Payn's Ponderings Traveller Editions

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
Greetings,

So, if you don’t know by now, I’m a big fan of the TTRPG Traveller. About 12 years ago I was looking for D&D/PF alternatives. Traveller appealed to me since it had a long history (nearly as long as D&D) and was still alive and kicking. I thought that must mean something if the game had such long legs. I hit up my local gaming store and they had a pile of the original “little black books”. I snatched them up and immediately started planning a new campaign. This would be the “classic” Traveller edition the OG of the family. My gaming group enjoyed it, but we only played for about 6 months before returning to Pathfinder.

With my interest in Traveller stoked, I decided to check out Mongoose 1E Traveller. A pretty close brother to classic Traveller with a few modern updates. I would say the differences are not significant and on par with the edition changes of Call of Cthulhu. Other folks might have differing opinions which I cant wait to hear. I managed to get a gaming group together for some MGT1E. This game lasted about the same 6 month period.

I jumped immediately into Mongoose Traveller second edition. This one had some more significant changes, but all of them seemed to be conducive to a smooth running Sci-Fi game. I have been running some co-workers through a sandbox campaign for over a year now. They are loving the chance to try a classically inspired TTRPG and get away from the fantasy genre for once. Many of them are first timers outside of D&D/PF.

That’s my Traveller journey to date. I love the hard sci-fi element of the system. I prefer a lower fantasy feel to all my games, and Traveller hits the sweet spot. Combat is fast and fun with just enough rules to be interesting without being overwhelming. The working as team spaceship combat is fun and a good twist on traditional TTRPG combat. The lack of leveling and focus on skills helps keep the players interested in the character’s interests instead of their abilities. The slow pace of interstellar travel gives the game an age of sail feel, which leads to long planning on the characters part. As a referee I really enjoy seeing the players put their minds to use on skills and exploration.

I intend this thread to be the first in a series looking into Traveller the TTRPG. I am a big believer in journeys are often more important than destinations. I really want to hear folks experience with Traveller. Particularly for this discussion around the editions in a broad and general sense. I will dive further into the parts of Traveller in additional series, but feel free to discuss what you love about Traveller!

The editions rundown:
Classic Traveller 1977-1986 Games Designer Workshop (GDW)

Mega Traveller 1986-1991 (GDW)

Traveller: The New Era (wow never heard of this anybody use it???) 1992-1995 (GDW)

Marc Miller’s Traveller Imperium Games 1996-1998 (Love to hear about this era!)

GURPS Traveller 1998-2004 Steve Jackson Games

Traveller20 Quicklink Interactive D20 version 2002-2008

Traveller Hero 2006-2008 Comstar Games

Mongoose Traveller 2008-2016 Mongoose Publishing

Traveller 5 Far Future Enterprises 2013-

Mongoose Traveller 2E 2016- Mongoose
 

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billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
I've picked up more Traveller editions than I've actually played (particularly in the post-TNE/d20/GURPS era).

MegaTraveller made for a nice package with some good supplements, making it one of my favorite editions for character creation/development. But combat could be a bit fussy with high/low penetration of weapons and big tables of starship weapon modifiers. Third party support from Digest Group Publications was one of the real highlights of the MegaTraveller era - their material was fantastic. I loved their Traveller's Digest, alien modules, MegaTraveller Journal, and other supplements. The art was always evocative as well. Losing them as a third party producer was a huge loss for DGW and their New Era edition (history may not have repeated itself exactly, but it did rhyme a decade and a half later).
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
I've picked up more Traveller editions than I've actually played (particularly in the post-TNE/d20/GURPS era).

MegaTraveller made for a nice package with some good supplements, making it one of my favorite editions for character creation/development. But combat could be a bit fussy with high/low penetration of weapons and big tables of starship weapon modifiers. Third party support from Digest Group Publications was one of the real highlights of the MegaTraveller era - their material was fantastic. I loved their Traveller's Digest, alien modules, MegaTraveller Journal, and other supplements. The art was always evocative as well. Losing them as a third party producer was a huge loss for DGW and their New Era edition (history may not have repeated itself exactly, but it did rhyme a decade and a half later).
I have no experience with Mega Traveller so forgive me for my assumptions. Was Mega T akin to advanced D&D? Did MEga simply expand on combat options and make the game more crunchy? Also, were it sounds like additional setting material was released. Do you know if stuff from the Mega era has been carried forward in other editions?
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
I have no experience with Mega Traveller so forgive me for my assumptions. Was Mega T akin to advanced D&D? Did MEga simply expand on combat options and make the game more crunchy? Also, were it sounds like additional setting material was released. Do you know if stuff from the Mega era has been carried forward in other editions?
One big change from original Traveller was a regularized task system with targets based on difficulty and descriptors for tasks (hazardous, fateful) as well as means of making tasks easier/harder under the player's control (careful vs hasty attempts). It kept you from having to read through all of the skill descriptions to see target numbers like you did with the original black books.
Combat options - I don't know if it added much in the way of options as much as in adjudicating how things worked without directly damaging a character's stats (there was a different stat derived from stats that was the primary combat target). Starship combat (and design) did get a lot more detailed.
As far as lore and setting went, certainly the setting changes (civil war) had a big effect on TNE's starting point. But a lot of material reverted to times before the Third Imperium blew apart, which I understand. But their other supplements definitely added to the feel of Traveller's universe - they had excellent coverage of Vargr, Aslan, K'Kree (Lords of Thunder being a fantastic adventure), and how GMs can design and deal with custom systems/planets and run starship operations (Starship Operator's Manual for the win). Very evocative stuff. And my favorite book of the core 3 in the boxed set (Players Manual, Referee's Manual, Imperial Encyclopedia) was the Imperial Encyclopedia book.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I think there are a number of virtues of the Traveller approach (the most recent version I've looked into on it is one of the Cepheus Engine derived ones). I don't really think the lack of advancement-in-play was a virtue (I don't think it actually represents reality very well for one thing, though obviously you'd need to something to have conservative accumulation given the scale of Traveller style skills) and while I get the purpose death-in-character-gen served, I think it was perverse. I also stopped being a fan of random character gen decades ago.

Barring those (and the observer will note they're all character gen and advancement complaints) I think its a solid basic system that still can work well with some adjustments.
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
I think there are a number of virtues of the Traveller approach (the most recent version I've looked into on it is one of the Cepheus Engine derived ones). I don't really think the lack of advancement-in-play was a virtue (I don't think it actually represents reality very well for one thing, though obviously you'd need to something to have conservative accumulation given the scale of Traveller style skills) and while I get the purpose death-in-character-gen served, I think it was perverse. I also stopped being a fan of random character gen decades ago.

Barring those (and the observer will note they're all character gen and advancement complaints) I think its a solid basic system that still can work well with some adjustments.
To be fair, you can advance in skills, equipment, and influence in Traveller. Its just a much flatter gain in character ability. Out of curiosity, which systems do represent reality in this respect?
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
To be fair, you can advance in skills, equipment, and influence in Traveller. Its just a much flatter gain in character ability. Out of curiosity, which systems do represent reality in this respect?

Original Traveller had advancement only through training. The issue is that's not the only way people do so; people absolutely learn-by-doing with all kinds of skills (and under some circumstances, that's often more effective than learning-by-training, though the latter is often a better way to get people to basic competence quickly and while avoiding some problems). Influence and gear is nice, but by its nature its ephemeral.

While not everyone's cuppa, the systems that seem closest to reality are things that base advancement on a mix of usage and training; well known examples are the traditional BRP systems or things like the system used in Aftermath! and Daredevils from FGU. They aren't perfect in handling (largely because there's an asymmetry in most games between how often a skill is used (that is actually required in play) and how often its rolled. So to get it close to right you have to address that, but its doable.
 

harunmushod

Explorer
To be fair, you can advance in skills, equipment, and influence in Traveller. Its just a much flatter gain in character ability. Out of curiosity, which systems do represent reality in this respect?
You can also develop skills and characteristics with improved gear, particularly augments and AI. Admittedly it risks turning Traveller characters into an SF equivalent of a cosmetic surgery junkie, but if these things were available for real, we would have celebrity cyborgs for sure (Arnie would surely be doing Terminator X by now without make-up and would get an Oscar thanks to his acting AI augment).
 

aramis erak

Legend
Greetings,

So, if you don’t know by now, I’m a big fan of the TTRPG Traveller. About 12 years ago I was looking for D&D/PF alternatives. Traveller appealed to me since it had a long history (nearly as long as D&D) and was still alive and kicking. I thought that must mean something if the game had such long legs. I hit up my local gaming store and they had a pile of the original “little black books”. I snatched them up and immediately started planning a new campaign. This would be the “classic” Traveller edition the OG of the family. My gaming group enjoyed it, but we only played for about 6 months before returning to Pathfinder.

With my interest in Traveller stoked, I decided to check out Mongoose 1E Traveller. A pretty close brother to classic Traveller with a few modern updates. I would say the differences are not significant and on par with the edition changes of Call of Cthulhu. Other folks might have differing opinions which I cant wait to hear. I managed to get a gaming group together for some MGT1E. This game lasted about the same 6 month period.

I jumped immediately into Mongoose Traveller second edition. This one had some more significant changes, but all of them seemed to be conducive to a smooth running Sci-Fi game. I have been running some co-workers through a sandbox campaign for over a year now. They are loving the chance to try a classically inspired TTRPG and get away from the fantasy genre for once. Many of them are first timers outside of D&D/PF.

That’s my Traveller journey to date. I love the hard sci-fi element of the system. I prefer a lower fantasy feel to all my games, and Traveller hits the sweet spot. Combat is fast and fun with just enough rules to be interesting without being overwhelming. The working as team spaceship combat is fun and a good twist on traditional TTRPG combat. The lack of leveling and focus on skills helps keep the players interested in the character’s interests instead of their abilities. The slow pace of interstellar travel gives the game an age of sail feel, which leads to long planning on the characters part. As a referee I really enjoy seeing the players put their minds to use on skills and exploration.

I intend this thread to be the first in a series looking into Traveller the TTRPG. I am a big believer in journeys are often more important than destinations. I really want to hear folks experience with Traveller. Particularly for this discussion around the editions in a broad and general sense. I will dive further into the parts of Traveller in additional series, but feel free to discuss what you love about Traveller!

The editions rundown:
Classic Traveller 1977-1986 Games Designer Workshop (GDW)

Mega Traveller 1986-1991 (GDW)

Traveller: The New Era (wow never heard of this anybody use it???) 1992-1995 (GDW)

Marc Miller’s Traveller Imperium Games 1996-1998 (Love to hear about this era!)

GURPS Traveller 1998-2004 Steve Jackson Games

Traveller20 Quicklink Interactive D20 version 2002-2008

Traveller Hero 2006-2008 Comstar Games

Mongoose Traveller 2008-2016 Mongoose Publishing

Traveller 5 Far Future Enterprises 2013-

Mongoose Traveller 2E 2016- Mongoose
Classic actually has several sub-editions with moderate and minor differences, plus CT was still available until at least 1988 from GDW, with the last CT book being published after the MegaTraveller (MT) base box, and it was in distribution to about 1990.
The 1977 printing has a number of major differences (ship encounters, ship construction, weapon damages, damage and healing) from the...
1981 printing. All of the 3 little black book printings from 1981 to 2008 (it went back into print in a limited way in 1999) are this, essentially, 1.5 edition. It's often called CT 2E.
the 1983 release of The Traveller Book is essentially CT2.1 or Traveller 1.6 - it's got some minor changes to damage/healing, and a few minor wording changes elsewhere. It's the first Traveller Corebook to include the OTU setting. (The Regina subsector of the Spinward Marches, and two adventures).
1984 saw the release of Starter Traveller. It's essentially CT 2.2 or Traveller 1.7... it includes a handful of minor changes... all missable unless comparing side by side... and a new ship combat variant. It includes 2 adventures, one of which is also in TTB.
Note also: the Games Workshop version is CT1E... To my knowledge, they never upgraded to CT 2E.

Also note: CT Bk 5 (an expansion) has 2 editions... 1979 and 1980. They're not compatible with each other, but have a lot of commonalities.

1999 saw the "Big Floppy Books" - which used the 1981 LBBs (and Bk 5 1980).
In the late 1990's or early 00's, Quicklink was permitted to reprint the 1981 3 LBB set as a single volume. I've never looked at one. It was included with the QLI VTT, GRIP: Traveller Edition.

This year, Marc has released via a bundle another consolidation... it's the 1981 3 LBB's, with margin notes for errata, and the errata in the back, as a single white cover volume. (It's PDF only in the bundle; Marc sent me a copy on dead tree. Watch DriveThruRPG for it, and get the POD if you like dead tree. It's great to have it with errata to hand.)

Marc is considering another reprint relayout with all the errata applied, and possibly including ST's ship combat.

Mongoose (MGT) 1E was derived from the GW version, not Marc's preferred CT2E...
 

aramis erak

Legend
I have no experience with Mega Traveller so forgive me for my assumptions. Was Mega T akin to advanced D&D? Did MEga simply expand on combat options and make the game more crunchy? Also, were it sounds like additional setting material was released.
Not quite.
Classic Traveller had a bunch of essentially modular substitutions...
For personal combat... ,
... CT Book 1 has the corebook combat system, and it's table heavy. CT Book 4: Mercenary adds a bunch more weapons, but doesn't change the system.
... Snapshot was a boardgame adaptation of Book 1. and includes the Book 4 weapons.
... Azhanti High Lightning (AHL) was a different combat system based upon Armor Penetration capability vs Armor Value.
... Striker was a minis wargame based upon the AHL .
... Book 4 also has an abstract combat system for resolving mercenary actions without actually playing out the combats.

For Craft Design...
... Book 2 (in the core) has a table-heavy ship design system which has a very age of sail feel ... no armor, only 3 types of weapon (Missiles, Lasers, and the defensive Sandcaster). The difference between pulse and beam lasers, except for cost, isn't included... (Pulse fire rolls for hits twice, but at -2, per Starter Traveller) It caps at "5000 Tons"... the tech level effects are actually in Bk 3... It also doesn't design small craft
... Book 5 (1979) includes a design and combat system for much bigger ships (up to 1 million {1e6} Tons.)
... Book 5 (1980) includes a very similar design system, but different combat system, and includes small craft design
... Striker has ground, air, and gravitic vehicle design systems

For ship combat...
... Book 2 is a tabletop minis game, essentially, with character tie-ins.
... Mayday is a wargame that is very closely derived from Book 2, and uses a hex grid.
... Book 5 is a fairly abstracted combat system designed to handle fleet on fleet.
... later printings of Mayday include rules for using its movement with Book 5 (1980) combat
... the boardgames Fifth Frontier War and Invasion Earth include fleet vs Fleet combat mechanics, but no details nor conversions rules.

For Trade:
... Book 2 1977 has a trade system that includes labeled speculative cargo lots, and unspecified freight lots to be carried for hire.
... Book 2 1981 has a number of small differences (especially passenger numbers), but is very much like the 1977 version.
... Book 7: Merchant Prince has a different trade system, with very abstract speculative cargos, but many more...

For System Generation
... Book 2 has a mainworld only system generation - no star types, no list of moons, only the presence or absence of gas giants.
... Book 6 has an expansion to book 2, that generates all the planets in the system, as well as the stars, and some of the local data.

Basic vs Advanced Character gen
Book 1 resolves in 4 year terms. Has Army, Navy, Marine, Scout, Merchant, and "Other"
Supplement 4 adds 12 more (mostly civilian) careers.
Book 4 adds advanced char gen for Army and Marines... year by year. Bk 4 characters have a lower Char Gen survival, but often have twice as many skills as basic gen.
Book 5 adds advanced gen for Navy, and differentiates system, Subsector, and Imperial Navies. Thiss starts to actually define elements of the OTU, as well
Book 6 adds advanced gen for Scouts. It also includes a differentiation between rankless Field Scouts, and ranked Administration scouts
Book 7 adds advanced gen for Merchants, including free traders, and a couple levels of lines.

Later materials (most after 1983) fully integrate the OTU, including Books 6-8, and all the large format "modules" - all 8 alien modules, Atlas of the Imperium, Spinward Marches Campaign (which advances the timeline from the early 1101-1106 of early CT, to the 1107-1111 Fifth Frontier War era), Alien Realms (a bunch of Alien Module needed adventures)... all presume the OTU is in use.

MegaTraveller is written by Digest Group, under contract, for GDW.
They took Book 1 char gen, and expanded it, and added "Special Duty" and "Bonus Skills" to make basic characters capable of the smae number of skills as the various advanced gen. They also included the Supplement 4 additional basic careers; they also deleted "Other" with "Rogue." They made a lot more skills on the tables cascade skills (a cascade is a category - you pick one of the contained skills). They also added anagathics rules. The weapons list was not reduced, but the skills were... there went from individual weapon types to Large Blade, Small Blade, Polearm, Axe/Mace, Pistol, Rifle, Combat Rifleman, Laser Weapons, High Energy Weapons, and Neural Weapons.
They also included all 4 Advanced Gen options... mostly changing to use more cascades.
They opted to make a variant of Striker/AHL combat.
They hybridized Striker and High Guard (1980) craft design for ground, gravitic, and space vehicles all to be designed under one cohesive system; it did not include fixed wing nor rotary wing aircraft; those were in an expansion (COACC).
They merged and updated for better accuracy the Book2 and Book 6 system generation.
They used Book 7 Trade, but added detailed labels and chances for hazardous and/or perishable goods.
They included all the Library data from Supplements 8 & 11, and made a few additions.
They define (in Referee's Companion and Rebellion Sourcebook) system forces in terms of the values in FFW and IE... which are based upon infantry battalions and some level of squadrons. They alter slightly the nature of local fleets, deleting the "Subsector Navies" and replacing them with "Reserve Fleets"
They advance the OTU timeline from 1111 to 1117... and introduce the rebellion metaplot
It adds a consistent task mechanic, one which first appears in their CT supplements. After 1984, they were apparently the only 3rd party publisher for CT supplments to retain their license...

In an expansion, they added Flyer Advanced gen and aircraft design.

It's basically a consolidation of CT rules, and a particular subset of the modules chosen. Despite claims by many, it's not the first Traveller edition to include the OTU... that's CT's The Traveller Book. It's the first to totally focus on a metaplot in the OTU.

Ships designed in HG 1980 and MegaTraveller have compatible ratings, but not in the same format of presentation. And one can use either HG-80 or MT-HG combat rules - they'e a close variant of HG-80.

Characters are directly compatible.

Essentially, MT is not so much "advanced Traveller" as CT 3rd ed... but many of the choices were suboptimal. Many CT refs adopted parts of MT, and some MT Refs discovered certain parts of CT, and so hybrid use is common.

As far as carry forward, T:TNE largely is a rework of MT design systems, but using the Twilight 2000 2.2 rules for characters and combat, expanded for the future-tech.

Other Editions
The setting materials from MT carry forward into all later editions except T4... but T4 uses the same design as T:TNE, but with different ratings. T4 is also set in year 0 to 100, rather than 1100-1115 of CT, 1116 to 1130 of MT, 1200 to 1300 of T:TNE, 990-1050 of T20...
MGT is set in the same time as CT. MGT is not, however, a mechanical compatible with any GDW/IG version. It's derived from, and for those not system-focused, close enough for convert-on-the-fly... but the ships aren't ratings nor design compatible.

T5 is conceptually T4 on steroids... but that's a whole rant I'm not goign to make.

T20, like MT, has ratings and design compatibility with CT Bk5 High Guard (1980) - which means it's also ratings compatible with MT and CT Bk 5. Some designs loose a bit of capability in T20. The combat mechanics, tho', are quite different. (They can be backported to CT or MT). The character rules in T20 are D20 system, built off the D&D 3.0 SRD. The T20 Trade Rules are Book2 on Steroids, plus provide some additional options not allowed in CT, MT, T:TNE, nor T4.

GT keeps the OTU, but diverges at an unidentified point well before 1116: The rebellion never happens, and since the planning alone for launching it would take the characters some 2+ years to happen, it's assuredly well before 1115. (Probably 1100 or earlier)
GT:IW is set before the OTU Third Imperium... it's the distant past.
Both GT and GTIW use GURPS rules, and GURPS Vehicles designs. They also seem to assume a lot more ships than other editions.

HT was only on sale for a VERY short time.

Also... Traveller:2300 is a different setting, and a related ruleset to MT... it predates it shortly (under a year), and is essentially a wholly new game and setting with similar first principles, and using a 1d10 success & 3d6 time variant of DGP Task System (which uses 2d6 success & 3d6 time roll). It is not attribute compatible with any other editions. It's second edition was renamed 2300AD. It's 3rd edition was for MGT 1e, and I believe it's been updated for MGT2e...

(MGT=Mongoose Traveller.)
 
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