The Game: Hammer’s Slammers (Mongoose Publishing, 2009)
The System: Mongoose Traveller
The Appearance: Full-size (8.5”x11”) hardcover with 208 pages. Cover in muted earth-tones has a very sci-fi feel about it with a soldier in front of an armored vehicle. Interior layout is two-column text on a textured blue background with brown border. Interior artwork is appropriate to setting. Tables can be hard to read as dotted lines get lost on background.
The Content: Complete Traveller setting book for David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers military science-fiction stories. This book is a true tribute to the books. The 208 pages of content is divided as follows:
- “Introduction” which is a (very) short teaser of the content
- “Chapter 1: The Universe” is background to the Hammer’s Slammers setting to include worlds
- “Chapter 2: The Mercenary Business” covers what mercenaries are, contracts, and typical mercenary life
- “Chapter 3: Character Creation” allows creation of several Slammers archtypes including Tanker, Combat Car, Infantry, Firebase, Technician, Support, Special Operations, and Command; characters can be created in different eras of the Slammer lore
- “Chapter 4: History of the Slammers” is taken from the books; few new rules and creatures are introduced here
- “Chapter 5: Character Roster” defines iconic names such as Colonel Hammer himself
- “Chapter 6: Equipment” covers gear such as powerguns
- “Chapter 7: Supertanks & Other Vehicles” finally gets to the awesome armor
- “Chapter 8: table of Organisation” lays out the organization of the Slammers
- “Chapter 9: Vehicle Combat” expands on the Core Rulebook rules
- “Chapter 10: Conflict” tailors the World Design system and has rules for “seeds of conflict” to assist in scenario creation; includes adventure seeds and GM advice
- “Chapter 11: The Kanturk War” is a sample adventure
The Verdict: Let’s be clear about a bias first; I love the Hammer’s Slammers series of books and stories. More than anything else David Drake has defined for me what I think of when I hear the term “military science-fiction.”
This book is a true labor of love and worth the price for the background alone. Finally, in one place you have the entire history of the Slammer together; all the people and places, event and equipment. But how does it translate as an RPG?
Unfortunately, I feel that Mongoose fails to live up to the expectations here. Especially the boast on the back cover that claims, “With all vehicles created using the Traveller Vehicle Creation System, this book is guaranteed to be fully compatible with every other Traveller book, allowing you to mix and match supplements as you desire!”
So in no particular order, here are some thoughts on the book:
- What is up with the cover soldier? The outfit is nothing like I imagine a Hammer’s Slammers trooper to be like; blinking lights and the like and doesn’t even match the armor depicted on page 120 which is that used by the Slammers
- A “Mercenary Roster” is provided on page 21 comparing notable mercenary units; each is assigned a rating but ratings are never explained (ahh, on page 180 when making a Mercenary Contract the quality of a unit is used for a DM; quality similar to but not shown the same way as the ratings on page 21)
- Joining the Slammers can be direct or through The Connections Rule from the Core Book; you can also joint the Slammers after finishing a military career as per the Core Rulebook or other supplement
- Who did the maps? They are HORRIBLE – gridded squares with cartoonish graphics don’t fit this high tech military setting; easily the worst part of the book
- The characters are great but again the kit doesn’t match what is provided elsewhere
- Errors abound when cross-referencing items; is the Protection for Light Ceramic Combat Shell (or is is called Clamshell, Light) 10 or 12?
- Tank Powerguns are really powerful; like they should be in this setting
- It is impossible to make any of the supertanks using the Vehicle Creation System found in Supplement 6: Military Vehicles; so much for “guaranteed to be fully compatible”
- Vehicle Combat introduces new range and hit systems; one should backfit this to the Core Rules
In sum, Hammer’s Slammers provides great background but it is not seamless in its integration with existing Traveller books and supplements. Putting them together can be done in places (character generation) but not in others (vehicle creation).