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I'd love to play Traveller. Which edition best combines understandability, availability, and flavor?

In other words, I'm looking for an edition that is easy to grasp and available for purchase, that still captures the essential flavor of Traveller.

I've played several dozen different RPG systems, so the system needn't be dirt simple.

Thanks!

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7 Answers 7

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Mongoose Traveller is surprisingly good. It's by Gareth Hanrahan, who has freelanced on many projects (The Laundry RPG, for example). Thus, it's well-written and clear. Gareth is good at flavour text, so it's atmospheric, too.

It sticks close to previous editions, while fixing some niggles: for example, it doesn't let characters die during character creation.

Thus, it's not revolutionary, but it's clear and builds on the strengths of earlier versions. For what you want, it's a good option.

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There looks to be 2 editions of Traveller that are still in print, Mongoose's Traveller, and GURPS Traveller. I purchased the Mongoose edition when it came out a couple of years ago, and recall it being essentially the same as the original Traveller, with some tweaks and adjustments to update it here and there. So thats the one I'd recommend if you are after the essential flavor of the game. The GURPS edition, I imagine, uses the GURPS rules system.

The Coolest edition is, imo, 2300... but its not really Traveller per se. But if you like hard sci fi, thats one you definately want to look at.

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T23k rules are actually IMO quite good too, shame they did not catch on. –  David Allan Finch Dec 27 '11 at 22:08
    
Mechanically, it's actually quite different from CT. It does share the same scaling of attributes and skill levels, but combat is very different, ships are only somewhat similar. –  aramis Dec 28 '11 at 23:41
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@DavidAllanFinch The Task system in 2300 is the same one DGP invented for CT use, and was used in MegaTraveller (aka MT; MT postdates 2300). It has been used by a huge minority of Traveller players, with both CT and MT, and in variants, with T4 and TNE. –  aramis May 14 at 16:38

There was a D20 version for a while too that might be more understandable if your potential players come from a D20 background, you can probably get a second hand copy from ebay.

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The d20 version is Godawful, is is not a good starting point IMO. –  mxyzplk Dec 28 '11 at 18:14
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Agreed. Mashing the lifepath of the character's previous career really didn't work with the d20 character levels. And the planetary system generation is reprinted almost wholesale from the Little Black Books. I own it and I'd give it a pass. –  T.W.Wombat Dec 28 '11 at 20:53
    
Well I didn't say it was a good version of Traveller, only one that might be more understandable –  user2805 Dec 29 '11 at 8:53

It's not in active production any more, but I'm partial to the Little Black Books - Original Traveller. It's very open and very old school, and you can impose whatever you want on it.

It's available through Far Future Enterprises at $35 for a CD-ROM full of PDFs of everything printed for Traveller. There are other CDs: one containing every issue of JTAS, and 2 with all the licensed third party products from Fasa, Judges Guild, etc. After your initial $140 investment (or $105 with the 443 sale through the end of the year) for everything ever made for Original Traveller, you're done.

I've been involved in 5e, and it does get back to the roots of Traveller but with more thought put into some of the systems. Marc Miller is running the show, and he's made it clear it's going to be done right before it comes out. Mongoose licensed the T5 core and ran with it, so it's a much more developed offshoot of 5e. If you want something currently in retail, I'd go with Mongoose.

GURPS Traveller does what GURPS does best: offer really detailed resource books that you can use in other systems. I don't think the GURPS engine really adds anything to the mix.

Traveller for d20 (T20) gives me hives. I wanted to like it, but it took two completely different ways of dealing with characters and duct-taped them together. And some of the other systems (planetary systems and ships) were lifted from and more readable in Original Traveller.

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The CT LBBs are in print again in a single not-so-L BB. I purchased it the other day. –  GMJoe Jun 5 '12 at 7:44

Short Answer: Mongoose Core Rules

Long answer:

As far as ease of understanding the rules, the best written core rules are hands-down Mongoose Traveller (MgT). The supplements, however, are less generally well received. Central Supply Catalogue and High Guard are well received; the rest have lots of people who don't like each of them for various reasons. It does, as a line, suffer from early and significant errata. Traders and Gunboats is fine on paper; in PDF, however, the raster-based images make most of the deckplans illegible, and you can't blow them up, either. Some of the 3rd party supplements are excellent.

T20: Traveller's Handbook is very accessible to D20 players, but has major mechanical twists from standard d20, and is based off of the D20 3.0 SRD. Setting is 100 years prior to CT, but still, essentially CT in flavor; ship designs compatible with CT Book 5 designs. It lacks a few elements from the d20 core, so familiarity with d20 is a must.

GURPS Traveller (GT) is probably the easiest edition for anyone familiar with GURPS. Setting is 20 years after CT, but essentially still CT. Needs a GURPS Core Rulebook, and was written for 3rd Ed. GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars (GTIW) is set several millennia prior to CT and GT, and is for GURPS 4th ed.

For Hero System Fans, the Traveller For Hero books are awesome - but they are permanently out of print, and for 5th ed Hero. Setting information for CT, Mega, TNE, and T4 era play is provided in schematic. Needs Hero System Core Rules (4th, 5th, or 5th revised).

Traveller The New Era (TNE) was fairly well written, second only to Mongoose in clarity, but is not mechanically compatible with other editions. Further, the changes in the mechanics also are mirrored with setting destruction. I don't recommend it on the basis of it's setting and rules being so skewed from the rest. For those not looking for the standard setting, it's a very playable game.

MegaTraveller has massive errata issues, and some clarity issues, especially with combat. While I love it, it should be avoided if looking for an easily accessible ruleset.

Classic Traveller has numerous clarity issues. It's very much "old school" - you will have a lot of interpretation to do when running it, and there are multiple options for every part of the game. The adventures, however, are easily adapted to any other edition, and so the CD is a recommend, even tho' the game isn't.

Marc Miller's Traveller (T4) is noted for unpleasantly large amounts of errata, and I found it extremely poorly edited. The rules are not hard to understand, but have some issues that make it impossible for me to recommend, including the tech book being badly mangled by poor edit/layout, and the core rules ship design being insufficient for the setting as presented. Setting is at the dawn of the 3rd Imperium, 1100 years before Classic is set.

T5 is a monstrously large PDF or Hardback. It is playable, as is evidenced by the number of groups successfully running it PBP/PBF, but has errata issues, poor organization, and requires extensive GM prep before play. It is easily the least accessible edition for new players, as it is tersely written, table heavy, requires significant changes in thinking for players of older editions, and is under revision to a new sub-edition by the designer.

Traveller:2300, later renamed 2300AD, is not actually Traveller, in the sense that it shares neither rules nor setting with any other edition. It's an excellent game on its own, but is not as well worded as TNE nor Mongoose. The mechanics show many similarities to MT and TNE.

There is a T20 adaptation 2320; 2320 was excellent, allowing play under a Traveller ruleset. The adaptation book for Mongoose is by the same author as 2320, but is not as polished, nor does it advance the setting timeline like 2320 did.

Availability

Available editions in PDF from Far Future Enterprises direct on CD or via DTRPG: Classic, MegaTraveller, Traveller: The New Era, Marc Miller's Traveller (T4), T20, and the CD for T5.
Available in POD: CT's The Traveller Book is available from DTRPG in "Print on Demand" - the initial reviews of the quality have been good. Available in PDF from SJGames: GURPS Traveller and GT Interstellar Wars (GTIW)
Available in PDF from Mongoose or DTRPG: Mongoose Traveller (all but most recent releases)
Currently in Print: Mongoose Traveller, many of the GURPS Traveller Titles, most of the GTIW line, T5. Unavailable for various reasons: 2320 is unavailable at present, as are the DGP materials for CT and MT. Many smaller 3rd party companies' materials and the Dragon Magazine articles are unavailable as well.

Bias Warning: I was a playtester on T20, MgT, and 2320. Further, I administer the official Traveller forums.

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Classic Traveller The mechanic is throw 2D and if its 8+ it succeeds. Just add your mods from there. Like Str 9+ gives +1, and 5- gives -1. Throw in skill level as bonus if applicable.

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-1: Factual error. That's JUST the combat mechanic. There are various specific resolutions in various skills that look nothing of the sort. Plus, at least one adventure uses "3d for STR or less"... Most of the resolutions are "Rolling high is better for the acting individual" but not all - such as avoiding misjump (which lacks even a skill component). Many actions (Gunnery, for example) don't even account for stats nor skills. –  aramis Dec 30 '11 at 7:16

Short Answer: Buy a copy of the CD from Far Future Enterprises as mentioned above. Then Pick your preferred Era/Flavor and play test it. Make any changes you want and then enjoy a rich and colorful game universe.

Long Answer: I have played TNE (Traveller: The New Era) off and on for over ten years. I personally loved the Post Apocalypse Story line FF&S (Fire Fusion & Steel Source-book) and the variety that this allowed. Unfortunately, I found the rules unwieldy and extremely time consuming, I tried fixing it with Home Brew modification, transplanting different games system mechanics, writing my own System from scratch, all with varied levels of success and out of Game work. I even collected nearly every Pre- and Post- TNE Traveller related game book or magazine. In comparing the other Traveller systems to TNE I found the newer ones were easier and quicker to play and the older ones were broken down into so many different Books or Modules that it took allot of work to piece it all together. In the end I grafted Shadowrun 3rd Edition Rules to TNE (Using the Magic System to run TNE's Psionics) with a few House Rule Modifications and then enjoyed the game immensely. Over the years I have crafted quite allot of Home Brew material into the game. Just remember it's your game don't get hung up with all the twists and turns the Story takes every time a new version comes out. Find a starting place you like and build your own history, you'll find it much more satisfying.

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This doesn't actually answer the question. Would you say that TNE is the most accessible edition, because it's not all split up? What are these "newer ones [that are] easier and quicker to play"? That sounds pretty accessible, and naming them might be helpful. –  SevenSidedDie Jun 9 '12 at 0:51

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