Saturday, 14 January 2012

What is Traveller?

There was a recent discussion over on TMP about Traveller and what it actually was/is. With the discussion of our forthcoming campaign, that discussion triggered thoughts in me about what Traveller actually is, so I thought I would ramble on here about it. I hesitate to engage in the TMP discussion because, for the most part, people seemed to be digging into their positions and hunkering down rather than actually discussing the options. So, what follows is my view on this topic. It is not sacrosanct and it is not intended to convert anyone to my point of view, but it does relate to how I am approaching designing our science fiction campaign.

Traveller was originally just the three rulebooks and presented a particular type of hard science fiction environment. It was background free, but presented an easy way to generate your background. To this was added all the Third Imperium material. I first encountered Traveller when I bought the Traveller Deluxe edition in the early eighties. Those were great days as the players roared through the Spinward Marches creating chaos wherever they went. The ship's locker was awash with Battle Dress and FGMP-15s and I had a great time designing scenarios around all the Jack Higgins novels I was reading at the time. This gave the players plenty of opportunities to use all the hardware they had. Most excellent! Oh yes, and I really liked the idea that characters could die during character creation. :)

Looking back on Traveller I now find myself associating it more strongly with the background rather than the rules. The rules were a vehicle for exploring that background, but it was the background that we loved. What this means is that for me Traveller is more about the background than the specific rules. It is all about the organic growth of that background through the many publications that followed and it is about continuing to help that background grow within our campaign. As a result, when we start our new campaign, we shall be playing Traveller, regardless of the fact that we shall not be playing an RPG with the Traveller rules. We shall certainly be using elements of those rules for the metagame, but the rest of it will be played out with Laserburn, Tomorrow's War, Striker 2, 5150 and FutureWarCommander, among other rules sets. I can't wait.

I think that makes sense and, if you will excuse me, I now need to make sure that my air/raft is serviced and that the Type S Scout Ship Aurora is ready to fly. I'm off to survey the Spinward Marches for the IISS. Who knows what adventures I shall encounter on my twenty year mission to chronicle the development of this part of the Sprinward Marches?


  1. Lovely idea. I'm doing much the same thing with Glorantha - not playing Runequest or Heroquest (much) but using Hordes of the Things and possibly Song of Blades and Heroes to game Gloranthan battles.

    I considered doing the same with the Trav universe but have decided instead to raise some cash by selling off my old Traveller material.

  2. I started with the old 3 book box set. As more Spinward Marches content was added, I found that the game universe became more restricted in its outlook. While you could still do your own thing, player expectations were definitely skewed toward the canon.

    Still - it was a great background universe and who didn't want to be in the Duke of Regina's own Huscarls?

  3. Thanks, chaps. That's a fair comment, Pat, and I think that is why the game headed off to MegaTraveller and then The New Era. Still, we never really found the canon restricting. There was plenty for the characters to do within explored space and there is plenty outwith that space too. Our forthcoming campaign will be set in Mavuzog sector, to spinward of the Spinwards Marches, Zhodani Empire and Aslan Hierate. It is mentioned as a sector in canon but not detailed, so we can freely develop it as we like and still use canon material for when we play games set within the known galaxy.