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The Third Imperium—Deneb Sector

The Third Imperium—Deneb Sector. Rob Eaglestone.
Mongoose Publishing. http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
120pp, softcover
US$24.99/UKú17.99

This review originally appeared on RPG.Net in September of 2012 and in the January 2013 issue, and appears here with the author’s permission.

Deneb, named for the brightest star in the sector, is a powerhouse of political and economic might in the OTU’s Third Imperium, yet it has received scarce official treatment. Instead, it has grown up in the shadows of canon and quasi-canon, until now. Rob Eaglestone has produced an excellent sector book that integrates all previous information on Deneb.

First, perhaps, it is necessary to outline why Deneb is such a powerhouse and powerful sector. For that story, it largely is traced back to the Imperial Civil War—a time of great chaos, as starfleets raged across the Imperium to capture the throne of the Third Imperium in grand political gestures. Most of these fleets came from the Spinward sectors (the Spinward Marches and Deneb), and have whet their appetites in fighting back the Zhodani. In an act of revenge/shrewd politics the last Emperor of the Civil War stripped Deneb of its Duke, leaving a plethora of minor duchies (subsector or less) to fight among themselves for dominance – so long as central Imperial authority is not challenged and the Imperial Rules of War are observed.

Thus, an uneven peace reigns in the Sector, with different colonial fleets providing a defensive role and occasionally mounting an offensive campaign as a power grab for each Duchy, with the Imperial Navy providing overall defence of the realm and final arbitrator in disputes between different Duchies.

The next level of rivalry coexisting with struggle in politics are struggles between various Megacorporations and Sector-wide companies. Long-standing Traveller players know that Trade War is not only carried out on the economic front. Rounding the equation are semi-permanent mercenary bands who will fight in the numerous conflicts over the spoils and resources that the important players crave in proxy wars throughout the different worlds of the sector. This rich tapestry of history combined with real strength of troops/ship show that Deneb is far from stable but has found equilibrium in the constant struggle for power. Although this book does not use Mongoose Traveller’s Supplement 12: Dynasty, one can see how to overlay that mechanic over the sector—a real crackerjack game. But, even without Dynasty, any creative Referee can apply different fleet and troop strengths into battle with a simple heuristic provided in the Sector book.

Next up is a listing of sophonts in the Sector (including the extinct civilizations) which is comprehensive and excellent. There are some old friends that have not seen the light of day since MegaTraveller, as well as some new races. One could wish that Mongoose had hired an artist to portray some of these races, but even with just the description, one’s Traveller universe is infinitely richer—although the sheer number of sophonts in the Sector is questionable (I had always gone by what I thought was a GDW house rule of no more than 1-2 per Sector). None of these aliens are men in rubber suits but well thought out and interesting Space Opera aliens… So I guess one has to await a future supplement that might actually illustrate them.

Next up is the collection of worlds that make up the Sector. They are not as detailed as some other Sector books but they are believable and compliant with the rest of the background outlined in the book. There are lots of worlds that come with merely a UWP and it is up to the Referee to highlight more thus not constraining the Referee in any way. A minor power here can rise up to challenge the larger powers or act in accordance with and be a pawn in the larger power struggles. No world maps nor culture details and very little of the planetary system is revealed – unlike (for example) Gypsy Knights Games products. Stellar data is similarly also absent; however, this data does exist elsewhere for the diligent Referee should they wish to look.

A Referees Only section and the index round out the book.

This book is very much a distillation of Traveller of the past – namely the Imperial Campaign or the OTU showing that it was far from a stagnant place where nothing of significance ever happened but rather a lively and dramatic place. And, while external borders and frontiers were closed for the Imperium – the insides were constantly in a state of flux. This book also re-acquainted us with old friends that have long appeared in supplements and magazines long since publication. That is what make this supplement difficult to review – it is clothed in nostalgia of an era when Traveller was first among all. and leading the pack. Now, some of these concepts might seem quaint and antiquated compared to contemporary (New) Space Opera but they do not mean that they should be cast aside. Thus, I find myself wishing that whether more products would be like this one or that it should take the insights gleaned from other supplements/books that Mongoose has done to build a truly integrated vision. Critics may argue that Mongoose does do an adequate job in the quality department…to that I respond that every single edition of Traveller has been plagued with the same acquisition. When things shifted from CT to MT, critics howled at how their game had been altered. I was part of the shrill objectors that never accepted TNE (thanks to 1248, I do now). The point is that Traveller is more than the rules and alternations to the background – it is about a spirit of adventure where everything is not tame, nice and sanitized (yes, I am looking at you, Star Trek), and Rob Eaglestone has given us such a milieu in a Sector. I certainly look forward to more of Rob’s work. And, while his sensibility maybe old fashioned, he unveiling a Traveller universe that is close to my heart and I am sure many of Traveller’s oldest fans.

Deneb offers the classic place to operate a swashbuckling adventure where the flavor of the day is more Horato Hornblower rather than James Bond (a la Solomani Rim) or the Frontier West (Spinward Marches) or Renaissance Europe (Reft) with high politics thrown in for good measure. Deneb reminded, as I stated earlier like a Traveller Dynasty game waiting to happen. For those who do not wish to play Dynasty but are interested in noble house intrigue might want to check out Fading Suns – while Fading Suns does offer religion into the mix, many themes could be ported over to Deneb especially the power struggles of the nobility. This is an excellent product for those looking to complete their OTU with a Sector of slash swaggering swashbuckling adventure. It is, however, very specific to the OUT, and thus might be harder to translate into another game unless the game has the same scope that Traveller does. This book gets a hearty recommendation for those who like the OTU but as it is so specific to the Imperial Campaign…hard to know if others would get the same satisfaction from it.