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CD-ROM: Apocrypha III—The Lost Supplements

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2020 issue.

CD-ROM: Apocrypha III—The Lost Supplements. Various authors.
Far Future Enterprises http://farfuture.net
PDF and other files on CD-ROM, ~331MB
US$35.00.

As part of their efforts to make electronic versions of all historical Traveller material available, FarFuture Enterprises has released this collection of licensed third-party material for Classic Traveller and MegaTraveller, from Cargonaut Press and Marischal Adventures, and the Traveller Chronicle, an early commercial fanzine from Sword of the Knight Publications. Two other disc of Apocrypha, from other historical licensees, are available separately, and were reviewed in the March/April 2016 and November/December 2019 issues.

This disc is called “The Lost Supplements” because the original release of the various items found here saw limited or no distribution, and in some cases distribution may have failed, although the product may have been announced. Some of the titles here are recognized, but may be unavailable on the second-hand market. A few were created specifically with the intent of releasing material that had been created, but never fully organized into a commercial product.

One name that appears in these items repeatedly is “Keith”, as in the Keith brothers, William H. and J. Andrew. One or both of the Keith brothers appears to have been influential in the creation of every item on this disc, and most of them carry a Keith byline. That sets up a promise of quality, and it is this reviewer’s opinion that the promise is delivered on.

Most of this material was originally written for what we now call Classic Traveller, and each supplement states that some version of those rules is required, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to adapt the material to other 2D6-based versions of Traveller (MegaTraveller, Marc Miller’s Traveller (T4), Traveller5, either edition of Mongoose Traveller, or even Cepheus Engine), and there’s no reason that one couldn’t adapt the material to other systems entirely.

A “capsule summary”: The Cargonaut titles alone would be worth two or three times the price of the CD; the additional material is icing on the cake. Get this disc, even if you don’t find three others that you want (FFE sells four CDs for the price of three).

The Cargonaut Titles

Cargonaut Press was a one-person operation whose mission was to bring some of these items back into print, or even into print for the first time. There are a round dozen items on this disc under their imprint; two of them (the Pilot’s Guides to Caledon and Drexithar Subsectors) are making their second appearance on a Traveller Apocrypha disc; they also appeared on the first Apocrypha disc, covering Gamelords (the original imprint for these two products) and FASA releases. Many of these items appear to have been scanned from autographed originals, and the autographs are shown in the scans. The scans are sufficiently high-resolution that one can easily read the text even on a small screen. (I’m reading on a Surface Pro 3, landscape orientation for the screen, portrait orientation in Foxit PDF Reader for the document, which is formatted for 8.511.)

The scans appear to be text-behind-image, and have been a bit more thoroughly proof-read than some of the other Apocrypha – but there are still some minor errors (for example, apostrophes that indicate a possessive of a plural are often set following an extraneous space). Nevertheless, copy-and-paste will get useful excerpts that won’t require heavy editing to be useful. Tables of contents refer to the page numbers printed on the page, rather than the calculated page numbers from the PDF, and there are no internal links, so you’ll have to calculate the difference between the calculated page number and the printed page number when jumping around in the documents.

Faldor: World of Adventure

The credits for Faldor: World of Adventure places an early version of the material at Origins ’82; there is no indication of previous publication otherwise, suggesting that this should be considered a ‘Cargonaut Original’ publication. What you get is an information-dense document, essentially a worldbook and adventure folio in one. The worldbook covers the history and cultures of Faldor in sufficient detail to make interesting reading in its own right; it also provides necessary background for the adventure in this volume. The Table of Contents lists three adventures, but it appears that a chunk of material (numbered pages 41-46) have been omitted, leaving none of the adventures in playable form, though there may be enough of the first one for a creative referee to work with. A sad error, but even if one ignores the adventures entirely and just focusses on the worldbook and the appendices, there’s good material here. (Note: a corrected version of this item can be downloaded from Scribd, uploaded by the person behind Cargonaut Press. Since the corrected version is not on the CD, nor ever formally announced as available to purchasers of the CD-ROM, it is not reviewed here, merely noted to exist.)

Starport Planetfall

This should be considered another ‘Cargonaut Original’. The material is compiled from several sources, some of which is credited with previous publication and used with permission, but additional unpublished material is included, and the compilation brought together into a coherent whole. Taken together, this material provides the creative referee with good information for including a starport in an adventure, from procedures for arrival and departure to random (and not-so-random) encounters in the starport to character creation for Starport Authority characters. It should be noted that this item makes reference to a previously published Startown Liberty, which was part of the Gamelords set of Traveller supplements, and may be found on the Apocrypha 1 CD-ROM.

The Arctic Environment

This is a previously-unpublished supplement that was originally written to be part of the Gamelords series of environment supplements (the Apocrypha 1 CD-ROM contained The Undersea, Desert, and Mountain Environments supplements). The structure of this item parallels those earlier supplements, though the ‘look-and-feel’ is that of Cargonaut, rather than Gamelords. As with the Gamelords Environments supplements, you get a set of in-depth rules for dealing with the environment, from travel to dangers, and a selection of equipment to make dealing with the environment safer and less difficult (though never to the point that it’s a ‘walk in the park’…). Potential encounters include environmental hazards (weather, terrain features, avalanches, etc.) as well as arctic animal encounters, and the environment is inherently hostile enough, even ‘passively’, to make simply surviving to get from point A to point B into an adventure.

Hellion’s Hoard

This is one of the few items that doesn’t carry a Keith byline (the author is Hans Rancke), although the illustrations all carry William H. Keith’s signature. It’s a Cargonaut Original adventure taking place in Reavers’ Deep sector on a world that doesn’t much like outsiders. Both the PCs’ group and their opposition are from off-planet, and the locals don’t figure into the adventure, except as a potential hazard if the offworlders try to shortcut the adventure. It’s suitable as a ‘one-shot’, perhaps filling a slot at a gaming convention, but by adopting some of the suggested modifications, it can also be one episode in a continuing campaign. It is definitely well-written, and worth adding to your library. Watch out for the structural error in the PDF file, though – somehow, pages 7 and 8 got swapped. (Again, Cargonaut’s principal has uploaded a corrected version to Scribd.)

Rogues In Space

Rogues In Space was a two-volume ‘Cargonaut Original’ set focusing on adventuring with characters that might be described as having alternative views of ethical conduct. Volume I, Letter of Marque, incorporated (with permission) the Pirate character generation procedure from Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium, and focused on commerce raiding – that is, pirates, privateers, and trade wars. Volume II, Scam, presented extensive rules for generating character traits (such as charm, gullibility, will, etc.) and focused on the confidence game.

Letter of Marque

Trade wars, privateering, and piracy all involve commerce raiding, and it is quite easy for any of them to shade over into a less respectable form. This item contains extensive explanations of each, including the ‘in-universe’ rules that define each, and the game rules for running them. You also get rules for character generation and star system generation, the latter a ‘cut down’ version of the process from Book 6: Scouts. Some overviews and deckplans for ships suitable to be used as commerce raiders are also included. You don’t get any ready-to-run adventures, but for each ship included, there are one or more commerce raiding scenarios in which the ship features.

Scam

The key to a successful scam is to deceive the victim, whether the scammer is a streetcorner ‘skell’ running a three-card monte, or an ‘operator’ running a ‘long con’ that makes the Nigerian 4-1-9 look amateurish and obvious. A successful deception depends not only on the scammer’s ability to present the deception, but also on the victim’s ability to resist the scammer’s blandishments. Representing either of these as a single skill is arguably oversimplifying, and this module instead presents us with the Universal Behavior Profile, analogous to the Universal Character Profile, but oriented toward psychological traits, rather than the physical and mental traits of the UCP. Rules for using the UBP are presented, with an emphasis on using it in connection with all aspects of deception – presenting it, recognizing it, and resisting it. It’s not difficult to see uses for it where deception per se isn’t involved, as well. Additionally, alternative character generation rules are presented, focusing on converting ‘generic’ skills from core Traveller to the more finely tuned skills and attributes presented here. There are also two new careers for character generation, the Con Artist and the Prisoner. There is also a section discussing how to play a con artist character, with specific notes that the style of play for such a character is likely to be at significant variance from ‘normal’ play styles – con artists, with good reason, will tend to avoid violence.

Four adventures are presented, each of a different scam. The player-characters can be on either side (working with the con artist, or target) of any of them, and the conditions required for any of them are sufficiently flexible that they can easily be incorporated into an ongoing campaign.

Pilot’s Guides to Caledon, Drexilthar, and Marischal Subsectors

All three of these “Pilot’s Guides” serve as Library Data for their respective subsectors, presenting a map, a subsector world listing, and descriptive information about the worlds of the subsector. The creative referee can start from what’s given and find ideas for adventures, but no explicit seeds are given.

The Caledon and Drexilthar guides, both originally from Gamelords, are making their second appearance in a FFE CD-ROM; they also appeared on the first Apocrypha disc, covering FASA and Gamelords products. They can be considered adjuncts to the Gamelords adventures, providing an overview of the Reaver’s Deep sector and their respective subsectors.

The Marischal guide lacks a publisher’s imprint or date, and shows signs of being a fan ‘labor of love’, rather than a commercial product. There are formatting infelicities throughout, including excessive top and bottom margins, and two extraneous blank pages. Each world in the subsector gets from half a page to a page of description.

Reaver’s Deep Sector Sourcebook

This is another Cargonaut Original, providing subsector maps, world data, and Library Data for the entire Reaver’s Deep sector. The world data is in MegaTraveller format, and only a few significant worlds are singled out for writeup, with the rest of the Library Data being general information giving an overview of the history of the sector and tying together the other Reaver’s Deep-oriented material on this CD. There is a sector map as the centerfold, but it was reproduced across two pages of the PDF, and it appears that a strip through the center of the sector was lost. As a supplement, however, you do get an extract of Reaver’s Deep from the Atlas of the Imperium: Second Survey (reviewed in the November/December 2019 issue).

Volentine Gambit

This adventure is designed for solo play, and is in fact the documentation that came with a text adventure for the Apple II series of computers (you can still get the software from the Interactive Fiction Archive; there is a link in Freelance Traveller’s Computer Connection section, and Freelance Traveller even has an Apple II emulator to use them with!). There is enough information presented to run this as a “normal” adventure (that is, “face to face” with a referee and dice at a table), possibly with more than a single player-character, and one of the appendices to the document even says so. It appears that this was intended to be the first of a series of connected adventures or a campaign, but no evidence of any sequels has turned up.

The Marischal Folio Adventures

These are a collection of short scenarios rather than complete adventures. The background and situation for the scenario are set, along with any scenario-specific rules, but in general, the details are left to the referee to develop, and play is wide open. Fleetwatch, Flight of the Stag, and Salvage Mission together form a mini-campaign centering on the Close Escort Stag during the Fifth Frontier War. Trading Team, Flare Star, Storm, The Newcomers, and Periastron form a mini-campaign centered on the Far Trader Scotian Huntress in Reaver’s Deep. These adventures are all pure image scans, with no OCR behind them, so one can’t cut/paste from them. They show their age (and low-cost production) in that the text is largely “typewriter style”, with fixed-pitch font and the use of underlining instead of italics, but given sufficiently high resolution and large size, they’re readable enough.

The Traveller Chronicle

The Traveller Chronicle was a quarterly (initially; it eventually went to three times per year) magazine published in the early 1990s by Sword of the Knight Publications. It lasted thirteen issues.

The scans of this originally-printed magazine are of indifferent quality at best, and don’t reflect the original production values, which (to an experienced eye, even with the scan quality issues) were near the high end of what could be expected in personal-computer-based “desktop publishing” of the era. There is no text behind the page images; the only way you’re going to get text out of these magazine issues is to sit and retype it yourself (or feed the images through some good OCR software).

While the magazine didn’t appear to have a fixed writing staff, certain names did recur (much like Freelance Traveller, today), among them Charles E. Gannon and Mark “Geo” Gelinas. There were several regular artists as well, and the art esthetic seemed to match that of contemporary Traveller.

Although there weren’t specific ‘departments’ (like Freelance Traveller has), the magazine did present a similar variety of article types (omitting only product reviews), and also presented advertising (both real, e.g., for Planet III’s Traveller Navigator, and fake, e.g., for products, services, or establishments that could be used ‘in-game’).

Over the course of its ‘run’, it underwent a format change, from the initial 58 to the 811 of later issues, and also took on a more professional appearance (e.g., better and more consistent use of fonts and use of color).

It is apparent that publication was to continue beyond issue 13, but that was a seemingly unlucky number for them; Sword of the Knight closed in 1997, and apparently never found a home for The Traveller Chronicle.

(If someone who remembers the first run of The Traveller Chronicle were to tell me that Freelance Traveller reminds them of it, I’d thank them for the compliment.)

Summary

There is no question that this CD-ROM is worth what FFE is asking for it – or more. The Cargonaut Press items are enough to “make” the disc; the Traveller Chronicle are also almost worth it – but the complete set of items that you get make the disc a definite bargain, even if you can’t take advantage of FFE’s 4-for-3 deal.