#RPGThursday – My OTR: Original #TravellerRPG Renaissance

I HAVE NOT LOOKED AT MY RPG COLLECTION IN A VERY LONG TIME. This past weekend I visited DriveThruRPG for the first time in a very long while. I was a bit surprised to see the ALIEN RPG Core Rulebook listed as the #1 bestseller.

Now, I really like the movies ALIEN and ALIENS but I am not so sure I want to plop down $24.99 for a pdf (although it is 392 pages!). Especially since I already own Hostile from Zozer Games.

So maybe Hostile is not as comprehensive as the ALIEN RPG Core Rulebook but does that make it less playable? In some ways I have soured on ‘comprehensive’ RPG settings – I feel so hemmed in by them. The worst is some ‘known’ setting like Star Wars – don’t get me started on canon!

While looking around DTRPG I picked up, for free, Outworld Authority, also from Zozer Games. Here is how the ad copy for Outworld Authority reads:

Chris Kubasik in his wonderful  blog called Classic Traveller: Out of the Box, has brought Traveller back to its beginnings, as a simple but flexible set of three ‘Little Black Books’ that can be used to create stories in the sci-fi setting of your own imagination.

OUTWORLD is a short and simple setting, inspired by the movies Alien, Aliens, Outland and Silent Running (amongst others) and it uses only the tools and rules of Traveller Books 1, 2 and 3 to help build a rough facsimile of those movies. The setting is entirely original, and not connected to the settings of Ridley Scott’s Alien or Blade Runner movies, but it is inspired by his films, by the others in my list above and by later movies (the Alien sequels for a start).  It is not connected to my game HOSTILE, either.

In the spirit of Chris Kubasik’s Traveller blog, let’s stick to the rules as written if we can, and keep our game setting small, manageable and bursting with adventure opportunities.

I picked up my Little Black Books of Traveller over 40 years ago. I always enjoyed the wonder those three books opened up. I am ashamed to say it, but it took me 40 years to realize that I do not love Classic Traveller or the modern Cepheus Engine incarnation as much as Original Traveller – Traveller Books 1-3 ‘without a setting.’

Original Traveller describes my style of Traveller best. I don’t ignore the Third Imperium setting but I like making my own using elements from the LBBs.  Form here on out I am going to use Original Traveller to describe this style of Traveller RPG play – a setting that is ‘small, manageable, and bursting with adventure opportunities.’

Sadly, I see that Chris has not updated his blog since August 2019. Hopefully he get some new content going. I certainly am going to try and do the same!


Writing this blog made me remember I pledged on Kickstarter for Cortex Prime: A Multi-Genre Modular Roleplaying Game by Can Banks. The campaign took my money in May 2017 with delivery originally scheduled for April 2018. Here we are, nearly a complete two years and 55 updates later and the STILL NO PRODUCT! In the meantime, Cam up and moved his family to New Zealand (I’m ‘sure’ none of the $84K in this Kickstarter was used, eh?) and the project has taken a much different turn by joining Fandom (see the press announcement here).  At some point lat year I tried to reach out to Cam and cancel my pledge for a refund. Unsurprisingly, I heard nothing back and never got a refund. So forgive me if I have also soured on ‘big’ RPG publishers – to say I am disappointed with the likes of Mr. Banks is an understatement.


Feature image courtesy Zozer Games via DriveThruRPG

#RPGaDay 2017 – which #RPG does the most with the least words? Classic #TravellerRPG

#RPGaDay August 21, 2017

45b96a0a8845ed78b2958bc87f1b6b58_largeIf you follow me, then I am sure you are getting tired of my constant #TravellerRPG praise. Sorry, but I just like the game that much!

Sure, there are other rules-lite or “microRPG” or folding-style games that do a lot in a little area, but to me the simple three Little Black Books of the original (now Classic) Traveller are what I think of in a ‘lite’ RPG. Many people apparently don’t realize (or have forgotten) that Traveller was not a setting but a simple core mechanic within a (short) flexible ruleset within which basic setting materials were provided. Like many other RPGs of that era, it was expected (demanded?) that game masters would develop their own universe to adventure in. [For the best discussion of this, see Tales to Astound, TRAVELLER: Out of the Box to the Third Imperium].

#RPGThursday – Not Encountering Traveller5

Tales to Astound has a long-running series on Traveller: Out of the Box. If you are a true Classic Traveller RPG fan and have not seen that site – FULL STOP! Go read it now then come back (or maybe not – his site is admittedly much better than mine).

Courtesy FFE.com

As much as I love Classic Traveller (or CT), I have stated before that the latest Marc Miller version of Traveller, Traveller5 (or T5) is also one of my guilty pleasures. I really like the “makers” in the system and how they all work together for world building. I also must admit that many of the critics of T5 are correct; the game is hard to play. I keep asking myself why.

 

To me, the Core Mechanic (nD6 < Characteristic + Skill +/- Mods) stands up well. Character Generation is no more difficult than any other version of Traveller. Combat (except Melee) works well and there are all those Makers! So why is it difficult?

One moment of clarity in my Traveller RPG journey came late last year when I revisited Marc Miller’s Traveller (or T4). In the introduction, Mr. Miller lays out his viewpoint of three different Traveller RPG players:

Casual Players: Anybody can play Traveller. The concepts are intuitive: travel, exploration, interaction, negotiation, combat, and all kinds of action. Individuals can role-play diverse characters or they can play themselves. Casual players can be so casual that they know nothing about the game system at all.

Detailed Role-Players: Traveller provides dedicated gamers the opportunity to role-play complex characters with strong motivations and intricate backgrounds. The Traveller system can be as informal or rich as the participants want.

System Engineers: The Traveller system presents referees the materials necessary to explore [the] Traveller universe in detail. Aspects such as starship design, world generation, vehicle descriptions, trade and commerce, animal generation, and encounters, are designed to meet two specific goals; as a prod to the imagination, and for creating custom equipment or information. – p. 8

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Courtesy thealexandrian.net

As I look at myself critically, I see that when I play CT I am a Casual Player. However, there are times when I really like to explore the System Engineer I go to T5. Interestingly, if I am trying to be a Detailed Role-Player I don’t usually use a Traveller system, instead I gravitate towards a more Narrative-style RPG in Diaspora or Mindjammer (FATE Core 2nd Edition, not the horrible Mindjammer Traveller) or Firefly or Star Wars: Edge of the Empire.

I think another major reason player uses are so different between CT and T5 is because T5 lacks CT-like encounter rules. “Encounters” in this case are not fights but “situations” that lead to adventure. Real CT is actually built on encounters. In T5 there is a nod to this style (the Adventures chapter) but it lacks the Encounter Tables found in CT thru T4. Instead the focus in on EPIC Adventures (EPIC meaning Easy, Playable, Interactive,  Checklist).

I don’t like it.

Without encounters T5 loses a great amount of the “Traveller charm” that I love and enjoy playing. I certainly use T5 to build but not play. Maybe this is because at heart I rebel these days against a setting that I see as hamstringing my play. I realize I appear to be talking out of both sides of my mouth; I seemingly dislike settings but at the same time enjoy CT or Cepheus Engine settings like The Clement Sector or Orbital: 2100 or These Stars are Ours! Each of these settings use the encounter mechanic from CT. Certainly one can make an EPIC Adventure within the setting but its not my preference. CT (and these days CE) support my preferred encounter style of play.


Marc Miller’s Traveller, Copyright ©1996 by Imperium Games, Inc. Traveller is a registered trademark of Far Future Enterprises. Used under license by Imperium Games, Inc. 

Traveller5: Science Fiction Adventures in the Far Future, v5.09; Copyright ©2015 Far Future Enterprises.

“Traveller, Basic Traveller, Starter Traveller, Classic Traveller, MegaTraveller, Traveller: The New Era, Traveller4, Traveller5, Traveller8, The Spinward Marches, The Edge of the Empire, EPIC, The Galaxiad, and Journal of the Traveller’s Aid Society are trademarks of Far Future Enterprises.”