Traveller's Aide #1 Review

Posted by me to the Traveller Mailing List (TML) May 2nd, 2002

This is one of several reviews on this product from our friends at Quiklink. One I've seen covers some aspects in detail, so I'm going to try and not cover the same ground.

Rather than review the contents in detail, as other reviews have done, I'm going to focus on what caught my eye.

This supplement is not for the experienced group of Traveller players looking to outfit their TL C-F Mercenary unit. Armor isn't covered, nor is crew served weapons. This focuses on what the individual players would be carrying and just as important, why they would be carrying it. It has, what is in my opinion, a rather sensible discussion on the pros and cons of different types of weapons and their uses. For example, "For self-defense, handguns are the best"; or "Rifles are the longarm of choice for most users." It also gives example of why each is suited for it's intended role. There is also details on the different types of pistols (holdouts, Magnum revolvers, semi-automatics, etc.) and rifles (carbines, assault rifles, ACR, Gauss, etc.) and the pros and cons between those.

This level of written detail is very helpful for the role player without much (or any) experience in firearms to select the weapons that suits their character and the campaign. It's easier to get flavor from the written details than the charts. To use the example from RPG humor about the 'Real Men', 'Real RolePlayers', and 'Munchkins', the Real Men will already know that they want Magnum handguns and Gauss Rifles, the Munchkins will just scan the charts for what does the most damage, but the Real Roleplayer who's used to rapiers and longbows will really appreciate the detailed descriptions of the weapons and their uses.

Personal weapons other than firearms are covered. The broad categories are: melee, non-lethal, and Zero-G. These are covered in the same detail as the firearms.

The detail to non-lethal weapons are a nice addition. While a proper application of high explosives (or a hail of 4mm Gauss rounds) will solve many problems, it's not always the best solution. Detail is given to sprays, stun guns, Thud guns, batons, and others.

Melee weapon are covered in more detail than most Traveller rule sets I've seen. Given the d20 system's rich background in fantasy RPGs, this may have been a resource just too rich to ignore. As someone who has been involved in the martial arts for many years, I did like the note that some weapons (like the ever popular Nunchaku) can easily keep attacking your foe if they take it and try to use it.

The section on swords and knives is well written. It goes into the differences between a foil, a cutlass, and a light saber (light in weight, not like the ones Luke and his dad use). Detail not only given on the differences between the blades, but also who uses which type of blade. Nobles carry foils, Marines have their cutlass, Army officers have their dress sabers, and Naval Officers have a slightly more robust foil (a nice touch that alludes to the Social Aspect of the Imperial Navy).

This also is one of the hidden treasures in this supplement. It is casually mentioned that Imperial Nobles in the Year 0 era carried ornate Magnum Revolvers. Large, powerful handguns, precision crafted, very practical and very deadly. Centuries later, Nobles carry foils instead. A more symbolic weapon and certain easier to carry around than a kilo and a half of steel on your hip. From this the player can draw multiple conclusions. Two examples. Nobles in the old days were in more personal danger. Nobles now days have more time on their hands (it takes a lot of training to become really dangerous with a foil).

One of the melee weapons that really caught my eye was the Boarding Axe. A high tech weapon designed for deadly close quarters combat. As a long time fan of Edward E. "Doc" Smith and his "Lensmen" series, I really enjoyed seeing this addition. If you don't like the idea of the Imperial Marine Cutlass, then you won't like this. If you like even a slight bit of Space Opera in your game, then the Boarding Axe is for you!

The Zero G weapons are the classic Traveller standbys, the Book 1 Lasers and the Book 4 Snub pistol and Accelerator rifle. The popular Snub SMG variant is also included. One interesting note is that the Snub pistol is said to have a standard 'ball' cartridge. In CT, the Snub pistol fired large caliber Tranq, Gas, HE & HEAP rounds at a very low muzzle velocity. No mention of standard rounds in CT or MegaTraveller. As far as I know, the first mention of solid slugs for Snub Pistols was in Traveller: The New Era, were Snub pistols had a much higher muzzle velocity than given in CT Book 4.

A quick note on readability. Adobe Acrobat can be adjusted to fit a full page on your screen. I found it easier to read it this way, rather than read 2/3s of the first column, page down, read the bottom third, page up, read the top 2/3s of the second column, page down to finish the page. I also have a big monitor and good eyes. Your mileage may vary. I also downloaded the Adobe Acrobat view for Palm OS devices and loaded the file on my Palm i705. The graphics won't display (including the artwork on various weapons scattered throughout the book) and the tables are a mess, but all the great detailing text was easily readable.

Even though the folks who make d20 Traveller put out this book, it also has all the CT stats for each weapon in addition to the d20 stats. Weapons from Book 1, Book 4, and Striker (and probably a few other places, including T4) are all collected in one spot with all the nice charts and tables.

This review can also be found online at the T20 site and at Freelance Traveller.
Review of Traveller Aid #2
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Portions of original material © Copyright 2002 Mark Urbin