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Played some Classic Traveller today

werecorpse

Adventurer
The thing I struggle with in traveller is how are the characters are tied to the world beyond their ship? Given how large the galaxy is and the “Age of sail” speed if things get sticky they can just jump away and never come back from almost any situation. So it seems to just encourage murder hoboism.
What character motivations are there - or are they all just variations on getting paid to do a job or treasure hunting?
I would like to start up a Traveller game but once the characters have got their ship what motivates them to do stuff beyond carry trade goods?
 

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MGibster

Legend
I dont want to "beam me up, Scotty" or " Use the force, Luke" so Traveller system and setting works fine. I love the large map and even more that there are so many blanks to fill in as referee. It was mentioned earlier in thread that all stories start in the same place. I see this as a strength, because I've done it over and over and it never feels the same. Traveller really lends itself to sandbox play, which perhaps, folks are confusing with the system being generic Sci-Fi?

I think some people might look at Traveller as being generic because it's not part of a popular established franchise. I mean, you know, other than being more than 40 years old at this point. Of course you're right that it's not generic.
 

I wasn't surprised to see @AbdulAlhazred give XP to your post, because this is something he's often said about Traveller.

I agree that Classic Traveller is not a general sci-fi RPG. There are claims to that effect in one of the Book 0 (or similar) products, but they're not plausible. You can't do Star Wars using Classic Traveller anymore than you can do Excalibur using Gygax's AD&D.

But I think there are ways of using the nobles without collapsing into absurdity (maybe there are similar ways of using paladins in AD&D without just collapsing into absurdity). In the real world there were (and are) adventuring knights. In our campaign we have a "diplomat" who was clearly a spy (skill in Forgery, Streetwise, Gambling, Interrogation, Wheeled Vehicle) with Soc A: that's a version of James Bond. The PCs' original vessel was a Yacht which one of the noble PCs had won gambling (this was part of his backstory; likewise his mustering out wounded was a result of the beating he received from the losers of that bet).

This is where a bit more use of contemporary techniques - framing situations in light of PC backstory - can help out.
Agreed. I mean there are always ways to get something to work. I don't think it is exorbitantly difficult to come up with some sort of concept of what SOC 12 means, or generate some tables that fill out the PC's background on that score (sort of ala 1e's OA tables, though I would hope they would be better...). Or just make up some things as part of the initial framing of the story where it becomes relevant. As @dragoner says, there is SOME canon, and certainly some articles on Imperial history, which suggest what NPC nobles are. The questions are more about exactly what is typical for a given social status, the range of possible resources and responsibilities and authority you might have, etc. How does the Imperial bureaucracy factor in? What restricts a given noble's power. What are minor nobles like, and is your title, and office, a direct result of SOC, or can I be a 15 SOC nothing?

If you DO have a high-ranking PC, how would that work? I can see some sorts of adventures for a character like that, but it might not fit too well with the standard 'space waif' genre. Anyway, I wouldn't expect Traveler to do 'Star Wars' particularly, but it would be nice if contemporary techniques made it good for a wider variety of games within the Imperium or similar settings.
 

I dont want to "beam me up, Scotty" or " Use the force, Luke" so Traveller system and setting works fine. I love the large map and even more that there are so many blanks to fill in as referee. It was mentioned earlier in thread that all stories start in the same place. I see this as a strength, because I've done it over and over and it never feels the same. Traveller really lends itself to sandbox play, which perhaps, folks are confusing with the system being generic Sci-Fi?
Yes, it is pretty explicitly a sandbox.
 

The thing I struggle with in traveller is how are the characters are tied to the world beyond their ship? Given how large the galaxy is and the “Age of sail” speed if things get sticky they can just jump away and never come back from almost any situation. So it seems to just encourage murder hoboism.
What character motivations are there - or are they all just variations on getting paid to do a job or treasure hunting?
I would like to start up a Traveller game but once the characters have got their ship what motivates them to do stuff beyond carry trade goods?
This is the basic nut of the issue with the 'space waifs' thematics. The PCs are essentially rootless wanderers. They may have some motives related to personal aggrandizement and paying off the mortgage on their ship (or avoiding/fulfilling some reserve scout mission if they have a Type S). Otherwise, you can generate scenarios via the different tables in the books, which will create 'situations' fairly soon.
IME our games ran thin after a dozen sessions or so. Mostly the PCs would be on a ship, and after a few sessions you'd run out of luck and your drives would be slagged, or the whole ship turned into a thin plasma by a nuke hit. The survivors could never hope to even regain a ship (hijacking is a viable choice, but you are very red hot after that). So most campaigns either fizzled, or went through a few 'rounds' of the survivors recruiting a 'new guy' with another ship. You can play without a ship, but the setting doesn't really give you a lot to do, except steal one.
Obviously it can be fun, but eventually you have to sort of hack the game to get more out of it, unless you're sort of an 'old school grog' type that just wants to keep playing it straight forever.
 

payn

Legend
The thing I struggle with in traveller is how are the characters are tied to the world beyond their ship? Given how large the galaxy is and the “Age of sail” speed if things get sticky they can just jump away and never come back from almost any situation. So it seems to just encourage murder hoboism.
What character motivations are there - or are they all just variations on getting paid to do a job or treasure hunting?
I would like to start up a Traveller game but once the characters have got their ship what motivates them to do stuff beyond carry trade goods?
Sure, when things get hot the PCs can runaway, but that assumes unknown travellers are just welcome everywhere (they are not). During character creation the PCs should be gaining allies, enemies, and contacts. Obviously, they want to leave their enemies and rivals in the dust, but leaving their contacts and allies behind leaves them without anybody to rely on. That makes it difficult to make a living and find adventure. I do agree that the chargen process could do a better job at anchoring the players, but then again the name of the game is traveller.

My players where sort of astonished how little combat my games had. The PCs often had to use their skills to navigate trouble, more than using their pistols to kill it. Eventually, they shed the idea that killing people and taking their stuff, is a default way to TTRPG. My players began to expand beyond personal power, and started getting more into the setting. This created an investment in certain sectors that the players wanted to influence. They were interested in finding things to do beyond getting into fights. There is a sense of wonder in exploring strange new worlds. It's very refreshing.

If you have the type of players who are not proactive, or the kind that need to be led around by the GM or they blow up the campaign, you can try alternatives to "you have a ship and a mortgage; what do you do?" There are a few campaigns out there that break this common game of Traveller.

Some folks do military wargames in space. I believe its called trillon credit squadron. The players will likely be grunts, pilots, and such that are sent into huge fleet battles. Not my cup of tea, but some folks love having an enemy and being pointed at it. Also, getting a chance to fly and fight the biggest and best ships Traveller has to offer.

Secrets of the Ancients is a very Star Trek type adventure. The PCs are given a ship and a pretty clear set of objectives to follow. Its probably the least sandbox like game I've run in Traveller. It is appealing because it reveals info about the ancients (a long lost species in the Third Imperium setting) and players might find that very intriguing to discover.

The Pirates of Drinax campaign ties the players to the Trojan Reach of the third imperium. Their goals are to establish a presence, build allies, and eventually forge an empire there. It does a good job giving the players a reason to stay in a number of neighboring sectors. It also does a good job of remaining a sandbox style game as Traveller is known for.
 

pemerton

Legend
Traveller really lends itself to sandbox play, which perhaps, folks are confusing with the system being generic Sci-Fi?
The thing I struggle with in traveller is how are the characters are tied to the world beyond their ship? Given how large the galaxy is and the “Age of sail” speed if things get sticky they can just jump away and never come back from almost any situation. So it seems to just encourage murder hoboism.
What character motivations are there - or are they all just variations on getting paid to do a job or treasure hunting?
I would like to start up a Traveller game but once the characters have got their ship what motivates them to do stuff beyond carry trade goods?
This is the basic nut of the issue with the 'space waifs' thematics. The PCs are essentially rootless wanderers. They may have some motives related to personal aggrandizement and paying off the mortgage on their ship (or avoiding/fulfilling some reserve scout mission if they have a Type S). Otherwise, you can generate scenarios via the different tables in the books, which will create 'situations' fairly soon.

<snip>

Obviously it can be fun, but eventually you have to sort of hack the game to get more out of it, unless you're sort of an 'old school grog' type that just wants to keep playing it straight forever.
Here are some quotes from the 1977 rules (Book 2, p 36; Book 3, pp 8, 19, 20):

When a ship enters a star system, there is a chance that any one of a variety of ships will be encountered. The ship encounter table is used to determine the specific type of vessel which is met. This result may, and should, be superceded by the referee in specific situations, especially if a newly entered system is in military or civil turmoil, or involves other circumstance.

[T]he referee should always feel free to impose worlds which have been deliberately (rather than randomly) generated. Often such planets will be devised specifically to reward or torment players.

Some random encounters are mandated by the referee. . . . The referee is always free to impose encounters to further the cause of the adventure being played; in many cases, he actually has a responsibility to do so.

Once the patron and the adventurers have met, the responsibility falls on the referee to determine the nature of the task the patron desires . . .​

To my mind, these passages invite the referee to play an active role in framing (not dictating the resolution of) situations.

And when the players generate their PCs, there will be implied backstory (like the example in Book 1, or my example upthread of the "diplomat" spy, or the noble and his ship that he won gambling). It doesn't take a lot to make this a bit more explicit at the table - in our first session, it emerged as the PCs were generated and then in maybe 10 or 15 minutes of discussion afterwards.

These two things together - PC backstories, plus referee influence over framing - are what permit the game to have more direction than just 'space waifs' who trade and kill.

My own approach, which has worked so far, is to mostly use random generation (because otherwise it wouldn't be Traveller!) but to interpret those elements in a way that "furthers the cause of the adventure being played". So the patrons that the PCs meet up with are connected to their backstories and the unfolding ingame events; the randomly encountered vessels also connect in various ways, or create possibilities for action that fit the current situation; randomly encountered NPCs provide opportunities for the players to drive their goals forward; etc.

This is the sort of thing I have in mind when, upthread, I referred to "a bit more use of contemporary techniques". In general I don't think of this as "hacking" the system, given the passages I've quoted and the example of PC generation. But it is pushing the system a bit more firmly in a particular direction.

Besides a few rules variants, especially in the skill list and PC gen process, the only actual "hack" I have made is in relation to star map generation: rather than rolling up a sub-sector in advance I started with a stock of pre-generated worlds but dropped them in as seemed appropriate, gradually building up the star map in that way. As part of this, instead of rolling a die for each hex, I have a chart for rolling the number of adjacent worlds (with columns for system density that lead to outcomes roughly the same as what you would get for a 3+, 4+ or 5+ roll required for a system to be present in a hex).
 

pemerton

Legend
On combat in Traveller:

(1) It's pretty brutal, both personal and starship - and as @AbdulAlhazred has alluded to upthread, repairing a damaged vessel is expensive;

(2) In 15 sessions, we had our first intepersonal combat in session 3, with some more in sessions 7, 10, 13 and 14; and had our first starship combat in session 6, with some more in sessions 8 and 11; in session 4, the PCs had to escape bombardment in their ATVs (I generalised the evasion system found in the Ship's Boat rules in Book 1, 1977) but did not actually discharge any weapons of their own.

Although the implicit setting is quite militarised (Imperial government manifests primarily via the Navy and Marines) and violent (personal combat skills loom large on the PC gen tables even for professions like bureaucrat!), I don't find the game itself to be particularly combat-focused.
 
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On combat in Traveller:

(1) It's pretty brutal, both personal and starship - and as @AbdulAlhazred has alluded to upthread, repairing a damaged vessel is expensive;

(2) In 15 sessions, we had our first intepersonal combat in session 3, with some more in sessions 7, 10, 13 and 14; and had our first starship combat in session 6, with some more in sessions 8 and 11; in session 4, the PCs had to escape bombardment in their ATVs (I generalised the evasion system found in the Ship's Boat rules in Book 1, 1977) but did not actually discharge any weapons of their own.

Although the implicit setting is quite militarised (Imperial government manifests primarily via the Navy and Marines) and violent (personal combat skills loom large on the PC gen tables even for professions like bureaucrat!), I don't find the game itself to be particularly combat-focused.
This is quite true. In fact the role of combat in Traveler quite reminds me of its contemporary, D&D. You try to AVOID combat, there is no mechanical reward for it, and the likely consequences on your person and your inventory are, to say the least, highly unfortunate.
There are ways to go a bit against that, Mercenary, and the attendant Striker! supplement/sub-game provide one option. A well enough financed group of Mercs can run around in fairly high tech gear (power armor and plasma/fusion weapons) dealing death on forces in the TL3-8 range with pretty great impunity. Of course, getting yourself into such a gig will require good contacts and some negotiating skills, but you can do a sort of "Schlock Mercenary" sort of thing. Naturally there is always the hazard that someone else will show up with their own TL15 tank or a starship with some nukes onboard or whatever and rain on your day. Still, it is combat with limited risks. Another option of course would be to go up against animals or very low tech persons. Even without high tech battle gear it is unlikely such opposition will fair too well, though again there's always that ambush (predator), or bad luck, etc. to worry about...

Honestly, in my campaigns, I seem to recall that overall it was pretty hard for PCs to both stay alive, and solvent, for extended periods of time. As in the real world, the best option is to become someone's minion. The patron system will do that for you , if you want, but then of course your adventuring options get pared down somewhat. Still, the GM can provide if you are willing to go along, and with proper scene framing that CAN work. I have to admit that my understanding of those techniques was less than it is now back in the heyday of my Traveler GMing (the 1980s mostly).
 


My Traveller refereeing in the 80s was terrible. I'm currently in my heyday!
Well, a lot of it was in the 70's actually.... I think I literally bought the first printing of the LBBs. I recall getting a map of the Spinward Marches from someplace eventually, but we were honestly never super big on the whole Third Imperium as a thing. It was more "random walk" sort of play.
 

pemerton

Legend
Well, a lot of it was in the 70's actually.... I think I literally bought the first printing of the LBBs.
I got it in the late 70s - I think I'm a second printing (I don't think first printings made it to Australia). But I didn't play it until the 80s.

we were honestly never super big on the whole Third Imperium as a thing.
The Third Imperium is of zero interest to me. What's the point of playing a system that is so strong on just-in-time setting and setting element generation, if you're going to go with a pre-packaged setting?
 

payn

Legend
The Third Imperium is of zero interest to me. What's the point of playing a system that is so strong on just-in-time setting and setting element generation, if you're going to go with a pre-packaged setting?

I dont follow. Can you expand on this?
 

werecorpse

Adventurer
I like what has been done wth the star map, the spin ward marches etc some of the third imperium is great, like the idea of worlds being settled, then the imperium collapsing then the worlds being rediscovered as an explanation for the wide variety of tech levels. But the info out there often seems too fall between little to be useful & just enough to get in the way.
 

pemerton

Legend
The Third Imperium is of zero interest to me. What's the point of playing a system that is so strong on just-in-time setting and setting element generation, if you're going to go with a pre-packaged setting?
I dont follow. Can you expand on this?
For me, at least, a real strength of Classic Traveller is its variety of systems for creating content during the course of play - starship encounters, on-world encounters, new worlds, patrons, presence (or not) of the Pisonics Institute - and integrating these into the unfolding situation.

Using someone else's pre-generated starmaps, pre-generated NPC motivations, etc, undercuts this feature of the system.

A contrast, for me, would be Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, or my LotR adaptation of that system: this is a RPG that benefits from having PCs and situation that evoke and draw on a pre-established fiction.
 

payn

Legend
For me, at least, a real strength of Classic Traveller is its variety of systems for creating content during the course of play - starship encounters, on-world encounters, new worlds, patrons, presence (or not) of the Pisonics Institute - and integrating these into the unfolding situation.

Using someone else's pre-generated starmaps, pre-generated NPC motivations, etc, undercuts this feature of the system.

A contrast, for me, would be Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, or my LotR adaptation of that system: this is a RPG that benefits from having PCs and situation that evoke and draw on a pre-established fiction.
Gotcha, Traveller certainly gives you tools for creating content. I like the Third Imperium because it provides a skeleton, which I need, because im not very good at making a whole world from scratch.
 

For me, at least, a real strength of Classic Traveller is its variety of systems for creating content during the course of play - starship encounters, on-world encounters, new worlds, patrons, presence (or not) of the Pisonics Institute - and integrating these into the unfolding situation.

Using someone else's pre-generated starmaps, pre-generated NPC motivations, etc, undercuts this feature of the system.

A contrast, for me, would be Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, or my LotR adaptation of that system: this is a RPG that benefits from having PCs and situation that evoke and draw on a pre-established fiction.
Yeah, though I think @werecorpse (interesting moniker) has a good point. Those systems, and the core rules in general, are really designed around the whole "long established society" and other elements that are present in the Third Imperium setting. So, for instance if you were to posit a de novo expansion into unexplored space, you would pretty much need to strip away (or not get to use) the portions related to civilization and such (IE there would only be virgin worlds, you could generate their physical elements with the world generation system, but the social/political elements wouldn't apply). It would be a bit harder to swallow the 'pseudo feudal' social milieu as well, though I suppose it would be more a matter of spinning it a certain way vs it being unusable. Likewise character generation might need to be at least reflavored a bit.

So, in general, you're kind of encouraged to at least 'clone' most of the key elements of the Imperium, a restoration after an interregnum, a large far-flung star empire of the far future, an oligarchical/monarchical type of system with decentralized control, etc. Not to mention it is easier to just go ahead and assume the established organizations and conventions (TAS, Scouts, local/regional/imperial political and military forces, amber/red zones, etc.).

It would be interesting to produce a radically different setting for the core game, but then once you go that far, I guess you might as well develop a core as well, or adopt another one. Although I think that it would be fairly interesting to take the design principles of Traveler and the engine and build a bit different milieu with it. An alternate history, or very different part of the timeline. I think there were a few halting attempts, but nothing REALLY radical (IE the Solomani Rim, but it was still just a variation of the core setting).
 

For me, at least, a real strength of Classic Traveller is its variety of systems for creating content during the course of play - starship encounters, on-world encounters, new worlds, patrons, presence (or not) of the Pisonics Institute - and integrating these into the unfolding situation.

Using someone else's pre-generated starmaps, pre-generated NPC motivations, etc, undercuts this feature of the system.

A contrast, for me, would be Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, or my LotR adaptation of that system: this is a RPG that benefits from having PCs and situation that evoke and draw on a pre-established fiction.
Yeah, though I think @werecorpse (interesting moniker) has a good point. Those systems, and the core rules in general, are really designed around the whole "long established society" and other elements that are present in the Third Imperium setting. So, for instance if you were to posit a de novo expansion into unexplored space, you would pretty much need to strip away (or not get to use) the portions related to civilization and such (IE there would only be virgin worlds, you could generate their physical elements with the world generation system, but the social/political elements wouldn't apply). It would be a bit harder to swallow the 'pseudo feudal' social milieu as well, though I suppose it would be more a matter of spinning it a certain way vs it being unusable. Likewise character generation might need to be at least reflavored a bit.

So, in general, you're kind of encouraged to at least 'clone' most of the key elements of the Imperium, a restoration after an interregnum, a large far-flung star empire of the far future, an oligarchical/monarchical type of system with decentralized control, etc. Not to mention it is easier to just go ahead and assume the established organizations and conventions (TAS, Scouts, local/regional/imperial political and military forces, amber/red zones, etc.).

It would be interesting to produce a radically different setting for the core game, but then once you go that far, I guess you might as well develop a core as well, or adopt another one. Although I think that it would be fairly interesting to take the design principles of Traveler and the engine and build a bit different milieu with it. An alternate history, or very different part of the timeline. I think there were a few halting attempts, but nothing REALLY radical (IE the Solomani Rim, but it was still just a variation of the core setting).
 


Mercator sets the game in the first century CE in the eastern Roman Empire. It works rather well if you’re interested in this period (I am). Link is straight to pdf.

That's cool. I think its a system that is perfectly capable of being adapted to various milieu, though I think some will work better than others. I would have thought the 6th Century might even be a more parallel scenario to the Game's standard setting and genre.
 

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