Sunday, November 23, 2014

Supplement 2 Animal Encounters, a review

This 52 page booklet was part of the original Traveller, and published in 1979. This review however is focusing on the currently available PDF version. The PDF is based on a scan of a printed copy and as these things go , it's a good scan, clear and easy to read. there is only one piece of art, a small black and white of a Lovecraftian-looking octopodian.

Book three of Traveller (Worlds and Adventures) gave you a mechanism for building a random animal encounter table for any terrain on any world. If your players were going into marshy terrain on a small world, you could knock up an encounter table for that particular world. The purpose of this supplement is to save you bother of making up that table of animal encounters.

After a brief introduction the booklet quickly moves into a series of tables that form the meat of this book. It systematically presents a separate table for each terrain type on a Small World with a Thin Atmosphere, then a Small World with a Standard Atmosphere and then, Small World with Dense Atmosphere. This slips into rinse and repeat for Medium sized worlds and Large Worlds.

Each table caters for a random roll from 2-12, each line gives you bare statistics for an animal, except when you roll a 10, which describes an event. Each animal entry describes its type, weight, hits to unconsciousness, hits to kill, armour, the beasts weapons and its likelihood of attacking or running, and finally it's speed.
Without book three, these tables would be of little use as this supplement does not explain all of the terms it uses. For instance, if an animal on the table is a "Intermittent", what does that mean?  If it attacks "as teeth", what does that phrase mean? 

Fundamentally each row is a stat-block without any description or narrative detail. This is typical of the Classic Traveller system, it leaves a lot of open space for the Referee to fill in the details, which either suits you, or doesn't. I have mixed feelings about this scenario within this context. If I'm being supplied encounter tables for quick reference, they should be quick reference with everything I need on them, but at the same time, this same table might apply to thousands of worlds and the same creatures should not be appearing on world after world.

What about those events that happen when you roll a 10? Overall I like this idea, it adds good spice to what is effectively a wandering monster chart. For instance, one event says that a PC is attached by a "Chameleon Filter" (you'll need to look that up). Another says, grass fire seen on the horizon, another that your vehicle breaks an axle. However, you'll have to try and avoid a broken axle three times on the trot or it might get a bit samey.

After iterating through the world/atmosphere options already mentioned the book goes on give you a few more specific tables.  Eight tables for various Maritime locations, two for arctic conditions, and two for vacuum worlds.

Overall, I think it's fairly useful in situations where you haven't had time to create specific encounter charts of your own. You would have to avoid using these charts too often if your players visit a lot of worlds, as they would soon become stale. With a million worlds it would be criminal of the referee for every world to have a 12Kg Flyer that Attacks on 3+.

You have nothing to lose by adding this to your Classic Traveller collection, but it is by no means required as you can get more variety by using the rules in Book 3.

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

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