The Premises of Traveller: 0. Introduction

Spirit of 1977

Cosmic Mongoose
In 1977, Book 1 of Traveller opens thusly:

"Traveller covers a unique facet of future society: the concept that expanding technology will enable man to reach the stars, and to populate the worlds which orbit them. Nonetheless, communication will be reduced to the level of the 18th Century, reduced to the speed of transportation."

Being in middle school in 1977, I did not fully understand that 2nd sentence. But that sentence is the starting premise of all of Traveller, and it ripples through the rules to this day. Given the recent discussion as to what the future of Traveller should be, I thought a review of the often unspoken premises underlying Traveller would be useful. To be clear, I personally 1) like most of Traveller's foundations, and 2) fully understand why many might not.

Traveller has not always been great at stating its underlying premises. Book 1 continues that "players are capable of playing single scenarios or entire campaigns set in virtually any science fiction theme." No offense to Marc Miller, but that last statement is just wrong. There is lots of speculative fiction that Traveller handles poorly without a lot of work. The point of this series of posts is to outline what Traveller does well, or at least what it explicitly or implicitly addresses.

To keep this organized, I'm going to break this discussion into a number of separate posts. So there is no need to respond to this post at all, unless you have some overarching comment you think belongs here.
I have yet to find any sci fi scenario type that Traveller can not handle.

I mean system wise it boils down to roll2d vs a target number with DMs likely to be in the range of -2 to +3

After that it is all about can you model the character concepts as a string of characteristics and a few skills

Technology and other trappings can be renamed and repurposed easy enough.

I'm interested to hear what you thing 1977 CT can not handle.
"I have yet to find any sci fi scenario type that Traveller can not handle."

This is true of many RPGs with enough work and effort. I homebrew and kitbash like a maniac. This is why I used the word "premise": what are the underlying assumptions or properties of the rules as written that imply or impose certain consequences?

For example, Traveller has never had phasers or tricorders. It has never had blasters or lightsabers. Sure, it has things that are kind of like some of these, and you can add these to your heart's content. But Traveller chose not to do this, and instead chose other options.

Here is Frank Chadwick in Striker (Traveller military miniatures rules):

"A science fiction game must make assumptions about the nature of future technological developments. In addition to progressive refinements of current weapons and equipment, there are several areas of postulated advanced technology deserving of comment. In Striker, the attempt is made to base technology on principles that are at least logically explainable (even if far beyond present science), avoiding the introduction of mysterious "zapotron rays"."

He goes on to discuss these assumptions, and his views can be summed up as "The Standard Model of Physics is correct." Now that's a VERY strong assumption for Speculative Fiction, and it produces the Mostly Hard Science feeling of much of Traveller. But it's a choice, perhaps one that deserves reconsideration today.
Zapatron rays in Sriker consist of
gravitic technology
damper technology
meson technology
none of these can be handwaved with the standard model

Tricorder - hand sensor that grants info the referee want the player to learn
Phaser - hand weapon that can stun, cause 4d of damage, disintegrate, be used as a grenade.
Light sabre - sword with armour mods of laser/plasma.

Not exactly difficult stuff.

I repeat my question, can you give an example of sci fi that Traveller can not handle without a great deal of effort?
"none of these can be handwaved with the standard model"

Not yet, but they are all future extrapolations of gravity, weak nuclear, and strong nuclear respectively. Was that choice necessary? Of course not, but it was a choice.

And as I said, of course you can add those things, but Traveller chose not to. And I think you underestimate the degree to which lots of RPGers do not homebrew and really do want the rules written down. All of the early RPGs eventually realized that they needed a setting because most people could not or did not want to make their own, and now it's pretty rare to publish an RPG wthout a setting.

True story: In Issue 2 of the original Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society, editor Loren Wiseman responds to this critical comment about the new Book 4 (Mercenary): "Personally, I would have liked to have seen rules for mercenaries from the navy and Scouts as well as Army and Marines. Laser pistols were missing from hardware, even though such bizarre monstrosities as plasma rifles were represented. ..."

Wiseman replies in part: "The point of this discussion is that the players and referees of Traveller have an obligation to think. Traveller deals intimately with science and technology, and demands that its players and (especially) it's (sic) referees have a general knowledge of the sciences and of science fiction. It is not necessary that you be an expert in all things, or even in anything, but it is necessary to be widely read, to know where to look to find things, and to think."

Gatekeeping? Hugely! I'd hope to never answer like that. But Wiseman agrees with you! You can design anything for Traveller if you do the work.

And then Wiseman proceeds to design a laser pistol then and there, and of course, this afterthought to him becomes the canonical Traveller laser pistol. All because he wrote it down because someone said it should be written down.

That is what I am getting at: what should Mongoose (or FFE) write down next? Because for the non-tinkerers, that's going to be Traveller.
I'm of the camp of: Traveller is 4-year terms, 2D6, skills, and DMs, and everything else is setting. You can see it in various Cepheus and unofficial rules (Traveller:1700 comes to mind as an odd one). Charted Space is an Official Traveller Universe, not the Official Traveller Universe and the only time I worry about canon is if I'm writing something for that OTU or interpreting something written for it.

If this was a forum for, um, that game with Elves, it wouldn't even be a discussion. Other than as a collector of OTU little books, homebrew all I ever did in the CT days.