Mongoose Traveller—The Third Imperium: Alien Module 1: Aslan
This article originally appeared in Issue #001 of the downloadable PDF magazine.
The Third Imperium: Alien Module 1: Aslan. Gareth Hanrahan
Mongoose Publishing: http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
Alien Module 1: Aslan is Mongoose's first foray into presenting us the Major Races of the Traveller Universe.
If Alien Module 1: Aslan is any indication Mongoose has continued to follow the Classic Traveller motif in its product line while putting its own spin on it. Aslan is a hardcover book (I've yet to really detect a pattern as to which books they release as hardcover and which they release as softcover) with a painting depicting various Aslan, their clothing, and their architecture. Above this is a heading done in dull chrome loudly proclaiming “The Third Imperium.” This looked a bit jarring to me on first seeing it, but Mongoose has started releasing other mileu products (Hammer's Slammers, Babylon 5) using the Traveller ruleset and this very different (for Traveller) heading is probably meant to effectively differentiate Mongoose's varied product lines using the Traveller ruleset.
One of the things that I've liked about Mongoose's treatment of Traveller is the way it strongly evokes the Classic Traveller feelings and yet manages to seem to break new ground. This was the impression I had from Aslan as well. I took the opportunity in this regard to actually compare what Mongoose did with their treatment and what GDW did with their Alien Module twenty-five years ago. The differences – dare I say improvements – show up in several small ways.
Traveller's major alien races are now twenty-five years old. A lot is known, accepted, and loved about them. Mongoose realized they weren't going to be able to make major changes without alienating their customers, and there was no need to. The book's typography and I think its organization gains points. Their character generation (and this, I think, is a plus for the entire ruleset) gives additional details without overwhelming things. For example, while the Classic Module mentioned the Aslan rite of passage (Akuaeuhrekhyeh), Mongoose enhances the roll by giving possible events that may happen during the rite. In this it continues to enhance the “past life events” section of its character generation rules started in the Core Rulebook proving this just wasn't a fluke but they intend to continue this fleshing out through the whole release.
While you can point to entire sections of this module that were literally lifted from the Classic text, Mongoose still managed to go farther. As an example, in “The Aslan Race” section both books mention there are different types of wars the Aslan engage in. Mongoose goes farther by enumerating what those types are and how they're defined. The book also goes through equipment, as you would hope, but I found some of the illustrations here rather valuable. Yes, it is said that Aslan taste is toward “rounded figures” but its another thing to see a land crawler depicted that way. Illustrations like that bring the concept home. In the next section a good spectrum of Aslan spacecraft are represented, from the a Scout class vessel, to tenders, and Pocket Warships. Finally, the last section of the book details the Trojan Reaches Sector and gives notes on further adventuring in that area.
Is the book perfect? Of course not. Errata have already been released mostly in the form of missing paragraphs and information. Missing Pax Rulin – the Imperial Naval lynchpin in the sector - was a bit of a boo-boo!
I think Mongoose realized they had to offer value for money with respect to the Alien Modules. They really have been done to death between all the different incarnations of Traveller. With Mongoose harkening back to many of the mechanics and statistics of Classic Traveller its possible to just use the Classic Traveller books to generate your alien characters. Indeed this is what I'm doing until the future Alien Modules come out. However, I think that Mongoose, by and large, succeeded in bringing more to the table with the first of their Alien Modules. Oh, its not as major as a new entree or dish on the menu, but they're using new spices, and they've manged to use them effectively. If Mongoose is able to maintain the quality with their future Alien releases as we've seen with Alien Module 1: Aslan we may have a good set on our hands.