This article originally appeared in Issue #013, January 2011, of the downloadable PDF magazine.
Traveller Compendium 1. Multiple authors
Mongoose Publishing http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
The Good, Bad and the Ugly
This is a product that Mongoose released some time ago but due to the vagrancies of Amazon cancelling my order after several months, I was forced into buying it at my FGLS – located some 800km away – therefore, it is new for me. As noted, it is a sturdy hardcover comprising of a collection of articles from Mongoose’s free trade ezine – Signs and Portents. Therefore, why should anyone plunk down £24.99 for what they can get free? I, for one, hate reading PDFs and while I could print them off and collect them in a binder – having them all in one place without advertising and in durable hardcover is a value added service and hence worth my money. Do I feel that I was getting value for my money – initially no. For the cost of printing this out would have been just over £6 which could have included some nice binding. That is a difference of £19... So, what makes this special?
The book is well selected for the articles are designed for taking the very beginner to the level of expert progressively. That is not to say that a seasoned Traveller referee (and this book is clearly aimed at the Referee/Game Master) will not find lots of good gems. The adventures selected are solid and have a real old school Traveller feel to them – gritty and grey. So, if your game is vanilla Space Opera, one might have some trouble adapting these into one’s game. Traveller has always been about the average Joe trying to make it in an uncaring universe. In fact, I found the adventures to be better than the mini campaign – Tripwire (which I found to be utterly juvenile) in reflecting the spirit of Traveller.
The articles that augment players’ skills, equipment, etc. are thoughtfully done and are no way a Monte Haul cornucopia for power-ups – in keeping with the basic Traveller philosophy – of the acquisition of knowledge takes precedence over the accumulation of things.
I found no errors in the sequencing of pages; however, it would have been nice to see an addition of an index. The print is clear and concise, and as I indicated above there is a logical sequence to the articles. Not only tracing the Traveller line to date but to bring the player in line with understanding the Traveller universe – for example, one adventure would naturally act as a prequel to Adventure 2 – Prison Planet.
As noted above. There was a lack of an index which, while it would have contributed to the page count, is necessary in a product that is merely reproducing articles already in publication.
I also was disappointed that the Babylon 5/Traveller crossover campaign was omitted from the compilation. I understand that they no longer have the Babylon 5 licence but there were plenty of ways to rewrite the adventure, so as to ‘file off’ the Babylon 5 references.
Also, there were deck plans, I know the Traveller community for years clamoured for deck plans (and I have to admit that I was one of those who had…) But, Mongoose has provided with more than enough deck plans in S&P and other publications that we should be up to our gills in deck plans – especially deck plans that do not had add anything to the product (yes, I am looking at you – Tigress in Fighting Ships). In a publication such as this, one hopes that deck plans would complement the adventure on offer. And, Traveller deck plans are also stuck in the 1970s and deck plans have moved on. So, Mongoose, if there is going to be a Compendium 2, no unnecessary deck plans – please… Perhaps worse than having deck plans, is that there was no illustration of the starships in question. One of the things that was fantastic about Mongoose Traveller is how they took the old tired renditions of Traveller starships and makes them pop using discreet penciling and shades to create a product that took the familiar into the 21st century.
Given that this was a compilation of existing articles – the art reflected the existing art which was sometimes naught. One perhaps would have hoped that Mongoose could add more art and not just filler art from existing products to spruce up the content a little more. Given the ability to create world CGI maps is now so easy with the software out there – why not expand upon the adventures by the addition of some world maps? Similarly, every gamer loves color centrefolds. Why not have selections of some of the best Traveller covers or possible covers commissioned as a colour centrefold?
Due also to no real fault to Mongoose but one that could have easily added; there should have been a brief introduction of what Traveller is. Reproducing Marc’s seminal article or at least some variation of it would have gone a long way in reacquainting the newbie reader to Traveller.
There is one criticism that constantly appears with Mongoose Traveller line that appears here as well – poor editing. I realize that different writers have different styles but the application of a single consistent style to the product would have been appreciated. For instance, some writers added Library Data in the middle of their text and others at the end (the proper place). This confusion of styles makes it hard for the Referee to have a coherent feel for the adventures. Minor typos and paragraph errors carried on over into the new product which is unacceptable.
Glaring errors such as calling the Imperium – the Third Imperium of Humaniti/Mankind which were early errors of the Traveller rulebook were reproduced here. This indicates a mere cut-and-paste approach to the articles. If one is going to pay more than what it would cost to print out the original articles – then the publisher does have to add something more. Overall, this is a solid work and welcome addition to my Traveller library. I sincerely hope that Mongoose will take these criticisms to heart and improve – so that when Compilation 2 does come out that we see more value for money.