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Where to begin?


A few months ago I developed a bug to play an RPG. I had played AD&D a few times in HS, but I really wasn't feeling like doing the whole axe vs skull routine again.

Having always been a big sci-fi fan I hit on the idea of trying to find a sci-fi rpg that would allow me to be part of a star ship crew going out and raising a little hell, exploring new areas, and just have some fun escapism with a few friends.

After a few days of searching it seemed that Traveller kept coming up. Not only did it come up, but it totally overwhelmed the others that I had seen.

So it seemed Traveller was the way to go. All I would have to do was buy or download a rule set and con some friends into playing with me. This would be a piece of cake.

Ok, well it seemed there was more than one ruleset. In fact there were so many rulesets, revised rules, and upcoming rules that I had no idea where to start. My plans ground to a halt. And the players I had chosen drifted on to other things.

I bought the T4 pdf and several G:T books (figuring that they would be great background even if I chose not to go with GURPS mechanics) but I still have no idea where I am to start. Being a new player, I have no idea how GURPS works and if Classic Traveller is easier to use than T4.

After lurking on this (and a few other Traveller forums/sites) I saw a few posts/comments where people were asking "How do we attract new players to Traveller?" I think the new players are out here, but many, like me, just have no idea where to find a way to get in.

I'm also surprised at the lack of forum played Traveller games. One of the first things I looked for was games played over the forums. This would let me see how flexible the system(s) are and also to just an enjoy a random sci-fi story. Where it is so hard to find players to play Traveller in a face to face setting I would have thought there would be much more of this. I've seen the few games here on CotI and I think it's outstanding way to "sell" Traveller to new players such as me. Is there just not enough interest?

So at the end of this somewhat random and probably not very clear rant, I ask you, where is a new player to start in the Traveller Universe?
quick answer:

for ruleset, go with T20. it's the version that is attracting the most new players.

for an initial entry into the game, the best way is to join one. you'll get a feel for how one referee approaches the game and it will inform you of what you need to know and how you yourself might approach it. if you're talking about refereeing a game yourself, there was one published adventure intended to introduce the game called "the traveller adventure". if you can find it, start there. otherwise start small, one planet with some adventures designed for it, and grow from there.

long answer:

lots of traveller fans don't play. some have never played. traveller can be very difficult, much more so than D&D. one can start a D&D game with a single city, around which is plopped the dreaded wilderness. history is legend, anything unexplainable is simply magical, and above all, the characters start young, inexperienced, and ignorant. a referee can draw up twenty major NPC's and be ready to go. but traveller spans thousands of worlds, thousands of years, and the reality of science (fiction), all of which is readily accessible to the player characters. as a referee, or even as a player, to prepare for that is exceedingly strenuous.

more later, my daughter wants pizza so I have to sign off.
If you don't already know any other rulesets, Run either GT or T20.

If you're not saddled with GURPS-Nat-zeez, go T20, it's much closer feel wise and gives a much better grip on the archetypes.

If you really MUST have a non-current set of rules, I'd recommend TNE, despite the download times, for CG at least.

If you DO use GURPS, then use your T4 to create the characters (Or at least their history) and then have the player build to match under GURPS.
You may find almost as many answers as players. As you say, there are many different versions of Traveller and each has its devotees. Personally, I can't comment on T20, because I haven't played it or found any of the rulebooks at game fairs to date. Personally, I am a fan of Classic Traveller. This is where Traveller itself started and IMO has the simplest set of rules (T20 possibly excluded, but I doubt it). Players are in the fortunate position right now, that most of the classic materials are available as reprints, where previously you had to scour the second hand market for them. A single book - the reprint of classic books 1 to 8 - will give you all you need to play Traveller for as many weeks or years as you need until you feel ready to expand. And there are plenty of expansions for CT. Unlike Gurps it is a self contained rule set and you don't need to have any other material.
Personally, I would avoid MegaTraveller and Traveller The New Era, as these are bloated, micromanagement rule sets that will get you bogged down in detail before you begin to understand the game. (Apologies to their advocates, but even you must admit they would be daunting rules for a beginner?)
You only need a few star systems to start with, and how much realism or fantasy you bring in is up to you. You don't even need to learn anything about the Official Traveller Universe, you could play Traveller in any setting (careful though, despite it being the original premise of the game, this sort of thing today is considered sacrilege in some circles) ;)
In a nutshell, start where Traveller started and grow with it. Good Travelling.
Rules-wise, I like old CT as well - and yes, the 8-books-in-one reprint (which is the version of CT I have) is very handy. It takes some time to get used to, but when you do, its beautifaly simple and quite flexible. Many people have worked up very useful house-rules for Classic Traveller, which fill out the gaps in it and/or make it even easier to use - see the Classic Traveller forum (on these forums) for details, or check the links in my sig as an example of this.

Avenger will soon (before Cristmas, most likely) release a consolidated and streamlined version of Classic Traveller, called Avenger Classic Traveller (ACT). I've been to its playtest and what I could easily say without violating the NDA is that it looks very, very promising. Very similar to CT in terms of feel and simplicity, but more consistent and comprehensive. Marc Miller (the creator of Traveller) is also working on a new edition of Traveller (T5), but I don't know much details about it.

I haven't had a chance to read T20 or GURPS Traveller, but yes, MegaTraveller has its complexity issues - it is 'simulationist' in its approach - that is, it puts details and realism first and ease of learning (or of play) second. Some people like this level of detail; others don't - this is a matter of preference. But it IS very complex. TNE has a completely different rule system and is even more complex - though, as Icosahedron, some people like it, as, again, this is a matter of taste. But I won't recomment MT and TNE to a beginner, as they might be quite difficult to learn - start with CT, then, if you'd like more complexity, then expand to MT or TNE.

T4 (Marc Miller's Traveller) was intended to be a revitalized version of CT, but it fell short of it due to a massive amount of errata and due to a few very unfortunate design mistakes (especially the ship design system and the task system). On the other hand, a few parts in T4 are strokes of genius, so, later on, you might want to get the basic T4 book as a source of inspiration for creating house-rules for CT.

All in all, the course I'd recommend you to follow is the course recommended in CT's Book 0 - read the CT reprint once or twice, then try your hand at character generation, world generation, animal generation and ship design to get a hang of the rules (they aren't as complicated as they might seem at first). Then create your own setting in a single subsector (about 20 worlds on avarage) and start playing in it. Start small, take your time, and don't be afraid to make mistakes.
Welcome aboard Othin

My advice would be to get hold of the FFE reprint of the Classic Traveller short adventures, and start small.

They provide about an evening's play per adventure, although it's easy enough to pad them out or extend them. A word of warning, they often assume quite an experienced referee (or put another way, you may have to fill in some gaps).
They can also be slotted into just about anyone's personal Traveller universe.
Either map out a subsector for yourself and your players, or pick one in the Spinward Marches.

I've found certain adventures to be excellent introductions to new players - Death Station, Chamax Plague and Horde are my favourites.

Lately I've wanted to run the longer adventures Kinunir, Research Station Gamma, and Twilight's Peak as an extended campaign to a new group.

Couple of other things - I'd echo the sentiments to go with CT. Either the FFE reprint of books 0-8, or try ebay to get second hand copies.

Next, ask questions here on this site. People are very helpful and can usually be counted on to point you in the direction of various online resources which can be of excellent quality.

What sort of games do your players usually like? D20 based, GURPS, something else?
This is the big problem with Traveller - it's big and fragmented, and overwhelming to new players.

T20 and GURPS Traveller are well-presented and in print, but they aren't "real" Traveller IMHO; they are (mostly successful) attempts to shoehorn the Traveller universe into totally different rulesets. If you know and like D20 or GURPS they are fine, otherwise just use them for background detail.

If you're relatively new to RPGs, or just like clear, simple rules, the original ("Classic") Traveller reprints are perfect. However, they can seem a little bit dated after 20 years, and the background details are scattered across a dozen books.

If you don't mind more detail, go for MegaTraveller (PDFs on CD or download). This takes the original rules, brings them all together, and tidies and updates them (and, okay, makes a few errors along the way).

Traveller: The New Era (again on PDFs) is great for gearheads, but makes major changes to the background, and is mostly incompatible with other versions.

Marc Miller's Traveller (aka T4, and only on PDF) is 50% brilliant, and 50% crap. Usable, but with caution.
As a fairly recent Traveller convert, my advice would be to use T20. I bought the Classic reprints, and while I saw in it an elegant and simple game, it is too broken to play and it is incredibly dated in terms of weapons and science. It's very useful for naval or mercenary campaigns, but for general sci-fi games it lacks some key skill areas (sciences, for instance). I'd still collect the reprints for background and other data, but, especially if your players are used to DnD, T20 is the way to go.

My reasoning is this: T20 is consistent with itself, has alot of options, is easy to pick up if you already know D20 (tho there are some key differences), and has an awful lot of support.

CT, while elegant and innovative, is almost 30 years old. It is inconsistent with itself, there's multiple types of chargen that don't balance, and being laid out in the reprint landscape format it is not conducive to easily finding the info you want, or even running battles (the tables you need are scattered over several different pages, ok you can photocopy for ease of use but it's still cumbersome).

Most people on here have been playing Traveller for years: they're used to the caveats and contradictions in CT. When I tried I found it very difficult, and thats with lots of rewriting and consolidation on my part. My advice is start with T20, then look further if you like.
Thanks for all of the replies and suggestions. I'm reading everything and absorbing what I can.

Sigg Oddra, unfortunately, due to a recent move (from Japan back to the U.S.) the people that had expressed an interest in playing are quite far away now. They were like me though. Not too familiar with any one system and willing to learn a new one.
I won't offer any suggestions on rule sets - rather, I suggest getting a good setting book, one that includes an overview of Charted Space (aka the Traveller universe).

My other suggestion is, start small - Charted Space is vast, and the temptation is to try to incorporate everything all at once. Pick a small cluster of systems, detail those, and set your adventures there to start.
Hi Othin

I agree with BGG above. I've just started running a game online. It started as T20 but I've actually gone more toward D20 Future Rules with the Traveller Universe.

Start small and work outwards. Worlds and even whole sectors are easy to generate with a few programs easily downloaded. What your big problem may be is finding players. That's why I had to go to D20 Future - none of the players had ever heard of Traveller before.
Oh, one other thing: Don't tell your players about the other editions until you've got them hooked... unless playing GT or Traveller For Hero, as these do not have background generation.
This is where that reprint of The Traveller Book would have been a good option. Fixes a lot of the issues with CT but doesn't make things over complicated for new players and GMs like MT does some times.
I still wish someone could persuade MWM to stick a task system in The Traveller Book and release it as T5 ;)

(possibly include the CotI character generation tables, the weapons from Mercenary, the T4 combat system, and the Starter edition ship combat system...)
Well, based on the recommendations in the thread, I went ahead and ordered the FFE reprints of the classic books 0-8 and short adventures. I also ordered the supplements and classic adventures (1-13) just because ;)
You've taken your first step into a larger world. ;)
Greetings, Othin. Welcome!

Starting with CT is an excellent choice. it is modular enough so that you can treat it like a buffet, examining those items that interest you and tinkering with them alone, if necessary.

I would also recommend that you look over Employee 2-4601's excellent Universal Game Mechanic posts, and examine the basics of the MT task system (IMHO the only good thing we got out of MT).

Keep lurking on the boards also. There are a lot of sharp minds here that are willing to share!
I echo what several others have said. Stick with the original (Classic Traveller), the simplest, the most basic version of Traveller.

You know how the popular saying goes, "K.I.S.S."

'Keep it simple, Stuart.' <grin>
Originally posted by Dominion Loyalty Officer:
I would also recommend that you look over Employee 2-4601's excellent Universal Game Mechanic posts, and examine the basics of the MT task system (IMHO the only good thing we got out of MT).
Thanks for the kind words, but the Universal Game Mechanic, at its core, is not my work - it is the work of WJP/Comminique/Supplement Four; I've just expanded on it (built a task library), added a few rules and created the MSWORD summery page.