Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Traveller (role-playing game)
Traveller was one of the first major role-playing games (RPGs) being originally published in 1977. Set in a far, far future world that seems to draw strongly from Asimov, Dune, Star Trek, Star Wars, and countless other science fiction literature, Traveller provides a game universe where player characters can travel from world to world, engage in battle on the ground or in the sky, and involve themselves in interstellar economics. While any version of the game system could be used in many Science Fiction settings one of the key features and selling points of the game has become the great detail of the official Traveller Universe that has been built up over many years.
Traveller uses a character generation and advancement mechanism, whereby the player goes through a design process to determine the character's history, career experience, and so forth. Unlike Dungeons & Dragons and its derivatives, in Traveller, character skill and ability advancement is downplayed in favor of positional-advancement - gaining of wealth, gadgets, titles, and power.
The original Traveller gamebooks were distinctive half-size black pamphlets (the so-called "Little Black Books" or "LBBs" for short) produced by Game Designers Workshop (GDW), and many of these half-size pamphlets were printed. Later versions of the game system introduced full sized booklets and new political twists, as the emperor was assassinated and many sectors of the galaxy thrown into strife (in MegaTraveller ), or the universe is rediscovered and retamed (in ), or the Third Imperium is begun (in Marc Miller's Traveller ), or an alternate history is followed where the emperor is not assassinated (in GURPS Traveller).
The spelling 'Traveller' is what was used on the books printed and distributed in the U.S., even though it is a spelling more commonly used in Commonwealth English than American English (which prefers 'Traveler').
Traveller takes place in the distant future - over three thousand years removed from our own time. Interstellar travel is facilitated, and limited, by the use of a technology known as the jump drive. Jump drives are capable of propelling a starcraft between one to six parsecs, depending on the machine's specifications. Regardless of the distance of a jump, the duration required for the trip is approximately one week. Communications are limited to the speed of travel; there is no "sub-space" or other form of FTL information transfer. This leads to a central principle of Traveller's original setting. The restraint on the speed of information leads to decentralization and the vestment of significant power in the hands of local officials.
The primary nation state in Traveller is the Third Imperium, currently ruled by its 43rd emperor, Strephon Aella Alkhalikoi. The Imperium is the most powerful interstellar polity, but it is surrounded on all sides by potentially hostile neighbors. Local nobility operate largely free from oversight, restricted by convention, feudal obligations, and the fear of being caught.
The setting itself underwent significant changes as each new edition was introduced. MegaTraveller told the story of the great Rebellion, begun when Archduke Dulinor assassinated the emperor in a bid for the Imperial throne. This touched off a terrible conflict involving not only an imperial dynastic struggle, but also seeing the advance of foreign powers at the empire's expense. The Rebellion was only finally ended by the inadvertent release of Virus, an electronic superweapon that caused computers to go insane and turn against their masters.
The Rebellion is an extremely controversial topic for Traveller fans. Some feel that the civil war (and the resulting apocalypse) ruined role-playing's most dynamic and developed setting. This sentiment eventually gave rise to GURPS: Traveller, an alternate timeline in which Emperor Strephon lives. However, the established canon line has its own dedicated fanbase, and has recently enjoyed additional development by QuikLink Interactive's 1248 material.
Features of The Traveller Universe
There are several key features of the Traveller Universe that make it unique. From these features grew the detailed specific background available for the Empires and aliens of the Traveller Universe.
No faster than light communication
Starships are the only thing that can travel faster than light. Entire wars have been fought, won or lost on the frontiers before a message ever got to the Capital to let the Emperor even know the War had begun. This means that all kinds of agents, from merchants to generals, must show intitiative and be reasonably independent from their corporate or political overlords.
There is no Prime Directive
There is no prohibition on contact or interfence with other races, protecting them from advanced technology. Economics and other factors that applied to exploration and colonisation on Earth are the same factors that shape the Traveller Universe. However, Governments may interdict planets with native primitive intelligent species.
Humans are widespread in the Traveller Universe
Due to an Ancient race that scattered humanity across the stars, all types of human races can be encountered from cavemen to high tech empires.
While some were obviously less than inspired when first created, a lot of background information has gone into developing each into something more than a human in an alien suit.
A Major Race is defined as one that developed jump technology independently. While it is generally agreed there are 6 major races, how they are defined varies a little. The standard list includes:
- Aslan are a bipedal species of feline appearance, slightly larger than a human. Aslan society has a strict code of honour and very strict gender roles. During the Rebellion period it was alleged that the Aslan are not technically a Major Race, in that they reverse-engineered the jump drive from a Terran ship.
- Droyne short-winged bipedal race of reptilian appearance. Though the oldest of the jump capable races, the Droyne were the last to be recognised as such probably because they do not have any empires or regions controlled by their race. The race is scattered across known space and their homeworld is unknown. Droyne control some worlds but also share some with other races. Scholarship late in the Third Imperium confirmed that Droyne were the same race as the Ancients.
- Hivers are race based on six-fold symmetry. Of all the major races they both appear and think the most “alien” to most humans. Despite their name Hivers actually have a highly individualistic society. They avoid where possible direct violence and war, preferring instead to work behind the scenes via all forms of covert manipulation.
- Humaniti is the spelling used for Humanity in the Traveller Universe. When humans first reached out to travel to the stars most were very surprised to find they were already there. Three sub-species of humans independently developed jump drive technology and are therefore sometimes classified as Major Races in their own right. The Solomani whose names derives from “Men of the Sol system”. It is generally acknowledged that Terra is the original homeworld of Humaniti and that they were spread amongst the stars thousands of years ago by the Ancients. The Vilani developed on Vland. They were the first race of Humaniti to invent the jump drive, and created the First Imperium. The Zhodani are known for their high level of psychic ability and its formal integration into their society.
- K’kree are a race having 2 arms and 4 legs reminding humans somewhat of Centaurs. They are herd animals and rarely found alone. They are militant and often aggressive herbivores with a disdain for all meat eaters.
- Vargr are a bi-pedal canine slight smaller than a human. This species resembles Terran wolves because they are. Wolves taken from Terra were genetically manipulated by the Ancients to a bipedal form in an attempt to create suitable servants.
Numerous minor races exist, some have been fully developed, some only briefly mentioned, in the Traveller background material. Listed here are only a few of the minor races.
Minor Human Races
As well as the three recognised human sub-species that are recognised as Major Races, there are at least 22 others classified as minor races (though some dispute this classification). Many human races are indistinguishable from each other though a few began from a small gene pool and/or developed in an extreme environment develop unique characteristics.
Notable minor human races include the Darrians, Suerrat, and Geonee.
Other Minor Races
Some of the minor races with a large amount of background material include:
- Classic Traveller (1977-1986) The original game system, set in the Golden Age of the Imperium.
- MegaTraveller (1986-1991) Revision of the game system, set during the Rebellion which shattered the Imperium.
- (1992-1995) Revision to conform to GDW's house system. Introduction of the Virus.
- Marc Miller's Traveller (also known as T4) (1996-1998) Produced after the demise of GDW. Set in the early days of the Third Imperium.
- GURPS Traveller (1996- ) "Created on a handshake with Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games." An alternate timeline with no Rebellion and a much-diminished Virus.
- Traveller 20 (2002- ) The D20 system version set at the turn of the millennium, and a forthcoming follow-up to the New Era set in 1248.
- Interstellar Wars (forthcoming) The second GURPS-driven version of Traveller, it concentrates on the 22nd and 23rd centuries, much earlier than the usual Traveller setting, at the time when Terra had just encountered the Vilani Imperium.
- T5 (in development). The Traveller 5th edition, intended by designer Marc Miller to achieve advances in both playability and realism.
Despite the title, GDW's Traveller: 2300 RPG was not part of the same universe, and was later retitled as 2300 AD.
- GURPS Traveller from sjgames.com
- jtas.sjgames.com - Journal of the Traveller's Aid Society (JTAS)
- www.travellerrpg.com - The Traveller Universe
- www.farfuture.net - Marc Miller's Far Future company reprints Classic Traveller books
- www.travellerbibliography.org - This site aims to list all traveller material ever published with cover illustrations
- www.bits.org.uk - BITS (British Isle Traveller Support) - produces supplements & adventures including 101 Series
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