Traveller has gone through many incarnations since the original version's publication in 1977.
- Each version has a vociferous, hard core of fans who are active on the internet and on mailing lists.
- This article is not intended to prove or disprove that any one version of Traveller is better than any other.
- It is simply a summary of the major changes between each edition.
- 1 Description (Specifications)
- 1.1 Traveller (1977-1986)
- 1.2 MegaTraveller (1986-1991)
- 1.3 Traveller: New Era (1992-1995)
- 1.4 Traveller 4th Edition (1996-1998)
- 1.5 GURPS Traveller (1998-2004)
- 1.6 Traveller D20 (2002-2008)
- 1.7 GURPS Interstellar Wars (2006-2015)
- 1.8 Traveller Hero (2006-2008)
- 1.9 Traveller: The New Era: 1248 (2006-2008)
- 1.10 Traveller by Mongoose Publishing (2008-Present)
- 1.11 Traveller5 (2013-Present)
- 2 History & Background (Dossier)
- 3 References & Contributors (Sources)
Game Editions & Rules Mechanisms:
The original Traveller, aka Classic Traveller, rules are the standard to which all others are compared. Character creation starts by rolling 6 primary characteristics (Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence, Education, Social Status/Standing). CT assumes you are starting as a young person (generally, about 18 standard years old) with essentially no skills. Unique to Traveller at the time was the prior history system, where characters are developed through a career (via dice rolls), gaining skills, money and equipment.
- Four of the CT books, Book 4: Mercenary, Book 5: High Guard, Book 6: Scouts and Book 7: Merchant Prince include extended character generation procedures. These procedures allow players to generate a character using yearly steps, instead of four-year blocks (as in the original, basic CT character generation process). Characters from these extended systems have a higher number of more specialized skills. This process of extended character generation was included in MT.
- Skill rolls are mostly based upon 2D6, roll high mechanic. Combat is based upon skills (e.g. Gun Combat skill determined your skill in combat with guns). Armour is considered to make targets harder to hit. The character's hit points are based upon the first three characteristics.
MegaTraveller made no fundamental changes to the character generation and core CT system, but introduced two significant additions. First was the Task System, created by DGP. This was a systematic approach to determining and noting which skills and attributes were used for a given task, and created a regularized system of determining success or failure. The mechanics of this system continued to emulate the CT roll high system but provided a method of rating the difficulty of a task, whereas in CT this was left very much up to the Referee's discretion.
- Second was the use of a variation of the Striker combat rules. With this armor absorbed damage rather than reducing the chance to hit.
Traveller: New Era (1992-1995)
With TNE the game system was switched to an enhanced version of GDW's Twilight V2.2 engine for both the character generation and the task system. The enhancements were two additional attributes (Psionics and Social Standing) and a number of additional career paths. The switch was part of GDW's policy to switch all systems (2300, T2K, Twilight, Dark Conspiracy, Cadillacs&Dinosaurs, Space:1889) to the House System.
- Character generation has the player roll the attributes, select a homeworld and some basic skills to represent his upbringing and than send the character through various careers. Each career represented a four year period and gave a number of skill levels, either a fixed set when taken the first time or a variable set based on the characters age with number of skill levels received getting lower the older the character got.
- For task resolution the system used
- 1D20 <= (Skill+Controlling Attribute) x Modifier
- The Modifiers gave an estimate how difficult a given task was and ranged from Easy (x4) to Impossible (x0.25). The system was quite fast and gave a wide range of possible results while being easily calculated. Basically an attribute and skill of 5 gave a character a 50% chance to perform a Difficult task (x1).
Traveller 4th Edition (1996-1998)
T4: Marc Miller's Traveller, published by Imperium Games, returned to the simpler, D6-only based mechanic of CT (as opposed to TNE's D6/D20 system). The inclusion of a task system within the T4 core rules imitated MT; however, the mechanic itself is a "roll under" system with both skills and characteristics used in the T4 task system when determining the target number, and the difficulty of the task determines how many dice need to be thrown (fewer for easier tasks, more for harder tasks). T4's roll under task system has both its critics and supporters; indeed, the system itself underwent a revision to remove the use of .5D within the task system.
- The T4 world creation system is virtually identical to the CT system. A new form of ship design system was introduced (the Quick Ship Design System - QSDS) which, once again, returned to the simpler style of ship construction familiar to many players and Referees from CT's Book 2. However, the QSDS did not eliminate the phenomenon of broken ship designs common in CT Book 2 designs (i.e. ships with components whose total hull displacement tons exceed the allowed hull displacement tons).
- The psionics rules are considered the "best of breed" for CT-style psionics.
- The milieu of T4 returned to the beginnings of the Third Imperium, resulting in a different "feel" to the game in play for many CT/MT players and Referees.
- Unfortunately T4 suffers from generally poor editing, with multiple spelling mistakes, missing tables (i.e. the Jump Drive table is missing from the QSDS section of the core rules book) and a faulty UWP generation algorithm, resulting in all worlds in the First Survey/Milieu 0 Campaign books having the same last two digits in their UWPs.
GURPS Traveller (1998-2004)
GURPS Traveller, published by Steve Jackson Games (SJG), uses the long established GURPS 3rd edition rules. GURPS uses a point system to buy characteristics, advantages, skills, and disadvantages. There are no random rolls for character creation. There are only four primary attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Health). Some of the game mechanics captured in attributes in previous version (e.g. Social Status) are represented in GURPS Traveller via "advantages".
- The GURPS skill and combat rolls are based upon rolling 3d6 and roll low mechanic. In combat, armour reduces the damage done by weapons, though some armour can make a target easier or harder to hit. Character hit points are based upon their Health. At the time of publication, the GURPS system included over 150 books, including GURPS Vehicles (the most complex and complete RPG vehicle design system and the basis of the Starship design system in the GURPS Traveller core book), and GURPS Space which contains an updated, and more generic, version of the Traveller world creation system.
Traveller D20 (2002-2008)
T20 uses the D20 rules estabished by Wizards of the Coast in their System Reference Document. D20 has a set of 6 primary attributes (T20 expands this to 8). Characters select a class which defines access to skills and advantages (called feats). T20 does have a prior history system based upon the CT model, but rolls give experience points to allow advancement through the class system.
- Skills and combat rolls use a D20 (twenty-sided die), roll high against a fixed target number, modified by skill ranks plus [(attribute - 10) / 2] plus other modifiers. There is a single "Combat skill" called Base Attack Bonus (BAB), which increases based upon which class(es) the character has advanced in. T20 introduces two hit point pools called "stamina" and "lifeblood". When the first is gone, the character is unconcious, and when the second is gone the character is dying or dead. Armor both makes the character harder to hit and absorbs damage.
GURPS Interstellar Wars (2006-2015)
Interstellar Wars, published by Steve Jackson Games (SJG), updates GURPS Traveller to the newer GURPS 4th edition. The GURPS 4th edition rules use the the same core mechanics as the 3rd edition rules, but makes changes to details of every part of the system.
Traveller Hero (2006-2008)
Traveller Hero, published by ComStar Games, uses the Hero System 5th Edition. Similar to GURPS, Hero is a generic point buy RPG system, where players are given a pool of points to buy statistics, advantages and skills. There is no random chance to creating Hero characters (though optional, randomly rolled lifepath systems do exist to add variety and provide additional ideas).
- Hero System characters are defined by 8 Primary Characteristics and 6 Figured Characteristics (whose values are derived from the Primary Characteristics). Skills are based on one of three primary statistics (Dexterity, Intelligence, or Presence) and may be bought up. Skill resolution uses 3d6, roll low mechanic. Combat is similar but not identical to skill resolution (3d6, roll low against 11 + Offensive Combat Value - target's Defensive Combat Value). Armor reduces the damage done by a successful attack.
- The Hero System is derived from Champions, a super-hero game system. It uses an effects-based point-buy system, where a small number of powers may be used with modifiers to build a very wide range of equipment and abilities, from sunglasses to Tigress class Dreadnoughts, as well as psionics and other alien special abilities.
Traveller: The New Era: 1248 (2006-2008)
Traveller by Mongoose Publishing (2008-Present)
- The Mongoose Traveller rules goes back to the Classic Traveller styles of character generation. Characters have six characteristics, ranked from 0 to 15, each rolled on 2d6. Characters are then run through a Career, in four year terms, acquiring skills, connections and having a few adventures. Mustering out of the career provides more skills, equipment and a sum of money to buy more stuff.
- Skill rolls are resolved by rolling 2d6 at or above a fixed target of 8. Players add their skill level, a characteristic modifier, a task difficulty modifier, plus others to their roll. Combat uses the same skill mechanic to determine hitting. Armor reduces the damage done by an attack, and the results are applied to Endurance, then to Strength and Dexterity.
A new addition to the Traveller universe, vastly expanding character creation possibilities, adding a wealth of new additional rules and enhancements and providing a basis for the future of Traveller, e.g. what happens after the TNE years! (Galaxiad). Unlike previous editions of Traveller where players had to start with a military background and draft out, T5 now allows for much greater flexibility.
Traveller is known for its many unique rules innovations over the years... Over the many editions, rules have not been consistent and a vast variety of rules mechanics have been experimented with over the years. The story has, more or less, remained the same since the establishment of the OTU, but much of the rest of it has been very mutable.