This supplement offers up a whole new way of playing Traveller, as well as ways in which to enrich your Traveller universe with a deeper complex history than ever before. To start with, the Introduction provides an overview of the scope of the book and presents a wider definition of a 'dynasty' than the typical concept of a succession of rulers from a single family - here it can refer to any group which gains and retains power from generation to generation, it could be a corporation or an association of like-minded individuals.
The first chapter is Creating the Core Dynasty. This can be done by one of three methods: rolling lots of dice, a point-buy system or by building it around your own group of powerful player-characters. Each dynasty will have rankings in certain characteristics which define what it is and how it behaves, ranging from how cleverly it behaves through how greedy it is and including things like is it militaristic and how popular it is, as well as how much attention it pays to its own history and traditions. If you are going to roll them randomly, each one has a value generated on 2d6. Point-buy makes high values extremely costly. Although it's suggested that the point-buy version is suited to Referees who want to keep a tight control on things, there's no real indication as to how, and a flat 100 points is given as how much you have to play with without any pointers as to how to vary that depending on the outcomes you wish to achieve.
Once you have those basic characteristics, you then need to sort out how that dynasty came to be, choosing things like a power base (the starting point - a noble family may choose an estate as their origin, a corporation may have a headquarters and so on...) and an archtype which determines something about the nature of the dynasty - a religious faith operates somewhat differently from a conglomerate or a military syndicate... or of course you can be traditional and establish a ruling family. You also need to decide (or roll) on how the dynasty is run - a single leader, or some kind of management team, with various options for both. Each choice confers certain bonuses and restraints on the fledgling dynasty. The chapter ends with brief notes on how to adapt the process for when your party of player-characters decides to establish its own dynasty.
The next chapter, Background and Historic Events, enables you to detail how the fledgling dynasty rose to prominence. This covers the first 100 years or so of its existance (but is skipped in the case of player-characters creating their own dynasty, their adventures to this point substitute for 'historic events'). Depending on the sort of dynasty it is, there are tables to roll on to determine what happened, as well as a general table of events that can happen irrespective of the nature of the dynasty being created.
This is followed by Through the Generations, a chapter that talks about what happens to the dynasty's resources and assets as time passes, enabling you to create a rich history of its rise and fall over a considerable period of time. There are optional 'goals' for the dynasty to aim for, quite grandiose and hard to obtain but conferring significant advantage if you manage to achieve them... but penalties are incurred if you fail. There are also threats and obstacles that beset any dynasty to contend with, and decade events that happen like it or not... sometimes a dynasty will fade or even fail completely and vanish from all but the most obscure histories, others will be strengthened or will even grow and flourish on the galactic stage.
The next chapter, Pawns, Schemes and Gambits, continues this theme. This contains a variety of tests and mini-games that model a single dynasty's growth and development as it seeks to influence the galaxy around it. Unlike character actions which are quick, these can take months or years to resolve. It can get quite complex but repays careful study if you want to get the most out of it.
Up until now, we've been discussing a single dynasty pretty much in isolation, but the next chapter - called When Dynasties Clash - goes some way to redress this, with some more mini-games that deal with dynastic interactions. This chapter in particular provides scope for a whole new way of playing Traveller - each player creating and running their own dynasty rather than a single character. It could also provide a meta-game background against which a more traditional campaign involving a party of characters - perhaps in the employ of one of the dynasties involved - is played out. Again it is quite involved mechanically, but the potential is here for some quite epic interactions - hostile takeovers to all-out war and quite a few 'dirty tricks' along the way. Some actions can be resolved quite quickly, others will take months or years before the outcome is known.
Next is Heroes and Villains... for these are not faceless organisations but ones headed by individuals. Whose name rings through the ages as a typical leader of a dynasty, an outstanding paragon who exemplefies its core character or an out-and-out rogue who flew in the face of all its values? In essence this is a specialised variant on character creation, to enable you to generate these notable figures - and perhaps even play them as a critical moment in dynastic history is played out. Special dynastic life event tables are provided, and the character may also use the appropriate ones for the career(s) that he has chosen to pursue. Perhaps these characters could be scions of different dynasties thrown together by some quirk of fate or design... or they might hail from the same dynasty and be in competition to become its next leader. Plenty of potential here for novel campaigns and adventures!
The final chapter, Roleplaying Traveller: Dynasty, looks at a whole raft of ideas about how you can incorporate the material in this book into your game. It includes ideas for adventures, and a collection of ready-made dynasties which serve as good examples or which can pop up as rivals, allies or enemies to your own or player-generated dynasties.
This can be classed as a game-changer: it widens the whole scope of Traveller from the individual character to larger groups which can occupy centre stage or mutter along in the background as you choose. There is plenty of potential here to add an epic dimension to your game... and like most things Traveller, much of it can occupy spare time when you are not actually role-playing if you fancy creating dynasties and using the rules to model their growth, conflict and eventual decline (or triumph) by yourself!
[5 of 5 Stars!]