State of the Mongoose 2023

Mongoose_Matt

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State of Mongoose 2023.jpg


Mongoose Publishing is just finishing its 22nd year in business and we are still here, still producing games, and still creating new universes to transport players to!

I am Matthew Sprange, owner of Mongoose Publishing, and the State of the Mongoose is our yearly address to the gaming community, covering how we have been getting on over the past 12 months and then looking forward to our plans for the following year.

This year we will be talking about what has been happening behind the scenes at Mongoose as a business, as well as specifics on Traveller, Paranoia, Shield Maidens and a lot more!

Grab yourself a coffee, get comfy, and let us take you through everything that has been happening…

The Business Stuff
We recruited a new face this year to grow the Mongoose team at our HQ. Abby joined us as a new Graphic Designer and Layout Artist. You will already have seen her work on Aliens of Charted Space Volume 4 and the Small Craft Catalogue, and as I type this she is currently working on Wrath of the Ancients.

Over the past few years, we have been training every staff member to run the company as a team to the most fundamental levels – everything from getting books released and organising production schedules, to dealing with suppliers and fixing things when they break in the office. This has (and continues to be) a process, first showing them how to run the company on a day-to-day basis, then week-to-week, then month-to-month, and so on. They are currently capable of keeping everything on an even keel on a quarter-to-quarter basis and so, if it came to it, could happily keep Mongoose running for an entire year without any massive upsets. In 2023 this has involved the staff beginning to deal directly with professional business services, including solicitors and accountants.

The next stage will be them learning how to handle end-of-year procedures and then, critically, how to implement more ‘strategic’ thinking with a dab of entrepreneurship. In other words, they have (as a team) learned the nuts and bolts of running a company and now need to begin adding the ‘flare’ or ‘spark’ that allows a company to grow and thrive.

That is something we will be diving into from next year on (and I expect it will take some time before everyone is comfortable working at that level), but we have been ‘stress-testing’ what the team has learned thus far by me basically locking myself in another part of the office and letting them run the company while I am completely ‘hands-off’. If any issues arise, they deal with them, having been told that they are to assume that I have disappeared from the face of the Earth…

This has been done a week or a fortnight at a time up to now, but we are starting to look at longer periods.

For my part, this has been fairly glorious as, divorced from the day-to-day aspects of Mongoose, I have been able to sit down and do nothing but write. The Small Craft Catalogue and Adventure Class Ships, both for Traveller, have been the result of this so far, with more on the way!

It has not all been all about more work for the staff, however, and Mongoose is helping to make good things happen in their lives. Graphic Designer Cassie managed to get a decent deposit together and is currently in the process of buying her first home, while we got Bella through her driving lessons and test, and then supplied her first car – a modest crossover hatchback for her first year on the road. So long as she can keep it on the grey bits, she is looking forward to something a bit more ‘interesting’ next year (just in time for us to get Abby through her driving lessons and test!).

As for everyone else, well, we have been making sure that working life at Mongoose is good. These are some of the benefits staff here receive as standard:
  • Free cooked lunch every day.
  • A very good bonus system that ensures the staff benefit directly from high-selling books and other projects.
  • Company phone and company car.
  • Regular company trips – recently we all went to a Titanic-themed escape room (and ended up drowning…).
  • Full and transparent access to the company accounts, so they all know exactly how Mongoose is doing every day, week, month and year.
  • Control over their own schedules and ability to select the projects they actually want to work on.
  • No demands to do ‘crunch’ time.
  • Work with excellent freelancers whom they know are paid immediately upon submission of invoice.
  • And, of course, we are moving towards employee-ownership. They will all end up owning their own games company.
If this sounds like the kind of place you would like to work at, we are currently looking for a Marketing Manager – drop us a line, join the team, and start working towards something really solid and worthwhile.

We ran no Kickstarter projects this year, as we were solidly wrapped up in other projects. However, it is likely that we will be doing one or two in 2024, and we intend for the staff to run one of these completely by themselves with no input from me.

All of this means that we are still charting a course for eventual employee-ownership of Mongoose, whereby the staff here will end up with not only full control but also full possession of the company – making it truly a gaming company run by gamers for gamers. We are a good ways away from that reaching that point at the moment, and it will only be implemented when everyone is ready… but we are making good progress towards this ideal.

This year was also when we (finally) started taking social media a little more seriously. This should be accelerating properly in 2024 but we have started building the foundations. As it stands, our social media presence looks something like:
Business Summary
Things are going well at Mongoose, overall. We have had an expensive year in 2023 (needing a new roof for the office did not have a… positive effect on finances), but sales rose to meet the challenge. The team here are growing in their ability to run the company and at the same time enjoying the benefits of being able to do so.

We have been continuing to expand our core game lines, but the over-arching theme for 2023 and 2024 has been\will be expansion in 2025 – this will result in some new game lines, more benefits for staff, and a push to get our game lines into other markets and media.

2023 and the Mongoose
As we come to the end of 2023, we can look back and see if we managed to achieve everything we set out to do at the beginning of the year. As it turns out, 2023 was quite notable for having so few projects slip…

The new edition of Paranoia was released… and it was good. Built during a Kickstarter in the previous year, we managed to draw everything together for the general release. For those wanting even more fun and frolics in Alpha Complex, the first supplements and missions are already on their way.

In the last State of the Mongoose, we announced that the Fifth Frontier War would finally start releasing in 2023… and if the wind continues blowing in the right direction you will see the first book come out on PDF and pre-order right before Christmas! Either way, however, manuscripts for the mighty epic that will form the Fifth Frontier War series have been rolling in, and you will see the conflict launch in full next year, starting off with an overview volume entitled, appropriately enough, The Fifth Frontier War. From there, we will be alternating between sourcebooks and campaign books, putting your Travellers directly into the front row seats of the war and able to affect its outcome from a variety of perspectives.

Also in the plus column for achievements were the ‘Ancients’ campaign books, The Imperial Navy, World Builder’s Handbook and Adventure Class Ships. We did miss out on the Starship Operator’s Manual and Legend of the Sky Raiders… but don’t worry, these titles are well in hand and will be appearing in 2024.

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Also for Traveller, we released issue #1 of Far Trader, a brand new comic set in the Charted Space universe. This is a project being done in collaboration with Markosia, and features a bold group of Travellers who take a job on the dangerous frontier of the Spinward Marches. Your own group of Travellers may find many of the situations they get themselves into very familiar…

Over the past couple of years, it seems we have started a little tradition of a free PDF at Christmas as a gift for all Traveller fans. Previously, we have used this to ‘re-imagine’ some classic Traveller adventures but this year… well, you will see, but we are trying something a little bit different!

The Shield Maidens RPG was released last year, and we have spent the time since working on not one but two new hardbacks for it. The first has just appeared – Dataforge is an ‘ecology’ guide for some of the more mysterious peoples of the Nine Realms, such as the Sóttar, toxic avians believed to be the source of many a viral outbreak, the capricious Spriggan, and the Shield Maidens’ own perspective on Trolls.

So, that was 2023. What can you expect from Mongoose in 2024?

Shield Maidens
Shield Maidens is Mongoose’s take on a cyberpunk/Viking mash set in the cosmology of the Nine Realms where players take on the role of the titular Shield Maidens, a group of warriors, hackers and scholars chosen by Freya to bring justice and order to the oppressed. The Shield Maidens push back against tyrannic empires, fight beasts of legends and stand before the gods to challenge them directly.

The Dataforge came out this year, and early next year will see the release of Tales of Yggdrasil, a collection of adventures that will take your Shield Maidens across the Nine Realms to battle the invasion forces of the Pure, meet Loki to see how far he has fallen since the murder of Baldr, and encounter one of the dragons that protects the spacelanes in the void between the realms. In this book we also introduce you to the ships that sail through the cosmic tree, featuring an ancient boat of the Shield Maidens and the latest military vessels from Fenrir and the Pure.

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There is a lot of passion for Shield Maidens at Mongoose HQ, and you can expect more visits to the Nine Realms and the exploits of the Daughters of Freya in the years to come!

Traveller in 2024
What can you expect to see for Traveller in 2024? Lots!

We are making some serious roads into expanding Traveller into a variety of playing styles, allowing you to pick and choose the type of universe you want to explore, as well as the nature of adventures and campaigns you want to experience.

The Singularity campaign was announced last year and we had been hoping to bring it to you, well, about now-ish. However, it has very much suffered from ‘hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…’, which means you will likely be seeing it relatively early next year. The manuscripts for its books (four of them, all destined for a nice slipcase!) have been rolling in and it looks like a real cracker of a campaign. Penned by Chris Griffen, Singularity has a heavy focus on the nature of AI within the Third Imperium, and will have your Travellers questioning their actions, their humanity, and perhaps even their own existence!

The Starship Operator’s Handbook, an in-depth look at the functionality and use of common starships that Travellers are likely to use – basically a showcasing of what it is like to actually live and work on the likes of a free trader – was also due in 2023 but is having the finishing touches put on it right now. It will be appearing quite early in 2024, and should prove to be the essential guide for every free trader and scout captain.

A full campaign centred on xenoarchaeology, Legend of the Sky Raiders is being written right now (having been delayed a little by work on Pioneer), and we are properly looking forward to this one! A re-imagining of the classic adventures, Legend of the Sky Raiders will be taking full advantage of modern approaches to scenario design.

Following an overview of the entire conflict, the Fifth Frontier War will be kicking into high gear quickly, with a range of sourcebooks and campaigns that will allow your Travellers to witness – and alter – key events of the conflict. Who knows… maybe they will be the ones who started it? Expect to see tomes covering War Fleets of the Fifth Frontier War, the Riverland Front, and campaigns to support them.

As a bit of a left turn at the traffic lights, in 2024 you will see This is Free Trader Beowulf: A System History of Traveller. Heavily researched and then penned by Shannon Appelcline (of Designers & Dragons fame), this book will present the entire history of Traveller – its origins, the people involved, the companies that drove it forward, its effect upon the RPG market and, well… everything! Having just finished going through the manuscript myself, I can tell you this is a must-have for any serious fan of Traveller as it provides an amazing perspective on the game, putting each building block in place as the years march on to modern Traveller today. We are categorising this one as a ‘must read’.

The Travellers’ Aid Society programme has been running on DrivethruRPG for a good while now, and has over 250 titles from other publishers and fans that support Traveller – the programme allows publishers to directly support any aspect of the current edition of Traveller, including diving into the official Charted Space universe with scenarios, source material and rules. In 2024 we will be revising and updating the TAS programme in a big way, providing more support materials, more templates and art (bringing everything up to spec with the current ‘Update’ format), and more publicity and focus, showcasing what is available to Travellers and Referees from other publishers.

Speaking of other publishers, we have been working on another project to open up Traveller, similar to the previous Traveller OGL SRD, allowing publishers to produce their own material, be it print or PDF, based upon Traveller mechanics (though not the Charted Space universe – that is the province of the TAS programme) whilst retaining ownership of their own intellectual properties. For many (and often obscure) legal reasons, we will not be proceeding with the ORC licence as we had previously hoped, but instead be producing a bespoke licence for Traveller alone. We have been engaged with several publishers from the Cepheus Engine community to hammer out the terms of this licence and have managed to reach a broad agreement on the principles. We hope to be able to go live with this relatively early in 2024 and, again, will be looking to promote and bring attention to the best that the community of this licence has to offer. The aim here is to benefit the third party publishers, players of Traveller and, of course, grow Traveller itself.

Some time ago, we released the official soundtrack for the Pirates of Drinax campaign. We can now reveal that we are working on a new soundtrack album for release in 2024, this time centred on a very specific aspect of the Fifth Frontier War…

The first issue of the Far Trader comic was released, and we are pleased to announce that issue #2 is being worked on right now. You can expect to see this released in early 2024, but we can already tell that there is a lot of interest in Traveller comics – Markosia has therefore decided to commit heavily to this line and you will see issues #3 and #4 a lot quicker after issue #2 has been released. Furthermore, another two Traveller volumes, introducing new characters and new stories, are being commissioned – 2024 is going to be a great year for Traveller comic readers!

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New Traveller Universe: Pioneer
There have been many of you waiting for news on the Pioneer RPG. Based on Traveller’s core mechanics, Pioneer presents a new universe to explore, one set 10-30 years in the future within our own Solar System. Players (or Pioneers, as we call them in this game) are placed on the cutting edge of manned exploration to the moons, planets, asteroids and so far undiscovered mysteries. Pioneer is very much a game of firsts – your Pioneers will be the first to walk on Mars, the first to establish a Moon base, the first to test mining operations on an asteroid, the first to look for life on other worlds, and so much more.

We have spent a long time refining this game, trimming things, adding others, and making sure the mechanics are all functioning together. Right now, Pioneer is at playtest with all the backers of the last JTAS Kickstarter, and we are collating comments on our forums.

We have already settled on the content of the first campaign expansion to the game (hint: it involves the colour red…) and, all going well, we will be launching Pioneer at the bottom end of 2024, alongside that aforementioned expansion that will get you sailing across the void immediately!

New Traveller Projects
In 2024 we will be committing some serious time to some serious Traveller projects, aiming for releases in 2025. We don’t want to spoil too many surprises at the moment, though you should absolutely keep your eye on our various social media platforms for concept previews, but for now:

A New Rulebook: Don’t panic, the Traveller Core Rulebook Update 2022 will remain the frontline book in 2024 and well beyond. This new book is for… a different type of Traveller. For different types of Travellers. In different types of universes.

A New Setting: This is something that we have had a bee in our bonnet about for some time now, and development will properly begin in 2024. It is set in the far future (but not the Far Future), will feel very, very different from Charted Space… but will also include a set of rules and mechanics that we have been asked for a lot.

A New Mega-Campaign: We recently ran a poll as to which your favourite Traveller campaign was… and the Pirates of Drinax won by a clear light year. Which we kinda expected, to be honest. We have been planning a new long-running sandbox campaign set in Charted Space, using the lessons we learned with Drinax. The location of this campaign will be wide and varied, but also well-confined so Referees will not need to memorise an entire sector. It will have high stakes for the Travellers, but they will not be saving the entire galaxy. And you will be able to deviate from the main storyline at any point to follow your own plots – and we will be providing plenty of tools to help you do that, as we did with the Pirates of Drinax.

2300AD
The universe of 2300AD has been developed into a solid line, but due to circumstances it unfortunately stalled a little in 2023. In particular, we very much want to start building some solid tales in this universe in the form of adventures and campaigns. We have had a (very!) solid start with the Project Bayern campaign box set, but there is so much more to see in 2300AD.

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Invasion, a campaign set against the backdrop of the war against the Kaefers, is in an advanced state of completion and we hope to be able to push it over the line in 2024. However, we will also be looking to develop some brand new material for 2300AD, so stay tuned!

Paranoia
We have a new Paranoia – and a solid direction for it to go in.

For this edition, we are leaning hard into the satire. In fact, it is safe to say that the satire will be strong in this one. Whereas the science fiction of Traveller allows us to paint broad strokes across the events and themes of the real world and reflect them back to players (as all good science fiction does), Paranoia lets us poke targets right in the eye – and, wherever you sit on the political, religious, scientific and sociological divides, I am sure we can all agree that there is much in our world right now that is deserving of a good satirical poke.

Paranoia was released with the Core Book and the Accomplice Book (which, incidentally, gives rules to convert any mechanics/missions from any edition of Paranoia to play with the current rules – well… aside from that edition), and is being quickly followed up with two supplementary hardbacks to give you lots of new missions and GM support in the form of Brave New Missions and Compendium #404.

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We will be building on these in 2024 with a variety of longer-form (circa 32 pages) missions, where the Paranoia writing squad will be puncturing pomposity, caricaturing corruption, and lampooning lawbreakers we all see and know. But in a fun way.

The first of these will be CINO (Citizen In Name Only). In this mission, your players will be taking control of two teams of Troubleshooters. The first team will be following a revolutionary leader who promises an end to the fundamental unfairness of Alpha Complex, draining the food vats of corruption as it were, and has the strength to see their vision of a brighter future come to fruition. The second team are loyal to Friend Computer and are tasked with ending the reign of a dangerous demagogue who has spread lies and disorder to become a fundamental threat to Alpha Complex.

Yeah, have fun with that one.

Video Games
Our association with Evil Twin Games continues, bringing our games to computer screens.

Coming very soon to Early Access on Steam is the follow up to Victory At Sea Pacific – Victory At Sea Atlantic, a thrilling naval combat game set in the Atlantic theatre of World War II. Take command of your fleet and navigate the treacherous waters of the Atlantic as you engage in epic battles with enemy warships, subs, and aircraft.

Victory At Sea Atlantic boasts stunning graphics, realistic physics, and historically accurate ships, transporting players back to a time when the fate of the world hung in the balance. Will you have what it takes to lead your fleet to victory and etch your name in history?

Weather the dangers of storms with an epic new weather system that affects visibility and combat tactics. Experience the environment come alive with huge waves, water splashes interacting with ships, submarines forced to quickly surface crashing down into the sea, vessels on fire at night with a palpable heat, and depth charges leaving huge plumes of water spray as they detonate.

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As you set sail, brace for overhauled combat mechanics that intensify battles and demand strategic thinking. Managing energy, food, and population becomes crucial, while espionage and sabotage of enemy targets provide the upper hand in combat.

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As for the Traveller game Evil Twin have been working on, we will have more news for you on that next year!

Roll20
A casual stroll through our forums may reveal that one of the most common questions we field is ‘when are you coming to Roll20?’ And the answer is… now!

We are starting off with Paranoia modules (there may be no better game suited to VTT play…), but we will soon be bringing Shield Maidens and Traveller to the platform.

The most common forum question might now become ‘when are you coming to my favourite VTT?’ Could well be soon. We are already exploring more options for you all, so stay tuned.

And into the Future
The past year has been about building a solid foundation for future ideas and expansion, and this is a process that will continue into 2024.

A year ago in the last State of the Mongoose, we listed a series of primary goals for 2023. How did we do?
  • With so many creatives on staff, we want to continue exploring new universes and new games to go with them. We have some good ideas here, but it is likely that 2023 will be a ‘development’ year for a new game that will appear in 2024. (Groundwork went in, and pen has indeed met paper, but we will be going into full overdrive on this in 2024, with results likely appearing either at the very end of the year or in 2025)
  • We will continue to provide education to staff in running a company on an ever-increasing timeline. Early next year the staff will be running the company alone for a week once more and, later in the year, we will increase this to a fortnight and a month. (We did not manage a full month, but the frequency and length of this are both gradually rising)
  • All going well, we will run a Kickstarter next year. The difference with this one is that it will be developed and run, from start to finish, by the staff, with no oversight. From concept to final delivery of the books, they will be on their own. (No Kickstarters were run in 2023, but this will be done in 2024)
  • We took a run at social media this year. In 2023 we will be turning this into a sustained approach including, as we have said in previous years (!), a ‘proper’ YouTube channel. (Still flapping a bit in the wind, though we now have regular social media postings – will be gearing this up with dedicated marketing staff in 2024)
  • Putting proper legal framework in to make Mongoose an employee-owned company should anything (ahem) unfortunate happen to the current owner. We have a rough-and-ready system in place to do it right now, but the continued future of the company demands more. (Still the rough-and-ready system in place at the moment, due to slow legal procedure – this is not a cookie cut process, and just finding lawyers who knew what they were talking about was a thing – but will be starting to set this up properly in 2024)
We did okay on those, and will be continuing all things unfinished into next year. However, we need new goals for 2024.
  • Over the past couple of years or so, we have expanded Traveller from paper-bound RPG to comics, fiction, and a soundtrack. In 2024 and beyond, we will be actively looking for ways to experience Charted Space in a variety of media.
  • We want to properly update the TAS programme, and introduce the new content licence for Traveller. Then, we want to push them forward as a key component to Traveller, giving them a wider audience to appreciate all the cool things they are doing.
  • Our free downloads section is useful… but it is somewhat jumbled at the moment and could use a lot more content. We will be working on both of these in 2024, giving you more tools to use for all of our games, and making them easier to find.
  • In 2022 we updated the office kitchen, and want to continue the refurbishment of Mongoose HQ to make it a more attractive place to work in. In 2024 we will be aiming to update at least one more section of the office (some of these areas have not been touched in nearly twenty years!).
  • Continue the education of the staff in running the company, but starting to add more strategic thinking and planning.
To summarise these goals, the primary aims at Mongoose are to a) continue the expansion of the company in terms of both the quality of creative output and growing its markets and b) support the lives of the staff and make their working day as stress-free and fun as possible. Everything, really, is in service to those two ideals.

If you have reached the end of this State of the Mongoose, thank you for sticking with it, and thank you for supporting us across 2023. All that is left is for everyone at Mongoose to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a prosperous and fun-filled New Year.

Stay safe and keep gaming!

Matthew Sprange
Managing Director
Mongoose Publishing
 

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payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
Love this, Matt.
Over the past couple of years, it seems we have started a little tradition of a free PDF at Christmas as a gift for all Traveller fans. Previously, we have used this to ‘re-imagine’ some classic Traveller adventures but this year… well, you will see, but we are trying something a little bit different!
Merry Christmas GIF by LookHUMAN
 



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