Scouts & Assassins (1981)

Everything old is new again. One of the things I love about the contemporary RPG scene is the way third party community products emerge in support of popular games. Mothership, Mork Borg, Cairn and OSE are all interesting examples of this, but while digital distribution and cheap printing options have made this sort of thing easier and more prevalent, the phenomenon has been around pretty much since the beginning of the hobby. I particularly enjoy how Game Designers’ Workshop courted and encouraged third party designers to expand on the Traveller experience.

Scouts & Assassins (1981), from Paranoia Press, is a good example of this. By today’s definition, this is a zine (ahem: chapbook), 12 pages long, with pretty high production standards for the time (though it identifies itself as a Traveller Variant). You get new character generation rules for Scouts (an alternate from the regular Traveller Scout rules) and Assassins, as well as plans for a scout ship. The most interesting to me is that Unfit for Service rules. Traveller characters, famously, can die during character creation if they fail a survival roll during their tour of duty. This one page rule hack replaces death with a number of potential reasons a character could be drummed out of the serive — insubordination, mutiny, drunkenness and so on. Death is still a possibility, but it is now just one of many. I’ve always figured that this was the prime rule to get homebrewed for Traveller, and here we have it in print!

This is about as official a Traveller product as you could get without being printed by GDW. Marc Miller even has a little thing in the front saying the book is approved for use with the game and the back cover has a GDW product listing.

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