Originally Published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/01/17/quickworldsfortraveller
Quick Worlds 17: Tal’Kalares – A cleverly laid-out dense atmosphere world, with a series of “convenient” plateaus that provide standard atmospheric pressure. A solid hook into ancient alien terraformers. Wilds down in the denser “Bottoms” where well-designed and thought through animal encounters are likely. A matriarchal society, albeit not an oppressive one. And plenty of chance for adventure as you tie in visits to the “Bottoms” and the discovery of pre-colonial artifacts that have been found there – Is the government keeping other finds secret, or have they just not found anything else yet?
So you’re GMing a game of Traveller, and your players decide to pull a fast one on you. No matter how you guide them, they have made up their minds to pull up stakes and head to a different system, abandoning the one on which you invested so much time in setup and preparation. They hop in their Free Trader and hit the jump button, arriving somewhere else entirely, expecting you to pull adventure and excitement out of your… well, you know where.
What do you do?
Of course you can just stop your game for a while, pull out the books and generate a world, or even pick one off of the map you have drawn up with some loosely generated world stats. Then you’re either wasting more precious gaming time coming up with new plots and hooks and double-crosses, or you’re winging it for the rest of the session.
Or you can pull out one of the Quick Worlds series from Gypsy Knight Games!
Each supplement is a complete survey of a system in it’s entirety. Everything that can be easily detailed is, including a full survey of all of the stars, planets, moons and the like in the system, as well as the civilizations that reside upon them.
Most of the books come with some depiction in addition to the text of the layout of the system, either with a map of the orbits, or for a world with a significant number of moons, a map of that world and all of her satellites. In addition, the primary world will be mapped out in the traditional, “world as a 20 sided die” Icosahedral projection, with indicators of terrain type and the location of major cities and starports.
At the world level, descriptions of the terrain and atmosphere, as well as the presence of any seas of note are made, as well as a general survey of the climate on the world. Major cities are discussed, and government and legal systems are broken down in more detail than can be represented by a single die-roll. This tends to be where the plot hooks begin to pop up in inset boxes, with indications of how real conditions are in comparison to how the world itself wants to be perceived. Each city and spaceport is described, to some level of detail, without going into too much depth..
Finally, further information about the system as a whole, and how it interacts with visitors and its neighbors is discussed, and plot hooks and ideas are expanded upon, with a focus upon the sort of character background that might find a reason to come to this particular world – be it a mercenary company that could be hired to put down a rebellion, or an agent or scoundrel working one side or the other of a smuggling operation.
The content of the books are top notch and generally useful. The presentation, on the other hand, leaves a little something to be desired. Already short texts, the first two pages of each PDF are the cover art and credits, and the last two are the standard licensing boilerplate, leaving some of the books to less than ten total pages of content. This wouldn’t be the end of the world for a $4 product, but a frank look at the presentation of that content immediately shows where layout tricks were employed to pad things further. Margins are a full inch and a half, with an additional half-inch “gutter between the two columns. Combine this with a 14 point font, and things go quickly from “published book” to “freshman English essay” territory.
A better solution, albeit a less financially beneficial one, would be to take these guides and merge them together into a series of books. Each one would have two, three, or even five complete systems in them. The font could be normalized, and the margins shrunk, and it would still give 20 or so pages of solid content, which could be sold for a very understandable $12 or so.
Are they useful? Heck yes – they can be a real lifesaver. That said, I don’t know that I’d invest in them myself, as I could fairly easily generate these statistics from Book 6:Scouts (Classic Traveller), and come up with the necessary military, political or corporate intrigue on my own. If you’re just starting out, though, they make a great primer on what real preparation for a “sandbox” game looks like.