Traveller 1977


There are two kinds of fools. One says, “This is old, therefore it is good”; the other says, “This is new, therefore it is better.” – Dean Inge

There’s a buzz in the Traveller community at the moment about going back to the original three Little Black Books and seeing what you can do just with them. This seems to have been started by some posts on the Tales to Astound blog entitled Traveller: Out of the Box.

Now, if I were to travel back in time and give some words of advice to my younger self, they would include an exhortation to pick one RPG and stick to it. If I had listened – which I admit is unlikely – that RPG would have been what is now called Classic Traveller.

I’ve run CT periodically over the decades, and when I do, it always strikes me that it’s just as much fun as it ever was, and just as much fun as the later and more complex games I’ve played since; the same applies to Original Dungeons & Dragons, actually.

Since it doesn’t look like I’ll be running any more group sessions this year, certainly not science fiction ones, let’s step into a parallel universe where instead of experimenting with dozens of games down the years, I’ve carried on running CT since 1977.

I must have different players in that universe; one reason I didn’t do it in this timestream was that most of my players wanted more complex character creation, more obvious options for character advancement, and bigger, better guns than Books 1-3 provided. Those must have been common desires because Game Designers’ Workshop obliged, starting with Book 4, Mercenary.

In that universe, I would have kept the campaign fresh by moving it into a new subsector every few years, one with new gadgets and factions for PCs to collect and interact with, plagiarised from whatever SF I was reading or watching at the time. I would have spent more time reading the core rules and thinking about their implications, striving for depth of understanding rather than quick fixes gleaned from another supplement. I would have missed out on my small measure of fame, and instead acquired an enviable understanding of how the game worked and why. I would have spent more time focused on the story, and less on the rules.

In this thread, I’ll look at the 1977 edition of Traveller with the hindsight acquired through four decades of gaming experience, share some thoughts on how I used to run the game and how I would run it now, and ask the question: If these rules are a perfect simulation of the game world, what is that world like?

Since deciding to do this, I’ve found myself bursting with ideas in a way that hasn’t happened in years. Hopefully those ideas will be of interest to those refereeing other editions of Traveller too, but the 1977 edition is a different beast from the others; it’s Traveller, Jim, but not as we know it…

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