Saturday, January 28, 2012

Traveller OGL: Alienist [RPG Peek-a-Review]

Considering I haven't been doing a lot of roleplaying game coverage in my blog, I figured it's about time I did. And what better than to start off with one of my fave indie RPG publishers? Postmortem Studios is the small-but-mighty ship James "Grim" Desborough calls his own, and he always gets very talented folks to work with him. This has culminated into a steady stream of numerous releases for the RPG market, most, if not all, being carried by one of the best places to find e-versions of an incredible variety of RPG products: RPG NOW.

One thing first, though. You may notice I have earmarked this entry "Peek-a-Review". What the hell does that mean, anyway? Simple: I don't usually like doing super long and comprehensive reviews. Or maybe I haven't playtested them (as is the case here). I guess I'm, um, sorry if that bothers you. What I prefer is talking about the item, maybe whine about it if it offends my delicate sensibilities, or maybe I unleash the hyperbolese and go gibber-faced insane. Who knows. But if you want a review that reads like a badass Homeric poem, I simply cannot recommend enough.

Anyway, on to Alienist, dammit.

The Copy
"A full career path for the Traveller OGL Many people are fascinated by alien cultures but for some it becomes an obsession and for a few, exceptional people they become a part of the culture that fascinates them. Accepted in a way that most never could be. Caught between their own people and their obsession, the Alienist is a bridge between disparate cultures separated by light years, psychology and even biology."

What You Get
The Alienist PDF is a rather short affair, and is pretty no-frills. There isn't even a credits page. It clocks in at nine pages, six of which are what I call "Meat Pages"; as in, ones with rules and aren't OGL licence stuff or the cover. The Meat Pages are breviloquent* concerning the description of the Alienist class, and it still manages to be well-written. Then you get a few pages of charts which are laid out in a way that almost made me go cross-eyed at first... However, when I look at the specific part of the chart I need to read, it's not so bad. Charts and tables are available for Skills & Training, Career Progress, Ranks and Benefits, Mustering Out Benefits, Mishaps, and Events. You probably won't be surprised when I say the Mishaps and Events ones are my favourites. And, indeed, reading through them was interesting, but not as entertaining as I had hoped. Then again, Postmortem most likely made the right decision in that case. There are some new rules and new equipment, too, with the new skill "Integration" making perfect sense when an Alienist is immersing themselves in an alien culture (I hear this becomes problematic for those Alienists visiting LV-426). The major standout in the equipment section is "Bodyswap" (TL 14, by the way), in which someone who feels they are born to the wrong species-- called "xenodismorphia"-- can, well, you know, fully integrate themselves. Pretty neat, really. There are a few more items and then that's it... roll License Agreement. To me, everything looks fairly balanced and it's excessively unlikely it will break anything.
(*Yes, this is a word. I find it friendlier sounding than "laconic".)

Art und Layout
Overall, the art and layout remain cost-effective without looking too cheap. The cover art is decent enough, and doesn't make me want to kill myself. Always a good thing, I suppose. It's really not bad, man. In fact, I dig it. Have you seen some of the art in indie games out there? Yee-ikes. There is not much more art to be had aside from the cool cyberspacepunky border bits; which I love, honestly. The layout is simple, single column style, which you should be able to read with ease. There is the aforementioned problem with the tables and the like, which look a bit crammed to me. But once you need to find a particular listing, you should have no problem. As for the editing? It's good. Being the nitpicking editor bastard (and obvious hypocrite) I am, I like the cut of this product's editing jib.

Bang For Your Buck
There is no other way to say it: This mofo be fiddy cents, dawg. That's right: 50 cents. Bang/Buck-wise, this is rockin' and rockin' hard.

The Bottom Line
Look, I promise that next time I'll have something cooler for my "in conclusion" title thing... But the bottom line is that if you play Mongoose's Traveller, you should totally check this out. It's cheap, it's informative and to the point, and I really don't know when the last time I saw something so cool and nifty that's dropped right into any Traveller game for the price of making a crazy homeless dude leave you alone. Personally, I'd put it in my Traveller game if I were running one. And that reminds me: I need to run one. I am dying to do a Judge Dredd or Strontium Dog game. The Alienist class would work well with them, too. I'll let y'all know how that works out when I get there.

Lethality: The vessel had a crew of six brave souls who went to go check out that alien world and ended up on the dead and/or bugshit poopers side of things. One man made it back. He was carrying two arms, one of which still clutched a ray gun. Or maybe it was a newer model hairdryer.

If you play Traveller you would be doing yourself a disfavour not buying this.

You can purchase it here.

Wow, this was MUCH longer than I anticipated. I would like to thank Postmortum Studios for sending review material my way. I will be featuring and reviewing more of their products in the near future, including talking about one of them on the upcoming MouthFist Podcast.


Comments are always welcome. Except from you. Yeah, you. You know I'm talking about you-- yeah, over there. And, of course, there's the email option.

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