RPG Thursday – Traveller Sword Worlds, or, I Did What Again!?

Courtesy Mongoose Publishing

Product:Sword Worlds (Mongoose Publishing, 2011).

System: Mongoose Traveller. Set in the Third Imperium era at year 1105.

Appearance: Full-size (8.5″x11″) softcover. Cover art is amongst the better of recent Mongoose Traveller offerings with less of a carton-feel and equipment kit that actually looks like it may be out of the book (unlike Mongoose Traveller’s Hammer’s Slammers). Contents is packed into 128 double-column pages. Text-boxes and tables use a lighter shade of gray for offset which is easier to read than the darker shades used in previous books. Interior art is black-and-white or greyscale. The tone of many images screams “fantasy” and not “science-fiction.”

Content: Seven (7) chapters along with Introduction, Credits, and Index. Three pages of Mongoose advertisements at the end.

  • Introduction (2 pages) – Bland introduction with little to draw the reader in. No acknowledgement of previous Sword World supplements, though the Credits do allude to a prior work.
  • Chapter 1: Sword World Characters (17 pages) – Covers character generation and information such as physiology, culture as it affects chargen, career path modifications, as well as three new Sword Worlds specific careers; Aesirist Church, Confederation Patrol, and Jager Kommand
  • Chapter 2: Life Among the Sword Worlds (21 pages) – Background information on physiology (again), Sword Worlds society, Sword Worlds pride and prejudice, language, relations, reputation and honor, military pragmatism, spiritual beliefs, governments, money, law, and history as well as “10 Points of Great Interest Within the Sword Worlds”
  • Chapter 3: The Sword Worlds (26 pages) – Details th planets in the Sword Worlds subsector
  • Chapter 4: Sword World Equipment (14 pages) – Ironmongery section devoted to equipment invented, created, or utilized by the Sword Worlds
  • Chapter 5: Spacecraft (21 pages) – Ship design and new ship components along with five Sword World ships complete with stats and deck plans
  • Chapter 6: Encounters (19 pages) – Random encounter tables, sample patrons, NPCs and animals
  • Chapter 7: Classified Information (2 pages) – Potential adventure seeds
  • Index (1 page)

Comment: Remember that I an a long-time RPG player and GM (playing Traveller since 1979). I am also a great fan of H. Beam Piper’s Space Viking book which is where the inspiration for the Sword Worlds in Traveller came from. I am very disappointed that none of this credit is given in the book, nor even alluded to.

Verdict:  BLUF – I know Mongoose Traveller material is poor, so why do I keep buying it?

Given the amount of formatting errors that Mongoose is known for you would think they would get one book right but NOOOOOO. Take for example page 46, which has oversize apostrophes in the second column that make OBVIOUS format errors. So obvious they should have been caught!

Now some people can forgive format errors when the content is good enough. I found this book difficult to read and have to suspect whole parts were lifted from other products. For instance, the “History of the Sword Worlds” starts with a sentence that talks about Loyalists. Loyal to what? Then they lose the civil war. What civil war? The Mongoose Traveler setting takes place in year 1105, just before the Fifth Frontier War. Yet on page 31-32 there is reference to the Border Worlds Authority, set up AFTER the Fifth Frontier War! Where did that come from? In the section on money (p. 32) there is mention of “Class III or better starports.” Isn’t that GURPS Traveller, which is not credited anywhere?

There are also a few issues when you compare Sword Worlds to The Spinward Marches. In a few places dates don’t match. In some places you have to wonder if the author bothered to read the previous work. For instance, with regards to Sword Worlds ship design, this is how the two books describe it:

  • The Spinward Marches, p. 95; “What both types [of ships] have in common is a generally blocky and extremely tough design….”
  • Sword Worlds, p. 83; “Sword World ships are streamlined and borrow a great deal of aesthetics from Imperial and Aslan sources….”

Looking at the designs here and elsewhere, I think The Spinward Marches got it right which makes me wonder where the authors of Sword Worlds got their text from.

The deck plans are once again too small for use. They also take up too many pages, such as the Jarl-class Fleet Command ship using (part of) one page for a description and image – with lots of white space left – one page for the stat block, and four pages for those too-small-to-use deck plans.

I do like the Encounters section, especially the animals tables. The Classified Information chapter is only mildly interesting as it introduces some seeds that may or may not be relevant to your style of play.

Finally, and most difficult for me to describe, I personally just don’t like the “swords in space” vibe this book gave me. Maybe it was the artwork with the Conan-like barbarians but this was not the Sword Worlds I have always imagined.

In the end, I can only recommend you get this supplement if you are willing to accept “swords in space” and overlook the format quality issues and rectify yourself the differences and lack of explanation this book has. I surely would avoid the the printed book, because at $24.99 you are not getting your moneys worth. Wait for the lower price digital download if you have to.

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