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Old May 29th, 2010, 03:31 PM
Kilgs Kilgs is offline
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Default So... Merchant Prince?

Anyone have any news, reviews etc?
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Old May 29th, 2010, 05:39 PM
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Beyond that it exists, you mean?

I haven't picked anything up since Scoundrel, but am interested, if only marginally. My players are a bit more the "lets go adventure" sort than the "see how many credits" we can make sort.
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Old June 4th, 2010, 04:14 AM
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My take on it so far is:

the low quality art is an unwelcome distraction
the mechanics are so-so, I may find some gold as I dig into it more, so that assessment may get better, it's not likely to get much worse unless I find some howlers I've overlooked to date.

My impression overall so far is "meh." I think I could have spent the money better. But there's a lot I haven't dug into yet--the classes, frex. *shrug* I was looking forward to better.

More later when I've had more time with it. I'm planning on taking it, some dice, and a handicomp (UMID BZ) when I go camping this summer.

Edited to add:

OK, I've had some more time with the book now. Here are some more specific opinions on the book now.

The character classes are a waste of paper. They add nothing significant to what's in the core book's Merchant class. The new traits, stuff about being a merchant, the whole lot. Forget the first 30 pages of the book. And Brian Steele needs to keep a dictionary on hand to look up terms like "Merchant Marine."

The next section, on "commercial entities", might have some useful stuff in it. I can hardly see sitting and wishing such rules were codified, though. The presentation scheme (a sort of "How to Succeed" primer) is over-strained. The information density is low. I can hardly imagine Process of Management stuff as being fun, even for obsessive players. If the character classes score a zero, I'd give this a one or two out of ten.

Next comes "The Merchant Lines", which expands on the information given in the Spinward Marches book about the megacorps. If you're using the 3I, this is useful info. I'm not, so it's less useful. It could still be used in a non-3I milieu if you want plug and play megacorps, or models for your own.

Trade in the Galactic Market is the meat of the book. It has a somewhat corrected version of the trade section of the Core Book, with a few minor additions. It also adds FedEx trade, mail delivery, a Passenger transport section somewhat expanded and revised from TMB, salvage trade, and a bloated section on slave trade that mostly seems to be written to justify the slaver character classes. There's also a simple mechanic for increasing cargo value by assuming extra risks, which is pretty artificial and not campaign-friendly. It's just a paper mechanic, with the player saying "I'll take more risk, how much of a plus will I get on my cargo value roll?" Yeah, the ref will roll for the risk affecting the trip, but then again, what if there's no more risk to be taken between two worlds a single jump apart with clear space lanes? Yeah, the ref should intervene, but then since we've already got law levels, why create a new mechanic?

The new types of trade are welcome additions, aside from excess of slavery stuff.

The next section is on Privateering. It's not bad. The information density here is pretty good overall.

Then there's a section on trade goods. It gives more background on what the different goods are with some charts that can be used to roll up specific items if desired. The charts are too brief for general use, but not a bad starting point for a new campaign. The descriptions are also pretty basic stuff, again most useful to someone just getting started. Not a bad section, but not all that useful to someone with an established campaign and a bit of imagination.

The last section is hardware. There are a few good items, the rest isn't all that compelling. But it's not all that bad, either.

Among the things missing are a connection between the large trade lines and the small-time trader. I would like to have seen rules for mapping established trade lines, and rules for the effect of those lines on speculative trade. For example, if you've got a couple of complementary worlds set a short jump from each other, it stands to reason that there'd be established trade lines between them in the goods each one produces for the ones the other produces. That means there'd be fewer opportunities for a small trader to haul those goods, and probably less profit as well.

Competition rules would have been useful as well as part of the general trade rules, again, particularly where there are obvious places on the map for competition to exist. This could be tied to trade line rules. Use world characteristics to determine where trade lines exist and in what products. Then determine a competition level for that trade line. Perhaps saturation levels, as well. This sort of strategic campaign-level element is something that seems to be missing from much of the MGT material.

A set of guidelines for possible trade effects on worlds would have been interesting, too. After all, if enough machine tools are delivered to a world, at some point they're going to have their level of industrialization changed, right? Especially if they've got the raw materials to use it on.

To be honest, I don't think I'd buy the book again at this price. It's OK, but not what I was hoping for. At the price of Beltstrike I'd consider buying it. I was looking for more than a few new types of trade. Like so much of MGT, it ignores larger elements of the game for low level elements operating in a vacuum. Even the rules for creating corporate entities aren't really tied to a campaign, they're a set of rules wrapped around an individual pursuit. They allow for abstraction of employees, pay, and so on, and they're useful enough in their way but the company is still just a sort of player's equipment, like a ship.

Why buy the book?

If you want to add the new forms of trade, it may be worth it to you, or if your players want to run a corporation. The section on privateers is useful if that's part of your game, but by itself it's not enough to justify getting the book. If you're determined to have slaving detailed in your game, you may want to get this book for the rules and classes associated with that. If you're running the OTU MGT-style, the section on the OTU megacorps along with what else is in the book may have enough value for you.

For me, it falls just short.
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Last edited by saundby; June 18th, 2010 at 06:12 AM.. Reason: Added further observations.
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Old August 20th, 2010, 02:32 PM
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Any other opinions or reviews out there?
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Old August 20th, 2010, 06:32 PM
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Sadly, Saundby's review about covered it.

There really isnt much in it thats at use at all for small (PC) scale trade.

I agree with Saundby on this one. It falls short of the mark and I too give it a resounding "Meh."

I got more out of Dillitante than this one.
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Old August 20th, 2010, 07:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Kilgs View Post
Any other opinions or reviews out there?
IMO, Saundby was kind to it.

Edit: I'd give it between meh and bleah...
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Old August 20th, 2010, 10:56 PM
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Well, I have it and like it. But yes, now that it's pointed out to me, it is limited on what PC-scale trading can do (I thought I was missing something!). Though I give it better than a "Meh," and use it as proof that Bryan Steele is getting better at writing for Traveller. After all, the character generation was fairly well done.
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Old August 21st, 2010, 02:34 AM
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Bearing in mind that there's nothing more unexotic in science fiction than working for a living and making simple money, nonetheless Merchant Prince does offer the budding players of merchant Travellers a few pointers you likely would never really think of.

Just look at Scoundrel. Amid the heists and con games, there was that section on odd jobs. You could easily adapt something like those odd jobs and, using Merchant Prince as your guide, blow them up into full-fledged business opportunities. Merchant Prince is about having a keen nose for potential profit around every corner; at the very least, he is on the lookout for something to ensure that his profit and loss margin shows a nice, healthy positive balance at the end of the tax year, enough to keep his ship flying.

Not much really separates Merchant Prince characters from standard Traveller player characters or the players of the Drifter and Rogue characters from Scoundrel. There's still the desperate grabbing of every spare credit that floats past. And even in Dilettante, where you have characters who really don't give a flying flange about money, you still have characters who can smell profit on the wind; or at least, the chance of acquisition.

Where Merchant Prince differs is that, where the other types of character are individuals selling their talents and abilities, or working as individual consultants for other people, Merchant Prince characters offer services, business, goods or trade. They themselves don't work for others. Not even as consultants. They employ others to do the work; the characters themselves offer the services of their business to the Patrons.
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Old August 22nd, 2010, 05:46 AM
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Saundby's review is spot on and, like Wil, I'd rate [Merchant Prince between a "meh" and a "bleah".

Let's face it, SJGames set the gold standard for Traveller economics when they released Far Trader. They changed the existing system most certainly, but what they replaced it with worked seamlessly top to bottom. After reading Far Trader you can understand how the players aboard their tramp starship can still make a living in a universe with megacorp-owned megaton freighters. That top-to-bottom continuity had been missing before Far Trader and is still missing once again in Merchant Prince.

The differences in research and even general subject comprehension between the two books simply cannot be compared. I think it's telling that, while SJGames selected an economist to write Far Trader, Mongoose selected someone who thinks the term "merchant marines" refers to security guards to write Merchant Prince. (The same author was responsible for Mongoose's Mercenary if that's any help for you.)

My general impressions:
  • The additional character classes are little more than padding, something we've seen in other Mongoose releases. The changes from the Core book are not substantial enough to require entire pages. A few paragraphs explaining the changes would have sufficed, but a few paragraphs doesn't add to the page count.
  • I found the slavery section, especially sex slaves and concubines complete with stats and a skills list, rather odd considering Mr. Miller's supposed "morals clause" for Traveller.
  • The book marks a return to the pre-Far Trader economically illiterate "Golden Pair" model. The players can find a pair of worlds with complimentary trade codes and fly cargo between them until they earn gazillions of credits as if no one else in the entire universe ever noticed the same thing. The "Golden Pair" model was broken when first presented in 1977, was finally fixed with the release of Far Trader, and has now been resurrected in Merchant Prince. I found the return of this broken model to Traveller to be the saddest part of the book.
  • There are quite a few new rules that should bare close examination for use in any campaign. Whether they're useful or not will depend on the GM but I'm sure there is something there for everyone. I found a few of them, like the "extra risk" mechanic mentioned by Saundby, to be little more than "roll playing" gimmicks a player can use to "play" the system rather than "role playing" aids a player can use to play the game. Just a few, however, and not all.
  • There's no way to determine trade lines.
  • There is some new equipment that can be easily used elsewhere.
  • There's a nice section on salvage and junk dealing.
  • There's a section on privateering I found rather interesting. The author tackled letters of marque and was even able to explain the difference between privateers and pirates. While the section portrayed privateers mainly as trade defenders and their offensive role in trade wars, which dates back to TTA, was wholly overlooked, the section is easily the best of part of a rather lackluster book.
  • The trade goods section is nothing that hasn't been published before and nothing a few minutes work on Google couldn't pull out of real world data.
  • There are a few deckplans too and deckplans are always good.

I received my copy gratis from a gamer who had bought it and no longer wanted it. While I'm glad I read it and I will be dipping into it again, I'm equally glad I didn't pay 25 bucks for it. There are good bits in Merchant Prince, there are interesting bits in Merchant Prince, and there are bits that demand closer examination too. There just isn't 25 dollars worth of bits.

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Old August 22nd, 2010, 12:43 PM
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I remember asking Hunter why T20 used the old merchant system instead of the one from Far Trader (or one based on it), and he replied that it was becaused it worked for role-playing purposes. I thought that was a very good answer, (even though I disagreed with him -- the Traveller merchant system is a decent game, but it's not a role-playing game; any role-playing that is done while playing the Merchant Game has to be added by the ref).

Mind you, the CT Merchant Game had some serious flaws that canny players could exploit. It looks to me like Interstellar Wars had managed to fix those flaws (I can't say for sure, since I haven't tried it out). I suppose it would be too much to hope for that Mongoose based their version on the one from IW, but I hope they also fixed those problems.

What I object to is when the system is used as the basis for world-building; as the way trade is done by everybody, including the big established companies, rather than a distorted version used by the odd free trader to work the cracks of the main trade.

To give one example, there's a good explanation why a tramp freighter only manages 25 jumps per year. It spends eight to nine days getting from one world to the next, then spends five days in port scraping together a cargo and a load of passengers. But every official work I've seem claims that all ships do the same, and that simply doesn't make sense. A regular merchant company or passenger liner will have representatives at each world busy lining up freight and passengers, so that when a regular ship arrives, it can just unload/disembark and start loading/embarking, enabling them to do 35 to 40 jumps per year.

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