Review #001 – Mongoose Publishing’s Traveller

So to the first review… and I guess it only fitting that we start with something that has had a lot of words written about it here already… Mongoose Publishing’s Traveller

 

Introduction

Traveller has been around in some form or other since the dawn of RPG’s. So for Mongoose to take another shot at publishing it was a brave thing to do considering all of the old timers who so loved their old game, be it Classic, MegaTrav or some other flavour.

So how did they do? Well let’s look at the book in sections and then summarise it so we don’t get lost.

 

Style

Traveller has always projected a style of being a hard sci-fi system and setting and Mongoose has done nothing to change this. I consider this a good thing and so should the old timers, none of that fancy sci-fantasy here, just good reasons why things are like they are. For example, with communications, you can’t just call up a friend halfway across the galaxy and have a quick chat (I’m looking you here Star Wars!) Radio signals do not travel faster than light so it’s impossible and no fudge has been introduced to account for it. Mongoose has kindly added a list of fudges for Lightspeed/Faster than light/

Warp/etc if you so wish to use them, but that is just a bonus and not considered a standard rule for the default setting.

All in all, if you want hard evidence and logical science in your sci-fi, then this game is probably your answer.

 

System

The system is pretty much built upon the old Traveller systems of old. Not much has changed. It’s a D6 system where the player rolls 2D6, adds skills and stat bonuses and modifiers and tries to get a result of 8 or more. Simple, neat and easy to use. Now it may sounds like PC’s will be able to do anything really easy in this way, but a couple of things need to be pointed out. Firstly Skills here are not huge levels of bonus, if you have a rank 2 in a skill consider yourself an expert, rank 1 or even rank 0 skills are far more common. Secondly modifiers can be added by the GM to make tasks more difficult or easier if they think that it is required, on top of any situational modifiers.

Now the special part about Traveller has always been the parts of the system that can almost be looked upon as “mini-games”. Creating a character, detailing a system or world, designing vehicles and more have always been a fun way to waste time for GM’s in Traveller. This book keeps to that premise with another fun character generation system that is inspired by the Classic Traveller system. Characters follow a lifepath, building skills and a back-story of sorts during creation that really helps a player identify with the PC and gives them a very strong basis to work with when considering their action in game. System Generation is the same, giving a rich feel to any setting that the GM, if he cares to, can build upon. This system also should spark the creative juices for any GM as he works through it. “Hmm I just rolled up a world with high tech and no population…. Robots!”, “A world with no water and lots of people… trading water with others for survival maybe, Ice Shipping through space…” And so it goes on.

 

Setting

It has to be said here that Traveller has no default setting. The book is gear towards the official Traveller universe, but it is essentially without setting for all intents and purposes. Indeed Mongoose has since released a setting book, called The Spinward Marches that details a full sector of the official Traveller universe. Also more books are in the pipeline for other settings using the Traveller system (Babylon 5 anyone?)

That said being, any setting used in Traveller is going to be at the harder end of the sci-fi scale unless the GM puts in some considerable work. As I mentioned in the introduction, things in this game do not happen with a wave of a magic wand or some technobable explanation. Everything is a logical extension of the science as we understand it today and anything beyond that is something that the GM will have to work out for themselves.

 

Layout

The layout of the book is very much of the clean and crisp school of thinking. The book is written in an easy to understand tone and is pretty clear in most respects. The one point that I found a problem with was the system generation rules are not laid out in a very organised fashion. Some things seem to be in the wrong order or even missing. I did wonder if this was a last effort kind of deal as this section is at the back of the book and seems to have been given less care and attention than the rest of the book. Still after a second or third read through, a GM should be able to create systems and planets without too much trouble.

The book is a hardback which is nice considering that it is less than 200 pages long. It just shows how much Mongoose cares about having a nice clean product that can be used and abused without it falling apart or looking scruffy like so many softback rulebooks seem to be after a few game sessions.

 

Art

Much has been said about the art in this book before so I’m not going to labour the point. Basically the art is all simple black and white. In some places it looks pretty good, in others, no so good. I’m also led to believe that Mongoose has changed the artwork in later reprints to much nicer stuff. (Not sure I agree with this as surely it should be a revised edition rather than just a reprint) Other than that the cover is inspired by the old Classic Traveller books, which is a nice touch, and the art for the spaceships is really cool as well.

 

In Play

In play the rules work well. They don’t seem to get in the way of good roleplaying and the simple task resolution system is easy to use and understand. Combat is fast a fairly deadly and so far seems to be pretty fluid thanks to the simple skill system. So far I’ve found that players like the system and the default setting has many fans out there already.

 

Overall

Overall, I’m pretty happy with my copy of Mongoose Publishing’s Traveller. My 2 only regrets are that I wish I had held off buying it on the day it came out so that I could get a newer copy with the updated art and errata, and I wish that they had laid out the System generation rules a little clearer. Other than that I really do love the game and will probably use the system for lots of things other than just playing around with the default setting.

 

The RPGBrainDump Checklist for good books

Index

Check

7 pages long and easy to read

Table of Contents

Check

 

Adventure Seeds

Kind of

System generation system should give you lots of inspiration

Character Sheet

Check

Clean, but a lot of wasted space with Stats taking over 1/3 of the sheet

Chargen Summary

Check

Step by step summary

Stat Level Meanings

Absent

Easy to work out due to stat based dice modifier

Rules examples

Check

Lots of good examples

 

Scores

Style

4.0

System

4.5

Setting

3.0

Layout

4.0

Art

3.0

In Play

4.5

Overall

23.0 / 30.0

 

Scores – rpg.net Style

Style

4.0

Substance

4.0

 

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