This article originally appeared in Issue #003 of the downloadable PDF magazine.
(Editor's note: The author of this review presented us with a valid reason to publish this review under a pseudonym.)
of Discordia—Traveller Edition. Darrin Drader
Mongoose Publishing http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
168pp, PDF (Hardbound expected release April 2010)
Note: this is a review of the PDF currently available on DrivethroughRPG and other fine eBook sites. My copy was obtained directly from the author in exchange for this review.
This is a 168 page document replete with beautiful illustrations that introduce the setting to new players and referees alike. It is a separate campaign universe, called Reign of Discordia (RoD for short), completely unrelated to the Original/Official Traveller Universe (OTU – Third Imperium, etc.), but it does offer some suggestions how to incorporate some Traveller material into the RoD setting. Unlike an earlier product by the same name, this RoD Campaign Guide/Sourcebook is designed for use with Mongoose Traveller (MgT); you will therefore need to own the Traveller Core Rulebook. There were a few typos that made reference back to the original True20 rule set but nothing that an experienced Referee could not correct. In fact, there is very little in the way of rules or adjustments which are fine by me, as I often like to run games with both players and referees flying by the seat of their pants rather than having to look up Rule X as it applies to Situation B. In which case, reinforcing and making it a better fit with MgT than True20 which takes a layered approach to complexity.
RoD clearly falls into the New Space Opera genre. While there are dashes of Asimov and Clarke in there, this is clearly post Star Wars with lots of huge starships and funky aliens. It differs from regular Traveller, as it portrays a more cosmopolitan and integrated universe reminding me of Star*Drive or Star Frontiers, rather than a Human-centric universe of Grand Empires. In fact, it is set in the era when a Grand Empire or the Stellar Imperium has fallen apart and like Humpty Dumpty, all the known races do not know how to put it back together again. So instead, they scheme and plot to put their race back into the saddle. Also, noteworthy is the attempt to get the Science right so again very much a book that seasoned Traveller players would appreciate.
Sections One, Two, and Four cover the RoD milieu. After mankind pulls itself up by its bootstraps and makes it to the Stars, it encounters a few alien races, fighting a few, finding common cause with others, and eventually creating a multiracial galactic empire: the Stellar Imperium. Then, the Stellar Imperium collapses chaotically due to both internal and external reasons, with parallelisms suggestive of the fall of the Roman Empire or Asimov's Foundation series or the crash that lead to the Rebellion/TNE era in Traveller. My personal take would be this would be akin to the Long Night allowing incorporating parts of the OTU back into the setting and thus preserving some of the High Tech Goodness that was achieved by the Rule of Man or Second Imperium. Helpfully, the author has seen it fit to include a timeline of major events.
Section Two covers planets. Stats for fifty-one are provided, broken down by the dominant inhabitants (Humans, Tallinites, etc.), or status (Former Stellar Imperium, Frontier System). This is the weakest part of the book; a paragraph on each barely provides background of each world, let alone adventuring information or ideas. The author also uses terminology for levels of liberty and wealth distribution, but neither matches his terminology to the standard Traveller UWP codes, nor, apparently, makes any effort to ensure that the standard-format UWP can substantiate his references. Also disappointing is that this section is not in colour and mired in Planetary Romance conventions such as Solid Purple Gas Giants. Also, an unusual number of Gas Giants are represented whereby different communities form upon gigantic industrial “oil” rigs (a nod back to Piers Anthony – Bio of a Space Tyrant series). In the author’s defence, he does state that most of the action will take place in Space not individual worlds. As a long time Traveller player, this will take some adjusting – where strange new worlds or even familiar terrestrial worlds provide the mainstay of adventuring locales.
Section Three and Four covers the different organizations in RoD. Sixteen are dealt with, most with the potential to be either an ally to the PCs (e.g., Earth Defence Forces) or the game’s main adversary (the so-called Tribes of the R'Tillek). Each organization's history, agenda, leadership, members, member benefits, and relations are covered. I found the last to be the most important: by knowing how the organization feels about the others, I could develop adventure plots. The section gives a cursory overview of incorporating the organization and the player’s race along with traditional Traveller careers. This section is rather scant but I think the sourcebook is richer for it. The background includes seven races: Gaieti, Lamogos, Relarra, Sangor, Tallinites, R’Tillek, and humans (of course). The R'Tillek are the racial foe everyone hates, and Referees are cautioned to give deliberation before permitting a player to assume the role of one. Scattered in there are bits of equipment that add the sense of wonder for the setting.
Lastly, there is a massive section on starships and a guide to running RoD (essentially, how different adventure types can be built into a Campaign) and the sourcebook concludes with a fun adventure. The starship section contains the obligatory deck plans which all MgT products seem to have. The Guide is perhaps the one area that I would like to have seen expanded, as it does not seem to provide a good sense of the milieu, making it one large sandbox (which may be a benefit to some but others might still wonder what more they can do it with). More supplements and guides are planned for 2010. If the quality continues to live up to this one then we have a winner.
All in all, I give the product 4/5 stars and look forward to many more releases in the line including the Hardcover which I intend purchasing.