Aliens of Charted Space 1 Critique

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
User avatar
ottarrus
Mongoose
Posts: 136
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:48 am
Location: Tacoma, WA, USA

Aliens of Charted Space 1 Critique

Postby ottarrus » Thu Sep 16, 2021 1:44 am

One of the wonderful things about 'dead tree' books instead of PDF's is that you really have time to look over a book and absorb the whole thing... text, artwork, layout, everything. With a pdf on a tablet, you're constantly fiddling with something... screen-timers, font size, auto-rotation, whatever.
So I just got my copy of Aliens of Charted Space and I've had time to look it over pretty carefully. Overall, I'm impressed with the work. Yes, there are problems with it and I will detail them below, but I want to make it absolutely clear from the top:
I got what I paid for, I like what I got, and it's money well spent

But yeah, there are some issues I do want to address.

The big one is Artwork.
Do you think you could find somebody, ANYBODY, who can design starships and equipment for alien races that doesn't anthropomorphize the results? Does Aslan and Vargr gear really HAVE to look like pouncing kitties and growling dogs? If the whole point of an aliens book is to treat said alien like they have a society and culture that must be accepted on the same terms as a Human one, then the 'Hello Kitty' artwork has got to go.
What do I mean?
- The Aslan Crawler on pg 65 looks like a cat ready to pounce. Also, FOUR sets of tracks? Speaking as a former tracked vehicle crewman, 4 sets of tracks means 8 times the work for the vehicle crew /mechanics. That's 4 drive trains, 4 sets of broken track that have to be repaired, possibly under combat conditions, 4 suspension systems, etc., ad nauseum. This makes absolutely no sense is a design sense. You've just doubled the point-failure vulnerability an ATV for no appreciable gain in capability.
- The Aslan Grav Barge on pg 67.... Uh, Jabba the Hutt much?
- As to the Aslan starships, I much prefer the more organic rounded forms of earlier edition's artwork, but I understand that licenses are expensive, so....
- Almost every image of Vargr artwork shows them growling. There seems to be very few 'neutral' poses where they're content or still. Grrrr! Bark! Bark!
- Two VERY good ones, that do present a more neutral stance, are on pgs. 207 and 211.
- So the sights on the 'sonic' weapons just HAD to have dog heads on them? These are on pgs. 216-7. "I shall blast them with my trusty HowlGun 1000 [tm]! Ah OOOOOOH!"
- Absolutely full credit where it's due: On both the Aslan and Vargr spacecraft, your artists did a MUCH better job than in your earlier First Edition Aliens books. Every single ship doesn't look like an animal face with wings.

There are some IMTU things from previous editions that I prefer over your edition. But those are strictly preferences and not worth grinding gears over.
"Reputation is what others think they know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself." --Odin, Havamal
User avatar
paltrysum
Greater Spotted Mongoose
Posts: 935
Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2017 11:16 pm
Contact:

Re: Aliens of Charted Space 1 Critique

Postby paltrysum » Thu Sep 16, 2021 4:24 am

FOUR sets of tracks? Speaking as a former tracked vehicle crewman, 4 sets of tracks means 8 times the work for the vehicle crew /mechanics. That's 4 drive trains, 4 sets of broken track that have to be repaired, possibly under combat conditions, 4 suspension systems, etc., ad nauseum. This makes absolutely no sense is a design sense. You've just doubled the point-failure vulnerability an ATV for no appreciable gain in capability.
Oh, but it does make sense! You see, in Aslan society, the females do all the technical work; the males do the leading, driving, gunning, the majority of the fighting. All the “fun” stuff. Female controls on starships are said to be overly complicated, while those designed for males are simplified, made easy to use.

Just how did such a four-tracked contraption get invented? An Aslan male, probably a noble, said, “The two-tracked one that the other clan has is nice, but what WE will have is a vastly superior one with FOUR tracks.” The females simply sighed and made it so.
My published Traveller adventures on DriveThruRPG:
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse.php ... %20Griffen
User avatar
ottarrus
Mongoose
Posts: 136
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:48 am
Location: Tacoma, WA, USA

Re: Aliens of Charted Space 1 Critique

Postby ottarrus » Thu Sep 16, 2021 5:27 am

paltrysum wrote:
Thu Sep 16, 2021 4:24 am
FOUR sets of tracks? Speaking as a former tracked vehicle crewman, 4 sets of tracks means 8 times the work for the vehicle crew /mechanics. That's 4 drive trains, 4 sets of broken track that have to be repaired, possibly under combat conditions, 4 suspension systems, etc., ad nauseum. This makes absolutely no sense is a design sense. You've just doubled the point-failure vulnerability an ATV for no appreciable gain in capability.
Oh, but it does make sense! You see, in Aslan society, the females do all the technical work; the males do the leading, driving, gunning, the majority of the fighting. All the “fun” stuff. Female controls on starships are said to be overly complicated, while those designed for males are simplified, made easy to use.

Just how did such a four-tracked contraption get invented? An Aslan male, probably a noble, said, “The two-tracked one that the other clan has is nice, but what WE will have is a vastly superior one with FOUR tracks.” The females simply sighed and made it so.
And the female mercenary administrator looked at the female technician, who both went to the female vehicle manufacturer executive and said, "Honored Tleakhiffrouau, PLEASE talk him out of this. It's stupid and will get our warriors killed."
And Tleakhiffrouau, who was as cunning as she was beautiful, went to the ko saying, "Honored father, our warriors ideas for intimidating our hated foes are excellent! With four tracks smashing the ground, surely our enemies will tremble with fear! But our warriors will be slower than aua-beasts in getting claw-to-claw with their foes if our females are working that much longer on their vehicles! Would it not be best if our clan growled less and killed more?"

Seriously, after 15,000 years of putting up with dumb but self-defeating ideas from noble males, the Aslan female has 'talking the boss out of doing dumb feca' down to a fine art. There's probably college level courses in it "Managing Males 101: Intro to Ignorance"
"Reputation is what others think they know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself." --Odin, Havamal
Garran
Mongoose
Posts: 165
Joined: Wed Sep 09, 2015 6:25 pm

Re: Aliens of Charted Space 1 Critique

Postby Garran » Thu Sep 16, 2021 8:01 am

Since you didn't mention it, I can only suppose that you have the updated version that replaced the original 'advisor bot' artwork with a generic-boxy look. The original one was... a small robot-dog on wheels.

The 207 image does have the character snarling. It's just somewhat hidden by the raised arm. Granted, they're also apparently aiming a gun with intent to fire it, so it's at least appropriate.

204 strikes me as the most neutral image of the bunch. No action scene, nothing weird going on, and definitely no aggression - it's just a few of them walking through or doing things in what looks like a business district.
User avatar
ottarrus
Mongoose
Posts: 136
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:48 am
Location: Tacoma, WA, USA

Re: Aliens of Charted Space 1 Critique

Postby ottarrus » Thu Sep 16, 2021 8:36 am

Garran wrote:
Thu Sep 16, 2021 8:01 am
Since you didn't mention it, I can only suppose that you have the updated version that replaced the original 'advisor bot' artwork with a generic-boxy look. The original one was... a small robot-dog on wheels.

204 strikes me as the most neutral image of the bunch. No action scene, nothing weird going on, and definitely no aggression - it's just a few of them walking through or doing things in what looks like a business district.
I can understand a race making robots that look somewhat like themselves. There is a natural inclination to create in our own image to some extent.

But I showed my wife, who is a Traveller player and much more visually artistic than I am [I'm the audiophile of the pair], the 4-tracked crawler and the Vargr sonic guns. Then I explained my objections to them and she had a great reply to it....
"Yeah, it's not as if humans put monkey faces on their gear either...." :D :o
"Reputation is what others think they know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself." --Odin, Havamal
Condottiere
Mongoose Superior
Posts: 10024
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:23 pm

Re: Aliens of Charted Space 1 Critique

Postby Condottiere » Thu Sep 16, 2021 11:12 am

Image


Image
User avatar
ottarrus
Mongoose
Posts: 136
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:48 am
Location: Tacoma, WA, USA

Re: Aliens of Charted Space 1 Critique

Postby ottarrus » Thu Sep 16, 2021 12:18 pm

It was stupid then, it's stupid now.
Maybe it's the generation I grew up in. I came up in the 70's. We had Evel Knievel, the Six Million Dollar Man, and the demilitarized GI Joe [the one-foot-tall version], but very, VERY few toys were pitched as a cartoon /toy /clothing like merchandising blitzkrieg like they are now. I mean, yeah, there was some crossover, but nothing like the 24/7 marketing targeting kids nowadays. And I think we were better for that.
I should probably also note that I became a military historian at an early age as well . So when the Cobra v. GI Joe nonsense started I knew the vehicles were the height of dumb design. I remember thinking as a younger friend was playing with some Joe vehicle designed to launch a spring loaded missile thingy, "If that was an actual missile, it would burn off the driver's head!" And don't get me started on half-tracks... lol!
Last edited by ottarrus on Mon Sep 20, 2021 12:44 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"Reputation is what others think they know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself." --Odin, Havamal
User avatar
paltrysum
Greater Spotted Mongoose
Posts: 935
Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2017 11:16 pm
Contact:

Re: Aliens of Charted Space 1 Critique

Postby paltrysum » Thu Sep 16, 2021 3:01 pm

ottarrus wrote:
Thu Sep 16, 2021 12:18 pm
And don't get me started on half-tracks... lol!
Uh oh. You should probably have a look at the latest Mercenary preview art then, posted to the Mongoose FB page. Vargr half-track!
My published Traveller adventures on DriveThruRPG:
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse.php ... %20Griffen
Being
Weasel
Posts: 41
Joined: Fri Feb 05, 2021 3:04 pm

Re: Aliens of Charted Space 1 Critique

Postby Being » Thu Sep 16, 2021 4:45 pm

I think some of the artwork for Mercenary is not great! Most of the Mercs look like edgy gangers rather than professional veterans. My minds eye sees Mercs along the lines of the old 60s Congo Mercs or Executive outcomes with some fringe paramilitary outfits like Blackwater, which at least the text of the pdfs seems to support.
On first seeing the Vargr small arms with dog faces on them I thought the art immature. Maybe its my age but Im pretty sure my 18 old self would have thought the same. But I grew up making Airfix models where every part was labelled what it was and I joined up at 17.
User avatar
adzling
Stoat
Posts: 80
Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2021 6:52 pm

Re: Aliens of Charted Space 1 Critique

Postby adzling » Thu Sep 16, 2021 7:47 pm

ottarrus wrote:
Thu Sep 16, 2021 5:27 am
There's probably college level courses in it "Managing Males 101: Intro to Ignorance"
haha seriously this!

but i do agree with your assessment of the artwork in AoCS1; I showed it to my vargr player and he said "no way im using a gun with a dog head on it, even if it's better than a PGMP" (which it isn't).

It's seriously just lazy art direction to use literal "dog" iconography as the basis for designing anything and it makes the entire book look more childish than anything else.

What makes it worse is we have some clear direction on how Vargr clothing and aesthetics differ from other races (clashing patterns/ colors, bright-in-your-face clothing and colors, etc) that could have been used in the art direction but for whatever reason was just ignored outright.
Garran
Mongoose
Posts: 165
Joined: Wed Sep 09, 2015 6:25 pm

Re: Aliens of Charted Space 1 Critique

Postby Garran » Fri Sep 17, 2021 6:56 am

ottarrus wrote:
Thu Sep 16, 2021 8:36 am
Garran wrote:
Thu Sep 16, 2021 8:01 am
Since you didn't mention it, I can only suppose that you have the updated version that replaced the original 'advisor bot' artwork with a generic-boxy look. The original one was... a small robot-dog on wheels.
I can understand a race making robots that look somewhat like themselves. There is a natural inclination to create in our own image to some extent.
Oh, no. It wasn't one that looked a little bit like themselves, like the taskbot does.

It was more like a poodle. The four-legged kind.

Showing their teeth would probably be th eleast of the reactions that most vargr would have to that.
User avatar
ottarrus
Mongoose
Posts: 136
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:48 am
Location: Tacoma, WA, USA

Re: Aliens of Charted Space 1 Critique

Postby ottarrus » Fri Sep 17, 2021 8:51 am

Garran wrote:
Fri Sep 17, 2021 6:56 am
ottarrus wrote:
Thu Sep 16, 2021 8:36 am
Garran wrote:
Thu Sep 16, 2021 8:01 am
Since you didn't mention it, I can only suppose that you have the updated version that replaced the original 'advisor bot' artwork with a generic-boxy look. The original one was... a small robot-dog on wheels.
I can understand a race making robots that look somewhat like themselves. There is a natural inclination to create in our own image to some extent.
Oh, no. It wasn't one that looked a little bit like themselves, like the taskbot does.

It was more like a poodle. The four-legged kind.

Showing their teeth would probably be th eleast of the reactions that most vargr would have to that.
Sorry, I meant in a more general sense... walking robots with a digitigrade stance, a snout on the faceplate, that kind of thing.
I remember the bot you're talking about. It looked like a StarWars mouse-bot with a dog's head on it. Damned if I can find the reference anywhere, but I remember it. It might be in DGP's old 101 Robots.
"Reputation is what others think they know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself." --Odin, Havamal
Condottiere
Mongoose Superior
Posts: 10024
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:23 pm

Re: Aliens of Charted Space 1 Critique

Postby Condottiere » Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:24 am

User avatar
ottarrus
Mongoose
Posts: 136
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:48 am
Location: Tacoma, WA, USA

Re: Aliens of Charted Space 1 Critique

Postby ottarrus » Fri Sep 17, 2021 8:51 pm

"Kill it before it develops language skills."
-- Ambassador Lando Molari, Oracle and Futurist

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oyg1voIGHzI
"Reputation is what others think they know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself." --Odin, Havamal

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Incendia and 30 guests