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Megan Robertson's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 5,351 posts (5,648 including aliases). 483 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 2 aliases.



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An RPG Resource Review

****( )

High Guard looks at virtually every aspect of the concept of a space navy that you can imagine, from an expanded character generation system for characters who have served (or even still are serving) in the navy to ship construction, space battles and naval adventures. If your Traveller game uses the 'Official Traveller Universe' the Imperial Navy will be a watchful presence any time the party ventures into the black, while if you have designed your own universe there's likely to be some form of military presence in space and this work will help you to create it. As well as the Imperial Navy, sub-sectors and even individual worlds may maintain their own navies to keep the space lanes open and defend against hostile incursions.

After an introduction that sets the scene, we move on to the first section, Creating a Navy Character. Based on the character creation processes in the core rulebook, this adds depth and variety to the Navy career allowing characters to attend Naval Academy before embarking on a career as a naval officer and to specialise in different branches of the service: Crewman, Engineering, Pilot, Gunnery, Command, Support, Small Craft Pilot, High Command, Naval Intelligence and Naval Research. All these are gone through in extensive detail. Characters can also choose to serve in the Imperial, subsector or planetary navies... and there's even a list of the medals that they might be awarded during their careers!

Next a section on Spacecraft Options begins the part of the book devoted to spaceship design. There's lots here to keep the would-be ship designer happy, covering everything from capital ships to small craft.

Once you have created all those vessels, the next section, Expanded Space Combat, enables you to test them against one another as it looks at every possible aspect of combat in the depths of interstellar space whether it is a battle between capital ships or a fast and furious brawl between single-pilot fighters.

Slightly confusingly, we then get back to ship construction with a section on Small Craft, which also gives plenty of examples of ready-made ones, and then on to a series of specimen capital ships - useful if you want one but do not have the time or inclination to go through the design process. Here, some of the deckplans are not well rendered, being rather cramped and blurry, making them difficult to read and only capable of giving an overview of the vessel concerned rather than the level of detail you will need if using them in a game.

Finally, there's a section on Naval Adventures. This looks at running a campaign where the characters are on active service, rather than independent adventurers with naval backgrounds. Several general ideas are presented and there's a random system for generating missions to use (or to gain inspiration from) as you design adventures.

Whether or not the party is still in the navy (or indeed has ever served), this book has its uses both in the ship design and combat sections and for providing a wealth of detail about the navy which will, of course, be at least there in the background even if it rarely features largely in your plots.


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An RPG Resource Review

****( )

Within the Traveller universe, many people - or at least, many player-characters - decide to earn their living utilising their combat skills. This book is aimed at the specialised mercenaries such as private military companies available for hire, and provides a wealth of detail for creating such characters and running mercenary operations. The Introduction explains this, and the role of mercenaries in Mongoose Traveller, in detail.

Then we move on to character generation, which starts with some enhancements to the military careers offered in the core rulebook. Now characters can begin their careers in the sort of navy that sails in boats or in the air force. There are also extended Mishap and Events tables for those who are in the army or the marines. This is followed by detailed information on creating a mercenary character. Here it's assumed that the would-be mercenary has already served some time in the military before choosing (or being forced) to leave and join an established mercenary group. This system is designed to allow the character to gain some experience in that trade through serving one or more standard terms before entering play. If you are intending a mercenary-focussed game, with the characters as active members of a mercenary group, you might want them to take at least one term as a mercenary to model their initial involvement in the profession and perhaps to establish their prior relationships with each other. There are several different areas of mercenary activity to choose from, depending on the sort of background you want your characters to have. These include being a guerilla as well as more 'legitimate' forms of mercenary activity which include security work as well as out-and-out combat units. There are even opportunities to become a gun-runner or arms dealer!

Next comes a section on new skills and specialties. Although they mostly have a mercenary aspect, most might be made available to any character. Suggestions are given for incorporating some of them into the Core Rulebook system if so desired for characters interested in mainstream military careers.

The next section is called Mercenary Tickets. This is the core of the system used to generate missions for mercenary characters - the Ticket is the contract that someone makes with their mercenary company for their services. It also serves as the mercenaries' legitimacy, much like letters of marque were all that distinguished between a privateer and a pirate... and your enemies may not take a blind bit of notice if they have decided that whoever hired you is a legitimate enemy or a terrorist organisation! However it does detail what the mercenaries are required to do and what they'll be paid for doing it. There's an entire set of game mechanics to model the process, well worth reading through for ideas even if you decide not to use it in its entirety. It also allows you to generate random tickets if you do not have a specific mission in mind. There are plenty of examples and explanations to help you keep the whole process on track.

Then comes a section called Recruiting Unit Members, which looks at the recruitment process in detail. Perhaps the characters have been sent to find new recruits for their mercenary group... but it also serves well as an aid to Referees wanting to create entire groups, whether to be other members of the group the party belongs to or the opposition (or even that bunch of mercs you run into every so often in your travels).

We then move onto a section of New Combat Rules. As well as enhancements to those in the core rulebook, there's an extensive unit-based system to model the larger battles that might occur in a mercenary campaign or indeed if war breaks out around the characters. This is followed by a section on Mercenary Headquarters and Military Bases. After all mercenaries - and indeed all military personnel - need somewhere to call home, and this section shows you how to provide such locations. They can also, of course, be the target of an attack! There's an interesting discussion of how such places have developed as technology levels have increased, so you can pick ones appropriate to the planet on which they are situated. Finally, there is a section of New Equipment - everything the well-povided-for mercenary might dream about!

This book fills an interesting and specialised niche - and is quite unlike the original Mercenary book of the original Traveller ruleset which contented itself with expanding on the army and marine careers. Even if you do not want to run mercenary campaigns, there's quite a lot of useful material - especially if you decide that the party might run into some mercenaries at some point in the campaign - which makes it worthy of consideration for inclusion in your library.


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An RPG Resource Review

****( )

This book is a cut-down version of the Traveller ruleset, which enables you to take a look at the system before taking the plunge or to introduce new players to the game - at least, in terms of game mechanics and character generation. It's the sort of thing that might be quite handy to have with you at the table as a quick reference.

There's a very brief overview of what Traveller is, but a single page, before it launches into Character Creation. Here the character creation checklist is given along with the basics of generating characterists, deciding on a homeworld (to determine background skills) and then choosing a career to have pursued before the character turns to adventure and the game begins. It's all quite straightforward and would be clear apart from typo and layout issues that bedevil the entire book, at least the PDF version. Fortunately these are more annoying than actually making it impossible to read most of the time. The prior careers available are Army and Navy only, but these are presented to the same level of detail as in the Core Rulebook, so characters generated with this book will have no issues integrating with a party created using the more extensive choice to be found therein.

The next section is Skills and Tasks. Here the task resolution process is outlined, complete with a few examples and a probability chart (useful for Referees wishing to set an appropriate level of difficulty, or players interested in their chances of success). Then there's a run-through of the skills available, with notes on how and when they will be useful.

Then comes a section on Combat, which provides details of how a brawl is administered using this ruleset. It's somewhat curtailed in comparison with the Core Rulebook's treatment of the subject, but there's enough here for even a novice player to understand what is going on and make an effective contribution to the proceedings.

Finally, there's a section of Equipment. Again this is a cut-down version of what is available in the Core Rulebook, but there's sufficient to see a character armed, protected and with basic gear. There's a blank character sheet at the back once you are ready to give it a go.

As a basic introduction to the game this is all right, but it would be best used in conjunction with conversations with an established player when a newcomer to role-playing is concerned. In print, it is quite expensive for what you get (you would probably be better off just going straight for the Core Rulebook), but the PDF is free and so could be downloaded and given to someone who is thinking of joining an existing game so that they have some idea, at least from a game mechanics standpoint, of what they are getting into. Note that I have not seen the 'dead tree' version, so do not know if the botched type layout is there, but despite the PDF having been updated since its first release, they are still there at the time of writing this review.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

Traveller has been around for a long time, with the three original 'little black books' appearing in 1977, and this incarnation of the ruleset recreates the excitement of the first, with the same simple and elegant ruleset underpinning everything, streamlined to meet contemporary gaming tastes.

It opens with introductory material including a bare-bones introduction to the concept of role-playing games, thoughts on suitable campaign types and a discussion of technology levels, which vary across known space. We then move directly into Character Creation, which as old hands will know, can be an absorbing pastime of itself never mind essential preparation for participating in an actual game. Starting by rolling characteristics, you then choose a homeworld and the career(s) your character has pursued before embarking on an adventuring career, the main purpose being to gain skills. It also builds a backstory for the character, who is generally quite a mature individual compared to other games. The backstory is based, like a lot of the career progression, on die rolls... and yes, it is possible to perish before you even start play! There's quite a wide range of careers available, over and above the predominantly military ones from the original game - as well as Navy, Marines, Army, Scouts and Merchants there are diverse careers like Entertainer, Rogue, Scholar, Agent (law enforcement), Drifter, Nobility and Citizen from which to choose. A neat addition is the 'skill package', a list of skills appropriate to the campaign type you want to play from which the characters take turn choosing skills that they lack, thus ensuring that the party can at least handle basic tasks that will arise. Add the mustering out benefits and you are ready to go. For those who do not like the basic system, there are variants such as point-buy characteristics and even skills, and details on generating alien characters. So far, a human has been assumed. This talks in general terms to begin with, but also introduces the standard Traveller races quite briefly, noting that each could fill a book by itself. (Over the course of time, these books have been brought out, you'll find them in the Third Imperium line.)

The next section is Skills and Tasks which opens with a explanation of 'Task Checks', the way in which actions are resolved. Most are either skill or characteristic based, with a standard 2d6 roll being modified according to the skills or other factors being brought to bear (brute strength, for example) and situational modifiers. For standard tasks, you need to get an 8 in total to succeed, but difficulty modifiers may be applied at the Referee's discretion to make it harder or more easy. There are plenty of examples, and these continue through the ensuing discussion of all the skills available and how they can be used to effect during the course of a game. This is followed by an extensive section on Combat, again well illustrated with examples and with a wide range of possible actions being presented.

Combat is not the only danger characters face, of course, and the next section - Encounters and Dangers - look at all manner of things other than brawls that could threaten life or limb or spoil your whole day - animals and environmental dangers (natural and unnatural), as well as how you heal, creating NPCs and more. The animals bit provides enough detail to let you invent strange critters to be encountered on the planets that you visit. Within the NPC section there are notes on giving them memorable personalities and a collection of ready-made Patrons to give the party something to do. This section rounds out with a wealth of random encounters and events that may be something going on in the background or else may turn into a complete adventure if not campaign.

Next comes a vast Equipment section which will let your character get his hands on virtually anything he might need for the forthcoming adventures. Not just weapons and armour (although there's plenty of those), there's all manner of stuff from drones to survival gear, medical equipment to communications and entertainment systems... you name it, it's probably there... apart from that necessity, a spaceship. This is dealt with comprehensively in the next section, Starship Design - again something that can be as much fun as creating characters. Examples are given, which can be used straight away if you do not wish to go through the whole process. Once you have a ship the following section, Starship Operations, explain the rules and concepts underlying its use, including operating costs and various dangers... and this is followed in turn by the Space Combat section.

The final sections deal with Psionics (powers of the mind, which you may or may not choose to allow in your game), Trade (with lots of tables to enable you to automate the process considerably yet model it fairly well) and finally World Creation. This provides an elegant system for devising planets in an awesome variety for the party to visit in their travels.

Well conceived and updated from the originals, this work recaptures all the excitement and sheer potential for adventure presented by those Little Black Books. A neat addition is little snippets of information scattered throughout in grey text boxes - anything from the tradition of Jump dimming to an adventure seed you could develop into a complete adventure - which are well worth ready. A worthy successor to the original Traveller which maintains its flavour, its essence, well.


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An RPG Resource Review

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So, Acolyte, where do you look for heretics? Do you find them clearly on view, participating in foul rituals as part of organised cults that anyone may join? Or do you sometimes look closer to home...? Many cults start off benign and drift - often without intent, unwittingly even - astray. There's no knowing where you will find heresy and mutants, especially within the ancient worlds of the Askellon Sector.

This book delves deep into this often hidden menace with particular reference to the Askellon Sector in three chapters. The first looks at the history of the Ordo Hereticus, the second provides new options and rules information and the final chapter explores the worlds of the Askellon Sector and the cults lurking thereon.

Chapter 1: Hereticus details the origins, history and operations of the Inquisitors of the Ordo Hereticus, also known as Witch-Hunters, whose purpose is to protect mankind from the threat of betrayal from within. They seek out corruption and burn it, often fairly indiscriminately. They are zealous to a fault and do not like being thwarted. Even those who welcome them frequently regret it. Their origins are shrouded in mystery and they go to great pains to keep it that way, prefering to work in secrecy and without accounting for their actions to anyone. They would prefer to burn hundreds of innocents to get a heretic or two, than let even one get away. They also treat their Acolytes as disposable assets, so take care before you take service with such an Inquisitor.

There is plenty more here too: organisations of witch hunters and some of the cults that they pursue. There are details of the many and varied philosophies that they hold, which must lead to some interesting debates when several are gathered together.

Next, Chapter 2: Fury and Fire looks at new options and additions to the rules, beginning with a selection of new home worlds that you can select. These are of general interest even if you want to steer clear of the Ordo Hereticus. Perhaps an agri-world, a feudal one or a frontier world appeals. Next are the Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas — a background of warrior women in service to the Ecclesiarchy. More risky, you might choose a background as a mutant, that is, one born a mutant rather than having acquired mutations later on in life. New roles such as the fanatic and the penitent are also discussed. There is also an array of new (and vicious) weapons as well as new armours in which to encase yourself. A select of profane artefacts is followed by specialised talents described as the Art of Hatred, for the Ordo Hereticus is fuelled by hatred of their heretical prey rather than any compassion for those whom they would protect from them. Finally there is an account of the process known as an Inquest, the specialist form of investigation used by the Ordo Hereticus to uncover heretics, reflecting their somewhat casual relationship to truth and justice and quantifying it in game mechanical terms.

The final chapter is Roots of Heresy, and this is a detailed look at the worlds of Askellon with special reference to the heresies to be found thereon. Game Masters will find it very useful, as it spawns plenty of plot ideas, moreover there's also a section on how to create heresies of your own as well as how best to present the tell-tale signs to knowing Acolyte eyes.

There's plenty of information to draw on here, painting Askellon as a far darker place that the Calixis Sector featured in Dark Heresy 1e. Perhaps that's due to the sector's age, for with age it seems comes decay and corruption. Of course, my mischievous mind promptly wonders what happens when someone within the Ordo Hereticus itself slips over the edge, turns bad and embraces heretical ideas and practices? Or are their excesses a sign that this has already happened? Whether your Acolytes choose to serve the Ordo Hereticus or encounter them as they go about their business, this book will help you bring it all to life. Pass the torch...


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