#RPGThursday Retrospective – Traveller: 2300 – 1st Ed (GDW, 1986)

Traveller! In the year 2300AD! Who wants to play an early milieu Traveller campaign? I certainly did, and that is why I bought Traveller: 2300 in 1986.

Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that Traveller: 2300 was neither the Traveller rules nor the Traveller setting (I was not the only disappointed person, by 1988 the setting was renamed simply 2300 AD). But as I opened the box and read the Player’s Manual I became intrigued. This was a Hard Sci-Fi setting, with a timeline and background derived from the earlier Twilight: 2000. In 1986, I was in a bit of an anti-space opera mood (actually, anti-space fantasy as Star Wars was rapidly devolving into). Traveller: 2300 felt realistic, especially with the Near Stars Map and List showing all the stars within 50 light-years of Earth (in three dimensions!).

What I Thought of It Back Then – I loved the setting, and we did try to play a few times, but I remember the sessions bogging down because we just couldn’t figure out how to do things. I didn’t know it at the time, but Traveller: 2300 was an attempt by GDW to further their “house” system that had started in Twilight: 2000. In doing so, GDW attempted to define a Task System for the game. Starting on page 4 of the Referee’s Manual, GDW laid out their Task Resolution system. It was all summarized in one page (p. 9) of the manual.

And I was lost.

The biggest problem is a severe lack of examples of play. This was not the first game I experienced with Difficulty Levels (see Paranoia or James Bond) but in their efforts to define tasks they ended up making it too complicated. The scariest part was “Step 6. Referee records task description.” References to notebooks or file cards or even computer files seemed (at the time) to be taking this RPG-thing to extremes. The game didn’t feel playable out-of-the-box.

What I Think of It Today – Even today I have to step through the Checklist for Task Resolution carefully. It’s all there, but not all on the one-page Task Resolution helper. Graphically, the system would be better served by flowcharts…and an Example of Play!

From an RPG-perspective, I give Traveller: 2300 Totally Subjective Game Rating (Scale of 1-5):

  • System Crunch = 3 (Early Task Resolution System attempt that is unclear)
  • Simulationist = 4 (Attempt at Hard Sci-Fi)
  • Narrativism = 2 (Uses task difficulty and mishaps)

“The Traveller game in all forms is owned by Far Future Enterprises. Copyright 1977-2015 Far Future Enterprises.”

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