GURPS Traveller Writing Conventions

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GURPS Traveller Writing Conventions: GURPS Traveller is a set of table-top role-playing game books by Steve Jackson Games.

  • It's designed to allow game play in Traveller's Third Imperium science-fiction setting using the GURPS rule system.
  • Traveller was originally published in 1977 by Game Designers' Workshop and was inducted into the Origins Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame in 1997.
  • Recently many people have noted the remarkable resemblance between the Traveller universe and the one shown in the TV series Firefly. Mentioning that similarity is probably the quickest way to explain to any new player what the Traveller universe is like.
  • GURPS Traveller uses a number of standardized writing conventions when creating materials for the Traveller background.

Description (Specifications)[edit]

Notes: These style notes apply specifically to GURPS Traveller. Authors must also read and follow the entire SJ Games Style Guide!

Abbreviations for other versions of Traveller:

Recommended Terminology[edit]

  • air/raft: This is Marc Miller's preferred spelling, with the slash. It should not be capitalized (unless it starts a sentence, then capitalize the "a"), but the slash is always present.
  • alien species: Names of alien species, including the Human race, are always capitalized. Humaniti, Zhodani, K'kree, Solomani, Vilani, Aslan, Vargr, Hiver/Hivers, Droyne, Chirpers, etc. Often called "races" as in "major race," "minor race," "the Bwap race," and so on. In general, names ending in "i" are both singular and plural. Names not ending in "i" form plurals in conventional fashion (Bwap/Bwaps) although there are exceptions (Geonee, for example, is both singular and plural).
  • Ancient, Ancients: This is a specific alien race, so capitalize it when referring to them.
  • Aslan: Singular is "Aslan," plural is "Aslan" or (rarely) "Aslani", not "Aslans".
  • AU: Astronomical unit, caps, not lc, and no periods.
  • black globe/white globe: Not capitalized, although GDW's practice was inconsistent.
  • Calendar: In the Imperial system, days are numbered from 001 to 365. Years are numbered from the founding of the 3rd Imperium, which was declared to be the year 0 (zero). Years prior to the founding of the Imperium are either given as negative numbers (-1532, -22, etc.) or (less commonly) labeled as "minus 36."
    • Standard form for dates is [day]-[year], so the 10th day of 1117 would be 010-1117. The first day of a year (001-1117) is also called "Holiday" (capitalized, like Christmas or Easter). The current year in the SJ Games' alternate universe is the most recent one in our Traveller News Service queue (1120 at the time of this writing).
    • The other stellar powers use different systems, but these are seldom used. Only the Solomani confederation still uses A.D./B.C. Marc wavered with adapted the A.C.E/B.C.E system, but SJ Games practice is A.D./B.C. Rarely, you will see dates in the Vilani system, such as 1235 V.I. (for Vilani Imperium).
  • contra-terrene: An obsolete SF term for antimatter, sometimes encountered in early Traveller material, and replaced by "antimatter" in GT. Antimatter is the preferred term.
  • credits: Abbreviate as "Cr" and leave no space before the number: Cr35, Cr1,250, etc. Millions of credits are called megacredits, and abbreviated "MCr" MCr1.2, etc. We seldom have to deal with larger numbers, but GCr (giga, for billion credits) and TCr (tera, for trillion credits), are established. Other, larger numbers have been used, but are rare. In GT, we mention that an alternative symbol used in the areas around Sol is $, but no author has put this into a manuscript, and our fans would prefer we avoid it.
    • Some authors use the term CrImp (or Crimp) to distinguish Imperial Credits from other varieties. Preferred practice is: "Cr100 (Imperial)" or "Imperial Cr100."
  • Droyne: Singular and plural forms are the same.
  • g-carrier: This is an uncommon form, but perfectly OK, referring to a contragravity vehicle larger than an air/raft, but of no specified size.
  • Hiver/Hivers: Singular Hiver, plural Hivers, governmental unit the Hive Federation (NOT the "Hiver" Federation) or simply the Federation.
  • Humaniti: When referring to mankind. This is done to match Zhodani, Solomani, Vilani, and so on. Likewise, always capitalize the word Human in Traveller.
  • Imperium: Always capitalized. There have been three of them, refereed to as the First Imperium (a.k.a. Vilani Imperium or Ziru Sirka), the Second Imperium (a.k.a. Rule of Man or "Ramshackle Empire" this last a term of derision), and the Third Imperium. Authors occasionally abbreviate them as 3I or "3rd Imperium," 1st Imperium, etc., but SJ Games practice is to write them out.
  • Jump drive: Preferred reference is jump drive (no caps unless part of a head, start of a sentence, etc., no hyphen), but J-drive is also acceptable. The units of a jump are referred to as jump-1, jump-3, and so on (hyphen but no caps), or abbreviated as J-1, J-3, etc. (with hyphen and caps).
  • K'kree: K'k, not K'K. Singular and plural forms are the same.
  • major race/minor race: No caps (GDW practice was inconsistent).
  • nonjump: No hyphen.
  • Ranks: See Titles.
  • Sector/Subsector/World Designations: Each sector and subsector is given a unique name. Worlds are named (although some of the names are numbers, such as "457-973") and assigned a position within a sector indicated by a 4-digit number. Formal designations are "the [Name] sector." The words "domain," "sector," "subsector," etc. are not capitalized as part of these formal names. "Sector," "subsector," and the like may be omitted in informal usage, for instance, "the Spinward Marches." The article "the" should precede the name whenever "sector," "subsector," etc. is included, but in informal usage may at times be dropped. For instance, it's "in the Trin's Veil subsector" but could be "in Trin's Veil," but "in the Spinward Marches sector" would still be "in the Spinward Marches." This applies only to casual references; formal reports and similar material will always refer to the full name, as in "the Spinward Marches sector." A warning: some names incorporate articles; for example, one of the subsectors of Dagudashaag sector is named "The Remnants."
    • Subsector designations are similar, but when it is necessary to give both sector and subsector designations, they can be given either as [Subsector]/[Sector] or (more formally) as "the [Subsector Name] subsector of the [Sector Name] sector." The words "Sector" and "Subsector" can be omitted if context keeps things clear:
    • "the Arnakhish subsector of Dagudashaag"
    • "Arnakhish/Dagudashaag," "Jewell/Spinward Marches"
    • "Arnakhish in Dagudashaag"
    • World designations are subject to the most variation. Star systems are identified by the most important world, not by the star, which means for example, that our own system is "Terra" rather than "Sol."
    • Where the subsector and sector names are clear from context, simply naming the world will do. Where the sector is known, the preferred method is [World]/[Subsector]. Thus: Narval/Cronor, Nirton/District 268, Aramis/Aramis (all of these are in the Spinward Marches - the latter one of many examples of the world and subsector having the same name). An alternate method of naming a world is to give the position number within the sector (each hex on a sector grid is numbered) in the format [World] ([Sector] ####). The sector name can be omitted if it is clear from context - e.g. Jewell (Spinward Marches 1106) or Jewell 1106.
    • For a formal reference, all will be used: Aramis/Aramis (Spinward Marches 3110)
  • ships: When referring to a ship class, such as the Beowulf-class, the word "class" is never capitalized unless it is in a head or the line is all caps. Hyphenate the ship name and the word "class." Ship names are italicized, whether or not they are labeled "-class."
  • viz: Marava, Sulieman-class

viz: The INS Lioness II, a Tigress-class battleship, is now under construction in the Spinward Marches.

Names of ship types are not capitalized; it is cruiser, not Cruiser. Imperial Navy ship names are prefixed with INS in formal usage.

  • Starship: "Starship" refers to a ship capable of jump travel.
  • Spaceship: "Spaceship" refers to ships capable of interplanetary travel, but not necessarily capable of jump. GT requires a vessel to be at least 100 dtons in order to have a jump drive at all, so starships are 100+ dtons by definition, and anything less is de facto a spaceship.
    • Ship size is measured in dtons (standard displacement tons), all lower case. Informal discussion can omit the "d." In heads, where referring to a ship's size, the practice is to omit the "d" and call them 100-ton, 400-ton, etc.
  • Solomani: Singular and plural forms are the same.
  • TAS: See Travellers' Aid Society.
  • tech levels: In GURPS style, there is no space between the letters TL and the number. It's TL10, not TL 10.
  • Titles: Lower case unless referring to a specific individual "a duke" "the Duke," the Duchess of Mora," etc. "Emperor" is always capitalized.
    • Job titles are capitalized only for high positions: Minister of Justice, and the like. Military ranks of colonel and below are capitalized only when referring to a specific individual by name (Colonel Blimp, Captain Spaulding, Admiral Halsey). Ranks above colonel are capitalized when discussing a specific officer ("General Mills arrived today. The General had nothing to say about cereal . . ." ), but are otherwise lower case ("A division is normally a command for a major general").
  • TNS: See Traveller News Service.
  • Traveller: With two ells, in the British fashion, when referring to the game. In all other cases, use the American spelling, for example: "I like to play Traveller while traveling." Please note that this is different from GDW and DGP practice, which was to use the British spelling in all cases.
  • Traveller News Service: Ostensibly a perk of membership in the Travellers' Aid Society (q.v.), often abbreviated TNS.
  • Travellers' Aid Society: The word "Traveller" in the title is spelled with two ells, and is plural possessive (apostrophe follows the ess). It is capitalized, as it is a formal name, and sometimes abbreviated TAS.
  • Vargr: Singular and plural forms are the same.
  • Vilani: Singular and plural forms are the same.
  • Xboat: Abbreviation for "Express Boat." Capital X, no dash . . . not xboat or X-boat.
  • Zhodani: Singular and plural forms are the same. Zho(s) is an informal alternative. "Joe(s)" is a slight vulgarism, and would be found in slightly vulgar dialogue.

History & Background (Dossier)[edit]

Writing Treatise: A Short Treatise on GURPS Traveller Writing Style By: Sean Punch, Gene Seabolt, and Loren Wiseman.

GURPS is a roleplaying game, and one that focuses on what RPGs handle best: character interaction and first-person action. Classic Traveller (CT) was also a roleplaying game, but one that included many wargame elements. In fact, CT was in places a strategic, "economics-and-empires" game that downplayed the importance of character actions and put maps, starship logistics, and the like ahead of roleplaying and character development. The main purpose of this letter is to ask you to bear these differences in mind.

When writing for GURPS Traveller, we want you to focus more on individual characters, their lives and their actions than CT did. When "wargame"-style rules are inevitable, we want you to keep things on the tactical level so that individual characters can make a meaningful difference in the outcomes of plots and campaigns that are built upon your work. In short, "GURPS Traveller" is part of the GURPS system, so we expect your supplement to be as much "GURPS" as "Traveller." You do have a duty to uphold Traveller canon and to preserve the Third Imperium in its original form, but you also have an obligation to build on the long tradition of hands-on, dynamic roleplaying that GURPS is all about.

The biggest tip we can give you is, "Keep the interests of the player foremost in your mind, and keep an open mind." GURPS is a universal system, and some players will be using your supplement with cyborgs, mages and mystic kung fu masters from other universes! You do not have to pander to them, but you should not shut them out. In case you feel constrained by this, keep the following in mind: The traditional GURPS style isolates the background from the rules and offer lots of optional rules and suggestions to the GM. This is an extremely open style that leaves you plenty of room to be inventive and creative! Use it wisely and you will find that it opens many doors when exploring the original CT material.

References & Contributors (Sources)[edit]

This list of sources was used by the Traveller Wiki Editorial Team and individual contributors to compose this article. Copyrighted material is used under license from Far Future Enterprises or by permission of the author. The page history lists all of the contributions.