This article originally appeared in the July/August 2017 issue.
Dagudashaag. Jae Campbell (editor1).
Dagudashaag Development Team and Signal-GK Productions http://wiki.travellerrpg.com/Encyclopaedia_Dagudashaag
Editor’s Note: The reviewer has advised us that there is also a 46-page referees-only supplement to this item, containing additional data. This supplement is available from http://wiki.travellerrpg.com/images/3/30/For_Your_Eyes_Only.pdf.
Occasionally Traveller books come along that are astonishing for their conception, their content or just their sheer size. The Encyclopaedia Dagudashaag manages to score on all three of those fronts in what is an outstanding piece of work. I’m sure many of us would like to see more of this kind of thing. Imagine every Imperial sector done in this kind of detail?!
This hefty 382 page PDF (A4 sized) is the masterwork of Jae Campbell. It was first proposed as a project back in the early 1990s in Signal-GK, no.7 and it’s perhaps not surprising that it’s taken a quarter of a century to come to fruition with Jae working on it for the last couple of years.
This is the logical extension of books such as Supplement 10: The Solomani Rim (GDW), Behind the Claw (Steve Jackson Games) or The Spinward Marches (Mongoose Publishing) but where every world, race, or significant individual gets a decent description. In 1,077 entries (excluding ‘see’ references) varying from just a line or two to a couple of pages, an entire sector is detailed and described for hours of role playing adventure or even just immersive reading.
I’m sure I’m not alone in having dreamed of lovingly detailing a sector in this fashion. But I doubt I’m alone in finding that, once the UWPs were generated the project would get bogged down in just the sheer enormity of an entire sector, 16 subsectors, hundreds of worlds. The imagination begins to flag; the scale of the Imperium begins to become a reality.
This is the genius of this encyclopaedia; it effectively crowdsourced a solution in the days well before that became a thing. Between 1993 and 1997 Messrs Campbell and Piper produced 13 issues of the UK-based fanzine Signal-GK, which covered Traveller, MegaTraveller, and Traveller: The New Era and (Marc Miller’s Traveller just getting a mention at the end) with articles, adventures and most particularly the issue by issue revealing of Dagudashaag sector in supplementary booklets. Although the Spinward Marches and sectors such as Theta Borealis were given time and space, Dagudashaag was Signal-GK’s home, as it were, with data for classic Traveller and the rebellion era. Readers of Signal-GK including many members of BITS (British Isles Traveller Support) contributed to both the articles and the sub-sector development and it is (mostly) the latter that forms the greater part of The Encyclopaedia Dagudashaag. [I should perhaps at this point declare a tiny interest and mention that although I came to it rather late in the day, just in time for one of the very last subsectors (Iraadu), I contributed some seven minor pieces to the periodical that have all made it into the encyclopaedia. This is, I believe, my earliest published Traveller work and I should credit the car-share team of Ann Hindson and Barbara Lucas for their contributions and all the fun we had on the motorway across several years.]
This is not, however, merely a re-presentation of the fanzine in alphabetical order. In fact, all 13 issues have recently become freely available on the internet and those interested are highly recommended to take a look. Not everything that graced those pages have made it into the encyclopaedia. Adventures in particular and some of the smaller filler material aren’t included; technology articles from ship designs to weapons haven’t been included either – although there are some short items where they were subsector library data rather ’zine articles. Other rules based articles have not made the transition for obvious reasons.
So what is in the Encyclopaedia? Well every single world in Dagudashaag for a start. All 559 planets. Where the world was the subject of an extended profile in Signal-GK, these have been considerably reduced in size and scope; gone, also, is all the World Builders’ Handbook-style data. However, all the other worlds, the vast majority, that only got a brief paragraph of treatment in the subsector booklets that were published with the periodical have been somewhat extended. Although the loss of useful data is a slight pity, it would have been a mammoth task to produce such data for every planet and it would have made for a mammoth book. What has been added is Traveller5-style extended UWPs for every world. This means that the volume can essentially be used with every rule set of Traveller and many of its Third Imperium settings – although not perhaps, Milieu 0 and TNE.
Instead of the wide variety of entry styles that might be expected from its origins, the encyclopaedia now has a much more balanced coverage which is all to the good. Nothing feels skimped over and nothing dominates in an overbearing way. Also, the editor has taken the opportunity to tidy up some of the text of the original so the entries feel more ‘full’ where they might have been mere notes and more even in tone which is definitely an advantage over the varied voices of the original authors. The sector itself has an entry of course of just over a page, as well as a colour-on-white sector map at the start of the PDF and a white on black overview of the subsector names, planet locations and x-boat routes. Each subsector has a full write up along with a nearly paged sized colour-on-white map produced from travellermap.com. A loss from the originals, however, is a key to the information on the maps which could have been rectified, if not on every map, with one master key in the preliminary pages. The maps are the only colour in the whole volume except for the red lettering of the large capitals placed at the start of each letter of the alphabet.
Another swathe of entries cover the sentient beings of the sector. For some reason these have their headings in ALL CAPS which does make them stand out a little but seems an odd variation and is slightly confusing mixed in with acronym entries such as INDISS and SIDDIS. The race entries are some of the longest: a quick glance suggests that the S’mrii have the longest entry at four pages long. But this length is useful for referees who want mini-alien books which could easily be adapted for use outside of Dagudashaag if desired although there are no character generation style rules for any of them. As well as alien races, there are entries for various empires and polities within the sector and on five occasions these include short timelines.2
Also liberally spread through the volume are major players in the sector from Aliskhander VIIII [sic] to az-Rabayr Mehrban Zabeh. These entries bring a lot of life to the book which might otherwise feel a little dry. Having said that, even if you’re not adventuring in Dagudashaag, it is nigh on impossible to open this at any page and not be inspired in some way to think of a piece of colour, an adventure seed, or even a full blown scenario. There is so much here of interest and of use to players and referees alike. There are languages and short entries of spacer slang; there are animals, plants and drugs; there are technology entries, companies and even legends. The scope of this is indeed impressive. Readers may want to refer, in some cases, to the original articles or Library Data entries however, as there are significant variations. As well as editing the text for stylistic purposes, and in at least one case, the Legends and Lore of Dagudashaag Sector for example, splitting a longer article into constituent entries, much text has been lost. Sometimes this is mere detail, sometimes it might be more significant.
A nice touch is the intrusions of a hacker, CyJac, which could have been overdone and spoilt the effect but in fact are a useful way the editor can, often wryly, provide commentary on any particular entry. Again, this adds some life to otherwise po-faced entries. Naturally CyJac has inserted an entry on themselves. On the other hand, one omission which is to be slightly regretted is the lack of ‘which see’ or q.v. references where something mentioned in the text actually has its own entry which might be useful to refer to. Examples include Benjamin Ra’Scania, Broadleaf, Colect and Shampka which are all mentioned in various places but unless you happen to think of it, you wouldn’t know that they also have their own entries which give further information. Some such q.v. references have actually been removed from the original texts.
The Encyclopaedia Dagudashaag is illustrated throughout with pictures and logoes from the original Signal-GK. Many of these are really excellent and deserve a second, wider audience. The likes of Tim Osbourne, Nik Piper, Duncan Law-Green and Paul Sanders to name a few, have produced work that feels very Traveller and really helps both players and referees visualize an alien being or scene. Some of the artwork is a little more so-so but helps break up the pages and was still worth including. Just occasionally some pictures have lost some clarity from the original Signal-GK versions – a shame but perhaps inevitable given the passage of time and magnitude of the job. On at least one occasion, illustrations have been changed – for example, the Jala’lak don’t look quite the same as the original, but in this case I think it brings the description and the pictured example more into line with each other. The one suggestion I might have made would have been to colourize the front cover. All of the interior illustrations are black and white or greyscale and none the worse for that. However, the cover – a wonderfully busy collection of buildings, people, aliens and emotion that somehow does justice to the encyclopaedic nature of the work – cries out for the vigour and attraction of a full colour treatment. I’m tempted to set my daughter to it with a box of pencils.
A couple of details I’ve not mentioned: the text is unjustified throughout which isn’t critical but arguably detracts from the impression the whole volume gives of being a seminal work of Third Imperium publishing – nicely treated in not one but two imprint pages. One is the real one and the other an ‘in-universe’ page revealing it’s the 127th edition dated to 1114, edited by one Tobias Lei Han and published by Sherver Press of Ushra. This page also warns of the CyJac ’13 intrusion. It’s also worth noting that apostrophes are ignored for alphabetical order but accented characters may be at the end of the alphabet Swedish style, or ignored.
I cannot praise this book enough. As a resource for Dagudashaag sector it is of course now the go to work. As a resource for any sector, it is without parallel in Traveller publishing. Even if you’re not interested in this particular sector, as a resource for people and places, religion and races, and a host of other bits and bobs, you can’t help but take inspiration from entry after entry after entry. Like any encyclopaedia it is not really something to sit down and read in large chunks but as a reference book or as something to dip into and travel through and to simply savour and enjoy, it’s an absolute delight. Given its nature it’s not the simplest way of getting the kind of overview we’re more used to but some Britannica-style study guides could ameliorate that somewhat. The only way this volume could be bettered would be for a physical book but I understand print on demand will not be offered. Still, a trip to the local copyshop should produce a handsome volume for the shelves. If going this route, however, you might want to consider an A3 version of the sector map folded in as an endleaf. The one page version is fine in PDF form where it can be enlarged and read quite easily but it is rather small to give anything other than overview when printed on A4 or US Letter.
All this and I haven’t even mentioned the best part. The Dagudashaag Development Team as they style themselves are offering this labour of love and tour de force absolutely free. You can pick up a copy at http://wiki.travellerrpg.com/Encyclopaedia_Dagudashaag and you’d be remiss not to.
1. Duncan Law-Green and Leighton Piper are also credited as editors of the original Signal-GK.
2. For the Aakri Empire, Guukian Federation, Kimaled Collective, The Medurma Pact and the Ustran Empire.