Traveller (role-playing game)
||This article may contain an excessive amount of intricate detail that may only interest a specific audience. (May 2015)|
|Publisher(s)||Game Designers' Workshop
Imperium Games (Marc Miller's Traveller)
Steve Jackson Games (GURPS Traveller)
QLI/RPGRealms Publishing (Traveller 20)
Far Future Enterprises
|Publication date||1977 (Classic Traveller)
1993 (Traveller: The New Era)
1996 (Marc Miller's Traveller)
1998, 2006 (GURPS Traveller)
2002 (Traveller 20)
2007 (Traveller Hero)
2008 (Mongoose Traveller)
|Genre(s)||Science fiction space opera|
|System(s)||Custom, GURPS, d20 System|
Traveller is a series of related science fiction role-playing games, the first published in 1977 by Game Designers' Workshop. Various companies published subsequent editions, and the game remains in print.
- 1 Game overview
- 2 Game description
- 3 Publishing history
- 3.1 Development
- 3.2 Reception
- 3.3 Publishing format
- 3.4 Editions
- 3.5 Lawsuit
- 3.6 Traveller in Other Media
- 4 Related systems
- 5 References
The game was inspired by such classic science fiction stories as:
- The Dumarest Saga series by E. C. Tubb
- The Foundation stories of Isaac Asimov
- H. Beam Piper's Space Viking
- Larry Niven's Known Space
- Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium
- Poul Anderson's Polesotechnic League
- Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination
- And several other works of science fiction literature.
Characters typically journey between various star systems and engage in activities such as exploration, ground and space battles, and interstellar trading. Traveller characters are defined less by the need to increase native skill and ability and more by achievements, discoveries, or obtaining wealth, gadgets, titles and political power.
Key features derived from literary sources are incorporated into Traveller in all its forms:
- Human-centric but Cosmopolitan: The core rules focus on human characters, but there is ample support for using and playing aliens.
- Travellers travel: Interstellar travel is through the use of the FTL (Faster-than-light) jump drive, which moves a ship through "jump space" a few light-years at a time. Each jump always takes about one week. Normal-space travel is accomplished through relatively efficient and powerful gravitic drives.
- Limited communication: There is no faster-than-light information transfer – meaning no ansible, subspace radio or hyper-wave. Communication is limited to the speed of travel. Decisions are made on the local level, rather than by a remote authority.
- No Prime Directive: Planets fight out internal wars, and capitalism is the major driving force of civilization.
- Sociological: Interstellar society is socially stratified (high, mid, and low passage; SOC). Affairs are often managed by independent nobility, who make use of classic titles such as Baron, Duke and Archduke. The typical game shows how being a traveller crosses classes and breaks stratification.
- Materialist: Rewards are material, rather than Experience Points, Leveling Up, and so on. Also, Newtonian physics tends to be followed.
- Diversity within Limits: Career options, ship design, subsector design, and decisions made during character generation limit and frame reality. The definitions create a diverse space (hence library data and anachronistic/atavistic worlds), within limits.
- Mortal: People remain people and continue to show courage, wisdom, honesty and justice, along with cowardice, deceit, and criminal behavior. People age and eventually die. Many Traveller rules make death during character generation a possibility.
The original Traveller rule booklets were promoted as rules for running general science fiction role-playing games. Marc Miller, one of the original designers of the Traveller RPG for Game Designer's Workshop, said that the idea for creating Traveller came about when he said "I want to do Dungeons & Dragons in space."
Supplements soon followed with a default setting. This is known as the Official Traveller Universe (OTU) or Charted Space. The OTU is also known by the primary political entity in the setting, The Third Imperium. The Third Imperium is the largest and human-dominated interstellar empire in Charted Space. It is a feudalistic union of worlds: local nobility operate largely free from oversight, restricted by convention and feudal obligations.
Despite the thematic dominance of the human race, with most adventures taking place in human space, the Traveller universe is cosmopolitan, and is divided into a handful of major races (six) and an unbounded number of minor races. These technological species are known as sophonts in Traveller jargon, a term borrowed from earlier science fiction material.
A major race is defined as one that supposedly developed jump technology (FTL Technology) independently. The standard list of major races includes six races:
- 1. Aslan: The honor-bound felinoid Aslan
- 2. Droyne: The winged reptilioid Droyne
- 3. Hivers: The sixfold-symmetric, manipulative Hivers
- 4. K'kree: The centaur-like, vegetarian K'kree
- 5. Vargr: The uplifted wolf-hybrid Vargr
There are also various descendants of humanity, who are collectively called Humaniti:
- 6. Humaniti:
Precursors: The Ancients were a major race in the distant past; their ruins dot planets throughout charted space and their artifacts are more technically advanced than those of any existing civilization. For unknown reasons, they:
- Transplanted humans from Earth to dozens of worlds,
- Uplifted Terran wolves to create the Vargr, and...
- Undertook many megascale engineering projects before destroying their civilization in a catastrophic war.
Species which were contacted before they could develop Jump Drives are considered minor. A few have significant background material, such as:
- The Ael Yael, which appear to resemble humanoid pterodactyls;
- Bawapakerwa-a-a-awapawab, (Bwaps for short) which are bipedal amphibians; and...
- The Ithklur, an aggressive race of warm-blooded, humanoid reptilians that exist in Hiver-space.
Most, however, are only hinted at.
An early publication from Games Designers' Workshop noted that The minor races, of which there are hundreds within the area of known space, will be largely left up to individual referees. GDW's quarterly publication, The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society, sketched out about one race per quarter, starting with Aslan in Issue 7, with no signs of letting up. Taken together with aliens casually mentioned or introduced in separate scenarios or adventures—often arbitrarily—there is therefore no indication that the number of minor races is limited in any sense.
Traveller introduced the 'lifepath'-style character generation system to role-playing games. Traveller characters get their skills and experience in a mini-game, where the player makes career choices that determine the character's life up to the point right before adventuring begins.
A character can be human, robot, alien, or of a genetically engineered species. A character can be civilian, military, or noble, a young cadet or a tried-and-true veteran, each with strengths and weaknesses.
Traveller also became infamous in that a character could die during the character creation process before the process was finished.
Characters are described by six primary characteristics: strength, dexterity, endurance, intelligence, education, and social standing. These characteristics are typically generated with a roll of two six-sided dice. Other general characteristics also exist, such as psionics and sanity. Some variant characteristics also exist, such as charisma and caste, which replace a primary characteristic, to add nuance to alien characters.
Each rule system has its own task mechanic for resolving character actions. Some systems use two or three six-sided dice, while others use multiple six-sided dice or a twenty-sided die. Target numbers are typically determined by the referee, who takes into account task difficulty, skill level, and a characteristic. Situation and equipment used can provide a bonus or penalty to a roll. Depending on the task, a success may require rolling above or below the target number.
Equipment in Traveller typically emphasizes wilderness exploration, hazardous environments, and combat. As a result, equipment lists are heavy on vehicles, sensor equipment, communicators, rations, personal armor, and weapons.
Low-technology: Since primitive worlds exist near technological worlds, primitive weapons are also typically included, such as swords, shields, pikes, bows, and so on.
High-technology: And since high technology is available, cybernetic implants and non-sentient robots typically also show up in equipment lists, as well as artifacts from ancient, vanished technological civilizations.
Hard Sci-fi Flavor: While there are energy weapons in Traveller, there is also a strong presence of slug-thrower weapons such as rifles and pistols. The prevailing theory is that (usually) the most efficient way to stop someone is with kinetic energy (e.g. bullets).
Traveller's rules for starship design and combat are like games unto themselves with a complex balance of ship components fitting within certain hull volumes, technology levels, and modifiers based upon characters' skills. It is complex enough to be able to generically represent most starships used in role-playing games, and flexible enough to support custom add-ons to the system. (GDW published several board games allowing Traveller space battles to be played out as games in their own right - Mayday using the Classic Traveller rules, Brilliant Lances and Battle Rider using the Traveller: The New Era rules.)
Computer programs have been created to model and predict starship combat using Traveller rules. The most famous case involved Douglas Lenat applying his Eurisko heuristic learning program to the scenario in the Classic Traveller adventure Trillion Credit Squadron (TCS), which contained rules for resolving very large space battles statistically. Eurisko discovered exploitable features of the starship design system that allowed it to build unusual fleets that won the 1981 and 1982 TCS national championships.
Worlds represent a wide spectrum of conditions, from barren planetoid moons to large water worlds, from uncolonized territory to planets with tens of billions of people. Most worlds tend to be only modestly colonized, though some worlds may be dangerously overcrowded.
The world generation system in Traveller is geared to produce a highly random mix of worlds. Extensions take solar system generation into account, and modify the process depending on the fecundity and history of the targeted area of space. Similar to the use of the UPP for characters, worlds are represented by an alphanumeric Universal World Profile that encodes key physical, social, and economic properties of the world.
Adventures in Traveller tend to come from a few key themes:
Traveller Game Themes (Adventures or Plot Hooks) # Name Theme Notes 01. Courier Mission: The players are transporting a package containing goods or information. Alternatively, they are hired to intercept the package. Subplots:
- Medicine delivery
- Valuable goods delivery
- X-boat Mail Delivery
02. Enigma (Mystery): Something unexplained is going on, and the players have to find out what it is. Subplots:
- Cosmological anomaly
- Economic plotting
- Political plotting
- Precursor (Ancients) ruins
03. Escort Mission: The players are bodyguards protecting a person while taking them to their destination. Alternatively, they are hired to kidnap or kill the person or prevent them from reaching their destination. Subplots:
- Double agent
- VIP Bodyguards
04. Exploration: The players are scouts, academics, or adventurers who want to find (or rediscover) uncharted worlds. There are new cultures to encounter, exotic flora and fauna to catalog, and ruins and artifacts to excavate and study. Subplots:
- Lost (Sophont) civilization (Xenoarchaeology)
- Precursor (Ancients) site (Xenoarchaeology)
- Bestiary find (Xenobiology)
- Scientific curiosity
- Sophont contact (First contact)
- Uncharted world exploration
05. Heist: The players plan to infiltrate a secure facility to acquire information or goods. Alternatively the players are hired to guard the facility before the target is acquired or retrieve the target after it is acquired. Subplots:
- Security detail (counter-espionage)
- Spying (espionage)
06. Mercenary: The players are military veterans who have been contracted to serve in the armed forces of a local or planetary government. Typical tasks would be to create and instruct a training cadre, lead or advise units, or provide a corps of trained and experienced troops familiar with advanced technology. Subplots:
- Alien invasion (defense)
- Cadre training
- Cold war
- Dream ticket
- Man vs. Machine (Virus)
- Open warfare
- Striker mission
07. Merchant Free Traders: The players travel the stars trading and adventuring along the way in their very own starship. Subplots:
- Ally aid
- Corporate espionage
- Interstellar trade
- Megacorporation mission
- Trade brokering (transpolitical)
- Trade mission
08. Patron: The players are skilled freelancers hired by a client to perform a job for them that requires their particular skills and experience. Their performance affects their standing with the client and whether the client will hire them for future jobs or recommend them to other potential clients. Subplots:
09. Rescue: People are lost or stranded and the players are tasked with recovering them. Alternatively, the players are lost or stranded and need to either survive until rescued or make their way to safety. Subplots:
- Black hole
- Innocent civilian
- Lost in Space
- Megacorporation kidnapee
- Military prisoner
- Nova dilemma
- VIP rescue
10. Struggle against Nature: The players are pitted against an alien environment, with or without the help of outsiders. Subplots:
- Man vs. Nature
- Signal MK / SOS
11. World-hopping: The players are itinerant workers, interstellar business travelers, or tourists on holiday that are always going to unfamiliar and exotic places. Subplots:
- Galactic Circus
- Interstellar tourists
- Itinerant workers
Marc W. Miller states that when the game Lensman, and games it inspired such as Triplanetary and Imperium, "were crossed with the revolutionary Dungeons & Dragons, the result was my roleplaying game Traveller".
Mike Pondsmith commented: "It can be argued, in fact, that almost every major science fiction-styled RPG owes a debt to Traveller — if not for specific design elements, then for providing the benchmark of what a good sci-fi RPG should be."
The original Traveller gamebooks were distinctive half-size black pamphlets (the so-called "Little Black Books" or "LBBs") produced by Game Designers Workshop (GDW). The main rules were detailed in three such booklets, sold as a boxed set while the same format was used for early support material, such as the Adventures, Supplements and further Books. Currently these LBBs are available in collected reprints from Far Future Enterprises. Later supplements and updated versions of the main game system introduced full sized booklets, complete re-writes of the game system and significant changes to the Third Imperium.
Major Traveller Game Publishers & Versions (Editions) Pub. Date Game Abbrev. Primary Publisher 1977 Classic Traveller CT Game Designers Workshop 1986 MegaTraveller MT Game Designers Workshop 1992 Traveller: The New Era TNE Game Designers Workshop 1996 Marc Miller's Traveller T4 Imperium Games 1998 GURPS Traveller GT Steve Jackson Games 2006 Traveller D20 T20 QuikLink Interactive 2006 Traveller Hero TH ComStar Games 2008 Mongoose Traveller MGT Mongoose Publishing 2013 Traveller 5 T5 Far Future Enterprises 2016 Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition MGT2 Mongoose Publishing
Published by GDW. Nicknamed "Classic Traveller". The core rules originally came as three distinctive "Little Black Books" (see Overview above), in a boxed set. Supplemental booklets included "advanced" character generation, capital ship design, robots, and more. Eight boxed wargames were released as tie-in products.
- Most of the Classic Traveller books are available in compendium volumes from Far Future Enterprises, which is the current copyright and trademark holder of all forms of the Traveller game. Far Future Enterprises also sells a CD-ROM containing scans of all the canonical Classic Traveller material in PDF format, including the rules, counters and maps from the boxed games.
- Traveller was inducted into the Origins Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame in 1997.
Published by GDW but designed by Digest Group Publications, which published the popular Traveller's Digest (later the MegaTraveller Journal) Traveller support magazine. The game system used revised versions of the Classic Traveller mechanics with ideas first developed in the Traveller's Digest.
- The game was set during the Rebellion era which shattered the Imperium. Supplements and magazines produced during this era detailed the progression of the Rebellion from the initial assassination of the Emperor in 1116 to the collapse of large-scale interstellar trade in roughly 1124 (the beginning of the supplement Hard Times).
- Digest Group Publications also produced a number of MegaTraveller supplements, including "alien" modules detailing the Aslan, Vargr, Vilani and Solomani for MegaTraveller and the World Builder's Handbook, which expanded greatly on the world-building system found in the main rulebooks.
Traveller: The New Era
Set in the former territory of the Third Imperium after interstellar government and society had largely collapsed, effectively "rebooting" the setting—but leaving a pocket of the Imperium preserved to allow games with a "legacy" feel to them.
- TNE introduced the AI Virus, a life form based on silicon that infected and took over alien silicon computing technologies. The game mechanics were changed to GDW's house rules system, derived from Twilight: 2000, 2nd ed. The game used a more realism-centered approach to science fiction, doing away with reactionless thrusters, shortening laser ranges to a reasonable distance, etc.
- Several supplements were published for TNE, covering most if not all of what the year 1201 was like. However, before any of the meta-events could start to advance the timeline, GDW fell on a string of bad luck and finally was forced to close its doors.
- In 1994, Traveller: The New Era won the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Rules of 1993.
Marc Miller's Traveller
Published by Imperium Games after GDW dissolved and the rights to Traveller reverted to Marc Miller, the creator of the original game. Miller has stated that T4 was "plagued by rush," explaining that the books were released without enough editing. He also stated that in spite of the quality issues that resulted from this, he does not believe that T4 is the least popular or most controversial edition of the game.
- T4 was set in the early days of the Third Imperium (Milieu 0), with the small, newly formed empire surrounded by regressed or barbaric worlds. The mechanics and text resembles a mix of Classic Traveller and The New Era.
- A dozen books were released supporting the core rules; all are currently available on Marc Miller's website.
"Created on a handshake with Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games." The game uses the GURPS (Third Edition) system and takes place in an alternate timeline in which no Rebellion occurred and the AI Virus was never released. Steve Jackson Games produced numerous supplements for the line, including details for all of the major races, many of the minor races, interstellar trade, expanded world generation, the military forces of the Third Imperium, and starships.
Published by Quick Link Interactive/RPG Realms Publishing. The D20 system version is set at the time of the Solomani Rim War around Imperial year 990, about a century before the era depicted in the original game. The preferred setting is the Gateway Domain region of the Imperium.
A port of the Traveller setting to the Hero System, produced under license by Comstar Games.
Offered both in a traditional format and as an open-source SRD around which other games may be built. It borrows some concepts from Classic Traveller and Traveller5, using a form of the 2D6 task system, and updating the careers, aliens, and technology found there. It is referred to as "MgT" or "MGT" to differentiate it from "MT", or MegaTraveller.
- The core rule book was released in April 2008, with a regular series of supplements following, including setting-related resources for the classic Third Imperium, Babylon 5, Hammer's Slammers, 2300 AD, Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog and others, including a Traveller version of the Prime Directive Star Trek-based role-playing game that is currently in development.
A re-working of concepts from CT, MT, TNE, and T4. The intent is to account for (nearly) every situation in the Traveller setting. The core rules include integrated mechanics with enough depth to support Traveller's "OTU". These rules include design systems for creating vehicles, armor, weapons, robots, "alien" races, animals, and equipment. A star system generation system expands on the same basic planet statistics as Classic Traveller to add in social, economic, and strategic details about the mainworld and its system.
- The playtest release was made available in February 2009. Revisions with playtested errata were given to playtesters, chapter by chapter. The playtest open-beta phase effectively ended on May 31, 2012, when Miller launched a Traveller 5th Edition Kickstarter project. The project was funded at 1227% of its initial goal, with a final pledge level of $294,628 on Sunday 1 July 2012 and breaking Deadlands Noir's $117,648 record for most funded tabletop RPG Kickstarter).
- The finished T5 game went to the printers in December 2012. The Kickstarter project does not overlap with the earlier beta-test program.
- The book and CD-ROM were distributed to Kickstarter participants starting in March 2013, and were available directly to game shops by June 2013.
- An interim edit, with errata corrections, was made available to T5 owners in June 2015.
In 1982 Game Designers Workshop sued software publisher Edu-Ware Services for infringing upon Traveller's copyright. Edu-Ware admitted to using Traveller as the basis of its role-playing video game Space, and in an out-of-court settlement, made a cash settlement and removed the video game from the market, turning all copies over to GDW.
Traveller in Other Media
GDW licensee Paragon produced two video games based on the Traveller universe:
- MegaTraveller 1: The Zhodani Conspiracy (1990) for Amiga, Atari ST and MS-DOS operating environments, and...
- MegaTraveller 2: Quest for the Ancients (1991) for Amiga and MS-DOS.
In March 2011 IngZ Inc. announced the upcoming release of "Traveller AR" in Summer 2011. Traveller AR is an iPhone based port of the Traveller RPG brand. The "Traveller AR" software was unfortunately abandoned at a later date after protracted development. "
Several novels have been specifically set in the various Traveller universes:
Traveller Game Novels # Year Title Series Author Reference & ISBN Notes 1. 1993 Again, Oytritsyu'aby Book 1 of 1 Charles Gannon n/a Novelette (Short story) 2. 1993 Count or Country Book 1 of 1 Charles Gannon n/a Novelette (Short story) 3. 1993 The Trap of Triton Book 1 of 1 Gary A. Kalin n/a Novelette (Short story) 5. 1995 Death of Wisdom Book 1 of 3 Paul Brunette ISBN 1-55878-181-1 Available from FFE 6. 1995 To Dream of Chaos Book 2 of 3 Paul Brunette ISBN 1-55878-184-6 Available from FFE 7. 1998 Marc Miller's Traveller: Gateway to the Stars Book 1 of 1 Pierce Askegren ISBN 0-671-01188-X Available from Amazon 8. 2005 The Force of Destiny Book 1 of 1 Dale Kemper  Available from Amazon 9. 2004 Diaspora Phoenix Book 1 of 1 Martin J. Dougherty n/a Available from RPG Now 10. 2006 Tales of the New Era 1: Yesterday's Hero Book 1 of 1 Martin J. Dougherty n/a Available from RPG Now 11. 2010 The Backwards Mask Book 3 of 3 Paul Brunette  Available from FFE 12. 2011 The Backwards Mask (Alternate) Book 3 of 3 Matthew Carson  Available from FFE 13. 2012 A Long Way Home: Tales of Congressional Space Book 1 of 1 Terrance McInnes n/a Available from Amazon 14. 2014 Shadow of the Storm Book 1 of 1 Martin J. Dougherty ISBN 1558780343 Available from RPG Now
- In addition, Jefferson Swycaffer has written several novels set in the "Concordat" fictional universe he originally developed for his Traveller campaign.
- Gregory P. Lee's "The Laughing Lip" series acknowledges the influence of Traveller in the development of the three novels published to date. Mr. Lee also wrote the Gamelords' supplement "Lee's Guide to Interstellar Adventure" in the early 1980s.
In May 2014 game designer and film producer Ken Whitman announced that his company, D20 Entertainment, had procured a license from Marc Miller to produce a Traveller television pilot. The pilot is to be titled Spinward Traveller and will follow the adventures of Jon Spinward, who is pressed into service aboard a pirate ship.
On June 1, 2014 Whitman launched a Kickstarter campaign for the film. The campaign is seeking $30,000 to produce a 22-minute pilot, but has stretch goals for up to a 96-minute film. The campaign received over $5,000 in its first day.
- Presented as a future extrapolation of the speculative World War III of GDW's popular military role-playing game Twilight: 2000, in which the various nations of Earth were only just beginning to explore and colonize the fifty light year sphere of surrounding space.
- Some buyers mistakenly thought the game was intended to depict the year 2300 in the standard Traveller universe using Traveller rules.
- To disambiguate it from Traveller, the 2nd edition of the game was retitled to 2300 AD and this second edition introduced some cyberpunk rules and adventures.
- A third version of the setting, 2320 AD was released as a supplement to the Traveller T20 ruleset.
- 2300 AD has also been release as a setting under the Mongoose Traveller rules.
2300 AD Editions:
- Traveller 2300 (1st Edition)
- 2300 AD (2nd Edition)
- 2320 AD (3rd Edition)
- Mongoose 2300 AD (4th Edition)
- Polymancer (2010-12-31). "DiceCast: DiceCast Special Holiday Interview Episode". Dicecast.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2014-08-23.
- Johnson, George (1984). "Eurisko, The Computer With A Mind Of Its Own". the APF Reporter (Washington, D.C.: The Alicia Patterson Foundation) 7 (4). External link in
- Miller, Marc W. (2007). "Lensman". In Lowder, James. Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 176–178. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0.
- Pondsmith, Mike (2007). "Traveller". In Lowder, James. Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 331–334. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0.
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- Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society (13): 3. 1982. Missing or empty
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- Miller, Marc William (1980) . Traveller Book 5: High Guard. revised by Marc William Miller, Frank Chadwick and John Harshman. Game Designers' Workshop.
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- Miller, Marc W; Loren Wiseman (1984). Traveller Adventure 12: Secret of the Ancients. Game Designers' Workshop.
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- Miller, Marc W (1988). Rebellion Sourcebook. Game Designers' Workshop. ISBN 0-943580-63-3.
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- Official Traveller Wiki
- Mongoose Traveller
- GURPS Traveller by Steve Jackson Games
- Traveller Bibliography
- Official Traveller Site - Far Future