Reviews - What do customers think about Traveller 1248 Sourcebook 1 Out of the Darkness?
A worthy successor to GDW's Traveller: The New Era Nov 14, 2006
It's been over 10 years since GDW folded, taking its controversial last edition of Traveller out-of-print. Traveller: The New Era took the Rebellion/Imperial Civil War of Megatraveller to Armageddon, and beyond. The New Era was a time of rebuilding interstellar civilization.
The setting was unpopular with many long-time Traveller players, who enjoyed the unchanging Imperium as a backdrop for their campaigns. So it was no surprise that when Traveller saw print post-GDW, the New Era was forgotten. Indeed, two editions were printed in parallel, both avoiding the cataclysmic events of the New Era. Marc Miller's Traveller (4th edition, or "T4") went back in time to the very beginning of the Third Imperium. T4 failed to catch on. The other edition, quite popular and still in print today is GURPS Traveller. This setting literally said "The Rebellion Never Happened," and proceeded with a somewhat tranquil Imperium.
Enough backstory. Fast forward 10 years, and the New Era is now revisited in this new sourcebook. Written by Martin J. Dougherty, with approval by Marc Miller, so Out of the Darkness can be considered "canon." The setting is nearly 50 years after the time period of TNE, and the book fills in the timeline behind it. Out of the Darkness is rules-independent, and can be mated with any Traveller rules set you prefer.
The sourcebook can be examined in three parts:
1. Answering the questions of the Rebellion and the Collapse. This is probably the strongest part of Out of the Darkness. Reading through this section, I couldn't put the book down. What happened to Duke Craig? Margaret? Strephon? The Solomani? You'll find out here. It is a story of last-ditch defenses, and civilization collapsing as multiple waves of Virus wash over them. The Empress Wave, what's behind the Black Curtain, all is told here, and it doesn't disappoint.
2. Events between the time set in GDW's New Era and the current day set in this sourcebook are depicted. I read through this section with vague discomfort, not sure what exactly it was bothering me.
Yes, the Reformation Coalition and the Regency -- both staple settings of GDW's New Era -- get maligned. But the circumstances are plausible enough. Indeed, the Star Vikings' destiny makes more sense here than in GDW's New Era. There GDW wrote them as both idealistic do-gooders, yet reviled by history, a contradiction that never made sense to me. Out of the Darkness deftly explains this difference.
Other political entities -- barely mentioned or unknown in GDW's TNE -- get a full write-up here. As all surviving organizations expand into the Wilds, their contact is long on squabbling, short on cooperation. I suppose it makes sense, but you'd think they'd be exhausted from 100 years of killing and death. Some brave peace agreements are made, but they are fragile.
I think what became mildly annoying were the repeated RISK-style military invasions by all involved. Rather than sensible invade-then-consolidate military campaigns, many were 'push to the very end' drives to the capital worlds, often ending in the complete destruction of one or both sides. To be sure, this occasionally happens in wartime, and would be within the psychology of some of the political players, but it's a standard military strategy for all in Out of the Darkness. Insane pushes and cataclysmic battles make for great drama, but get a little tedious in repetition.
Ironically, little has changed in 50 years. Instead of two entities in isolation -- the Reformation Coalition and the Regency -- in 1248 you have several governments with about roughly the same spread and strength in irregular contact. Most star systems in between are Wilds. The 4th Imperium, introduced here, has renounced expansion and is a minor player, leaving little indication of a bright future for reunification.
Where the original TNE had the Regency as a setting for running "normal" Traveller campaigns, Out of the Darkness seems to lack a traditional background campaign area. I suppose the argument could be made that traditional players have ample in-print support through GURPS, but the exclusion here seems unnecessary.
3. The last part of the sourcebook explains and defines the current setting for play. If you are already familiar with Traveller: TNE, then much is repeated from past publications. Still, it's good to have the information in one place.
Overall, I'm satisfied with Out of the Darkness. The book is clearly self-published in appearance, but binding quality seems OK. I spotted typos every couple of pages, the kind that a spelling checker would miss: "To" instead of "too," etc. I also spotted a formatting error, a column heading that needed to be in a larger font and bolded. The manuscript needed another look with human eyes.
Illustrations ranged from mediocre to good. I would have like to have seen more maps, given the amount of history and military campaigns covered here.
Minor gripes aside, I am pleased with this addition to the New Era. Dougherty is a good writer who knows how to make history vibrant and interesting to read. As well, it is clear that a lot of thought went into the new setting. Well done.