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Traveller, anyone?

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Anyone here into Traveller, any era? Any system?

 

I think the classic traveller setting is wonderfully made and intricate but tends to drive players to 'the frontier' for adventure. So much of the core doesn't get used as much even if there's a lot of room for adventures (often of a criminal nature) in the "civilized" regions.

 

I liked the 2300 setting even if it wasn't technically traveller. But it was originally called traveller 2300. I think it has some of the best aliens ever designed for a sfrpg.

 

Traveller interstellar wars is a good setting but apparently dead as sjg lost the traveller license.

 

Traveller TNE has a lot of potential and is largely under developed leaving lots of room for gamers to fill in the map.

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I like the ambitions of the original Traveller game (far-flung space adventure with military vets as PCs), but something about its 18th century naval overlay always bugged me.

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I've been a fan of Classic Traveller for decades. It's one of the RPGs I've run the most, along with AD&D and HERO.

 

I like GURPS Traveller, too.

 

Some day I hope to own physical copies of Traveller HERO.

 

Have you read the Out of the Box blog posts about the original (1977 edition) Traveller? I've enjoyed those quite a lot. He has a lot of good insights into that original edition, versus what it became over the years.

https://talestoastound.wordpress.com/traveller-out-of-the-box/

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I'm a fan of Traveller. I played in a Traveller game for years when it first came out (1977--yes, I'm old). We never used the official setting. The GM had a universe based on (among other things) the Federation, Empire and Republic of Commerce from the Starguard miniatures combat game, with heavy doses of the Empire from Star Wars (just released at the time), Larry Niven's "Known World" colony worlds, and whatever else caught his fancy (mostly old pulp/sf novels and movies).

 

I'm currently (and slowly) populating a subsector for a Mongoose Traveller 2 game that I might, someday, try to run.

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Traveller was our sci-fi RPG of choice before I discovered the HERO System.  I converted the entire campaign over to Star Hero, but kept the Third Imperium setting. The best parts of Traveller are the source material and adventures.  It's the richest sci-fi universe out there.  Check out the online Traveller Map.  https://travellermap.com

 

Happy 40th Birthday, Traveller! :saturn:

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I like the ambitions of the original Traveller game (far-flung space adventure with military vets as PCs), but something about its 18th century naval overlay always bugged me.

 

Hmm? The only common point with 18th C is the "speed of communication limited to speed of travel" thing because there's no FTL radio. That's a ground rule and they progress very logically from there.

 

(Mind you, it made the Fifth Frontier War boardgame a bitch to play.)

 

I'm an original Traveller geek - my first RPG was 1st edition Traveller, which I got for Christmas 1979. Kept with it through to the end of GDW including 2300 and later picked up the Mongoose one. Didn't mind TNE, though I never quite took to them dropping the old mechanics, which were definitely not broken (as Mongoose demonstrated). The thing building rules in TNE are some of the best ever, once the usual GDW errata is plugged in, and especially for those that want their SF harder.

 

It's also the granddaddy of the computer game Elite and subsequently EVE Online and Elite Dangerous. If you're ever hankering for a bit of old school Traveller jumping and trading with hands-on piloting, I highly recommend Elite Dangerous :)

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There are numerous points of commonality:

  • Blade combat is a skill
  • Blades are a mustering out benefit
  • Social Standing is a base trait (indicating the importance of "social rank")
  • Naval commissions and Marines promotions are easier if you are of high social standing
  • Service ranks follow a 19th century hierarchy and naming scheme (Marine Force Cmdrs notwithstanding)
  • Privateering/smuggling is a common post-mustering-out PC "career"
  • The fastest anything can go (including information) is that of the fastest available vessel

If I had time, I'm sure I could find many more. Collectively, these elements diminish Traveller's far-future feel, at least for me. They make the game feel more like adventures on the high seas than adventures in outer space.

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Guess what? A lot of elite military forces today teach blade combat. Maybe not swords but knives and even modern Hatcher's and tomahawks. A lot of guards walking perimeter at ISIS and other guerilla groups have been silently neutralized with a knife in the neck.

 

I think it will be a long time before the simple knife is not a part of a lot of military issue kits.

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Those features come directly from the 50's and 60's science fiction that Traveller is heavily based on. Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry stories, for example, are pretty much pure Imperial Traveller. Most Galactic Empire settings of the era also follow those tropes in regards to swords, space navies, privateers etc.

 

Including Star Wars.

 

Don't know that I can agree that the service ranks follow just a 19thC hierarchy (and you seem to have jumped a 100 years forward there). They made sense from a 20th C context as well. Realistically, it's more likely that the armed space services would derive from Air Force ranks... but the point is that in the source fiction almost universally it's a Space Navy or Fleet and uses wet naval terminology. Heinlein, Anderson, Asimov etc in print, Star Trek and Star Wars on screen. Kirk is Captain of his ship, and Spock his First Officer. (Technically I think Scotty is Second Officer, but as in real navies his job title of Chief Engineer is normally used). The Enterprise has a Helmsman and a Navigator, not a Pilot and Astrogator.

 

In regards to the social standing... that prejudice was still very alive and well in militaries at the time of publication in 1977 - and in an actual 18thC context you wouldn't get a mere promotion DM for being upper crust, your social rank would directly determine it (Space:1889 dealt with that quite well in a late 19thC context). At least Traveller never had a gender bar or glass ceiling.

 

The blade combat WAS archaic, even in 1977, but I'm fairly sure Marc Miller put it in because of the US Marine ceremonial practice, not because of Hornblower.

 

But, I take your general point. The original pre-MegaTraveller does harken back to prior decades' vision of space opera and only in later editions moved to catch up, so it grew quainter as real world tech caught up and surpassed it. That was largely why they semi-rebooted with Traveller 2300 (one of the best attempts at a hard science fiction, near-future game) and fully rebooted with TNE.

 

My old gripe from 1980 was more along the lines of "where are the ray guns and lightsabres?" :)

 

And I much preferred kicking around in a Free Trader failing to meet my mortgage than all that silly shooting anyway. That stuff was bad for your health, man!

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The only concession to blade combat in Star Wars were lightsabres, and those were present because Lucas wanted to infuse his universe with a bit of Samurai culture. Traveller did not feel like it was doing the same thing (as Star Wars) when it put a table of D&D-like melee weapons in the first rulebook. And while many of the aspects I referred to continued to lead a palid life into the 20th century, their heyday was centuries earlier. And that's why my mind went to Hornblower and not Poul Anderson when I read the OT rulebook back in the early 80s.

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Mind you, aside from the Marines and their Cutlass fetish (and that was no longer a requirement once you had Cutlass-1), nothing stopped you from sticking to knives, cudgels and bayonets (for Army types) when taking Blade Combat, unless you were from a low-tech culture - though the basic rules assumed galactic culture and it wasn't until they expanded the services in Citizens of the Imperium that much attention was made to home planet tech level. 

 

Traveller did also run with a Fallen-Empire-Recovered background, which meant there were quite a few planets where you'd expect to run across swords and spears. The rules for them were needed, regardless of quirks of the character generation system. Star Wars has a lot more melee weapons than just lightsabres, too - Sandpeople gaffi sticks, Ewok spears and Gamorrean axes for a start.

 

We pretty much stuck to shotguns mostly, anyway :)

 

But your main concern was an 18th C naval overlay? The Imperial Navy (edit: I meant the Star Wars one here - that wasn't clear in context since Traveller has one as well) is a direct swipe from that, or at least the 20thC remnant of it.

 

The speed of communication thing is solid physics and hard to argue against. Once that's in place, similarities to pre-telegraph Pony Express or pre-radio naval communications will occur. I think GDW did very well with working out how a galactic empire would deal with that restriction, and what consequences it would have.

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It was a relevation a few years ago when I ran some Mongoose Traveller that I was now older than a starting Traveller character - even a hoary old 7 term crock of 46!

 

Geez that seems young now (and it was only 5 years ago).

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The speed of communication thing is solid physics and hard to argue against.

 

I guess that depends on the sort of science fiction your setting is going for: Space Opera or Hard Sci-Fi. Traveller can't claim adherence to hard science fiction due to its use of FTL. But even if it did, the idea of instantaneous information exchange is more supported by real physics than FTL. Research into quantum entanglement is yielding interesting and promising results, making "the speed of communication thing" not "solid physics" for long.

 

But that is mostly besides the point. The more salient point is that players today are used to communications that move faster than physical travel, and have been since the earliest days of the telegraph. You can't hand them a far-future scifi setting and expect the Pony Express nature of communications to suddenly make sense to them. They are already buying into FTL; they expect the ansible too.

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But that is mostly besides the point. The more salient point is that players today are used to communications that move faster than physical travel, and have been since the earliest days of the telegraph. You can't hand them a far-future scifi setting and expect the Pony Express nature of communications to suddenly make sense to them. They are already buying into FTL; they expect the ansible too.

 

Fair enough. And certainly that IS how it works in Star Trek and Star Wars, although in the case of Star Wars the jury is out as to how widespread the FTL communications network - the Holonet - is. I always got the impression that it was not casually available to civilians or on a small ship. At the very least it may be unavailable to the Rebels.

 

It varies a lot in the classic science fiction source material, but even modern authors sometimes use it. Lois McMaster Bujold's stuff has wormhole travel and no FTL radio, for example, so the speed of communication is lagged between wormhole stations. Though in her case the jump time is shorter and one lag is the speed-of-light delay between wormhole stations, which are often at opposite extremes of a system, and good old fashioned political and military control of choke points. There's also the requirement for a human pilot to make the jump in that one, so message drones aren't an option, and the news often has to wait for the ship to physically travel between wormholes in-system. Bujold has always felt VERY Traveller to me, though her ultimate influence was Star Trek (Shards of Honor famously started as Trek fanfic romance between a female Vulcan captured by Klingons).

 

As another example, Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat books go with no FTL radio. Jim DiGriz needs to get to a fixed location to send a PsiGram, and in one book rigs up jump drones to get a message out from a planet. On the other hand, that setting's FTL drive doesn't appear to have much jump delay, so I imagine mundane news still travels fairly fast.

 

In any case, when I read that speed-of communication was a setting limitation in Traveller, I was already aware of the concept from my own reading and didn't feel uncomfortable with it.

 

Having said that, it was clearly a deliberate design choice. Miller could have gone with Psionics (a big staple of the genre) or making the FTL radio unsuitable for a ship to carry. But for reasons of his own he went with a Psionic suppression default. And any discussion of how feasible it may or may not be is moot - as with Jump Drives, Black Globe generators, Artifical Gravity, Laser Rifles, Plasma Guns and Psionics, it's in the game or not according to the author's decision.

 

Probably the main effect it gives is to hammer home that Space is Big. Really Big.

 

On the other hand, what can you expect from a game designed during Tech Level 7? :)

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Just an FYI kinda thing:

 

— blade combat was emphasized in Traveller because it was used during shipboard combat. Guns were a no-no. Puncturing the hull and all that...

 

— communication was not instantaneous. Ships got paid to deliver ‘mail’ which meant it took a week for every jump for a message to get to its destination.

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8 hours ago, LouisGoncey said:

Just an FYI kinda thing:

 

— blade combat was emphasized in Traveller because it was used during shipboard combat. Guns were a no-no. Puncturing the hull and all that...

 

— communication was not instantaneous. Ships got paid to deliver ‘mail’ which meant it took a week for every jump for a message to get to its destination.

Battletech has swords for the same reason. They also had Hyper pulse generators which due to cost and energy requirement was limited and also limited by distance so they also had relay stations.

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Sure, and Star Trek has phasers with a stun setting (useful during shipboard combat) where projectiles or disintegration beams would be a no-no. And subspace communications are nearly instantaneous; ships don't have to be mail carriers, they can instead focus on being explorers, investigators, enforcers, or conquerors.

 

It all comes down to the feel you want for your game. Traveller wants you to feel like Horatio Hornblower in space, more or less, and they've contrived common tech levels to insure the game feels that way (emphasizing the presence of pirates and smugglers in the game helps a lot too).

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4 hours ago, zslane said:

It all comes down to the feel you want for your game. Traveller wants you to feel like Horatio Hornblower in space, more or less, and they've contrived common tech levels to insure the game feels that way (emphasizing the presence of pirates and smugglers in the game helps a lot too).

 

Pirates and smugglers are pretty much what the game is about! They're the murder hobo PCs of the Far Future.

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I figure that much of the reliance on blades comes from H. Beam Piper's Space Viking, which involved a region of space known as the Sword Worlds (with the worlds named after legendary swords like the region in the Spinward Marches), which was organized along feudal lines, and featured military training similar to that found in Traveller. Additionally, Piper's hyperdrive requires gadolinium, a rare-earth metal, much like the requirement in Traveller for lanthanum.

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The secret to traveller's jump drive is it was meant to recreate the "age of sail" where travel and communication could take weeks and months both ways. This created a loose imperium where strong central authority was largely impossible due to communication delays. This gave the possibility of world's being very different.

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The "age of sail" thing is correct to an extent, but shouldn't be overstated. Within a solar system communication is much faster than speed of travel (the flip side of all jumps requiring a week... that applies to in-system jumps, too). Within one or two jumps the effect is negligible for most purposes, so you'll normally play without it coming up to much of an extent.

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