21 Plots Misbehave
This review originally appeared on rpg.net in January of 2014 and is reprinted here and in the November/December 2015 issue with permission.
21 Plots Misbehave. John Watts.
Gypsy Knights Games http://www.gypsyknightsgames.com
37pp., softcover or PDF
21 Plots Misbehave is an interesting addition to the Traveller universe started by Gypsy Knights Games in that it begins to branch out and reference back to some of the more nefarious aspects of Traveller while staying within the open license. This book highlights the high times of lowlifes that marked much of the early years of Traveller – where working class stiffs are often called upon to do something not quite legal (by breaking unjust laws) yet at the same time not immoral. Could this then be called 21 Shades of Misbehavior? ’Fraid not… It retains the gritty character of many a Traveller adventure but it was without any of the darker corners that populate at least My Traveller Universe (and I do not think that I am alone in having a Mos Eisley bar in every port – the secret is to know what brings your characters there – to feed an addition to Deathsticks or make contact with the femme fatale Zhodani patron who will ask them courier something past the border). So, I have to conclude that this is a valid first step at pushing the OGL into greyer areas.
The adventure seeds are solid enough and the minor acts of “rebellion” remind me of Dukes of Hazzard or MacGyver episodes rather a more sophisticated take like in Heist or some of the European, especially French or British crime dramas. Then again, that would skirt the edges of the license and Gypsy Knights Games has a very fine line to tread there. So, these adventures fit very nicely into any campaign either as one-shots or just filler between the action sequences of a campaign.
The organization of the book is the same as the other 21 Plots books with a basic description then a D6 resolution thus allowing a referee to find 126 possible adventure outcomes by changing around the particulars. It is well integrated into the Clement Sector sourcebook but can be adopted into the OTU or other SFRPG without any difficulty. Absolutely, brilliant, and (thanks for listening, Gypsy Knights Games) there is an integrated index to all 21 Plots adventures making this a must-have item – if you have purchased all the others. It is also a must-have because of the groundbreaking path it takes for newbies. For many can come to Traveller and not know its heritage also lies in 1970s SF, with a dash of the Golden Age of SF, as well as, the Age of Sail/Diesel and shows like Firefly more than Star Wars or Star Trek. Traveller is beginning to show its age again. Although, the 2300AD line has revitalized Traveller as a game of exploration, the grittier side has yet to find true expression in Mongoose or new Far Future Products (i.e. T5). It is so far good, in the sense the zeitgeist is running the other direction – as SF is rather puritanical compared to the 1970s which combined blasters with a strong moral imperative with good guys doing bad things in order to achieve a greater good. There is no art except for the cover rendered using Poser, as a result can look intimidating – but art is expensive – hopefully, once a compilation of 21 Plots gets put together one can get some realistic gritty art (even with poser skins over live models). The writing is clear and concise.
So if you liked the 21 Plots series, you are bound to like this one as well, especially if you like the Alternative Traveller Universe of the Clement Sector. There are enough tropes in this universe that it could migrate to 2300AD; if you believe certain SF races are representative of different nations, you could port these adventure hooks without any problems. Thanks to Gypsy Knights Games, Traveller has just got grittier again. Here’s hoping that we can push the envelope further into the shadows and recreate the Traveller fandom that produced such great noirish fanzines such as Signal GK or even official products like Hard Times. Surely, we can go dark and still preserve the essence of what Traveller is all about…