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The Great Rift

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2018 issue.

The Great Rift. Martin J. Dougherty.
Mongoose Publishing http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
128pp., PDF (softcover forthcoming)
Price TBD (see note)

Note: The reviewer received his copy as part of the deliverable for the Great Rift Kickstarter, and will be receiving the softcover when it ships to Kickstarter backers.

The Great Rift is an important astrographic feature in the Third Imperium setting for Traveller, and with the release of this book and the other books that are part of the Great Rift Kickstarter, it finally gets a bit of attention.

The introductory material gives a broad astrographic overview of Charted Space, and how the system of rifts shapes it, from the galactic inter-arm gulfs down to the miniature ‘rifts’ that separate the Jump-1 mains. Following this is a discussion about exploring rifts, with a shout-out to TravellerMap. This section also discusses the difficulties of operating around the fringes of a rift, where there may be worlds that are accessible only with high-jump ships, and also the logistics of actual rift crossings.

The next section is the first that focusses specifically on the Great Rift, the so-called “claw” that the Spinward Marches is “behind”. This section discusses two “well-known” crossings of the rift, the Jump-5 Aslan route through Riftspan Reaches, and a Jump-4 route through Reft Sector’s Islands subsectors. An brief summary of the Aslan crossing and a somewhat more detailed overview of the Islands crossing are given, and hints about other crossings and rumored in-rift installations are summarized.

Some areas of the Imperium—and in fact of Charted Space generally—have sentient species, extant and extinct, that are peculiar to that area; the Rift is no exception. Three races are described, one extinct, one that (unusually for Mr Dougherty) pretty much breaks my suspension of disbelief, and one that has enough information provided to be usable as player-characters (much like a “Contact!” article from the original Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society, or a Club Room article in Freelance Traveller). The pictures of the playable race are clear, but do look like Poser art, and there is no human figure or silhouette to use as comparison.

Although the Rift is mostly empty space, even more so that the areas with denser stellar distribution, there are still things of interest. Chapter Four, Features of the Great Rift, touches on some of those, including a neutron star (complete with a quite unusual set of accompanying satellites), a trio consisting of two black holes and a large star, several areas where Jump “doesn’t work right”, and some (possibly mythical) oddballs, including a habitable planet orbiting a brown dwarf, a rogue gas giant moving at high (sublight) speed, a derelict spaceship, and a region of apparently sourceless gravity.

No sourcebook discussing an area of space would be complete without a stellar atlas of the region, and this volume is no exception. Two complete sectors, Corridor and Riftspan Reaches, are presented, rounding out the volume; each sector gets an overview of the sector as a whole, plus subsector-by-subsector listings of the worlds therein, each with a subsector overview and quick profile of the most significant worlds in each subsector. Accompanying this material are inserts and sidebars presenting significant or interesting companies, fauna, vehicles, spacecraft, and starships. (Notable by omission is Reft Sector; this wasn’t included in the Great Rift sourcebook because it gets an entire separate sourcebook of its own.)

A definite buy, when it becomes publicly available—but you’ll want to get the entire Great Rift set, not just this book.