This review originally appeared on rpg.net in May 2015 and is reprinted here and in the November/December 2015 issue with permission.
Safari. John Watts.
Gypsy Knights Games http://www.gypsyknightsgames.com
153pp., softcover or PDF
As usual, there will be no spoilers in this review of adventures. Safari adventures somehow get very short shrift in SFRPGs, possibly because the original Traveller safari adventure, Safari Ship, did it very well or possibly the genre hit a brick wall with Jurassic Park. That said, Grand Safari breaks the mould and really creates a fun and interesting dynamic for safari-type games.
It begins with the premise that players all wish to join an exclusive exploratory club; in the OTU, this could simply be a specialized group of Scouts with higher than normal Social Standing – in short, a gentle-sophont association. First, players are tasked with a series of tests, which are rendered as dice rolls, but give lots of leeway for role playing behind the rolls. Having the players “test” their abilities gives them an excellent bridge to playing the safari component. It is truly a safari adventure in that players are awarded a scale of points for killing, capturing, or photographing (holographing?) the different fauna or flora that are the respective objects of interest. Superb plot twists ensure that no two missions are identical, and the environment is magnificently described, painting a picture of Man vs. Nature on alien worlds that offer a significant challenge that may be as difficult and unique as what they seek to capture. And, each of these worlds present interesting, varied fleshed-out NPCs not seen in a Traveller adventure in a very long time. With different environments also come new vehicles. The artwork, while still Poser, represents a fundamental quantitative leap from previous offerings. Furthermore, Watts has seamlessly integrated previous supplements in a complete package without giving away too much away, allowing the referee to run the adventure well even if lacking one ore more supplements (though perhaps not as effectively, IMHO).
Furthermore, additional adventures set in this untamed frontier are included, making this an invaluable purchase. Complete system details round out the package. This is truly a phenomenal investment. One could criticize this volume for having a little too much white space, but given the very small size of GKG, that is hardly surprising. The white space is not due to the lack of filler material; it is perhaps that this adventure might be better served if it were digest sized (although, I do like my A4) but that would probably lead to an increase in the number of pages and hence expense.
All in all, this is an excellent adventure sourcebook that certainly puts other Traveller products to shame by raising the standard to that of a professional sleek standard comparable or even surpassing some Mongoose titles, and firmly moving GKG from small press to a fully professional outfit, with exciting products. The adventures contained within do play out as something that can be inserted into any Traveller universe, but work best with the ATU of the Clement Sector. The pregens are nicely balanced with great backstories – there is even a uplifted panda in there and many, many, many thanks for the excellent character art. All too often this (character art) is overlooked; however, it has been my experience that players often select characters from their “look” even not looking at the stats. This book is worth its weight in platinum and is chock full of little gems. With products like these GKG hopefully will be able to make the successful transfer from POD to occupying retail space for they have made the successful transition from the small independent publisher to small skilled and unique publisher. Undoubtedly, this trend will only continue as the quality of their products keeps increasing at an exponential rate. Criticisms of this work could still emanate from only their small size and small operating budget – it is hoped that more graphic designers and game writers will flock to this publisher to improve the overall presentation of this material. Perhaps, a kickstarter might be in order…