Saturday, May 17, 2008


I've now had a chance to skim through the new Mongoose Traveller Core Rulebook. I haven't read every word, but I've gone through the important bits and wanted to give my initial impressions. I may post about it again later after I've read more if I find other good bits, or if I come across something broken that I haven't noticed yet.

This is the game I was hoping for back in 1987 when GDW released MegaTraveller. It takes the core mechanics from the original game, unifies them without adding a bunch of new complexity, and deals with some of the outstanding issues that the game had.

The core mechanic is roll 2d6 for 8+ to succeed at a task. Skills, attributes, difficulty level and sometimes situational modifiers are added to the roll. The result is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. Combat has more situational modifiers, but otherwise works the same as other tasks. The Combat rules take up only nine pages, but seem to cover most common situations, including vehicle combat (although space combat is covered separately).

Even problem areas like automatic fire and grappling were easy for me to grasp after a single read. This was a pleasant surprise given how many rules systems have a hard time with those areas.

One of my favorite bits from Classic Traveller was the way it handled character damage. Damage taken was applied directly to physical characteristics. This has been kept in Mongoose Traveller. The result is a very elegant way to keep track of damage and its effects. Wounds lead naturally to lower attribute modifiers as those attributes fall.

Space combat is similar in complexity to character combat. It uses abstracted movement rules and a character centric system that relies on plenty of task checks. I've already seen some complaints from old-time players that the system is too simple. Compared to the original system that taught me how to calculate vectors, I suppose that's true, but this system is better designed for a group that wants to concentrate on role playing instead of space tactics.

The only problem with all of this is that this is the game I wanted back in 1987, not necessarily 2008. The state of the art has moved on, and I value many of the concepts that have been introduced in the meantime. Some of the most important of those concepts involve the use of mechanics to encourage role playing, rather than just to determine the outcome of actions with a chance of failure.

I could see having a great deal of fun with this set of rules, especially with the right group, but in many ways I still prefer the approach being taken with Spirit of the Far Future. It's good to have choices though, and I'm happy to have not just one but two good sets of rules to play around with.

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