State of the Mongoose 2019


Staff member
State of the Mongoose 2019

Mongoose Publishing has just finished its 18th year in business and things are ticking over really quite nicely.

I am Matthew Sprange, the owner of Mongoose Publishing, and the State of the Mongoose is our yearly address to the gaming community, covering how we have been getting on over the past 12 months, and looking forward to our plans for the following year. We normally do this around the end of November/beginning of December but, as with last year, we have become exceptionally busy over the last few months of the year so this address is happening in January 2020.

Grab yourself a coffee and make yourself comfortable, as we will be going into quite some detail…

Business Stuff
We had a rather nasty bout of staff illness in 2019, which unfortunately culminated in us losing Amy, a solid and long-standing Mongooser who came to know more about starships than she ever expected. We wish her the very best of fortune for the future and will miss her dearly.

This had a pronounced effect on our production schedule throughout the year. While we were able to maintain our Kickstarter and licence commitments, very few other titles came out among those mentioned in the last State of the Mongoose – however, we did manage to finally release Behind the Claw, a book that had been in the works for quite some time!

This lack of releases, in years gone by, might have had a catastrophic impact on the company as a whole but, as mentioned in last year’s address, Mongoose has been built into a very resilient company with several income streams that allows it to weather these ups and downs (and, incidentally, means we do not have to rush titles out simply because we have to).

One very visible up in 2019 was the release of the Sea of Thieves RPG, in partnership with Rare and Microsoft. We had planned to have it in the shops before Christmas but a combination of an over-long wait in US Customs and it being the strongest pre-order title we have ever had – by far – has resulted in it having a smaller retail release in early 2020, though direct sales remain incredibly strong. Get this one while you can, as we will have to reprint pretty quickly.

Towards the end of the year, we added a new Mongooser, Cassie Gregory. Joining us from sunny (?) Kent, Cassie is working as a graphic artist, and you will soon be seeing her talent in Traveller, Sea of Thieves, and Paranoia.

We are considering adding another full-time graphic artist in 2020, albeit in a few months, for reasons that will become obvious.

Brexit continues to hang over our heads like the Sword of Damocles and now, three and a half-odd years down the road, we still do not know what is going to happen. Our Dear Leader tells us that we will be out of the EU at the end of January, but there is precious little information as to what will happen next and what the UK’s relationship with the rest of the world will be like.

We have taken mitigating steps, such as splitting our reserves across several currencies rather than holding everything in Sterling, and the bulk of our new books go to and are shipped from the US. So long as mail orders to Europe operate in the same way as they do now for the rest of the world, I do not foresee any massive issues on the immediate horizon – at least as far as Mongoose is concerned.

2019 and the Mongoose
As mentioned, Sea of Thieves was a super pre-order success, but it also had the effect of exposing some holes in our web site and mail order system. We can normally handle the day-to-day mail orders with ease, but when more than a thousand of you place an order in the same 24 hour period (the opening weekend of the Sea of Thieves pre-order), the system gets strained. This culminated with other events to create delays that took a little too long for us to resolve – you have our humblest apologies for this, and our pledge that we have been working hard to rectify the issues.

This basically boiled down to the way our web site handles pre-orders and how it funnels them to either our office in the UK or Studio 2 (who handle all our North American distribution and mail orders). Some changes have already been made and we will continue tweaking throughout 2020. We have already unified the user accounts on the site (which had been split between US and UK sites – that divide is now invisible to user accounts), and will be making more changes so orders get where they need to go within seconds.

Our early year Kickstarter was for a new set of Journals’ of the Travellers Aid Society, and these were well-received. There is something nice about having a repository for Traveller universe ideas that do not merit an entire book to themselves. As I type this, the printed copies are just arriving and will soon be sent off to backers – then they will be made available for everyone else. We have already been asked whether more volumes will be forthcoming. I think that very likely, but they will likely be seen in 2021 at the soonest.

The Kickstarter we have just completed for Traveller was Deepnight Revelation – and this was extremely popular. It seems there is a real bug among Traveller players to venture into deep space, and this time we have created a campaign that literally takes Travellers further than any campaign has done before. Backers already have the PDF editions of the main box set in their hands, and we are now working on the six (count them!) expansion hardbacks. These will all be available to the wider Traveller public in 2020, so if you are looking for the grandest of campaigns, this will be something to check out.

So, what can you expect from Mongoose in 2020?

Sea of Thieves
The new Sea of Thieves RPG, based on the PC and Xbox video game, has been a surprise hit, and we are already working on new material. The first release will be an ebook Voyage called The White Lady, introducing several new Megalodons into the game.

Further ebook Voyages will introduce not only new adventures but also new rules from the video game (such as The Arena, coming in the Voyage after The White Lady), keeping the RPG up to date with what happens on screen. An expansion hardback is being planned for around the middle of this year, and we hope to see all you pirates on the Sea of Thieves!

Traveller in 2020
There will be no ‘small scale’ Kickstarter for Traveller in 2020, in the vein of JTAS, as we are working to polish of the Deepnight Endeavour campaign, and then (finally) get out all the books we promised in the last State of the Mongoose – we will be devoting nearly our entire resources to doing this, making 2020 a bonanza year for Traveller. The first titles you will see are…

Shadows of Sindal:
An additional ‘plug-in’ campaign for both the Trojan Reach and the Pirates of Drinax. A bunch of Sinadlian super-weapons (very nasty!) have turned up and threaten to destabilise the region.
The Drinaxian Companion: A veritable fleet of new rules and ideas for the Pirates of Drinax, including a brand new faction system for Traveller.
The Sword Worlds: Your complete guide to the Sword Worlds Confederation and its people, completely re-written, revised, and brought up to date.
Skandersvik: What started off as a new range of Sword Worlds Adventures turned into a complete campaign. Written by Martin Dougherty, this campaign serves as a perfect launch for a Sword Worlders campaign.
Aliens of Charted Space Vol. 1: Covering the Aslan, Zhodani, Vargr and K’kree, this book updates these aliens for the current edition and will serve as a platform for delving deeper into them during future projects.

We are also going to try to do Aliens of Charted Space Vol. 2, though that is a little more of a stretch – this volume will bring the rest of the major races up to date, being the Solomani, Hivers, and Droyne.

We also have two standalone adventures already written and just waiting for a space in the graphics schedule - Naval Adventure 3: Fire on the Sindalian Main and Reach Adventure 7: Last Train Out of Rakken-Goll.

Much of these releases are in service to the next great leap for Traveller, a brand new sub-line for the universe…

The Fifth Frontier War
We have been talking about the Fifth Frontier War for a few years – it is now going to happen.

The Fifth Frontier War Project is going to be the start of a brand new line for Traveller, extending into 2021 and likely beyond. You will be able to identify these books by their different style covers and layout. We will be alternating between source material and campaigns as the Zhodani Consulate and Imperium go to war in the Spinward Marches (and beyond, as you will soon see), building into a set that will not only showcase the advancement of the Traveller timeline but put your players in the front seats as they witness first hand the core events (and possibly cause a few of them!).

The first few releases are likely to look like this (all subject to a jiggling of their release order and renaming of titles)…

Flashpoint: The first hardback release for the FFW will be an extended adventure, where the Travellers witness (cause) one of the moments that triggers the war. Likely to be done from a Zhodani point of view…

Opening Moves: The first of the background hardbacks, Opening Moves showcases the state of play on the eve of the war, describing the early clashes, including activities on the periphery, such as small forces in the Trojan Reach and the Zhodani allies there.

Consular Envoy: This extended adventure sees a Zhodani diplomatic mission to persuade worlds along the Imperial fringe to take up arms against the Imperium.

War Fleets of the Fifth Frontier War: An overview of the Imperial and Zhodani fleets, as well as their vessels, of the war. If starships are your thing, you are not going to want to miss this one!

The Riverland Front: Covering the grand clashes in 1107-1110 around Jewell, Efate, and Regina. Big ship fleet stuff, with raids and intelligence work.

We have plenty more in the works beyond these books, and the result will be a grand tour of the war, from the largest of strategic views to the grittiest of frontline duties.

Traveller Fiction
In 2019 we started to release a new line of Traveller short fiction from a variety of authors. We are excited to use this medium to explore new aspects of the Traveller universe, as well as depict people, places and technologies in a new manner not always possible in RPG titles.

We have a handful more stories on the way, and you can expect to see new titles alongside the Fifth Frontier War.

Traveller Video Games
This is something else that we have been pushing for over the past few years… and now it is starting to happen!

Development has started on two Traveller video games, with our friends at Evil Twin Artworks (responsible for the Victory at Sea video games). The first will focus on boarding actions during the Fifth Frontier War, while the second is more RPG-centric, focussing centre on a group of Travellers in a beat-up ship trying to make their way in the universe – the classic Traveller campaign!

Expect to see previews and updates on these two throughout 2020.

Traveller Licensing
Traveller is starting to swell beyond the world of tabletop games, and there are some very exciting developments in the works. There is one I hope to be able to reveal soon that will really put this universe on the map, so to speak.

Keep your eyes peeled, as this is a good ‘un…

If that all were not enough, we will also be bringing 2300AD back. The final revisions to the game have been done, and work is already well underway on the first supplementary books.

Bad News: You are not going to see 2300AD until towards the end of the year.

Good News: You are getting a box set for the core rules, packed full with books, maps and other goodies! You will also be seeing expansions following on quickly, including the Aerospace Engineer’s Handbook (the 2300AD equivalent of High Guard) and a complete campaign that will serve as the perfect introduction to the setting – if you have been hesitant about 2300AD in the past and wondered what all the fuss is about, this will be your launch point.

A brand new wave of Paranoia books and cards will be out in 2020 – prepare yourself for the awesomeness that is Project Infinite Hole!

Project Infinite Hole is a new box set that focusses on the wonders of the greatest Service Group of them all. The scientists, technicians and boffins of R&D salute you!

Troubleshooters will rejoice when they get their hands on the R&D Happy Testing Catalogue, where they can select the experimental device best suited to their current mission, and they will be positively giddy when they use the new TIRDA (Troubleshooter In-field R&D Adjunct) system to combine Equipment cards to create their own experimental items!

Gamesmasters will revel in the parting of the curtain behind the workings of R&D, how it gets along with the other Service Groups, how to insert R&D into any briefing, Plug N Play locations, and oodles more. Your players will thank you for bringing R&D front and centre into their missions.

Not content with that and the 120-card deck included in this box set (covering new Actions cards as well as, naturally, a veritable salvo of Experimental devices), the Project Infinite Hole Mission Book provides a new set of exciting opportunities for your players as R&D has just created a black hole in Alpha Complex. Just a small one, and it is being contained, so everything is perfectly safe – but then again, the Troubleshooters have not turned up yet…

Project Infinite Hole will be coming to Kickstarter in March. It would simply be treasonous to miss it.

Every year we talk about Legend, and every year we lack the resources to do it justice. I regret to say that 2020 will be no different in this regard – we simply have too much going on to give it anything more than a cursory glance. There are further issues too…

There have been quite a few changes in the D100 RPG market over the past year. Legend certainly still has a place, especially if it retains its Open nature (no plans to change anything there), but looking at things objectively, it could really use a) a second edition to tighten things up – it feels a little too ‘clunky’ for my liking – and b) its own setting.

This all provides food for thought, but I am afraid we will be unlikely to dine on this one in 2020.

Victory at Sea
We promised the new edition Victory at Sea, and we released the full playtest version, completely laid out, with all rules and scenarios to dive into, so… success? Maybe?

Clearly, we can do better, so I can now announce something fairly awesome for fans of Victory at Sea.

Warlord Games will be releasing the Victory at Sea starter set this year (currently slated for April), which will include the core rules and two starter fleets – the US Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy.

Yup, you read that right – Victory at Sea is not only getting the rules release but also the full range of miniatures that we have been pushing towards for a good few years now. Warlord Games are masters at this and really know their World War II, making Victory at Sea a perfect fit between us, and great news for those of you patiently waiting for the new edition.

Soon after the starter set, you will see the full core rules released, covering almost everything that floated in WWII, as well as lots of background information, historical scenarios, and just about everything else we have managed to cram in-between the covers.

This new edition has been meticulously picked through thoroughly by our Official Naval Boffins, making it the most accurate release we have ever had for this line, married to rules that the greenest landlubber will readily take to. The core rules contain fleet lists not only for the US Navy and Imperial Japanese, but also the Royal Navy, Kriegsmarine, Regia Marina, and Marine Nationale. This will be backed up by fleet sets for the major navies, as well as a growing line of individual ships and aircraft.

We have been waiting a long time for this – and it really will be worth the wait.

On the video game side, Victory at Sea: Ironclad will be making an appearance this year on PC, detailing the river and sea-borne actions of the American Civil War. Start strapping cotton to your riverboats and strike a blow for freedom!

If you want something for Victory at Sea right now, however, we would point you to Victory at Sea: Pacific, the latest licensed video game for the PC.

Warlord Games also released the new SPQR game last year, a system written by us to cover warbands fighting in the Ancient era, from Greece to Imperial Rome, and it really struck a nerve with some players as they leapt fully into the narrative side of the game.

We have been working on some revisions to the game, based upon feedback from players (particularly those in the SPQR Facebook group), and work is about to start on the first supplement. This will include some new warbands (at the moment it looks like a Slave Revolt warband will be in there, as well as Thrace and Carthage), but the main thrust will be a new campaign system that will marry narrative, story-generating play with a competitive approach – effectively, sealing the breach between the two styles of play so two players can adopt either style on the same table and both get the satisfaction they are looking for.

Peering into the Future
2020 will be a consolidation year of sorts for Mongoose – we want to put the cap on every outstanding project (such as all those Traveller books and Victory at Sea) but, at the same time, start the process of the next great wave – such as the Fifth Frontier War which, collectively, is the biggest project we have attempted in Traveller (and we already have had some pretty large ones under our belt!).

We also want to start pushing ahead with projects outside of core RPGs. This involves our relationship with Warlord Games for miniatures, and video games for both Victory at Sea and Traveller. However, we also want to start stretching ourselves in the way we support our core RPGs. For example, while we have a (very tiny) Youtube channel, we want to really start pushing that side of things with more creative ways to explore our games.

At the current time, we have the odd promotional item and we like to highlight videos from fans and third parties (you will see links to these on our home page), but we also want to do background ‘articles’ that explore specific areas of the Traveller universe and Alpha Complex.

As always, lots of ideas, and only 12 months to do them in – now you might see why we are considering bringing on an additional Graphic Artist to the team!

In all, 2020 looks like it might well be the busiest year we have ever had at Mongoose, but it is all in a good way. We are not racing ahead of some dark wave, as is often the case with small companies, but venturing out into new lands to build new projects.

Basically, we are looking forward to creating and playing the games we most want to play, and then share them with you all.

And that is about as good as it gets!

With every major release, we look to improve the quality of writing, art, and production, and long term fans will have seen a steady climb in our games over the past few years. This is something we very much look to continue so there is a progression through what we might call our flagship products – from the Traveller Core Rulebook, to the Pirates of Drinax, to Sea of Thieves, to Deepnight Revelation… and now in 2020 we have the Fifth Frontier War on the horizon, along with 2300AD.

See you at the gaming table!

Matthew Sprange
Managing Director
Mongoose Publishing
msprange said:
There will be no ‘small scale’ Kickstarter (...) in 2020
Does this mean we'll see '*big* scale' Kickstarter(s) in 2020, or NOTHING Kickstarter-related whatsoever?

msprange said:
Reach Adventure 7: Last Train Out of Rakken-Goll

Can't find "Rakken-Goll" on Travellermap. Where is located, and who is the author?
The 2300AD box set will be my own personal highlight of 2020, but I’ve got a load of Traveller stuff coming from the various Kickstarters too. Look forward it it!
I've taken the "Legend" discussion in to that forum.

You talk about the website etc. Can we get the ability to use avatars on the forum please. It's deadly dull with everyone having ? images and no ability to have avatars.
msprange said:
We are also going to try to do Aliens of Charted Space Vol. 2, though that is a little more of a stretch – this volume will bring the rest of the major races up to date, being the Solomani, Hivers, and Droyne.

Í would love to see the Vilani also included in Aliens of Charted Space Vol. 2!
Baldo said:
Does this mean we'll see '*big* scale' Kickstarter(s) in 2020, or NOTHING Kickstarter-related whatsoever?

We do have a large something in the works, but it is almost a year away and there is at least a 10% chance of it changing in some fashion.

Baldo said:
Can't find "Rakken-Goll" on Travellermap. Where is located, and who is the author?

The adventure is located on Gor in the Tobia subsector of the Trojan Reach, and thew author is Martin Dougherty.
Bifford said:
You talk about the website etc. Can we get the ability to use avatars on the forum please. It's deadly dull with everyone having ? images and no ability to have avatars.

This is in the works - the forums will be getting a complete upgrade.
Bifford said:
You talk about the website etc. Can we get the ability to use avatars on the forum please. It's deadly dull with everyone having ? images and no ability to have avatars.

Never had any use for them on a forum myself, but know some like them.
AndrewW said:
Bifford said:
You talk about the website etc. Can we get the ability to use avatars on the forum please. It's deadly dull with everyone having ? images and no ability to have avatars.

Never had any use for them on a forum myself, but know some like them.
It sure makes identifying authors easier. So, it's not strictly necessary, but in my opinion useful.
One thing I’ve asked for before, but I still don’t see anywhere being scheduled in the near future, is a Robots/A.I. book for Traveller.

For me, I’d like it to be done in the same way we have a High Guard book for starships and the Vehicles book. That is, a book that gives you all the options for building robots of different utility, but also lets you play them as characters. For me, playing artificial constructs, including cyborgs and Bladerunner style replicants, should be a big part of the Traveller experience in the same way playing aliens is.

Please, please, please could find time to put this book on the table?
When do you think the 5th Frontier War books will start to appear, really looking forward to this campaign. Thanks
EwanS said:
When do you think the 5th Frontier War books will start to appear, really looking forward to this campaign. Thanks

They will be at the bottom end of this year.
msprange said:
Robots are indeed on the cards, but will not be rushed - a lot of thought needs to go into them.

Wow! Excited to heat that! That would be a huge step for Traveller. I always found artificial life to be underrepresented in Traveller. Probably since this topic wasn't as huge in the late 1970s as it became during the 1980s.
Ursus Maior said:
Wow! Excited to heat that! That would be a huge step for Traveller. I always found artificial life to be underrepresented in Traveller. Probably since this topic wasn't as huge in the late 1970s as it became during the 1980s.
There was a Robots sourcebook in Classic Traveller - Book 8 Robots.

I think robots and artificial intelligence has always been a staple of science fiction. I, Robot by Asimov is probably the starting point for any Traveller game, but there is lots and lots of sources to draw on. I don’t think that Mongoose Traveller 2nd edition is deliberately trying to downplay robots in the game, it’s just they haven’t got round to it yet.
Oh, you're right, I forgot about Book 8 from back in the day. I probably should read it sometime. But the topic definitely got a different vibe in the late 70s and then the 80s, after Star Wars Droids, Terminator and then Data in ST:TNG.
All right, I've made my marks on some of the incoming books (Sword worlds + Aliens). Budget is allocated, for now. I hope my pc mouse doesn't break again, out of warranty.