Mongoose Traveller: The Third Imperium: Solomani Rim
This review originally appeared on RPG.Net in October 2012, and is reprinted here and in the December 2013 issue with permission.
The Third Imperium: Solomani Rim. David L. Pulver
Mongoose Publishing http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
This sector book occupies a special place in my heart, as do all books that deal with Earth in the future. Humanity has moved on in the Traveller universe. However, Earth is not a backwater planet amid the stars that make up this sector but a flash point between two great interstellar polities: the Third Imperium and the Solomani Confederation.
So what does this book contain that Alien Module 5: Solomani does not? First and foremost, a point of view that is not from the clouded perspective of the Solomani as much of the Sector is under Imperial occupation—the worlds are hotbeds of strife and submerged conflicts between the two powers. Thus, what we get is a lot of history revolving around the two central antagonists: Vilani and Solomani. This is certainly one view of history shared by the Solomani—a racial Kulturkampf that echoes throughout the history of the Imperial Campaign. However, there is another narrative that is touched upon: the struggle for political dominance in the realm of ideas. This gets a cursory mention with greater detail in the Alien Module; however, it is here that I expected to see more of that battle of ideas being played out in real terms in the ideological war. Second, one would expect to see more details how the different spy agencies view the Rim. If anything, the Cold War that exists between the Imperium and Solomani Confederation is more akin to the conflict between the US and China (détente with many reciprocal bonds forming across a porous border), rather than the USSR-USA or Nazi Germany-USA conflict. And, very little of that is expressed in the official history that this supplement is written to tell.
We see the players of the Sector striving predominantly in political and espionage terms, which is perhaps the greatest strength of the supplement. Thus, we get not just the level of Imperial Navy fleet strength but rather what the Navy is actually doing in the Rim. So, while both the Imperium and Solomani are actively engaged in Power Projection, their armed forces are more concerned with reconstruction and winning the Hearts-and-Minds campaigns. Similarly, description of the nobility is as actual NPCs rather than remote figureheads representing distant Imperial authority—one could actually see them as patrons and players coming to interact with them. Then there are the different corporate influences, some of which foreshadow great Classic Traveller adventures that take place in the Rim.
Next is the section of worlds; only one full system is profiled: that of Terra, which, I guess, is understandable. Much of what is written has been seen before in different Traveller supplements, so it traces over familiar descriptions but does the time machine a bit from Classic Traveller and certainly from GURPS Traveller (Rim of Fire). Like all Mongoose products, it has been stripped of stellar data (though sometimes world descriptions have it) to avoid the problem that plagues Traveller of realism versus actual game play. I tend to side with realism, but that would require a rewrite of many other Traveller products, not to mention stretching credulity to the hilt when compared to what we know about contemporary planetary formation theories.
How does this compare to other products dealing with the Solomani Rim? The GDW offerings were rather sparse and did not divorce themselves adequately from Alien Module 6: Solomani. DGP’s MegaTraveller Alien modules are heralded as the gold standard for alien modules, and the Solomani write-up in Solomani and Aslan was especially good, as it broke ranks with the common perception of the Solomani as Space Nazis and showed them to be rounded full individuals and a polity that may lapse into prejudice and racism but not one founded upon those principles. GURPS Traveller’s Rim of Fire and Interstellar Wars contain many points that can be contested; however, they still brought many new concepts forward, and I think that David Pulver has done an admirable job in connecting this book with that vision of the future. Material from Traveller: The New Era does not figure prominently in this book, but that’s hardly surprising, as the events described there are 200 years into a possible future timeline. David Pulver has done a great job in setting down the dots that future supplements will draw lines between the different points.
The Referee’s section provides an ample array of campaign types that players and referees can design their own adventures catered to life in the Rim. Naturally, espionage is but one type; there are plenty of others and the worlds section contains seeds to carry out those adventures. David Pulver has done a great job in bringing together Alien Module 5: Solomani and Solomani Rim as a whole that exceeds the sum of its parts, but either stands well on its own. Kudos on a job well done… If there would be any criticism of this book, it would be in the lack of art; I would have wanted to see more art but not at the expense of the text, so I do understand Mongoose’s decision. Thankfully. the art is fairly uniform and for the most part attractive. Anyone wishing to adventure in the Rim ought to check this volume out. Mongoose certainly has made a quality product here and I look forward to more Sector books, hopefully authored by the likes of David. So, how about the Hinterworlds or better yet Old Expanses next… I am looking for updates on all these classic (note: not Classic) sectors to get a Mongoose treatment.