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Creation Date: March 1st, 2010 07:15 PM
Blue Ghost Blue Ghost is offline
Musings of a Knight of the Imperium.
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In Moot Member Blogs Alien Realms Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #578 New July 7th, 2019 02:24 PM
I bought Alien Realms maybe a year or two after it was first published.

I was attracted to it by the abstract cover art, but when I read through the pages I discovered more abstract character oriented scenarios, and no dungeon crawls. Even at that late in "the game" I was still under a lot of misapprehension or misunderstanding of Traveller's "true colors", so to speak, in terms of it being more of a law enforcement oriented game and tool than a game that emphasized exploration and simulation of science fiction properties--as it started and stated in its mission statement.

Alien Realms is pretty interesting, if somewhat unimpressive. Its character oriented synthesis, and by character I mean a person's or players personal moral fortitude, didn't really extract or rather help bring out the alieness of the races involved. I suppose the Vargr scenarios come close, but I didn't get a sense of alien or foreign psychologies at work. At lest that's how it came across to me.

That, and I expected more of a exploratory or exposition of "foreign lands", so to speak. I expected Alien Realms with perhaps a level of detail more associated with GURPS Traveller than the traditional GDW offerings. In this sense I was extremely disappointed with the booklet. I thought, as per my Stewart Cowley observations, that there would be more details of Vargr, Droyne and Zhodani space in addition to the adventure material. But, it was not to be. The art was spartan as was usual for GDW products of the time, but passable. And Traveller had been on the market for close to a decade at this point, and the game had seemingly not taken off in spite of having a very rich background that had been evolved over the years.

It was kind of an interesting dichotomy with GDW publications. Products with lots of art or attractive covers tended to have a degree of playability, but not much on substance. Where as the little black books had nearly no art, but lots of substance. At least that's how it appears on reflection, though maybe my memory's just being clouded by some emotional reactions to some of the lack of art in the books overall.

As an adventure sourcebook Alien Realms was okay to a bit lacking. It was just a kind of ordinary publication that lacked a lot of pizzazz of the TSR adventure modules. And again, this goes back to my observations that even though science fiction was a bigger money maker in mass media during the 80s, somehow it was the fantasy genre for RPGs that got all the dollars injected into them. That is to say after Star Wars there was a lot of schlock in terms of scifi movies that were made, but there were far fewer and lower quality films and TV created for the fantasy genre during that same time frame. Ergo, just as n one was tapping the publications in the scifi genre for Hollywood offerings, so it was that there were even fewer and lower quality fantasy mass media oriented stuff being cranked out.

But, I was just a fresh high school graduate at the time, and embroiled in a career up in San Francisco. Traveller took a back seat to a lot of things, but at the time I still had visions of cranking out a quick proof of concept film for one of the games I was into notably Car Wars, but Traveller was the property of choice because of its huge potential for settings and stories.

As a whole, and not to get too off track here, other than Dietrick and a select number of other drawings or covers, on the whole, I've never much liked the art in Traveller. And more specifically I've never liked Keith's sketches. He's an outstanding writer, but his sketches are rough and not very thought provoking, and just plain. That verse the very colorful and expertly rendered art of TSR or the T&T franchise (publisher's name escapes me), or just a whole host of RPGs as a whole. Star Fleet Battles is notorious for poor art. I'm guessing there's a psychology of attracting true "Fans" or people willing to look past the art and delve into the meat of the material, ergo a kind of integrity test of the potential consumer or player at work here. Again, law enforcement overtones. Oh well. Even so, for me, as a consumer of science fiction, at that time, I really wanted a game that had better art, offered adventures that attracted players, and wasn't just some security lab coded up as a game. My perspective at the time was that science fiction really seemed to be intentionally hamstrung, and the art within GDW's CT publications, and a lack of good "other than Star Wars" film or TV on the screen, just frustrated me to no end. Ergo me seeking out science and tech in popular media due to some learning disabilities, because otherwise I might have pursued engineering with a vengeance.

But, back to Alien Realms. I was hoping for maybe some details of a Vargr or Droyne city. Or some insights into Zhodani society other than what was published in the CT alien module. But, as usual, the promising abstract of the cover art was the only sales point of the booklet. In fact it's not even listed on the regular Wikipedia, though it is listed on the Traveller wiki.

I bring up this topic because again, as a still relatively impressionable young man, at the time, even though I was beyond gawking at art work it's like looking into a diorama and wanting to go there, or to see more of the same, only you can't go there to explore it, and so you have to satiate yourself visual appetites with other books or pictures. But that no one is willing to marry the two arts into a "super art" to give you and others what they really want; a more fulfilling literary and visual satisfaction.

And I guess that's the way it's always going to be. *shrug* Again, it's pretty disheartening that Syd Meade sells his stuff in books and on DVDs, and that other artists of all genres do the same. And that people buy those books and eat up visual material, especially for games like Dungeons and Dragons. And yet there are a lot of people who aren't into the genre that really dismissed the genre's potential, or really didn't understand it in the least, and so have this confused jaundiced consideration for advanced technology or space opera. So much to the point that because they were in the seats of decision making for media (seats of power), that good media got ignored and passed over for investment. Whatever. RPGs and Warsims were never big money makers at the time, but D&D showed that you had to spend money to make money, but, for whatever reason, this never caught on with some game companies. Classic Traveller strikes me as being in the frugal camp. Whether it was some sociological purpose, or just a fiscal measure, I'm not sure, nor do I really care, but it's like there were times that I wish there was a Traveller like game that wasn't Traveller that had all the visuals of other high end RPGs. And Alien Realms is kind of the epitome of what I'm talking about in terms of an inviting cover, but not too much on the inside.

The zhodani troop left on the planet, or the Vargr hired to puta crimp in some corporation's unlawfulness, to me, in retrospect, aren't fully realized adventures. And I get why now, but I don't know, I kind of wish somebody had told me years ago. In the meantime I got rejection letters from all the other game companies and media publishers down in Los Angeles. So

What I wish had been inside Alien Realms; relatively lots more graphics with maps and characters sheets. Something like how T20 was presented back in the early 2000s, though minus the hard bound cover. Fully vetted adventures instead of law enforcement scenarios, with something that was a bit more scifi and not just space opera. Unique ships for the PCs, complete with deckplans, and other maps of places to go and explore, along with character sheets, maybe a backstory for each PC along with a picture of them in full color. Something that would live up to the cover art in terms of interior art and story and adventure material. Because to me that cover picture promises adventure beyond the stars, and when you get to the meat.... it's like year, that adventure material is there, but it's not as fantastic nor far reaching as one might be led to believe.

Whatever. I need to go eat something.

Prepare to jump? Eh, I think I'll just lounge in my cabin for a while, and pay the extra berthing fees for sitting on the ground. I got time .no rush.
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