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Traveller RPG (Looking for Opinions)

MGibster

Legend
I've got an itch to run a science fiction campaign, and while I'm not looking for something so fantastic as Star Trek or Star Wars I'm okay with FTL and artificial gravity. I've got my sights on Traveller 2nd edition by Mongoose Publishing. For a game that's been around in one form or another since 1977 there's a dearth of videos about it on YouTube. And the ones I did find were mostly by Seth Skorkowsky though at least they're very good. As the thread title states, I'm looking for opinions from people who have experience with Traveller. Any edition of the game will do.

Odds are good my campaign will revolve around free traders and I figure the PCs won't actually own their own ship outright. So I'll want them to have a to float a monthly ship payment on top of paying upkeep, salaries, and any miscellaneous expenses that will pop up from time-to-time. I've got two concerns about this. The first is making sure the PCs are actually make enough money to keep themselves afloat. I had a hard time with games like Shadowrun where it seemed like the PCs never really made enough nuyen to even make running worthwhile. Is there a good chance of that happening in Traveller as well? My second concern is that I don't really want to role play every single cargo run or minor job they do to make bank as I want to focus on the ones that make for fun adventures. Does the game have options for handling jobs to generate income outside of normal game play?

I plan on using the standard setting from the current edition of the game. It looks like I'll be able to add things to it as I see fit especially since none of my players have any experience with any edition of the game. I'll probably limit character species to the various flavors of humanti. So, anyone have any tips or suggestions for running a Traveller game?
 

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Derren

Hero
The players not totally owning their ship and having to do monthly payments, both for upkeep and as mortgage is actually the default assumption in Traveller.
But unlike Shadowrun there is no wealth guideline or advice on how much should they make for each mission (or what a mission actually is).
It does have a trading system which lets you buy and sell cargo based on skill rolls and so make a profit or they can also take on passengers, transport mail, etc. So yes, there is background income.
Keep in mind though that in Traveller time passes quickly.

With the right skills this background income can actually become quite lucrative, so you might to make sure that you increase the difficulty of the rolls a bit when a player happens to be an expert trader.

Traveller is huge, so people usually do not notice if you use the official setting or not as long as you stay away from the famous planets. So feel free to make stuff up as you see fit.
Be aware that initial character creation takes a long time and is a game in itself. So you probably end up having a entire character creation session when your players are new.
Traveller is special as the player does not have a lot of influence in how his character is build and can end up with a very different character than what he had in mind. Be sure that your players are ok with that (as progression in Traveller is nearly exclusively through gear and not to skill gain). If not look if you find some houseruled character creation somewhere.

Also, the stuff from 1st Edition of Mongoose is more or less still compatible so if you really want to go into a specific direction you can get the splatbook and be able to use most of the stuff in there.

And be sure that your players understand how FTL in Traveller works. I am always surprised how difficult it is for some people to wrap their head around non "warp" space travel.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
I played and ran mong 1e from 2009 until last year, I found it was handy to have the classic rules around because it is incomplete in a lot of places, though I doubt I will play it again. I have been running a Classic Traveller game, though with some changes to make it harder SF, and in my own setting. Each iteration does it's own sort of trading (arbitrage) game, the players have been doing some trade as well as piracy to get by; and I too find myself glossing over the details. One of the players is into it and keeps the records for the trade deals, and if that makes them happy, then I am happy. Years ago someone released a generator for m 1e, that had trade stuff on it, otherwise I found it too fiddly; classic is like a page, which is more to my liking, or attention span.

Classic starter is here, for free: CT-ST-Starter Traveller - Game Designers' Workshop (GDW) | Classic Traveller | DriveThruRPG.com

I think with any iteration, it will take some working with, or modification to get exactly what you want.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
The basic rulebook offers rules that keep you at break -even, with a chance at a flashy load to bring in cash.
The Merchant Prince supplement offers a trade system that can be used to generate predictable income, if you are willing to travel a loop repeatedly.

Does your group want to wander, or stick to a finite area?
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I would suggest planning your campaign after character creation... it's possible for them to get ship ownership, partial or entire, if they roll right.
 

MGibster

Legend
It does have a trading system which lets you buy and sell cargo based on skill rolls and so make a profit or they can also take on passengers, transport mail, etc. So yes, there is background income. Keep in mind though that in Traveller time passes quickly.

Yeah, it looks like it's going to take them at least a week or two to jump anywhere plus at least 2-3 days to land on a planet. I imagine we'll determine out how much it cost to to pay their ship note, maintenance cost, fuel,docking fees, and crew salaries and figure out how much they need to charge from there.

Be aware that initial character creation takes a long time and is a game in itself. So you probably end up having a entire character creation session when your players are new.

I'm looking forward to this. I have mixed feelings about the random character generation, I don't use them in any other game, but on the other hand rolling up a character is almost a game unto itself.

And be sure that your players understand how FTL in Traveller works. I am always surprised how difficult it is for some people to wrap their head around non "warp" space travel.

I suspect the biggest problem is explaining that it's not like Star Wars.

Eltab said:
Does your group want to wander, or stick to a finite area?

We're in the middle of a D&D campaign so I haven't even pitched the idea to them yet. I imagine I'll set the game in a specific sector, set them up on a home base planet, and branch out from there as everyone gets more familiar with the game.

Parmandur said:
I would suggest planning your campaign after character creation... it's possible for them to get ship ownership, partial or entire, if they roll right.

That's a good point. I don't want to plan it out too much but I generally like for them to have an idea of what direction the campaign is going in. If they start out with their own ship, great. If they don't, I can have them be part of a free trader crew. I've got a few scenario ideas in my head.

dragoner said:
Each iteration does it's own sort of trading (arbitrage) game, the players have been doing some trade as well as piracy to get by; and I too find myself glossing over the details.

I don't think I'm going to make them keep track of life support costs. That seems a bit tedious. I do have some players who really enjoy keeping track of "treasure" and doing what they can to upgrade their ship. Personally, I prefer to gloss over the details much of the time.
 

It's quite possible to wind up with a party incompatible with a trader game. Think firefly, but even less competent overall.

Traveller's default assumptions for PC's is that they've exited the daily job phase of life. The rules tend to provide more interesting bits in merchant shipping and in mercenary type games, but really, it's a fairly generic space opera genre game. It's harder SF than most TV space opera (Trek, Orville, Disney Star Wars), more on par with the various Stargate series. It took no modifications to use CT nor MT for active duty OTU military games, for troubleshooters for hire games (think Leverage, The A-Team, or Magnum PI), merchant shippers of both sizes (Small tramps and large ship crews), even for criminals on the run.

Note that all of the non-mongoose editions are available on CD or thumb drive from FarFuture.net. Including the Hero System 5th ed version and the GURPS version.

Each system in the line has its fans (tho' 4th ed's fans seem scarcest), T5 isn't a good start point for anyone...
Classic: no unified actions mechanic. table driven combat system for personal combat, Speculative Trade module in core, bulk hauler rules in supplement. gear to TL15. (Some gear to TL18 in supplements) Alternate combat systems in boardgames and the minis game. Integration not seamless, but not hard. Combat attack actions are 2d6+Skill+AttMod for 8+

MegaTraveller (Abbr. to "MT"): unified action mechanic, called the "Task System". 2d6+AssetA+AssetB vs 3/7/11/15/19 + (simple, routine, difficult, formidable, impossible - way to remember it? A character with Attribute 6 and skill 1 can do the simple in 10 units of listed time, routine nigh automatically at 20 units or with good odds in 10 units. They have a high failure rate at Difficult, can't hit formidable without taking the extra time, and even with extra time, can't do the Impossible.) Allows more choices in Character Gen. Uses the Book 7 Merchant Prince trade system from CT as the corebook one. Merchant games become EXTREMELY hard...

Traveller The New Era: the setting reset via an AI Computer Virus...
Different task mechanics: 1d20≤((Att+Skill)× DifficultyMultiplier). Difficult is ×1, routine is ×2 and formidable is ×1/2; I'm too lazy to look up the other two. Same mechanics as Twilight:2000 2.2 and Dark Conspiracy, Core includes no vehicle design of either kind. Skill levels about 1.5x those in CT, and 1.3x those in MT.

T4: Mark Miller's Traveller: set in the past of the other editions. First Post-GDW edition. task system 1.5/2/2.5/3/3.5/4 d6 for ≤ Att+Skill. Skill levels about 4x those of CT. Simple/Routine/Difficult/Formidable/staggering/Impossible are the labels.
Errata moved it to 1.5/2/3/4/5/6 d6. The undid that.
Then added "If skill < dice, add 1d to difficulty" calling that the "Harder than it looks" rule.
The consolidated errata makes it 1.5/2/2.5/3/4/5 & Harder than it looks
Thus a routine task for a guy with Att 7 (the average) and 1 skill is 3d ≤ 8, but a simple check is 1.5d ≤ 8. For Att 7 skill 2 (the expected for competentcy) routine is 2d6 ≤ 9...

T5 uses the same values as T4, but officially removes an upper limit on task difficulties... still, the core levels are labeled the same... but are 1d/2d/3d/4d/5d/6d/7d/8d for Easy/Average/Difficult/Formidable/Staggering/Hopeless/Impossible/Beyond Impossible; again, This is hard applies, and Easy requires no roll if the character is skilled, even if their attribute is below 6. It's Xd6 ≤ Characteristic + Skill+mods1+Mods2

T20: Traveller's Handbook is a d20 version - atts scale per D&D, ACs are low because they don't include armor, armor reduces lifeblood damage. It uses a CT Bk2 Trade System variant for the trade system, and a CT Bk5 variant for then ship construction...

The Hero System version is a set of books for adapting 5E Hero System to do Traveller.

GURPS Traveller was an extensive line of supplements for GURPS to do the OTU setting, but it can be used just as well for other traveller settings. The license ended, and no new products are coming, but the existing ones are available on the CDs.

Mongoose Traveller is a different core system, skill levels tend to be slightly higher than in CT, a unified task system but not one that uses the same steps as MT (which said, those same steps were used in T:2300 and 2300AD - versions 1 and 2 of the same game, btw).... Where it has lacks, CT is easily enough imported...

MGT2E - reduces the combat skills, and a number of other changes, basically for Edition Churn.

2300 AD (initial release was called Traveller:2300) - uses 1d10 instead of 2d6 for the same task system overall as MegaTraveller. Incompatible combat mechanics to the others, too.

Note that every edition has different ratings for weapons and damage from every other edition, including the change from the 1st edition CT to 2nd edition CT (1981 and later printings)

I loved MT and 2300, but I can't bring myself to run MT anymore due to the excess details in many places I don't want them: Ship Construction and Ship Combat, and I don't like the HG bulk freight rules.

I'm fond of the MGT1 trade rules, but not the rest of the system. MGT2 added nothing I liked, and did away with the details in the few places I wanted them...

And for full disclosure... I playtested T20, MGT1E, and have been involved in the T5 process... I participated in the MGT2 playtest but was not credited to my knowledge. I also am the lead admin for the official traveller boards.

Note: if you want thumb-drive instead of CD when ordering from FFE, make note of that in the notes to shipper.
 

MGibster

Legend
It's quite possible to wind up with a party incompatible with a trader game. Think firefly, but even less competent overall.

I can certainly be flexible. I don't think all my players would like something as structured as a straight up military campaign, but scouting, cyberpunk style corporate espionage, or maybe a little bounty hunting or piracy. I've ordered the 2nd edition of Mongoose Traveller.
 

Derren

Hero
I can certainly be flexible. I don't think all my players would like something as structured as a straight up military campaign, but scouting, cyberpunk style corporate espionage, or maybe a little bounty hunting or piracy. I've ordered the 2nd edition of Mongoose Traveller.
Yes, but as I said the players do not have as much influence on character creation as in other RPGs. They might decide that they want to be a trader or soldier, but the dice might say no to that.
 

MGibster

Legend
Yes, but as I said the players do not have as much influence on character creation as in other RPGs. They might decide that they want to be a trader or soldier, but the dice might say no to that.

I understand that. What I mean about being flexible is that I've got to be able to adapt the campaign based on what the PCs are actually capable of.
 

Derren

Hero
I understand that. What I mean about being flexible is that I've got to be able to adapt the campaign based on what the PCs are actually capable of.
Thats important for all rpgs.
After character creation the GM provides a list of essential skills from which the players can pick if they miss something, so you can nudge them into a specific direction.
 

MGibster

Legend
Thats important for all rpgs.
After character creation the GM provides a list of essential skills from which the players can pick if they miss something, so you can nudge them into a specific direction.

While I try to adapt the campaign to best suit the characters, typically I pitch 2-3 campaign ideas to my group, they select which one they prefer, and then they make characters suited for that campaign. This might be a fun little exercise on how to run a more sandbox game for me though.

I am worried about some aspects of character generation with the randomness being my number one concern. I literally cannot remember the last time I ran a game using random character generation. But I'm hoping the career path is fun enough to mitigate any hesitation regarding randomness.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
While I try to adapt the campaign to best suit the characters, typically I pitch 2-3 campaign ideas to my group, they select which one they prefer, and then they make characters suited for that campaign. This might be a fun little exercise on how to run a more sandbox game for me though.

I am worried about some aspects of character generation with the randomness being my number one concern. I literally cannot remember the last time I ran a game using random character generation. But I'm hoping the career path is fun enough to mitigate any hesitation regarding randomness.

For Traveller, the session zero will be long, and campaign pitches maybe should evolve out of the character creation process.
 

payn

Hero
I had some trouble getting into Traveller with my players about 10 years ago. I had the same idea of having a crew trying to work off their ship mortgage. It seems like a natural backstory and reasoning for being a trader/adventurer in a sci-fi game. However, my players got bogged down in ledgers and accounting and it got stale pretty quick. They would avoid plot hooks I dangled in front of them as "too dangerous" and would rather find the most lucrative trade good between nearby systems.

There are a few ways around this. One of the best is the Pirates of Drinax sandbox campaign. This product heavily details the Trojan Reach sector of the setting. Basically, a backwater section of space that was once a former sprawling empire. Now, its a loose connection of independent systems sandwiched between two quarreling empires. The players are tasked with attempting to unite the reach and restore the empire. It's up the players to achieve that enormous goal through any number of deeds. If anything, you can chop up Pirates of Drinax for your own purposes. The material is a good deal for the money (digital cheap, physical solid material).

One other aspect was the spacehip travel. Players often think of Star Trek and Star Wars where it takes a few hours to travel across the galaxy. Traveller by default is much more akin to the sailing world of the past centuries. It takes a week to get to another system. Once in a system, it may take hours or even days to reach a planet/station. Space is BIG and Traveller treats it as such. Framing travel more in a sense of sailing helps a lot.

Yes, but as I said the players do not have as much influence on character creation as in other RPGs. They might decide that they want to be a trader or soldier, but the dice might say no to that.
Lots of folks get caught in a trap assuming that Traveller chargen makes all the important decisions for a player. I believe a lot of that comes from D&D's class system. Traveller is heavily dependent on skills, not class. The best way to frame chargen to players is around the skills they want to get the character they envision.

For example, a player wants to create a ship pilot type character. Naturally, the Navy seems like the best career to do this. However, you can also get piloting as a merchant marine, scout, pirate, etc. Its more important to focus on the skill packages of the careers, than the idea of a career being a class. Being a navy pilot, gone merchant marine, gone pirate doesnt make you multi-class in the traditional D&D sense. For example, being a merchant marine instead of a navy pilot in Traveller doesnt mean you are a bard instead of a cleric. These are important distinctions to raise during session zero when it comes to playing Traveller, IMHO.

What the dice driven chargen does is create unique backstories for each character. It helps build NPC allies and enemies for the GM to use. It also can help explain how the PCs know one another. This complicates things for players who like to envision exactly every detail of their characters past, but once again this is something of a departure from D&D.

Cheers!
 
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Derren

Hero
Back to the earning money thing. There are basically two or three ways for background income.
The most passive is transporting mail or cargo. You basically just roll a easy skill if something is available and earn a fixed rate. Somewhere someone calculated that income from that would be enough to cover maintenance and mortage but nothing more.
Then there is speculative cargo where the players buy and sell cargo on their own, depending on what the planet offers and roll skills to see how much money they can make from that. This is much more involved and with good skills the players can make a lot of money with that, making it their main source of income.

There is also passenger transports. I think it works a bit like mail hauling (Roll if there are passengers) and I think its also fixed rate.

And good idea to stay away from aliens. Imo mixed species crews don't really work well because of the differences in SOC.
And I think alien character generation is nit fully thought out. Its nearly impossible to roll an Aslan with even average SOC.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
The website "Citizens of the Imperium" is Traveller's home on the web. There is a subforum for characters, which can give you an idea what is possible and what can happen during chargen.

No link because I haven't figured out how to cut-and-paste on my mobile device yet. If you get into the Traveller wiki there is a link to the main forum.
 

payn

Hero
It's true, the core rule book does a poor job of differentiating species. I do really enjoy the Third Imperium setting, though most of the species are just, lion people, dog people, bug people, etc.

Another push for the Pirates of Drinax campaign product is that they really flesh out the Aslan species. I dont like everything they did, (Aslan males can do this, Aslan females can do that), but the culture and new careers makes a new species finally feel like it.
 

IME classic Traveller is closer to Firefly/Serenity in terms of setting and usual campaign goings on. I haven't actually played Traveller of any version for decades now but back in the 890's and 90's when I did play, our ship and PC's were very much Serenity and Millennium Falcon, just without the settings around those particular ships and instead in a more generic universe where our PC's could be mercenary merchants of fortune.
 

MGibster

Legend
I've been making a few test characters with the RPGSUITE Traveller character generator, and boy, howdy! Sometimes you can get some unexpectedly weird results. The free version of the generator only allows you to pick a human and choose from 5 careers, Navy, Marine, Army, Drifter, and Scout. One character I made mustered out of the Navy as a commander with a 14 Education and his highest skill was Blade at 2. There have been a few characters I rolled up that I don't think any player would be interested in. Penalties on every single stat.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I've been making a few test characters with the RPGSUITE Traveller character generator, and boy, howdy! Sometimes you can get some unexpectedly weird results. The free version of the generator only allows you to pick a human and choose from 5 careers, Navy, Marine, Army, Drifter, and Scout. One character I made mustered out of the Navy as a commander with a 14 Education and his highest skill was Blade at 2. There have been a few characters I rolled up that I don't think any player would be interested in. Penalties on every single stat.

Yeah, rejects are always a possibility. Note that due to the 2d6 rules, +1 or +2 are great, anything more is fantastic. I'd recommend running tests long-hand using the Mongoose rulebook, as the digital format is going to be...dry...
 

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