It’s been a while since I posted something here so I will rekindle my passion with gamebooks by reviewing with one of my favorites from my childhood: Starship Traveller! A while ago I decided to replay this book. I was on a trip to Sintra, Portugal, during my vacation. I took the book along to play together with my girlfriend during the train ride (you can read all about that trip here).
This book is an impressive and original work. Up until this book, the Fighting Fantasy collection was always about swords & magic, dungeons, monsters, evil wizards/warriors. Startship Traveller is an unexpected turn into science fiction and space fantasy. In this book you are the Captain of a Spaceship, the Traveller. You start by being sucked into a wormhole and ending up in an unknown place in space. From here on your task is to find a way home for you and your crew.
The gamebook is a clear attempt at implementing a Star Trek style in the sense that you fly around in space discovering the unknown, face enemy spaceships, beam down into planets, have physical confrontations with your fists and your phasers. You get to meet strange new aliens and must entangle in diplomacy or military confrontations to get out of problems or obtain the much needed information on how to get back home.
I actually found the book a bit short, you visit a few planets and before you realize you have reached the end, be it death or victory. From the map you notice that there aren’t many chances to visit planets in one read/play of Starship Traveller. Where you get your money’s worth is in multiple-plays where you get to find a completely different solution for the end goal. In terms of quests (which are usually a planet visit) you usually don’t have many choices when it comes to the right path but the diversity is incredible and no 2 planet visits will feel the same.
As I said, this book is extremely innovative, not only because the story is very different from what was being done so far, both in Fighting Fantasy as well as other gamebook collections, but specially for the new things the game brought:
- You control a Party of characters instead of a single one.
- 3 different combat types: hand to hand, phasers and spaceship battles!
An Adventure Party and a Ship
In Starship Traveller you play as the Captain of the ship, but that is not all, you are also accompanied by your crew and you get to create a total of 7 characters. Each character has it’s own Skill and Stamina. The Luck stat, however, is not per party character but as a single stat which affects everyone when the time comes.
When you visit a planet you will have the choice to select your Away Team. This is a complicated decision because 3 of your crew members have certain innate specialties. You have the Technician, the Medic and the Engineer. These 3 will suffer a Skill penalty in fights but they can be useful when facing certain situations on the planets. On the other hand you have the Security Chief and 2 Guards which suffer no Skill penalty in fights but have no particular usefulness. It is up to you to make the right choices.
As if this wasn’t enough, you also get a spaceship, the Traveller! This ship also has stats and you get to use them in space battles. The stats for the ship are Weapons Strength and Shields.
3 Different Types of Combat
Hand to Hand combat is the typical Fighting Fantasy combat system. First you determine who hits who and then roll for damage. Except that in Starship Traveller you are usually fighting with your crew against a group of enemies. This is an interesting change from the typical 1 vs 1 or 1 vs a-few.
Phaser fights are much deadlier. When you hit or get hit it’s the end, there is no damage roll, a hit is a kill. These are very exciting battles where luck on the dice determines all. You might also want to avoid running into these since the outcome can be very painful.
Space combat is very similar to the typical Fighting Fantasy combat system. The exception is that it is much harder to recover the health of your ship.
As per usual here is the map for the book. I hid all the paragraph numbers which result from coordinate combinations and make no reference to paragraphs which give a coordinate that you can use at the end. These are Vredens maps and that means no puzzle spoilers and no Book content on the map (monster names, place names, monster stats, etc). This map was created using the Portuguese Edition from 1991 which is a translation of the 1983 English Edition.
The color codes are for Hand to Hand fights, Phaser fights, Ship fights, Challenges (Luck Rolls, Stat Checks, etc), Deaths, Puzzles, The End.
Or check out the maps section for this and more maps!