Saturday, 12 June 2010

Aslan

Cover of 'Alien Module 1: Aslan' by Gareth Hanrahan - Mongoose Publishing

Alien Module 1: Aslan
by Gareth Hanrahan


“You know, I like cats -- and lesbians -- but I really hate the Aslan more with each new reincarnation of the Trav setting/rules. Their whole Cat People of Mongo (Wherein It Rains) thing is one detraction, but what really puts me off is this whole cod-samurai shtick that's been accreting over years. All this freakin' "honor!" yelping - it's like some horrible Tekumel session staged with stuffed animals swiped from a Disney gift shop.”
- The ‘Sayat Menace’ on the Traveller Mailing List

I’ve never met the ‘Sayat Menace’, but I enjoyed his thoughts on the Aslan as quoted above – completely without permission – from a post on the Traveller Mailing List. This was prior to the publication of Alien Module 1: Aslan by Mongoose Publishing as part of their ‘The Third Imperium’ Traveller line.

Of the Classic Traveller Major Races, I’ve always liked both the Aslan and the Vargr as they appeal to different aspects of my own personality – the Vargr as anarchic, rough and tumble, go from here to there via all the nooks, crannies and byways types and the Aslan as calm, controlled, honest, honourable and upright. I enjoyed the Classic Traveller Alien Module 1: Aslan and so was Cover of Classic Traveller Alien Module 1: Aslan by J. Andrew Keith, John Harshman and Marc W. Millerrather intrigued to see what Mongoose would make of the information about the Aslan that has accumulated over the last couple of decades.

At 228 pages, Mongoose’s effort is no light-weight, and offers Aslan-orientated Character Generation (including clan, pride and family and the Rite of Passage; extensive notes on the Aslan Race (including Aslan Society, the importance of land to male Aslan, duelling and honour); Aslan History; typical equipment; starships (including stats and deckplans for a variety of ship types); encounters – Patrons, NPCs and animal encounters; Aslan World generation; and notes on roleplaying Aslan.

70-odd pages of this module provide a fairly good over-view of the Trojan Reach Sector, largely drawn from the work of Mike Jackson in the Third Imperium fanzine, as a backdrop for adventures featuring Aslan. Trojan Reach lies Rimward of the Spinward March and includes Aslan states both large and small, the Florian humanoid/Human Minor Race, Imperial worlds, Imperial Client States and independent worlds and polities.

Even if you do have access to the Classic Traveller Alien Module 1: Aslan – reprints are available from Far Future Enterprises – this new work is still worth getting, in my opinion. I particularly like the notes on both roleplaying Aslan, and GMing Aslan in a campaign where the author has, in fact, set out to offer alternatives to the “cod-samurai shtick” bemoaned of by The Sayat Menace.

Points where I think further work could have been done are in the section on Trokh, the Aslan language; in some of the artwork used within the book; and in the editing of the Trojan Reach material.

In the latter case, the text meanders between the use of the term ‘subsector’ and ‘sector’ to describe the individual subsectors of the Trojan Reach sector. To me, this feels more akin to the fanzine material of the 1980’s when such terms were still becoming fixed, rather than current useage.

Book artwork is always a subjective thing - you either like the pictures or you don't - but considering that Aslan have a natural blade weapon in their dewclaw, and it is stated in the text that blade weapon skills are fairly rare amongst Aslan, I began to get annoyed at the number of illustrations showing sword-weilding Aslan.

In the case of Trokh, while letter frequencies, syllable construction and pronunciation are discussed; the word generation tables of the Classic Traveller module are not reprinted. I do not know if this is an IP issue or not, though with the sound frequency table it is possible to make your own. Nowadays, I tend to generate my Trokh words using Space Corsair’s excellent word generator anyway, but it would have been nice to see those old tables again.

So, minor quibbles aside, another good book for Traveller.