Friday, April 14, 2017

Looking at Traveller 2nd Edition - Mongoose Style

Recently we kicked off a new Traveller campaign, which may be the main game for the near future while I re-orient ongoing campaigns to accommodate some group dynamic changes. This was my first opportunity to experience the 2nd edition of Mongoose's take on Traveller, and I have to say...not bad. In fact, kinda impressive.

The new rules are most notable for adding color....lots of it. These are definitely some of the nicest books Mongoose has produced in many, many years. The art is mostly on target with only one or two odd pics (the graduation pic comes to mind) and there's a lot of very useful illustrative art that focuses on showing what weapons and armor looks like....a brilliant decision on the MGT team's part to show this stuff off, actually. In this era, video games and film have made science fiction an incredibly visual medium, so a paper and pencil RPG which provides you with a sound visual aid on equipment like this book does is a great idea. Last time I saw this much effort in illustration was with Alternity from WotC, and before that it was the Chromebook series from RTG for Cyberpunk 2020.

The rules are now a bit more streamlined and clearly organized. If you wonder how they could get better, take a quick look at the way the combat rules are reorganized and's probably the best section of the book and also the best combat chapter to date of all editions of Traveller (that my memory can recall). Really smart, clean and functional with the information presented when and where you need it.

Character creation has also been reorganized and while few real changes have taken place, it makes the process smoother and more organized than ever before. The stumbling blocks of prior editions (MGT1) have been clarified to the point where there is little to no confusion at all.

The book provides shorter and more concise but still functional rules on animal encounters, while provided plenty of additional details on situational rules, skills, regular encounters, trade and world generation. For some reason world generation is in the back, but I don't particularly mind.

Starship generation has been streamlined and more detailed rules have been moved to High Guard, which is also out and as I absorb that tome I'll write more on it later. Some Traveller vets disliked this means you don't really have 100% of the core rules in the core book. I still have exactly what you need for most Traveller games in the core, and a much more robust compendium of ship design in the supplement. I'm still working through the ship design rules, but I like what I see so far.

Most impressive so far is that I haven't found any editing/errata issues. I am sure they are there (no game survives without a few) but compared to prior works from Mongoose in the past this may in fact be their first product to demonstrate a serious editorial effort that ranks them as professional for the first time. If this is proof that Mongoose has at last conquered the poor editing quagmire of prior years, then I must say, it will be nice to know I can count on their products to be properly edited going in to the future. Still gotta read High Guard and the Equipment Catalog, stay tuned.

Anyway, the actual play experience was great, and the players, three of whom were basically new to Traveller, had fun creating their exotic gang of free lancers. I ran some short patron encounters strung together for initial effect to provide situations to teach them the rules, but the truth is Traveller is a really easy system to learn and they quickly got in to it. Indeed, I am reminded that this edition of Traveller is very much an OSR game in terms of it's representation of the Traveller experience...playing this edition feels very close in complexity and style to my remembered experience with Original Traveller many eons ago (but with far fewer deaths during char gen, of course!)

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