The Third Imperium: Alien Module 5: Solomani
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2012 issue.
The Third Imperium—Alien Module 5: Solomani. David L. Pulver
Mongoose Publishing. http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
Mongoose has been on a humans-as-aliens kick, with this Alien Module being the third that focuses on a human society.
On the Shelf
As with the other Alien Modules to date, Solomani sports the embossed-steel Third Imperium masthead at the top and red Traveller-and-arrow logo at the bottom, surrounding a full-width art panel which for this volume depicts three people on a desert world with a war-damaged city and several spacecraft in the background.
The book is reasonably organized, starting with Solomani character generation for those who want to get right into playing (and likely have some knowledge of the Solomani from material from previous versions of Traveller). After the character generation material, background material on the Solomani, including an entire sector and some adventure ideas, is presented, for those who have never previously encountered the Solomani and for those who need a refresher.
On Closer Inspection
The inclusion of Solomani Party and SolSec (Solomani Security) careers is predictable and necessary; these two careers and the parts of Solomani society that they represent are very much part of what makes the Solomani different from the Imperium. The inclusion of a revised Navy career is, perhaps, surprising—but it’s necessary given that the Confederation Navy also subsumes duties that in the Imperium would be handled by the Scout Service.
An additional surprise is the inclusion of careers for uplifted dolphins. There has been little if any previous material regarding uplifted animals as characters—an omission that should be addressed even beyond this volume, as it offers potentially interesting opportunities for role-players who ‘get into character’. Uplifted dolphins are known in the Imperium as well as in the Confederation; it stands to reason that the long association with humans would lead to similar recognition of the delphine advantages in aquatic environments.
The deliberate designation of the Home Guard as a non-career rings slightly false to this reviewer’s American sensibilities; without going into detail, even an ‘all-volunteer’ organization needs a professional core to keep it running smoothly, and to provide the training that the part-timers need. Additionally, there is material here that suggests that the Home Guard also subsumes duties that are handled in the US by the Coast Guard, and the USCG is definitely a valid career choice in American society. Granting that the Solomani aren’t “Yanks in Space” (but see below), a Home Guard career option would still not have been a bad idea.
Many people complain about Traveller in general—that is, “Imperial” Traveller, mostly in the Spinward Marches—being played as “Yanks in Space”, and to a great extent that’s a valid complaint. However, that thread runs much more strongly through Solomani society as written by Mr Pulver, with strong admixtures of both fascist totalitarianism (in the ubiquity and purpose of the Party and SolSec) and apartheid-era South African Anglo/Boer attitudes on race, transplanted to be Solomani-vs-non-Solomani racism rather than white-vs-nonwhite. The overall portrayal ends up not being entirely sympathetic, but neither is it entirely hostile, and provides a good basis for good role-playing of Solomani characters, either as protagonist or antagonist.
Following the career material is a well-written description of overall Solomani society. This includes fairly detailed discussion of the structure of the Confederation government, of the Solomani Party, of the Confederation Armed Forces, and of SolSec. The discussion of the Confederation Armed Forces expands on the descriptive material included in the career section, and includes the Marines, Army, and Home Guard. Much briefer overviews of the economy and Confederation law are included. A one-page overview of each of Terra and Home are included; the Terra overview includes a world map in the standard Traveller unfolded-icosahedron format. The section on Home lacks such a map; I’d have preferred it to be the other way around, since there are plenty of maps of Terra available that one could adapt for use in a Traveller campaign.
The overview of the Confederation government and society is followed by an extensive history section. This information is mostly repeated from earlier versions of Traveller, but that shouldn't be taken as criticism, as the repetition isn’t verbatim and is necessary for players and referees to understand the Solomani in context. As with the rest of the book, it’s well-written.
The history section is followed by a section on Solomani equipment and technology. For the most part, Imperial and Solomani designs are stated to be different only cosmetically; it should be noted that Solomani equipment (max TL 14, common TL 12-14) is generally one or two TLs behind Imperial equipment (max TL 15, common TL 12-15). Designs for three versions of Solomani battle dress are included, one for SolSec urban use, one for delphine use, and one for Solomani Army jump troops. Capsule descriptions of additional delphine equipment follow. Several grav vehicles are statted out as well, ranging from limousines to APCs and Tanks. Finally, a page on biotech discusses Solomani attitudes toward augments, but does not present any specific augments or other biotech.
The section on Solomani spacecraft starts with two pages of discussion of Solomani social attitudes toward space travel. It is noteworthy that the institutionalized racism in Solomani society does have an effect on the availability of passages to Confederation nationals who are not racially-pure Solomani. Implicit in that discussion is the suggestion that Low passage is perhaps more commonly used in the Confederation, and the Low Lottery is more popular in Solomani space (at least among pure Solomani) than it is in Imperial space. Several Solomani starship designs are included, with stat blocks, deck plans, profile views, and perspective drawings.
A section of encounters starts with tables for various Solomani encounters and reactions, followed by a series of specific encounters expanded into adventure seeds such as appear in Freelance Traveller’s “Getting Off the Ground” section. These encounters cover a wide spectrum of adventure types, offering opportunities for many types of characters.
A section on the worlds of the Solomani Confederation starts with an explanation of how various types of government are compatible with the Confederation requirement that the Party be the governing entity. Explanations of differences in base placement, travel codes, and the lack of starport extraterritoriality lines give the Confederation stellar landscape a slightly different flavor from the Imperium. There is also an overview of the different regions/sectors of the Confederation and Confederation foreign policy.
In previous versions of Traveller, the sector focussed on has been the Solomani Rim, containing Terra (under Imperial occupation). Mongoose has broken with that tradition, providing world profiles and stellar data for Alpha Crucis sector instead (Solomani Rim sector is still provided, as a separate supplement).
The final short chapter presents ideas on role-playing Solomani, presenting Solomani as NPCs, and campaign types that are suitable for Solomani characters. The presentation is superficial at best, but a good referee can develop the ideas further.
If you play Traveller in the official Third Imperium setting, there is no question that this volume is a worthwhile addition to your collection. It's less useful if you don't play in that setting, but can still provide a useful outline for a culture to integrate into your own campaign.