Traveller: The Third Imperium: Sector Fleet. Martin J. Dougherty
Mongoose Publishing http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
Once again, I am going to be reviewing one of the latest offerings from Mongoose Publishing for their Traveller line. Sector Fleet is written by the talented and quite prolific Martin J. Dougherty (hereafter shortened to MJD) and sadly will mark his swan song or (one hopes) his temporary departure from writing for the Official/Original Traveller Universe. As one can tell that I am quite a fanboy of MJD style and writings, as he is reminiscent slightly of the old Keith brothers save without the endless tables that went along with their writing. Adventures, like his writing style, are clear and precise without the extra verbosity and deliver many punches with slamming accuracy.
Sector Fleet is essentially a guide to everything one ever wanted to know about the Imperial Navy and some of its rivals. It goes through meticulous detail describing the different types of ships and removes some of confusion regarding terminology that was inherited from Traveller’s earliest days (such as ambiguous and seemingly archaic term – Colonial Fleet).
It also seeks to clarify the lines of command by delineating where Nobles’ interest lie and which interests the Admiralty is sworn to uphold. Shades of the Fifth Frontier War echo eerily throughout reading these passages. So, if your campaign, as one of mine has revolved around Norris’ capture of Imperial Stationary – then this would provide the correct amount of gloss to understand the metagame. Having said that – is Sector Fleet a metagame product? Not really. At least not in the sense of Trillion Credit Squadrons/Imperial Squadrons or the wargames that GDW produced. Happily, it shies away from the wargaming roots of Traveller and returns it back to where it belongs – the realm of role-playing. However, the transition is not smooth and unless one has appreciation for all the different types of ships and ranks that command them – it could quickly descend into a quasi-wargame. With this objective in mind, there is a listing of all the fleets of the Imperium – an exercise that certainly filled pages but did not really add value to the average roleplayer. As a Referee, better would have been a suggested structure with a few examples and the player is unlikely to gain
Littered throughout are quirks tying Traveller back to the Age of Sail such as the reintroduction of a Rum Cupboard given an appropriately modern sounding title. I would have liked some further discussion on tactics. For me, it is perennial question, how to fashion space battles – is it akin to an aircraft carrier battle group, a submarine wolf pack or squadron of aircraft. At the end, of the supplement, I still had the answer that I had at the beginning - all three. Which hardly is satisfactory…? Also, there was no discussion how the technology such as Black Globes or Meson Guns could be used to modify tactics. Similarly, there was very little on the role of the Navy during Planetary Assault missions. Is this a terrible thing? No, it is merely a drawback. These issues will hopefully be dealt with a future supplement dealing with Fifth Frontier War/Rebellion that has been hinted at by Mongoose.
So, what is bad about this product? Very little but is biggest fault that might not be worth the price for something that is that it is a by-in-large reprint of Grand Fleet – a QLI PDF product produced both for CT and T20 which may or may not be Imperial Navy commissioned for GT. So, if you do own Grand Fleet which has been pulled from QLI shelves then you will feel slighted unless, you are like me, detesting reading information from a screen and like the feel of a book. So this is my fourth time buying this product and wished there could be some extra value added between the editions.
What also is bad the artwork seems a tad recycled from the Comstar/Avenger line. And, furthermore, sadly this book suffers from very little art. For art in RPGs should not be neglected in game books. Art can be used to tell part of the story as well as prove a resting point by providing a break from excessive text. And, indeed, this is where this book has severe drawbacks and shows its lineage as being a PDF prior to being a deadtree book. Artwork in a PDF can be viewed as a waste of valuable and expensive ink but in a book, it should be something that adds value to the book. Therefore, the poverty of art does not detract from the quality of information presented but does have a tendency to overwhelm the reader with all the factual information leading the reader tired at the end of it.
I conclude with wishing deeply that MJD would write more for the OTU. For both the Reft Sector and the compilation of adventures entitled Crowded Hours truly show an innovative and fun way of reinvigorating the Grand Ole Dame that is Traveller.
For lack of art and the lack of crunchy bits like no info on Planetary Assault or future tactics. Substance drops down to 4 which could have otherwise been a solid five.