A Tabletop Roleplaying Games Blog
Est. 2009. After being published by the BSFA and designing a computer game for Battlestar Galactica, I spent years interviewing tabletop celebrities, reviewing products and generally having an opinion on all things gaming. I tasted the blood of game creation after conceiving and co-writing the Advanced Fighting Fantasy 'Stellar Adventures' RPG. Now I crave more.
Wednesday, 9 January 2013
Review - Traveller: The Third Imperium – The Spinward Marches
Traveller: The Third Imperium – The Spinward Marches 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
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.