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There are some similar questions, however there are not specific enough for me.

I want to run a game (as game master) in a Star Trek based setting. I did some research and decided that Traveller is the best system for me. However, there are many versions of Traveller. My three main points are:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Adaptability to homebrew rules
  3. Low entry level for players

Which version of Traveller is best suited for these points?

My RPG experience is D&D 5e, both as player and GM, so entry level is not a big issue for me as GM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Game recommendation questions are generally off-topic. However, I’m not voting to close this one, because it sets a clear limited scope, and it sets forth pretty clear objectives that an expert in the different editions of Traveller should be able to evaluate. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 25 at 17:11

1 Answer 1

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First, to recap: Including out-of-print versions, the following versions of Traveller exist:

  1. “Classic” Traveller - this is the original version published in 1977 and updated in 1981, under the name Traveller. This is the version that generated the famous ‘die in character generation’ meme.

  2. MegaTraveller - a major revamping of the rules and alteration/evolution of the setting; it also ‘suffered’ from skill inflation in character generation.

  3. Traveller: The New Era used a different system from its predecessors, and also evolved the setting further.

  4. Marc Miller’s Traveller, also called “T4”, returned to a variant of the original system, and regressed the setting back to the earliest days of the Third Imperium

  5. Traveller20, an adaptation of Traveller to the D20 system. This might be the most accessible to you because of your familiarity with D&D - but I think the D20 system was actually 3e or 3.5e, not 5e.

  6. Traveller HERO, an adaptation of Traveller to the HERO System (I forget whether 4e or 5e)

  7. Mongoose Traveller - this has gone through three sub-editions, but can really be considerd a single “version” of Traveller.

  8. Traveller5 - an extensive revamp “from the beginning” by Marc Miller. This has been characterised in the community not as a game itself, but as a toolkit for building your own Traveller.

  9. There was a point where Amarillo Design Bureau was authorized to do a version of Prime Directive using the Mongoose Traveller rules, which would have been the ideal answer for you here, but as yet this has not come to fruition, and the status of the project or of the license is unclear (at least to me).

Edited to add: Steve Jackson Games also released under license two versions of Traveller using the GURPS system: GURPS Traveller for GURPS 3e, and GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars for GURPS 4e. GT (not GT:IW) represented a “fork” in the setting timeline; certain events that led to the Rebellion of MegaTraveller and the Collapse of Traveller: The New Era were “written out” of the timeline. GT:IW retrogressed the setting to an era predating the establishment of the historical period that was called the Rule of Man, over a thousand years before the establishment of the Third Imperium. These were not adaptations of the Traveller SYSTEM, only the SETTING; they were pure GURPS.

I refer to 1, 2, 4, and 7 above as "Classic-compatible" versions; generally speaking, converting between them is easy if not quite trivial. The only versions from the list above that are in current publication are 7 and 8; FarFuture Enterprises sells CDs/DVDs that contain the corpus of the other editions in PDF form.

Now, to try to answer your actual question:

In general, I would recommend using Mongoose Traveller; it is what is in current publication, is not a difficult system to learn the key aspects of, and there’s nothing that says that you have to use the standard setting. Once you’ve gotten the basic concepts down, it won’t be difficult to homebrew balanced rules to cover things that aren’t covered by the standard rules (there are plenty of examples in the “Doing It My Way” section at Freelance Traveller*), including alternative technologies. There isn’t a high bar to entry; you can get a workable start for only $1 (Traveller: Explorer’s Edition**), though a complete core rulebook will run you $30 and any supplements will add to that.

* Disclosure: I am the editor/curator/publisher of Freelance Traveller
** Not a paid endorsement/ad, no referral benefit (e.g., affiliate link)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Classic Traveller is still in print too. Core books appear to be free here: preview.drivethrurpg.com/en/product/355200/… , and everything is up at FFE (farfuture.net) \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Jan 26 at 2:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ D&D 5e is still built around d20 rolls for all success/fail attempts (attack roll / saving throw / ability check), like 3e and 3.5. I think it's accurate to say that they're all built on the foundation of the d20 system, or are examples of d20 systems. Unless it has a more specific meaning I'm not aware of. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26 at 7:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes - Traveller20 required that you have a set of D20 system core rules (the generally recommended one was D20 Modern at the time). That is, it referenced a specific edition of the D20 system, and as I don't play D20 in any edition, I don't know how compatible the various editions of the D20 system are. Thus, better to note which edition it was designed for, just in case conversion between them is nontrivial. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26 at 11:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes "The D20 system" is specifically the rules structure from 3e / 3.5e D&D, usable under a free(ish) license. Later D&Ds still involve rolling d20s but aren't "D20 system" games \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleth
    Jan 26 at 15:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I always see MegaTraveller listed as a "major <difference>" from Classic, but fundamentally, MT is largely a compilation of CT expansions like High Guard and Traveller's Digest. The task system was streamlined, but if you had all the expansions and DGP books, you'd largely have MT. The only real "major" difference is the setting, which has been the same with every edition, along with the Spinward Marches largely remaining untouched, so kind of up to the GM whether the setting even really changes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wyrmwood
    Feb 27 at 23:38

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