Category Archives: Reviews & First Looks

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Review: Traveller Spinward Marches – Excellent Maps for Explorers and Merchants

I don’t think I need to tell you about the importance of maps in roleplaying games. Even the most crudest of maps can still be a very helpful tool in any campaign. A great map might even help to immerse the players more deepy into the game.

An excellent example of such a map is the Traveller Spinward Marches map by the German oublisher 13 Mann Verlag. In its print edition it’s 96 cm x 68 cm, printed on both sides, and even laminated. I am not sure if you can use boardmarkers to write on it, but it should at least be protected from greasy hands or spilled drinks. As a physical handout the map is just awesome. It’s made to look like a product available in the actual Traveller universe. One side shows the scout map of the Spinward Marches, with every system detailed. You don’t need to look up stats in a book, everything you need is right there on the map.

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The other side features the trade map for the same area, and features all of the information needed for crew of merchants trying to make a buck in this region of space. Especially the trade map can look a bit intimidating at first, but should come in handy during the game – especially if your campaign focuses on trade.

Some people may ask themselves whether a physical map still makes sense in today’s world. I have to admit, I still like having physical handouts at the table. And the map is definitely a great eye-catcher.

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If you prefer a digital version of the map, you can get it as well – which actually contains one PDF for each of the two maps. The digital edition is a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. It looks great, is only 7 MB in file size and looks pretty good even on a tablet PC, but it’s just not as useful as the printed map – at least in my opinion. Your mileage may of course vary.

The print edition of the map sets you back €24.95 (about 31$) which is a pretty fair price, if you ask me. It’s available directly from 13 Mann or through local retailers. The PDF version is also available from DriveThruRPG and sets you back $15.55. If you are a fan of any edition of the Traveller RPG and if you’re playing in the Spinward Marches, you definitely should check this product out.

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Loot: More Traveller Stuff

This morning I had three books that I ordered from DriveThruRPG a while ago in the mail. Initially  I tried to order these books from a local shop, but it seems most German and UK distributors don’t have access to most of the Mongoose stuff anymore. I have absolutely no idea, why that’s the case, but that meant I had to rely on DriveThruRPG’s POD service.

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The first book I ordered was the Traveller Core Rulebook. I already own a hardcover version of said book, but I was hoping to get the 2nd printing. But alas for some reason the POD edition is based on the 1st printing. I haven’t checked if the errata has been edited in, but the artwork is definitely from the 1st printing. This means that the PDF you get looks different than the printed book. This is no big deal, but it definitely feels wrong somehow. But overall I am still happy with the book. I like the softcover format more than the hardcover one and the price was reasonable.

The next book was Supplement 2: Traders and Gunboats. It contains a plethora of spaceship designs from small civilian ships to large military vessels. Each ship comes with a deckplan and an illustration. Alas some of the illustrations don’t seem to match the deckplans and look pretty nonsensical to me. Luckily this can be easily ignored. For me it’s definitely a must-have book if you plan to run a game in the Original Traveller Universe (OTU).

Last but not least I got a copy of Spinward Encounters, a book containing a large number of adventure hooks and several adventures set into the Spinward Marches. Instead of the other two books it hasn’t been written by Mongoose, but is from Comstar Media. The book is published by Mongoose and uses the Third Imperium cover and backcover design, but the interior doesn’t use the regular Traveller look. To be honest it reminded me more of my Traveller rulebook from the 80s. While the adventure hooks and adventures look interesting enough and will probably fit into everyone’s game easily, I would have preferred a slightly more professional layout. But aside from that minor quibble the book is definitely fine.

Overall the quality of the printing and binding is ok. The only thing that bothers me a bit is that the black text and large black areas in the artwork are pretty shiny. This is something I haven’t noticed in other POD books before.

I am still waiting for my copy of the Spinward Marches book to arrive and I recently got the Spinward Marches map by 13 Mann, which is as awesome as I hoped. So I might post short reviews of these products in the future. So stay tuned.

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D&D 5th Edition is much better than I anticipated

When I had a look at the first public playtest documents Wizards of the Coast released of then-called “D&D Next” I was cautiously optimistic. But over time I lost interest in the game. I still thought that Wizards was on the right track, but I was just not convinced that they would be able to excite me. Then came the ridiculously cheap Starter Set. It was just a great deal, I couldn’t ignore it. But still my excitement was pretty low.

Things changed when a friend offered to run the adventure included in the Starter Set for us. I looked over the pregenerated characters and immediately picked the Dwarf Cleric. I loved the idea that he was more of a soldier or mercenary than a priest and that he was wondering if the gods actually cared for the world. This totally blew my mind. A pregenerated character for the new D&D with some interesting ideas and a background ripe with roleplaying opportunities – that was something I hadn’t expected.

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