Traveller HERO. Rob Bruce, Kevin Walsh,
Randy Hollingsworth, et. al.
Comstar Games/Avenger Enterprises http://www.comstar-games.com
Two volumes, 163pp and 158pp. Electronic (PDF) or Print formats available.
Price TBD when we obtained review copies.
Traveller HERO started out as a noncommercial fan guide to converting between Traveller and the HERO system, with an emphasis on Star HERO compatibility. The initial draft impressed enough people in the right places that the authors were asked to expand the scope of the project, with the intent that it be published commercially. That commercial publication has now come to pass, and the authors and contributors can justify a bit of pride when they point to this product and say "I did that!".
The publication data above indicates that the product is in two volumes: Volume 1, Adventurers in Charted Space covers character generation, including racial and career templates; Volume 2, Adventure in Charted Space, covers the basics of the Third Imperium setting, along with technology and equipment. In addition to Traveller HERO, players and referees will need the HERO System core books, either 5th Edition or 5th Edition Revised, or HERO System Sidekick; there are other HERO System supplements that are strongly recommended. There are no Traveller materials called out as specifically necessary, but the text is written such that a set of Traveller core rules is needed, both to provide era-specific background information, and for an overview of character generation requirements (as some Traveller HERO character generation is defined in terms of Traveller character generation procedures). Depending on a playing group's specific interests, additional Traveller materials, such as 'canned adventures', modules, or rules supplements, may be useful.
As has seemingly become traditional, the first Traveller publication from a new licensee follows the motif established by the original Traveller rulebook: A jet-black cover, with a thin colored stripe across about three-fifths of the way down, and text - including the also-traditional Beowulf distress call - in the Optima font or a visual twin. In the case of Traveller HERO, instead of bright red, the stripe and title are in green. For volume 2, to distinguish, the cover is HERO green, with the stripe and title in black, and ancillary text remaining in white. Both volumes sport the HERO System logo in the lower-left corner of the cover.
Both books are well-organized, and the division of material between them is well-thought-out and reasonable. Volume 1 is critical for both the HERO player coming to Traveller, and the Traveller player coming to HERO; it provides capsule descriptions and templates for most of the canonical and widely-accepted non-canonical Traveller races, and for a wide variety of careers, covering all prior published versions of Traveller. There is information on using HERO System and Star HERO skills, perks, and talents in the Traveller HERO context, and clear information for converting Traveller characters to Traveller HERO, including tables of skill and feat equivalents. Traveller HERO stats for most of the personal weapons and armor of Traveller has been provided, and there are also sections on Traveller HERO psionics and Virus (including the possible use of Virus as a player character, in 1248-era campaigns). A set of sample characters and a detailed index round out the volume. Volume 2 is very definitely aimed at the HERO player coming to Traveller; it contains general information about the Traveller setting (including basic social information for the most notable canonical races), basic concepts for running adventures in the setting, and overviews of specific aspects of the setting (such as trade, communications, technology, and computers) that the playing group should find useful. Most of the information here is reiteration and summarization of material that long-time Traveller players will already know, and probably own copies of the source material for. Equipment, vehicle, and starship stats, omitted from volume 1, are included in volume 2. There are also deck plans (laid out to 2m hexes) for three ships that player groups could reasonably expect to end up in possession of: the Type A/A1 Free Trader (Beowulf archetype), the Type R Subsidized Merchant (Gyro Cadis archetype), and the Type S Scout/Courier.
The books suffer from a near-total lack of illustration; however, judicious use of section headings and tables keeps the text from being an eye-straining grey block. Volume 2 is 'better' in that respect than Volume 1, as it has more tables to break up the text, and there are full-page titles at section breaks, where Volume 1 only forced a new page and placed the section title at the top of the page, along with the text. Breaking up the text with illustrations might well have required breaking up the project into three books instead of two, however, and while the organization could have been made to accommodate that model fairly easily, it's quite definitely questionable as to whether doing so would have justified the additional cost, both for production and to the final purchaser. The alternative would have been to cut the amount of useful information in the project - an idea that I, personally, dislike, and which Comstar/Avenger clearly decided against.
Overall, Traveller HERO appears to be an excellent product, and a worthwhile purchase for the well-established HERO player looking for an introduction to Traveller. Because of the duplication of setting material, a well-established Traveller player would probably find it of lesser value, and could conceivably get by with only Volume 1 (assuming that a set of HERO core rules and recommended supplements were previously available). Having Volume 2 as a capsule reference, however, could be handy, if for no other reason than the HERO stats for familiar equipment.
On a five-best scale, Volume 1 gets a rating of 4 for well-established players of either Traveller or HERO, or 3.5 for new players (because of the additional necessary investment in supplementary material); Volume 2 gets a rating of 4 for well-established HERO players, or 3.5 for well-established Traveller players or new players. If a package deal is offered, with both volumes together at a reduced price, the rating goes to a solid 4 across the board.