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Supplement 11: Animal Encounters
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/28/2015 07:38:57
This book takes a look at a long-neglected aspect of Traveller which is, after all, a space exploration game: the creatures that you may encounter on other worlds. If you take the premise that life has developed on multiple planets (which given the sheer number of 'habitable' ones is pretty obvious), that life is not going to be identical wherever you go. Indeed, having exotic (to our eyes) lifeforms is part of the 'otherness' of visiting different planets during the course of your game - and if so inclined you can weave them into your plotline, anything from specimen-collecting or hunting trips to being attacked by some savage beast you didn't even know existed.

When not playing engineers or the ship's chef, I quite often play a 'xenobiologist' whose very reason for being out in the black is to study the flora and fauna on the worlds he visits. If your game is one about exploration or colonisation, you are going to need to know about the creatures on the planets you investigate. Even if your game involves trade, or war, or going for a holiday, it may become important. Robert Heinlein, in his book Tunnel in the Sky gives a wonderful example when a survival instructor says "Beware of the stobor". His students spend ages looking for a stobor before they realise that it's not an actual creature but the concept of an unknown animal that might well be dangerous that they are being warned about!

The introduction begins with a discussion of what an 'animal' is and how animals behave... they are not cute, furry, people! Animals react to circumstances, they are not sentient, and respond to scary situations with a flight or fight response rather than a reasoned one. As general points of animal psychology are discussed, ways in which to make use of them within your game are suggested in a neat and useful manner.

Next comes A Walk on the Wild Side, a chapter which provides a comprehensive animal creation system. Based on a series of tables in typical Traveller fashion, it is designed to enable you to create believeable alien animals with little effort, complete with all that you need to use them in play. Animals evolve to fill particular niches, so you need to decide early on in the process what sort of terrain your creature will be found in - this may, of course, be dictated by other aspects of the adventure you are planning. The creature will fall into one of several classifications (avian, reptile, insect, mammal, and so on), and will have appropriate modes of locomotion and behaviours to go along with it. Like many such systems, you can have hours of innocent fun just rolling up animals even if you have no specific use for them right now. Whilst this book is about animals, you do have the option of 'fungals' - now most people lump fungi in with plants rather than animals, but there is certainly biological evidence to view them as a third kingdom, and here they might be able to move around. You can use the same section if you want a few self-mobile plants... why not, this is alien biology we're talking about, after all!

Now, there are lots of interesting things you can do with the animals you create, but this being a role-playing game combat is never far away, so the next chapter is When Animals Attack. It provides numerous tables to allow you to set up animal encounters based on terrain type. Of course, these encounters do not need to involve conflict if that's not what you want. Wherever you plot takes the game, there will be some options for random encounters - or you may choose to set them up in advance as part of your story. This section is also replete with little snippets of ideas and events that add more life to the proceedings - interactions, events and so on, all helping you to create the air of 'otherness' that reminds the players that their characters are not in their home town any more. This is, due to the multitude of options, the largest part of the book.

Finally, The Galactic Menagerie provides an array of ready-designed critters for you to let loose, or at least to serve as examples for your own designs. There are also some charts to allow you to modify creatures depending on the environment in which they are to be found - so you can have a tropic rain forest or open plains version of a given animal, similar enough that the relationship can be discerned but different enough to be distinct... and of course, fitting in with wherever it is that they live.

Overall, this provides a good and comprehensive if mechanistic way to come up with animals to be found on all those worlds that are out there for your Travellers to explore. A few examples of how to take a creature from fiction and slot it in to the system, so that you can generate the essential statistics to use it in your game, would have been a useful addition... and I do wonder what they all taste like and how you cook them!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Supplement 11: Animal Encounters
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Set Europe Ablaze
Publisher: J.B.K. Game Design
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/14/2015 08:36:19
Role-playing any aspect of war is always a bit tricky, but good opportunities are provided by spies and saboteurs, who operate independently in small groups - just like the average party of characters - and generally get into enough danger and excitement to keep any player happy! Some may find World War 2 just a little bit recent, you may have parents or grandparents who were caught up in it, but if that's not an issue for you and your group the exploits of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) behind enemy lines in Europe ought to keep you busy.

The Introduction provides some background about the formation of the British SOE and the American OSS, and leads into the first chapter, The War Against Fascist Tyranny, which summarises the events leading up to the war between Nazi Germany and the Allies and then major events of the war in Europe and Africa with the aim of providing a backdrop against which your campaign can be played out. This account runs right through to the final German surrender in 1945, so you can pick your date knowing what happened before it... and what ought to happen next, provided the party's actions don't change anything major, that is. Always the problem when you mess with real history!

Next is The Nations of Europe, which explains the position of each nation - belligerent, conquered, or neutral - as they were in mid-1941, which is when the SOE began clandestine operations. (America did not join the war until the end of 1941, but was already laying groundwork and forming the OSS in anticipation of becoming involved.) There are notes on both offical government positions and those who sympathised with either the Allies or the Nazis, many of whom formed 'resistance' movements. Espionage was, of course, rife with 'neutral' countries such as Portugal being prime targets for both sides.

Then on to the meat of the matter with the chapter SOE and OSS: The Clandestine War. Interestingly both men and women were recruited and participated in missions behind enemy lines, thus leaving it open to players to choose male or female characters without restrictions. This chapter covers training and the dangers that they faced in the field - and how to avoid them. Details of the various organisations arrayed against them are also given - this part in particular lurches a rather ungainly path between what the average SOE/OSS operator would know and bits which are GM-only information.

Background established, we then move on to the all-important Creating a Special Ops Hero. The game uses a custom game mechanic, the One-10 System, in which a single d10 is required for play. Each character has Attributes (Intelligence, Perception, Charisma, Strength, Agility and Stamina) on a 1-5 scale, derived by an elegant mixture of point-buy and die-roll. There are various derived Attributes as well, which you can work out once you have the main ones sorted. Characters are assumed to start at age 21, by which time they will already have got some training and/or experience under their belts. If they want to be older, they will have more skill points to play with. There are no 'character classes' in this system, a character is defined by his skills, from which there is an extensive list to choose using a point-buy system. There's also an option to have a 'tradecraft' package of skills reflecting what is learned in SOE/OSS training. Character background becomes important too, letting you understand which countries the characters is familiar with and which languages he speaks. Modifications can be gained from a system of Qualities and Quirks that is well-designed. Throughout, there are little comments from the author about why he chose to set up the mechanics in particular ways, quite illuminating and evidence of the clear and coherent thought that went into the system. In deciding what your character is like, remember that a fit young male really ought to be in the military, wandering around behind enemy lines posing as a civilian may raise questions from the outset. As an aside, I knew an SOE agent who looked and acted as if he was really stupid - he actually was a very smart man - a wonderful cover for clandestine operations!

Now that you have a character, how is he played? The next chapter, Using Skills and Attributes, explains just that. To resolve any action, you roll 1d10 and add to it applicable Skill Ratings (the skill you are using plus the controlling Attribute and any other modifiers) against a Task Difficulty Level appropriate to what you are attempting - if you exceed it, you have succeeded. Sometimes it is appropriate to use the Attribute alone, if no skill is relevant (or you don't happen to have the right skill but are giving it a go anyway). There are plenty of examples and explanations to make it all clear; along with explanations of the various skills available. A separate chapter covers Combat, Injury and Healing, which often loom large in a game. Combat is played out in rounds, with each participant going in initiative order - initiative is an inherent quality of each character, rather than something you roll when a brawl breaks out. Damage depends on the weapon used, each has a base damage value, but you add however many points your attack total exceeded the Task Difficulty Level (a standard 7) to that, so a spectacularly skillful roll does more damage. Neat. Vehicle chases are also covered here.

This is followed by a chapter on Equipping Your Hero, which most concentrates on weapons and other items useful for conducting clandestine operations... including, of course, that used by Axis forces that might be acquired during the course of a mission. Next is a collection of NPCs in the Common Foes and Allies chapter, all ready for use, and six fully-detailed pre-generated characters for those who want to jump straight in to the last part of the book, an adventure entitled The Spanish General.

This work combines an elegant game mechanic with a coherent and well-presented setting for which you should be able to find inspiration from both history and popular fiction in books and on the screen.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Set Europe Ablaze
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Crossed Swords
Publisher: J.B.K. Game Design
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/13/2015 09:28:11
It's surprising how little the Three Musketeers appear in role-playing games - there's really only Flashing Blades from Fantasy Games Unlimited that is actually focussed on them before this one - despite the innumerable films and the odd TV show based on their exploits. So it's good to have the opportunity to swash one's buckle in early 17th century France again.

The Introduction begins with some notes on Alexandre Dumas and the novel The Three Musketeers that began it all, including the interesting point that it actually had some basis in reality! At least, as far as anyone knows, the people on whom Athos, Porthos, Aramis et al. were based are largely undocumented.

Unlike many games, the first part of the book is devoted to setting the scene in considerable detail - the nuts and bolts of the game mechanics (an original system invented by the author) come later. History is all about people so we start with a copious list of Notable Characters, some real and some fictional, but most if not all of them appearing within the pages of the novel itself. Despite the mechanics section coming later, each one is provided with a stat block so if the characters encounter them you have everything you need to bring them to life in the game. The detail is quite extensive, in a game of intrigue the GM might wish to restrict players from reading this section completely.

The next chapter, France in 1625, continues the scene-setting with some historical, political and social information. It also explains the nobility (including how to become one or enter into noble service) and even discusses the French orders of knighthood that were around at the time. Economics and the lower classes are not ignored and a magnificiently-detailed timeline runs in sidebars providing a good overview of recent events. There's also information on religion and justice, and on the provinces of France, complete with some useful maps. Then the vital stuff: duelling and a certain organisation called the King's Musketeers... and their rivals, the Cardinal's Guards, as well as the rest of the French army.

Then comes a look at Paris, likely to be a nodal point in your game irrespective of where individual adventures might take the party. There's an overview, which gives a good general feel to the place, followed by greater details of notable locations, supported by a map - a reproduction of an actual map of 1615, by the way.

For those who want to go further afield, the next chapter Beyond the Borders provides ample details about the lands neighbouring France and their rulers, who were often embroiled in intrigues that might have some impact on our budding Musketeers. There's another useful map that shows the multiplicity of states of the times.

Next we reach the actual rules, beginning with Gallant Heroes, which covers character creation. With a view to at least a measure of historical accuracy, players are enjoined to select skills appropriate to their character's social station and those who wish to play female characters are reminded of the constraints of the time under which ladies operated - and suggests ways in which a female character can operate successfully within them (or circumvent them) so as to have an enjoyable experience and make a worthy contribution to the game without destroying historical accuracy.

So, to the system itself, which as already mentioned is a custom one in which a player need have but one d10 to play. Each character has Attributes (Intelligence, Perception, Charisma, Strength, Agility and Stamina) on a 1-5 scale, derived by an elegant mixture of point-buy and die-roll. There are various derived Attributes as well, which you can work out once you have the main ones sorted. Characters are assumed to start at age 19, by which time they will already have got some training and/or experience under their belts. If they want to be older, they will have more skill points to play with. Things like prosperity rating, social class and even handedness (quite important to a fencer) also have to be determined - either by die roll or by negotiation with the GM. There are no 'character classes' in this system, a character is defined by his skills, from which there is an extensive list to choose using a point-buy system. Modifications can be gained from a system of Qualities and Quirks that is well-designed. Throughout, there are little comments from the author about why he chose to set up the mechanics in particular ways, quite illuminating and evidence of the clear and coherent thought that went into the system.

Now that you have a character, how is he played? The next chapter, Using Skills and Attributes, explains just that. To resolve any action, you roll 1d10 and add to it applicable Skill Ratings (the skill you are using plus the controlling Attribute and any other modifiers) against a Task Difficulty Level appropriate to what you are attempting - if you exceed it, you have succeeded. Sometimes it is appropriate to use the Attribute alone, if no skill is relevant (or you don't happen to have the right skill but are giving it a go anyway). There are plenty of examples and explanations to make it all clear; along with explanations of the various skills available. A separate chapter covers Combat, Injury and Healing, which often loom large in a game. Combat is played out in rounds, with each participant going in initiative order - initiative is an inherent quality of each character, rather than something you roll when a brawl breaks out. Damage depends on the weapon used, each has a base damage value, but you add however many points your attack total exceeded the Task Difficulty Level (a standard 7) to that, so a spectacularly skillful roll does more damage. Neat.

Character built, it's time to go shopping with the next chapter Equipping the Adventuring Hero. Money has been abstracted via the concept of a Prosperity Level, so there's little bookkeeping to do - each item has a Cost Rating and only if that exceeds your Prosperity Level do you need to worry, you can then roll to see if you can actually afford it (or try out your Bargaining skill to bring the price down). Weapons, armour, clothing, horses and the cost of living are all covered, and there's enough information about actual cash money for those who want to get into more detail. This is followed by Common Foes and Allies, a collection of 'generic' NPCs to be used as and when required.

The final chapters turn to adventure, with Thrilling Exploits and Escapades, an entire adventure to get your game off to a flying start. If you are eager to jump right in, some pre-generated characters are included. There's plenty of detail and advice on both role-playing NPCs and applying game mechanics to help you get to grips with the system. This is followed by Further Deeds of Daring and Peril, which provides three follow-up adventures to get the campaign rolling. The book rounds up with a note on further adventures, sources of inspiration, useful charts and tables and a character sheet.

This is a well-considered and elegant game that has caught the whole feel of the Three Musketeers well. If you like this particular genre, add this to your collection.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Crossed Swords
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Supplement 9: Campaign Guide
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/10/2015 09:06:23
Described as "A Referee's Essential Lifeline", this work is primarily aimed at the referee who doesn't have the time or inclination to prepare detailed adventures or campaigns of their own but who does want something other than a published adventure to run. The Introduction refers rather rudely to 'lazy' referees, but backpedals to include those whose real-world commitments intrude on game prep time as well. Even those who do like creating their own material can benefit - the well-spring of ideas may come up blank or they may need something in a hurry when (as is quite often the case) their carefully-prepared plot does not survive its first encounter with the players!

Two main campaign types are presented: the Automatic and the Semi-Automatic. An Automatic Campaign is almost self-generating, using the tables provided to give the characters things to do and complications to contend with. A Semi-Automatic campaign requires a little more input from the referee. Whatever you decide upon, you'll need a sub-sector to let the party loose in: either roll one up using the rules in the core rulebook or use one of the published ones.

The first section deals with the Automatic Campaign, which is handled via a sort of flowchart. This begins with the characters on a planet, seeking work. Once found, they make any necessary preparations then set off to wherever they need to be - possibly on another planet entirely - to do the job. When they get to their destination, they undertake the task, and then travel back again. At every opportunity, both planetside and travelling, there are options for random events - not necessarily connected to the task at hand - to occur; and once everything's over and done with, the party can rest and relax before the whole cycle begins again. There's a selection of random missions for you to use, or of course you can turn to 760 Patrons or the adventure suggestions in other supplements, depending on what you have available.

The next section, Planetside Events, provides copious events that can take place anything the characters are planetside. Using the above flowchart, they could be job hunting, preparing, travelling or even resting when one of these events occurs. Layered tables provide countless opportunities in both urban and rural settings. A few might be ignored by the party but most demand a response. Naturally, as in any such random system, you are free to choose the option that appeals most if you prefer - or if you really don't like what the dice rolled for you. There's even an option for unleashing a zombie apocalypse, complete with suggestions for alternative names for the 'zombies' as many players may baulk at the term. There are also a series of complications to be used when the party has found (or think they have) the patron or service for which they are looking.

This is followed by a Space Events section, which covers both things that might be encountered when travelling in the black and events that might take place on the ship in which the party is travelling. Again, there's plenty and enough here to make whole adventures of their own from, never mind being incidents occuring when the party is trying to do something else.

This is followed by a Life Events section: there's nothing like making the event personal to one or more members of the party. This is a shorter, but nonetheless potent section of the book. Really devious referees will also make use of characters' backstories to weave people and events from their past into whatever's going on.

The next section, Hooks, is rather interesting. It looks at ways other than a patron encounter to get the adventure rolling by bringing it to them rather than their going out to find it. Something to be used sparingly or players are liable to get fed up with the lack of perceived control they have over their characters' actions.

Then comes Campaign Generation, a detailed discourse on adventure design in general, and about adding depth and complexity to what is going on. It starts off by defining most Traveller adventures as being journeys or exploration. The journey is the classic patron-led adventure where the party has to go somewhere and do something to get paid (or gain some other award), the exploration is generally more character-led as they poke around a location - anything from a single place on a planet to an entire sub-sector - to see what they can find or in pursuit of some other end. All manner of conflicts, complications, time constraints and other things can then be stirred into the mix. It then moves on to discuss tips for referees, such as setting the tone and mood for the adventure. This section's advice is useful for those who like to write their own adventures or those starting with the Automatic Campaign system but wanting to inject a bit more originality into it.

Next is a section on World Building which talks about the creation of cities, villages and wilderness areas from scratch. Samples are provided in an appendix. There's a vast number of options here, many of which set potentials for adventure or provide a dynamic backdrop which may or may not affect what the party is up to but does give the feeling that there's a lot going on irrespective of what they are doing, a good way to build a feeling of reality into your game.

This is followed by a section on Investigation, a popular type of adventure. Whether it's a murder or other crime to solve or something else to uncover, there are some standard processes involved. Unlike the rest of the book, this section is more guidelines than tools for random(ish) generation: if you want to run an investigation you need to know what's really going on and supply appropriate clues to enable the party to find out.

Finally there's a copious collection of random events for just about every situation: things happening during a foot chase, graffiti on a wall, items on a table, random rooms, health events (even characters catch a cold!)... even one for what's on TV! Never be stumped again when the party asks an unexpected question. There are also some sample maps for different locations and a massive Appendix with ready-made examples of places and people to use as you see fit.

This is possibly the most comprehensive GM resource I've seen. Just about every section left me wanting to comment that it would be worth getting the book for that section alone. Whether you really are the lazy or time-strapped referee it's supposedly for or you have plenty of time to create adventures, you'll find this of interest and use as you spawn adventures ready for your next game. Unless you are really good at detail off the cuff, though, do the planning in advance... but this book will make it so much quicker and easier!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Supplement 9: Campaign Guide
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Supplement 8: Cybernetics
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/09/2015 08:22:24
This is an exciting new move for Traveller, the addition of 'cyberpunk'-style augmentation to the human (or indeed alien) body. Eminently sensible, too, it is likely that such modifications will be possible by the far future.

The Introduction looks at how the concept has changed over the years, with some of what early cyberpunk authors (in fiction as well as in games) imagined has been modified or even superseded by real-world developments (compare the modern World Wide Web with William Gibson's ideas about computer networks and hacking - or as he called it, decking... I still treasure an autographed copy of one of his books addressing me as a 'fellow decker'!), whilst other things imagined have yet to come to pass. The intention with this book, however, is to re-create some of the 1980s cyberpunk feel, especially in the rules and ideas presented for computing and cyberspace, and to enable some of the wilder comic-book concepts regarding enhancement and augmention when it comes to cybernetics. So the book comes in two parts: cybernetics and cyberspace, and it is up to individual referees to decide which (if any) of the material herein applies in their universe.

First up, Character Creation. This is aimed primarily at those who want their characters to already have cybernetic augmentations perhaps from an early stage in their pre-game career. So it presents a number of careers and options based on a character having cybernetic parts from the outset (or installed as he starts out in his chosen career, anyway) so that by the time he is ready for play the cybernetics really are a part of him. There's everything from super spies to ultimate fighting machines, but also more 'ordinary' characters who may have grown up in a society where cybernetics are the norm and even office workers have augmentations... and a wholly new career of 'cybenet', those who live and breathe the online life. The noble options are quite fun too, and even psions get a look-in.

OK, so vague table entries about enhancement are not enough. The next section, Before the Chrome, addresses that, beginning with a definition of cybernetics as the interface between organic systems and synthetic ones, anything from an artificial limb to full-blown cyborgs, enhancements and augmentations. There are four reasons why a character might have such cybernetics: because they're fashionable, through medical necessity, to serve the needs of a particular task or job, or because he lives in a society where cybernetics are all-pervasive and everybody has them. Such societies are unusual, and unlikely to be found lower that Tech Level 13; but they could be interesting places to visit! However, from TL 8 or so you can get like-for-like cybernetics, say a hand that works almost as well as your meat one did, but from TL 10 and above you will find spare parts that work better than whatever they replace. At TL 13 it is possible to transplant a living brain into a completely artificial body. There's plenty detail here about what you can get, how it's installed and how the Tech Level affects the quality and performance of your new parts. It also talks about traumatic needs - Traveller damage is normally expressed in terms of your Strength, Dexterity and Endurance rather than in actual damage to specific parts of the anatomy - and the disadvantages as well as the advantages of replacing part of your body.

This section ends with a brief note about biotechnology as opposed to mechanical spare parts, and then we move on to chapters looking at specific areas of the body and what you can get: limbs, body and head augmentations, a section on Chrome, Chips and Plug-Ins and finally weapons. If you cannot find what you need here, your imagination is working overtime... in each case, the biotech equivalent is mentioned although the main focus is mechanical. It's very human-centric, so if your Vargr has lost his tail there isn't a specific spare part for him although it should be quite straightforward to work from the examples here to come up with what he needs.

The second, and smaller, part of the book deals with Cyberspace. The significant difference between this and regular computing as you and I know it today is that it provides ways to visualise what is going on out there between your computer and the website or data store that you are accessing. This creates an interactive environment which can, of course, be manipulated... for good or evil depends in the main on your point of view. If you enjoy the 'netrunning' of the cyberpunk genre (for example as done in Cyberpunk, CyberSpace or Shadowrun) then this will be for you. If you are happier with more realistic hacking you may still find some of the mechanics useful even if you do not want the imagery.

The final section, Patrons, provides a number of potential patrons who can offer a party employment that in some way involves cybernetics. They all come in standard patron encounter format complete with six possible outcomes/twists, roll a D6 or pick whatever takes your fancy. Ideal if you need a quick adventure idea and several do not require the characters themselves to be 'cybered-up' to take the job... so you could even use them as a prelude to introducing material from this book into your game.

Cybernetics won't be for everyone, but if you do like the idea it's one way to make your Traveller universe a lot more than ordinary people who just happen to have access to FTL starships! Certainly worth a look...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Supplement 8: Cybernetics
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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.

Rating:
[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.

Rating:
[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.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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.

Rating:
[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.

Rating:
[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.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book 1: Mercenary Second Edition
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