Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Waxing Nostalgic: Traveller

I admire to varying degrees some OSR forays into the sci-fi genre, namely X-Plorers, Terminal Space, and Stars Without Number.

But damn, classic Traveller rocks. As much as I loved Traveller back in the day though, it always seemed cold, both as GM and player; we never fully wanted to play in someone else’s universe (not being well read enough at the time to know much about anything other than Star Trek or Star Wars) and really just couldn't project a compelling setting of our own. Maybe the sheer vastness of the cosmos and potential imaginary playspace was just too much for our young minds to really work with.

Putting that aside, the lasting appeal of it for me comes back to just a few things: the character generation (pretty quick - speaking to the old school expendability of one’s character), the ubiquitous d6, and the very wide brush with which one could paint one’s own universe. To quote a certain “Ziven of Nine” from ‘... After all this time, I am still in love with original Traveller, dead-during-chargen warts and all. The beauty of the Traveller system was, to me, the same as Dungeons and Dragons. The system got out of the way of the setting, and the setting stepped aside if you wanted to play Star Trek, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, or a homebrew/setting adaptation with minimal fuss.’

Maybe after all these years I have a better vision of the kind of Traveller game I’d want to play - I think I’d go with a Terran based game and the recently invented jump drive, mixing something like Bakula Star Trek with Cthulu.

To be honest, I’ve never really played any other sci-fi rpg that I can remember. I think the closest I’ve come is early Gamma World and Paranoia (edit: I just remembered playing at least a few games of Star Frontiers and owning the box, as well as SPI's Universe, though I don't think I played that one even once). I picked up a copy of d6 Star Wars awhile back because I’d heard some good things. Yesterday I also picked up a box of “Space Opera” at Ancient Wonders in Tualitin - I paid $25, which I think is probably close to being about right considering the condition, or maybe I got a good deal. I’d missed seeing this on earlier visits and am really surprised to see all the FGU support material that was released back in the day, now that I’ve looked into it a bit more - I had no idea.
Lister looks on, somewhat befuddled.

As cool as Space Opera seems (‘The most complete science fiction role playing game ever produced.’ says the side of the box) in a quick perusal, I’ve already found myself once again pining for the wonderfully succinct hexadecimal Universal Personality Profile of Traveller, or the 7 character planet summary stats. Damn, there was something about being an aspiring computer nerd in 1980 that was just so right about that stuff. I see this page of Classic reprints and just drool.


richard said...

My advice is do not try to play Space Opera, but do strip it for parts. The system is the polar opposite of the elegance you like in Trav, it gets in the way, it trips you up and stops you playing exactly the kind of freewheeling devil-may-care sandals-and-rayguns game the artwork promises you.

What I didn't like about Trav: the Heinleinian "space is for the military" tone of the core rulebooks. What I would do with it now: some kinda hybrid ninja-Dune-flavoured thing that really was the history of the East India Companies transported to space. Which Dune wasn't.

richard said...

...I say this as an old and enthusiastic player of Chivalry and Sorcery. I find SO to be simply not coherent.

BTW, you do know you can get the whole FGU catalogue online straight from the source, right?

ze bulette said...

I agree with you about the military aspect of Traveller - and your Dune/East India Co. thing sounds like a great idea and makes a lot of sense.

Thanks for the heads up re: FGU store, I didn't realize they still were selling print copies of things, although I'd seen some pdfs @ rpgnow.

Unknown said...

I have a huge soft spot for Traveller. It was the second game I ever owned and I tinkered with the many subsystems constantly. Someday, I'd love to actually play the darn game.

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