Home Forums Sci Fi General Sci-Fi How best to introduce oneself to the Traveller setting?

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    Avatar photoRhoderic

    I’ve never had the opportunity to delve into the Traveller sci-fi setting but I’m starting to get deeply fascinated with it, and I can’t leave as classic/seminal/legendary a setting as that beyond my ken forever.

    Rules and game design (mostly) notwithstanding, what would be the best way to start learning about the setting? Is any specific edition of the game preferable for that sort of thing? Alternatively, is there some free online resource that won’t overwhelm a noob such as myself with all the ins and outs of the whole 40-year “metahistory” of the setting?

    I’m not terribly into metaplots, branching universes and those other complications that often make long-lived RPG settings inaccessible-seeming to newcomers. I just want to know about Vargr and Zhodani and all that, for inspiration in my own homebrew sci-fi settings if nothing else.

    Avatar photoDon Glewwe

    “…the Traveller sci-fi setting…”

    dunno about ‘official’ stuff, because I didn’t pay any attention to it at the time (being more involved in just playing the thing), but 40 years later I have to admit to seeing more than a token nod to the setting in the ‘Firefly’ series (the ‘hang on, travellers’ line notwithstanding).

    Given that, a night spent binging would, imo, yield plenty of inspiration.*

    *be sure to watch the episodes in chronological -rather than Foxological- order.


    PS- while there are plenty of ‘official’ opinions (ie:rules) available, the setting provides more than enough fodder for a clever person to come up with a game that satisfies local/personal preferences.

    Avatar photoRhoderic

    I wasn’t aware there’s a discernible Traveller influence in Firefly (which I’ve seen several times in the proper order and all). To be honest, that’s not the look & feel that I’d been hoping to immerse myself in right now – not that I dislike Firefly mind, I’m even collecting figures for a small Firefly-esque space western project, but for the moment I’ve been setting my sights on something different. I suppose the prevalent image of the Traveller setting in my mind’s eye is much more “Fossesque” (as in Chris Foss, the classic sci-fi book cover illustrator), and I’m not seeing much of that in Firefly. Another aspect of Traveller that I’m trying to focus on is its interstellar scope with numerous alien/non-Terran civilisations.

    Avatar photoDM

    I’ve tried several later editions over the years but I still love the original “Little Black Book” series, so I’d say hunt down a box set on ebay or somewhere and go from there.

    I thought the Traveller link to “Firefly” was fairly well known. Joss Whedon said it was based on a “major SF RPG” he played at college and at the time he was there Traveller was THE major SFRPG. Serenity herself has all of the feel of a Traveller Free Trader or Subsidised Merchant, and there are several references to “Travellers” in a number of the episodes.

    Avatar photoMike Headden

    Lots of links here


    Might be a good place to start rummaging?

    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

    Avatar photoRhoderic

    Anyway, I’ve seen Firefly and Serenity, even read most of the comics and skimmed through the pen-and-paper RPG (because I do genuinely like that franchise, despite my being ambivalent to Whedon generally). But aside from the general “rogues in space” theme, I still don’t feel it captures much of what I’m after with the Traveller setting, unless I’ve completely misapprehended that setting (do people drawl a lot in Traveller? ). So, I don’t have much left to mine in Whedon territory, and I’d rather look at proper, first-hand Traveller material.

    While “gazetteer” type material remains my first priority, I’m also receptive to suggestions for classic published adventures or even short stories that provide representative glimpses of what the setting is all about. Basically, anything that’s a common denominator among Traveller fans for their respective “mind’s eye” constructions of the setting.

    Lots of links here http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/traveller/links.html Might be a good place to start rummaging?

    I’ve started rummaging, but it does seem to involve a lot of sifting. It seems to be a problem with Traveller that there’s such a complex “fan culture” around it these days that it’s not particularly beginner-accessible anymore. Which is a bit of a shame considering the game seems to once have been the epitome of a no-preconditions vehicle for space adventure that any sci-fi fan no matter how naive and untravelled (see what I did there?) could just pick up and play.

    Then again, I suppose it’s the established lore I’m interested in learning about, so maybe I’m being unreasonable and there’s no simple solution.

    Avatar photoDon Glewwe

    “…maybe I’m being unreasonable …”

    I’m shocked! … at such nonsense: Of course you’re being unreasonable – that’s required in the sci-fi genre.  ; )

    I appreciate (and admire) your efforts to uncover the roots of the game.  Searching for things like “Firefly” and ‘The Expanse” that existed 40 years ago is an effort that many would appreciate.



    Avatar photoMike Headden

    I have to say that the first Traveller campaign I played in was set on a post-apocalyptic Earth and our team were manning an armed and armoured RV hauling a life (or even civilisation) saving vaccine across a devastated landscape reminiscent of Mad Max (had Mad Max actually been made at the time!).

    The rules I remember were basically a skeleton which GM’s were expected to hang their own universe on.

    The Vargr were out there somewhere above our heads but our enemies were zombies, muties and nomad tribes!

    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

    Avatar photoShaun Travers


    I really like the Traveller setting and although I have rarely played it, I have a lot of the stuff, in paper and electronic.  You pose a very interesting question.  I will think on it a bit more to give you a cheaper answer but I have always thought that is you bought all the MegaTraveller stuff you would get a great indepth treatment of the milieu.  MegaTraveller followed on from (what is now called Classic Traveller and they firmly set the RPG in their universe, compared to Classic Traveller that started off universe-neutral but they gradually introduced the aliens, Imperium etc.  MegaTraveller started off with this background and it is explained in lots of detail in the core set, expansions and the few Adventures they published.   A cheaper option may be just to acquire the MegaTraveller Encyclopedia/Library Data as it effectively explains a lot, just sometimes not in detail compared to other supplements.

    Avatar photoMike Headden

    I’m guessing you’ve probably already seen this but just in case


    has quite a bit of background info. Lots of links to placeholder entries too though.

    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

    Avatar photoRadar

    There is a Traveller novel. Don’t know anything about it other than it exists (actually I’m lying, it was also translated into German iirc). Occasionally crops up on fleabay and Shop on the Borderlands sometimes has it in stock.

    There is also a book 0, an Introduction to Traveller: although that could just be an intro to the rules.

    Quite a lot of the original material can be bought in *.pdf format, considerably cheaper than trying to source original copies.


    Avatar photoNKL Aerotom

    In my opinion Classic Traveller (CT) has the best background information on the OTU (Official Traveller Universe) reading the CT Alien modules gives some great background info on the races, as well as the setting as a whole.

    The CT Library Data books (Supplement 08 and Supplement 11) are a great resource on the OTU, full of information and not too long – being ~45 pages each.

    The traveller wiki has a bunch of info too, follow some of the links on this page and read away:


    Hope that helps. The OTU is an interesting and vibrant setting, I ran a campaign set in it a few years ago, it was a lot of fun!

    Avatar photoRhoderic

    I think I’m starting to realise that I need/want to delve deeper than I’d first intended. At least, I want to go as far as following the evolution of the setting from Classic Traveller to MegaTraveller. Then I’ll see about the half-dozen-or-more Travellers that came after that.

    Thanks all for the guidance.

    Avatar photoDarkest Star Games

    As a long time (and current) Traveller player/GM, who has forgotten more about the setting than I can currently remember, let me just say that once you start delving you will be hooked, especially if you are a fan of history.  But as for the settings, let me give you a quick breakdown if you haven’t read about them yet (in Traveller timeline order, not published order, and these are settings, not rules versions):

    T4 (traveller version 4) aka : Mileau 0: takes place during the Zira Shurka, or the First Imperium when the Villani ruled, before contact with Earth and the Solomani.  Purpose of this setting was indeed to be more Fossian, and have much more to do with exploration than other editions.

    Traveller (Classic, or CT): takes place during the Third Imperium, has a very 1970s sci-fi feel to it (and that’s not bad IMHO).  Enemies at the walls, intrigue, most people just trying to get by, but still a glorious time where there is stability across much of the Imperium with all sorts of adventure at the fringes and brushfire wars for the PCs to take part in popping up all over the place.  Includes the Fifth Frontier War. MOngoose Traveller takes place during this time, just before the FFW for the most part.

    MegaTraveller (MT): Takes place in the wanning days of the 3I.  Basically an assassination of the Emperor sets off a rebellion/civil war with all sorts of claimants to the throne, including someone claiming he is the REAL Emperor as the one dead was a double.  Lots of destruction and infrastructure failure.  Enemies invade while the Imperium is weak, Vargr take over worlds, Spinward Marches are left on their own.  A very gritty time where everyone is having a hard time getting by at all, and most are sided with one faction or the other.  Kind of breaks the setting IMO, though I had some good games in it.

    Gurps Traveller (GT): Takes an alternate history view as in their line Emperor Stephrone is not assassinated.

    Traveller New Era (TNE): One of the sides in the Civil War lets loose a computer virus sort of thing that causes spaceships and stuff to go full on sentient and start obliterating any living things.  People, planets, etc…  It’s basically another Long Night scenario, but with added dangers.  Games set in this time period revolve around bring civilization back, exploring/reconnecting, surviving the Vampire Fleets, and the occasional smash-and-grab for rare resources and tech.


    Now, I would recommend CT era as it’s well “documented” and less wiley-nilly and frenetic than the later time periods.  To me the best 2 starters for the setting are The Travller Adventure (which you can find in PDF) and as mentioned above the 2 Library LBBs. These will give some background.  All of the LBBs are available in PDF, and you can also order a CD from Far Future Enterprises with EVERYTHING.  Board Games, the Challenge and Travellers Aid magazines, all of the supplements and adventures… everything that was done by GDW.  (The 3rd party stuff by FASA and Judges Guild and such are more difficult to track).  Most of it is pretty good, though some are crap scans that you can read but are crooked.  Highly recommended though.

    Now, you can also go to http://www.downport.com/  which is a phenominal resource, as well as Freelance Traveller.  There is also a free interactive map at https://travellermap.com/?x=4.272&y=77.581&scale=7.7265625   that has info on a lot of the systems and their histories (though a lot of the info is geared for TNE, there is also usually info pertaining to CT)


    A lot of the early adventures are indicative of what was going on in Cinema at the time, but to me the best for the true Traveller flavor are The Traveller Adventure, Secret of the Ancients, and a lot of the stuff Martin Dougherty wrote that was for T20 (aka Golden Age) that I think is still on RPGNow.  THis is of course YMMV, as everyone has their own favorites.  I really do like the history, and once spent 2 whole weeks of college winter break doing nothing but tracking down Traveller books and devouring them (pre-internet, of course!).  For me, the setting is no longer Hard Sci-fi, more space-opera with hard sci-fi elements, but that’s not a bad thing to me!

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    Avatar photoRhoderic

    Thanks for that. I agree that 1970s space opera with hints of hard sci-fi is a good thing! Of the numerous flavours of sci-fi I enjoy, that’s definitely one of them.

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