By Martin Dougherty
'The Spinward Marches lie on the edge of Imperial space, an area that borders rival interstellar governments that directly oppose any further expansion. Far from the major centres of power the local rulers have more practical power than the Emperor himself. It is here that bands of daring individuals can take advantage of the hostile factions in order to carve out a fortune for themselves. The Spinward Marches offer untold adventure for those willing to seek it out.'
This is a complete campaign sourcebook for The Spinward Marches and the general ideas is that it’s an area of space where pretty much anything goes… you can keep your political wrangling, your feuding houses and your squabbling feudal worlds; out here, on the edges of ‘civilisation’, is where the money and the adventure is.
To be used in conjunction with Mongoose’s ‘Traveller’ core rulebook, The Third Imperium – The Spinward Marches is a 142 page softback book with full colour covers and a black and white interior, with greyscale artwork and an easy to read font.
The presentation is very good but the one area that lets it down is the artwork; there are some nice images in here but some of the art simply doesn’t suit the setting at all. There’s one thing that pulls me into a game world and that’s the artwork as it gives a visual representation of what the world is like. It’s easy enough to ignore the art – and heaven knows I’ve done that with a lot of books – but incompatible art can affect how a work is perceived. The full colour cover, a mixed race crew standing around a starport as a starship touches down behind them, is excellent and is much more inkeeping with the style of the setting.
The book is laid in several chapters.
First of all there’s the Introduction, which covers the concepts of the book and how it can be used with existing game worlds. There’s a nice section on the different Traveller Universes; Official Traveller Universe (OUT), My Traveller Universe (MTU) and Your Traveller Universe (YTU). It’s basically telling the reader not to worry about canon or continuity. Once you get this book, it’s yours and nobody can tell you how to run the game, which also means this book can be used with any previously compatible Traveller games or settings and you shouldn’t worry about contradiction or inaccuracies. It goes on to talk about space and how to navigate it, travel, trade and the standard Traveller intelligent species. This is all a primer to set you up for the next chapter.
The next section, The Third Imperium, covers the history of the galaxy and explains the rise and fall of the first two Imperiums, all the way up to how the Imperium stands today, the law, the worlds, and the megacorporations. It also goes into detail about the noble families, the houses, the military and religion, which is a great source of ideas for characters and adventures.
The Spinward Marches chapter goes into detail about the area of space where the games will take place in, and gives you a rough outline about the area and it’s history and the states that rule there. There’s a lot of useful information here, especially on how the Imperium interacts with the Spinward Marches and the attitudes of the races that live there. If you’ve been GMing games nearer the heart of the Imperium and fancy a change of scenery, pace and attitude then this is the place to go.
The chapter on Subsectors of the Spinward Marches is 66 pages of details on the sectors of the Marches and their worlds, with hexagonal charts to position and map the locations. There are 16 subsectors in total, each with it’s own history and averaging about 20 systems each, two of which are detailed; that’s a lot of exploring to do! The worlds are given very brief statistics and it’s up to the GM to fill in the details, but there’s plenty of places to visit.
The next chapter Adventuring in the Spinward Marches gives you plenty of ideas on types of games you can run; how to use locations as adventure settings, hazards and problems the adventurers might face, current events that might spark adventure hooks, and possible jumping-off points; war, trade, intrigue, mysteries, exploration, colonisation… there are no definitive hooks or story ideas, but there are plenty of pointers.
The book is rounded out with a much-needed index.
This is a fine book with plenty of information on the pages to fill out an existing Third Imperium campaign or begin an entire new campaign from scratch. The text gives plenty of inspiration and although the writing doesn’t specifically detail adventure hooks, ideas or stories, it does contain a lot of flavour and will no doubt spark the imagination of a Traveller GM.
The book itself needn’t be used just for the Traveller system; although it is geared towards the core rulebook there are no definitive statistics in here that would stop you from using it with another gaming system, other than the finer details of the sector maps.
Something I would have liked to see is an adventure. A campaign book like this is great for explaining how the setting works but it’s also nice to be shown, and as the Traveller core rulebook had no adventure included it would have been nice to have had one in here; after all, one of the first things a group purchases after buying core rules is a campaign setting and this would have been the perfect place for an introductory adventure.
In spite of the unsuitable artwork and the lack of definitive adventure ideas, this is good book with great ideas and I can see a gaming group getting many sessions of use out of it. Recommended.