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Mongoose Traveller Core Rulebook

Traveller Core Rulebook. Gareth Hanrahan
Mongoose Publishing http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
192pp, hardcover
UKú20.00/US$39.95

Mongoose Publishing, out of Swindon in the United Kingdom, is the latest company to receive a license to publish a version of the Traveller tabletop RPG system.  Their first product under that license, this core rulebook, is a worthy product to carry the Traveller name.

Up until recently, there has been a tendency in the tabletop RPG industry toward greater complexity, with rules, procedures, and tables for all sorts of things that really shouldn't be necessary to running a good adventure.  With this release of Traveller, we see Mongoose bucking that trend, and by and large returning Traveller to its earliest roots - fans of the 1977 original Traveller release, now generally referred to as 'Classic' Traveller, will most likely find this release 'comfortable', if not completely 'homelike'.

On the Shelf

Mongoose Traveller is immediately recognizable - as with the original release (and with the GURPS Traveller release), the cover immediately stands out due to its lack of ornamentation - it is the familiar stark black, with the word Traveller in red all-caps, and a red line across the cover. The font is not the classic Optima (it appears to be Eras), and the red has shaded a bit more to the orange, but any Traveller fan is going to recognize it immediately and (we - and Mongoose - hope) grab it directly.

Initial Impressions

The book appears to be well-organized.  Right up front, you get a brief introduction to roleplaying and what Traveller is, including some Traveller-specific terminology.  This is followed immediately by the character generation sequence, and then, in sequence, sections on skills and tasks, combat, encounters and dangers, equipment, spacecraft (four sections, design rules, standard designs, operations, combat), psionics, trade, and world creation. My only quarrel with this order is that psionics, being character-centric and handled in play like 'ordinary' skills (and including a 'psion' career), might have more reasonably been placed either just before or just after the skills and tasks section.  Flipping through the book, without actually reading for game information, reveals a well-designed document, with tables easily followed and text that is neither too dense nor too sparse. There are two types of illustrations: line drawings, and grey-tone illustrations which are intended to suggest photography.  Many of the latter would have been more easily visible had they been less dark, but overall, they are well done.

On Closer Inspection

One should expect to find British spellings and usages (e.g., "armour"), as Mongoose is in fact a British company. There appear to be no glaring errors, though the character generation section has one visible infelicity, in that where the mishap table and the career illustration overlap, it can occasionally be difficult to read the text over the greyed picture.  The basic font for body text appears to be FF Scala Sans, which, as a sans-serif font in a very-high-resolution medium, is less readable for body text than it could have been - a serif font, such as Times, Georgia, or Century Schoolbook, would have been a better choice (and there is formal research as well as centuries of tradition to back this up). Titles appear to be in Eras, which is a reasonable choice.

Those familiar with multiple Traveller lines will see clear influences on this version from other versions, and perhaps some outright innovations. Nevertheless, the heart of Mongoose Traveller is clearly cast in the Classic Traveller mold, and materials for the two versions should cross over easily in either direction, with little or no alteration required.

Summary

What you get with this book is the equivalent of Classic Traveller books 1, 2, and 3, plus the Citizens of the Imperium supplement, plus extracts from the classic Alien Modules - well worth the $40 price tag, especially considering that you'd have paid about the same face value for the Classic Traveller equivalent, back when Classic Traveller was new. As with the original Classic Traveller set, you don't actually need anything beyond these core rules to be able to run a campaign - but Mongoose already has plans for additional products in the Traveller line.