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CD-ROM: Apocrypha 1

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2016 issue.

CD-ROM: Apocrypha 1: FASA and Gamelords. Various authors.
FarFuture Enterprises http://farfuture.net
PDF and other files on CD-ROM, ~617MB

As part of their efforts to make electronic versions of all historical Traveller material available, FarFuture Enterprises has released this collection of licensed third-party material for Classic Traveller, from FASA and GameLords. A second disc of Apocrypha, from other historical licensees, is available separately, and will be reviewed separately.

This disc contains FASA’s Adventure Class Ships (five series), Deckplan Modules, and adventures, and Gamelords’ adventures. PDFs and JPG images scanned from the original products are included, with some editing by FFE prior to release (and noted in the PDFs).

The textual material in the Adventure Class Ships, sadly, seems to be only scanned images, rather than the text-behind-image used in other products and other Traveller CDROMs.

Production values are mixed; some of the material appears to have had sufficient money and effort behind it to achieve a look-and-feel similar to the contemporary GDW Traveller products; other material looks like “camera-ready” preparation was done with early word processing software and “high-end” daisy-wheel office printers.

The CD-ROM edition of the Adventure Class Ships are actually not straight scans of the original product; the PDF books have been ‘edited’ to include small reference plans, and to ‘correct obvious errors’. They also include photos of counter sheets for using the plans in combat scenarios. Scans of the sheet plans (I have some of the original boxed product) are generally at a resolution of 5100 by 6600 pixels (1722 inches, at the 300 dpi density that was common with early laser printer; or 811 at 600 dpi), with “thumbnails” at 200 by 259, in JPEG format. The ship data is presented in Book 2: High Guard format, and it is assumed that you will have access to that document to interpret the USP. The books include ship encounter tables which more or less assume that your campaign will be running in a setting that is essentially the Official Traveller Universe. Despite various ship designs being attributed to one or another of the Powers of the Official Traveller Universe, there’s really nothing stopping—or even slightly impeding—a referee from lifting these ships whole into a non-OTU campaign.

The Deckplan Modules contain much more information about the ships they model than the Adventure Class Ships do about theirs. The originals were done to 15mm miniatures scale (and endorse the contemporary Martian Metals miniatures), and include a sheet showing where air ducts are on each deck. These were intended not merely as combat maps—though the intent that they be used so is clearly there—but as potential settings for entire adventures, and the author(s) supplied some seeds (short descriptions of the situation, but no proposed resolutions) to get you started. Again, it wouldn't be difficult to lift these ships into your own campaign.

The FASA adventures include several that are often mentioned favorably even thirty-odd years after their release; the ones that aren’t are, in this reviewer’s opinion, of quite comparable quality. These aren’t simple adventure seeds or half-finished frameworks, but entire adventures, with well-fleshed-out characters, settings, and often two or three interwoven plots to keep players interested. Both combat and non-combat threads are included, and can be selectively emphasized or minimized depending on the players’ and referee’s tastes. It should be noted that the adventure Uragyad’n of the Seven Pillars is included as both A03 (its correct number) and A07 (which number is also used, correctly, for Trail of the Sky Raiders). The adventures are text-behind-scan, but the scans are of indifferent quality and low resolution; several diagrams that have legends are unreadable, even when magnified.

The Gamelords adventures are a mixed bag—some are collections of seeds (Wanted: Adventures), encounters (Startown Liberty), or worlds (Lee’s Guide to Interstellar Adventure), some are essentially collections of encyclopedia articles or Library Data, with one or two plot suggestions attached (A Pilot’s Guide to Drexilthar and Caledon Subsectors), some are settings and rules to use in them (The Undersea and Mountain Environments), and some are full-fledged adventures (The Drenslaar Quest, Ascent to Anekthor, and Duneraiders). The scans suggest that Gamelords had less of a budget for production than did FASA; the typography and cover design somehow look less refined. Nevertheless, the material itself is of good quality, and these adventures also include some well-spoken-of products.

It is perhaps not surprising that these are quality material; even though these date from Traveller’s early days, the names William H. Kieth, Jr. and J. Andrew Kieth are prominent in the list of authors, and while the other names are perhaps less known to the modern Traveller player (with the possible exception of Gregory P. Lee), they did work of comparable quality, and it could easily be considered a disservice to them that they are not better known.

One might hope that someday better scans and better OCR might happen, and a revised version of this CD—or replacement by a DVD, if necessary—released, but even in its current form, there is no question that it is worth every cent of its price, and quite likely more.