I loved the original Traveller 2300 in the boxed set. Poring over the scant pages it had a killer combination of (relatively) hard science, plausible background (this was the 80s and the Cold War was still on) and adventure of the type we were seeing in films like Aliens. It also had the depth of system that came with Traveller and while GDW’s system can be a bit unwieldy and odd, it seemed to suit 2300, possibly more so than regular, imperial Traveller.
Certainly, for the hard sci-fi fan, 2300 without psychics, with more ‘alien’ aliens and its basis in the 1969 Stellar Survey giving it a much more Clarkian/Bovan edge (many Bovans died to bring us this hard SF…). That’s a big part of the reason I liked it, despite an equal love for cheesy space opera and science-fantasy.
I had been umming and ahhing about picking up the MongTrav version of 2300 for a long time, but the BITS guys are hard to say no to and had a copy so, what the heck.
Mongoose’s 2300 requires a copy of their basic Traveller rules, of which I have the pocket version – itself great value for money. 2300 is a full size book of the ‘Palladium ilk’ (B&W interior, colour softback cover). It weighs in at about 300 pages and as a result of its size packs in a great deal of material.
Some things are updated, with some nods to developments in science and science fiction in the intervening years. In particular there are some nods to the overriding theme of transhumanism with more cybernetics information and DNA modification – somewhat calling to mind Blue Planet. You really have pretty much everything you need in one book with plenty of spaceship information, design rules, weapons, vehicles and everything else to play it straight out of the basic two books.
That said, Mongoose have supported the 2300 line with a book of adventures and a technology supplement. GDWs back catalogue is also available on RPGNOW, so you shouldn’t be wanting for material (which is probably about 90% compatible) with the MongTrav version.
The presentation of 2300 is disappointing. The print quality is not great, the cover isn’t particularly inspiring or evocative and whether cover or interior the book lacks contrast, which makes the art seem faded. Some of the CGI illustrations are… not great, while others capture the classic vehicles and design feel very well.
The layout is basic, but that’s fine. Needless complications are not the best. It is, however, inconsistent in that the titles and sections are lost with needless complications which – coupled with the lack of contrast – make those parts a hard read.
What is disappointing is that a particular memory – that of the wonderful weapon and gear illustrations from the box set – was not replicated here, replaced by a dry list.
No complaints here particularly. The book is packed with information and setting content. There’s plenty here for you to use and lots to read through.
The GDW 2d6 system, resurrected and tweaked in MongTrav is not the best for such a hard setting. It lacks granularity – at least at the personal scale – in a way something like BRP does and which makes BRP uniquely suited to ‘realistic’ gaming. It shines when it comes to starships and vehicles though and it wouldn’t take too much tweaking to add a bit more variety.
What was terribly disappointing, at least to me, was the failure to update the Near Star List and the ‘arms’ of exploration, along with the failure to update the background. It’s not like there weren’t options, there having been reports on the dangers of limited nuclear exchanges resulting from proliferation (leading into alternate post apocalypse scenarios) and updated stellar cartography. Dr Ganymede has done his best to address the second problem HERE and, given time, I might spend a little effort on these issues myself.
I bought the book for sake of nostalgia and, paradoxically, found the lack of updated information to be the biggest disappointment (presentation being the second). It would, perhaps, have been a great deal of effort to update the near star list and the background, but it would have made the new version of the game really stand out and fit a modern outlook – enhanced by the renewed interest in exoplanets and planetary exploration.