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Travellers' Aide #1 - Personal Weapons of Charted Space

Game Line: Traveller (Classic & d20)
Author: Martin Dougherty
Publisher: Quiklink Interactive
Length: 45 pages, full colour, Acrobat file.
Highs and lows: Comprehensive survey of personal weaponry available in the  Traveller universe.
Would buy it if: You want a wide range of weapons and complete game information at your fingertips.

This first offering in what is intended to be a series with a new issue every month or two, this well-presented PDF covers all manner of personal armaments from knives and clubs through swords and boarding axes to small arms. Descriptions, notes on their history and use, sketches and those all-important statistics - presented for 'original' Classic Traveller (CT) and the new d20 Traveller (T20) - are all included along with useful material on how to smuggle the weapon of your choice out of the starport extrality zone onto that nice high Law Level (i.e. lots of weapons restrictions) planet you're visiting… or, if you're the GM, how to spot what those rascals of characters are up to!

True 'gun bunnies' may be slightly disappointed in that military small arms are not covered, but it is refreshing to find a hardware-orientated game supplement that does not assume that everybody can get their hands on milspec equipment, and concentrates on items that normal civilian Travellers will be able to obtain. Do not fear, military weaponry and armour are promised for later versions.

This is, however, a lot more than a weapons catalogue. Personalised snippets of information from notables explain such important topics as what the sensible Traveller ought to carry, how the Imperial Weapon Permit system works and how it interacts with local weapon control laws. Interspersed are notes for the GM explaining how to use or modify each area for use in their own games. There's even a delightful essay from a Naval officer in which she states that, "the proliferation of small arms… should be curtailed immediately and with the greatest vigour." A retired Marine presents a more reasoned case, explaining that any prudent individual ought to ensure that he is properly equipped and trained for any eventuality, including that in which combat might be the only option.

These preliminaries out of the way, the detail begins with a discussion of melee weapons, i.e. bladed and blunt weapons that may be used in the hand in combat. Non-lethal weapons are also covered along with warnings that the 'threat' value of a non-lethal item is much less than that of even a small blade or firearm! Indeed, it is these continual 'real world' asides that make this such a fascinating read, it's easy to forget that I'm curled up at a computer in 21st century England and imagine that I'm actually reading a weapons magazine in the far future…

Aging traditionalist gamers such as myself can be delighted by the presence of the 'original' Traveller nomenclature for cold steel - the 'blade' as anything above a small dagger that isn't a sword, and the misuse (in contemporary eyes trained in sport fencing) of the name 'foil' for a gentleman's sidearm. Cold steel is expanded on with the addition of spears, bayonets, lances and even polearms… and at last, the 'boarding axe' that has delighted generations of EE 'Doc' Smith's Lensman fans is included!

Less stylish combatants may indulge themselves with brass knuckles while those who practise martial arts are now equipped with the necessary information to bring their throwing stars, flails, nunchuks, etc., out of the dojo. Archers are also catered for with a range of bow weapons and more esoteric thrown weapons such as boomerangs are also covered.

And then to the weapons of most Traveller's choice: firearms. These are presented in historical sequence, beginning with black powder and smooth bore weapons and progressing forwards to modern slug throwers and more futuristic flechette and laser weapons. (With, I am glad to see, a note explaining the difference between 'clip' and 'magazine' for the large number of folks who use the two terms interchangeably!)

Each weapon is discussed in turn, including description, ease of use, capabilities and limitations. Useful points such as how easy it is to obtain or conceal are included. While reference is made to the usefulness (or otherwise) of various weapons and loads in zero-g conditions, nobody seems to worry about the lack of wisdom inherent in discharging a projectile weapon in a pressurised environment!

As already mentioned, non-lethal weapons are also given good coverage, so if you prefer to gas, stun or drug the opposition, spray him with an irritant or make a nasty noise at him, your needs are catered for. Each form of assault is both described and backed up with the apposite rules for both CT and T20. This section rounds up with assorted sights and ancillary equipment (even a heads-up display that can even track your ammunition expenditure… just in case you lose count!

Next come several pages of detailed statistics tables for all the classes of weapons mentioned, in both CT and T20 formats. This section includes game details of the effects of different sorts of ammunition, for those who like to pick their loads according to the situation.

And we're still only just over half-through the book!

Time to add flavour, the sort of thing that adds to the 'alternate reality' of the game. A list of well known weapons companies. And then… and then: a partial catalogue of weapons to give your possessions some individuality - have a Manstopper Six or an Ultraforce 14 on your hip rather than just another autopistol! All neatly tabulated with prices and ammunition ready for the characters to go shopping. Just what every GM needs when the players announce that they need some new weapons!

There are even a few 'unique' and 'unusual' weapons to choose from… A dedicated marksman might choose a Portcullis Sector Knight, hand made and firing match grade ammunition, giving him an inherent +1 bonus (just as well, as it won't accommodate electronic sights!).

Finally, Referee Information, including some variations on combat rules such as area fire and panic fire, and abstractions of weapons searches. There's a Contraband Weapon Penalty Chart for when you manage to catch them smuggling too…

Overall, an addition to your Traveller library well worth the having if weapons feature in your games. If succeeding issues live up to this standard, it's a product line you should keep an eye on.