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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.

Rating:
[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.

Rating:
[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!

Rating:
[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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Book 6: Scoundrel
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/08/2015 08:51:45
Covering both the Rogue and the Drifter, this book looks at those characters who have forsaken a conventional 'career' and chosen to live outside normal society. Rogues are the criminal element, having made a conscious decision to support themselves by illegal means; whilst Drifters can be anyone who has chosen not to accept the structured life a regular career offers, but lives in an unconventional - but legal - manner. Other Drifters may have failed to find legitimate employment and have adopted a wandering lifestyle and may upon occasion turn to less-than-legal means to support themselves.

There's an interesting discussion on the various laws which pertain in the Traveller universe. Some are based on universal acceptance that a given act is wrongful: murder, violent assault, rape, theft... just about everyone agrees that these are unacceptable acts. Others are based on whatever code of law is in force where you happen to be, each planet will have its own laws which govern the way in which those there should behave. And then there's Imperial Law, which generally concerns itself with what happens between planets, and which applies to every sentient being within the Imperium. For game purposes, Rogues are those who commit crimes like piracy, smuggling, theft and being part of criminal organisations - there will still be murderers and rapists, but nobody in their right mind really wants to play one!

The first section covers Scoundrel careers. Presented in the standard fashion, they are every bit as skilled as those who have chosen the 'straight and narrow' way, and indeed not all of them are inherently villains although some are and others sail pretty close to the line. Specialist intruders, smugglers, members of organised crime groups, pirates, scavengers, wanderers and even barbarians (people who come from a primitive society but have somehow found their way off-world into the black and into Traveller society. Along with the normal selection of benefits that accompany these 'careers' there is another consequence that criminal acts attract: incarceration (after arrest and trial, of course). There's a couple of new skills too: forgery and security - both as useful for those attempting to keep criminals out as they are for criminals trying to gain access to where they ought not to be.

The next section looks at Criminal Organisations in considerable detail. Whether you want to join one, have to interact with it or have set out to destroy it, here are all the details (and, of course, plenty of tables) to create and run them in the game. Several examples are given as well, to use as inspiration or to encounter during play.

Next comes a decidedly criminal activity: Piracy. This is rarer than you might think, particularly given the constraints of Jump travel, but it does exist. Some are opportunists who just take advantage of a ship in difficulties or just one that has become isolated, others are more organised and set out deliberately to commit acts of piracy, and there are a few who actually capture and steal whole ships rather than rob them. There's a system for providing appropriate targets for pirates to prey upon and the necessary game mechanics to adjudicate a pirate attack - and advice for those who'd prefer not to be their prey on measures to take to keep them safe. There are also notes on those who would deliberately hunt pirates, and on likely loot.

Following this, the criminal action moves planetside with a section on Intrusion. This takes you right through a heist from initial research and preparation. It's much more fun to play through but if for some reason you do not want to there is an abstracted system to resolve it all with a few die rolls. There is a vast array of security and other technology to play with and notes on actually running a heist should your party decide that they want to pull one off. Computer hacking gets its own extensive discussion too. This section ends with a sample target suitable for both physical and computer intrusion attempts.

Next comes the Smuggling section. There's always someone who wants what he is not supposed to have wherever he is... and consequently there's always someone else who will supply that something at a price. Herein you will find customs checks and starport security measures (always fun for tripping up unwary parties who aren't even trying to smuggle anything), and a selection of adventuring ideas with a smuggling theme.

So you have been stealing or smuggling, you now need the next section on Fences and Illegal Goods. This is jam-packed with the necessary mechanics to enable the disposal of ill-gotten gains to garner the credits that are (presumably) the ultimate aim of committing the crime. This is followed by a section of Equipment... perhaps that's where the party will spend their credits. It's mostly tools, weapons and ship modifications for those who'd engage in piracy or smuggling; and it's followed by Tramps and Thieves, a section on the sort of vessels such villainous types - or character parties, of course - might use. Oh, and an inspection ship or two as well.

The final sections are Belt Mining, Odd Jobs - a selection of adventure ideas - Scavengers (about investigating derelict spaceships or even worlds for what valuables you might be able to find), Gambling and Con Jobs (more rules for employing either in your game) and Lost Worlds, the places from which Barbarians come.

As a survey of the scummier side of the galaxy, a peep at the underbelly, this is useful. Even if your party are not self-styled Ethically Challenged Merchants, it's likely that at some time they will encounter those who regard the law lightly. If there's much criminal activity in your games, consider adding both this book and Adventure 2: Prison Planet to your bookshelf - the latter has far more comprehensive rules for a justice system as well as a lot more detail about gaoling miscreants!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book 6: Scoundrel
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Book 5: Agent
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2015 08:24:15
So, just what is an 'agent' anyway? Put succinctly, he goes and solves problems on behalf of an employer. That employer might be a government, it might be law enforcement, it might be a company... and this book expands on the fairly basic notes about the Agent career in the core rulebook by coming up with a full twenty-one different paths based on seven Agent careers. There should be something for everyone here... and a lot of them spawn ideas for adventures, whether it's because the party includes an Agent or because they have met (or even be targeted by) one!

The career paths are classified rather oddly, looking at a mix of what the individual Agent does and for whom he does it. A spy might be the far future equivalent of James Bond, giving his all for his homeworld or the Imperium itself, or he might ferret out commercial secrets on behalf of a corporation, yet there's one whole section of 'Spies' who are in government service and a separate entry under Corporate for those engaged in espionage (here classed as sabotage or 'corporate victimisation' not looking for secrets at all). People in law enforcement generally work for government at some level, but investigators may be anything from a police detective to a private eye, or someone doing background checks on potential employees. The important thing is gaining the necessary skills to undertake that kind of work. Each path is gone through with the usual detail necessary to not just assign skills but to build the outline of a backstory, with all its ramifications, ready for you to flesh out. The Analyst career is quite bizarre: the paths are Political Officer, Technical Expert or Handler (i.e. a protection officer or bodyguard) - none of these are what springs to mind when you say 'Analyst' although they are all well-constructed careers in their own right. And of course there's Bounty Hunters. (One of my characters had a campaign-long feud with one of them... and there never was even a price on his head!) Best to pick your way carefully through these options and don't be afraid to relabel them to suit your needs.

The next section, Agencies, presents a selection of organisations for which an Agent character might work. Perhaps it's the Imperial Ministry of Justice, a local police force or a megacorporation. Each provides distinct benefits and opportunities... or you can freelance, living contract to contract, or even be part of the mysterious Eschaton Movement, supported by a range of religious groups.

Most Agents will sometimes find themselves doing things that are, quite frankly, against the law; and those in law enforcement need to know what the law is, so both (and of course their Referees) should read the next section, The Law in Traveller. In fact, most Traveller characters will at some point have a brush with the law! Anyway, the law varies from world to world, as designated by each planet's Law Level. These are gone into in more detail than in the core rulebook, giving an idea of what is available and what you are allowed to do at each one. Weapons, technology, information and the free movement (or otherwise) of people are all looked at in some detail. The next part looks at the legal investigative process, putting game mechanics into the various stages and enquiries - equally useful if the party is investigating something or someone is investigating them! Following this, quite naturally, is a discussion about what happens when the matter is brought to trial. This assumes a conventional adversarial system of prosecution and defence before a judge (and perhaps a jury) and lets you play out a court case or abstract it to a few die rolls... and then we come to punishment. This section ends with a few informants and a collection of case files which groups who'd like to play out an investigation and/or trial can use as a starting point.

The next section looks at Espionage in all its glory. If you want to play the Great Game, here's how. Pit agent against agent, acquire information by fair means or foul, go hacking... and find out about Imperial Agents as well as local governmental and corporate ones. There's an interesting bit about what happens to agents when there's a regime change too; and a piece on creating missions for your agents, including a random generation system.

With the 'officially sanctioned' stuff out of the way, the following section looks at the Dark Side of Corporations. This contains a wealth of information for anyone wanting to delve into this murky area. Corporate wars may be played out in the boardroom and stock exchange or more literally with corporate=sponsored military action. There are some basic details here, but if you really want commercial military personnel, go read Book 1: Mercenary instead! There is also discussion of sabotage and government subversion/takeover by corporations as well. Again there is a system for generating likely infiltration and sabotage missions for corporate agents.

A detailed analysis of Bounties follows. This can make for some fine adventures, whether your party engage in bounty hunting or are the targets of bounty hunters, so it's well worth reading. Again there's plenty of rules and game mechanical information to help you model the process... and there's a sub-section on assassination as well as a system for generating bounty hunter missions.

Finally there is a section on Agent Technology. Plenty of goodies for your agents to get their hands on here and a rather neat system for generating one-off prototype devices that may or may not do what that awfully nice fellow from Q Branch said they would when he gave them to you! There are even some new ship types, as well as small items such as a neural flash device (think neuraliser from Men in Black), holographic disguises and much more.

Irrespective of whether any of your players wants an Agent character, this is a worthy addition to any Referee's bookshelf if only for the legal processes section... but there are ideas a-plenty ready to spawn new adventures and even whole campaigns as well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book 5: Agent
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Book 4: Psion
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/04/2015 08:44:00
This book presents a comprehensive survey of psionics (the powers of the mind) within the Traveller game, with plenty of options as to how you can use them - assuming, that is, that you want to do so. In the Official Traveller Universe, they're frowned on in most places and strictly controlled where they are permitted, but you may choose to take a different view: and why not, it's your game after all.

The first section, Defining Psionics, sets the scene, reproducing the basic information and rules from the core rulebook. A chart shows how different technical levels of society view psionics as a general rule, with actual understanding of what is going on rare before TL6 or 7. This section provides a basic understanding of what is being discussed here, what psionics are all about.

Next, in Doors of Perception, there is more detailed discussion of how psionic abilities develop within an individual, how they are tested for and subsequently how the individual can be trained to use their abilities to best effect. The material here is based on the premise that everyone has some latent psionic ability, but that in many if not most of them it is miniscule. It also assumes that most if not all psionically-active people receive testing and training from some kind of institution. If you decide that psionics are openly accepted, it may even be possible to study and train at university, in a different setting the would-be psion may have to seek out an underground institute, an adventure in itself. An alternative route is via the practice of a religion that views psionic powers in a favourable light, or one might even find a mentor with which to train. Plenty of options for you to decide upon.

Then comes a section on Psion Careers. Naturally, there will be plenty of psions who do not follow a 'psion career' but are happy doing something else entirely, but especially in settings where psionics are accepted and may be practiced openly, there will be specific career paths open to them. Both the Babylon 5 and Judge Dredd settings published by Mongoose have their own distinct take on psion careers and if you are using either of those, leave this chapter aside and run with the relevant material there. Of the ones here, there are opportunities to become an agent either of an organisation responsible for controlling and policing psions or of one which uses psions as part of law enforcement, espionage or other activities. There are commercial and military options as well along with drifters, rogues, scolars, scouts, and specialist spacefarers. One really wierd one is the Temporal Agency, which monitors timelines, only of use if time travel is possible in your game, likewise there's the opportunity to work in an Interdimensional Agency if parallel worlds are possible. It's even possible to become the actual 'brain' of a spaceship, one career choice that is irreversable!

Next Psionic Powers goes into great detail about the actual powers a psion can develop, and introduces a lot of new ideas beyond the basics as found in the core rulebook or the first section of this book. There's also advice on how to devise new powers of your own. One neat set of powers are to do with ship handling, enabling the psion to 'fold' space and so travel the sort of distances the rest of us mere mortals use a Jump drive to cover!

And then comes the flip side, a section on Psionic Trauma. Psions can risk damaging themselves or even becoming insane through injudicious use of their powers, psionic attacks from someone else or even environmental phenomena... and it's not wise for psions to indulge in drug use (over and above the damage that substance abuse does to anyone). There are even FOUR whole pages of phobias to inflict on unlucky psions!

This is followed by a section on Psionic Equipment. It's quite surprising how much there is available for people whose power rests between their ears! Drugs, suppressors, detectors, enhancements... not to mention weapons and vehicles fine-tuned to their talents. The last section is more of the same, it discusses Mind Ships, that is, ships powered or at least controlled by the mind, and includes ships capable of both temporal and spatial travel.

It all depends on how you intend for psionics to be viewed and used in your game, but once you have decided that this book will help it all work both conceptually and in game mechanical terms. A good expansion to the core rules in this area.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book 4: Psion
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Book 3: Scout
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2015 12:36:57
For those seeking an exciting career in service but who do not wish to join the armed forces, the Scouts provide a fascinating alternative, and if exploring and mapping space is your delight, this is the place for you. This book sets out to expand on the basic Scout career in the core rulebook, with a wealth of new options, equipment and ideas to build and play Scout characters, active or retired.

The first section is Creating a Scout Traveller. Begining with some words of explanation about the nature of Scouts, what they do and the organisation behind them (in general terms, the IISS of the Official Traveller Universe are detailed later on) and presents the five main branches of service in the Scouts: Contact, Courier, Exploration, Special Operations and Survey. Each branch has a different role and outlook, but characters may change between them (providing that they qualify) each re-enlistment. The Scouts are one of those organisations you never really retire from, even retired Scouts are often asked to do just one more mission... which can provide focus to a party which includes a former scout, and it pays well too. Of course, there are penalties for refusing. It's all in the original employment contract.

The next section is Scout Missions, and discusses the sort of tasks you can throw at the retired Scouts in your party. There's a lot of detail here, beginning with the ways in which retired Scouts are tracked and approached when a mission they'd be suitable for comes up, and continuing with plenty of material about the missions themselves including tables for you to generate such missions if you don't have a clear idea of what you want them to do... and just reading through ought to spawn some ideas and get your creative juices flowing. In time of war, retired Scouts are also needed for covert missions, so if a war is brewing you might want to consider that as a campaign concept. This section also has extensive information about Scout bases and the services that they can provide, a fully-detailed sample mission and quite a few serving and retired Scouts your characters might encounter.

This is followed by a section of Equipment and Ships. There's all manner of interesting and useful items designed to make the Scout's life easier. There are various ingenious land vehicles for on-planet use as well as details on an array of space-faring vessels that go far beyond the standard 'Scout ship' familiar to most Traveller players.

Next comes the section First Contact and Survey. Classic Scout operations, they also make for good adventures, and suggest possibilities for a game involving serving Scouts rather than retired ones. The Scouts have built up extensive protocols for making First Contact designed to minimise harm to all concerned, and there's plenty of information here to enable the running of a First Contact scenario. Survey is another good area in which to involve a party, and one that can be run almost as a background whilst they 'enjoy' other adventures during their travels. Detailed tables for determining what a Survey finds are included, for when you do not already have a system designed ready to be surveyed.

The nect section is about the IISS Scout Service, the 'official' one you'd find in the Imperium of the Official Traveller Universe. (If you prefer your own universe, it still may give you some good ideas.) Here you can learn everything about the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service and the Imperial Grand Survey (originally a separate body in its own right but now part of the IISS), organisation, operations, and facilities.

Finally, there is the Survival section. By their very nature, Scouts tend to be good at it and have amassed a lot of skills and knowledge about staying alive. This section mixes lore and game mechanics to enable the Referee to adjudicate any survival situation. Different environments are discussed and there's plenty to give the Referee some excellent ideas for survival scenarios.

Overall this is an excellent analysis and resource to make Scouts an important part of your Traveller universe, even more so if you have Scout characters in the party.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book 3: Scout
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Book 2: High Guard
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2015 07:59:42
High Guard looks at virtually every aspect of the concept of a space navy that you can imagine, from an expanded character generation system for characters who have served (or even still are serving) in the navy to ship construction, space battles and naval adventures. If your Traveller game uses the 'Official Traveller Universe' the Imperial Navy will be a watchful presence any time the party ventures into the black, while if you have designed your own universe there's likely to be some form of military presence in space and this work will help you to create it. As well as the Imperial Navy, sub-sectors and even individual worlds may maintain their own navies to keep the space lanes open and defend against hostile incursions.

After an introduction that sets the scene, we move on to the first section, Creating a Navy Character. Based on the character creation processes in the core rulebook, this adds depth and variety to the Navy career allowing characters to attend Naval Academy before embarking on a career as a naval officer and to specialise in different branches of the service: Crewman, Engineering, Pilot, Gunnery, Command, Support, Small Craft Pilot, High Command, Naval Intelligence and Naval Research. All these are gone through in extensive detail. Characters can also choose to serve in the Imperial, subsector or planetary navies... and there's even a list of the medals that they might be awarded during their careers!

Next a section on Spacecraft Options begins the part of the book devoted to spaceship design. There's lots here to keep the would-be ship designer happy, covering everything from capital ships to small craft.

Once you have created all those vessels, the next section, Expanded Space Combat, enables you to test them against one another as it looks at every possible aspect of combat in the depths of interstellar space whether it is a battle between capital ships or a fast and furious brawl between single-pilot fighters.

Slightly confusingly, we then get back to ship construction with a section on Small Craft, which also gives plenty of examples of ready-made ones, and then on to a series of specimen capital ships - useful if you want one but do not have the time or inclination to go through the design process. Here, some of the deckplans are not well rendered, being rather cramped and blurry, making them difficult to read and only capable of giving an overview of the vessel concerned rather than the level of detail you will need if using them in a game.

Finally, there's a section on Naval Adventures. This looks at running a campaign where the characters are on active service, rather than independent adventurers with naval backgrounds. Several general ideas are presented and there's a random system for generating missions to use (or to gain inspiration from) as you design adventures.

Whether or not the party is still in the navy (or indeed has ever served), this book has its uses both in the ship design and combat sections and for providing a wealth of detail about the navy which will, of course, be at least there in the background even if it rarely features largely in your plots.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book 2: High Guard
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Book 1: Mercenary
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2015 08:55:32
Within the Traveller universe, many people - or at least, many player-characters - decide to earn their living utilising their combat skills. This book is aimed at the specialised mercenaries such as private military companies available for hire, and provides a wealth of detail for creating such characters and running mercenary operations. The Introduction explains this, and the role of mercenaries in Mongoose Traveller, in detail.

Then we move on to character generation, which starts with some enhancements to the military careers offered in the core rulebook. Now characters can begin their careers in the sort of navy that sails in boats or in the air force. There are also extended Mishap and Events tables for those who are in the army or the marines. This is followed by detailed information on creating a mercenary character. Here it's assumed that the would-be mercenary has already served some time in the military before choosing (or being forced) to leave and join an established mercenary group. This system is designed to allow the character to gain some experience in that trade through serving one or more standard terms before entering play. If you are intending a mercenary-focussed game, with the characters as active members of a mercenary group, you might want them to take at least one term as a mercenary to model their initial involvement in the profession and perhaps to establish their prior relationships with each other. There are several different areas of mercenary activity to choose from, depending on the sort of background you want your characters to have. These include being a guerilla as well as more 'legitimate' forms of mercenary activity which include security work as well as out-and-out combat units. There are even opportunities to become a gun-runner or arms dealer!

Next comes a section on new skills and specialties. Although they mostly have a mercenary aspect, most might be made available to any character. Suggestions are given for incorporating some of them into the Core Rulebook system if so desired for characters interested in mainstream military careers.

The next section is called Mercenary Tickets. This is the core of the system used to generate missions for mercenary characters - the Ticket is the contract that someone makes with their mercenary company for their services. It also serves as the mercenaries' legitimacy, much like letters of marque were all that distinguished between a privateer and a pirate... and your enemies may not take a blind bit of notice if they have decided that whoever hired you is a legitimate enemy or a terrorist organisation! However it does detail what the mercenaries are required to do and what they'll be paid for doing it. There's an entire set of game mechanics to model the process, well worth reading through for ideas even if you decide not to use it in its entirety. It also allows you to generate random tickets if you do not have a specific mission in mind. There are plenty of examples and explanations to help you keep the whole process on track.

Then comes a section called Recruiting Unit Members, which looks at the recruitment process in detail. Perhaps the characters have been sent to find new recruits for their mercenary group... but it also serves well as an aid to Referees wanting to create entire groups, whether to be other members of the group the party belongs to or the opposition (or even that bunch of mercs you run into every so often in your travels).

We then move onto a section of New Combat Rules. As well as enhancements to those in the core rulebook, there's an extensive unit-based system to model the larger battles that might occur in a mercenary campaign or indeed if war breaks out around the characters. This is followed by a section on Mercenary Headquarters and Military Bases. After all mercenaries - and indeed all military personnel - need somewhere to call home, and this section shows you how to provide such locations. They can also, of course, be the target of an attack! There's an interesting discussion of how such places have developed as technology levels have increased, so you can pick ones appropriate to the planet on which they are situated. Finally, there is a section of New Equipment - everything the well-povided-for mercenary might dream about!

This book fills an interesting and specialised niche - and is quite unlike the original Mercenary book of the original Traveller ruleset which contented itself with expanding on the army and marine careers. Even if you do not want to run mercenary campaigns, there's quite a lot of useful material - especially if you decide that the party might run into some mercenaries at some point in the campaign - which makes it worthy of consideration for inclusion in your library.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book 1: Mercenary
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Book 0: Introduction to Traveller
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2015 08:05:44
This book is a cut-down version of the Traveller ruleset, which enables you to take a look at the system before taking the plunge or to introduce new players to the game - at least, in terms of game mechanics and character generation. It's the sort of thing that might be quite handy to have with you at the table as a quick reference.

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

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

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

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

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

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Book 0: Introduction to Traveller
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Traveller Main Rulebook
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/28/2015 09:05:45
Traveller has been around for a long time, with the three original 'little black books' appearing in 1977, and this incarnation of the ruleset recreates the excitement of the first, with the same simple and elegant ruleset underpinning everything, streamlined to meet contemporary gaming tastes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Traveller Main Rulebook
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Dark Heresy Second Edition: Enemies Within
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/27/2015 12:05:48
So, Acolyte, where do you look for heretics? Do you find them clearly on view, participating in foul rituals as part of organised cults that anyone may join? Or do you sometimes look closer to home...? Many cults start off benign and drift - often without intent, unwittingly even - astray. There's no knowing where you will find heresy and mutants, especially within the ancient worlds of the Askellon Sector.

This book delves deep into this often hidden menace with particular reference to the Askellon Sector in three chapters. The first looks at the history of the Ordo Hereticus, the second provides new options and rules information and the final chapter explores the worlds of the Askellon Sector and the cults lurking thereon.

Chapter 1: Hereticus details the origins, history and operations of the Inquisitors of the Ordo Hereticus, also known as Witch-Hunters, whose purpose is to protect mankind from the threat of betrayal from within. They seek out corruption and burn it, often fairly indiscriminately. They are zealous to a fault and do not like being thwarted. Even those who welcome them frequently regret it. Their origins are shrouded in mystery and they go to great pains to keep it that way, prefering to work in secrecy and without accounting for their actions to anyone. They would prefer to burn hundreds of innocents to get a heretic or two, than let even one get away. They also treat their Acolytes as disposable assets, so take care before you take service with such an Inquisitor.

There is plenty more here too: organisations of witch hunters and some of the cults that they pursue. There are details of the many and varied philosophies that they hold, which must lead to some interesting debates when several are gathered together.

Next, Chapter 2: Fury and Fire looks at new options and additions to the rules, beginning with a selection of new home worlds that you can select. These are of general interest even if you want to steer clear of the Ordo Hereticus. Perhaps an agri-world, a feudal one or a frontier world appeals. Next are the Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas — a background of warrior women in service to the Ecclesiarchy. More risky, you might choose a background as a mutant, that is, one born a mutant rather than having acquired mutations later on in life. New roles such as the fanatic and the penitent are also discussed. There is also an array of new (and vicious) weapons as well as new armours in which to encase yourself. A select of profane artefacts is followed by specialised talents described as the Art of Hatred, for the Ordo Hereticus is fuelled by hatred of their heretical prey rather than any compassion for those whom they would protect from them. Finally there is an account of the process known as an Inquest, the specialist form of investigation used by the Ordo Hereticus to uncover heretics, reflecting their somewhat casual relationship to truth and justice and quantifying it in game mechanical terms.

The final chapter is Roots of Heresy, and this is a detailed look at the worlds of Askellon with special reference to the heresies to be found thereon. Game Masters will find it very useful, as it spawns plenty of plot ideas, moreover there's also a section on how to create heresies of your own as well as how best to present the tell-tale signs to knowing Acolyte eyes.

There's plenty of information to draw on here, painting Askellon as a far darker place that the Calixis Sector featured in Dark Heresy 1e. Perhaps that's due to the sector's age, for with age it seems comes decay and corruption. Of course, my mischievous mind promptly wonders what happens when someone within the Ordo Hereticus itself slips over the edge, turns bad and embraces heretical ideas and practices? Or are their excesses a sign that this has already happened? Whether your Acolytes choose to serve the Ordo Hereticus or encounter them as they go about their business, this book will help you bring it all to life. Pass the torch...

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy Second Edition: Enemies Within
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Referee's Aid 1: Among the Trojans
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/25/2015 13:03:26
This is a quite different adventure setting for Traveller, utilising the entirity of a solar system (which one doesn't really matter, just pick a suitable system in your universe) rather than seeing it as virtually empty space through which you travel merely to get to the 100D distance to turn on your Jump drive. The Introduction explains this, along with notes on what the party will need to get around there - any small vessel, which doesn't need to be Jump-capable, or even friends who have one and will give them a ride. The idea is that there's a fair bit of 'local' in-system traffic and characters will be able to hitch or pay for transportation if they do not have a suitable ship of their own.

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

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

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

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

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Referee's Aid 1: Among the Trojans
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