The new Traveller has appeared, the product of many years tweaking, adjusting and listening to the thousands of players who have travelled the universe of the far future. Here, we will take you through the entire design process; what we have done with the game, what we have been aiming for, and our plans for the next ten years of Traveller.
So, grab yourself a coffee, and settle in for a good read! Alternatively, dive right in by picking up your own copy here!
First off, you can dive into the new Traveller right now with the Beta Rulebook PDF. It is a mere $20 on DrivethruRPG and we’ll return that $20 to you in the form of a voucher when the final Core Rulebook is released in early 2016.
So, what do you get in return?
Well, aside from the chance to directly influence the longest running sci-fi RPG of all time, you will be getting the following;
- The Beta Playtest Core Rulebook, laid out and ready to go! After many, many moons of writing and internal playtesting, this book is now ready to be seen (and commented upon!) by dedicated Traveller players. All that is missing from this PDF is a few pieces of artwork!
- A free copy of the adventure High and Dry, a revised edition of the original Type-S scenario, fully updated to the new Traveller in both rules and format. This will allow you to jump right in and start playing Traveller immediately with a cracking adventure written by fan favourite Martin Dougherty.
- Access to draft (Word format) documents of the ‘core set’ of Traveller rule books – High Guard, Central Supply Catalogue, Vehicle Handbook, and the Traveller Companion, plus the chance to comment upon them and thus influence Traveller at a fundamental level.
- A $20 voucher to be redeemed against the final Core Rulebook, meaning the Beta Core Rulebook will end up not costing you a penny!
- If all goes well, some other goodies will be turning up in your Drivethru folders during the playtest period. We have some projects currently on the go that are set for release with the new addition, but if we can complete them according to schedule, they will be offered for free to all registered playtesters.
A New Traveller
When we released the last version of Traveller, it proved immensely popular – the Core Rulebook retained the feel and atmosphere of Classic Traveller but brought instantly accessible rules to the fore that could easily translate across multiple universes.
With such a solid base, there was no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater but there were always changes we wanted to make.
Graphics and Art
The first was the approach to graphical design. The last edition rested heavily on the minimalist approach of Classic Traveller – the new edition has all the bells and whistles you expect from a modern RPG. From isometric deck plans to flow charts that walk you throw character creation and ship design, from subsector maps to equipment pages that look as though they come straight from a space-based mail order catalogue, we have spent months striving to make the new Traveller not only look the best it can, but also to use these graphics to help it play better on the table top.
The goal has been not only to bring the Far Future to life through art and design, but to do so in a way that makes logical sense and aids gameplay.
It is our intention to make every Traveller book a full colour hardback – but more on those plans a bit later.
Before we dived headlong into the design of the new Traveller, we created a long (very long!) Master Wish List of everything we thought might be good, interesting, or just plain cool to include. It was at this point that we decided (with some degree of insanity involved…) to work on not just the Core Rulebook in isolation, but to develop the Core Rulebook alongside what we started calling the ‘core set’ of supplements, those books that would become integral to the campaigns of many players, such as High Guard and the Central Supply Catalogue.
The idea here was that all these titles would be integrated at a very fundamental level so consistency was maintained across all of them. To give an example, in the past edition of Traveller, the ship design rules were written for the Core Rulebook and then High Guard was written on top of those to expand options. With this edition, High Guard was written first and then all ship-based material in the Core Rulebook was drawn from that.
This ensures there are no clashes or incompatibilities between the core set books. One follows on naturally from the others.
One of the absolute hits of the last edition was the career system and the events that tied into it, allowing players to create fully-fledged individuals who were ready to explore the universe. With a foundation that solid, we were understandably not going to change a huge amount!
Instead, guided by our internal playtesters, we have made clarifications to eliminate areas of confusion, tweaks to balance out any discrepancies and a few humble additions we hope will greatly enhance the creation process. These include;
- Ship shares – these no longer provide a few measly percentage points on a ship. They will either get you a ship (with varying stages of mortgage paid off – and there are now rules that only one ship will be present in the party during creation) or are considered an investment, adding to your pension.
- The pre-career education that appeared in past supplements such as Mercenary II has been refined and is now part of the core rules.
- The Prisoner career has been added to the core book and yes, there are several Events and Mishaps that will send you straight there.
- Proper rules have (finally!) been added to handle the changing of assignments within a career. So, if you are an Agent you might start off in Law Enforcement, but you now have a path to the world of corporate espionage!
Skills and Tasks
This is a very important area of the core rules and while we have not made substantial changes in the way the rules work, we have tweaked how they flow.
The skill list itself has been revised to make more sense and create characters who will be a little more capable. For example, Computers, Comms, Sensors and Remote Ops are no longer separate skills but have become specialities of Electronics. This means that anyone with the Electronics skill has at least some chance of being able to use an electronic device – not an unreasonable assumption in a technological society that has interstellar travel.
We also took a good, long look at that old standby, the 2D task resolution system.
Now, with just 2D controlling the fates of characters, you have to be very, very careful about what modifiers can be included or you can easily end up with automatic successes and failure – not very exciting during a tense situation in a game. We recognised this and wanted to lay down a foundation that not only flowed well for the Core Rules, but on which future supplements could be based.
To this end, there are three factors involved in every task check in Traveller.
First, the referee or adventure sets the Difficulty of the check. This is done in exactly the same way as the last Traveller, except that instead of imposing a modifier, it directly affects the target number – so, an Average check needs 8+, Difficult needs 10+, and so on. The maths are exactly the same as before but doing it this way round allows the referee to keep the target number (and thus difficulty) hidden from the players.
Next, Dice Modifiers are imposed. The change in this addition is that (referee fiat aside), DMs are always hard-wired into the rules, never imposed by circumstance. So, being strong might grant you DM+1 to lift something heavy, but being able to do so accurately in a howling gale does not affect this. That would be covered by…
…Boon and Bane dice. These are extra dice the players roll alongside their normal 2D under the direction of the referee. In a nutshell, the referee no longer has to determine Dice Modifiers on the fly, simply whether the circumstances are beneficial (have a Boon dice) or adverse (use a Bane dice). This has the dual effect of making the game flow faster and removing the reliance on DMs placed upon a 2D roll.
The use of skills and checks has a knock-on effect with attack rolls, and you will find everything maintains compatibility throughout; if you know how to perform a skill check, you know how to fight in combat.
The big change here is the integration of Travellers, vehicles and starships into one combat system that flows effortlessly between all three, always a muddy area in the last edition. You can now fly your Corsair through a system, destroy the orbiting defence stations, then descend into the atmosphere to dogfight the aerospace fighters. A critical hit system for ships and vehicles allows you knock out vital systems in your opponent’s craft, while an expanded action system will give everyone on board something to do in battle.
And yes, starship captains will now be worrying about the amount of Power available to them. In most situations, it will not be a factor (and this will not intrude on gameplay) but if you overload a trader with high-powered weaponry or take damage to your power plant, you’ll be screaming down the comms to your engineer to give you more power!
Encounter and Dangers
A lot of the rules in this chapter will seem very familiar to players of the past edition but, again, we have made additions and tweaks that integrates everything into a much more cohesive framework that will translate into smoother play. For example, proper rules have been added for adverse gravitational effects and the quick character creation system pioneered by 2300AD has been brought into the Core Rulebook.
We have also made changes to the way animals are handled, making their creation a thing of simplicity for referees; come up with a concept for your creature, assign Hits and Attacks, then add Traits and you are done. The Traits for animals handle special abilities such as heightened senses or psionic capability and we will be adding to them in future supplements – especially useful as they are also used for alien species, forming another common bond within the mechanics of the game.
A great deal of playtesting has gone into Traveller, long before we could look at releasing a beta version. Our playtesters were recruited from across the Traveller community and were divided into four separate and distinct categories, with communication between the categories limited throughout the initial playtest stages to allow us to make ‘blind’ tests. These categories were;
- The PTB, Marc Miller’s own Inner Circle with notables such as Colin ‘2300AD’ Dunn. These were the gatekeepers, so to speak, the Powers that control the canon of the Traveller Universe.
- The crew from Digital Arc Systems. These are the chaps working on the Traveller Suite Software package (check out rpgsuite.com) which integrates the use of tablets and laptops with the table top game. This ensured there would be no hiccups in translating the rules to the screen.
- Third party publishers. Early on, we brought on board the leading publishers who had produced third party products for Traveller. We felt that the input of people who had a financial stake in Traveller would be invaluable (far less likely to hand wave anything) and, in return, they would have a front row seat in developing products for the new edition.
- For the final group, we trawled the Traveller forums (both our own and other sites) for the most passionate, dedicated, opinionated and yes, pugnacious Traveller players – those we believed could be relied upon to tell us exactly what was wrong with any proposed rule and not to be soft about it! As I told them from the start, we were not looking for Yes-Men, we wanted players who genuinely wanted Traveller to be the best game it could possibly be.
We are now ready to receive comments and suggestions from the wider Traveller player base through the Beta Playtest Core Rulebook, and we have already set up forums to handle your comments (you will find them here). We will read every comment made and, where possible, either integrate your suggestions or at least try to explain why certain things will not work. All we ask is that you keep things civil!
A New Sector
Creating new worlds and universes has always been a staple of Traveller, and you will find planet creation in this Core Rulebook with a few minor tweaks. However, we also wanted to provide a complete subsector (with patrons!) to give starting players an area to immediately explore and start adventuring in with their newly created Travellers.
Enter the Sindal subsector.
Traditionally, Traveller books have always gravitated towards one of two areas within the Third Imperium – either the Solomani Rim or, far more commonly, the Spinward Marches.
Now, both will be represented in the new Traveller but, to kick things off, we fancied it was time for a change so we are heading Rimward – to the Trojan Reach.
This will be an area of space instantly familiar to anyone who has been playing the epic (and free!) Pirates of Drinax campaign, and it lies directly next to the Spinward Marches, making it easy to bring existing Travellers down into it or send new Travellers up to use your existing Marches sourcebooks.
As one-time Traveller writer Gareth Hanrahan once said, if the Spinward Marches are the frontier, then the Trojan Reach is the Badlands.
That just seems a more exciting place to be, and we hope veteran Traveller players will take the journey with us to this sector where men are real men, women are real women and furry Aslan are… well, you get the idea. This is a sector where danger rules, the machinations of huge empires are present but not cloying, and adept or lucky Travellers can carve out their own future without having massive implications for the setting as a whole (well, unless you want them to have that effect…).
We will getting behind the Trojan Reach in a big way over the next few years, so strap yourselves in, check your lasers, and hit the jump controls.
What is Next?
As well as the Core Rulebook we have, as mentioned earlier, also been developing High Guard, Central Supply Catalogue, the Vehicle Handbook and the Traveller Companion. All of these will be available as drafts for playtesting to those of you who dive into the Beta Core Rulebook.
Of these, most will be familiar to veteran Travellers, but one bears a closer look.
The Traveller Companion is our ‘odd bits’ book, the ‘toolkit’ book. Basically, it contains all the rules and additions that did not quite fit in the Core Rulebook and is intended for referees wanting to create their own universes or put a spin on an existing one. These would include, to give just the briefest of examples, varying character creation systems, new approaches to various skills and their specialities, introducing new characteristics, using an abstract wealth system rather than counting credits, variant technologies, alternate planet creation rules, and a host of new ways of creating aliens and animals.
It is a dip in/dip out book, a toolkit that will allow referees to fine tune their own Traveller games to avoid being locked in by one play style or another.
It is our intention to complete the playtest period around Christmas, with the Core Rulebook released in printed form around March 2016.
For the next six months, we will be releasing one Traveller hardback every month, culminating with a brand new Traveller starter set aimed for Gen Con next year. This ensures dedicated Traveller players will be able to get their hands on the ‘core set’ of books as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality.
Beyond that, we are adopting a very different path for Traveller, with one hardback book appearing every 3-4 months. It is our intention to ramp up the quality of this line, in terms of both presentation and mechanics, and that takes time. This will likely be supplemented by smaller ebook-only releases, but the core range will remain full colour hardback.
The other change we are making as part of the Traveller line up; we are removing hard deadlines and replacing them with strong guidelines. Basically, books will be coming out when we deem them ready and not before.
We believe that with the combination of these approaches, the bar for quality will be raised to the highest point on Traveller, with each book becoming a solid ‘must-have’ for the dedicated Traveller player.
The Far Future is looking bright!
Future of Traveller
Beyond the new edition, we have lots of exciting projects in the works for Traveller. I have already mentioned the RPG suite from Digital Arc Systems which will integrate all supplements into a seamless digital aid – but I will let those chaps cover what they are doing in far finer detail.
The Trojan Reach will be a focus for us as a setting within the Third Imperium, and the Pirates of Drinax campaign will be getting the luxury hardback/full colour treatment next year as befits this truly marvellous epic. The sector will also be the base for any PC or console games that may or may not be in the works.
Beyond that, we have a brand new setting waiting in the wings that has been dubbed Walking-Dead-meets-Firefly, and our journey through the Third Imperium will continue, starting with a Tour of major worlds in several sectors, penned by Traveller-fan-favourite, Martin Dougherty.
The Far Future begins to look even brighter!
You can pick up your copy of the beta playtest pack here.