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This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue.

SORAG. Chuck Kallenbach II.
Paranoia Press (defunct, no website)
31pp., PDF
US$6.00/UK£4.76 (DTRPG) or on the Apocrypha 2 CD-ROM from FarFuture Enterprises

SORAG was an early supplement from Paranoia Press that looked at a Zhodani intelligence agency. The ‘official’ description of the agency makes it seem more like an analogue to an office of the Imperial Scout Service; the reality is that it is more of an analogue to such services as the US CIA, British MI6, German SD or Abwehr, or Soviet NKVD/KGB.

This supplement was originally published in 1981, four years before GDW’s official Zhodani sourcebook (Alien Module 4: Zhodani), and thus Mr Kallenbach did not have access to the information presented there. The agency as presented feels like it could just as easily be an Imperial intelligence agency; the occasional references to the Olympiad dating system and the availability of Psionic training are the only things that distinguish it. Psi is not nearly as prominent in this supplement as it is in AM4 and adventuring material written subsequent to its publication.

SORAG makes heavy use of not only the Classic Traveller core rules, but also Classic Traveller Book 4: Mercenary and Book 5: High Guard, and Paranoia Press’s own Scouts and Assassins and Merchants and Merchandise.

The career presented here generally follows the pattern set by the expanded Classic Traveller careers from Book 4: Mercenary and Book 5: High Guard, with each four-year term being divided into one-year assignments, but Mr Kallenbach has added some complexity in the form of extra checks and career attributes such as a security clearance level. Given that he seemed aware of the Zhodani system of dating by Olympiads, it’s interesting that he didn’t decide to make one Olympiad (three years) equal one term – but then, neither did Alien Module 4: Zhodani.

An additional twist is that mustering-out isn’t automatic; SORAG is reluctant to let operatives leave the service. Unlike the careers from GDW and in the two other Paranoia Press supplements that SORAG “requires” as background, one does not roll for re-enlistment and muster out if the roll fails; instead, the character decides whether he wants to muster out, and rolls to see if it will be permitted (2D for 10+). Additionally, there is no retirement incentive such as a pension (although there is a mandatory retirement age). Even failing a survival throw doesn’t necessarily get you out of SORAG; the character could instead end up as a covert agent, “officially” dead, but not in reality, and possibly in one of the other arms of the Zhodani forces.

Descriptions of the skills available to SORAG characters are spread out all over the core rules and the required supplements, plus there are some unique skills that are documented in this supplement. Unless you (as a referee) are “down” on “skill proliferation” or “a skill for everything”, some of the new skills documented here could actually be useful for other non-SORAG (and non-Zhodani) characters.

While an example of the character generation process is not provided, there are two pages of pre-generated SORAG characters that can be taken as examples of the results. They’re suitable for use as player-characters (for example, at a con where time is limited and you don’t want to waste it generating characters), or as non-player-characters when semi-anonymous encounters are needed.

The section on equipment offers interesting options; some of them were eventually incorporated (or reinvented) into official Traveller rules (not necessarily into Classic Traveller, however), and other might still be of interest if they fit your campaign. None of them require extremes of technology; most are below TL10 (as contrasted with the general statement in Classic Traveller that the Zhodani were at TL12/13 to the Imperium’s TL14/15).

The back cover of this supplement provides a list of Paranoia Press products – but some of those products were in process or planned at the time of publication of this volume, and it’s a bit disappointing that a majority of them never actually made it into print.

In general, I’d rate this supplement as a “buy”, but with the caveat that you do need their other published career supplements to make full use of this. Obviously, if you purchase the Classic Traveller and Apocrypha 2 CD from FarFuture Enterprises, you’ll have everything you need.