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A Travellers’ Dozen

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue.

A Travellers’ Dozen from Reft and Trojan Reach. Samuel Penn.
NotASnark https://notasnark.net
47pp., PDF
US$3.99/UKú2.90 (PWYW)

A Traveller’s Dozen is a TAS-badged NPC supplement for Mongoose Traveller 2nd edition available as pay-what-you-want on DriveThruRPG (DTRPG).

It’s most likely pay-what-you-want because some of the content is already on the web. Samuel undertook a character-a-day challenge at the beginning of 2021 and the first dozen of those NPCs he generated are what he put together into this supplement. He’s up front about it as it’s the first paragraph of the book and it’s on his blog. He’s added lots of other stuff of course but the basics were already there.

The blurb on the DTRPG page pretty much tells you exactly what you are going to get in more detail than I’m going to put into this review:

Each character has an image file, a VTT token, logos for the companies, and images and tokens for each ship. I don’t use this type of stuff because I don’t virtual game, but if you do then I expect that this adds to the product.

The quick preview will show you exactly what you are going to get because it previews the whole product and the Full-size Preview gives you the first two characters completely. And once you’ve seen these why wouldn’t you download the whole thing? It’s pay-what-you-want and to be honest it’s pretty good.

Even the Contents page is good. Samuel distils each of the NPCs into one line, and for most of them, not all, you get stuff you can just use straight off the bat as a Referee. For example the first character “Arkurla Akhar—a freelance journalist trying to find the one big story to bring her fame and fortune”. I can use that. I can get my teeth into that NPC and I don’t even have to see the two pages that Samuel has written for her. He does this for the organisations as well. Great. One page in and I’m liking it already.

All of the characters were generated randomly and Samuel stuck to the rolls. This means that the story of the characters are Samuel’s interpretation and making sense of the rolls though the character generation process. Mongoose character generation helps you make good characters and NPCs in this regard with life and career events along with rivals, enemies, allies, and contacts. Samuel has used these, joined them up, fleshed them out and put meat on the bones of those rolls. He’s even turned the connections into NPCs with UPPs and head shots and a blurb pulled form the character’s story. Again an example from Arkurla Akhar character’s contacts “News editor at Tobia Uncovered! known for taking credit for other people’s stories and blaming them for his mistakes. Has friends in all the right places though so has been able to get away with it for most of his career.” I can play this sleaze straight off the bat. Two sentences and Samuel is helping the referee play this NPC.

Not only that but he goes further and gives you a bunch of plot hooks on how you can integrate the main NPCs into your campaign. As a Patron, as the object of a job, with references to the companies that he has written up from the NPC’s life events, and then integrates them with the other NPCs in the supplement.

And if they have ships, he writes up the ship as well. Gives some of them a couple of quirks. Writes up the rest of the crew in the same manner as the connections. They are not all idea inspiring but there are more than enough that are. Even when you think Samuel has got it slightly skewed such as the news editor above; if he’s know as taking credit for others work then how does he get away with it? You get to think about it and expand on it yourself, perhaps he’s know for it by those people who he’s fired, but not by management, or something else … another example is on one of the ships crew “Uncouth but dedicated to the ship and crew, Ike is the ship’s engineer, They are single handedly responsible for keeping the ship running” implies non-binary gender identity (as male/female isn’t given in the description) but could well be multiple personality disorder, or something else completely. Absolute Gold. One sentence and away we go. This is helping the referee.

I mean don’t get me wrong they aren’t all jumping off the page you get the occasional “A thief with skills in social engineering and burglary.” but for the majority of them you can just read them and go.

Again not all his story hooks are popping off the page to play, but some of them are, and he does well in joining them up. He uses the same thing from different angles in a few places, but this just gives you different ways to get your PCs to where you might want them to be.

Samuel has shown in this supplement just what you can do with a bunch of random character generation roles and some imagination. Add some plot hooks, a supporting cast, some organisations and some ships add your own imagination and you could make a campaign out of Samuels supplement. It wouldn’t take much.

This type of thing is what Traveller does well, take a bunch of random dice rolls apply some rules and some imagination and create gameable content. Traveller does this for characters and it does it for worlds and planets as well. While this is not a masterclass in what you can do with character generation, it’s a pretty damn good one. If you just want some NPCs then these are worth looking at. If you want some ideas about where you might want to take your campaign then you can jump of some of Samuel’s. If you want to see what you can achieve from a bunch of random dice rolls and a bit of imagination then Samuel shows you what’s possible.

A Travellers’ Dozen from Reft and Trojan Reach by Samuel Penn is pay what you want on DTRPG and it’s worth paying for. Download it, read it, and if you use some of the content go back and buy it again for a pound. If you use a decent proportion of it then double that at least, or if you use it lock stock and barrel then go back and give him more than he’s asking. Any Traveller referee can benefit from this supplement. It’s worth having and it’s worth encouraging Samuel to create more.