Out of the Darkness: The Traveller 1248 Sourcebook 1
The New Era 1248 Sourcebook 1: Out of the Darkness
Comstar Games/Avenger Enterprises
Print $29.99, PDF $14.99
I have been a playtester for the 1248 setting for a couple of years, now. Last month, I got the hardcopy of Traveller 1248 Sourcebook 1: Out of the Darkness. I posted a small review on ComStar's Traveller forum. I felt I'd better post something here as well.
1248 Setting: Love it, love it, LOVE IT!! Did I mention that I loved it? The setting has just about EVERYTHING a GM, new and old, can work with. You want civilization? You got civilization. You want a wild frontier? You got it. You want a sector with one big government or do you want a sector with multiple smaller states? 1248's got that too.
Now, I know that the grognards will gripe that the Big Empire is gone. That the biggest states average one sector in size, and that's it. Consider one thing: even in your Golden Age campaign, did you really need more area than a sector in size for your stories?
Keep in mind, not only do you get the 4th Imperium, you have other states as well, as I hinted at in the previous paragraph. The New Vilani Empire - New Ziru Sirka - is alive and well and a rival to the 4I. The Spinward Marches have several states working with and against each other (the 1248 Spinward Marches book is coming out soon). Terra is, at this time, under the benign control of the Terran Commonwealth. The TC is opposed by the bad old Solomani Imperium - a.k.a. New Rule of Man. The SI makes the old Solomani Confederation look like gentle liberal peacemongers. The Vargr Extents? ... well, what's to say? They were factional before; this time is no different. The Aslan have reestablished their Hierate. The main area of the Hierate, however is now coreward of the Great Rift. New Lord expeditions are now heading rimward across the riftspace to recontact old turf. There is even a rivalry between clans on which one is going to liberate Kusyu, the Aslan homeworld, first.
To sum up the Setting, I'd say that older GM's (time in game, not necessarily age) can create great stories that can make their players feel like they can make a difference - just like Traveller 1201. New GM's can get into this setting easy without getting intimidated - as opposed to the Golden Age (talking to a few new Traveller GM's gives me this opinion).
History: Martin J. Dougherty had a few liberties with the Traveller History section - mainly hinting that the Vilani contacted the Zhodani before contacting the Terrans. Who cares? The history reads very well and doesn't bore the reader too much with unnecessary anal detail. The book glosses over the history up to the 1220's.. that's where 1248's history really begins. One of the reasons for this is because MJD knew that many many of us 1201 players had our own stories during that time, and he didn't want to interfere with that. The only thing, is that, to remain "canon" with Traveller 1248, is your situation matches up with his work once your timeline hits around 1220. I think this is the coolest concept because the history, unlike preceding Traveller products, isn't anally detailed to the point that GM's/players feel like they can't do anything. The previous milieus, I always felt, were porcelain settings: It's nice to look at, but don't touch nor play with it. Everything has been detailed, down to the the individuals on the planets, it seemed at times (read: TML landgrab project - IMOHO the worst thing to ever happen to Traveller). Even the author for the 1248 Spinward Marches (Daryen on ComStar's Traveller forums) is trying not to detail things too completely.
What I like about the history also, is the stuff that is detailed. Some things can't be helped. If they're done right, it could be very beneficial to everyone - and I think MJD did it right. There are key moments in the 1248 history that players could've been a part of in their prior careers - especially the Great Battle of 1247. In my campaigns, if you were military, you WERE part of it. If you were civilian, you COULD'VE BEEN part of it. This is an example of something that can initially tie characters together when a GM is starting a new campaign ("You served in the Imperial Marines during the 1247 campaign? Cool! I served as a marine against the Dominate too, in the Sword Worlds Marine Corps. Pleased to meet you, bro!").
In short, the history is detailed enough to give a campaign body, but not enough to smother it.
Summary of Charted Space: This chapter tells you enough about all the major players in the 1248 setting to get you started. You can either wait for ComStar to publish more material on the subject, or do your own thing. All the major players you learned to love in the previous milieux are, pretty much, represented here, waiting to have their histories written by you. There are a few surprises compared to previous data on these sophonts. Read the book and find out.
Meta-plots: A lot of old meta-plots from Traveller 1201, as well as a few new ones, are here. From the Empress Wave to Project Longbow to the fate of Virus is here. The Star Vikings are mentioned here as well. A book detailing them is forthcoming. I like what happened to them. They are on a rescue mission to assist the ones who caused the Empress Wave: the Yaskoydray. I can't wait to read about them. That is going to be a grand journey toward the Galactic Core. I am sure ComStar will do it justice.
Problems: Ok, I have a pet peeve when it comes to published game works. It's a pretty bad one, I admit. But one thing that burns my behind is when ARTWORK DOES NOT MATCH DESCRIPTION!!! That can throw a new player/GM off-course.
Point 1: The cover art. The notes on the cover art state that the ship in the picture is a 50,000 dton Huron-class cruiser. In a pig's eye, it is! If that isn't a 100 dton scout/courier vessel, I will hang up my Traveller GM hat. In the credits section, however, credit is given to Wayne Peters, a.k.a. Scarecrow, for scout ship modelling. Since the only ship in the book that's a 3-D model is on the cover, ...
Point 2:The Aslan. On page 36, there is a nice picture, by Bryan Gibson, showing two Aslan females with a Human male. Look at the hands of the Aslan. Now, turn to page 82 where it has Aslan descriptions. Under "Physical Description," it reads:
"...The Aslan hand has three fingers opposing a single medial placed thumb..."
Ok, some of you might not think this is such a bad situation, but look at a new player's point of view. Nothing can throw off someone looking at a rulebook/sourcebook for the very first time and getting confusing messages like these. These examples show extreme unprofessionalism. Look at T4's first Starship book. That was my intro to T4 - which caused me to put the book back on the game store's shelf with extreme disgust (I never looked at a T4 book since).
All in all, in spite of ComStar's "unprofessionalisms," I think the 1248 book is a great step in further continuing the OTU timeline. I will support it in my campaigns and writings. I think it's about time to play in an OTU milieu where the future is not set. We set it. I hope more of us do the same.