Oriignally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/01/31/tabletop-review-travell-
Mongoose Publishing provides regular, free content to supplement your Traveller game each time they release an issue of Signs & Portents magazine. If you’ve not kept up with them, periodically they release the Traveller-related content from these issues in a single volume under the title Compendium. Compendium 2 is the second of these collections, and compiles a significant number of adventures with additional rules and campaign ideas.
The first 140 pages are dedicated to adventures that you can drop right into your Traveller universe. Most excitingly for me, as a player from back when the game was first released by GDW in the late ‘70’s, several of these adventures are based on adventures originally released for Classic Traveller.
The first adventure, Annic Nova, is a classic, doubtless inspired by A. C. Clarke’s “Rama” novels – it pits the players against the unknown with an alien space ship to explore and perhaps tame. The sheer size of the ship contributes to the amount of information provided by the adventure, but it is well laid out, and explained thoroughly. The standard caveat for GMs – to read the whole adventure before you run it – is especially important with Annic Nova.
Otherworld Blues is a much more modern adventure – at least on the surface, with the players called upon to test a new online game system. For all that it’s couched in terms of modern MMOs, the underlying goings-on are as old as time itself, and a nice twist on an old idea.
Following on from Otherworld, Old Acquaintances serves as a sequel to the former, if it worked well at your table, with the players moving up from online gaming to high-technology training software testing and validation. Perfectly acceptable as a stand-alone adventure, it does dovetail nicely with the contacts made in Otherworld, and plays best as a sequel.
The Thing in the Pit is a psychological horror adventure, based on an old TV show, but rooted in paranoia and civil unrest. It will probably challenge your players more than any combat-oriented adventure ever could, but will require a very role-play intensive group of players to really enjoy it to the fullest. It can also lead to one of the most satisfying scenarios that a role-player can hope to find himself in – one where personal sacrifice can make him a hero.
Continuing in the suspense/horror vein, Death Station gives the players a space station that has gone off-line and no longer communicating with anyone to explore. Another game that will let you play with the player’s heads, and if you were to follow off of The Thing with this game – another resuscitation of a Classic Traveller adventure – your players would be extra-sensitive, and perhaps even more likely to build the tension for themselves.
Alien culture is at the center of the adventure Of Dust Spice and Dewclaws, giving the players a chance to be introduced to the Aslan, or, if they have a previous connection, a hook into the adventure. This is a fairly straight-forward recovery mission, with the party being hired to return a misplaced cargo of some value lest the ship’s captain lose face, with dire consequences. It can be played out like a police procedural, with all the twists and turns inherent in that genre, plus the added twist of interacting with aliens who are touchy about personal honor. A good one, all things considered.
Taking a turn into survival adventure, Spinward Fenderbender has the players escorting an expensive and somewhat dubious cargo between worlds when the liner they’re travelling on is hit by another ship. Designed around a party of space-savvy characters, don’t spring this one on just any party – there are some skills that are essential to success. Players must escape their wounded ship, secure their cargo, get through all the red tape associated with the experience, a few twists and double-crosses, and see it through to the final destination.
More high-tension adventure is in order in A Festive Occasion, with the players befriending, and then being put in a position to rescue a local noble when he is kidnaped by terrorists. This adventure will serve agents and other investigator types well, as well as allowing some combat oriented characters to shine at the same time. It’s a very old idea, packaged nicely for a high-tech Traveller game. It’s very time sensitive, but allows for modifications to suit your own game’s timeline as well.
Rescue on Ruie is a classic action movie plot – a corporate magnate pays the players to rescue his son, taken prisoner in a political move. This one is going to be all about the combat, so may not be appropriate for your standard crew of misfits on a freighter game, but for those who have some skills with survival and weapons, it will be a refreshing change from adventures based around trade. It even comes with it’s own sequel plot hooks built into the conclusion of the adventure.
Many pre-built adventures suffer from being too combat or action focused. A Helping Hand doesn’t provide fully written-out adventures, but does provide some ideas for how to build greater roleplaying into your roleplaying. Does your crew have someone qualified to be a doctor? He might be seen as a miracle worker on a low-tech world full of people in need. If your players are ecologically minded, they can be pulled into an adventure utterly without profit motive, helping to clean up a natural preserve. They can become heroes in the eyes of dozens of school children by picking up the slack when another freighter captain backs out on his offer to take the kids into orbit and show them how a spaceship works. All of these ideas blossomed in my mind as I read them, and I saw huge potential for a great session that didn’t have to involve attack rolls at all, and would leave you with plenty of hooks to loop back around to in the future.
Full to the top with adventures, the compendium then gives you more hooks in the manner of Old Flames and A Friend In Need, with a list of possible former relationships, from all perspectives, be they now enemy or ally, and patrons to drive new adventures, be they hiring the crew, or calling upon an old friendship to do them a favor.
Rules are provided to better flesh out the process of running and, more to the point financing, a ship. This dovetails nicely into yet another adventure – one that can take your unlucky crew, none of whom mustered out with any ship shares, into the space travel business, with a ship that comes for free, but not free of entanglements. The whole course of the adventure serves to get them back into flying trim, for all that it’s called The Flying Money Pit.
Now really done with adventures, the book spends time on alternative rules, as well as new items to slot into your campaign. Rules are presented for how to handle large-scale battles without all the extra die rolls associated with individual combat. Working with the above merchant article and adventure are ideas for how to keep every single party from going rogue and skipping out on their enormous bank loan. Extra-dimensional travel is discussed, as well as ideas for how to explain why a particular character isn’t involved in this week’s adventure. Optional rules for equipment availability are presented, as well as new and exotic equipment in the Space Bazaar. The SuSAG corporation is presented at some length, and a quartet of new “aliens” are presented – think Terminator, Planet of the Apes, Gothic Horror and Zombie Apocalypse and you’ll have them pegged. And it closes out with a new career option, the Xenologist, less a scientist than Steve Irwin in space. Included are new animal rules and rules for being an animal trainer.
It’s a huge amount of information, and together can add a great deal of spice to your campaign. It’s all available in pieces in the various Signs and Portents magazines that the articles are culled from, but the price is well worth it for the work of collecting it all in one place.