Review: Scavenger Fleets

Here’s the latest free web supplement for Stars Without Number from Sine Nomine Publications: Scavenger Fleets, unusually long for a Mandate Archive file at 12 pages (albeit the last one is an advert for Other Dust, SNP’s post-apocalyptic RPG, but I don’t begrudge that).

The opening section explains the origin of the scavenger fleets, in those tramp freighters and small warships who escaped into space when the Mandate collapsed, and perforce did unpleasant things to get the supplies and spare parts they needed to keep going. Over time, they banded together into great nomadic fleets, larger than the surviving planetary navies; but recently, as planets move back into space, their trade partners are less and less reliant on them – unless they take action to ensure continued "partnership".

This moves on into a discussion of the social structures of the various scavenger fleets, driven by their needs for supplies, technical skills, and mutual trust; as often as not, this results in a quasi-military structure serving mercantile ambitions, and simple, pitiless laws. Every "scavver" is expected to trade to the best of his abilities, and his social standing in the fleet is largely based on this; but he has few belongings – if it can’t fit in the allocated storage space, it’s not his any more.

There’s a capsule summary of the typical scavenger fleet; a slow, fragile core, defended by any armed vessels, and a wing of small, agile scout ships. There’s a sidebar listing suitable numbers and types of ships, and a statement of how and why the fleets react to hostilities.

Next come the random generation tables one expects in a Sine Nomine product; the fleet’s origins, what it needs, what it will offer in exchange, its most notable cultural trait, and recent problems. After that are four sample fleets, new hulls and fittings for scavenger starships, and statblocks for four stock ships – a scout, colony ship, factory ship and cruiser.

CONCLUSIONS

Concise and well-thought out as ever from this author. I could see myself having great fun with a game where the party is the crew of a scavver scout. I think that this could also be done without a map, if Fleet Command tells the ship where to go next, so they don’t need the open choice implied by a map.

Thinking to literature and TV, the culture described reminds me of the trader ships in CJ Cherryh’s Merchanter’s Luck, while the sample fleet the Howlers of the Dark shares some features with the Reavers of Firefly. I could also see a situation where a scavver fleet evolved into the hereditary naval families of Elizabeth Moon’s Serrano Legacy series.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5. I’m already thinking about how to introduce a scavver fleet into the next space game I run.

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