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).
7 thoughts on “First Impressions – Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition (Public Beta)”
It sounds like Mongoose is not improving Traveller with this 2nd version. The advantage/disadvantage element is not appealing. Not including all of the basic rules necessary to play/run the game in one manual (or box for those of us that were into the Original Black Books) is an automatic deal breaker.
I think I will save my money and stick with first edition Mongoose Traveller. For all of its editing issues it is still a version of Traveller I recognize and it plays well.
I have to agree. MgT1.0 does have its flaws but is not broken. There is much supporting material out there too. Like you, the broken up rulebook is a major negative factor to me too.
Hey, just found your blog and thanks for the breakdown on the new edition. I may have mentioned your post on my own blog.
I can tell you (and you may already know this) the Boon/Bane looks like an adaptation of the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic from 5th Edition D&D where certain conditions generate “roll 2 d20’s and take the highest/lowest” instead of using a more traditional die modifier. In that system they cancel out so that one could have advantage or disadvantage or neither. I think it’s a nice mechanic for D&D and could be used in other games but I admit Traveller was not one that I would have considered.
That phone example you cite above is a mess though, and some of the other changes you mention do not fill me with confidence either.
Advantage/disadvantage has also sneaked into Call of Cthulhu 7 and isn’t well implemented there, either.
Well, as you noted, the starships are not going to be at all compatible to what has come before this. This is, much to my displeasure, going to force a revamp of all of our products. I’m not sure if you saw my announcement about this so, if you don’t mind, I thought I would post it here. If it is a problem, please delete it.
As most of you know by now, Mongoose is readying their second edition of the Traveller rules. It will become available today (Sept 4) as a beta release PDF on Drive-Thru RPG. They will charge you $20 for that PDF (which will be refundable upon purchase of the final version) and you will get a say in the continuing playtest process.
For the most part, much of Mongoose Traveller 2.0 will be compatible with existing products. However, some products will need to be updated to reflect the changes made in the second edition. This has created some challenges for several of the third party publishers and Gypsy Knights Games is no different. Many of you have already contacted me to ask how these changes will affect GKG and our Clement Sector setting. Today, I am at liberty to discuss this.
The changes from Mongoose Traveller 1.0 to 2.0 will cause the delay of some of our products which we had planned for the closing months of the year. Those products (most of which I had not announced yet) will arrive in early 2016. While we will still be able to create products compatible with 1.0 (or products which do not rely heavily on system elements that will need to be changed), we will not be able to create products for use with 2.0 until Mongoose releases the SRD. I’m told this will be soon and probably toward the beginning of 2106.
In addition, the advent of this second edition will force the creation of Clement Sector 2nd Edition. We intend to take advantage of this situation to update our core setting book, include information that was added by us later in the Player’s Guide and Career Companion and correct any errors we have discovered after publication. We are already working on this project and we hope to have it ready for you as soon as we can.
The changes will also make it necessary for us to create a new version of The Anderson and Felix Guide to Naval Architecture. Much like Clement Sector 2.0, Anderson and Felix 2.0 will take advantage of this edition change to expand our coverage of the topic, continue to build our setting and correct any errors. As with Clement Sector 2.0, Anderson and Felix 2.0 is already in production and we will have this ready for you as soon as it is possible for us to do so.
With these two projects, while it may be necessary for you to “rebuy” them, we intend to try to make this process as painless as possible. We intend to offer deep discounts on these books for those who have already purchased them. There will be more on this later.
The changes to the starship rules both within the new Mongoose rules (core and High Guard) as well as Anderson and Felix 2.0 will require us to make updates to our current fleet of Ships of Clement Sector books. These will each be updated to the new standards following the release of Anderson and Felix 2.0. The PDFs will be updated at *NO COST* to the consumer. You will simply be able to go to your vendor and pick up the new copy. Hopefully, this will make the update process less painful for the fans.
I should make it clear here that while, due to the costs of the updates, Clement Sector 2.0 and Anderson and Felix 2.0 will not be free to the consumer. However, every other update we perform will be free of charge to you. So you, the consumer, should be able to go out and purchase any of our ship books without fear of wasting your money. We will update these for you when the time comes and it will cost you no additional funds.
We at Gypsy Knights Games love our customers and we appreciate your understanding as we go through this process. We hope to make this change as simple and as painless as we can for you. However, we are excited about the future and what the future may hold for Clement Sector!
Stay tuned! You will soon see more updates from me on this topic and many others. GKG will be attending a lot of conventions over the next few months and we hope to see you there for a game or two. We also have our newest entry in the 21 Plots series (21 Plots Go Forth) coming out in a couple of weeks and we’re really excited about it as well.
Have a great weekend! Keep on Travellin’!”