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.

travellerCR.jpg

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

I think Mongoose 2e has been the best Traveller ever. Why review the core book now, though? Its been out for a while.
Honestly curious, would there be a reason not to review an RPG that has been out for a while?

I play all kinds of RPGs and not all of them are new and I also look at RPGs I might want to buy even if they aren't new. So reviews help me and I would think reviews I do might help others. And even if the review isn't needed to help determine whether to go with Mongoose Traveller 2E this review started a great discussion. Which also has value.
 
Beyond Mindjammer, are there any other 3rd party product settings for Mongoose Traveller 2e?
 

Eltab

Adventurer
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 astrological data for star maps, more realism in the physics explanations and alien concepts, Earth based national identities and politics, and the like.
I am interested already (and so is my wallet).
I will be even more interested if it uses astronomical data for star maps.
Wish list: the Near Star Map uses most-recent stellar location information, designates stars using names and formats from IRL, includes known exoplanets, and comes with a separate booklet full of stellar data. Bonus if there are Star System Generation Rules included.
 

TrippyHippy

Adventurer
I am interested already (and so is my wallet).
I will be even more interested if it uses astronomical data for star maps.
Wish list: the Near Star Map uses most-recent stellar location information, designates stars using names and formats from IRL, includes known exoplanets, and comes with a separate booklet full of stellar data. Bonus if there are Star System Generation Rules included.
Yep, astronomical. :) I might go back and edit that!

The main difficulty in adapting 2300AD to a new version for the current Traveller rules is that the astronomical data for the original game was in 1986, and we know a lot more than we did back then. Whether they alter/update the setting accordingly will be something of interest to see if they do or not.
 

TrippyHippy

Adventurer
Skytheen said:
For what its worth, I delved into the Element Class Cruiser box set and its amazing. I'm reading the Naval Adventures that go along with it. Its a different take on Traveller, thats for sure. Much like Star Trek.
Yep. One of the main reasons why Mongoose Traveller 2nd has improved is they are really working hard on making well produced, attractive box sets for some quite diversely different campaigns.

So Elemental Class Cruisers is what you want if you want something like Star Trek. Pirates of Drinax is sort of more like a Han Solo/Flash Gordon romp in a way. The Great Rift lets you get into deep space exploration. The next campaign releases will be Deepnight Revelation (all deep space exploration searching for a lost craft, over a whole decade, with some sort of Event Horizon twist possibly?). After that, I think they will be doing a Frontier War, and then a Solomani campaign (based on our own solar system as base). And 2300AD, if you count that too.

That’s a lot of gaming material.
 
Yep, astronomical. :) I might go back and edit that!

The main difficulty in adapting 2300AD to a new version for the current Traveller rules is that the astronomical data for the original game was in 1986, and we know a lot more than we did back then. Whether they alter/update the setting accordingly will be something of interest to see if they do or not.
In the 1st edition Mongoose Traveller 2300AD they did not.
 

Warren Ellis

Explorer
I don't think 2300AD can work with modern star charts because that would totally invalidate the Arms, or how the American Arm has that potential backdoor into Kafer space.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
To compound the confusion there is the Cepheus Engine and Cepheus Light.
Mongoose Traveller (MgT) 1 was released under the OGL.

Cepheus was a branch off the SRD from Mongoose 1, massaged to be more like Classic Traveller. Specifically by a 3rd party publisher who was peeved that Mongoose moved to the "forfeit your copyright/creator's rights to publish for profit" in the move to MGT2

Cepheus Light is a reduction of Cepheus.

Mongoose 2 made a number of changes to the MGT mechanics, sufficiently so that the skills list of a PC is often enough to tell which it was generated under.

Oh, and just for reference, Marc W. Miller considers Cepheus to fall inside the clade that is Traveller.

@pemerton - your claim that CT's separate systems by skill is better than the unified approach in MegaTraveller (MT) baffles me; I was constantly needing to reference the books when using CT, while a single half-page sheet of tasks was all I needed to run MT. What little was lost in verisimilitude was replaced by much lower handling time, more material covered, and much less lookup.
 

pemerton

Legend
@pemerton - your claim that CT's separate systems by skill is better than the unified approach in MegaTraveller (MT) baffles me; I was constantly needing to reference the books when using CT, while a single half-page sheet of tasks was all I needed to run MT. What little was lost in verisimilitude was replaced by much lower handling time, more material covered, and much less lookup.
As far as lookup goes: I have a habit of spending some of my commuting time rewritingcollating RPG rules for systems I want to play but which have editing and layout that produces clunky lookup. So for Classic Traveller I actually work from a rules document that pulls togeher all the rules under (what are for me, at least) more intuitive headings. Eg my Use of Vacc-Suits heading has the rules from the skill entry in Book 1, and the use of vacc-suits to evacuate in Book 2, plust some stuff from modules.

On the resolution aspect of things, and still sticking to Vacc-Suit skill as an example: the rules provide a well-defined conflict resolution process. First make a roll (10+) to avoid trouble, with skill adding +4 per rank (so even a little skill makes it easy to avoid most trouble); then if you get into trouble make a roll to get out of it. Simplifying the actual mechanical expression found in Book 1, this second throw is 11+ at +6 for the first skill rank with further expertise adding +2 per rank.

I've found that, in play, setting it up in this two stage process produces rather engaging play. For instance, if the first check is failed, the player has to decide whether or not to ditch their suit. Or other players can try and help out. In a uniform system it's harder to configure things in this sort of way, and to make differences in skill rank so important.

Looking at MegaTraveler Players' Manual, it has the following UTP:

To avoid a dangerous situation when attempting an unuusal manoeuvre in a vacc-suit: Routine, Vacc Suit, Dex, 1 min (fateful; hazardous)​

This makes DEX as important as skill in most cases (eg DEX 5+, which is pretty common, is as good as Vacc Suit-1), and makes the die roll more important also (Routine requires an overall result of 7+).

I don't object to DEX mattering - influenced by a module (maybe Shadows or Annic Nova), in my write-up the initial throw required is 11+ rather than 10+ with +1 for DEX 6+ or +2 for DEX B+. But this doesn't let stat overwhelm skill.

And in the MegaTraveller write-up there is not the two-roll configuration that moves it from task resolution with the GM deciding the outcome to conflict resolution. (The mishap system to my mind doesn't really substitute for it. It gives result of arbitrary damage or referee-fiat damage.)

In my current campaign we've used the Classic Traveller resolution systems for trade; interstellar travel; , surprise, morale and evasion; both melee and firefight interpersonal combat; space combat; vacc suit use; dealing with officials; meeting and dealing with patrons; general reactions in social contexts; and on-world exploration. The only one that didn't produce satisfactory conflict resolution was the last one - we had rules to determine whether, on any given day, the ATV broke down or not, but had no system for determining whether or not the PCs had actually reached their destination. I just had to make that up by referee fiat.

I haven't read MegaTraveller cover-to-cover, but every bit I have looked at, from the introduction to UTPs and resolving tasks through to the skill descriptions like Vacc Suit, seems to me to push away from what has worked for our campaign in Classic Traveller towards the unsatisfactory character of the CT rules for on-world exploration. It seems like a GURPS-ification of the system.
 

TrippyHippy

Adventurer
My sympathy with third party publishers and IP protection only goes so far when they’ve not actually paid a penny for the license to publish Traveller materials. They can publish under their own OGL-based brand as they like, but I can’t see how Mongoose or Marc Miller are obliged to provide them with one, under their own contractual arrangements.

I’m not prejudice against Cepheus products, although my current satisfaction with the Mongoose Traveller 2nd line means I’ve not really found any that really compels. I liked the Traveller: Mindjammer setting adaptation - but that was taken under license too.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
My sympathy with third party publishers and IP protection only goes so far when they’ve not actually paid a penny for the license to publish Traveller materials. They can publish under their own OGL-based brand as they like, but I can’t see how Mongoose or Marc Miller are obliged to provide them with one, under their own contractual arrangements.
What they did for MGT1 was provide a rich ecosystem of products of quality, some better than Mongoose itself, and many comparable quality. I think Spica's (Spica Publishing Limited) are pretty much top of the scale, personally. The materials by Gypsy Knight Games are well regarded, tho' I've not myself used them. Mongoose directly benefited from 3PP, in that it helped drive sales. And those sales benefitted the 3PPs.

Mongoose deciding to commercialize 3PP materials for themselves, especially at the fairly stiff rates the Community Content model does, was plenty to trigger a repetition of the D&D/Pathfinder break away with 4E's GSL.

Note that, despite the d20 STL going away, the OGL-20 STL is a result, and there are still new d20 SRD derivatives coming out.

It's worth noting as well, Wizards has gone both ways with 5E: the 5E SRD is very limited in content, but very open, while the Community Content program (with its onerous copyright forfeiture provisions, single point of sale, and high fees) for those who want to do D&D labeled stuff.

Wizards benefits from good press and a lot of clearly compatible but not labeled as such material, while directly benefiting financially from the widely variable quality CCP D&D materials.

Marc accepts that CE is close enough to be supported by his web presence; about a quarter of the COTI traffic is CE related. (MGT generally is fairly low - 5%-10% of COTI, in part because Mongoose has their own website.) And Marc directly benefits from CE being part of COTI... Traveller is Marc's hobby effort, and it's making money, as well. COTI supports more than just the board with its memberships, too - Marc hosts the Traveller Wiki and FarFuture.net on the same server. (Readily checked if one does a DNS lookup manually.)
 

TrippyHippy

Adventurer
What they did for MGT1 was provide a rich ecosystem of products of quality, some better than Mongoose itself, and many comparable quality. I think Spica's (Spica Publishing Limited) are pretty much top of the scale, personally. The materials by Gypsy Knight Games are well regarded, tho' I've not myself used them. Mongoose directly benefited from 3PP, in that it helped drive sales. And those sales benefitted the 3PPs.

Mongoose deciding to commercialize 3PP materials for themselves, especially at the fairly stiff rates the Community Content model does, was plenty to trigger a repetition of the D&D/Pathfinder break away with 4E's GSL.

Note that, despite the d20 STL going away, the OGL-20 STL is a result, and there are still new d20 SRD derivatives coming out.

It's worth noting as well, Wizards has gone both ways with 5E: the 5E SRD is very limited in content, but very open, while the Community Content program (with its onerous copyright forfeiture provisions, single point of sale, and high fees) for those who want to do D&D labeled stuff.

Wizards benefits from good press and a lot of clearly compatible but not labeled as such material, while directly benefiting financially from the widely variable quality CCP D&D materials.

Marc accepts that CE is close enough to be supported by his web presence; about a quarter of the COTI traffic is CE related. (MGT generally is fairly low - 5%-10% of COTI, in part because Mongoose has their own website.) And Marc directly benefits from CE being part of COTI... Traveller is Marc's hobby effort, and it's making money, as well. COTI supports more than just the board with its memberships, too - Marc hosts the Traveller Wiki and FarFuture.net on the same server. (Readily checked if one does a DNS lookup manually.)
Well it’s an opinion about the quality of the 3rd party stuff. Spica and Gypsy Knight produced a range of products, but for me personally, it’s not anything compelling enough to make me rush out to buy them in all honesty - in the same way I found with most 3rd party D20 stuff too. The product range for Mongoose Traveller 2nd edition, even within the remit of only producing 3rd Imperium stuff alone, is so vast that there is more than enough material to make multiple Traveller campaigns last for a lifetime. There isn’t any need, for me personally, to have third party material and that is just where I am at with it all.

Mongoose had to work with whatever negotiations they made with Marc Miller when they renegotiated their license for the 2nd edition - it was a new license as the old one expired. Again, I don’t see how Mongoose are obliged to provide third parties with anything, and whatever terms they did agree to - Marc Miller agreed to it too. I’ve always found COTI to be hostile to Mongoose and it’s fans also, as can be Cepheus fans, so I tend to discuss Mongoose Traveller elsewhere these days. Curiously, I’m still a paying member of COTI, so more fool me I suppose.
 

Warren Ellis

Explorer
Beyond Mindjammer, has anyone else done 3rd party settings that aren't connected to the 3rd Imperium, and not set in the Original Traveller Universe as well, for Mongoose Traveller 2e?
 

TrippyHippy

Adventurer
Beyond Mindjammer, has anyone else done 3rd party settings that aren't connected to the 3rd Imperium, and not set in the Original Traveller Universe as well, for Mongoose Traveller 2e?
We discussed this earlier in the thread, I think, but Mindjammer is the only one currently. 2300AD is due out later this year, and will be published by Mongoose too. There are some 3rd party ‘community’ releases on drivethrurpg, although most of these are set in the OTU too. However, I would note that the OTU is a pretty vast, and fairly generic setting. Most of the Cepheus stuff could still actually be set in the OTU.
 
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aramis erak

Adventurer
I’ve always found COTI to be hostile to Mongoose and it’s fans also, as can be Cepheus fans, so I tend to discuss Mongoose Traveller elsewhere these days. Curiously, I’m still a paying member of COTI, so more fool me I suppose.
If you want to see more MGT discussion on COTI, start the discussions. There's a region where anti-mongoose sentiment is disallowed, and has been for years...

We discussed this earlier in the thread, I think, but Mindjammer is the only one currently. 2300AD is due out later this year, and will be published by Mongoose too. There are some 3rd party ‘community’ releases on drivethrurpg, although most of these are set in the OTU too. However, I would note that the OTU is a pretty vast, and fairly generic setting. Most of the Cepheus stuff could still actually be set in the OTU.
I'm not certain of any, either, as most of the others I'm aware of have moved to CE. Rick's and My work was published only as a moot benefit, under the FFL, but it may technically fall under FFE, as COTI is Marc's property.

I'm uncertain about Andrea Valance's setting, other than it's come up in discussions of canon with Marc, and it's set on the far side of the OTU Milky Way.
 
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