Most space RPGs straddle a spectrum. On the one side is exploration with all the strange new worlds and hexcrawl discovery expected by flying out into the black. On the other is economics full of wily trading, shifty smuggling and all the jobs taken to keep the ship full of fuel and the crew well-fed. The current edition of Traveller walks this line as well, though the official releases tend to lean more towards exploration than wretched hives of scum and villainy. That’s how Scoundrels of Brixton caught my attention. The designers, Jeffrey A. Jones and Adam Kovac, sent along a review copy of the first book in the line, Under A Hard Sun. Does the setting make its payments on time? Let’s play to find out.
Brixton is the name of the system detailed in Under The Hard Sun, which is one area where this line stands out from other space games. Most location sourcebooks detail multiple planets in a sprawling sector of space. These books skip around to detail elements on multiple planets orbiting the same star. There’s a magazine-like feel to the book as it goes from criminal organizations to important individuals to a handful of plot hooks. The book kicks off with a short timeline that aptly sums up how the Brixton sector was settled and why it’s still important. It’s a trade and transport hub with a planet rich in an essential element to make FTL drives work.
The planet detailed in this book covers the two main parts of this plot point. Deluvia is the planet that contains the essential element Skelucium and Sky City is the massive orbital station where the rich and the poor both do their best to make a living from what’s buried inside the planet. Each location features short write ups of locations, factions, history and some adventure hooks. None of these of overstay their welcome and have just enough info that they can fit in whatever science fiction the Game Master might be using. Though these books use the Cepheus Engine and are built using Traveller game stats, it wouldn’t take much to convert them to other settings.
What stood out for me from the first two issues (the second recently crowdfunded) were the feel of the locations. Most settings lean into places like this as frontier towns and lonely outposts in the middle of nowhere. Deluvia feels more like a Rust Belt state with settlements that feel like industrialized slums. They were built up quickly with little comfort or safety in mind for the workers and grind out their product with little care of the human cost or the criminals that have moved in to fill the power vacuum. Sky City falls back on more traditional tropes in this style of game but it feels like a big city like New York or London where the haves and the have-nots still occasionally need to be reminded of the other’s existence. Brixton feels like it would be a great base of operations for a game where players jet off into the unknown for a few sessions and then come home to make the lives for their friends and family back home a little better for a short while.
Scoundrels of Brixton offers a great, short resource for anyone who wants to add setting elements to their space exploration game that reflect worlds exploited by the powers that be.
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