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2300ad: Tools for Frontier Living

This review originally appeared on rpg-resource.org.uk in March 2016, and was reprinted in the November/December 2017 issue.

2300ad: Tools for Frontier Living. Colin Dunn.
Mongoose Publishing http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
176pp., PDF
US$17.99/UKú13.77

Much of Traveller 2300ad is about life on the frontier, and this book begins by attempting to bring some of that flavour across, with a piece of fiction about farm life and some explanations. For example, frontier living is a mix of primitive and advanced technology, and knowledge across the entirety of known space is fairly consistent. Hence, the Technology Level of a frontier world is more a reflection of what they can make there, the manufacturing capabilities, than what they actually understand there. They can usually get hold of higher-tech items, provided they are willing to pay for them. Attitudes are different, too; the sort of people who make good colonists have a somewhat different approach to life from those who remain on core worlds. Sketches of sample colonial settlements illustrate this discussion on what the colonies are actually like, and it all makes fascinating reading.

Next comes a chapter on Colonies and Colony Design. The colonisation process is described in detail. Once a potential colony world is discovered, first in are survey teams, who begin with orbital surveys and then land, staying for five to ten years looking round a new planet then once it is deemed suitable the pathfinders arrive and spend another five years setting up basic infrastructure before the actual colonists turn up. There’s masses of detail here, enough to inform the development of a campaign about establishing a colony, if that takes your fancy, and this includes apposite rules information.

This is followed by Outposts and Outpost Design, where ‘outposts’ are defined as small-scale facilities established in deep space, on asteroids, or inhospitable worlds. These are not intended to be self-sufficient of themselves, although they may be components of a large whole. The same concepts can be used in creating colony precursors, a nucleus about which a colony can develop and eventually become self-sufficient. Deep space or asteroid based outposts are often zero or low gravity, those on planets have gravity of course but may be on airless worlds (or those with an inhospitable atmosphere). Again, there’s plenty of detail (and illustrations of sample outposts) to enable you to incorporate them into your game.

Next comes a chapter on Frontier Agriculture. Virtually every colony tries to farm for at least their own use if not for export. Most of the time, crops of Earth origin need genetic modification to be able to thrive on other worlds. Animals may or may not need this, depending on whether you can grow crops that they can eat… but they likely will have to be protected from local wildlife. Sometimes, said wildlife can be tamed and farmed itself, should they be edible or otherwise useful. Greenhouses, hydroponics and aquaculture (fish farming) are also discussed.

Everyone needs somewhere to live, so the next chapter discusses Structures. This primarily covers imported structures, rather than those built using local materials, although these are covered as well, with the rules and costings you’ll need. Many are modular in form, and often come pre-fitted according to their intended purpose. This is followed by a chapter on Power Systems.

Then a chapter on Animals opens with some fiction from an exo-veterinary surgeon, describing her life as a colonial veterinarian. Much of the material here covers exported Earth animals and their adaptations to colonial living, but we also hear about creatures native to the colony worlds. There’s also costings and rules for animals here.

Next we take a look at Clothing and Protective Gear. Now we get to the sort of ‘shopping list’ I’d been expecting when I opened this book—in fact, the discussions talked about above were a delightful surprise! Of course, listings of stuff your characters can purchase are always useful. In many groups, shopping ranks highly amongst preferred activities—generally only combat and carousing get more interest from them. There’s everything from smart and budget street clothes to armour and specialised outfits in this chapter.

The chapter on Medical Technology opens with quite an impassioned tirade from a medical doctor who resents those who think the technology is taking over and doing most of the work. The trained medical mind still has its place. However, there’s plenty of equipment listed here to supplement such trained minds. There is also a list of drugs, not all of them medical… some are ‘recreational’ or have other uses besides healing.

The gear theme continues with a chapter of Exploratory Equipment, everything from backpacks and tents to mapping equipment and even snowshoes. This is followed by Tools and Industrial Equipment—everything from the multitool in your pocket to fabricators and explosives. Then on to Computers, Communicators and Personal Electronics. This in particular shows the difference between 2300ad colonies and their earlier counterparts. Even the most primitive appearing colony has access to cutting edge computing power. Similar in nature are the Sensors and Scopes which follow. This group of chapters rounds off with Miscellaneous Equipment and Consumer Goods—autokitchens, makeup kits and even a composting toilet.

Next, out into space, beginning with Space Equipment. This is the stuff you really don’t want to fail! It includes rescue equipment, beacons and satellites here, before moving on to Spacesuit Design. If you have a mind to, you can get down and dirty with custom designing every detail of the suit on which your life will depend. In similar vein, the following chapter deals with Aquatic Equipment, with dive gear, boats and other items useful if you intend taking to the water.

There’s a chapter on Police and Security Equipment, plenty of useful stuff here whichever side of the law you may happen to be on. Then comes the Weapons chapter, unsurprisingly one of the longer chapters in the whole book. There’s plenty here to keep your gun-bunnies happy.

The final section of the book is mostly transportation, although the chapter on Robots and Drones provides robots (and drones, of course) for many purposes. Following this fascinating read, there are chapters on Walkers, Vehicles and Starships and Spacecraft.

With the material herein, your Travellers should not want for anything that they might need as they roam the worlds or settle down to build a colony.