Thursday, May 15, 2014

What the Fuck Are You Supposed To Do in Traveller?

 In my gaming pre-history, I read about Traveller in a book about RPGs that J. Eric Holmes wrote. He had an example of play from Traveller that involved flying cars and floating turnips. It seemed pretty cool. (Minus the turnips. I was a serious child back then.)

In 7th grade, I bought the boxed set to MegaTraveller. I ran it a couple of times, but I really had no idea what I was doing. I recall an adventure that consisted entirely of a layover at a casino space station that ended in a gun battle with snake men...and really very little in the way of consequence.

I also recall an adventure where I placed a crashed starship for the players to find, and I recall a massive indifference to said starship.

Shortly thereafter, we migrated to Gamma World (then in its 4th edition) because elephant men and tiger men with plasma guns is fucking cool to 7th-8th graders.

...not going to lie. Still cool at 32.

I didn't touch Traveller again until I gave the Mongoose version a shot in 2011.  (I blogged about it on this very blog, in fact.) At the time, I was totally inspired by the Mass Effect game series (the third installment hadn't yet taken the wind right the fuck out of my sails) and I wanted some starfaring adventure.

....what I got was pretty much my players constantly doing cargo runs to barely pay the mortgage on their ship, but the cargo runs ended up leaving them no time to address the various events I had sprinkled around the sector to provide adventure, including a fanatical cult bent on ripping open a lost jump gate to usher in some truly horrible cosmic event. (This would've actually slotted seamlessly into Stars Without Number's implied setting. Alas.)

When I occasionally read about people playing or remembering Traveller, it almost always includes some kind of economic enterprise that the PCs are involved in.

So, Traveller veterans, answer me this: Is Traveller seriously just a game set in a Niven-esque universe were a bunch of middle aged retired dudes truck around reselling shit like some kind of galactic Ameriprise outfit? Is it, in essence, a game about interstellar mid-life crisis? Is my perspective on Traveller just whacked out?


  1. Mind you I haven't played it since high school, but that's not how we played it. There were some cargo deals, but that wasn't the primary part of the campaign, just a way to make some money on the side. We were space pirates, smugglers, bounty hunters and mercenaries. Your mileage may vary.

  2. Patrons are a great tool in Traveller to get players involved in a plot. Offer them money to pursue a goal related to one of the events you have prepped, more money than the crew would make shipping cargo.

    When I run the game, I always have a couple patrons roughed out, and will liberally consult 76 Patrons and the like for more variety.

    In addition, special cargoes and passengers are also potential adventure seeds. Those assault rifles you're bringing to a balkanized world can attract a wide variety of interested parties. Passengers can turn out to be spies, government agents, criminals, etc.

    It's a wide-open game and you have to exploit every system in the book to really make it sing. And yeah, most games, your PCs end up on the shady side of the law.

    Most of

  3. Traveller is about a bunch of ex-pat middle-aged men with guns and a spaceship playing Han Solo because they couldn't find a more lucrative trade or be distracted by such things as family and career, but only if you do it right.