The Levall Affair. There's also an extension to Adventure 2: Prison Planet which neatly arranges to get even the most law-abiding party sent down for a long stretch, then provides further embellishment to what might go on durijg their incarceration. They might prefer The Derelict, a way to deal with a misjump that's a bit more exciting than suggesting they roll up new characters.


Should you be looking for background material to weave around your own plots, there's a richly-detailed moon and a new Aslan clan replete with ideas - and if you like the Aslan this is enhanced by another article on creating kinships, complete with examples. There are also patrons galore, and a host of ideas for introducing religion into your game. If that's a bit much, there's another article about involving organised crime instead.


If it is novel ships, equipment and careers that you are after, there's everything from bizarre alien vessels and system defence boats; new careers for sword-swinging Duellists and Beserkers, and the rather creepy Conditioned Soldier and the Information Warfare Specialist (hacker to most of us). There's plenty of items in the ship's locker for you to play with as well, a monumental selection of clothing and accessories as well as the more expected weapons and tech-toys.


Game mechanics are not neglected either, with the use of Task Chains in creating dramatic tension explained, and an article on the potentials of the practice of medicine in Traveller, detailing how to take it far beyond just patching up the rest of the party after a brawl. Enough here to make anyone give the Medic career a second look. An alternative view comes from an article on psionic healing. And there is a Referee's Emergency Toolkit for use when your players take the plot between their teeth and rush off in an unexpected direction.


Overall, there's a lot to browse through and to pick over, decide what you'd like in your campaign and have fun.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Traveller Compendium 1
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Book 9: Robot
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/12/2015 08:56:50

As any science-fiction fan knows, there's a lot you can do with robots... so why shouldn't you be able to do the same in Traveller? The Introduction floats a host of ideas to start you off including the intriguing one of actually playing a robot character. They can make good adversaries too, or perhaps the party fancies owning a few, anything from a cute pet-bot to a hulking monster that stands guard... or does the laundry. There's a wealth of possibilities here... and Asimov's Laws of Robotics to keep things in check!


The first section, Robot Generation, presents a complete process for designing robots. At this point it doesn't matter how you intend to use them, this is the system for actually coming up with a concept and design, and putting it all together, starting with the fact that robots consist of two elements: hardware and software. For those creating a character robot, there's a system to ensure some measure of game balance by limiting how much you have to spend on your design in comparison to number of terms served. If your robot is going to have a career of its own, you take that into account during your build - but cannot use money raised during the career as part of basic build costs. Then we get down to detail with different frames and all manner of other parts that can be used - after all, robots do not have to be humanoid in form. But if you do go down that route then you can pick a cyborg (augmented humanoid) or an android (completely mechanical, just looking like a person). Gearheads will love this!


Next, You, Robot is for all those who want to play robot characters, providing them with hints and tips, new careers suited to robots and modifications to existing careers to accommodate them. In some respects - abilities, skills and characteristics - a robot fresh off of the assembly line is as able as a flesh and bones character: but it has no background, no past. Unless you want to play it thus, you might want to run it through a term or more of a career path to give it some experience before you start play. As robots are primarily created to serve their creators, there's a new Service career to model the sort of jobs that the robot might have undertaken. Androids may, if preferred, attempt any career open to a flesh and bones character... but with some negative DMs and the chance of being 'found out' (this presumes that the android is operating covertly rather than owning up to its nature). A neat concept of Ages is used to model how society's views on robot rights changes from them being treated as good and chattels through slaves and second-class citizens to having full and equal rights with anyone else. It's up to you where along that scale your universe is... and it may vary from place to place, of course. Robot careers fit in well, with Fugitives and Activists as well as Service robots being possible. The section ends with modifications to existing careers to involve the use of robots by the people undertaking that career, giving them the skills and experience that they need.


Then, The Science of Robotics looks at the game mechanics necessary when incorporating robots into your game. Included here are robot abilities and stuff that is particularly hazardous to them. It looks at robot 'intelligence' which falls into two categories: command algorithm and personality program. Command algorithms result in drones which follow commands, often showing considerable versatility as they work out the best way to accomplish the task set but never deviating from it. The personality program enables robots to make judgement calls, something a drone cannot, and the most complex ones are difficult to distinguish from a sophont. Naturally with this increasing complexity there is the chance that the robot will become self-aware, and achieve sentience and, you guessed it, there's a table to roll on to see if this happens. There's a lot more here which will help you to build a vivid picture of how robots fit into your campaign setting.


The next section, Microbots, introduces the concept of swarms of tiny robots. These swarms are made up of autonomous machines that work together... and I'm thinking of showing this section to my boss here at the university, as he actually researches into machine swarms! Here they are viewed as potent combat devices, but it's easy to come up with more benign uses. Perhaps they clean house for you...


Finally, Robots and the Universe explores the social aspects: how robots and humanity interact, what a robotic society might be like and all manner of other ideas. It draws together the strands already introduced to enable you to integrate robots - at all levels of independent capability - into your universe, perhaps as an integral part that's barely noticed, or perhaps as something quite unusual that only is found in a few worlds. It's up to you.


In some ways, robots are a mainstay of science fiction, so if you want to put them on a sound game mechanical footing rather that describe them in passing within your game, this book will be ideal. Playing a robot is an intriguing concept, whether it's an overt android like Data in Star Trek: Next Generation or one who perhaps even the rest of the party do not know is a robot. The possibilities are endless!



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book 9: Robot
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Book 8: Dilettante
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2015 09:10:22

Just as in the real world, not everybody in the Traveller universe needs to work. This book provides tbe equivalent of a 'career' structure for those characters in that happy situation, independently wealthy and able to pursue their own interests instead of doing a day job. It also provides some fascinating outlooks on what it means to be in that situation in the far future, exploring new dimensions of the Social Standing attribute, what you can do with all that wealth and the potentials (and problems) of being famous. Even if characters do not start out fabulously rich and famous, it might happen during the course of a campaign.


The first section, Character Generation, looks at a total of 21 dilittante careers. Some will come from the nobility, others will have wealthy parents. Some will devote their time to specific goals such as sporting or artistic excellence, become humanitarians or connoisseurs, go adventuring more to stave off boredom than for the usual reasons of getting rich and buying a ship and so on. These careers are structured in the normal manner with skills to gain and life events to help build a background and life story. Many of these provide ideas that might spawn adventures for characters of this type as well!


Next comes Social Standing. This section delves into the often-neglected statistic, providing new insights into how to use it, how to make it important in the context of your game. Social standing varies depending on the sphere in which the character operates, but within that sphere and, depending on its nature, outside it as well the character may well be able to exert influence, gain favours and be recognised by others as a person of substance or importance. Often it is not automatic, you have to work at maintaining your social standing.


So, how is a character in such a fortunate situation? The next section, Wealth, provides information on where all that money might have come from, how to grow it even further... or how to fritter it all away. Sometimes it is inherited, some - particularly sporting or performing stars - may have made it for themselves. Dilittantes are assumed to be living off the interest or revenue generated by their assets on a day-to-day basis, but there may be times that they'll want to purchase something big and have to dig in to their capital, perhaps selling something else in the process. Characters may even want to play the markets, and rules are provided to model trading in stocks.


The following section looks at Fame, and it's not all fun and games. It can be used to advantage and it can also turn round and bite! Various pitfalls are presented, along with the necessary rules to help characters fall into them... and claw their way back out again. Many again provide adventure ideas as well. Kidnappers, swindlers and stalkers also regard famous people as fair game.


The next couple of sections, Entertainment and Equipment, provide some ideas on what a dilittante character might wish to spend his wealth. Everything from smart clothes to estates and residences, even a few fancy starships are provided here. The final section, Campaigns, looks at some of the things that you could do with a bunch of wealthy characters, whether they start the game that way or you arelooking for some way of continuing a campaign with a party that has struck it rich!


It's an intriguing concept and provides scope for some wildly different, novel campaigns - a wholly-new aspect to Traveller that many will not have considered. Even if the party themselves are not that well-off, they might meet - or even be employed by - someone who is!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book 8: Dilettante
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