Saturday, 13 November 2010

Aslan and K'kree

GURPS Traveller Alien Races 2 - Aslan and K'kreeGURPS Traveller: Alien Races 2
by Andy Slack, David Thomas and David L. Pulver

The second in the GURPS Traveller line of Alien books examines the Aslan and K’kree Major Races in some detail. Having recently read the Mongoose Traveller Aslan book, I was interested to compare the two works, particularly as I still refer to the original GDW Aslan Alien Module for guidance for the Aslan character I am playing in a Classic Traveller PBeM.

Of the three works, the sketchiest is the original Aslan Module – the Aslan were still in a state of development and, consequently, were treated in a broad-brush fashion. Andy Slack appears to have been the lead writer on the GURPS version and, as he says in his notes on the Steve Jackson Games support site, he was very conscious of both the Classic Traveller Aslan, and the reworked Aslan of Digest Group Publications MegaTraveller. With the latter material subject to copyright issues, the GURPS material had to walk a fine line between regurgitation and rewriting, while still offering something new for players who had moved on to GURPS Traveller from the earlier versions of the game.

And I think Andy and his co-writers pull it off. There is a warmth about the telling of the Aslan story that indicates to me the writers know their subject well and have an affinity for it. There are nice, new little cultural touches, as well as broad-brush considerations of the Hierate, its politics and why Aslan in this book may differ from earlier accounts. Some nice starship deck plans round out the Aslan section.

The K’kree section, in contrast, feels a little more mechanical. A species of militant claustrophobic vegetarians who dislike technology but who are bent of galactic conquest does take a pretty big hit on the believe-o-meter. While the material from the original GDW Alien Module is worked over nicely, and there are some good tips for Refereeing K’kree (like being careful the K’kree player doesn’t treat his compulsory entourage as a skills grab bag), I find that I would probably only use K'kree in my campaign as NPCs as there are a number of downsides to them that could make them very frustrating to play as Player Characters.

This book concludes with two minor races, the Inyx and the Devi Intelligence. Of the two, the latter – a dimorphic intelligent fungoid species – actually interests me the most and is a race I would seriously consider adding to my game. The Inyx, on the other hand, a race of aquatic ergovoric parasites, don’t interest me as much. In some aspects, they are so alien that I can see very little scope for interaction between them and Humaniti or any of the other Major Races, which for me lessens their usefulness as characters in a Traveller game.

Finally, comparing GURPS Aslan with Mongoose Traveller Aslan, I find myself wishing to graft the cultural elements of the GURPS version onto the Mongoose Version, and this is simply for story telling reasons, as I do like what Mongoose has done with Aslan.

Sadly, GURPS Traveller Alien Races 2 appears to be out of print from Steve Jackson Games – I seem to recall that I picked up my copy through eBay UK – though it is available as a pdf from Steve Jackson Games’ e23 e-shop and would make a valuable addition to a Traveller Referee's toolkit of ideas.