Review: Traveller 2300AD (MongTrav)

2300ad_1I 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.

2300That 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.

Presentation

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.

Content

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.

T2300_gunsWhat 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.

Final Analysis

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.

Style: 2
Substance: 4
Total: 3

kennedy2aa1

Traveller OGL: Alienist RELEASED!

A full career path for the Traveller OGL
Many people are fascinated by alien cultures but for some it becomes an obsession and for a few, exceptional people they become a part of the culture that fascinates them. Accepted in a way that most never could be.

Caught between their own people and their obsession, the Alienist is a bridge between disparate cultures separated by light years, psychology and even biology.

Xenophiles are those who are truly in love with the alien and wish to become a part of it. They might be scouts or soldiers who have ‘gone native’ while stationed in alien dominated space or they may simply have become enchanted with the aliens through the image that they have in the media, seeing them as the embodiment of a concept or as something in their own species that has been lost or diminished. In extreme cases a Xenophile may be suffering from a mental illness, believing that they truly are a member of this alien culture that has become trapped in a human body. They seek to soothe their craving for belonging by finding a new home in an alien culture.

Xenoethnologists are scientists who specifically study the cultures of alien species. Rather than the dry, biological facts or a broad study of intelligent beings as a whole, they zero in on an alien culture and study it intensively, living amongst it and learning to translate meaning between that species and their own. The build bridges between different species and cultures that sometimes don’t even share base biology or senses, let alone concepts.

Tourists Tourists are fascinated by alien cultures in a more general sense. They want to experience as many of these cultures and viewpoints as they can, to travel far and wide seeking novel experiences and seeing strange wonders. They wander from port to port, trying to get off the beaten track, away from the well travelled and to lose themselves on alien worlds. Tourists often find themselves in trouble but this adds a frisson of excitement to their travels and and gives those who return to civilisation interesting stories to tell.

Buy download HERE

Low Tech Traveller

By low-tech I don’t really mean low-tech of course, it’s high compared to where we are today, just low compared to jump-travel and interstellar operations.

A lower technology level can help to create a tighter campaign and one based around what could, potentially, be the next, great, expansionary and colonial era of mankind (albeit without any inconvenient indigenous populations to get in the way).

Some people question whether humanity will ever reach out to the planets and stars, given the poor state of most national and international space programs these days. China looks promising and private enterprise seems to have a few ideas but these are relatively uninspiring and small in scale. Still, some people have some more optimistic views.

The main problem that stops space travel and solar system colonisation seeming viable is the payoff and the cost/benefit problem is largely down to the huge energy cost of moving things into orbit and the time involved just to crawl across our own solar system even to a neighbouring planet like Mars which, even with nuclear rockets, would still take something like four months. A long time to be cooped up in a ship, even if it’s less than the 200+ days associated with chemical rockets.

Energy Solution

Nuclear rockets are unlikely to become acceptable, let alone Orion-style bomb launches. The only likely solution, then, is going to be fusion powerplants which should give nuclear-style thrust at an – eventually – affordable price (at least compared to current launch processes).

Money Solution

If it becomes financially viable to do so some of the large, multinational companies that exist are likely to try and exploit space tourism and mining opportunities. If fusion does become viable then He3 mining on the moon could well become a very important energy industry – the other main source being deep underwater.

Asteroid mining is potentially very viable and as sources of rare minerals – and even common minerals – become harder to come by this is only going to become more viable. Mined asteroids could also well become ready-made habitats or even secure and relatively radiation-proof slow-ships.

Adventure In the Solar System

An expansionary period could well provide plenty of opportunities for adventure. Rival companies vying for access and claim-staking to asteroids and areas of moons. Colonisation efforts – particularly focussed on Mars.

A second wave, where travel and action becomes more viable for smaller companies or independent traders, fulfilling private contracts to supplement the corporate and national space corps.

Opportunities along the lines of a sort of ‘Serenity/Firefly’ vibe, at least in terms of the lawless frontier, if not the whole pseudo-western feel. The Chinese, being the only ones taking space particularly seriously as a manned endeavour at the moment are likely to have stolen a march on the rest of the world and have a lot of influence, so that aspect may be correct as well.

Piracy is unlikely, at least in space, but at stations and on the ‘ground’ ship theft may be possible. The real problem is that reports travel at the speed of light while ships are slower and whatever passes for local authorities are bound to be waiting. The only possible hope for theft would be licensed corporate or national piracy.

Adventures are likely to be survival, message carrying, crime, unusual passengers and filling in assorted corporate contracts.

 

I may develop some of these ideas a little more and write them up as a setting, if there’s any interest.

Cosmic Encounter Alien: Healer

Rapid geological activity forced extreme biological diversifications on the Healer home world. Possessing vast knowledge of herbal and mutant lore, Healers are now prized by other beings for their life-sustaining skills. Amidst loud rejoicing over new health, who could deny their modest fee?

 

Traveller

Notable Education +1

Healing Touch: Healer’s gain +1 to Animals (veterinary), Medic & Science (Biology) at the end of character generation.

Social standing is replaced by ‘Wisdom’.

Homeworld: Oosshanaa B988889-A Ga Ri

Starport B, 14.4k km, dense atmosphere, 80% water, hundreds of millions population, civil service bureaucracy, law level 9, tech level 10.

Starblazer

Healers have the following traits:

  • Life giver [Stunt] – With a touch a healer can remove stress from a target and place it upon themselves.
  • Supermind [Stunt] – Medical applications only.
  1. Bad eyesight: -2
  2. Weak to heat.

General

The swampy world of the Healers has its water distributed over its surface in many lakes, swamps and aquifers. The air is humid and everything is soft and wet. The atmosphere, thick with moisture and CO2 is perfect for growing plants and the whole planet is covered in thick and persistent growths from a multitude of highly evolved, highly specialised plant life that is very resilient and contains much in the way of complex chemistry. The Healers (Ullanoo) are part plant themselves and have a deep and innate understanding of the flows and complexities of life force and the chemistry of medicines.

Cosmic Encounter Alien: Hate

A short, physically unimposing race the Hate evolved in a crowded part of the cosmos and were pushed aside by other, more powerful races. Forced to subsist on food scraps and the leavings of the other species the Hate swore that one day they would be the ultimate power on the cosmic scene.

Traveller

Feral: 1d6 Edu

Strong Characteristic: +2 Edu

Small: 1d6 Str, 1d6 End, 3d6 Dex

Hatred: The Hate do +1 damage with any weapon that they wield.

No Fine Manipulators

Homeworld: Gatt C442BA4-9 Hi In Pr Red

Starport C, 6.4k km, thin tainted atmosphere, 20% water, hundreds of billions population, charismatic dictator (messiah), law level 4, tech level 9.

Starblazer

Hate have the following traits:

  • Berserk [Stunt]: Hate can enter a rage for a scene which increases their physical rolls by +1 but reduces mental and social ones by -1.
  • Jump [Stunt]
  • Hard Hide [Stunt]
  1. No fine manipulation
  2. Weak to taunting/social manipulation

General

The Hate (Gatta) are a third rate species looked down on and bullied by much of the rest of the species in the universe. This has given them a cultural feeling of inadequacy and a simmering rage that has been building for centuries, now expressing itself in a great crusade of revenge. Berserk and hateful they might look comical, but they pack a hell of a punch once they attack.

Cosmic Encounter Alien: Hacker

Masters of technology, the Hackers have embedded various devices into their bodies in an attempt to improve their skills at computer fraud. Although geniuses when it comes to code breaking and decrypting data, Hackers aren’t much good in more conventional battle. However more than one would-be conqueror has learned to their sorrow that the Hackers have nasty ways of getting revenge.

 

Traveller

Notable Intelligence & Education: +2

Small: Strength 1d6, Endurance 1d6, Dexterity 3d6

Cyber-Compatible: Cybernetic implants and computing devices of Hacker origin cost a Hacker half normal cost.

Compu-Brain: Hackers increase their Comms, Computer, Engineering (Electronics) & Sensors skills all by +1 at the end of character generation.

Homeworld: Stack A676A00-D Ga Hi Ht In Amber

Starport A, 9.6k km, standard tainted atmosphere, 60% water, tens of billions population, no government, no law, tech level 13.

Starblazer

Hackers have the following traits:

  • Small [Stunt]
  • Supermind [Science]
  • Supermind [Engineering]
  1. Weak to Electromagnetic attacks

General

Hackers are entranced by technology and have interwoven it into themselves at a very basic level. Given to extremely powerful and logical linear thinking they are born mathematicians and technicians and seemingly phobic of the natural world, perhaps given their difficult evolutionary history, the same history that gave them their powerful mentality and tool-using capabilities. Anarchic and libertarian the Hackers control much of the interstellar communication grid and collect a fast amount of data from other, more careless species.

Cosmic Encounter Aliens: Grudge

Suffering from a history of almost uninterrupted betrayal and disappointment, the originally kind Grudges gradually grew cynical. Expecting no good will from others, they began to brood and resolved to wreak vengeance on all who would turn aside their outstretched suction disc of friendship.

 

 

Traveller

Large: 3d6 Str, 3d6 End, Dex 1d6

Notable Strength & Endurance: +2

Slow Metabolism: -2 Initiative, half life support.

Homeworld: Golt B463924-A

Starport B, 6.4k km, standard atmosphere, 30% water, billions of population, participating democracy, law level 4, Tech level 10

Starblazer

Grudge have the following traits:

  • Hard Hide [Stunt]
  • Oversized [Stunt]
  • Cynical [Stunt]: +1 to resist being convinced/fast talked/lied to.
  1. Weak to psychological trauma
  2. Suspicious: -1 penalty to active social rolls.

General

A long suffering and noble breed the Grudge, or Hunash, have been exploited and manipulated through their normally placid nature by too many other species since they made first contact. Now deeply cynical their will and their slow strength is set upon expansionism and payback. Deeply cynical the Grudge are a world-weary species who find it hard to believe anything.