Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Traveller - have I come full circle?

I found a piece of what for me is Traveller Archaeology - a full set of Megatraveller rule books, and a ton of DGP's "Traveller's Digest" issues. The TD was DGP's version of the old "Journal of the Traveller's Aid Society", which in turn was basically like "Dragon Magazine", but only for Traveller instead of D&D.

The Traveller's Digest articles are always a ton of fun to read, and the style of adventure presentation DGP had is to me much more evocative than GDW's style. Even if I'd only picked those magazines up, I'd be a happy man. But the Megatraveller rules, now that's really something to dig into.

Megatraveller (which uses the abbreviation "MT" on the web) came out almost exactly a year after I stopped playing Traveller. So though I was aware of its existence, I never saw a copy in person until now. In fact, it turns out that I'd confused it with "Traveller: The New Era" in my mind, which as it turns out is a very different game system whose rules I also have never read.

The MT rules are very much like a straight-line extrapolation from Classic Traveller (CT). If you're fluent in "D&D speak", MT is the AD&D 2e to CT's OD&D. The analogy is very apt, since MT adds a TON of chrome and optional rules in supplements, and even the basic rules are considerably more full than CT, though the core concept of character creation is nearly identical. As an example, the core CT has 6 "services" you can join to gain skills (analogous to D&D classes), but core MT has 18! MT  adopts a uniform task system and then re-creates the entire Traveller game around it. CT has skills to, and though there was a certain logic to how they work, MT takes the concept way beyond anything CT offers. (DGP did actually publish a version of their task system for use with CT. This system was popular enough that it ended up in MT.)

The down side of MT is that along with the chrome comes complexity. Ship design is wonderfully expanded, differentiating hull displacement from mass, specifying in great detail the type and power requirements of various ship subsystems (sensors, inertial compensators, etc.) that are hand-waved away in CT, etc. Combat is more rational than CT, and unifies person, animal and vehicle damage systems. There are MANY tasks listed for first aid, repair, etc., to take advantage of the new (and yummy) task system, etc. But because of all this flavor, MT loses much of CT's "rules light" charm. (You know, just like when OD&D became AD&D....)

As I read MT's rules, I do so not so much with the intent of playing MT, but maybe of raiding MT for ideas to port to CT. I've very seriously considered simply using the DGP task system with CT and hand-waving in some sensor rules. I'll leave CT's combat system alone, but adopt MT's initiative/interrupt system, and I'll use MT's "life force" rules for minions.

On the other hand,

I've been an on-again-off-again fan of Mongoose's Traveller (MgT), which I used to believe was a "modernized CT". But I'm reaching the conclusion that MgT is actually a "trimmed down MT". Could it be that I've been going about this all wrong, and that MgT is really the Traveller that I'm looking for? MgT has a unified task system (similar but not identical to MT's) and a lightly more detailed ship design system than CT.

I still think that MgT has dropped the ball on certain details, and their task system encourages the "playbook" style of role playing that I want to avoid. But I wonder, would I be better served by bringing some MT into MgT, playing MT straight-up, or using MT rules to flavorize CT?

Something to ponder as I prepare to run "Twilight's Peak" for some friends....

Side Note: I mentioned a few posts ago that I got T20, which I now recognize as being very much a D20 version of MT - plenty of crunchy details wrapped around a D20 engine - but I've found character generation in T20 to be very confusing. Much of the stuff in T20 that got me so excited appears to have been extrapolated from MT. That doesn't diminish the coolness of T20, and T20 may still have the best combat and damage model of any Traveller I've seen, but unless my players are willing to do some studying on their own (some will be, some won't), I need to stick to a Traveller that is easy to use.