* The last edition rested heavily on the minimalist approach of Classic Traveller – the new edition has all the bells and whistles you expect from a modern RPG. From isometric deck plans to flow charts that walk you through character creation and ship design, from subsector maps to equipment pages that look as though they come straight from a space-based mail order catalogue, we have spent months striving to make the new Traveller not only look the best it can, but also to use these graphics to help it play better on the table top.
* A fully integrated combat system that seamlessly moves between Travellers, vehicles and ships. You can now fly your Corsair through a system, destroy the orbiting defence stations, then descend into the atmosphere to dogfight the aerospace fighters. A critical hit system for ships and vehicles allows you knock out vital systems in your opponent’s craft, while an expanded action system will give everyone on board something to do in battle.
* Power systems for ships - starship captains will now be worrying about the amount of Power available to them. In most situations, it will not be a factor (and this will not intrude on gameplay) but if you overload a trader with high-powered weaponry or take damage to your power plant, you’ll be screaming down the comms to your engineer to give you more power!
* We have made changes to the way animals are handled, making their creation a thing of simplicity for referees; come up with a concept for your creature, assign Hits and Attacks, then add Traits and you are done. The Traits for animals handle special abilities such as heightened senses or psionic capability and we will be adding to them in future supplements – especially useful as they are also used for alien species, forming another common bond within the mechanics of the game.
I, uh... that's it? That's the stuff you thought was cool enough to actively sell us a new edition? Chargen flowcharts are all well and good, but I'm pretty sure I've seen some posted for free to the MgT Play Aids mailing list. I really don't care about "space-based mail order catalogue" chrome, and I think I actively don't want isometric deckplans. We already had a conversion factor between starship and personal scale damage (50x) and damage to components - what more do you want from a critical hit system? If you rolled really high effect, you got a bonus to damage, and that was more likely to break more stuff. Power sounds alright at least. And animals... meh. The animal rules in 1e were fine. Fun, even. And we never really had a place for nonhuman sentients in Trav, outside of AI.
I guess at the end of the day I'm happy enough with 1e.
There are already some critical reviews out there (one, two). Fortunately, this means I don't need to buy it and review it! Hooray! Maybe I'll look into it once the beta's over and there are reviews of the final version, but Mongoose has earned my skepticism, especially with the concerns raised by the linked reviews.
UPDATE: To be fair, the CotI changelog is incomplete. Some actually decent things from the press release:
* Ship shares – these no longer provide a few measly percentage points on a ship. They will either get you a ship (with varying stages of mortgage paid off – and there are now rules that only one ship will be present in the party during creation) or are considered an investment, adding to your pension.The ship shares thing addresses a common gripe among my players, though I suspect that this change will push against Traveller's old-school mechanics of desperation towards more heroic sci-fi. Specialization change would make a reasonable houserule for 1e. Skill list merger is sort of reasonable if you've already got engineering as merged as it is in 1e. I've mixed feelings on providing a sample sector, because it may establish in players an expectation of that sector as standard, but not having to go through all the effort to start a game is kind of nice for newbies. Traveller's Companion sounds like the book I wish they'd written for 1e.
* Proper rules have (finally!) been added to handle the changing of assignments within a career. So, if you are an Agent you might start off in Law Enforcement, but you now have a path to the world of corporate espionage!
* The skill list itself has been revised to make more sense and create characters who will be a little more capable. For example, Computers, Comms, Sensors and Remote Ops are no longer separate skills but have become specialities of Electronics. This means that anyone with the Electronics skill has at least some chance of being able to use an electronic device – not an unreasonable assumption in a technological society that has interstellar travel.
* Creating new worlds and universes has always been a staple of Traveller, and you will find planet creation in this Core Rulebook with a few minor tweaks. However, we also wanted to provide a complete subsector (with patrons!) to give starting players an area to immediately explore and start adventuring in with their newly created Travellers.
* The Traveller Companion [to-be-released mid-2016] is our ‘odd bits’ book, the ‘toolkit’ book. Basically, it contains all the rules and additions that did not quite fit in the Core Rulebook and is intended for referees wanting to create their own universes or put a spin on an existing one. These would include, to give just the briefest of examples, varying character creation systems, new approaches to various skills and their specialities, introducing new characteristics, using an abstract wealth system rather than counting credits, variant technologies, alternate planet creation rules, and a host of new ways of creating aliens and animals. It is a dip in/dip out book, a toolkit that will allow referees to fine tune their own Traveller games to avoid being locked in by one play style or another.