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Traveller 5: A Second Look

Updated on February 13, 2015

Traveller Editions

  • Traveller (1977) — a.k.a. Classic Traveller (CT) or the Little Black Books (LBB); published by Game Design Workshop (GDW).
  • MegaTraveller (1987) — (MT); an update of the system. Designed by Digest Group Publications (DGP) and published by GDW.
  • Traveller: The New Era (1993) — (TNE); an update of the system. Moved the setting into a post Imperial collapse period.
  • Marc Miller's Traveller (1998) — a.k.a. Traveller 4th Edition (T4). Suffered from a lack of editing.
  • GURPS Traveller (1998) — (GT); uses GURPS 3e rules and set in an alternate universe where the events of The New Era never took place. When GURPS 4e was released, a new version called Traveller: Interstellar Wars (GTIW) was released.
  • Traveller 20 (2002) — (T20); uses the d20 system. Published by Quick Link Interactive (QLI) and RPG Realms Publishing. The setting was pushed back to approximately one century prior to the classic setting.
  • Traveller Hero (2007) — (TH); uses the Hero (Champions) rules. Published by Comstar Games.
  • Mongoose Traveller (2008) — (MgT); uses a modified (simplified?) blended CT + T5 rules set. Published by Mongoose Publishing.
  • Traveller 5th Edition (2013) — (T5); published by Far Future Enterprises (FFE).

Marc Miller - the creator of Traveller
Marc Miller - the creator of Traveller | Source

T5: First Impressions

I am a Traveller fan. I have owned nearly every incarnation of the game — from the Classic Little Black Book edition, to Traveller: The New Era to MegaTraveller to Traveller: 2300 to GURPS Traveller to Mongoose Traveller to T4, T20, and now T5. The two primary settings involved (The Third Imperium and the 2300 Setting) are amazing in scope and detail.

The system used by Traveller is, for the most part, secondary. I do not think the rules used can, themselves, be said to define Traveller any longer. If you are playing in the Third Imperium, you are in the Traveller universe, no matter what system you use. It is for this reason that I think the 2300 Setting will never really be Traveller in my eyes. It is a great setting... but it has about as much to do with Traveller as the movie I, ROBOT has to do with Isaac Asimov books of the same name.

When I caught wind that Marc Miller was going to do a Traveller 5th Edition — a final and definitive edition of the game, I was saddened to see that I had missed the Kickstarter Campaign by the slimmest of margins. I contacted Mr. Miller and he graciously allowed me to drop into the campaign late. I was able to get my book (signed and everything)!

When the book came, there was a sad realization that it was gawd awful. The organization of the book renders it nearly impossible to follow it in any logical fashion; the errata were quick to show up and grew plentifully. I read the tome — twice. At over 600 pages, I assure you that this is a feat in and of itself. In the end, I felt I would not be caught dead playing this game.

I wanted to cry.

Recently, I have started a campaign of Mongoose Traveller. So far, I have five great players and a decent time-line I want to play through. We are having fun. As I started mapping the non-Traveller canon sector we would be playing in (which I have named The Delphi Sector).

I started rolling up planets and such and realized that Mongoose Traveller (at least within the books I have) seemed to have left a few things out, glossed over some others, and often times have an almost-but-not-quite-there feel to the system. I started looking into some software to help me with the task and stumbled onto the Traveller Map Poster Maker (http://www.travellermap.com/make/poster) — and excellent site and resource for such things. As I was reading over the file format definitions on this site, I noted that the data the site uses is typically in the T5 format, sometimes called the Second Survey format. So I went back and looked at my giant T5 book and started giving the world generation material a closer look.

T5: A Second Look

I have to say that, as I have now completed reading the tome a third time, it is an amazing system. It has some damn good material in there. The system in the book is amazing. The material in the book is beautiful. The organization of the book, however, kills it.

The errata, as I have been going over the list of errors and such, it not as bad as I recall it being. So Traveller 5 is a great game and a collection of great material... all lost in the disorganized mess that is the T5 Core Rules Book.

Want T5?

I am writing this material on 7 Feb 2015. Getting a copy of this book is relatively difficult at this time.

  • Amazon no longer has this book in stock and seems to have made locating it in their database all but impossible.
  • Far Future Enterprises is out of stock for the physical book; you can still order the CD-ROM edition.
  • Noble Knight Games is a great resource for purchasing out-of-print material. They are out of stock as well. You can get on a list such that if a copy becomes available, they will let you know.
  • E-Bay has one copy for sale at this time. The seller has no picture and describes the book as "corners/edges very lightly worn/dented, covers lightly scuffed/scratched, pages clean/tight/bright with previous owner's name on front flyleaf"; despite this the asking price is $78.69 (which is a very, very odd price point if you ask me) making this $3.69 more than a new copy goes for and more than $25 more than what it sold for while it was readily available in the secondary market.

Assuming you do get a copy (even on the CD-ROM), you will want to go to the official message boards (Citizens of the Imperium) and download the current errata document:

How Can this be Fixed?

My hope is this: since the T5 system is obviously available in PDF; and since this means the original source files still exist; and since Marc Miller is still around... this can be fixed.

In the end, I think two things are all that is needed:

First: apply all of the known errata

This is a no-brainer. Although the official errata file grew quickly in the month or so after the book hit the streets, looking over that file now it is obvious that it stopped growing almost immediately after that period. Thus, what appeared to be an unending floor of errors was a flash-flood with everything essentially caught in the first days after publication.

One can argue that this means that if the book had been released in PDF form first, allowed the masses that were looking to get this book some time to go over it in that form first, then a lot of this could have been avoided. Despite this, it is not an untenable situation. The errata document is 10 pages long (for a 656-page book). This stuff should already be applied to their internal documents. So stage one is done!

Second: 2. Break the Core Rules book into four (?) books

656 pages makes the system, which is relatively simple at its heart, seem insurmountable. The organization of the book makes things worse. Return to the roots of Traveller and break the book up into a few core books, each covering a wide swath of concepts.

  • Book 1: Character Creation — basic character creation with the built in assumption that you are a human (e.g., the standard stats, aging, etc.). Basic rules for dice, skills, combat and the like should all be in this volume.
  • Book 2: Star Systems and Worlds — star mapping, star system generation, and so on. Everything you need to create your own Traveller Universe, or to properly read and use the worlds they have available to you.
  • Book 3: Fire, Fusion, and Steel — the various maker systems (gun maker, vehicle maker, etc.). This book should cover how to build anything from a melee weapon to a starship.
  • Book 4: Sophonts — all of the rules for alien being creation, how being alien shifts the rules in character creation, and so on...

Done!

These two relatively simple changes would make all the difference in the world, I think.

What do you think?

Is it possible to fix T5?

See results

T5 Omnibus Edition

A book that could stop a bullet
A book that could stop a bullet | Source

Addenda

In a conversation with some other Traveller Fans, this is what I came up with for the reorganization of the T5 Core Rules book:

In my opinion...

In the edit/re-org/re-design/re-package of the Big Black Book, if you were to divide the book into a logical flow of six sections...

  • 1. Core Rules
    • Dice; types of die rolls
    • General assumptions (e.g., all charts assume the game master will be applying modifiers that may or may not be presented with those charts)
    • Tech Levels
    • Basic Task Resolution
    • Attributes (human stats and the alien analogs; how they interact)
    • Skills
    • Combat
    • etc.
  • 2. Characters
    • Generating attributes
    • Determining Home World
    • Careers (and how they work)
    • Mustering Out
    • etc.
  • 3. Stars and Worlds
    • Star Mapping
    • System Generation
    • World Generation
    • World Mapping
    • etc.
  • 4. Starships
    • Starship basics
    • Starship creation
    • Starship operations
    • Starship combat
    • etc.
  • 5. Makers
    • Basic concepts for makers
    • Assumptions involved
    • The various maker systems
    • etc.
  • 6. The Third Imperium
    • General background on the Third Imperium
    • How to use the setting
    • How to create your own setting (e.g., adjusting the careers to reflect your setting's assumptions)
    • etc.

Note: each section and sub-section should include examples of how that area of the rules work.

If this is completed...

  • Player's Guide is section 1 plus section 2 packaged together with some equipment examples from section 5.
  • Game Master's Guide is section 3 plus section 4 plus section 5.
  • The Third Imperium Guide is section 6 packaged along with standard/common elements used in the setting from section 4 and section 5.

Just my thoughts.

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    • profile image

      Craig A. Glesner 2 years ago

      Glad you gave it that third look as I love the system and find lots of good stuff in it, but then I am a smidge biased. :)

      I think the three book Classic style might be easier for most folks to digest (even though the PHB, DMG & MM are about 600 pages total so the systems are about as long) and harkens back the Golden Age look but I think Sophonts along with other non or para-humans should be in Book 1. They are after all playable once you get them made so they like Chimera, Synthetics, Clones and Robots should properly be in the section devoted to player characters. Either that in Book 2, but I really feel it more properly belongs in the front with the rest of the PC CharGen docs.

    • Keith Whipple profile image

      Keith Whipple 2 years ago

      Never played this game but might look into it after reading this informative article.

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