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Mongoose Traveller: Babylon 5 - The Trouble With Drazi

This article was originally posted to this website in 2009, and reprinted in the July 2012 issue, lightly edited for typography and to reflect the changes from the original review (availability and alternate cover). The cover images were added to the review after the reprinting.

Traveller:  Babylon 5 - The Trouble with Drazi. Greg Lynch and Bryan Steele
Mongoose Publishing http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
32pp, softcover
(currently out of print; was UKú5.00/US$9.95)

Mongoose has unfortunately chosen to give up their Babylon 5 license, so this is the only adventure that we will see for this universe in the Mongoose Traveller line. 

On the Shelf

As with the other two Babylon 5 items for Traveller, this volume sports a black cover with the Babylon 5 logo at the top, the Traveller logo at the bottom, and a CGI image between, this one of a space battle. [But see “A Note About The Cover” at the end of this review. -ed.] The battle illustrated has only a tenuous connection with the adventure; the adventure starts in the aftermath of a raid in which the ship the PCs are on is rendered into so much scrap, and the rescue of the PCs from the hulk is the start of the adventure. Unlike other Traveller releases to date, this book, weighing in at a mere 32 pages, is thin enough to disappear if shelved so that only the spine, rather than the front cover, is visible.

Initial Impressions

Although the production quality is generally consistent with all contemporary Mongoose Traveller products, the Babylon 5 sourcebooks get a downtick for the grey background over the entire page - it reduces the readability of the text.  Some of the subtitle fonts are also difficult to read. I approached this volume with some skepticism because of its light weight; 32 pages simply is not enough for an adventure of the quality of (for example) Prison Planet or Beltstrike. It does, however, appear to present enough information to be useful to an “index card referee”—one who keeps a pile of miscellaneous characters, location maps, special equipment, and so on handy to grab when needed in any scenario.

On Closer Inspection

There are indications that this product was originally intended to be part of Mongoose's Babylon 5 Roleplaying Game line for the d20 system, rather than for Traveller; the “Designation of Product Identity” paragraph on the title page makes reference to the d20 SRD and omits any reference to the Traveller SRD. There are also a couple of explicit references to the Babylon 5 Roleplaying Game.

During the initial rescue of the players by the Drazi, a case of mistaken identity develops, and this is one of the keys to the adventure.  Even if the PCs successfully correct the impression, a key request will be made, to all appearances because of the reason for the initial mistaken identity, and even once it is firmly acknowledged to be an error, a key Drazi character states frankly that he intends to use it to his advantage, if the players are willing.

There is one section where the PCs appear to be in a position to influence the adventure greatly, but even there, they are practically guided to the necessary information to resolve the situation favorably, and avoid derailing the adventure.

As a result, experienced players - of any system, not just Traveller - will feel that they are being ‘railroaded’, even if an experienced referee is running this adventure. The hobby has, in large measure, matured, and while this sort of adventure was acceptable in the early days, players and referees today will be expecting more, and will find this sort of adventure somewhat disappointing.

In its favor, there is very little in this adventure that is really “hard-wired” to the Babylon 5 setting, potentially allowing it to be used, with little more than name changes and some minor changes to elapsed times, as a side adventure during a ‘break’ in a longer non-Babylon-5 campaign, or as a transitional adventure to introduce the PCs to potential future contacts, adversaries, or patrons.

Summary

The Trouble With Drazi is better as the summary of a story than as an adventure - it isn’t long enough to be more than a short-story as-is (though a good writer could flesh it out into a decent novel), there are too few options for the PCs to make meaningful decisions or learn relevant information, and the course of the adventure is essentially preordained. Within those limits, however, it is well-written - it “reads well” - and offers some good potential for a referee who is unafraid to ‘tinker’ with the material as provided.

A Note About The Cover

The cover described (and reproduced) at the beginning of this review represents the printing that the reviewer owns. In locating a cover image for this product, another image that appears equally valid was located, depicting an armed Drazi. This alternate cover is reproduced here.