Sci-Fi Adventuring with Traveller
Currently in its 2nd edition from Mongoose Publishing, The Traveller RPG dates to 1977. Marc Miller wrote the first edition which was published by Game Designers’ Workshop (GDW) along with some subsequent editions. Traveller has also been licensed to various game companies and game systems such as GURPS Traveller. The current version—Traveller Core Rulebook Update 2022—has many additional books which include rules covering new gear and starships, and setting support including aliens, adventures, and more!
In the Traveller RPG universe, jump engines move ships one or more parsecs at lightspeed. Each hex on the map represents one parsec. While not instant, courier ships deliver system-to-system communications. Contact has been made with several alien species and some are willing to work alongside humans although conflicts flare up as well.
Campaigns & Settings
Campaigns can be based on trade (like Firefly), military (Starship Troopers or Aliens), exploration (original Star Trek), or a little bit of everything. Many campaigns focus on trade, and an entire chapter devotes itself to small scale trading, planet-to-planet. These mercantile endeavors spawn adventures and the Travellers often get pulled into a variety of challenging scenarios.
Originally, Traveller had no setting and referees generated semi-random star systems in a build-as-you-go fashion. Mongoose has embraced The Third Imperium example setting by incorporating it into most source books. An emperor rules The Third Imperium—a vast human empire—and supports nobles across more than 11,000 worlds. However, random star systems can still be generated using the rulebook. So referees can still build-as-they-go if they want to, and choose which elements to add from other rulebooks and supplements.
Mongoose Traveller Second Edition 2022
The current Mongoose Publishing Traveller—second edition—is the Core Rulebook Update 2022. These rules are basically identical to the 2016 second edition. The example Sindal subsector has been dropped and starship creation rules have been added. A long-standing tradition in other Traveller versions is having starship creation in the core rulebook. The second edition works well with Mongoose Traveller first edition adventure supplements and many other older Traveller RPG products. This article goes in-depth to describe what the Mongoose Traveller second edition offers.
Gear expansion & additional options
There are three additional books to the core rulebook to expand gear:
Additionally, the Traveller Companion book is loaded with optional rules that change character creation, combat and more!
What’s In the Core Rulebook?
Resolving tasks in Traveller involves rolling 2 6-sided die, to which you add your characteristic modifier and skill level in order to meet or beat a number—usually 8. Character creation is a lifeplay system and a sort of mini-game. The game refers to characters as Travellers. Random dice rolls decide a Traveller’s characteristics. Then the Traveller goes through a series of careers, rolling to try to get into a career and to advance through it. A Traveller picks from a handful of lists that include characteristics or skill improvements, but the exact increase is based on a random d6 roll on the picked table.
Character Creation and Careers Paths
Your Traveller may be injured, fired, or even imprisoned during character creation. Each career takes four years to complete and the Traveller or the referee determines when to stop. Travellers choose skills based on their background and the type of campaign being played.
Using the Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition as an example; I want the second term of my Traveller to be Scout (Explorer) while keeping everything from my first term. To qualify, I need to roll INT 5+. I roll 2d6 and add my Dice Modifier (DM) from Intelligence and subtract a DM -1 for having one previous career. I roll a 7 and the Dice Modifiers cancel out. The Scout service accepts my Traveller as an Explorer. I pick a skill table to roll on from Personal Development, Service Skills, or Explorer. But I can’t pick Advanced Education because I need an Education of 8 and my Traveller only has a 6. I choose Personal Development and roll a d6 getting a 3. My Endurance increases +1 which increases the chance I’ll make a successful Survival roll as an Explorer. And character creation continues.
Rewards & Races
The Traveller RPG does not use experience points and Travellers do not get any mechanical character benefits from adventuring. Instead, gear plays a big role as a reward. Additionally, Travellers can train during downtime to increase skills.
Travellers are normally human, but two alien races are options in the core rulebook as well. The Aslan, honor-bound and territory-driven, evolved from a swift mammal predator ancestor. The uplifted, canine Vargr have a reputation for larceny and piracy. Aliens of Charted Space rulebooks include additional rules and more aliens that players can pick from.
Combat & Travel
Combat is dangerous, with damage reducing physical characteristics. It covers interesting tactical options, but doesn’t get bogged down with too many rules. The Core Rulebook also has rules for skills, equipment, vehicles, spacecraft operations and combat, trade, and even psionics. The book includes sample spacecraft and the 2022 Update includes spacecraft creation rules.
Referees also have a World and Universe Creation chapter in the 2022 Core Rulebook. Subsectors are an area of space 8×10 parsecs (1 hex = 1 parsec). Creating a subsector involves star and planet mapping. Worlds have a variety of tables to roll or pick from including details like Starports, Law Level, Tech Level, and Trade Codes. A referee can combine 16 subsectors into a massive sector map which is large enough to support an entire Traveller campaign. The maps do not include a third dimension which seems odd but is easy enough to ignore in practice.
More Options, Adventures, and Setting Supplements
For referees who want to make changes to the core rules and are looking for inspiration there is the Traveller Companion. Options range from minor to major. A point-buy method replaces the lifepath character generation method. Referees can add experience points to the game. The random roll during character creation for picking skills can be replaced with choosing skills. Combat and various environmental hazards receive dozens of new options. Vehicles, starships, starports, space combat, and space travel all get optional rules. Referees get additional advice as well.
In addition to the four core books and the Companion, Traveller also offers additional setting supplements and quite a few adventures. The recently released Core adventures, Great Rift Adventure 1 – Islands in the Rift, Marches Adventure 1 – High and Dry, Naval Adventure 1 – Shakedown Cruise, and Reach Adventure 1 – Marooned on Marduk all offer different types of adventures in different parts of the Third Imperium and beyond. Each of these adventures kicks off a whole series of adventures with similar themes set in the same region of space. For example, Great Rift adventures are heavily exploration-based, Naval adventures are military in nature, and Marches and Reach adventures are a mix of challenges.
Supplements like The Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society – Vol. 1 and The Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society – Vol. 3 (currently in six volumes with more on the way) offer new content from aliens to ships to planets to adventures and more. Supplements like Behind the Claw details the Deneb and Spinward Marches sectors. The Marches adventures like Marches Adventure 2 – Mission to Mithril are set in the Spinward Marches, and Deneb is bordered by the Vargr Extents and the Great Rift.
Pre-Generated Adventures & Box Sets
For referees pressed for time, the Traveller RPG offers several large adventures in slipcase or boxed set form along with additional books offering even more options. The Great Rift Box Set offers Travellers the chance to explore a vast mysterious area bordering the Third Imperium. It ties in with Great Rift adventures. That adventure can also serve to springboard Travellers towards the Deepnight Revelation adventures.
Deepnight Revelation is about a 20-year mission exploring alien space across the Great Rift and beyond. Players take this journey aboard a heavy cruiser converted for exploration. Travellers may choose to be command crew or serve another function, but the players drive the mission and the route. It has several additional adventures including Riftsedge Transit, The Near Side of Yonder, The Crossing, Voidshore, and a supplement: Expeditions.
Skandersvik is a series of adventures taking place in the Sword Worlds (2nd Edition). The Sword Worlds lie just beyond the Imperial border, a distinct cultural region settled long ago by refugees from a civil war.
The Pirates of Drinax was originally offered as much smaller PDFs for first edition. Collected and greatly expanded, it supports privateers and pirates in space. It is expanded even more with the Shadows of Sindal and the Drinaxian Companion.
Traveller 2300 AD takes place in a completely different universe with stutterdrives instead of jump drives. It also evolved in various editions.
Still A Great Sci-Fi roleplaying experience
The Traveller RPG is to traditional science fiction space adventure as Dungeons & Dragons is to fantasy adventure. If the multiple editions are confusing, the most current version of the Traveller Core Rulebook 2022 is well-supported and has more optional support in additional rulebooks than one referee could ever easily use in one campaign. This RPG is worth diving into, especially if you enjoy space sci-fi adventures like Firefly, Original Star Trek, Aliens, and Starship Troopers.
Written by Charles Dunwoody
Charles discovered a nexus point where various dimensions that break the laws of science can be observed. He built a castle there and writes night and day of the awesome wonders he sees.