Home Forums Sci Fi General Sci-Fi Why Traveller?

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    Angel Barracks

    Over the last few years I have seen a small but constant stream of threads about gaming Traveller.
    My only knowledge of it was from when I worked in a gaming store and we sold the RPG.
    I never played it, I think the rules looked too complex and it put me off.

    But now I am a little more intrigued than before, what is it about Traveller that people seem to like so much?

    I get the impression that it is like GW’s Rogue Trader in that it is old school sci-fi.
    That close or miles away?

    Robey Jenkins

    I’m mostly familiar with it through the Mongoose edition of the rules and actually use it to play a VSF space adventure setting of my own devising.  However, I think the main attraction to the “proper” setting is the vast depth and breadth of the history and cosmography of the game.  Traveller is almost as extensive and complex a setting as Warhammer 40,000 and, being nominally “hard” SF (or, at least, being space pulp adventure) lacks the dystopian myopia of the 40kverse that puts off some from exploring the Dark Millennium.

    It’s a bit like Battletech in that respect, I guess.


    Traveller has been around since  c1977 for a number of reasons. During that time it’s been through a number of iterations (5 or thereabouts). The original Little Black Books were a relevation when they appeared. Logical, simple rules with consistent mechanisms and a logical sequence. (None of which could be claimed of the preceding original D & D, and the better written AD & D was roughly contemporary with T1), The dramatic presentation of the rules, with it’s bold Mayday quote, caught the eye in the shops too.

    It helped too, that Traveller appeared around the same time as Star Wars hit the big screen. You could play SW using the LBBs with a bit of effort.

    The original Books 1-3 were all you needed to get going, along with paper and ordinary 6 sided dice. (Try finding D12 anywhere in 1977!) They were open ended, characters came with their own back story & their preparation was a game in itself, albeit occasionally frustrating when they’d die during the process!  Those  weren’t wasted though as they could still be used as NPCs, or the roll just ignored.

    There was none of the D & D style ‘levelling up’ that tended to blight other games. No super characters that were invulnerable to anything short of a God, no gaming the system to quarry XPs, none of the ‘pseudo-morality’ of the alignment mechanism (which never seemed to stop D & D players doing just what they wanted anyway).

    Combat, (at least in the basic game) was simple and deadly, so the ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ approach tended not to work all that well. That encouraged the role playing element. There were more complex versions for combat, Snapshot and Striker, the latter being an excellent, if complicated tactical combat ruleset. But you didn’t need to use those, as the basic rules did the job for most players.

    There was excellent support, at least for the pre-internet era, with regular releases of additional, more detailed rules for various aspects (eg Mercenary, which fleshed out the military aspects of the game) but the supplements weren’t necessary to play the game. There were a lot of add on adventures, scenarios and aids for role playing, both from GDW and from third parties, including (somewhat ironically) GW, as GDW were fairly generous in allowing others to use their system. There was quite a bit of <i>Traveller </i> in White Dwarf back in the day.  GDW also had boardgames set within the Travellerverse, (Imperium and Fifth Frontier War, there may have been others) which also provided depth to the setting. None of these were necessary, but  they all helped.

    GW’s Rogue Trader ‘borrowed’ a lot of inspiration from Traveller.

    Although there was an official setting for Traveller, it was quite possible to adapt it to other backgrounds. We played an excellent Blakes Seven campaign using Traveller, the only difficulty being the design for the ship Liberator, which needed to be noticeably better than any other vessel, but at the same time not invulnerable.

    GDW’s own setting  deliberately included a portion of space set aside for players to develop for themselves, rather than everything being predetermined in advance. I always thought that was a nice touch & recognised that (literally) world building was an important element for many RPGers in the 1970’s.

    The downsides? The system was a toolkit, requiring a degree of fleshing out for detail. That could come from literature, film or TV, of from the imagination, but it took a good GM to get the full benefit. Solo play was possible, and indeed GDW produced solo adventures, but again required imagination. The games technology failed to anticipate the rapid development of consumer electronics and computers. (Try to find anything resembling a modern smart phone!).

    Ultimately GDW’s financial collapse affected Traveller’s development, hence the plethora of editions, both T4 and T5 being current iterations. That said, the adventures produced for the newer versions still play well using the LBB rules. The basic LBB rules are free these days http://dreamsanddragons.blogspot.com.au/2010/04/this-is-free-trader-beowulf-calling.html



    • This reply was modified 7 years ago by Etranger.
    Evyn MacDude

    Why Traveller? Now that is a question. 1st off Traveller is a sandbox game that includes a RPG, a universe construction system and a Starship Construction/combat game in 3 digest sized books.

    The RPG was relatively simple and allowed for LOTS of customisation. In that while not the 1st skill based RPG it had a robust skill system. For the most part it allowed one to create and play Lots of literary SF characters with little effort.

    Then it had a bunch of included Micro-Games, if you wanted to explore, you had system creation, if you wanted to fight starships it had the means to do that, if you wanted to be a Star Trader you could do that as well. And as time went on related Modules and games were released that allowed one to focus even further on the specific things that interested you.

    Being that GDW was primarily a Wargames design company it follows that Traveller supported Military SF styles of games fairly well. As such it spawned a number of children that are genres in their own right now, Laserburn and it’s child 40k were inspired by Traveller (40k was being written while GW was the UK publisher of Traveller), Ground Zero Games series of games where largely inspired by Traveller as well.

    So why Traveller, it did the the things people were interested in, it covered a lot of niches with rules that allowed them to work together.


    Paint it Pink

    What Etranger said period. Nothing I can add to that except to say Azhanti High Lightning. 😉

    One is good, more is better


    The basic LBB rules are free these days http://dreamsanddragons.blogspot.com.au/2010/04/this-is-free-trader-beowulf-calling.html

    I may be being dense, but they show up as $13.00 on there?


    Sorry, I think I got that wrong!

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