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Megan Robertson's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 5,392 posts (5,689 including aliases). 494 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 2 aliases.

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An RPG Resource Review

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Previous supplements have provided an abundance of spacecraft of all sizes, shapes and uses: now it is the turn of planetary transportation. This book presents nearly a hundred vehicles of various kinds that the party might use planetside, and if none is right for your needs there's a vehicle design system to let you create your own. The same system has been used to create the pre-made ones presented here, which include some from the core rulebook which have been done over with this system. It's recommended that you use these rather than the original versions, although the differences are not that great.

The different types of vehicle addressed are aircraft, grav vehicles, hybrid (i.e. multi-terrain) vehicles, land vehicles, walkers and watercraft. Most listings go up to Tech Level 9 or 10, whilst the grav vehicle ones start at TL8 - after all, if you have grav technology, you do not need to be too concerned about the surface over which you are travelling and will only want specialised vehicles for different terrains for sport/leisure use or when you have an extremely specific need best met by other than a grav vehicle.

First of all, however, the design process is laid out in detail. Like most Traveller design processes, it's something you go through step by step making various choices. It's all very clear and leaves you with a clear understanding of how planetside vehicles are defined - thus equipping you to comprehend each of the ones presented later, even if you do not want to create your own. If you do, of course, you now have the tools you need!

The collection of pre-made vehicles follows, each laid out in a standard format which begins with a brief description of its nature, appearance and uses followed by its statistics and usually a sketch. The range is wide, but generic - if you want different makes or brands of motorcycles, say, you will need to modify the single basic one to suit your needs. Familiar standbys like the air/raft appear, as well as vehicles from present and past (even a gypsy-style wagon). Aircraft include dirigibles and helicopters as well as prop-driven and jet aeroplanes, with canoes and submarines rounding out the watercraft section.

You might be questioning the need for such detail - well, it all depends on what you want to do in your game. If planetside transportation becomes significant, you need to know... I still recall a game some 30 years ago which involved a madcap rush across a planet to escape a revolution. All the party could find was an internal combustion land vehicle much like a contemporary car... and all we could muster skillswise was Jack-of-All-Trades 1 and a willingness to try to drive! Yet that low-tech game is still a stand-out memory of all the Traveller games I've ever played, including the scream from one player that brought around the heads of an entire convention hall, and of course the numerous retellings in bars thereafter. You may not be planning anything of that nature, but it illustrates just how wide a range of activities, and resources, a Traveller game can encompass. So even if you don't think you need such detail now, there may come a day... It all adds to the realism of your alternate reality if you can, when necessary, drill down to this level.

And yes, I was the player with J-o-T 1 and more courage than sense.

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An RPG Resource Review

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More than a mere 'supply catalogue', this book not only presents a vast array of items that Traveller characters might wish to have in their possession, it links them to Tech Level and provides the information a referee might need to decide whether or not each item is actually available. To this end, it begins with a lengthy discussion of what lies behind the bare numbers of a Tech Level, and looking to the dizzy heights of TL20 or beyond.

This initial discussion continues with a look at what Tech Level means within a society and how imports may exceed local Tech Level, often by quite a lot, although you'll probably need to import support personnel to keep high level items running as well. Also it may not be uniform: some areas such as transportation or communications may be higher (or lower) than the average TL of a world that appears in the records. The nature of society changes as TL increases as well, with more leisure time and the need for more sophisticated forms of entertainment as well as greater trade opportunities as it rises, with more people being engaged in activities other than day-to-day survival. There are also notes on low-tech versions of items, representing invention, prototyping and the creation of low-tech solutions to higher-tech problems. Likewise, a higher-tech version of a lower-tech item can be devised. All quite interesting and well worth a read if you want a realistic and varied approach to technology across your galaxy.

This all depends on being able to craft and to understand devices, and rules are provided to enable such cross-TL endeavours. Even once you have determined what is possible, the next question is how legal it might be... and that depends on what the item is, where you want to have it, who you might happen to be, and on a web of permits and restrictions that balance out the needs of local worlds and galactic society - the Imperium, if it exists in your universe - as a whole. Even if you have the correct paperwork, and the necessary funds, it may not be easy to actually find that particular item you're after... All this discussion is underpinned by the necessary game mechanics to enable you to administer the processes involved within your game. This section rounds out with some miscellaneous rules for computer hacking, sensor use, firing artillery and a selection of non-lethal weapon and drug use.

We then move on to the actual items in the catalogue, grouped as Personal and Light Support Weapons, Support and Artillery Weapons, Personal Protection, Survival and Field Equipement, Electronic and Medical Equipment and finally Subsistance and Living Expenses. This makes it easy to find what you're after, or allows you to browse to your heart's content in an area that interests you.

Each section starts with some general discussion of what's there before diving into actual items, which are ordered by TL (lowest to highest) and come with description, statistics and quite often an illustration... although at times you are left guessing as to which drawing in a picture refers to which item in the accompanying text! What's nice is the detail in things like ammunition type and accessories to go with your shiny new purchase. There are also some neat advertisements for specific products, although in general everything is kept pretty generic - a 'shotgun' rather than manufacturer and model details. Needless to say, personal weapons get far more coverage than any other items but there are some neat things tucked away within the survival and medical gear sections.

The discussions on how to handle Tech Level and associated material elevate this work above a mere equipment catalogue, but if it's a shopping spree you're after there is plenty to be had here.

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An RPG Resource Review

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Following on from Supplement 2: Traders and Gunboats this book concentrates on warships, the large military vessels that keep the black safe for all citizens of the Imperium... or which might mix it up when pocket empires clash. Just how much use you'll have for them depends on the nature of your game, they may just be 'ships that pass in the night' as background to those for whom space travel is just the means to get to the next adventure, home to serving military, a time to reminisce for veterans, or something to be worried about for parties up to no good...

All ships have been designed using the rules in the Traveller core rulebook and Book 2: High Guard, some will be familiar, reworkings of old favourites whilst others are quite new. They are organised into five sections, making it easy to find the precise ship you want. The sections are Small Craft (basically carrier-borne fighters), Small Starships, Cruisers, Carriers, and Battleships.

Each vessel comes with a brief description outlining its role, full statistics, deckplans and quite often an artist's rendering as well. Even the largest ships show how necessary it is for military spacefarers to be able to do with very little space, and the smaller ones make present-day submarines look roomy! Anyone playing an ex-Navy character should note... and compared to the Marine barracks on those ships that have them, even a crew stateroom looks spacious.

The range of different vessels makes it easy to create your own battlegroups, and - like many aspects of the Traveller system - it would be easy to while away your time setting up navies, naming ships and devising their histories. If your mind is filled with images of movie starships, some of these come quite close - notably the Gionetti-class light cruiser, which looks rather like the Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer. It might be fun to use the rules to build some of your favourite vessels from other spacefaring tales, too, using these ships as inspiration.

Even if your party does not have serving or retired military personnel amongst them, there are plenty of ways in which they might have occasion to interact with a warship - perhaps they are invited to a cocktail party with the Captain, or are evacuated from a world in the throes of civil war or natural disaster... just flipping through can spawn myriad ideas. Overall, this is another book that helps round out the background of your galaxy, making it come to life with more detail, ships that may only be seen in passing but which are every bit as 'real' as the one the characters are in.

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Where would a traveller be without his starship? Stuck one one planet, that's where... and even if an adventure keeps the party planet-bound by choice or fate (or enemy action) at some point they are going to move on. It's integral to the game, it's not called Traveller for nothing! In the early days, there were just a handful of ships described, and nearly every party romped around the galaxy in a Type S scoutship or a Far Trader (and they are still popular choices), but just as if you look out of your window you'll see a vast selection of cars and trucks and other vehicles, so will the space of the far future be filled with a dizzying array of different vessels, large and small. Here's a selection. Some the party will see, some they will interact with in some manner, maybe one or two they can call home... others they might covet, or fear.

Organisation is good, to help you put your hands on just the ship that meets your needs. There are drones (unmanned vessels), small craft (non-Jump capable) divided into civil and military types, civilian ships, criminal vessels, auxiliaries (military vessels in the main but not warships), system defence boats and full-blown warships to choose from. All have been designed in accordance with the rules in the Traveller core rulebook and Book 2: High Guard.

Each ship (apart from the drones which only have descriptions and statistics) comes with a brief description, full statistics, deckplans and quite often a sketch as well. There's plenty to look at here, and just leafing through is fun. Some are familiar, re-workings of craft that have been seen before, and others are wholly new.

A lot of these ships, of course, are quite unsuitable for the average party of characters - that doesn't mean that they might not find that one of these 'unsuitable' vessels is all that they can lay their hands on! - and it will depend on what they are trying to do which of the more suitable ships will fit the bill. There are several cargo/trade ships for those who'd like to make their living as merchants, a few luxury yachts if they would prefer to travel in style, and a few more unusual ones like the Animal Class Safari Ship, designed to carry hunting parties to frontier worlds in search of exotic game... complete with facilities to bring specimens back for sale to collectors or zoos if the hunters don't want to kill them outright.

Many groups will head straight for the Criminal Ships section, and there are ships designed for piracy, smuggling and salvage operations (this last is not necessarily a criminal activity but...). Some of the Auxilliaries will interest those characters engaged in mercenary operations, the Light Assault Transport catches the eye, complete with drop-pods to launch troopers straight into battle if you don't want to send them down by shuttle. Groups who want to go into the passenge business might like the Type M Subsidised Liner, whilst if your game involves serving military personnel, any of the warships might be their home - and veterans may have served aboard in their past. And if not, who knows what the characters will encounter in their travels.

Overall it is a good selection of useful ships with which to populate your galaxy. Some the characters may come to know intimately or even call home, others will be no more than a blip on the sensor screen or something seen at a distance around a docking facility... but they add variety and the air of a galaxy where life goes on whatever the party is doing!

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An RPG Resource Review


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.

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