Traveller is a venerable sci-fi roleplaying concept, heavily inspired by the science fiction of the 1970s. The first Traveller book, which I believe came out in 1977, states that the goal of Traveller is to imagine a far future setting that has the constraints of Earth in the early 18th Century: that is, voyages between places take weeks or months (if not years) and there is no communication faster than the fastest ship.
As a great fan of writers like Jack London and C. S. Forester (as well as science fiction) this combination speaks to me.
According to the travellerrpg wiki, you know you are in a Traveller game setting when you have the following things:
- TRAVEL. Travellers spend a lot of time travelling using jumpspace. Travel is slow and requires a lot of fuel (…includes wilderness refueling), but being in space is a lot like being on Earth because of advanced artificial gravity.
- DIVERSITY. There are many, many possible worlds, characters, aliens, ships, beasts, tech. Space includes both anachronism and atavism. (This is great for GURPS rules.)
- AGENCY. Self-Reliance. The remoteness of authority, the speed of jump, starports as “deep water” ports, leads to explicit feudalism (…and even piracy). This empowers and requires the players to make their own decisions and act, often far from help.
- CLASS STRUCTURE. Interstellar society is socially stratified with an aristocracy, but people are still human.
The travellerrpg wiki also states that “the typical game shows how being a traveller crosses classes and breaks stratification.” I’m not sure that has been my experience but Traveller def has a kind of 1966 Star Trek multiculturalism vibe.
(They also say Traveller means tangible rewards and not character development but I don’t agree with that, mostly because we’re using the GURPS rules and I think character development is very important, so I have omitted it.)
I’ve modified the Traveller setting somewhat by specifying that there are no aliens at the beginning of the setting (in other words: no aliens that we know of, for now). And I’m going to mostly ignore the voluminous backstory and history that has been written for Traveller. So I’m not going to specify which dynasty it is, whether or not Emperor Strephon was assasinated, etc.
I’m trying to make the whole thing more accessible for new players.
That stuff might come up later but as we saw in the last post about the character-creation prompt, to being this is a game about some people in the burbs who need to get off of a backwater planet. The grand history of the galaxy can be put off for now.
Only one of my players has read the Traveller books as far as I know, and I don’t expect that he will care. So I will feel free to mine them for detail without holding myself to the timeline. More details on that next!
I’m not showing any of this kind of material to my players, it is all just for me to get my head straight.
If you like, let me know if you’ve ever used or modified the Traveller setting (and how it went).
(Image Coda: The cover of GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars, used as part of the Steve Jackson Games Online Policy — see disclaimer below.)