Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Supplement 3 The Spinward Marches, a review

This is a review of the PDF version of the Spinward Marches supplement for Classic Traveller.

This is the first of the classic PDFs for Traveller that I've reviewed where it's not just a straight scan of the work. It's an improvement in presentation all the pages are crisp and clear.

So what is The Spinward Marches? It's a pregenerated sector of space, broken down into subsectors. That's about it. Let's be more specific. The introduction repeates what I just said then gives you a guide to reading a planetary UPP and then it's straight into the first subsector.

You get a title for the subsector, then between one to three short paragraphs about the sector, which may include a whole sentence about one of the planets. Then you get the planet stats, name , size, atmosphere etc for the planets in the sub sector. Next is a map of the  sub sector presented in the standard Traveller hex map format.

A note about these maps. Each sub sector map indicates the adjacent sub sectors but there is no sector map, so if you want an idea of how these fit together you'll need to write the names on cards and start arranging them puzzle fashion. Each map itself is very clear but suffers from a lack of helpful detail added in later products, namely bases and gas giants are not indicated. Xboat routes are indicated.

After all the sub sector details, the book gives you a rehash of the rules relating to interpretation of the stats. The final section is a index to the planet names throughout the sector.

Wow. I've mixed up opinions on this one. Lets start with my negative thoughts.

If this was produced today, I would dump on it. Who needs pregenereated sub sectors, when I can go to a web site and click a button and create as many as I want, especially when the map doesn't show all of the now expected details. As to the details for each planet, or rather the lack of them. Two sentences does not a sub sector make. To make this book useful it really needs to have some details for each and every planet. When you could fill books with details and background material on a single planet, two sentences for an entire sub sector is pretty useless.

This amount of open territory does give the referee room to move and create their own details...but if your doing that why would you need this book ,as opposed to clicking a button and generating your own sub sectors.


But this subsector has been used as a location to set many of the classic Traveller adventures and other supplements. Although you can easily transpose those adventures into another sub sector or even your own version of the Spinward Marches, it just seems better to have the real thing, the real Spinward to act as your context. It's just a feeling, just a confidence trick if you like, to make you feel like you're doing it correctly.

So in summary, a nice to have, but totally unnecessary.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

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