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Three for 2300ad

This article originally appeared in the July 2012 issue.

The Tricolore’s Shadow. Colin Dunn. 10 pages, PDF.
Terror’s Lair. Colin Dunn. 10 pages, PDF.
Special Supplement 1: Biotech Vehicles. Colin Dunn. 8 pages, PDF.
Mongoose Publishing http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
US$2.99/UK£1.89 each via DriveThruRPG.

These three small PDFs from Mongoose provide additional material to supplement the core 2300AD book reviewed in Freelance Traveller’s May/June 2012 issue. Two are adventures branded for the 2300AD milieu. The third is a supplement and not specifically 2300AD; it is styled to fit the Traveller core line. Given the Pentapod penchant for biotech, it seems relevant to include it here.

The Tricolore’s Shadow

Fans of the original 2300AD material will recognize the two adventures. The Tricolore’s Shadow appeared in the original Traveller: 2300 box as a starter adventure. The PCs have been hired by RebCo SAR to survey part of the French continent on Beta Canum 4. It involves conflict with the French – and perhaps set the pattern for the French often being portrayed as the ‘baddies’ by 2300AD players – travel across Beta Canum, an alien vessel, and contact with the Pentapods. The alien vessel connects this book directly with Special Supplement 1 as the ‘Archie’ vessel description, stats and illustration are present in both volumes. Also included with the adventure is a map of Beta Canum 4 together with other material provided as a two page player handout.

Differences between the original version of the adventure and the present one are minimal with the exception of the addition of the whole ‘Archie’ presence, and the more modern presentation of the world map – although it’s less clear, the addition of a map of the valley being surveyed and the loss of the Bradstreet illustrations. What little ‘rule’ based material there is has been updated – e.g. the vehicle hull and structure points. Oh, and pay has been tripled which is in line with other revisions to Livre amounts for the core rulebook. The world map is that of the core 2300AD book but unfortunately the opportunity has been missed to either present it in colour or to make it somewhat clearer.

Terror’s Lair

Terror’s Lair is the adventure which was provided with version 2 of the GDW game. Now retitled as 2300AD and dropping the Traveller connection, the boxed set virtually doubled the page count of the original, revised some of the rules and was laid out more clearly. The adventure (included with the Forms booklet) is a rarity in Traveller: a solo adventure with 70 numbered paragraphs of varying length and the reader/player able to choose an option at the end of each paragraph which leads onto the next segment. This has been retained in the Mongoose version and again American Marshal Obadiah Thomas is on the trail of a drug smuggler on a ship in Earth orbit. Various outcomes are possible depending on the choices made and each numbered paragraph contains a time element so that the passage of time can be tracked.

On this occasion the adventure is identical in both versions except where the rules are involved. Basically, Tasks have now become Skill Checks or Characteristic Checks. The description of Obadiah Thomas is, of course, given in 2300AD style. The illustration and sidebar describing the ship the adventure takes place on have gone and the illustration of the marshal is new: he looks younger and much gaunter in his new incarnation.

As an introduction to 2300AD both of these adventures introduce various aspects and are set in two very typical settings and thus are definitely worth the money for anyone interested in 2300AD. For those who have the original material, their (additional) value is less certain and purchase will probably depend on how completist you need to be, or how much work you’re prepared to do on the Checks of Terror’s Lair.

Special Supplement 1: Biotech Vehicles

Finally, Special Supplement 1: Biotech Vehicles is a short PDF which adds the ability to design biological craft to Supplement 5-6: Vehicle Handbook designs. It notes that: “Since the Traveller vehicle design rules found in Supplement 5-6: Vehicle Handbook are effects-based, they can be used to design biotech vehicles in addition to standard ‘hard’ vehicles.” On seeing the PDF for sale this reviewer was instantly reminded of the biotech of the Yilané in Harry Harrison’s West of Eden (misnamed in the PDF without mention of the author as East of Eden – a completely different book by John Steinbeck!).

The book outlines changes to the basic vehicle design process to accommodate the special aspects of using biotech; this covers such things as agility, vertebrate vs. invertebrate structure, endo/exothermy of metabolism, and environmental limitations and effects. Also included is material on refuelling (eating!), healing, intelligence, and control modifications. There are notes on additional drive systems which are possible, more armour and defensive possibilities, and electronic (or cognitive) modifications. Lastly, the ‘Archie’ biotech airship is repeated from The Tricolore’s Shadow as an example.

In short, for those wishing to introduce this kind of tech to their Traveller universe, or want to extend the Pentapod vehicles which are available in 2300AD, this is worth a look. A missed opportunity – perhaps it will be a later supplement – is any mention of biotech starships in the fashion of Moya from Farscape or the living ships of the Vorlon in Babylon 5. This is particularly odd as the latter get a specific reference in the PDF.

It should be noted that the page counts above don’t include the PDF ‘covers’ which in the case of the 2300AD branded items are attractive full colour illustrations and in the case of the supplement is the plain black cover of other Traveller material.

In summary, three small but useful and interesting PDFs to support your travelling.