Earlier this month, at Go Play Northwest, I played a game of Traveller Carcosa run by Alex Mayo that really made me want to play more Traveller. It also reminded me to prod my long-simmering, largely unrequited interest in Traveller and see if Mongoose Traveller was still my favorite iteration.
I then bumped into this post by Alex Schroeder about the nuances of sector generation in Classic Traveller (paid link; from The Traveller Book) and Mongoose Traveller (paid link) 1e, and that led me down a rabbit warren of Classic Traveller exploration.
What I learned was that there is at least as much meaningful variation in the nuances, presentation, expression, and philosophy of different versions of the Classic Traveller rules as there is in versions of old-school D&D. I had no idea!
I love exploring this kind of stuff (and I’ve written about a bit of it myself; for example, my posts about B/X D&D), and just as it did with D&D, delving deeply into the seemingly innocuous variations in Traveller has led me to the realization that it’s the very first presentation, the 1977 versions of Books 1-3 that interests me the most, supplemented by The Traveller Book (paid link) for specific areas (like its tidy summary of the encounter rolls that form the basic structure of a campaign).
Interestingly, the only source for the 1977 version of Traveller that I’m aware of also happens to be one of the best deals in gaming: the Classic Traveller CD-ROM from Far Future Entertainment, which also includes the entire CT canon for just $35. Apart from that lone source, the later revisions of the original rules, notably the 1983 Traveller Book, have “taken over” and supplanted the 1977 version. The FFE CD, though, includes the original 1977 booklets, the 1981 revision, and The Traveller Book.
Classic Traveller love
Here are some of the branches in that rabbit warren, all great reads:
- This entire series of posts by Christopher Kubasik: Traveller Out of the Box. But specifically:
- From Den of the Lizard King, Traveller skill levels in context
- This paragraph-by-paragraph comparison of the 1977, 1981, 1982, and 1983 rules text by the indefatigable Frank Filz
Collectively, all of the above gave me a newfound appreciation for the original 1977 iteration of Traveller, as well as for the many parallels between Traveller Books 1-3 and OD&D’s original three LBBs, which embody a similar freewheeling, DIY, make-your-own-fun ethos.
When I — eventually! — get to run Classic Traveller, it’ll be with the 1977 rules (Books 1-3), The Traveller Book for some handy clarifications, and possibly, though only possibly, Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium (paid link) for alternate careers (but minus the Imperium stuff).
 And that’s not even considering all of the other full-on different editions, like MegaTraveller (paid link) and whatnot.