IT’S no secret that I have been, and probably always will be, a Traveller RPG player. My first RPG ever was the classic Little Black Book three-volume boxed set i 1977. I played what is now Classic Traveller (CT), then flirted with Megatraveller (MT), skipped Traveller: The New Era (TNE), investigated Traveller 4 (T4), invested heavily in Mongoose Traveller (MgT), and supported the Kickstarter for Traveller 5 (T5).
In early September 2015, Mongoose Publishing rolled out a public beta of Mongoose Traveller, Second Edition (MgT2E). I was hesitant for about 48 hours to buy the downloadable pdf because, well, it’s Mongoose which has a history of poor rules integration, proofreading, editing, and abandoning properties (Hammer’s Slammers being the most egregious to me in the realm of Traveller rules). Mongoose set up playtest forums on their website which were publicly viewable at first but now require a password to peruse.
As a public beta the product is not perfect. Aside from the typos, bad cross-references, and the like there are two major changes in MgT2E that caught my attention – Boon/Bane and Spacecraft. Additionally, I worry about backwards compatibility.
The first major change is the Boon/Bane mechanic where the player rolls 3D6 and takes the lowest two (for Bane) or the highest two (for Boon). This 3D6 + Dice Modifiers (DM) roll is in place of the usual 2D6 + DM core mechanic. For some reason, the rules as written (RAW) are confusing to me.
MgT2E states, “When the referee decides a task should be either easier or harder, he may change the target number needed for the check.” (MgT2E p. 58)
- Note: MgT2E uses Target Numbers for Task Difficulty ranging from Simple 2+ to Formidable 14+. This is a change from MgT where difficulty was represented by a DM (Simple +6 to Formidable -6) (MgT p. 49) and the task roll was 2D6 + DM > 8 for success.
When defining difficulty, MgT2E rules state, “Before any other factors are taken into account, the referee should set the difficulty of a task, based on how hard he believes the task should be without any exterior effects. For example, making a telephone call is a Simple task, and remains so, even if the Traveller is hanging upside down from a spacecraft flying through a storm.” (MgT2E p. 61)
Dice Modifiers, “…should be regarded was being “hard-wired” into the rules, and only applied if they are listed in a Traveller rulebook or supplement.” (MgT2E p. 61)
MgT2E defines Boon/Bane as, “…an exterior factor…influencing the task, for better or worse….Making a phone call while hanging upside down from a spacecraft is a good example of a Bane being applied….” (MgT2E p. 61)
I’m sorry – I just don’t get how task difficulty and Boon/Bane work together. Nor do I see a clear difference between task difficulty and exterior factors. Don’t get me wrong; I like the intent of the Boon/Bane mechanic (the 3D6 High/Low 2D roll makes for interesting odds and results) but the RAW are unclear as to when, or even how, Boon/Bane is applied. I would like to think it’s a narrative (role-playing) tool for the players and referee. Regrettably, the rules are silent on that issue.
There are no ship construction rules in MgT2E. Mongoose assures us that these will follow in a new High Guard publication. In every previous version of Traveller there was always at least a basic ship construction rules set included in the core product. Not MgT2E. Without spacecraft construction rules it is difficult to use the Spacecraft Operations and Space Combat chapters because, beyond the few sample ships, I have no way of telling if they scale well enough. Nor is it apparent why ships now include Power and Power Requirements. It appears to me that power was introduced late in the design process and its interactions were not fully vetted with other rules.
I actually have invested heavily in MgT. I have numerous books and supplements. I also have invested in third-party publishers. I like Zozer Games’ Attack Squadron: Roswell, Outpost Mars, and Orbital settings. I love Spica’s Outer Veil. I have recently laid down good dough for Gypsy Knights Games Clement Sector setting. I even have Flynn’s Guide to Alien Creation. There are sufficient differences between MgT and MgT2E in character generation, skills, combat, and ships that I question the usability of MgT products with the MgT2E rules. Unfortunately for Mongoose, their past performance has me wary of their commitment to the future. I have yet to forgive them for abandoning Hammer’s Slammers. I regret purchasing the mess they published as Book 1: Mercenary Second Edition. Indeed, it has been the third-party publishers that are putting out the most useful products (for example, see The Anderson and Felix Guide to Naval Architecture which is the ship construction manual that MgT has needed all along (and is now – I’m guessing – useless in MgT2E to a degree yet to be determined).
At this point in time I have adopted a wait-and-see attitude. I participated in the Traveller Playtest forum the first few days but, frankly, I don’t feel like my input has any value given the overwhelming fanboy presence (about what I should expect on a publishers home ground).