Note this review refers to version 5.09 last updated 7th June 2015 bought 2nd September 2018.
Traveller 5, oh how I wanted to love you.
Background, 1978 - Traveller was the first RPG I bought and I bought a most, if not all of the LBBs over the next few years. We drifted apart as I moved on to FGU's "Space Opera" and I never kept up with all of the subsequent versions.
Fast forward to around a year ago, I have a Sci-Fi loving, Fantasy hating son who's approaching "RPG age" so I decide to introduce him to RPGs via Traveller. I still have my LBBs but digging around on the internet I find out about all of these new versions. My interest is piqued in T5, but ultimately I go for Mongoose 2 because of a special offer on DTRPG but the Traveller 5 itch is still there, so, a few months on, I've taken the plunge.
First impression - Where's the Cover? Why did you not include the iconic Black and Red cover? When I double clicked on the pdf - that's what I was expecting - and not getting that thrill was a major disappointment. Not a good start.
Anyway, to give you an idea of the issues I've encountered so far, scroll through to the Contents page and have a read. Combat, page 210, so you type 210 into Adobe Acrobat and you are propelled over 30 pages into the Combat section. So, the Contents haven't been updated, but the page numbers have, and what's worse, the conversion factor isn't a constant - the further you go into the book, the more innaccurate the contents page is. I think the main reason for the discrepancy is moving the various early sections like Dice, Ehex, ranges and Distance to appendices - which seems to be a good idea. But, because it's not constant that's not the whole story, I feel - although as this is the only copy of T5 I have ever seen I can't be sure - as if section splash pages have also been deleted because the actual start of Combat is pretty abrupt with an unheaded page containing a description of the Combat round, followed next page by the heading "Personal Combat" So, in summary, the contents section is useless, and I have a strong suspicion some pages are missing.
But there is now an index the ommission of which caused much rage upon the release, let's look up "Combat" - Accurate but useless for anything significant. Let me explain; "Combat" has ten lines of page numbers with a mixture of individual pages and page ranges, clearly machine generated but not human-edited so the actual Combat section, the bit you're probably looking for, starts on line three of the combat entry and reads thus:
176-180, 182, 184-188, 191, 200... etc. What about pages 181 & 183? They're about Armor and don't happen to have the word "Combat" on the page, so they're not part of the index entry for "Combat" - logical for a computer. So, to actually find the Combat section you either have to "know" that you subtract 34 from the Contents page entry (210), or you have to "know" by looking at the ten lines of page numbers in the index which are the relevant ones. Good luck with that.
Oh, and whoever generated the PDF either didn't bother or didn't know how to generate bookmarks so you can't navigate that way.
So, in summary, you have a 759 page book with a reputation (according to reviews I've read) for having the content scattered a little haphazardly and there is no way to navigate the pdf... and FFE haven't updated since June 2015 - over three years ago. So, a potentially wonderful reference for Traveller referees regardless of their preferred flavour has been crippled by bad execution. Please guys, regenerate the table of contents and add hyperlinks to the contents page entries, add the Chapters as bookmarks at an absolute minimum, Re-add any missing pages and the iconic cover (which is the thumbnail used to actually sell the thing on DTRPG), and finally, if at all possible, send some brave soul through the index to actually do it properly - for obscure terms, it's great (e.g. "Waterskins" has a single, correct (but unlinked), page reference), for less obscure things, like Combat, it's useless.
With all of the poor editing, poor navigation, and missing cover/pages the general impression is of the sort of thing handed out free to Beta testers; not the full price ninth revision of a book published over five years ago. There is no excuse for this lack of polish at this price. Mongoose do far more polished products, heck, even veritable minnows like Gypsy Knight games display infinitely better commitment to the ongoing support of their products. As I write this, R. Talsorian games seem to be updating all of their Cyberpunk stuff from the early '90s (adding bookmarks) as I'm getting regular e-mails saying that new versions of the books I've bought are available.
Finally, an offer. Send me a copy as a "Word" file and I'll do as much tweaking as I have time for as a labour of love and thank-you for those LBBs back when I was a teenager. Contact me if you want to take me up on it.
[2 of 5 Stars!]