New Traveller

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
DietCokeofEvil
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New Traveller

Postby DietCokeofEvil » Fri Apr 11, 2008 5:55 pm

Heya guys!

I have been elected to run our new RPG game, and its been decided that its going to be Traveller.

The only one with Traveller experience is one of the players, who played like twenty years ago while he was stationed with the marines. He has vague memories of the game being a lot of fun.

I did some research on Traveller and decided that it would probably be best to start with Mongoose Traveller, since its new and updated and will be supported (hopefully). I was going to go with the T5 CD first, but it doesn't look like its coming out any time soon.

Anyways.. I've never really run a sci-fi game before, with our groups mainly playing 3.5 D&D. I've skimmed all the previews and Traveller seems to be very different. Ok here's my questions.


1) Is there character development in Traveller? Like, experience points and levels in D&D or skill increases in World of Darkness? It seems like your character starts already developed with little room for growth.

2) I've decided to run the game in the main Traveller setting. Is there some generic story hook used to tie characters together? Like in D&D everyone plays an adventurer. Is there some sort of agency that everyone belongs to or something like that? I'm having a hard time imagining what the characters actually do in a game. Some of the posts here mention running trade routes and stuff and that sounds kind of boring. What kind of sessions/stories do you guys run?

3) What kind of learning curve does Traveller have? Is it a more difficult system to learn or something easier?

4) As far as the default setting/time period for Mongoose Traveller goes, is there some good wiki online to read about it?

Thanks in advance!
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Re: New Traveller

Postby Pyromancer » Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:14 pm

DietCokeofEvil wrote: I'm having a hard time imagining what the characters actually do in a game. Some of the posts here mention running trade routes and stuff and that sounds kind of boring. What kind of sessions/stories do you guys run?
Go see "Firefly". One populare approach to Traveller looks exactly like that.
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Postby TrippyHippy » Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:21 pm

1) There is a skill development system, whereby new skills can be learned over a time period based upon your current skill level (the more skills you have the longer it takes to learn new ones).

2) Imperial or Corporate agencies, as well as about 700+ other Patrons to be detailed in an upcoming sourcebook would probably be the way to go. But, yeah, go watch Firefly and Serenity for plot ideas.

3) I'd argue that with a clear 2D6, roll high core mechanic, and clearly defined roles to play, Traveller will probably be one of the simplest games around to play. The complex bits are more to do with Starship design really.

4) The Citizens of the Imperium website seems to have a lot of material, and I'm pretty sure that there must be a comprehensive Traveller Wiki online, somewhere.
Last edited by TrippyHippy on Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Rikki Tikki Traveller » Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:24 pm

Welcome to Traveller!

1) Traveller usually assumes that the characters are fairly experienced and while there is room for increasing skills, it takes YEARS to gain a skill. There are no levels; everything is skill based. The basic rules will have an experience point system, but it is nothing like D&D. Again, it can take years to gain a skill level.

Most player characters will only have a few skills and then only a couple of levels of that skill. Levels start at 0 and go up (usually not more than to about 5). A level 0 in a skill is competent enough to get a job doing that skill. So unlike D&D skills will be low and be worth a LOT. Characters are assumed to have the basics of living in the world down and that is not given a skill. So, everyone knows how to use the local computer WorldNet to get information, even if you don't have a skill in Computers.

2)There are lots of hooks to bring everyone together. There are military organizations and the Interstellar Scout Service for exploration and surveying. Perhaps the most common is to have the characters be the crew of a small merchant ship (ala Firefly or the movie Serenity). While Firefly is not exactly Traveller, it has much the same feel. Once you know what kind of campaign you want to run, you can do just about anything from any kind of SciFi movie you have seen.

3) It's hard for me to answer about the learning curve. EVERYTHING is based on d6, usually 2d6, so from that point of view it is pretty easy. The basic task system is Roll 8+ on 2d6 with modifiers for ability and skill level. I think it is pretty easy, but it is different than D&D.

4) Dude, there is SO MUCH on Traveller out there... There is a Traveller Wiki out there as well.

The default "home" of Mongoose Traveller is the Spinward Marches. The source book for that should be coming out about the same time they publish the rules.

Do a Google on "Traveller RPG" and see what you get. THOUSANDS of sites. It can be overwhelming, but it's worth the look. I don't do the link stuff very well, but I am sure others here will provide links to the good Spinward Marches sites.
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Re: New Traveller

Postby Golan2072 » Fri Apr 11, 2008 9:13 pm

DietCokeofEvil wrote:I have been elected to run our new RPG game, and its been decided that its going to be Traveller.
Welcome aboard! :)
DietCokeofEvil wrote:1) Is there character development in Traveller? Like, experience points and levels in D&D or skill increases in World of Darkness? It seems like your character starts already developed with little room for growth.
The typical Traveller character starts play more or less as a trained professional (rather than the inexperienced youth typical of D&D 1st level characters) and could be very good at what he does. However, there is still plenty of room to develop into - the latest Mongoose Traveller playtest document had a system alloying you to gain new skills and/or improve your current ones.

In a related note, keep in mind that Mongoose Traveller - like most versions of Traveller - uses 2D6 instead of the 1D20 of D&D; in these dice mechanics, each small bonus means much in term of chances of success - a bonus of +1 in Traveller is much more influential than a bonus of +1 in D&D. So even skills which would initially seem low to you - such as a skill of 1 - actually both matter much in terms of game mechanics AND represent enough training and knowledge to hold a job (someone with Medical 1, for example, is proficient enough to be hired as a paramedic).
DietCokeofEvil wrote:2) I've decided to run the game in the main Traveller setting. Is there some generic story hook used to tie characters together? Like in D&D everyone plays an adventurer. Is there some sort of agency that everyone belongs to or something like that? I'm having a hard time imagining what the characters actually do in a game. Some of the posts here mention running trade routes and stuff and that sounds kind of boring. What kind of sessions/stories do you guys run?
Generally speaking, there are three main common types of campaigns in Traveller:

1) Space Traders. The players own an interstellar tramp freighter and try to make a fortune by shipping passengers and cargo (and, in many cases, smuggling illegal contraband) between different star systems. The key to a successful Traveller trading campaign is to steer away as far as possible from mere "accountants in space" - you should enter the world of smuggling, shady back-room deals, surviving pirate ambushes, mysterious passengers, offers too good to be true, hijack attempts and, of course, staying ahead of the bank's repo-men. Han Solo is an example of a space trader, and so are the crew of Firefly/Serenity (a short sci-fi series; if you haven't seen it yet, rent its DVDs - it is full of Traveller inspiration). In such a campaign, the reason for the characters acting as a group is usually that they're hired as the crew of the same small starship.

2) Exploration. To boldly go where no man has gone before. This is a sci-fi staple - going into unknown (or relatively unknown) parts of space and finding out what's out there. Players could encounter enigmatic (or friendly, or hostile - whatever suits your game) natives, alien ruins, lost colonies, wild beasts, weird environments, rival explorers and so on. The original Star Trek is an example of such a sci-fi story, as are Larry Niven's Ringworld novels and Babylon 5's Crusade spin-off. In this case, the PCs are the crew of an exploration vessel; they could be independent, or they could belong to an organization such as the IISS (Imperial Interstellar scout Service).

3) Military/Mercenary. In this case the players are part of a military unit, which could be part of a government's armed forces (Army, Navy or Marines) or an independent mercenary unit. Adventures include, first and foremost, military action; there could also be some kinds of exploration, diplomacy or detective work involved in some cases. Starship Troopers is an example of this genre of sci-fi, as is Aliens. The players are part of a military unit or merc outfit; their adventures are usually their missions.

There are, of course, many more campaign types (criminal activity, detective/police work, a noble and his entourage on a yacht, diplomacy, asteroid-belt mining and so on), but the above three main themes and the variations on them are the most common ones.
DietCokeofEvil wrote:3) What kind of learning curve does Traveller have? Is it a more difficult system to learn or something easier?
The Mongoose Traveller rules themselves are quite light according to what I saw in the playtest. The only difficulties are in changing one's outlook from D&D to Traveller, especially in regard to combat (Traveller combat is LETHAL - use tactics, use cover, use you head or you'll die very quickly) and character generation (skill-based rather than class-based; you have careers but in the bottom line what they mainly influence from a game-mechanics POV is what skills you get).
DietCokeofEvil wrote:4) As far as the default setting/time period for Mongoose Traveller goes, is there some good wiki online to read about it?
Here you go. Also, there is a setting book (The Spinward Marches, which is an area in Traveller's original setting) which is going to be released by Mongoose in the next few weeks; there is a series of books (by another company, Comstar/Avenger) detailing a different era in the same setting - the 1248 era; and there are Traveller PDF CDs to be purchased online at another place, choke-full of setting information and other useful stuff (though the CD deals with another edition of Traveller, Classic Traveller, it is quite similar to Mongoose Traveller).
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Re: New Traveller

Postby pasuuli » Fri Apr 11, 2008 10:11 pm

Players might appreciate having some initial direction. You can do this by picking interesting and dramatic plots from popular TV, movies, or books and turning them into odd jobs given to players by a factor via some Agency (or Megacorporation), or a patron (who has his own internal agenda).

--- By the way, if the players have a patron, always have the patron respect the player characters; always have at least one guy who believes in them and can help or guide them when things look bad (or boring). This is one way to keep information flowing. Another way, of course, is in the things they find.

--- It's also nice sometimes to have a known enemy, who's currently too powerful to touch and can keep the plot moving. "Thees ees Crow. He likes to stand at door and say 'boo'."


I agree that trade routes, unless strictly directed by plot and a creative referee, can easily turn boring. Avoid straight "trading" adventures. That said, you could pretend it's a "merchant" campaign, but immediately have things go south on their first or second jump (corsairs attack... your jump drive breaks down... you see what appears to be a Zhodani Shivva-class cruiser, here in Imperial space... you black out, and awaken to see alien faces looking down at you... you're receiving a distress call from a ship... you're receiving a warning beacon from the mainworld... you see a Reaver ship... an internal alarm sounds -- from the cargo bay, from the shipment you took on a few days ago... your ship rocks from an explosion, and the pressure indicators begin to scream as the air starts rushing into space... )

  • "Get the plans for the Evil Battle Station past the Zhodani blockade and into the hands of the Marquis, as fast as you can."
  • "Retrieve the mysterious Eidolon artifact from the Tukera corporate headquarters and return it to the University of Regina, where it belongs."
  • "Reconnoiter the Naasirka secret labs, and destroy whatever they're doing in there after copying their data."
  • "Your current ship is to be a decoy, to draw out the Corsair Vargr band. Bring back the leader alive and we'll let you legitimately keep his ship."
  • "Our survey craft to <world name> has not reported back. Find out what happened to them."
  • "A strange derelict ship has been seen drifting in space somewhere around <system name>. Find it, attempt to board, and attempt to salvage whatever you can."
Any of these scenarios can be peppered with carnivorous alien monsters, Zhodani psionic commandos, Vargr pirates, lost colony ruins, space hulks, evil faceless corporations, genetic experimentation, looming military conflict, experimental technology, ancient artifacts (portals, black globes, antimatter batteries...), and space battles.

(Babylon 5, Farscape, Firefly, Logan's Run, Starship Troopers, Star Wars, 50s pulp sci-fi books, Stargate, Battlestar, etc, all may have ideas to steal from.)
1) Is there character development in Traveller? Like, experience points and levels in D&D or skill increases in World of Darkness? It seems like your character starts already developed with little room for growth.
No character levels. Character growth can be measured in (1) accomplishments and a growing network, (2) cool hard-won gear, (3) money, (4) skill level increases -- you can be generous in granting new skills at level 0 and increases to level 1, but you have to be careful after that... unless you want godlike characters. Award a skill point for a skill well used, or if you think they're trying to develop their character in a certain direction.

Cool, hard-won gear can be quite significant and expensive without turning characters into gods, by the way. Finding or taking a starship is very expensive, even if it's rather junky... and can be customized. Even more interesting is somehow, after extensive serious peril, the players find a secret, hidden, modest-sized base, say drilled into a planetoid and hidden safely in an asteroid belt. Rennovating it, getting life support and power back online, supplying it with food stores, importing plants for the hydroponics section, refilling the exhausted stores in the infirmary, installing the biggest possible maneuver drive just to let the thing do minor course corrections (and just how are you going to get the drive (they're expensive!), ship it to the base, and install it?), getting the sensors upgraded, even just figuring out how to run the dang thing, can be expensive, as well as a string of side adventures all by itself. But in the end it gives them a "home base" where they can store stuff (especially if they somehow end up with more than one ship) and rest easy in between adventures.

Better than skill-level increases might be gear that grants you bonuses... i.e. "magic items". If you describe gear colorfully people will fight over it even if it's not "magic".

With my group, owning a starship was always a major accomplishment. Give them a junker with payments left ("grandpa's old scow") and they can earn money and favors to slowly turn it into a tidy miniature battlewagon or something. If it has a hangar, then perhaps their factor can stumble upon a Rampart-class fighter that "needs some work" -- those can be nice little utility craft for recon, covert intrusion, or surprising corsairs.

2) I've decided to run the game in the main Traveller setting. Is there some generic story hook used to tie characters together? Like in D&D everyone plays an adventurer. Is there some sort of agency that everyone belongs to or something like that? I'm having a hard time imagining what the characters actually do in a game. Some of the posts here mention running trade routes and stuff and that sounds kind of boring. What kind of sessions/stories do you guys run?
You're already on the right tracks all around.

A character's "career" (i.e. character generation itself) often serves to tie players together. Many characters come from a military background: that's a natural tie. Many may come from a merchant background.

There certainly are "job placement agencies" for mercenaries and freelancers -- in fact, a factor or patron who hands them odd jobs is a great way the referee can set players down an adventure path, and trickle information to them.
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Re: New Traveller

Postby jonboywalton » Thu Apr 17, 2008 6:29 am

DietCokeofEvil wrote: I have been elected to run our new RPG game, and its been decided that its going to be Traveller.
Good choice!
DietCokeofEvil wrote: I did some research on Traveller and decided that it would probably be best to start with Mongoose Traveller, since its new and updated and will be supported (hopefully). I was going to go with the T5 CD first, but it doesn't look like its coming out any time soon.
Again, a wise choice, I think. From the scraps I've been able to pick up around the fora, T5 is going to be a BIG enterprise (weighing-in in the vicinity of two thousand pages). I'm going to grab a copy as soon as it's released, but the idea of actually GMing with those rules is kind of daunting. From what I've seen of MongTrav, it looks like a good, solid system that's ironed out a few of the problems with the first edition ("Classic" Traveller, or CT - hereto my preferred system), and picked up some of the neat ideas from the later editions.
DietCokeofEvil wrote: 1) Is there character development in Traveller? Like, experience points and levels in D&D or skill increases in World of Darkness? It seems like your character starts already developed with little room for growth.
I haven't played WoD, so I can't speak to that, but one of the things that poilt the D&D games I've played is that for certain players leveling-up becomes the game, rather than a measure of success. In Traveller the players each start off with a pretty well-established character, so what they bring to the show is the personality, what makes that two-term ex-marine or retired scout tick, what drives him to get up in the morning. And in the best games, how the circumstances of the game affect the character.

We root for Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star, but we empathise with Han Solo because what happens to and around him force him to reconsider who he is. You're probably not going to get that kind of challenge every session, but over time you might see some changes in how the characters behave. For me at least, that's a big chunk of the fun.
DietCokeofEvil wrote: 2) I've decided to run the game in the main Traveller setting. Is there some generic story hook used to tie characters together? Like in D&D everyone plays an adventurer. Is there some sort of agency that everyone belongs to or something like that? I'm having a hard time imagining what the characters actually do in a game.
The thing that ties characters together in Traveller is usually a ship (or sometimes a common goal or purpose, like functioning as a merc unit). One of the things that bugged me about early Traveller iterations was that there was nothing to link the characters together to start with. MongTrav seems to have addressed this in the chargen (cool!).

The whole idea of Traveller is that the kind of people who would take up the life of a "traveller" are already social misfits to one degree or another, because they're not content to stay on their homeworld in a good job and prospects for promotion with a MegaCorporation, but have to go off looking for adventure. These people make their own spatially diverse community across dozens or hundreds of starports and highports and backwater worlds.
DietCokeofEvil wrote: Some of the posts here mention running trade routes and stuff and that sounds kind of boring. What kind of sessions/stories do you guys run?
Some groups (I'm lead to believe) enjoy speculative trade for the sake of it. For any groupl usins a free- or far-trader to get around, shipping cargo is going to be a necessity, but in my experience most do it to pay the bills and pick up more adventuresome work between deliveries.

The beauty of a game as open-ended as Traveller is that it lends itself to virtually any kind of game trope - investigate a murder, save the girl, find the bomb before it goes off, start a revolution/quash a revolution, investigate ancient ruins of a long-dead civilisation, fly to another star-system to deliver drugs and prevent an epidemic from spreading. There aren't any rules on what you can or can't do. My advice would be to try a couple of small, one-or-two session adventures out first and see what your players respnd to best, then try to build something around that.

A level of camaraderie develops among a group that faces adversity together. One of my favourite adventures from CT days was Mission on Mithril, where the characters are stranded on a nowhere world where they have to circumnavigate the planet in an All-Terain Vehicle, checking out sites of potential interest in exchange for a crucial part they need to get their ship flying again.

As somebody else has mentioned, the movies and books are a good source of inspiration. I also like newspapers for the kind of off-beat, unsual, or just plain weird things people will do or try to do that nobody would believe could possibly happen if they found it in a novel.
DietCokeofEvil wrote: 3) What kind of learning curve does Traveller have? Is it a more difficult system to learn or something easier?
I always liked the mechanics of CT because it was, IMHO, a good balance between believability and playability. I think MongTrav has probably got the balance right too from the looks of things. In difficulty/complexity, I'd probably place it above Savage Worlds but around the same level as True 20. Something I've done with new systems is to set the first session aside for chargen and then run an isolated combat action - unrelated to the game - so the players can get a feel for the rules.

All a bit shambolic, but I hope at least some of it helps. The most important thing is to have fun with it. A little frustration is inevitable with any rules system (or setting... or group of players), but when it stops being fun tell someone else it's their turn to GM.

JD
Success is not final; failure is not fatal - it is the courage to continue that counts.
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Re: New Traveller

Postby gnytro » Sun Apr 20, 2008 3:52 am

Pyromancer wrote: Go see "Firefly". One populare approach to Traveller looks exactly like that.
I completely agree that Firefly/Serenity perfectly captures the spirit of a classic Traveller campaign.

And just for the record, you can watch all the episodes of the series for free on the 'net, legally.

http://www.fancast.com/tv/Firefly/11202 ... on-fancast

I'm not affiliated with that site, just use it often when I'm bored. Battlestar Galactica, Original BSG, Original Star Trek and other sci-fi classics are there too.

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