Explore Far Distant Worlds in the Traveller Core Rulebook

A band of rugged spacefarers gather from far flung backgrounds, some with careers ending in retirement and others with a lifetime’s work ending in disaster. Together they explore unknown planets and brave the vacuum and mysteries of space traveling together into a new life of adventure in Traveller. Traveller has a decades long history as an RPG. This review covers just the Traveller Core Rulebook second edition by Mongoose Publishing.

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The Traveller Core Rulebook (PDF) is a 240 page full color hardcover containing the rules to make player characters and run adventures. Sample equipment, vehicles, and spacecraft are included but not rules for designing new gear. The Third Imperium is offered as a default setting. The system is 2d6 roll over an 8 and faster than light travel is via jumps measured in hexes jumped. Humans are mostly like us (not specifically trans-humanism or cyberpunk) and a couple of alien species (Aslan and Vargr) are an option but use human character creation with a couple of tweaks. Aslan are an expansionist species of feuding clans and predatory warriors. The Vargr are uplifted wolves known as pirates and scavengers but with a deeply rooted pack mentality and a diverse culture built on companionship, charisma, and loyalty.

Combat is dangerous, with wounds reducing characteristics (ability scores) further impairing future actions. A map and minis can be used but aren’t required. Space combat involves multiple PCs with options for a pilot, captain, engineer, sensor operator, gunner, and marine. Range bands are used so a simple map and markers for ships help keep space combat straight.

Basically, a player character will be a mostly normal human or humanoid alien who goes through a series of careers based on die rolls. PCs cannot die in this version, but they may not get the career they want, the skills they desire, or even finish character creation without getting hurt or suffering other mishaps. An extremely handy flowchart details creating a traveller.

What stumbles out of the other end of character creation is a fleshed out PC with history, skills, scars, and memories and a need to move on. PCs may even meet each other during character creation and share some background. For whatever reason, be it disgrace or wanderlust or something else, the PC moves on from a set career path to wander the stars as a traveller without home or a regular job. However, when they meet up with their fellow travellers, the PCs can choose a chosen campaign which provides a list of skills to pick from to improve what they learned on their own.

Referees are provided fourteen pages of encounters and dangers as well as thirty-six pages of rules for small-scale interstellar trade including smuggling, world and universe creation, and a sample subsector. The material is designed so a referee can take a hex map, roll up a subsector of planets, plan a few encounters and NPCs, and set the PCs loose. While a plethora of campaign settings and adventures are available for Traveller, a referee can get started with just this book and add in new sourcebooks and rules as needed.

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The art in the book provides a look into the world of Traveller from full page images of starships to depictions of aliens to travellers in action. Ads for in universe corporations peddle everything from computers to weapons to subdermal armor. Weapons and gear are depicted in the art as are all the starships and the ships also get detailed internal deck plans. The sample subsector includes a hex map filled in with worlds. The attack on the Free Trader Beowulf depicted on the cover is reversed on the cover for the Traveller Starter Set which depicts the two fighters attacking the free trader.

The Traveller Core Rulebook (PDF) provides a referee with everything need to get started with a sandbox campaign of exploration, trade, and starfaring adventure. If time is at a premium the sample subsector can be used in place of something the referee comes up with herself. Each world has a suggested patron, an NPC with an agenda that the PCs can get tangled up in. Whatever world the PCs head to, the referee will have an adventure seed handy and just needed fleshed out. Exciting adventures driven by the players themselves will follow and can be built into an entire campaign. Traveller provides everything need to get started exploring space and traveling between alien worlds.
 
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Charles Dunwoody

Comments

Warren Ellis

Explorer
Has anyone played Zozer's Orbital or Hostile settings?
Both are neat. Orbital focuses more on scientific mission stuff, while also mentioning things like the superrich having a special space station made for them by some super investor while Hostile has stuff for Traveller type merchants (except here you're either working for a megacorporation or a small trading company instead of owning your own ship which probably means you're some super rich CEO and own a yacht), space marine stuff (where you play as the United States Marine Corps) and of course roughneck miner or explorer types prospecting out in some super dangerous planet out in the frontiers of known space (which is a circle around like 40 parsecs in size.

Hostle spacecraft are different from Cepheus Engine/Mongoose Traveller 1e generic spacecraft in that they use hyperdrives (which have a speed factor instead of a range factor like jump drives) that don't use fuel. Instead the main use of fuel is for propellant for the reaction engines pushing your ship through space.

Also, since Hostile's inspiration is stuff like Outlands, Bladerunner, Alien/Aliens, etc, that means Earth in the setting is far more cyberpunk and 1980's style environmental collapse. Like for example, Los Angeles is mentioned as having like super dust and smog especially during the summer. This is detailed in Zaibatsu, a sourcebook regarding adventures on HOSTILE's Earth.

And Earth in Hostile is divided into three political blocs that are essentially led by the United States, Japan, & Germany.

Please don’t offer to send unauthorized copies of IP to others. I have both.
 
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No death in character creation? Nerfed.

takes little black books back to the Spinward Marches
Instead of nerfherder choose:

Iron Man
In Classic Traveller, if you failed a survival roll, your
Traveller was killed. The Iron Man rules repeat that
challenge – instead of rolling on the Mishap table if you
fail a survival roll, your Traveller is killed and you must
start again. Under the Iron Man rules, you must balance
the advantages garnered from spending another term
in a career with the risk of dying in action. Other than
these changes, Iron Man works just like normal Traveller
creation.
 

TrippyHippy

Adventurer
Instead of nerfherder choose:

Iron Man
In Classic Traveller, if you failed a survival roll, your
Traveller was killed. The Iron Man rules repeat that
challenge – instead of rolling on the Mishap table if you
fail a survival roll, your Traveller is killed and you must
start again. Under the Iron Man rules, you must balance
the advantages garnered from spending another term
in a career with the risk of dying in action. Other than
these changes, Iron Man works just like normal Traveller
creation.
It also tends to discourage all the PCs from being middle aged when they start play....
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
It also tends to discourage all the PCs from being middle aged when they start play....
Not really. Didn't do that in CT, either. And, short term and out on failed "survival" has been the norm for every edition except CT1, CT2, GT, and HeroTraveller (GT and HT don't have prior service based generation). What it discourages is retirement...
This is because relatively flexible characters are at least 30, but aging saves start at 34... The typical 3 term character has 5±2 skills... Typically 1 per term, an extra for term 1, and a service skill, often a commission (for 1) and maybe a promotion (for 1 each) and possibly a bonus for rank.

1 is usually useful, 2 is rather competent. Only a few skills specify relative needs for licenses... it's implied crew rating 1 is licensed. It's explicit that Med 3+ is a doctor, and a doctor with dex 8+ is a surgeon.
 

TrippyHippy

Adventurer
Not really. Didn't do that in CT, either. And, short term and out on failed "survival" has been the norm for every edition except CT1, CT2, GT, and HeroTraveller (GT and HT don't have prior service based generation). What it discourages is retirement...
This is because relatively flexible characters are at least 30, but aging saves start at 34... The typical 3 term character has 5±2 skills... Typically 1 per term, an extra for term 1, and a service skill, often a commission (for 1) and maybe a promotion (for 1 each) and possibly a bonus for rank.

1 is usually useful, 2 is rather competent. Only a few skills specify relative needs for licenses... it's implied crew rating 1 is licensed. It's explicit that Med 3+ is a doctor, and a doctor with dex 8+ is a surgeon.
I have noted that characters who like to play medical Doctors tend to keep pushing their number of terms to the max...
 

pemerton

Legend
I don't know Mongoose Traveller. I know that I don't like MegaTravller - too much choice in PC gen (which undoes the point of rolling which is at the heart of Traveller) and action resolution that is simultaneously bland and fiddly - and do like the original (1977) Classic version. Our group is playing a version of Classic Traveller that has modified charts to include some of the later (Books 4 to 7) skills and has a "special duty" line (that idea is taken from MegaTraveller) to allow a chance at another skill per term. And our gear list includes stuff from Book 4, the 1981 Classic version, and some early modules.

I would rate Traveller the best of the "classic" RPGs - on balance I think it is more playable, and does a better job of delivering on what it promises, than RuneQuest.

Here is an actual play report of our most recent session.
 

TrippyHippy

Adventurer
Beyond Mindjammer, are there any other 3rd party product settings for Mongoose Traveller 2e?
It’s not 3rd party as such, because Mongoose are also publishing it, but there is an upcoming box set for the 2300AD setting coming out this year. This will be the ‘hard sci-fi’, near future setting for the Traveller rules - using real astronomical data for star maps, more realism in the physics explanations and alien concepts, Earth based national identities and politics, and the like. There is FLT space travel, but it’s more short ranged and the explanation for it is different. Beyond that, the setting's premise doesn’t deviate much away from established science.

Regarding most other third party publishers, they generally tended to shift from Mongoose Traveller 1st edition (which had an open license) to the Cepheus Engine (Traveller rules by another name), due to some licensing issue with the publication of the 2nd edition (basically, it’s effectively not an open system anymore). All the settings provided for Cepheus are about 95% compatible as they are really a clone of the 1st edition rules with tweaks and Mongoose 2nd edition is really just a mild evolution and tidy up of 1st edition rules. I’ve yet to come across a setting that really grabs me so far, to be honest though. Mongoose also used to publish Judge Dredd under the Traveller rules too, but that license has shifted to ENWorld since, and you may still find things like Babylon 5 or Hammers Slammers out there too.
 
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TrippyHippy

Adventurer
Is it difficult to come up with your own alien species, or is that going to be a lot of work?
There is animal generation rules in the core rules, for encounters and there will probably be an expansion of generation tables in upcoming supplements. In terms of generating playable races, there isn’t anything yet, although again this could change in supplements. It’s not really that much work to create your own though - just describe the traits you want your alien to have, and the characteristic adjustments, and that’s about it - it’s all the ‘official’ alien templates have.
 

lyle.spade

Explorer
I don't know Mongoose Traveller. I know that I don't like MegaTravller - too much choice in PC gen (which undoes the point of rolling which is at the heart of Traveller) and action resolution that is simultaneously bland and fiddly - and do like the original (1977) Classic version. Our group is playing a version of Classic Traveller that has modified charts to include some of the later (Books 4 to 7) skills and has a "special duty" line (that idea is taken from MegaTraveller) to allow a chance at another skill per term. And our gear list includes stuff from Book 4, the 1981 Classic version, and some early modules.

I would rate Traveller the best of the "classic" RPGs - on balance I think it is more playable, and does a better job of delivering on what it promises, than RuneQuest.
MGT2e is the best version of the rules, I believe. I first played using the Little Black Books and "The Traveller Book," and did that for a while a long time ago. I played Traveller: The New Era, which featured a radically different, new timeline and system; and while I liked the setting the system was horrid. T20? Played that a few times, too, during the d20 era and the system never felt like it fit the world and vibe of the original.

I picked up MGT2e a few years ago, not long after it came out, and ran it a few times - a few sessions, that is - and then last year ran a months-long campaign, set in the New Era, and we really enjoyed it, as a system. It's simple, it keeps the technology within consistent and believable limits, and mechanically it's far more streamlined than CT, but I don't think it loses any of the original vibe. That, and Mongoose has really supported it well with some very nice supplements...high production value.
 

chrisshorb

Everything's Fine
I love Traveller. I played Classic a couple of times as a youth back in the early 80's. Then I started a campaign of Mega Traveller, but again only got a couple of sessions off. I was playing GURPS in the 90's, and bought a ton of the GURPS Traveller stuff too.

I had sold/lost all my CT books back in the day; but recently I have re-purchased just about everything and more of what I had. I'd love to play Classic Traveller again.

I don't have any of my MegaT stuff any more; but I don't miss it.

Doubt I'll ever play Gurps again.

So I'm wondering why I would invest $X in Mongoose Traveller v2? (that said, I did buy into the Deepnight Revelation Kickstarter - with an understanding that I could run it very easily with CT).
 

Raduin711

Explorer
In terms of generating playable races, there isn’t anything yet, although again this could change in supplements. It’s not really that much work to create your own though - just describe the traits you want your alien to have, and the characteristic adjustments, and that’s about it - it’s all the ‘official’ alien templates have.
I have always been attached to the alien races in the Master of Orion games, and thought it would be cool to run a game in that universe.

Darloks (shapeshifting)
Meklar (Cyborgs)
Silicoid (Golems)
Psilon (Telepathy)
Elerians (ESP)
Alkari (Flight)
 

pemerton

Legend
MGT2e is the best version of the rules, I believe. I first played using the Little Black Books and "The Traveller Book," and did that for a while a long time ago.

<snip>

I picked up MGT2e a few years ago, not long after it came out, and ran it a few times - a few sessions, that is - and then last year ran a months-long campaign, set in the New Era, and we really enjoyed it, as a system. It's simple, it keeps the technology within consistent and believable limits, and mechanically it's far more streamlined than CT, but I don't think it loses any of the original vibe.
I'm wondering why I would invest $X in Mongoose Traveller v2?
I think ultimately I'm in a similar position to @chrisshorb - I've got a version that I like and am running and don't feel any need to change versions.

One thing I like about Classic Traveller which MegaTraveller wiped, and which it sounds like Mongoose might also get rid of, is its little conflict-resolution subsystems for various situation. Like the Vacc Suit rules (make a fairly easy check with +4 per rank to avoid trouble' if that fails, make a harder check with +1 per rank to get out of trouble); the ship's boat evasion rules, which I've generalised to other evasion situations; dealing with officials; etc.

It has a nice feel without being needlessly and narrowly baroque in the way that Gygax's AD&D is.
 

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