The Great Traveller Debate
I've been a Traveller GM since the original black books (1-3). I've
watched it grow through the expanded rules (4-8) and then into the larger
size books. I always liked the scope of Traveller. Just about any setting
could be constructed for stand-alone adventures. If you wanted to design
your own ships and worlds, you could do that. If you didn't, there was
(and is) a plethora of support material from innumerable sources.
Campaigns became a lot more work, but tended to fall into one of five broad
categories. They were:
Of course these groups were not mutually exclusive. You often had
evolution from one group to another as play progressed.
- The Free Trader group. These people possessed a starship, and spent
great amounts of time and energy essentially running cargo from Point A to
Point B via Point C, D and E, then back again. The main adventure was
earning credits. Side adventures came from running afoul of random
encounters... passengers gone bad/seeking help, cargo gone bad/sought by
pirates or rightful owners, derelict ships, planetary bureaucracy.
- The Mercenary group. These guys had the big guns and the battle dress.
They went from Point A to Point B and didn't leave until Point B was a big
smoking crater. Then they went back to Point A and demanded payment. If
payment was refused, they didn't leave until Point A was also a smoking
- The Explorers. Enough of the Imperial map was left unmapped that there
was always somewhere else you could go. This let GM's imaginations run
wild. Any danger/conflict/reward could be put in the player's path...and
- The Gods. "Oh yeah! Give me that Dreadnought! Give me a couple legions
of battle-dress clad marines!" Let's go bump heads with other capitol
ships. Or better yet! Let's go subjugate a planet!
- The Pirates. Love 'em or hate 'em. The Imperium just lent itself to
players sliding over to the wrong side of the law. It was an easy way for
the GM to create adventure. Instead of a peaceful Imperium, every
encounter ran the risk of discovery and conflict. Even I have to admit,
these were the most fun.
Then MegaTraveller came out. The concept behind MT? Give the universe
enough inherent conflict that option 5 above wasn't necessary. The
conflict was interesting, but it seemed to drag on too long. Advanced
rules came out to cover a lot of different things (like COACC), and the
Digest Group material was fantastic. But the game seemed to lack something
of the old spark.
Traveller: The New Era
Traveller: The New Era. Oh baby. This setting was awesome. The Imperium
collapses into computer-virus induced dark ages. Then it's up to the
players to either
A lot of people got bent out of shape over the concept of Virus. Tough!
Virus was a means to an end, not an end in itself. As written, the Virus
wiped out the Imperium...usually destroying itself in the process. If you
didn't like Virus, you didn't have to use it anymore. Just say it had
wiped itself out. But Virus allowed something else that Marc Miller had
always seemed to shy away from in Classic Traveller: Intelligent machines.
This opened up a heck of a lot more possibilities. For my money, TNE was
the most playable of the bunch. If you didn't want to get too involved in
the technology, there was more than enough pre-generated equipment to use.
If you wanted to design equipment down to the sub-atomic level, they had
Fire Fusion and Steel. Again - optional rules that you could choose to
use, or choose not to. The major plus of TNE, is every single piece of
information previously provided for Traveller could be used: Deckplans,
Adventures. It was all still out there, in one form or another. And
truthfully, I'm still having a lot of fun with TNE. The game takes on the
feel of the old Pirate games, without having the players breaking the law.
There's potential for adventure everywhere! From my player's standpoint,
TNE was a lot more managable...the known universe was smaller...mystery had
been restored. And as far as hitpoints in the GDW house system? Yes.
There were a lot of them. We found that just cutting them all in half
- Build up again, expanding a new empire out into the wasted wilderness
(The Reformation Coalition),
- Maintain the classic Traveller feel (The Regency).
- Pocket Empires. This was a great boon to the Traveller universe. The
unknown was never more than a few jumps away.
Marc Miller's Traveller
And then T4. Up until this point, I had followed Traveller at every single
turn. Taken the bits I liked, ignored the bits I didn't. Formed a rich
campaign setting where every campaign I ever ran could influence any
other. Then, in a move that I still don't understand (I know the
motivation...I just don't understand it), Marc Miller decided to abandon
the Imperium as too messed up to use. He harkened back a thousand years to
the beginning of the Third Imperium (which died in MT/TNE). What he
produced with Milieu 0 was supposed to be a universe ripe for exploration
and adventure (like TNE), but without that unfortunate computer virus
lurking to add spark to the game. I didn't like the choice of art...and
unfortunately, the art seemed to dictate the technology of the game.
Suddenly, every starship class that you'd come to know and love was
different...more primitive. All those tech level 14 and 15 starships we'd
been designing and using for the last 15 years became useless. The
campaigns and background I'd been building up became things of the future.
I bought all the books (I still loved Traveller...I didn't want to see it
die). I looked at each one and sadly shook my head and shelved it. I
suppose it might have appealed to new players...it just didn't work for me.
So now there's GURPS Traveller: Pretend MegaTraveller Never Happened. I can
see why this might appeal to people. Especially since it's the only
officially supported Traveller universe at the moment. The thing I like
about it: I can still use the material for TNE... :)