I’m more of a fantasy person than a sci-fi person, and I didn’t even know about Traveller until some time in 2011. But references to it kept popping up on the blogs and forums I frequent, so I knew I needed to check it out at some point. At first I was going to pick up a set of the original Traveller 3 LBBs (little black books) from the old boxed set; unlike OD&D, the price for an original set is not that high. Then I found that classic traveller was recently reprinted as a collection, Books 0-8, at a very reasonable price. As you can see from the picture, the book is printed in landscape rather than portrait (I think it might be a literal reprinting of the digest originals).
I got interested in Traveller because it seems to embody its own little niche in RPG system design. From where I’m sitting, there are three three main paradigms in tabletop RPGs:
- Class and level based (D&D)
- Skill based (World of Darkness)
- Life-path with little mechanical advancement (Traveller)
GURPS is also skill based, no? GURPS is older than WoD, so I should probably list that as the exemplar of skill based RPGs, but I’ve not played it myself. Maybe new-fangled story games are a fourth paradigm (games that have mechanics built around narrative control), but I’m really not familiar enough with them to say. Am I missing anything important? Would anybody draw the category lines differently?
The influence of the life-path leg seems to be rising in the OSR. Just days after ordering Books 0-8, I came across the announcement of a development forum for Shot & Sorcery, a LotFP take on historical weird fantasy heavily inspired by Traveller. And James Maliszewski released Thousand Suns in December (it has some relation to Traveller, right?). Joseph Browning (of Sorcery & Super Science) is working on Worlds Apart: A Fantasy Role-Playing Game of Exploration and Trade (which is perhaps nearing release).
Some other relevant, though older, links:
- Hill Cantons: Fantasy Traveller
- Hill Cantons: Fantasy Traveller, Part Two
- ODD74 forum: Traveller as a Universal Game System
- A Paladin in Citadel: Wanderer RPG: Traveller Fantasy
- RPG Blog II: Using Classic Traveller for Fantasy
- Dungeons and Digressions: Original Edition Fantasy à la GDW’s Traveller
I have this lingering idea of equivalency between levels 1 through 14 in D&D (the range in B/X) and the character generation procedure in Traveller. That would give a new meaning to the idea that “character background is what happens during play”. And the main body of a Traveller game would be roughly equivalent to domain and stronghold play in D&D.
It seems like level 15+ D&D could go in one of two directions: this kind of domain play or demigods/immortals (see this post from Zak and skip to the paragraph about Thor).