Thursday, March 16, 2017

Hacking Traveller

This year -- I'm pretty sure -- will be the 40th anniversary of Traveller, an RPG almost as old as D&D. Probably never nearly as popular as the grandmother fish of tabletop gaming, it's still maintained a loyal fanbase over the years, some of whom have been playing from the beginning.

I didn't get into RPGs until 1981, with D&D, and where sci fi was concerned I was totally won over by Star Wars. So when I got a look at Traveller I thought, eww, you play old guys who don't know how to do anything. You know, when you're a teenager, anything over 24 sounds pretty old. And so I ignored it in favor of games like Star Frontiers and eventually Star Wars d6. Because pyew pyew pyew, right? I also picked up Shatterzone in the early 90s, then Alternity. And then there was the whole indie-games explosion and the OSR.

Then at some point in the aughts, Mongoose (MG from here on out for laziness) got a license from Far Future to publish their own version of Traveller. It looks like a ton of 90s era games with the whole roll + skill + stat approach. If you've played Stars Without Number, the 2d6 skill system is pretty much what MG Traveller is. There's a lot in there that I like, and a few things I don't. Random chargen turns me off, and Traveller chargen is random EVERYTHING. You sit down and you have no idea what you're gonna end up with. And there are a few bits and pieces that strike me as readily improvable with more recent game tech.

And it so happens that MG published an SRD. I thought for the longest time that maybe someday I oughta take that and build my own game on top of it.

After MG released version 2 of Traveller, they opted for a 3rd party license similar to the D&D DM's guild, which takes a pretty big cut of your sales in order to have the logo on your materials. That prompted Jason Kemp to create the Cepheus Engine SRD, a traveller clone based on the MG SRD with a few additional open content ideas thrown in. It fills in the usual SRD gaps and offers a standalone fully playable game, while remaining true to the original feel of Traveller.

And people have started creating compatible content for it. Neat stuff like These Stars Are Ours!, a space opera setting that clearly takes some inspiration from XCom. Or there's Orbital 2100, a near future hard sf approach.

Of course CE still includes the bits that I don't like, so I'm still thinking, self, you should totally get back in the game and make something. I think I'm gonna.