#RPGThursday Retrospective – Classic Traveller (1979)

In late 1979, I found a small store in the upper levels of the old Southglenn Mall in south Denver. Fascination Corner was a store unlike any I had seen before; it had games of war! For Christmas that year, I convinced my parents to get me Panzer by Yaquinto Games.

Not long after, I was browsing through the store and came across a small black box with a simple message:

This is the Free Trader Beowulf, calling anyone…Mayday, Mayday…we are under attack…main drive is gone..turret number one not responding…Mayday…losing cabin pressure fast…calling anyone…please help…This is the Free Trade Beowulf…Mayday…

Thus began my life-long passion for Traveller and science-fiction role-playing games.

What I Remember at the TimeTraveller instantly became THE GAME for my group of friends. We didn’t understand design intent behind task resolution or core mechanics and we barely used the setting. What we did do was HAVE FUN. Our favorite scenario was a simple, straight-up bar brawl.

What I Think of It Today – Over the years, I always found myself coming back to (Classic) Traveller because so many parts of the game worked together. The system allows for complete world-building; characters, equipment, ships, worlds, combat from tactical to strategic. It is very wargaming-centric. Today I see the core mechanic as very simplistic, but appealing. Judging from the success of Mongoose Traveller and now the Cepheus Engine (2d6 SciFi) it apparently is not only popular with me. I also have branched out to using the rules in other settings and not automatically the default Third Imperium.

(Classic) Traveller also became a touchstone of my RPG experience. Given it was my first RPG, all others are inevitably compared to it. For the longest time I thought that character generation in ALL RPGs was done in a career system! I also thought a “real” RPG doesn’t need funny dice – any old set of 2d6 will do!

Totally Subjective Game Rating (Scale of 1-5)

  • System Crunch = 2  (Classic Traveller didn’t really have a formal Task Resolution system, or Core Mechanic – the real crunch was in the design segments making ships or vehicles or creatures)
  • Simulationist = 3.5 (There are many ways to DIE in this game)
  • Narrativism = 1 (No Hero Points or Bennies or Fate Points or whatever; GM controls all)


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