Initial Review of T5 Sourcebook

phavoc

Cosmic Mongoose
Here's my opinion of the new (cough) HBB (huge black book)

First Impressions - It's big! Very big! I'd say a solid inch of information. Information was touched upon in here that has been discussed before (such as running a power plant on standby, or my, what does xxx type of gun look like?). It's chock full of tables, and forms and illustrations. And boy would someone feel it if they got whacked with it!

Now on to the critique:

The Good - It's overwhelmingly full of data. Three new types of jump drives (more, actually, if you take into account some of the other options), the ability to design new items, guns, etc without the high-powered formulas from Striker. There's a number of interesting bits of data scattered through out the book that will keep many entertained with the detail. Finally some visuals about what some of these hull forms can look like! Yay! There are some interesting additions to help you figure out things like "just how bulky/mass is my G-carrier?" There is a grid/box type system you can use to put your vehicle images on to help figure that out.

The Bad - It's a great reference book for many things Traveller. But it's not what I would consider to be a player-friendly version. It's hideously complex for even the simplest of things. The odd thing is that it can be both complex, and overly simple at the same time. Some of the explanations for very detailed items take up a line or three. Not enough details in my opinion for some of the topics at hand. The text layout is, well, atrocious for a gaming supplement. Most every page is dual-columned. The GURPS books (still what I consider to be THE standard for Traveller) put this to shame. There aren't any interesting sidebars with stories or adventure ideas, let alone actual explanations for how in the hell you use the design systems. Explanations for various tech and systems is rudimentary for the most part. Again we have a table-style system for drives and hulls, but instead of making it better, the design system has made it worse. Sample starships for players are overly simplified, and no deck plans exist. Though in all fairness, if you don't know what a Scout or Free Trader deck plan looks like by now... And remember that grid vehicle system for estimating mass/bulk? It's great in theory, or when you are dropping an image on top of the grid in a computer program. But if you are using paper images... um, well, unless you happen to print your vehicle images on see-through printouts, its not a practical item to use with regular printouts (though maybe if you cut out the vehicle from your printout and put it on a printed-out cube...)

Bottom Line - I'm glad I have it. I doubt I'll ever use the rules to make anything, run an adventure, let alone generate a character. I recall from the original LBB days it was fun to sit there and roll the dice and see if you could get a 'toon to survive a full set of tours in the Marines or Navy or Scouts. Now... geez, I'd be like "can I start out without any skills?". I think this iteration of Traveller is going to be good for the folks that like a nice reference book with some interesting ideas. But sadly I think T5 is going to be a disappointment for players or those who would have hoped it would have been the next step in Traveller gaming. It just isn't there. It's too unworkable from a fun point of view. I don't mind tweaks, but when you take something that was relatively simple and make it so damn complex, I think you take away from the fun aspect of gaming. Some of the concepts are great in though, but badly executed. One would have thought with all the page-space available in a massive tome like this that you could have made the important things great! But alas, that's not the case. Scattered throughout the book are interesting nuggets, but unfortunately you gotta sift through a lot that's not so great to get to what's good.

I think Traveller players who like to collect the material will be satisfied. Or if you are nostalgic for some things, you'll be happy with supporting the product. There's tons more good/bad to talk about, but I don't think it would sway anyone one way or the other. The people who should buy this book (or pdf) are the ones who are dedicated to the game. I just don't see anyone but a masochist trying to squeeze gaming sessions out of this. There are other supplements out there that do a far better job of providing superior background material, or alternate tech than T5.

At least lanthanum is back! :)
 

rust

Mongoose
phavoc said:
I just don't see anyone but a masochist trying to squeeze gaming sessions out of this.
I would find it very difficult to imagine a more negative
sentence about any roleplaying game, but I suspect that
it is true. :shock:
 

ShawnDriscoll

Cosmic Mongoose
phavoc said:
I think this iteration of Traveller is going to be good for the folks that like a nice reference book with some interesting ideas. But sadly I think T5 is going to be a disappointment for players or those who would have hoped it would have been the next step in Traveller gaming. It just isn't there. It's too unworkable from a fun point of view. I don't mind tweaks, but when you take something that was relatively simple and make it so damn complex, I think you take away from the fun aspect of gaming. Some of the concepts are great in though, but badly executed.

Thoughts of SPI's Universe came to mind when I first read the beta version of Traveller 5. Universe is the most complicated and fun-less RPG I will go up to on the "playing this is a chore" scale. T5 dwarfs that.
 

Lemnoc

Mongoose
phavoc said:
Bottom Line - I'm glad I have it. I doubt I'll ever use the rules to make anything, run an adventure, let alone generate a character.

Seems like a complete contradiction of terms. :?: ...Brilliant, for all that. Damning with praise too faint.

phavoc said:
It's too unworkable from a fun point of view.

Again, a tautology of failure. A game that is not fun.
 

Lemnoc

Mongoose
I nominate phavoc to be the food critic for all restaurants closed by the board of health*:

"Did not contract bacterial gastroenteritis. Pickles good."

* Meant humorously, not unkindly. :D :D
 

Yatima

Banded Mongoose
I got the 'beta' of T5 on disc, but have had no further involvement because it was apparent from the early drafts that it was a classic case of Grognard Capture of a game. Here's how Greg Costikyan defines Grognard capture:

All game styles run the risk of what I term "grognard capture."

"Grognard" was a slang term for members of Napoleon's Old Guard. Hardcore board wargamers adopted it as a term for themselves. By extention, grognard capture means capture of a game style by the hardest-core and most experienced players--to the ultimate exclusion of others.

The most extreme example I can think of is what happened to the Squad Leader series. Originally a relatively simple, accessible game of infantry combat in World War II, the publishers released supplement after supplement, each with new rules adding to the complexity of the game. Finally, they revamped it as "Advanced Squad Leader," publishing it in a loose-leaf binder so you could insert new rules as they were published, with systems as obscure and silly as the "Sewer Emergence Table" and the "Kindling Availability Table."

The original Squad Leader sold more than 200,000 copies, an astonishing figure for a board wargame at the time. Advanced Squad Leader sold a few tens of thousands of copies. Advanced Squad Leader is, I believe, still in print--Churt Schilling, a baseball player, bought the rights from Avalon Hill when they went out of business, and keeps it around. It has a fanatical following--tiny, but fanatical.

This review seems to confirm my first impressions very strongly. A game made by the hardcore, for the hardcore and certainly not meant to be played.

J
 

phavoc

Cosmic Mongoose
There's been some, erm, commentary regarding my seemingly contradictory review. Hopefully this will clarify things a bit.

I stand by what I said, the book IS full of interesting material. It's a great REFERENCE book, and source of ideas. However it's not a FUN gaming system. To wit, I don't want the massive complexity that goes with the T5 gaming universe.

I used to play Star Fleet Battles - another gaming system that started out with some basic rules that made it quick and fun to play. Later the Captain's rules (and errata!) were released. Now there were nearly 400 pages of possible rules you needed to know if you wanted to play and didn't have to stop every other turn to battle the rules lawyers. Someone else mentioned Squad Leader as a gaming system that started to get hideously complex and became no longer fun to play.

T5, in my opinion, has reached that plateau. Instead of adding in things that could complement gameplay, it's only gotten worse as far as complexity goes. Striker was neat with all the formulas for creating things. But nobody gamed with it. Sure, you could look at your designs and create the Traveller specs for your new equipment, but you didn't stick with the Striker stuff. Unfortunately T5 is incorporating this into the gameplay.

I don't quite understand why people don't get my comment of "I'm glad I got it, but I won't run adventures with it". I got it as a reference book. I'm happy to add it to my collection. Those two reasons were enough justification for me to purchase it. It's just that simple. I realize not everyone has the same justification for buying gaming supplements as I do, and that's ok. Not everyone needs to.

I don't see my reasoning as contradictory. Just honest.
 

F33D

Mongoose
phavoc said:
There's been some, erm, commentary regarding my seemingly contradictory review. Hopefully this will clarify things a bit.

I understood what you were talking about. I've seen a couple of other reviews that come to the same or similar conclusions.
 

rust

Mongoose
phavoc said:
I don't quite understand why people don't get my comment of "I'm glad I got it, but I won't run adventures with it". I got it as a reference book.
No problem there, I bought a couple of GURPS supplements as
reference books although I will most probably never again run a
GURPS campaign - my players hate that degree of complexity. :wink:

On the other hand, GURPS books are much better organized and
easier to use than Traveller 5 ... 8)
 

Dracous

Banded Mongoose
rust said:
No problem there, I bought a couple of GURPS supplements as
reference books although I will most probably never again run a
GURPS campaign - my players hate that degree of complexity. :wink:

I am currently using the background material from GURPS Interstellar Wars for my campaign. My players are Time Travellers, in the Quantum Leap type of manner, with the ability to severely affect the future with the decisions they make.

GURPS IW is an excellent reference book.
 

Dave Chase

Mongoose
Dracous said:
rust said:
No problem there, I bought a couple of GURPS supplements as
reference books although I will most probably never again run a
GURPS campaign - my players hate that degree of complexity. :wink:

I am currently using the background material from GURPS Interstellar Wars for my campaign. My players are Time Travellers, in the Quantum Leap type of manner, with the ability to severely affect the future with the decisions they make.

GURPS IW is an excellent reference book.

I concur as I have done the same. I even use some SpaceMaster books for information and things but have never run that game system as no one really wanted to play it.

Dave Chase
 

Yatima

Banded Mongoose
phavoc said:
There's been some, erm, commentary regarding my seemingly contradictory review ... I don't see my reasoning as contradictory. Just honest.

I don't see your reasoning as contradictory at all, phavoc, I too have bought many RPG books as references or just to read with no intention of playing the game at all. Nothing wrong with that.

I guess my comment was simply pointing out that some game systems get captured by groups of players who obsess over the detail and organisation and completeness of rules and game systems for their own sake, losing sight entirely of the fact that somewhere, someone should be able to sit down and play the damn thing and enjoy it.

This seems to be what has happened with T5. It reminds me of many open source software projects that get lost in the arcane detail of the technology and implementation, take forever to ship, and finally emerge as a dogs dinner, having lost sight of their users needs.

J
 

2330ADUSA1

Mongoose
The Open Source software example is perfect...the software may be FREE, it is the support that costs you in the end and that is NEVER free. In this case the Support relates to the ability for players to be able to play the system, and it stops being easy and becomes more like a job.

In my case I have been using my own set of In-House rules for the past 25+ years and I have added elements from time to time from different systems that add to my own system. My goal is to have a system that is easy and fun to Roleplay for me the GM/DM and my gamers alike.
 
Top