by Matthew Pook
Title: GURPS: Traveller Heroes 1 - Bounty Hunters
Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
Written by Brian J. Underhill
Cover art by Brom
Illustrated by Chad Sergesketter, Paul Daly and Rob Caswell
Among other things, the D20 System and its corollary, the Open Gaming Licence, has resuscitated the humble 32-page format. However, even before the D20 boom, Steve Jackson Games was making great use of the format. The company has used it to explore the gothic horror aspect of steampunk in GURPS: Screampunk and presented a brace of stories and adventures for GURPS: Deadlands with the Dime Novels, but most of the 32-page formatters have been for GURPS: Traveller. Further, most of these have been for the Planetary Survey series (some of which I've reviewed here). Now SJG has begun using the format to expand on the character archetypes found in GURPS: Traveller. Does this mean that SJG are going to be releasing a list of splat books
to please the munchkins, or instead produce a useful, informative
mini-supplement? Let's have a look.
The focus for GURPS: Traveller Heroes 1 is bounty hunters and how they operate within, or close to, the territory of the Third Imperium. To this end, there are five new character templates for players, which can replace or supplement the Bounty Hunter template given in the GURPS: Traveller core book. These are:
Of course, like the rest of the material in the book, a GM can also use these for Bounty Hunter NPCs.
- The Black Ops - specialists in assassination or other illegal activities.
- Company Men - corporate employees tasked with repossession, anti-espionage or other duties as their bosses see fit.
- Freelance Bounty Hunter - loners who prefer to pick and choose their targets.
- Repo Man - specialists in vehicular and starship repossession.
- Skip Tracer - track down and return individuals who have skipped out on their bail.
Besides the new templates, the book examines how various GURPS advantages, disadvantages and skills apply to the Bounty Hunter. Suggestions are made for possible backgrounds for Bounty Hunter characters, including ideas from the various races in the Traveller background. In general, the concept of bounty hunting is alien to such species as the K'kree, unnecessary to the Hiver and the Zhodani, whilst the Aslan and the Vargr willingly engage in what would be another version of the hunt to them.
Bounty hunting is a recognised occupation within the Imperium. Governments, corporations and more rarely, individuals can place a bounty upon individuals, which someone with a Bounty Hunter's Licence can register their intent to pursue. While not actually having any legal enforcement powers, the licence enables the bearer to detain individuals once a bounty has been posted, enter premises which might be harbouring said individual and employ the appropriate force to apprehend the target. Force can go as far as the use of firearms, but only if the target has already used such a weapon to prevent their own capture. Problems come for bounty hunters when they go outside of the Imperium or even deal with those planets whose governments don't recognize Imperial Law. In some cases, bounty hunters will find themselves where their licence is not recognised and their actions in detaining a target will be regarded as criminal.
Besides the new character templates, GURPS: Traveller Heroes 1 Bounty Hunters adds little in the way of system specific material. What there is falls under the section labelled "Tools Of The Trade." This includes several non-lethal weapons, stun guns and tazers, plus items for use in surveillance, forgery and disguise. Overall, the prevailing suggestion from this section is that referees looking for useful gear should turn to the many GURPS supplements available - High-Tech, both volumes of Ultra-Tech, Special Ops and Espionage.
A rather short "Adventures and Campaigns" section looks at both realistic and cinematic games, before suggesting how bounty hunters might be combined with other character types for crossovers. These include Free Traders, Scouts and Mercenaries. Throughout the book are sprinkled adventure seeds, and these are backed up with several NPCs that can be used as targets and rivals, as well as a trio of agencies that employ and aid bounty hunters.
It's not really a fair assessment to say the book's thin on content. The book does exactly what it sets out to do: examine in more depth (describing it as greater depth would be going too far) the position of the Bounty hunter in the Third Imperium. Of course, the basic principles behind the process of obtaining a licence, then a contract upon a target, before tracking down and acquiring said target, is probably not all that different from other settings. Thus you could use this material in other science fiction games.
GURPS: Traveller Heroes 1 - Bounty Hunters provides more than just the basics on the subject. The book presents new options for the player who
wants a bounty hunter character, and gives advice for the GM on how to
use them in a campaign, as well as ideas they might not have
thought of. Like other GURPS books, it is well produced and easily accessible, and the inclusion of an index for such a small book is a professional touch. Should a Traveller referee require any information on bounty hunters, this is the book he needs to purchase.