This sector book occupies a special place in my heart, as do all future books that deal with Earth in the future, however, humanity has moved on in the Traveller universe. However, Earth is not a backwater planet and the stars that make up this Sector but a flash point between two great interstellar polities – The Third Imperium and The Solomani Confederation.
So what does this book contain that the Alien Module does not? First and foremost, a point of view that is not clouded from the perspective of the Solomani as much of the Sector is under Imperial occupation – the worlds are a hotbed of strife and submerged conflicts between the two powers. Thus, what we get is a lot of history – and that history revolves around the two central antagonists – the Vilani and the Solomani. This is certainly one view of history shared by the Solomani – a racial Kulturkampf that echoes throughout the history of the Imperial Campaign. However, there is another narrative that is touched upon which is the struggle for political dominance in the realm of ideas. This gets a cursory mention with greater detail in the Alien Module – however, it is here that I expected to see more of that battle of ideas being played out in real terms in terms of the ideological war. Secondly, one would expect to see more details how the different spy agencies view the Rim. For if anything, the Cold War that exists between the Imperium and Solomani Confederation is akin to the conflict between the US and China (détente with many reciprocal bonds forming across a porous border) rather than the USSR-USA or Nazi Germany-USA conflict. And, very little of that is expressed in the official history that this supplement is written to tell.
Thus we see the players of the Sector being waged predominantly in political and espionage terms which is perhaps the greatest strength of the supplement. Thus, when we get the description of the Imperial Navy, it is the level of fleet strength but rather what the Navy is actually doing in the Rim. So, while both the Imperium and Solomani are actively engaged in Power Projection – their armed forces are more concerned with reconstruction and winning the Hearts & Minds campaigns. Similarly, a description of the nobility is as actual NPCs rather than remote figureheads representing distant Imperial authority – one could actually see these as patrons and players coming to interact with them. After that we have the different corporate influences – some of which foreshadow great CT adventures that take place in the Rim. And, lastly we get
Next up is the section of worlds, only one Solar System is profiled – that of Terra which I guess is understandable. Much of what is written has been seen before in different Traveller supplements, so it traces over familiar descriptions but does the time machine a bit from CT and certainly from GT (Rim of Fire). Like all Mongoose products, it has been stripped of Stellar Data (although sometimes world descriptions have it). So as to avoid the problematic that plagues Traveller of realism versus actual game play. I tend to side with realism but that would require a rewrite of many other Traveller products – not to mention stretched credulity to the hilt when compared to what we know about contemporary planetary formation theories.
How does this compare to other products dealing with the Solomani Rim. The GDW offerings were rather sparse and did not divorce themselves adequately from the Solomani Alien Race module. DGP for MegaTraveller is heralded as the gold standard for Alien Modules and the Solomani write-up in it was especially good, as it broke ranks with the common perception of the Solomani as Space Nazis and showed them to be rounded full individuals and a polity that may lapse into prejudice and racism but not one founded upon those principles. GT’s Rim of Fire and Interstellar Wars, although, there are many points that can be contested within these two books, however, they still brought many new concepts forward and I think that David Pulver has done an admirable job in connecting this book with that vision of the future. 1248 & other TNE marginalia (i.e. Children of Earth) does not figure prominently in this book…but hardly surprising as the events described in TNE are 200yrs into a possible future timeline. David Pulver has done a great job in setting down the dots that future supplements will draw lines between the different points.
The Referee’s section provides an ample array of campaign types that players and referees can design their own adventures catered to life in the Rim. Naturally, espionage is but one type…there are plenty of others and the seeds to carry out those adventures are in the worlds section. David Pulver has done a great job in bringing together the Solomani Alien Module and the Rim as a complete book but they can exist independently but are greatly enhanced when combined. Kudos on a job well done… If there would be any criticism of this book, it would be in the lack of art, I would have wanted to see more art but not at the expense of the text… So, I do understand Mongoose’s decision – thankfully the art is fairly uniform and for the most part attractive (and that art found in AM Solomani – some of which gave off a very weird vibe).
Thus, if there is anyone wishing to have adventure in the Rim and do not like the GURPS alternative history but want a major update to their Rim games ought to check this volume out. Mongoose certainly has made a quality product here and I look forward to more Sector books – hopefully authored by the likes of David. So, how about the Hinterworlds or better yet Old Expanses next… I am looking for updates on all these classic (note: not Classic) sectors to get a Mongoose treatment.