This review is one in a series which will look at some of the many Spinward Marches setting books which have been published over the years and which describe the area. It'll offer advice as to which ones were the best and which will work the best with Mongoose's current, fifth-edition, Traveller gaming system.
Between 1985 and 1995, GDW didn't provide any support for their Spinward Marches setting. Thus, during the MegaTraveller era, you had to go to licensee Digest Group Publications, who put out three issue of their MegaTraveller Journal centered on the Domain of Deneb, the four-sector area which includes the Spinward Marches. They are all, of course, set in the Rebellion era, approximately 15 years up Mongoose Traveller's timeline. They don't provide quite the same overview as the campaign books for the other eras, but they're the best that exists for the Rebellion.
This sixth review discusses The MegaTraveller Journal #2. As you'll see, though it covered the Domain of Deneb, as did issues #1 and #3, its usefulness to a Mongoose Traveller GM is almost non-existent.
An Overview of the Book
During the early Rebellion the sector fleets are pulled from Corridor, giving various Vargr corsairs the opportunity to entirely overrun the sector. This second issue of The MegaTraveller Digest is primarily the story of these occupied lands.
"Snapshots of the Occupation", by James Holden gives a good overview of the occupation, including a nice map showing which Vargr allegiances have taken over which systems. It also presents several sample worlds in Corridor, describing how each has dealt with the occupation.
"Defying the Wolf"
, Rob Caswell's feature adventure, gives players the opportunity to raid into occupied Corridor, attempting to rescue a lost ship. It's a nice three-part adventure containing: planet-side subterfuge, encounters with the Vargr, and encounters on an alien planet. It generally shows how background events can be combined with a story, to good effect.
After that, articles continue to cover the setting, but somewhat further afield from Corridor.
This issue's "Deneb Dossiers" features Arabella Von Ericsson, a Spinward Marches merc command with a particular hatred for the Vargr. Though she's not explicitly connected to the idea of the Vargr occupation of Corridor, ideas for such connections leap straight to mind.
The last major article that has an setting basis is "The Fur Factor", a random nugget about a Spinward Marches critter that gets aboard the player's ship--and which is pretty forgettable beyond that.
We close out with some "DIS Newsbriefs", of course, which continue to be colorful and insightful.
Moving on, The MegaTraveller Journal #2 contains quite a few more general articles.
That kicks off with some crunchy equipment descriptions. "Fiery Class Gunned Escort" covers a variant of the 400T Gazelle class. Then, "Traveller's Cache" includes sheets for five more pieces of equipment--mostly interesting utility stuff, from the Backpack Propulsion Unit to the Vacc-Suit Patches. If you like ships or equipment, and you play MegaTraveller, these are quite well done.
(When I played MegaTraveller back in the 1980s and 1990s, I had a binder full of all DGP equipment pages, offering a very nice catalog for the use of players.)
There's also an article of GM advice called "Off the Beaten Track", which talks about what to do when the players go off track. It wasn't anything I haven't read a few other times. The DGP guys were great at setting and background, less so on the GMing advice.
The MegaTraveller Journal #2 finishes off with some more system-specific articles.
"Q&A" was a regular feature that usually contained about half MegaTraveller questions and about half universe questions. The latter were generally great. For example, this issue had a question about the variability of jump time and how you coordinate attacks despite that and some thoughts on gauss rifles and neutrino sensors.
Unfortunately, the rest of the questions had to do with MegaTraveller's oft confusing rules. These troublesome rules were also highlighted in a five-page spaceship combat example that ran in this issue, and that had to be backed up by a page and a half of errata for those same rules.
Overall, there's a whole bunch that stands out in this issue. I also think that coherently addressing a pretty big picture event--the Vargr occupation of Corridor--really helps this magazine shine as a great supplement for the Domain of Deneb in 1121. On that basis I've given it a high "4" out of "5" for Substance.
Applicability to Mongoose Traveller
With that said, the issue is almost useless to a GM of Mongoose Traveller. I was originally intending to skip this issue in my review series because of that, but I ultimately decided I'd prefer to at least describe all three Domain of Deneb issues of The MegaTraveller Journal, rather than leaving a gaping hole.
The problem for the Mongoose fan is this:
1121 material on the Domain of Deneb proper still largely works in 1105 because not a lot has changed. Sure, there's a rebellion going on externally, but the Domain of Deneb is ultimately the Keeper of the Flame that maintains the Imperium when all else falls. So they're fairly stable.
The same just isn't true for Corridor. It's already fallen, and the Vargr-inhabited version of that sector in 1121 is light years different from what had been there in 1105. Add that on to the fact that Corridor is still another sector further from the Spinward Marches than Deneb, and you're left with very little of relevance.
And then there's a whole bunch of MegaTraveller crunch too, which is going to be equally useless.
In reading through this magazine, the only thing that I thought I might want to use was the backstory of merc commander Arabella Von Ericsson, who is a Commodore in the Navy at the time of the Fifth Frontier War. However, that's scarcely enough reason to buy a magazine that tends to go for $30-$50 on the used market.
So, unless you're moving your campaign all the way up to the Rebellion, there's zero reason to pick up this second magazine that DGP produced on the Domain of Deneb.
Style & Design
Like its predecessor, The MegaTraveller Journal #2 contains to offer good desktop publishing design. Their centerfold spread on the Fiery Class gunned escort particularly stands out for its great graphics and layout. As I said in my previous review, that was pretty typical for DGP, though today their designs look a bit minimalistic, in comparison.
Nonetheless, they still earn a "4" out of "5" for Style.
The MegaTraveller Journal #2 expands the Domain of Deneb toward trailing by offering a great look at what the Corridor Sector looks like ... in 1121 when the entire area has been occupied by Vargr corsairs. Combining that with a lot of MegaTraveller crunch, this second issue of the magazine ends up having very little value to a GM running games back in 1105.