What is Traveller?

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Traveller is a science fiction roleplaying game (RPG) that premiered in 1977.

  • It started its life as the shared science fiction universe of several college students in Illinois who later decided to publish a RPG.
  • It grew into so much more: RPG books, board games, novels, computer games, a universal sci-fi gaming system, world-building tools, etc.
  • In the end of ends, it's just a great, damn story!

Please see the following Traveler RPG Wiki articles for more information:


Description (Specifications)[edit]

Traveller is many things to many people, but here are some of the more commonplace characteristics of the setting:

Traveller Characteristics
Characteristic Remarks
The Five Points of Traveller There are design assumptions underlying Traveller which were used to create a corpus of rules. Traveller is all about this base set of assumptions... Violate these, and you lose the "Traveller"... Keep these, and setting probably doesn't matter.

Since the earliest rules for Traveller, the game has emphasized five major points:

  • I. Travel. Travellers travel within the limits of jumpspace, high fuel usage (includes wilderness refueling), and gravitics.
  • II. Open Limits. Rules and options set open limits, allowing many possible worlds, characters, aliens, ships, beasts, tech. It is a DIVERSE space, including anachronism and atavism.
  • III. Material. Tangible or connexional gains. No Experience Points or Leveling Up. Newtonian physics tends to be followed.
  • IV. Agency. Self-Reliance. Remoteness of authority, speed of jump, starports as "deep water" ports, explicit feudalism (and even piracy) supports, empowers and requires the players to make their own decisions and act.
  • V. Sociology. Interstellar society is socially stratified (high, mid, and low passage; SOC), but people are still human. The typical game shows how being a traveller crosses classes and breaks stratification. [1]
Foundational Assumptions The Jump Drive (100+ tons, one week's time) is the key to interstellar communication and travel.
  • No two bases are alike. Starports, Naval bases, and Scout bases are like Deep Water Ports.
  • Wilderness refueling is worth the risk.
  • The universe is cosmopolitan, understandable, and consistent.
  • No two worlds are alike. There is high-tech, atavism, and anachronism (shotguns and cutlasses) that defies SF conventions.
  • Mercenaries and Tickets.
  • Social Stratification (High Passage, Mid Passage, Low Berths) -- but player characters break stratification almost by definition.
  • Patrons mediate between the setting and players' goals via Push, Pull, Enigma, and Gimmicks. [2]
Foundational Mechanics Chargen and Toolsets as modular mini-games.
  • Six Characteristics per person.
  • Physical characteristics take the damage from combat.
  • Combat is deadly.
  • Material rewards. No "experience points" or leveling up.
  • The careers and design systems define limits on reality. 2D hex maps, empty hexes. [3]

Plots & Assorted Storylines[edit]

While almost all of the Traveller editions have been intended to be used in a universal fashion, each of the editions tended to focus on just a single milieu and a few related storylines:

Traveller Game Plots & Assorted Storylines (1977-2017)
Game Version Primary Setting/s Plots & Assorted Storylines Players Remarks
Traveller (Classic Traveller) Primary Setting/s: Storylines: Players: Background (Campaign) Books:
The Spinward Marches Sector is a frontier region bordering the Zhodani Consulate, and site of the Frontier Wars. It also borders the Vargr Extents as well as some independent factions such as Darrian Confederation, Sword Worlds and unexplored space. This setting allowed for many different types of adventures.
The Solomani Rim Sector was a more developed region of space where the world of Terra is placed.
MegaTraveller Primary Setting/s: Existential Threats: Players: Late in its existence MT introduced the Diaspora Sector, a part of Imperial Space that lies between all of the major combatants of the MT civil war. Diaspora was introduced in the Hard Times sourcebook that described the general state of the Empire and gave rules to simulate the 11 years of war between 1117 and the then current setting of 1128. It also described Promise and the surrounding worlds in detail.
Traveller: The New Era Primary Setting/s: Existential Threats: Players: TNE starts in 1200 with an Empire in ruins. Set close to the Hard Time setting (Promise actually features heavily in the Storyline) the region was a badly damaged war-zone even before the Final War. The space close to the basic setting (Reformation Coalition) is well detailed and good maps exist.
T4: Marc Miller's Traveller Primary Setting/s: Existential Threats: Players: Traveller 4th edition (also refered to as T4) establishes Milieu 0 where the Core Sector is used as its setting. Set around the time of the founding of the Third Imperium (0 to 200), the setting focused on the Sylean Federation and its attempts to conquer or absorb the worlds around it. Given the depths of the Long Night, the setting included the classic 4X (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) gaming style in an RPG.
New Era 1248 Primary Setting/s:
  • TBD
Storylines:
  • TBD
Players: TBD
GURPS Traveller Primary Setting/s: Storylines: Players: Set in an "alternate" Traveller Universe in which Emperor Strephon was not assassinated, thus the Rebellion and subsequent Final War never happened, G:T added a lot of material to the classic sectors of the Traveller Universe while advancing the timeline about 15-20 years from the Classic Traveller set.

Three of the most relevant GURPS Traveller books are:

Spinward Marches where the {Imperium}, Zhodani, Vargr and more alien races interact.
Solomani Rim and its war-torn past.
Sword Worlds Confederation and its history.
GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars Primary Setting/s: Storyline: Players: GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars covers the 200 years of war, peace, and overwhelming change as the ancient Vilani Imperium falls to the upstart Terrans. In this time of conflict, the opportunities for adventure are more exciting than ever before! Forge new trade routes within the {Imperium} itself. Defend the homeworld from invaders during the Siege of Terra. Make first contact with alien races. Help guide the Terran Confederation in its expansion from a single planet to a sector-spanning empire.
Traveller D20 Primary Setting/s: Storylines: Players: T20 introduced the Gateway Domain, one of the backyards of the Empire. A mix between {Imperial} worlds and various client states this is closer in basic feeling to the Spinward Marches while lacking the "big guys and old grudges" that are a common theme there.

Set in the 900s (about 150 years before Classic Traveller) it has a lower technology level. Add in that the Solomani Rim War is close enough by to draw away troops and attract Raiders and the result is a rather gritty and dirty universe along the lines of Babylon 5 rather than the relatively clean Spinward Marches.

Traveller Hero Primary Setting/s: Storyline:
  • High Adventure
Players: Traveller Hero does not have a milieu of its own but instead covers several previous milieus including Milieu 0, milieu 1000, milieu 1116, the Rebellion and The New Era.
Mongoose Traveller Primary Setting/s: Storyline:
  • High Adventure
Players: Mongoose Traveller returns to the "Classic" era and location, i.e., 1105 and the Spinward Marches. Although the Basic Rule Book has little setting background, the first supplement released was The Spinward Marches by Martin Dougherty.

Mongoose has also announced that the Foreven Sector will be the third party development area. Because of the Traveller license, third party publishers who wish to write Traveller materials will need to either publish through the Mongoose imprints or write their material to fit in the Foreven Sector.

Traveller5 Primary Setting/s: Triple Catastrophe: Players: The Galaxiad is the future of Traveller, set in 1900 in Charted Space and beyond. This setting is currently being developed for T5.

Themes[edit]

Please see the article on Themes.

History & Background (Dossier)[edit]

With decades of history, dozens upon dozens of authors, and many editions, Traveller has quite a colorful history: It probably mirrors the history of the Emperors of the Third Imperium more than any of us would like to admit.

Traveller FAQ[edit]

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) article here: What is Traveller?/FAQ.

Publications History[edit]

Please see the Traveller RPG Wiki Publications article. 1977 to present.


Please see the following Traveler RPG Wiki articles for more information:


References & Contributors (Sources)[edit]

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  1. An unpublished factoid written by Robert Eaglestone
  2. An unpublished factoid written by Robert Eaglestone
  3. An unpublished factoid written by Robert Eaglestone