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.
[4 of 5 Stars!]