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Scouts and Assassins

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue.

Scouts and Assassins. Donald P. Rapp.
Paranoia Press* (publisher defunct)
26pp., PDF
* currently republished through Game Designers’ Workshop/Far Future Enterprises, and also available on the Far Future Enterprises Apocrypha 2 CD.

Scouts and Assassins is a third-party supplement to the original Classic Traveller rules, providing an expanded character generation sequence for Scout characters. It post-dates the release of Book 4: Mercenary and Book 5: High Guard, but pre-dates Book 6: Scouts, and as a result, presents a somewhat different view of the Scout service.

The Paranoia Press version of the Scout Service did not distinguish between the Field and the Administration as Book 6: Scouts eventually would, and didn’t include an expanded table of ranks like Book 4: Mercenary or Book 5: High Guard. Unlike the basic Scout career, which did not admit retirement or a pension, this version of the career gave an allowance for each award of the ‘Silver Asteroid’ (which corresponded to the Wound Badge; the decorations for this version of the Scout Service had different names from the standard Traveller decorations), but also made it somewhat difficult to collect. Mr Rapp also created a few skills for the career, and the characters produced were comparable with what would eventually be generated by Book 6: Scouts. However, those specialty skills would have limited use in post-career adventuring; they were very specifically skills that apply to Scout-specific activities, such as first-contact situations (although some of them might be usable in opening diplomatic contact with an already-discovered species).

It’s uncertain why he paired Scouts with Assassins, but Mr Rapp included an Assassin career in this volume. This is a career that most definitely fits the ‘murder hobo’ image of player-characters. This is a ‘basic’ career; that is, it works on a term-by-term basis instead of a year-by-year basis, and provides a commensurate level of skills. It’s a good match for the ‘Thief’ or ‘Assassin’ class in some of the best-known fantasy RPGs. This career provides an equivalent to the Travellers’ Aid Society of the GDW careers in the mustering-out benefits; it does not, however, provide a pension. As with the Scout career in this volume, it provides some specialty skills; these are more likely to be useful in campaigns that are not necessarily oriented specifically to assassin-focused adventures. I have to object to some of the rank titles, however; one title given would definitely be offensive to quite respectable individuals who even today can claim the title; others refer to groups who historically were not specifically assassins, but were a better match for the modern organized gang (e.g., Crips, Bloods, MS13, etc.).

The two careers cover about half the volume. The remainder covers Delta Research, a corporation whose primary product is starships used by the Scout Service (along with related designs for mercantile use). There is a page of what amounts to Library data about the company, two pages of data on the Serpent-class (Type S) Scout (plus deck plans later in the folio), two pages of a character sheet for the majority shareholder in the company, and recognition drawings for the Serpent and the related Avian Free Trader. Most of the data in this section is in a caps-only OCR font (I know it as OCR-A), and the quality of the scans is iffy enough to make it an even worse choice for readability than normal.

Overall, an interesting take on an alternate Scout career, but I’ll stick to Book 6: Scouts. If you want it, get it as part of the FFE CD, not as a separate purchase.