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.