Traveller:What is Traveller?

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Traveller is a science-fiction role-playing game (RPG) that premiered in 1977. In the words of the original authors:

Traveller is a game; that is, it is a system of rules which allows players to participate in a situation for recreation and enjoyment. It is a role-playing game, which means that the players vicariously act out, or discuss, their actions in response to some situation; they assume roles as adventurers or soldiers-of-fortune and then actively seek out some goal important to them, such as money, or fame, or power.

In the time between the present day and the far future setting of the game, the human race expanded to the stars, ruled an empire taken in battle, and collapsed back to the barbarism of the period known as the Long Night. The origins and many later editions of the game are set at the height of the Third Imperium, that is, the third human-dominated Empire in charted space, culminating in the nominative presence of the game set in the early 12th century after the Third Imperium's establishment 1116. This roughly correlates with the 57th century of the Terran common era.

Traveller was first published and promoted by Game Designers Workshop, founded as a joint venture between Frank Chadwick, Marc Miller, Rich Banner, Loren Wiseman, and a few other members of the Illinois State University Wargames Club (ca. 1972-73).

Characteristics of Traveller[edit]

There are Design Assumptions underlying Traveller, which was 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.

Design assumptions[edit]

Since the earliest rules for Traveller, the game has emphasized five significant points: [1]

I. Travel. Travellers travel within the limits of jumpspace, high fuel usage (...includes wilderness refueling), and gravitics. The Jump Drive (100+ tons, one week's time) is the key to interstellar communication and travel.

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—the rules present tool kits and systems for designing your universe or expanding on the existing ones.

III. Material. The universe is cosmopolitan, understandable, and consistent. There is high-tech, atavism, and anachronism (shotguns & cutlasses) that defies SF conventions. Conventions of the current world are followed and expanded as needed to reflect the future settings.

IV. Agency. Self-Reliance. The 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. Actions have consequences, and combat is deadly, so activities require forethought.

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. Patrons mediate between the setting and players' goals via Push, Pull, Enigma, and Gimmicks.


These are the stories, the Themes, from the published books during the different editions of Traveller.

Classic Traveller[edit]

Classic Traveller, generally referred to as the Golden Age. It introduced and expanded upon the Third Imperium, a vast interstellar empire. The Spinward Marches Sector is a frontier region, the border between the Imperium and the Zhodani Consulate, and the 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. Stories revolved around exploration, merchants, mercenaries, and the mystery of the ancients.

Mongoose Traveller returns to the Classic era and location, i.e., 1105 and the Spinward Marches. Although the Basic Rule Book has a little background setting, the first supplement released was The Spinward Marches by Martin Dougherty.


MegaTraveller started with the question What happens when the 1000 year empire is 1100 years old?. It begins with the assassination of the Emperor and the Imperium dissolving into factions fighting a massive civil war. The Rebellion give the players opportunities a more peaceful universe will not. The Rebellion Sourcebook is essential to understanding the backdrop of this edition.

The New Era[edit]

Traveller: The New Era starts in 1200 with an Empire in ruins. A few small empires like the Reformation Coalition and the Regency of Deneb are rebuilding the shattered worlds. But with the Virus, Vampire, and the Empress Wave, this will not be an easy job. Themes of exploration and rebuilding lives are paramount.

This later gives way to the New Era 1248, with a resurgence of the Imperium and the foundation of the Fourth Imperium. And the wars with the Black Imperium and the The Dominate. Finding resolutions to these conflicts and rebuilding the worlds are the stories here.

Milieu 0[edit]

Marc Miller's Traveller takes a step back in time to the founding of the Third Imperium in the Core Sector. The transformation of the Sylean Federation and its attempts to recover from the Long Night. The setting includes the classic 4X (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) gaming style in an RPG.

GURPS Traveller[edit]

Set in an "alternate" Traveller Universe in which Emperor Strephon was not assassinated, thus the Rebellion and subsequent Final War never happened. The version 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.

Interstellar Wars[edit]

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.

Milieu 990[edit]

Introduced in the Traveller D20 publications, the Gateway Domain, one of the backyards of the Empire. 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. 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.


The Galaxiad is the future of Traveller, set in 1900 in Charted Space and beyond. This setting is currently being developed for Traveller 5th.

Library Data Referral Tree[edit]

Please refer to the following AAB Library Data for more information:
Traveller: (Where it all started...)

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.
  1. An unpublished factoid written by Robert Eaglestone