Editor’s note: This review originally appeared on RPG.Net in July 2011 and is reprinted here and in the September 2013 issue with permission.
Shipbook: Mirador. John Lees.
Terra/Sol Games http://www.terrasolgames.com
Ship books are problematic for Mongoose Traveller… that much is easy to admit. Prior to Mongoose, deck plans were scarce and usually followed a basic shape—even as ships did get more interesting in their appearance, the deck plans that accompanied them did not. Then came the Serenity RPG which blew everyone away with its beautifully rendered deck plans and whole host of companies followed the lead of Margaret Weiss Productions (MWP). Mongoose Traveller created an abundance of deck plans but they are grounded in old school and deadened the illustration to something that Referees can colour in the chrome. As a consequence, Mongoose made great illustrations of the exteriors in the Traveller main rulebook but somewhat lacklustre subsequently offerings since and ignored the MWP innovations of deck plans. Mongoose has made amends to their earlier (Supplement 2: Traders and Gunboats) faux pas of illustrating every level even if redundant.
And, unfortunately this product by Terra-Sol Games seems to be following very much in Mongoose’s footsteps. As this supplement is a sourcebook for one class of ship – the Mirador, which can be used either as a luxury liner (cruise ship) or an exploration vessel. So what we have is the same basic ship outline with different interiors. And, the deck plans are rather nonsensical when approaching the Large Ship universe for not only is there a problem with redundancy but also filling of space. This was the problem that Imperium Games ran into when they did their Starships book for T4. And, that product ranks among the worst, so new publishers beware – even though fandom craves new ships, doing something innovative is the key.
Somewhat redeeming TSG is that they did do something innovative: they gave the ship a cast of (non-player) characters which includes the treatment of the ship itself. They also broadened the trade rules to make it more compatible with the Alternative Traveller Universe (ATU) of the Terra/Sol milieu. This was the most interesting part of the book, but as we are dealing with just a tiny subsector, it would be interesting to see how these rules will be fleshed out in a future supplement expanding it to a sector or quadrant. The ship personalities also come with a series of adventure hooks centred on the ship’s purpose. On the whole, nothing that any seasoned Referee has not done before but good to see these ideas in print and not just as thought.
As noted, the deck plans are traditional Traveller deck plans and hence not very interesting. One thing TSG could have done was to have high quality shots of the interiors (much as DGP’s Starship Operators’ Manual Vol.1 did) to give a ship a more realistic feel. Coupled with the awful comic book rendition of NPCs (again!!) makes the interior art of the product seemed very poor and belittles some the more interesting aspect of the book.
What would I like to see? (As how can I be so harsh without saying a few words of what I do like?) Chthonian Stars does a nice job (not perfect but better than some others in the MgT line) as does Ki-Ryn Studios with their Future Armada line. I am really surprised by the interiors, for one of the things, which attract me to TSG, is their gorgeous covers but equally good interiors. If they need pointers then look at the DGP MT line but try to innovate beyond what is already out there. Just as their campaign, Beyond the Open Door, broke new ground; let their ship books do the same.
In conclusion, this is TSG’s first foray into doing a ship book and sadly, not a good one. If one wants to stay traditional but innovate in terms of interior and exterior art, Chthonian Stars (Wildfire LLC) has done a superior job that both Mongoose and TSG should be taking notes from. The little innovations, such as trade rules are going to get a reworking in a later supplement – so my advice avoid this product until Mk II comes out and hopefully reworks the whole thing. So, there is 92 pages of lacklustre content. However, if traditional Traveller deck plans are your thing – then you might find some merit it. And, if you did like T4’s Starships book then you have found a sequel.