It’s probably safe to say that I’ve played Traveller longer and more regularly than any other RPG in my collection. Like a lot of the old guard, I was introduced to the hobby by D&D, but it was Marc Miller’s brainchild that’s kept me playing all these years.
If I have one complaint about the game, it’s the rather stifling nature of its backdrop. Over the years, I’ve actually taken my games out of the Imperium in order to create the kind of atmosphere and environment I prefer (rather than having to make what I want to do fit within the Imperial framework). I have to admit, that’s one of the beauties of Miller’s system. Unfortunately, my lackluster feelings about the standard setting means that it can be difficult to find material that can be effortlessly dropped into my own games.
That’s why I was intrigued when I stumbled across Jon Brazer Enterprises’ Necro-Soldier (part of the Creatures of Distant Worlds series). From the description, it sounded like exactly the kind of material I’d be interested in using – offbeat, unusual, generic, and slightly dark. The summary on RPGNow reads:
On distant worlds in the deepest regions of space, unknown creatures await unwitting explorers. Close to home, devious politicians and gangsters lure native wild life to carry out their dirty work while maintaining denyability. On a frontier outpost, primitive life forms walk the uninhabited regions hoping claim the civilized place as their new home. Be prepared no matter where your players go. Be ready with the Creatures of Distant Worlds.
Necro-Soldiers carry out their tasks from beyond the grave. With a computer for a mind and dead heart for a soul, these merciless troops complete their mission with deadly accuracy.
As you can no doubt tell, the Necro-Soldier is designed to be a Sci-Fi version of the ever popular zombie. Dale McCoy, the author behind Jon Brazer Enterprises, does an excellent job of providing background and tactical information on how to use this new creature; in fact, he scales everything to fit into various tech levels. Even though this is a common sense approach to designing encounters for Traveller, it’s one of those areas that newbie GMs are likely to overlook (as I often did the first few years I played).
From there, McCoy expands on where and how you might stumble across (or use) a Necro-Soldier, and gives examples of locations and possible scenarios.† Even if you use the Traveller canon, it should be simple enough to drop these into a variety of systems, particularly if you’re playing on the outskirts of the Imperium.
The product is laid out well and includes a nice piece of original artwork; however, like many small, independent publishers, it does suffer from a lack of editing — missing words, misused phrases, misspellings, incomplete thoughts, etc. It’s generally not enough to derail the narrative, but being such a small supplement it does stand out more than it normally might.
Overall, I like where this series is headed, and enjoyed the basic execution; I plan on purchasing others and am considering investing in the subscription service Brazer Enterprises is offering. To his credit, McCoy manages to inspire adventure possibilities in almost every section of this two-page supplement. That, in-and-of-itself, is an accomplishment worth the price of admission.
† Initially, I thought the places used were within the Traveller canon, but as you can see in the comments below I was mistaken.