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21 Plots Too

This review originally appeared on rpg.net in January 2012, and is reprinted here and in the September 2012 issue of the downloadable magazine with the author’s permission.

21 Plots Too. Various authors
Gypsy Knights Games. http://www.gypsyknightsgames.com
23pp, softcover or PDF
US$9.99(softcover or softcover+PDF)/US$4.99 (PDF only)

I would first like to thank the owner/publisher of Gypsy Knights Games, John Watts, for gifting a copy of this soft cover for the purposes of this review. Thank you very much. Gypsy Knights Games (GKG) is a gaming collective turned into a gaming company, dedicated to bringing old time Traveller goodness to a new audience through the Mongoose Open Game License designed for the Mongoose Traveller rules. Nowhere is this more evident than in 21 Plots Too. For this product, like its predecessor and likely successor products, focuses on plot hooks in the form of Patron Encounters (in which a job is formulated and 1D6 possible outcomes) usable as either Campaign filler or just enjoyable one-shots with minimal effort needed by the Referee save to sketch in the details of the adventure.

Traveller has a long history of this type of adventure, even before they were called Adventure Seeds, and GKG is bringing that tradition back. But, why buy this product over others? Well, Traveller has a particular vibe that distinguishes it from other SFRPGs that I and others have characterized a grey gritty Hard Space Opera. Whereas many games, including those commissioned by licensed Traveller companies, have veered too far toward Hard SF or too far toward Space Opera, most Traveller players have been happy with the game being balanced in between: realistic enough to know that Space can kill you (if the chargen does not do it first) but also fantastical enough to allow things like hyperdrive, antigrav devices, psionics, anti-aging drugs, etc. to exist along side. Many of us view Traveller as being situated in the far future of the Golden Era of SF literature (1930-1960s), as a result; however (maybe it is my age), I don’t think so – I would rather situate Traveller in the far future of the time in which it was written – the 1970s — and perhaps later, as it has (to some extent, and belatedly) kept pace with the times albeit two or more steps behind. Thus, Traveller isn’t cyberpunk, but it will have chrome fittings; nor is it Transhumanist, despite one of the major interstellar polities being known for advances in genetic engineering. Traveller is—and really always has been—a heuristic for adventure, and that is where 21 Plots Too enters the picture.

Building upon the work outlined in the various Quick Worlds folios, GKG is building an Alternative Traveller Universe that is quite unlike its competitors. It takes the notion that a Sector will have a (local) history unto itself, even if it has a history as part of the larger universe (the metasetting?), and just runs with that. The local history should be enough for any Referee to run a game, without having to worry about the metasetting—but, too often, in other products, it isn’t. This is an area that GKG is rectifying with its Subsector Sourcebooks, ultimately allowing the use of both histories side-by-side, and acknowledging that one of the great strengths of Traveller is the idea that it is connected with the metasetting, even though it is a constant topic of debate in the Traveller community about how much of the metasetting to take in. This is where I find 21 Plots Too does a great job in providing a backdrop that I could use in my Official Traveller Universe (OTU) or continue to follow the unfolding story that GKG is taking me on. My review of Subsector Sourcebook 1: Cascadia will reveal the merits of going on the journey. But, the most important thing to know is that you are not a prisoner of having to use GKG’s setting; just that it would be helpful, if you do.

Like its earlier companion volume, 21 Plots, 21 Plots Too shows great respect for the Traveller heuristic, and for finding the balance between Hard and Soft, and Light and Dark, that makes Traveller, well, Traveller. These 21 plot points represent completely believable and credible encounters in any Traveller universe. They range from the zany to the serious in which 1D6 or Referee’s fiat will determine the contours of the adventure.

The cover art, which unfortunately is the only art present, is quite striking. It is very reminiscent of the MegaTraveller Player’s Manual, and the Traveller fan familiar with the latter will either assume that it inspired the artist, or will just squeak for joy in John’s wise choice of art selection. The price may be high for a mere 21 plot points [reported as $15.98 in January—ed.] but in that case go with the less expensive PDF alternative. However, if you are like me, you prefer the feel of a book as opposed to just paper printouts – then you will be rewarded with a nice saddleback book with sizable fonts. For a small company, it is very nicely rendered.