Traveller Core Rulebook, by Gareth Hanrahan
When I am reviewing a book like this for a game that I am unfamiliar with, my main question is whether or not this sort of guide makes me want to play the game or not. And while there are definitely some interesting mechanics here, I’m just not sure if the game itself is compelling enough to want to play. In some ways this particular game appears to be even more mathematics heavy than the majority of games that I wind up playing, I just think that this game might require a lot of setup time to be enjoyable and that might not be the most fun thing to do when the game is itself not really an escapist gem. To be sure, there may be people who support this game and are familiar with it, but I don’t happen to know any of them personally (at least not yet), and this game is one that I’m not sure would be as enjoyable to play as the creators of the game seem to hope. Still, I pondered what character I would have if I played the game and so there is at least something of interest here, even if not to the level where I would go out of my way to play it.
This particular book is almost 200 pages long and it begins with a very brief bit on the game itself and the different sorts of focus a campaign can take (much of it seeking to borrow from Star Trek plots). After this there is a lengthy section on character creation that involves various classes and histories before there is a list of skills and tasks that characters can undertake. There is then a discussion of combat as well as encounters and dangers that can be faced along the way. There is a discussion of equipment as well as spacecraft design and some discussions on common spacecraft. After a section on spacecraft operations and space combat there is a brief section on psionics for those who want to explore this aspect of the game. After that there is a look at trade and then world creation before an index closes the game. And while there are clearly some very interesting characters that one can make in this book, it seems as if the creators of the game didn’t do a good job making a compelling world for them to act on, and much will require on a creative GM to make the game worth playing.
What would make a book like this more compelling? For one, it would be good to know the larger series or intellectual property that belongs to this particular game. It is easy to appreciate a game, even a demanding one, if there is something that the game is related to. For example, the Lord of the Rings role playing game is not too dissimilar from D&D except for being noticeably weaker in terms of magic spells, but the game itself is a compelling one because the Lord of the Rings universe as a whole is a compelling one with a lot of quests, worthy characters, races and classes, and gameplay that people would care about because of their interest in the larger world. Having not seen any other books besides the core rule book and not being familiar with any larger intellectual property that is related to the game, I wonder if the idea of creating a core rulebook for a game that lacks any larger hook is a wise one. At least most role playing games come with a compelling world to immerse oneself in, like Firefly or Dr. Who, for example, but this game just sits there with nothing but a lot of calculations and a general science fiction approach to encourage gameplay.