State of the Mongoose 2020


Staff member
State of the Mongoose 2020
Mongoose Publishing is just finishing its 19th year in business and, well, 2020 has not been the best year the world has ever seen eh?

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.

Grab yourself a coffee and settle into a comfy seat, as we will be going into quite some detail…

Business Stuff
Late last year, we brought on a new Graphic Artist to our team, Cassie, who has taken to Mongoose like a duck to water! You will already have seen her efforts in titles such as Behind the Claw, more recently in Aliens of Charted Space Volume 1, and she was the driving force behind the most recent wave of Paranoia books, Project Infinite Hole. We were hoping to bring in another Graphic Artist this year but, well, a global pandemic hit everyone in the face and it was just not feasible to have interviews and then bring someone into the office for training/conditioning in the Mongoose Way.

Speaking of the virus, Mongoose has weathered it well thus far. We went into lockdown before our Dear Leaders in the UK government told us to and have remained there pretty much throughout the year. Everyone works at home with just the occasional trip into the office to use more powerful computers for specific projects and the odd meeting (we have plenty of room for distancing, about 500 square feet per person). Without the distractions of daily life in the office productivity actually went up, as evidenced by our flurry of Traveller releases in the bottom end of 2020.

Another benefit we received was a whole bunch of you wanting to get into Traveller during your own lockdowns, and we saw a surge in online sales of core books and big sets like The Pirates of Drinax campaign, to the extent that the Traveller Core Rulebook went out of print for a few months – thank you very much for that, and welcome aboard!

The downside is that while Mongoose staff were able to adjust to the lockdown very well, its effects were extremely variable amongst freelancers – some coped well, others had Real Life descend upon them in a major way. This had the effect of stalling primarily outside art that delayed, among other things, the Deepnight Revelations campaign set which we had hoped to have in everyone’s hands before Christmas. That is now going to roll into the start of 2021, but we are looking forward to hearing what you all think of this truly titanic campaign.

It seems that, possibly, there is now some light at the end of the tunnel with regards to the virus… but here in the UK we are about to get another whack in the face in the form of Brexit.

As I write this, we have about 6 weeks before the transition period ends and the UK is ‘properly’ out of the European Union.

And we still have no idea how this is actually going to change things, so we are kinda expecting the worse. What does this mean for Mongoose gamers?

Well, for most of you, very little. We have already made sure that as many of our operations can take place outside of the UK as possible. Primarily, this means the movement of physical books, and we can ship worldwide from our warehouse in the US. So, instead of getting books from the UK, you might see US stamps on them – nothing else will change, and everything will cost the same.

If you are in the UK, well, things might be a bit different. There is a (very likely?) possibility that ports will get clogged up which means actually getting books into this country could be slower. We are countering this by increasing our UK stock levels before Christmas, so we should be able to ride out any period of delays in January and February.

However, we are also expecting Sterling to take a dive after we leave the transition period. This is a problem because Mongoose books (and, in fact, just about all gaming books) are, for reasons both historical and practical, pegged to the US Dollar. When Sterling falls in value, gaming books go up in price.

This has already happened, as Sterling took a nose dive after the referendum and has not recovered. We have taken that loss on the nose for the past few years, but it is difficult to see how we can sustain that if Sterling falls further.

So, if price is an issue, we suggest ordering now.

This is, of course, likely to affect more than just RPG books but I am afraid those other things are beyond our scope…

2020 and the Mongoose
Virus and Brexit worries aside, Mongoose did okay in 2020. We got out just about every book we promised in the last State of the Mongoose (a feat that we had not managed for a few years!), and you all conspired to make the Traveller Core Rulebook sell out faster than we expected!

We initiated the reprint immediately but the virus raised its ugly head as both printing and shipping books suddenly became much, much slower. The reprinted Core Rulebook is on its way to us now and we expect to start shipping again in the next couple of weeks or so, and will be sending out all the pre-orders for it as soon as it arrives.

So, what can you expect from Mongoose in 2021?

Traveller in 2021
Reading through the last State of the Mongoose, it is really good to see the books mentioned there are now out! I wonder, dare we make a similar projection for 2021…

We are aiming for two ‘big’ projects for Traveller next year, though you can expect plenty of support in the existing lines too.

The first big project will be another Kickstarter, as it is very well positioned to take advantage of the expansion opportunities that platform brings (as backers of The Great Rift and Deepnight Revelations will attest to!). In February you will see the Kickstarter launched for… Mercenary.

Mercenary will be appearing as a boxed set bringing everything you need for mercenary campaigns to your Traveller games – straight from Traveller creation, you will be able to pool your mustering out benefits and fund your very own mercenary company, before going out into the wider universe to seek contracts and tickets. If you have an existing campaign, your wealthier Travellers will be able to fund their own mercenary company so, for example, your Pirates of Drinax could begin diversifying their operations into the mercenary market.

There is a great deal more packed into Mercenary and we will be giving one of the books from the box set away free as a download during the Kickstarter, so swing by when it all goes live and take a look!

2021 will see the release of the first Fifth Frontier War books – and this project is simply too big for Kickstarter! In fact, the Fifth Frontier War is so large it will be forming its own sub-line within Traveller that we estimate will take between 2-3 years to complete. You will see the instigation of the war, from both sides of the border, and we are working closely with Marc Miller to bring his vision of the war to the tabletop along with some never-before-seen events that even Traveller veterans may not see coming.

This is a big one, and you will not want to miss it…

We have been working hard on fleshing out the Charted Space universe, with the likes of the Behind the Claw sector book and Aliens of Charted Space volumes. We will be continuing this in 2021 with Aliens of Charted Space Volume 3 (containing, among others, Darrians, Bwaps, Dolphins & Orcas), more ‘sector’ books (first appearing will be the Solomani Front and Spinward Extents) and the first of the ‘empire’ books that take a broad look at each of the main empires in Charted Space and detail a central sector. The first of these will be The Third Imperium, including Core sector, and you might just see The Zhodani Consulate in 2021 too.

Along with these mighty tomes, we will have plenty of support material for you as well. A new run of the Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society is currently being put together (and, in fact, we are taking submissions if you would like to see your take on an area of Charted Space in print), as well as new adventures – including a reimagining of Murder on Arcturus Station by renowned RPG Youtuber Seth Skorkowsky.

Traveller Video Games
Update from the last State of the Mongoose.. still in development!

Our friends at Evil Twin Artworks (responsible for the Victory at Sea video games - including the about-to-appear Victory at Sea: Ironclad) are currently working on not one but two Traveller video games. The first (currently titled Traveller: Vanguard) will focus on boarding actions during the Fifth Frontier War, while the second is more RPG-centric, focussing on a group of Travellers in a beat-up ship trying to make their way in the universe – the classic Traveller campaign!

Hoping to let you all see some previews on these two throughout 2021.

We had hoped that the new 2300AD box set would be out just before Christmas, but it has slipped slightly – layout begins in March 2021 and you will see plenty of previews soon after, culminating with the release of the box set, the Aerospace Engineer’s Handbook, and a campaign for you to leap right into.

Keep an eye out for this one, we are aiming to knock the ball out of the park on it!

Project Infinite Hole, heralding a new wave of Paranoia books and cards has just gone off to print, and will be available early next year. Project Infinite Hole is a new box set that focusses on the wonders of the greatest Service Group of them all – the hard-working scientists, technicians and boffins of R&D!

In the main Project Infinite Hole box set, Troubleshooters receive 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! Meanwhile, Gamesmasters will see the inner 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.

Also included is the Project Infinite Hole Mission Book which provides a new set of exciting opportunities for Troubleshooters 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…

Following the Project Infinite Hole box set will be a series of mission books and card decks which not only continue to expand the role of R&D in Alpha Complex but also bring to a conclusion R&D’s tinkerings with black hole technology. As it turned out, simply ignoring a growing black hole did not work…

Sea of Thieves
The Sea of Thieves RPG, based on the PC and Xbox video game, continued to do well throughout this year and we had hoped to release the first hardback expansion for it. The virus put paid to those plans, but Tales of Two Captains is being worked on right now and we hope to have it in your hands fairly early in 2021.

As with the main box set, our friends at Rare have promised us some exclusive cosmetics for this book so everyone on the waves will see you are a tabletop fan as well!

Peering into the Future

2020 was a consolidation year of sorts for Mongoose, allowing us to finally lay to rest several projects that had been floating about the office for a little too long. Now, in 2021, we are looking to build upon all of that work.

Our primary goals for 2021 are:

• Deliver mercenary campaigns to Traveller and do them justice.
• Begin the Fifth Frontier War sub-line which, collectively, will become the biggest project we have ever attempted for… well, pretty much any game, actually…
• Bring a new Graphic Artist on board and get them trained up.
• Expand the audio-visual components of our games and universes.
• Begin work on the next great leap for Paranoia.
• Make our staff members 3.6 times happier than they were in 2020.
• Start development of a brand new setting and game that has been buzzing around our heads for too long now…

In the last State of the Mongoose, we mentioned that we had wanted to expand our Youtube channel, and we did manage to build a small studio here at Mongoose HQ. However, workload and the virus meant we could not tackle any major projects in any decent way with it. We will be endeavouring to change that in the coming year. We also want to begin tackling social media properly, something we have been fairly failing to do up to now, with a focus on showing previews and what is going on behind the scenes at Mongoose HQ – we have been doing a little on Facebook and Twitter this year but need to take proper control of this.

Overall though, Mongoose has evolved into a very stable company and despite the worst the world seems to delight in throwing at all of us, we look to the future with a great deal of optimism.

We have spent a lot of time with Traveller but even so, we believe we have only scratched the surface of what is possible – there are more star systems to explore, more adventures to be had, and many more campaigns to play through. 2300AD is destined to be perhaps one of the prettiest sci-fi RPGs on the market and this new edition is being built to bring newcomers into the universe. Paranoia remains a truly unique RPG that may never be topped, and there is so much more fun to be had in Alpha Complex.

Added to all that, we have been wanting to put our weight behind a brand new IP/setting/game for a fair few years now, but have always found excuses to put it off. Well, in 2021, we are removing all obstacles and finding out just where our creativity can take us. We are gathering ideas, seeking out talent, and hope to start unveiling things towards the bottom end of 2021.

Within Mongoose, we continue to try hard to ensure that not only do books come out in a (vaguely) regular fashion, but that staff members are given all the support they need and, just as important, have as much fun as possible while they work. It is still hard work (working with RPGs is not as soft and easy as it may look!) and we had to cut back on the staff outings this year, for obvious reasons, but we have still managed to maintain all the other perks that staff get for working at Mongoose.

In a nutshell, we try to create an extremely pleasant and fun environment within Mongoose, and we believe this will shine through in the books we publish.

We continue to work to guidelines rather than deadlines, despite tightening up on that a little in 2020 in order to get out the books we promised you all last year, so titles are released when they are ready to be released not when finances force us to. This is a very privileged position to be in, so we justify it by making sure the creative team is well looked after and that the books we publish are of a level we can be proud of – and with every major project we endeavour to raise that bar just a little bit higher.

Whatever the wider world brings, we sincerely hope you will all join us in exploring universes of science fiction and fantasy, and find joy within them.

Wishing you a very merry Christmas and a prosperous and fun-filled New Year!

Matthew Sprange
Managing Director
Mongoose Publishing
GOOD! :D But I have two questions:

MongooseMatt said:
Our primary goals for 2021 are:

• Bring a new Graphic Artist on board and get them trained up.
Rest assured I *LOVE* the art, but what about a full-time dedicated editor instead? :)

MongooseMatt said:
Baldo said:
And if you are in the EU, you can get everything in Euros... When? Any guess? :)

Excellent question - we are indeed planning to enable [payments in €uros], but we have some technical issues to resolve with the site first. Something for 2020!

Any news on this?
Baldo said:
Rest assured I *LOVE* the art, but what about a full-time dedicated editor instead? :)

Issues with text are not editorial-related (everything goes through both an editing and proofing process) but more game-related - and we are indeed taking new measures which you should see the fruits of in the next round of books!

Baldo said:
Any news on this?

Still on the cards, but we need to do some technical things with our web site first.
Matt and All,

Thanks for what you've done for (mainly) Traveller in 2020. Sure it's been a slow middle of the year but the last 6 weeks have been awesome.

I can't wait for 2300AD but until that time comes I'll continue with Traveller.

Take care of yourselves down in Swindon etc.

Thank you for the update! Hoping 2021 is a great year for you folks and for the world in general.
Question for you- as we're still in lockdown for the foreseeable future, me and my players are gaming exclusively via Fantasy Grounds Unity and Roll20. Any info/plans for working with those folks (especially FGU?)? I'm scooping up both your printed/pdf books as well as every single thing - book, module etc- Traveller related on Fantasy Grounds. Appreciate any info you're willing to share.
thanks again, appreciate the heck out your efforts
I am very glad to hear you and your staff are keeping safe and well! Working in Swindon myself I know how the "waves of potential lockdown" have been ebbing and flowing over that town between the first and second lock-down. It's been interesting!

I'm dismayed that this year Legend doesn't even get a mention - previous years you've at least given a nod in its direction, but it is ominously absent in this year's text. This saddens me greatly.

Regardless, keep on doing a sterling job, Matthew (and team).
Bifford said:
I'm dismayed that this year Legend doesn't even get a mention - previous years you've at least given a nod in its direction, but it is ominously absent in this year's text. This saddens me greatly.

It is not being intentionally ignored, it is just that there is no update from last year and I thought effectively copy/pasting that would be somehow worse...
One format change for the Solomani And Spinward Extents book I'd suggest (after reading Behind the Claw) and recommend - have an actual text entry describing whats interesting about the planet for each planet in the secotr. Doesnt have to be long- just a sentence or two. GURPS Behind the Claw did that and it's much more readable and inspiring than the old school format of just describing 2 planets per sector and giving the rest as stats.
SJE said:
One format change for the Solomani And Spinward Extents book I'd suggest (after reading Behind the Claw) and recommend - have an actual text entry describing whats interesting about the planet for each planet in the secotr. Doesnt have to be long- just a sentence or two. GURPS Behind the Claw did that and it's much more readable and inspiring than the old school format of just describing 2 planets per sector and giving the rest as stats.

I've seen this comment elsewhere as well and I get it; however, here are a few counterpoints to consider:
  • If you describe every system, even if it's only a sentence or two, referees are not much encouraged to put their own imprint on the setting. I realize that the point of a sourcebook is to give you as much of the background and lore as possible but to some extent, if you give them everything, they might feel like they can own nothing.
  • The shorter the description, the less useful the data is. I read GURPS Behind the Claw and some of those short, two-sentence world descriptions feel like they were sort of shotgunned out, like they didn't invest the time or thought into the complexity that is implied. A star system is big and complex. Many worlds really deserve their own entire sourcebook! Meanwhile, when short descriptions are accompanied by longer descriptions for other worlds, it might feel as if they are two different entities when they are supposed to be the same. Both types describe worlds. Are the shorter ones less important?

Would a viable alternative be to ensure that the subsector description preamble covers several more worlds and establishes whatever themes exist in the subsector? Also, for the worlds that are described, perhaps a strong effort to ensure that
  • the worlds presented are indicative of the culture or theme of the subsector; this might help give referees the momentum to feel confident coming up with concepts for undescribed worlds.
  • the most important worlds are covered. For example, don't cover Regina subsector without describing Regina itself.
  • enough worlds are described; sometimes three is enough; Sometimes it takes many more for reasons that are inherent to the subsector.

I think not describing all the worlds in a subsector has its advantages but how the author goes about it is important. He needs to be sensitive to the wants and needs of his audience.

By the way, I don't mean to shoot down your idea at all, SJE. Just providing a counterpoint.
Any rough ballpark timeline on the rewritten murder on arcturus station? (and is that the same as something I've seen referred to as "mysteries of arcturus station"?)
I was just about to start working on a rewrite of my own (to drop it into the Islands in the Rift situation), but if Seth S is doing a rewrite, I'd like to wait to see what that's like before I start fiddling with the old CT text.
If it's likely to be first half of 2021, I can likely drop enough other stuff in my players' way to hold them up until I can pick up the rewrite, but if it's gonna be a year from now, I probably need to start working on my own.
TheMachine said:
Any rough ballpark timeline on the rewritten murder on arcturus station? (and is that the same as something I've seen referred to as "mysteries of arcturus station"?)

Around end of Q1 2021!
MongooseMatt said:
TrippyHippy said:
Anything on Robots for Traveller?

No manuscript as yet, but this is an area we want to take a deep dive into.

Basically, just want a book that is the equivalent of High Guard or Vehicles - but for Robots (and all sorts of AI), but including the option for player character robots.

I hope, in time, to see this along with a book for Psions. I also hope aloud for the last Aliens book to have a means for random alien design. The Mercenary box and Frontier War looks like it’s going to be main focus for the next year though.

Next year, however, my personal excitement will be for the new 2300AD.