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Mongoose Traveller - Compendium 2

This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Freelance Traveller.

Compendium 2. Various authors; Nick Robinson (ed.)
Mongoose Publishing. http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
176pp, hardbound
US$39.99/UKú29.99

The author of this review contributed two pages to Compendium 2 in the form of ‘A Helping Hand’ – four small adventure seeds to add momentary interest to any campaign.

Compendium 2 is, as you might guess from the title, a second potpourri of Traveller excellence, gathering articles from the Mongoose house magazine Signs and Portents, from issues 85 to 93 (the most recent issue at the time of writing) and also includes their ‘Living Traveller’ adventures. The Introduction claims to have articles from “the last 12 months” and the back cover claims to “collate all the most popular articles… over the past year”, but in fact the volume doesn’t contain anything from issues 82-84 which would complete the year from July 2010 to June 2011.1 There are two items, ‘Availability’ (on modifying the availability of purchases depending on tech level) and ‘Xenologist’ (a new career with some new alien rules and alien pets) which came from older issues, nos. 80 and 79 respectively.

The first 123 pages are taken up with nine adventures: three updates of classic Traveller material, four from the Living Traveller campaign, and three that were original to Signs and Portents. If you make that ten, you’re right, except that ‘Rescue on Ruie’ is both a classic and a Living Traveller adventure!

Long-time fans of Traveller will immediately recognize the classic adventures, ‘Annic Nova’ (the investigation of a mysterious starship) and ‘Rescue on Ruie’ (the rescue of a trade magnate’s son) from the very first issue of The Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society. Basically, these are as previously published, but updated to Mongoose rules and with new illustrations and deckplans. ‘Annic Nova’ has had the order of its text revised, and ‘Rescue on Ruie’ has been greatly expanded from the original Amber Zone. The other classic, ‘Death Station’, from Double Adventure 3, is pretty much exactly as found there.

The four Living Traveller adventures are a good variety; ‘Rescue on Ruie’ has been mentioned and includes Marc hault-Oberlindes as a patron who, if memory serves, is Marc Miller’s alter ego. My personal favorite, because I had the privilege of actually playing it at TravCon11 in a game refereed by the author, is Andy Lilly’s ‘Of Dust Spice and Dewclaws’, a great romp around Wavecrest city on Mora trying to help some Aslan retrieve an extremely valuable cargo of dust-spice. I enjoyed the feel this gave of actually visiting Mora and encountering Aslan. ‘Spinward Fenderbender’, by Steven Parker, involves a collision in space that leads to much derring-do. ‘A Festive Occasion’, by Hans Rancke-Madsen, is also set on Mora and involves nobility, Ine Givar plots, and exclusive functions in the ducal palace.

‘Otherworld Blues’ and ‘Old Acquaintances’ are two linked adventures by Jacob Ross concerning new gaming technology and its application to military training. ‘The Thing in the Pit’ by Alex Greene is tale of horror inspired by the BBC TV show ‘Quatermass and the Pit’.

The remaining fifty-odd pages collect some of the Traveller articles from Signs and Portents with the usual mixture of careers, patrons, assorted rules, and articles on gaming. Their utility will depend on the likes or needs of individual referees, but there’s much of interest here, from Lindsay Jackson’s excellent thoughts on what to do when players haven’t turned up for a session to the xenologist career (“much more than a scientist—an adventurer, an explorer, a businessman”). ‘Space Bazaar’ offers six pages of items and weapons to spend money on; ‘Parallel Dimensions’ looks at the possibility of inter-dimensional travel; and ‘Mass Battles’ provides rules for large-scale conflicts between massive space fleets. ‘A Helping Hand’, ‘Old Flames’, ‘A Friend in Need’, and ‘The Flying Money Pit’ all offer patrons or small adventure ideas. ‘Balancing the Books’ looks (in detail) at ship finances and admits that such minutiae may not be to everyone’s taste. ‘A Gallery of Outsiders’ provides five alien ‘races’ based on popular culture.

There are two ‘reprints’ of articles from The Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society, both from issue no.16: ‘SuSAG’, by Loren Wiseman, and Jolly Blackburn’s ‘Give the Bank a Fighting Chance’ (with a minor title change) are both pretty much identical to the original text but with paragraph break revisions. Interestingly, ‘SuSAG’ appeared in Signs and Portents branded as Corporation rather than Traveller which is appropriate as it details a megacorporation.

Physically, the book is an attractive hardcover in the plain black book style of Mongoose publications. Both compendiums uniquely have orange trim; neither has a strapline like the books and supplements. The three column layout of the original magazine articles has been revised here to two columns which provides more space in the margins and a less crowded feel; this obviously means that the articles have been reformatted as well. In general, all the original artwork has moved across as well. The volume is also available as a PDF from DriveThruRPG.

Given that virtually all of this material is, or has been online for free at some point (the Living Traveller adventures appear to have now been removed), it’s a good question as to how valuable this book is. If you collected the adventures when they were available, are happy to root through the back issues of Signs and Portents, and have access to the classic adventures, then there is no new material here at all. One particularly significant lack in a volume such as this, is an index which would help considerably with locating various bits and pieces. If, on the other hand, you want the classic adventures in Mongoose format, or want all this high quality material in one handy place, then Compendium 2 is certainly worth investigating. Of course, the fact that it’s available in printed form as well as electronic might sway those who particularly want a physical hardcopy. Even if the rule variations and short articles are not of particular interest, the price is worth it for just the adventures presented here.

It’s a pity that the source periodical has gone on such an extended hiatus, but here’s to the return of Signs and Portents in the near future and much high-calibre Traveller material for a third compendium!

1 A few articles from Signs and Portents don’t make the selection: a ‘Bestiary’ (no.89) converting Springers and Kian to Mongoose animal format by Roger Moore; an article by William H. Keith, ‘Destiny: Within the Two Thousand Worlds’ (no.88, originally from JTAS, no.21), one page of observations by Debbie Fulton on women in role playing and female characters in Traveller (no.86), and ‘Augments and Prosthetics’, by Alan Oliver (no.82) which isn’t connected with Supplement 8: Cybernetics. Also not included are the various ‘Ships for Traveller’ by either Andrew Welty or Ian Stead which for the most part went to Supplement 10: Merchants and Cruisers with some revisions, seven articles and adventures for the Judge Dredd Traveller line, and four pieces for Cthonian Stars. One item branded as Traveller but described as being aimed at “horror RPG referees” didn’t make the cut either: ‘Jagged Shards and Nightmares’ (no.84).