Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition: Central Supply Catalogue
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue
Supply Catalogue. Matthew Sprange.
Mongoose Publishing http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
154pp., Hardbound and PDF
Pros: great humor makes for a fun read; useful for both Players and Referees; makes you consider unusual environments and situations.
Cons: prices of certain entries do not make sense; some items are dull; costly for a book that restates content from the Core Rulebook.
To give some background for the review: I read through Central Supply Catalogue in less than a week on my laptop, and it is still fresh in my memory. I got it because I was looking for rules to handle robots in Mongoose Traveller 2e (New Traveller). My experience with Traveller is limited to the New Traveller: I have read the Starter Set, Companion, High Guard, and one of the Referee’s Briefings so far. Since the Starter Set is substantively the same as the Core Rulebook, I refer to the Core Rulebook even though technically I have not read it.
An aptly-named supplement, Central Supply Catalogue offers exactly what is on the cover—a catalog. A typical entry consists of a paragraph or two of description, special rules where necessary, stats for the game, and an illustration.
Illustrations accompany almost every item, which jogs the creativity most of the time but annoys in a few instances (do we really need a picture of a shovel?). The book attempts to create a catalog feel by assigning numbers (SKUs?) to items and then identifying images by those numbers. While evocative in theory, this approach left me with a headache scrolling through pages trying to connect pictures to objects.
Little jokes crop up now and then in descriptions, some of them prompting genuine laughter. The book does not take itself too seriously, which makes for an entertaining read. I cannot name another catalog that is so fun to read.
However, I do not think all the items deserved full entries. A large number of things only needed a name, TL, weight, and a price: rope, duct tape, hiking boots, etc. A large table with everyday items could have saved page count and also helped establish a “feel” for fair prices.
Speaking of pricing, after reading this book I still have no idea how to spot-price certain items. The assigned pricing sometimes seems arbitrary. Establishing some sort of a “Big Mac Index” for Traveller (Astroburger index?) would have gone a long way towards giving the reader an idea of the purchasing power of a Credit. [Editor’s Note: In practice, using Cr1 = §2 or §3 seems to be reasonable (§ = reserve currency of choice, e.g., US$, UK£, or EU€)]
With that said, let’s go over each of the 17 substantive chapters:
Equipment Availability: This chapter gives you new rules on how to acquire things based on the system you are in. The rules go over finding items that are legal, but hard to get as well as illegal items, and then ends with law enforcement response to the latter. This is a bit redundant with what is in the “Legalities and Lawbreaking” chapter of the Traveller Companion. However, it is a good thing—it lets the Referee pick and choose how to approach things.
New Rules: A page to give you new Weapon Traits. My only gripe is that the Central Supply Catalogue does include items from the Core Rulebook, but does not restate their traits. So, the idea that you would only ever need one book for equipment falls a bit flat.
Personal Protection: Armor and armor-related accessories. This chapter covers the basics and introduces some exciting niche items for Referees who like Mad Max or want to go medieval. Some pieces of equipment in this chapter can also turn your Travellers into veritable Warhammer Space Marines with Protection and Electronics to boot.
Survival Gear: A couple of pages per dangerous environment and some generally useful items. These 19 pages get the creative juices flowing. As a Referee, I cannot wait to put my Travellers through all the situations that would require the items from this chapter. Especially the Squirrel Suit. One small gripe—this chapter is missing a bookmark in the pdf version of the book.
Electronics: A couple of pages for electronics. It mostly restates what is in the Core Rulebook, except for a couple of useful detection gadgets and rules for wrist watches.
Computers and Software: Again, a few pages on the topic of computers with most of the stuff coming from the Core Rulebook. I would say, however, that this chapter makes it easier to understand which piece of software you need for which scenarios.
Robots: The section I really bought the book for. And it is a bit disappointing. The rules for robots are mostly the same as for animals. That’s really it. There are no guidelines for pricing the robots, which, combined with a small number of examples, makes it hard to price new ones. Some of the example robots have a distinct Star Wars vibe—I’m not sure how to feel about that. Finally, all moderately useful robots are insanely expensive. The most advanced battle dresses and great weapons together are more affordable than a single combat robot—and outperform it.
Tools and Engineering: A few pages with useful tools, including a chainsaw. Some entries make you imagine unusual scenarios where the items in this chapter would be helpful.
Medical Supplies: A short section that packs a punch. Useful items all around, including PSI-related drugs, combat boosters, and healing supplies. This chapter also presents affordable and relatively low TL tools for bringing dead Travellers back to life.
Personal Augmentation: A reasonably robust, albeit short list of creative and exciting augmentations. The chapter also introduces options for augmentations, including biotech augmentations.
Home Comforts: The most fun chapter in the book, full of jokes and unusual items. Without spoiling much of it, I can only say that this chapter makes you think about the regular life of Travellers, what they do for fun, and generally helps you consider Travellers as human beings and not just space-faring murder hobos.
Close and Personal: Ten pages of close combat weapons. This is a robust chapter that gives you all the necessities, as well as introduces non-standard items: arms to avoid detection, PSI-weapons, weapons for assassins, and melee weapons that use shotgun shells.
Self-Defense: More than a dozen pages of ranged weapons short of heavy weaponry. This chapter also includes archaic weapons such as crossbows, grenades, and a lot of technological variations on how to deliver a piece of lead to your opponent.
Heavy Weaponry: Artillery, vehicle-mounted weaponry, and a few man-portable machines of death. It is not as fun as the previous two chapters, but if your Travellers really need something dead and have the Credits, this is the chapter for you.
For the Discerning Weapons Specialist: A short section with whips, bolas, boomerangs and other weapons that are more style than substances, as well as explosives from plastic to nuclear.
Ammunition: This chapter lets Travellers customize their slug-throwers further. It is mostly practical and just makes guns better for a bit of cash.
Sighting Aids and Accessories: A fun little chapter that helps you make weapons a bit more interesting. It contains such essentials as silencers and high-capacity magazines, as well as a touch of gonzo in the form of chainsaw bayonets.
Overall, Central Supply Catalogue is fun to read, useful for Referees as well as Players, and lets you customize your Traveller game or turn it into Star Wars, Warhammer, or Fallout. It is undoubtedly the most entertaining and robust catalog I have ever read. I would not call it essential, especially since the Robot rules are barebones, but if you have the money, it is well worth the investment. If anyone has any questions about this review or the supplement though, contact me on Reddit (u/Chubby_Russian), and I will try to respond.