I'm thinking of starting up a RPG group with some similarly minded friends, but unfortunately, we're not 100% on which setting to go with.

I'm going to be GMing the group, and its fallen to me to look into which system to use, but I'm 50/50 on which to use.

Specifically, the current idea is to run a sort of Battlestar Galactica–style campaign, where the PCs start on a isolated planet in the far reaches of space, hunting a big gribbly alien, which turns out just to be the vanguard of a bigger invasion fleet. PCs then have to run away and try and get news to the rest of humanity before they get eaten.

Problem is they're deep in pirate infested space and nobody else knows about the aliens.

The campaign therefore will include space battles, investigating planets, hunting bugs, all sorts of political intrigue and straight up battles with all sorts of enemies. All of the characters will be pretty competent — they're all ex mil/bounty hunter, etc. and they're hunting this thing for a big bonus, then have to flee in their own ships. By own ships, think "Millennium Falcon" or "Slave One".

I've got some ideas on how I'm going to run it, and I've narrowed the selections down to two — Traveller and Savage Worlds.

From my understanding so far, Savage Worlds is going to be good for us as we're all pretty new, and the Savage Worlds ruleset is quite quick to pick up. The issue is, I'm not sure how well it'll work with the space battle elements. It's also a system we can adapt to other campaigns — there's interest in superhero and all sorts of other campaigns been registered for further down the line.

From my limited knowledge of Traveller, the setting and style lends itself well to the space-side of things but we're not sure how it'll cope with the more planetary based stuff. We're also considering using both systems, but that'll get confusing fast!

We want some cybernetics and (obviously) aliens, but magic isn't something we're interested in including. Psychic powers are not really a massive issue either way.

Does anyone have any experience playing either of these systems in a similar setting?

How well did it work, and what were the strengths and weaknesses of the system you used?

Alternatively, does anyone have a better idea for a system to use?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't answer in comments please. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jul 24 '15 at 3:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ever heard of Stars without number? \$\endgroup\$
    – user4000
    Jul 29 '15 at 17:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, @MrJinPengyou can you expand more on that in an answer please? \$\endgroup\$
    – Miller86
    Jul 30 '15 at 10:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miller86 It's a free sandbox RPG. I haven't played it myself so I can't answer but you could have a look. It's free after all. \$\endgroup\$
    – user4000
    Jul 30 '15 at 17:25

In my opinion, Savage Worlds only works for settings where the following are true:

  • The heroes are competent
  • Combat is going to be an important, and relatively frequent, part of the gameplay

If your setting requires that heroes be incompetent (the same way that Warhammer 40,000 does) or if combat is going to be a rare occurrence to be avoided, you are going to be feeling like Savage Worlds is pushing you to a style of play that you aren't wanting.

Traveller (I only have experience with Mongoose Traveller) can still work well if either of those are not true. Combat is generally very lethal in Traveller, so it's a big deal if you get in a fight. Also if you put a limit on how many terms a character is allowed to use during character creation, you can more easily create characters who are unprepared for the fight ahead.

The other important thing to consider is advancement. In Savage Worlds, characters are expected to improve every few sessions and over the course of a campaign will become much more competent. In Traveller, advancement is very slow, taking many in-game months to improve a single skill. You aren't going to have zero to hero stories with Traveller.

As for space combat, I haven't played them extensively but they seemed about equal to me (assuming you are using the space combat rules from the Savage Worlds Science Fiction Companion). However, you can probably adapt one or the other pretty easily. For instance, you can use the Mongoose Traveller spaceship rules with Savage Worlds characters by substituting equivalent skill rolls (e.g. "Heavy Weapons" = "Shooting").

EDIT: You mentioned in the comments that all players are intended to be ex-military or bounty hunters. However, Traveller has random character generation (with some influence from players). If the players tries to enter the Bounty Hunter career or one of the military careers and either fails their qualification rolls or is ejected from the career, then you may be in a tight spot as they cannot actually be the character concept you are intending them to be. Savage Worlds allows players to have complete control over their characters, which means players can certainly be the sort of characters that you want them to be.

It's also worth noting that ships in Traveller are generally operated like 17th Century sailing vessels. They are large things operated by a crew of people, rather than by an individual. One-man ships like X-Wings, or even small crew ships like the Millennium Falcon, are pretty rare or are underpowered. The Savage Worlds Science Fiction Companion mostly makes this assumption as well, but you can more easily build a Millennium Falcon style ship that can be operated by a crew of 2 or so.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Thunderforge! Just as a bit more background the idea is going to be that all of the characters are pretty competent - they're hunting this thing for a big bonus and they're all ex mil/bounty hunter etc, then have to flee in their own ships. I'm starting to lean towards traveller for the convoy of ships element certainly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miller86
    Jul 23 '15 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miller86 Ah, you want each player to have their own ship? That's important; It might be worth editing that into the question. Traveller ships require a lot of different skills to run, navigate, pilot and maintain; One of the strengths of the system is that there's enough to do during ship-based combat that players are rarely left sitting on the sidelines waiting for the battle to be over. However, this also means that single-pilot ships don't necessarily work quite as well. I guess it depends how they're designed, though... YMMV. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Jul 24 '15 at 2:11
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ In Traveller, really only 100-ton Scout/Seeker ships are designed to be operable by a single crewmember. If you're dead-set on having each player control their own small (but not necessarily tiny) starship, consider allowing them each to have a crew of a half-dozen or so non-heroic NPCs. \$\endgroup\$
    – LAK
    Jul 30 '15 at 21:44

Scout/Seeker in Traveller would allow each to have their own ship. However, these are usually not well armed and more used for exploration than combat. Meant to be handled by Scouts with well rounded skills in supporting their ships. A scout ship does have room for a few passengers. Anything smaller isn't built to travel the stars, really. Just in system transport. I guess one could draw up custom Scouts (Traveller is good with ship design) with more weaponry.

Traveller handles all the types - land, sea, air and space combat. So there's no concern there.

If I were to run your campaign in Traveller, I would let the players roll up their characters with 12 individual die rolls and combine them into 6 pairs of 2 to get the characteristics they want. I might even let them roll an extra couple dice to swap out their lowest dice. You are going after heroic characters.

From Marc Miller's Traveller (T4) I'd take the idea that if they have 2 or more main attributes at least 2 more than the required minimum for the career desired, they automatically qualify - thus eliminating the chance of not getting into the service they want. I believe Mongoose only has one base characteristic/attribute (at least for Army and Navy) so perhaps it needs to be at least 3 or 4 over in that case.

However, I'd probably use the Mongoose Traveller rules. A bit easier to use, I think. And the nice thing about Mongoose is that it has a convention for having the characters know each other before gaming begins. This helps build relationships and ties the characters and they roles together better. It also allows fleshing out each character before the play begins by providing a few more skills to make sure each party has the full mix of skills expected to be used.

T4 allows for players to actually choose the table and skill they want instead of rolling. Based on the style you want to play, you may want to allow this as well.

However, the thing about Traveller is that it is less a "heroic" rpg than most others. It is gritty and blue collar and after 10-20 years in a career, the characters are well established in their skills. As another said, skills don't increase rapidly in Traveller. What you have is what you get. In some ways, then, it might be that these are already "heroic" in that sense as they start off well skilled - especially if you let them choose their skills. The game isn't about gaining lots of experience and getting levels. That doesn't happen. You will most likely get an increase in skill once or twice a game year. If your players aren't into having credits and finishing the job be enough reward (obviously the credits buy add ons like better guns, implants and such) then Traveller might not be for them.

That said, based on your description, it sounds like these characters are going to be well established already, so expectations of quick progression from first to fifth level isn't something they'd expect because a low level grunt wouldn't be sent out to that environment in the first place.

One final thing. Combat can be quick and it usually is lethal. Traveller doesn't make arrangements for heroic healing - especially when everyone is in their own ship. Traveller is more realism sci fi than fantasy sci fi.

Best of luck. If it were me, I'd do Traveller, but I don't have any experience with Savage Worlds, so I have a very narrow perspective.

  • \$\begingroup\$ On reconsideration, this does satisfy the needs of the question. I've undeleted it, and mea culpa. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 2 '15 at 0:45

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