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So after many discussions about setting up an RPG campaign for my son, we've finally settled on Traveller.
To kick off the blog, I just wanted to run through a few of the reasons we decided on this amongst my hundreds of RPG rule sets.
1) My familiarity: the deluxe black book set was my first ever RPG purchase, way back when I was, dear lord, a year younger than my son is now. Currently, I have the Traveller Book from the early 80's, the Megratraveller box set from the mid eighties, a fair few bits of (mostly MT) support stuff, and access to a copy of the Mongoose rules.
2) Simplicity of characters; in classic and megatraveller, all the nuances of character are implied. The dynamic of the interplay between UPP, barebones of randomly generated service history and whatever "benefits" you've managed to squeeze out of your ex-employers, explicitly states little but can imply volumes of characterisation. A young retired general with below average social standing. A ships purser who made it out of the merchant marine with a few credits and a snub pistol. A frontier scout with more aptitude in gambling than shipboard skills. All with the bare minimum of details.
Obviously, Gurps Traveller turns this concept on it's head and Mongoose Traveller includes "life events" in the career paths (and multiple careers! GET OFF MY LAWN!), but the core of generating interesting story engine characters out of simple systems is very interesting to me.
Furthermore, being somewhat geographically limited, we don't know if we'll get a regular group available, but my son wants to run a crew campaign. Traveller (classic, MT or Mongoose) with their barebones characters facilitate him running half a dozen characters at once without getting bogged down.
3) Accessibly rich setting. The original Traveller started with an implied setting, which, with early supplements and the Deluxe set, gained the default setting of the fractious borders of an interstellar empire (with hundreds of worlds!), which then expanded into what must be now, what, ten thousand statted worlds, four detailed eras of campaigning spread across a thousand or more years and a backstory reaching back into the dawn of humanity.
And still the traditional point of entry to this is a group of down at heel ex-service folks trying to stay one step ahead of the mortgage payments on their tramp freighter.
(In fact, the disconnect here is, according to some, what led to the "failure" of the rebellion setting for Megatraveller, that GDW didn't manage to make the relevance of the fracture of the Empire big enough for the "average player group". Up to a point, lord copper, but it's always easy to diagnose why something was a "bad idea" when you're at the other end of history).
What I'm trying to say is that there's a LOT of material available, both free on the internet*, cheaply in pdf reprints and still being produced. But also, any given base rule set (with the possible exception of T4) is robust enough to get years of campaigning out of. In this latter regard, the original Traveller was a trailblazer, giving a set of toolboxes (ship design, world generation, trade rules, animal encounter generation...) that just did not exist in earlier games. Monster creation, for example, had very very few guidelines in D&D for decades. The idea of adventures beyond "Dungeon, wilderness between dungeons, occasional town for re-stocking" was barely given credit at the time, and the idea of the world in which the adventures took place having at least a functioning economy? Outrageous!
Marc Miller and the rest of the Traveller crew understood this: a more functional world means more story possibilities.
But I'm getting away from the point (and these lessons have been well learnt 30 years down the line), but leads me to
4) No bad guys. Traveller is Space Opera... without the operatics. There are no cardboard villains. The Zhodani are mind-scanning autarchs... for whom dishonesty is literally unthinkable. The Empire has ruled semi-feudally for over a thousand years... but no-one's starving, and planets are pretty autonomous. The Vargr are raiding... but many of the worlds they're raiding have happy Vargr Imperial populations. The Aslan are pushing into Imperial space and... well, grabbing uninhabited land and the females running the show are trying to work out how to make the local businesses run more efficiently.
No evil overlords. No thinly veiled fear of dusky races masquerading under the name "orc" or "klingon"**.
But plenty of people trying to get what they want, sometimes by any means necessary. Neat.
5) My son wanted to play a Firefly inspired game. The reasons above outweighed a) the difficulty of me learning the Firefly RPG system and b) the problem of running a game in a universe where he already knows the big secrets baked in. And honestly, who didn't see Firefly and think "This is the closest thing we'll ever get to Traveller; the TV series"?
6) My son wants to design his own ships, G-cars, swoop bikes... knock yourself out, kid.
* And I'd be remiss not to mention the Traveller Wikia, which perfectly balances which information to give out as publicly available and is pretty much what I imagined the in game "Library Data" to consist of when I first read about it many, many years ago.
**But yeah, we will talk later about the continued "Welcome to to the Causasian Space Empire" vibe of a lot of the art...