Traveller is a science-fiction roleplaying game of bold explorers and brave adventurers. Designed by Marc Miller, it was the first major SFRPG, remains a major title in the field, and has influenced everything from computer games to comics, film and TV series. But how’s the old ship holding together after forty-five years in spaaace?
Traveller development has forked, and there are several different editions available. We look at the most recent, the Traveller Core Rulebook Update 2022 from Mongoose Publishing, with mechanics designed by Gareth Hanrahan. Some of us like it, some of us don’t, some of us respect its legacy more than we want to play it, and all that makes for an entertaining conversation.
“If you came out of Star Wars going, ‘The Force? Pfft! I want to be Han Solo!’ then Traveller is your game.” – James
More information on this edition of Traveller at DriveThruRPG; and for comparison here’s a link to the 5th edition of Traveller from Far Future Enterprises, the one created by Marc Miller, the game’s original designer.
Footnote: at some point in the episode we say that The Expanse was based on a Traveller campaign, and that’s probably wrong. While sources indicate that the background and story of the SF series were developed as an RPG campaign, we can’t find any specific reference to the game system. Similarly, Marc Miller has said that Firefly was based on a Traveller campaign that Joss Whedon ran while at college in the 1980s, and while that’s a great story we haven’t been able to find anything to back that up either. Also you should watch The Expanse, it is basically an RPG campaign in space right down to players dropping out and their PCs mysteriously not showing up in the story any more.
James also talks about the game Elite, originally released in 1984 on the BBC Model B home computer. Genuinely amazing for the time (occluded wireframe graphics, realtime 3D starship combat, eight procedurally generated galaxies with 256 planets each – all running in 32K of memory), it remains a highwater mark in game design. It’s also upfront about its debt to Traveller. Here’s a short documentary of co-designer David Braben playing it and talking about it some years later.