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The Grognard Problem


Recent events (last year or so) got me thinking about my misgivings about T5. This peaked with reading a post yesterday on KODT, about the dearth of women gamers (by a woman, no less).

And I realized tonight, while listening to the story of the Mujahadine...

I realized my problems with WFRP, Traveller, D&D, WOD, and T&T come from fear of the new editions.

In the case of WFRP, it was justified; the new edition is a very different gaame and somewhat different setting, despite the same names, due in part to malfeasance by the GW corporate rep, by sabotaging the feedback loop during the playtest. It was mechanically poor, and when I dropped out of the playtest, it was becuase my feedback, no matter the tone, was being deleted when only the GW rep was on-line to the boards with me.

D&D, the "New D&D" (3.0/3.5) is a decent game; it just is not a game derived from AD&D, and only loosely from older D&D.

WOD was a good system. Then they tinkered. I don't like what they did. They've tinkered some more. Can I still play the rules I like? Maybe. Can others? only if they still have the books... but the players attracted by the new rules are generally not the types welcome at my table.

T&T - Ken keeps popping off wild hairs every few months... some I like, some I don't... and many are "Cool enough, but does it belong in T&T?", and I wonder, how much of 5.5 was Liz Danforth, as opposed to KSA?

Which brings me back to point: What is it I, the MT grognard that I seem to be, want out of T5?

Is it setting?
Is it Hard Science?
Is it realistic Space Opera?
Is it the gearheadism?
Is it the Aliens and how they were treated?
Is it the Swords in Space?

And I realize:

The setting itself is not great, but I know it. Comfortable, like old shoes. In this case, Stinky old shoes.

No, it's not for hard science; Traveller took 3 big "Magics" not the traditional one, and ran them into the ground: Gravitics, Jump Drive, and Ancients Intervention.

Is it for the Space Opera? Well, kinda; my games tend towards "Errol Flynn in Space" kind of motifs.

Gearheadism: kind of... I like the detail level of MT, and the simplicity of Bk5... But MT was too hard for many, and not hard enough for the few. TNE went further... and while I like the options, the rules precision was too high.

Aliens: Pure F'ing Magic! This is the one thing where Traveller has outshined ALL the competition: Well thought out, well developed aliens. Some of whom just happen to be descended from early homo sapiens (preneanderthal), as are we...

Swords in Space I like. It makes good sense. It makes boarding teams fairly useless dirtside, and vice versa, but boarding is a post-combat activity anyway...

But I am part of the problem for T5. If I cooperate with Marc's apparent regression towards random-everything-tables, then I help doom the future of the game. If I speak up, but too aggressively, Marc ignores me and others like me. If I say nothing, I am complicit in not opposing it. If I go and release a design of my own aimed the way I want, I narrow the market further during tight market times. (At least, they are tight according to RTG and HeroGames.)

Anything Marc does to the setting WILL torque off some faction of grognards. Any rules will annoy some faction. Any detailed setting materials will contradict some other detailed stuff somewhere...

So I ask... Should we, the grognards, be involved in shaping T5 as playtesters?

Should Marc?

Has his baby outgrown his usefulness as a designer?

as RS would say, Food for thought...
"less is more"

T5 needs to be overhauled and severely streamlined. I think the task system as presented is a real "Christopher Plummer" of page use. It could easily be replaced by careful Refereeing, rather than let random chance decide every minute detail. I mean, if a Ref can't express that repairing a jump drive by using a butterknife and some rubber bands is nigh on impossible, he should hang up the dice bag.

It is taking me a long time to get through the test files, which is a bad sign.

It is only my opinion, but I think a simplification of the rules, a return to the "roots" would serve the game well. I was shocked when TNE suggested non d6 use. Seems weird. That said, more could then be put into making the setting (or settings) more "real".
Give it more depth, and less tables.

Do you have a link to this "women gamers" topic you speak of?

BTW, Aramis, Nice Site! You have a varied interest, which is good to see!
For me, Traveller is a 'style' or 'flavour' of adventure you can have. This is composed of the setting (dictates adventure possibilities), and the character rules (character generation and task system or whatever - dictate how the player affects the adventure). In fact you can say this any RPG.

What do *I* want? I want Traveller to stay alive. I want more source material that I can use. So I want T5 to draw in *new* players, not just convert existing players to a new system. And I want supporting material to be backwardly useable (this is one of the failures of TNE).

Now, past versions of Traveller have tended to be more kit based (in CT you had basic character generation and advanced character generation, book 2 ship construction and book 5 ship construction, etc) which allows you to pick n match the bits you want. Thus the ruleset appealed to a broader audience than it would have otherwise. Although not a formal design philosophy, if Marc continues to keep an aspect of this then I think that differences in opinion between him and the grognards should be of minimal importance.

So, Aramis, go ahead and contribute what you can, but don't get bothered if your contributions aren't accepted ... its likely that T5 will still feel like the Traveller you know and love.

Regards PLST
Well, I'm sure you know what I'm going to say ;) .

This is one of the things that pissed me off most about that so-called "playtest" - Marc simply didn't want to listen to people's opinions, regardless of how nicely or aggressively they put them. He wants to do it his way and nobody else's. Well, that's great, but he shouldn't expect anyone to bother to help him if he's just going to reject anything that isn't derived from something he writes.

Of course, the quandary is that if you don't chip in then you can't influence the game's direction. But then, you can't influence the game's direction anyway because Marc isn't interested in changing it.

IMO it's just better to leave the playtest. Marc's deliberate detachment and aloofness from the community means he doesn't know who anyone here is, so he has no clue that he's losing people who know a lot and who can really help develop his game. His attitude and approach has already driven away a lot of people (myself included) from the playtest.

At the end of the day, at this rate the final product is going to be something that nobody is interested in save for a tiny hardcore of people who'll just buy anything with the guy's name on it or who are sticking with it out of principle. If that's the case, then so be it - let him learn the lesson the hard way. But don't waste your time on it if you don't want to.

It's certainly not going to draw in new players, and so far nobody's really interested in changing to the new system (recall that the majority of people want to see CT+, not a new T5 system).
Originally posted by Aramis:
Recent events (last year or so) got me thinking about my misgivings about T5.
Bravo to almost all of your comments!

My opinion is that the playtest should be an open one, conducted professionally.

That's all, since I'm effectively not a part of it anymore.

Originally posted by Aramis:
as RS would say, Food for thought...
Uh . . .
Adding yet another perspective.

Back in times past, when I was just a wee lad of 11 or so, I played the LBB version (which is now known as CT) for a couple of sessions and got hooked. Having only had contact with DnD (pre ADnD) before that the traveller system seemed wondrous and packed full of interesting ideas.

In the interveening 20 years I touched on a lot of concepts and thoughts about role-playing and what exactly was trying to be acheived. I talked to a lot of good players, ran convention games, wrote convention games, and for several years was playing at least 3 different games a week.

When I revisited CT it seemed very limited in scope and thought. What a difference 20 years make.

Admittedly I tend to run very "rules-light" to the point of being freeform on a regular basis. CT seemed to be full of numbers and minutae but without that spark that I remembered.

T20 changed that a bit. Without adding another layer of understanding I could shoe-horn my DnD players at the time into Traveller with very little resistance, and despite the pedigree of a mongrel I am still quite impressed by the v3/v3.5 version of DnD. I am still very impressed by Hunter and co's conversion.

The alternative would be to go back to the freeform generic Sci-Fi that I've run (and enjoyed) before. I could describe the system I normally use by the end of the paragraph, (Roll a d6, 1 is a botch, 2 is a fail, 3 is a marginal success, 4 is a success, 5 is a good success, 6 is a spectacular success. Every roll is moderated by the characters background and GM whim... players can always choose a "3"), which is requisite on having Curriculum Vitae based characters.

I see T5 as a hard market to crack. Current RP offerings tend toward the splendrous (Think Iron Kingdoms or Exalted) anything with that level of polish is not a small undertaking. Anything without this is an also-ran, unless it has something new and interesting to bring to the fore.

As for the dearth of women players I don't understand. Generally I tend to have about 50/50.
(Current game that I am running has 7 players, 3.5 Male and 3.5 Female).

not everything about Roger was bad... he was just abstinent and headstrong about the wrong things. He did have wonderful ideas, and a complete inability to put them through to fruition.

Baron: most of it is old material; some of it grows about every two weeks... There's a rant hidden there that I forgot to link... rant020805.html, IIRC... I dabble a lot, and my website was chosen in the early part of the decade for being part of the "Web.archive.net" archive... so I've been able to recover a lot of it... As you obviously can see, I've tinkered quite a bit with MT over the years.

as for the thread: http://www.kenzerco.com/forums/showflat.php?Cat=&Number=759698&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=&fpart=1
and another, related thread: http://www.kenzerco.com/forums/showflat.php?Cat=&Number=750585&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=&fpart=1
I see T5 as a hard market to crack. Current RP offerings tend toward the splendrous (Think Iron Kingdoms or Exalted) anything with that level of polish is not a small undertaking. Anything without this is an also-ran, unless it has something new and interesting to bring to the fore.
well traveller certainly has the potential to blow the competition away.

glancing at the iron kingdoms site I seem to see a focus on the emotional and the physical. extreme characters with exaggerated attributes, figuines that people can hold, art with strong colors, a level of detail that can endure some long gazing. all of it is pre-supplied as-is. traveller has a strong orientation to the general, the abstract, and the imagined. most of it is in the fans' heads, mostly because they had to imagine 95% of it themselves.

I'm older, and my attitude is shaped by the time when pre-supplied graphics and settings were uncommon and if you wanted to see something new you had to use your own imagination. to me traveller is something you do. but things like iron kingdoms are something that you visit - like a movie or a book or an art show - to see someone else's work. for all the color and excitement and flaming weapons and bulging bustlines it strikes me as being sterile.

should traveller be high-powered graphic literature, with a gaming system appended?
Flykiller: can it afford to NOT be a graphically enhanced product in the modern market?
I think zowie graphics can be good marketing.

But I doubt Traveller will try to compete with brain-grabbingly busy and retina-burningly colorful artwork. Or whatever's out there that costs megacredits to produce. FFE is an independent print shop. And I suspect Traveller5 will be understated. Although, even TTB had a colorful dustjacket, so maybe there will be some flashy bits.

The problem with estimating the market is that I don't know how many people play Traveller. Does anybody know? That's the primary market draw. Next might be the T20/D20 crowd, but then again, why would D20 people care?

So T5 may simply be a consolidation plus expansion of Traveller, which by definition is a niche market, unless it can broaden its appeal somehow.

Marketing itself as space opera will broaden its appeal, I think. People like action, and starships blown in two by spinal weapons is action.
can it afford to NOT be a graphically enhanced product in the modern market?
if traveller is transformed to graphic literature, can it still be a game?

and if it can't, does that matter? traveller is barely a game now. few people play, and most material sold as traveller winds up simply as literature or gearhead material (near as I can figure). the "modern market" you speak of does not seem to be much interested in gaming tools for building worlds, they're more like collectors of finished works.

near as I can see, that's all that's left.

well. if traveller is going to be graphic literature, then it needs a story line. traveller the game has never had one, never supposed to have one, never needed one. that was the referee's job. but as literature it will need an overarching epic tale that will catch the attention of the modern market. it will require guns. lots of guns, with lots of explosions. and babes. lots of babes, both macho and feminine. and ships. lots of ships, with captains on bridges giving orders. brave young heros outside of any chain of command taking charge of human destiny, guided by wise mentors and assisted by comical sidekicks, opposed by techno horrors and perfidious mind-raping tyrants, all of it culminating in a humongous naval battle to decide the fate of mankind. this will provide the framework for the new "traveller".


may I suggest the jewell subsector. everything you need right there.
I am not sure if that information will help you. How many of us Grognards bought T4 or the supplements? I bought T4, but I have never played it.

OTOH I don't think FFE can afford the glitz to compete in the market place. And T4 and T5 use currently popular dice pool mechanics to no apparent purpose except to be competitive.

Keeping design clean with few graphics might keep costs down where profit margins are acceptable, even with lower sales. The richness of the OTU should be a selling point, but I have a nagging feeling we need an alternate. Starting out it was several years before we accumulated enough info to run in the OTU and had to make it up. Maybe its just me, but I miss that and another meleu would give people more freedom.
You have a very peculiar attitude, flykiller.

Art is not a bad thing. In fact, it's a very good thing (unless it's full colour and glossy, in which case it's a good thing for people who can afford $50 hardbacks and not good for those who can't). It does attract people, and GOOD art will illustrate the setting accurately and inspire the viewer and instill an appropriate sense of atmosphere.

It has nothing to do with 'graphic literature', if you have decent art you do not 'need a storyline'. I have no clue where you get this wacky idea from. Yes, some games have metaplots to them, but this has nothing to do with the art.

And consider D&D 3.5e, which is most certainly NOT a 'finished work', but is rather a toolkit for building worlds. Yes, there are setting books available for it, but the three corebooks are no more a 'complete world' than CT books 1-3 are.

You almost sound like someone who's just seen the covers of new games and not opened them up or ever played them. I suggest you ditch your apparently phobic cynicism and take a look at some of them.

As for 'graphic enhancement', well, Burning Wheel is fairly plain and it looks prety good. It's two pocket-sized 300 page B&W softback books, with very little internal art, but it's laid out well and it's easy to read. The layout and writing style makes all the difference - CT is very dull in terms of layout, and dry as a bone to read. BW has little art snippets scattered here and there to break up the text, and is written in a very readable, almost chatty way with examples. Even those little differences go a long way to making it accessible.
This seems to be a good place to make a comment that I have been chewing on for a little while now. I think a serious decision about who T5 is oriented toward needs to be made. Is it intended to bring new blood into the Traveller gaming community or simply to entertain pre-existing players. If the intent is to keep the setting and 'concept' of traveller alive, it needs to change and adapt more than it appears to be doing and I do not think T5 will be particularly successful as a simple rehashing of classic traveller. It needs to grow up...it needs to have more of the feel of a modern rpg with up-to-date ideas. From what I have seen of the playtest files (here and at traveller5.com) they are a vaguely interesting evolution of the CT rules and nothing more.

Some way of seperating Traveller from its reputation as a "classic" game that lots of people used to play has got to be found unless it is going to stay a marginal niche product only purchased by the same tired group of players that have purchased every other version simply because it is Traveller. It needs to capture the excitement of some of the more modern sci-fi novels and films rather than being tied to a model popular in the 70s. I know that type of setting is cool for a lot of established players, but if it is going to bring in new players, many (or all of them) are going to be products of the 80-90s and that is going to have in impact on what they are looking for in a game. Many of those new players gaming experience is based on games like Shadowrun, World of Darkness and more lately d20 and its spinoffs. I just don't see how a game the style that we are seeing for T5 will interest many new players, especially when combined with the baggage of Traveller's reputation and old fashioned default setting.

I did not start playing Traveller until the early-90s. I had looked through traveller material now and then previously and thought it sounded mildly interesting, but it never really made me want to buy it. What changed that was TNE...it was a new face to Traveller. The setting shifted significantly, the designers seemed to be trying to bring it up-to-date and give it a newer, cooler feel. Although I haven't had much luck with players and the GURPS mechanic, GT was a big reason I continued playing Traveller when I could. Again, they took a fresh look at many things and tried to upgrade the mechanics supporting the system to something not so mired in the past. I have since collected a lot of materials from the other traveller versions (nothing near some of your collections I bet... ;) ) including the core books from CT, MT and T4, but I have never really had a particular interest in actually playing those versions of the game. (Some good background material there and interesting to fiddle with, but actually play it, nah...).

I think that Hunter and crew also made a good attempt at breaking free of this problem by taking Traveller to d20. It moved the setting into a more up-to-date ruleset that appealed to more of today's gamers. I think its three biggest problems where: First, there was too much material in the T20 book (it was therefore expensive) and that material tended to be disjointed and hard to follow due to the amount of material being covered and efforts to remain d20 license compatible. Second, the game should have been based on d20 modern due its better fit with modern settings, though I know that couldn't have happened due to timing issues. And finally, it is too closely tied with CT. It is a conversion of CT to d20, not a new generation of the Traveller game, and therefore carried forward many of the conceptual and/or perceived problems with CT into T20. This only gets driven home further by the 'Players Guide' and its addition of yet more classes based on the career paths of CT. Classes that are almost identical to each other except for a few numbers and slightly different mixes of feats.

The prior life system was a really cool addition to d20 and some little things got changed and another region got developed, but I can't help but feel that it is heavily shackled by its close association with CT and some of its concepts. In know many pre-existing traveller players appreciated its compatibility with CT, but what does a brand new player care about that? This problem is also being rolled foward into other new settings like 2320, Legacy of Aldenata and the Honor Harrington setting and that could be a real shame compared to what those games could have been.

I guess what it comes down to (and to tie in to this thread better ;) ) is that I think you guys should try to stick with the playtesting and contributing in the hopes that something will penetrate. It seems that a lot of you have the concept of "traveller" but also know that the game needs change...and without the constant reminder of that, there is even less chance of that change happening than if T5 is simply allowed to go on in a vacuum.
I think a serious decision about who T5 is oriented toward needs to be made.
Myself and others attempted to do this on the T5 playtest board while waiting for the first file to be posted. The impression I got from the total lack of response was that Marc simply doesn't care about such things. He has this "vision" and that's what he's sticking to, he doesn't care about its marketability.

I agree with all your points, it's just that I don't think Marc is listening. If that is the case, then people should not get their hopes up or waste any more of their time trying to help Marc make a better, more marketable product, and T5 should be left to rot.
It needs to capture the excitement of some of the more modern sci-fi novels and films rather than being tied to a model popular in the 70s.
(laugh) well how are you going to do that? with better task targets and realistic planetary system generation tables?

traveller will have to become a spectator sport. instead of people generating and playing their own games, they will tune in to the one central official game - a game that is heavily illustrated and graphically depicted with lots of models and figurines and posters, following a storyline that is full of exaggerated drama, guns, explosions, babes, and heros (who are carefully crafted to match the demographics of the target audience). seriously, why struggle to assemble your own amateur game, and then struggle to find amateur players, when you can simply pay a few dollars and have spread before you the full drama and excitement of someone else's professional game?

where's the bigger market? the players on the field, or the fans in the stadium?

and, in all seriousness, would that be so much different from what goes on now?