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Traveller 5: A Second Look

Updated on September 9, 2020
Marc Miller - the creator of Traveller
Marc Miller - the creator of Traveller | Source

Traveller 5: 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 5., and everything in between. 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 book 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 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 this edition of Traveller (at least within the books I have) seemed to have left a few things out, glossed over some others, and oftentimes 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 — an 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 Traveller 5 format, sometimes called the Second Survey format. So I went back and looked at my giant Traveller 5 book and started giving the world generation material a closer look.

History of Traveller Editions

  • Traveller (1977) — Classic Traveller (CT); Little Black Books (LBB). Published by Game Design Workshop (GDW).
  • Traveller: 2300 AD (1986) — (2300). Related to Traveller in name only; uses a far gritter, edgier system and has its own unrelated setting. Published by 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 classic system. Moved the setting into a post Imperial collapse period. Published by GDW.
  • Marc Miller's Traveller (1996) — Traveller 4th Edition (T4). Suffered from a lack of editing. Published by Imperium Games (IG).
  • GURPS Traveller (1998) — (GT). Uses GURPS 3e rules and set in an alternate universe where the events of The New Era never took place. Published by Steve Jackson Games (SJG).
  • Traveller 20 (2002) — (T20). Uses the d20 system as allowed for under the Open Gaming License (OGL) from Wizards of the Coast. The setting was pushed back to approximately one century prior to the classic setting. Published by Quick Link Interactive (QLI) and RPG Realms Publishing.
  • GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars (2006) — (GTIW). Uses GURPS 4e rules. The timeline was rolled back several millennia prior to the classic setting. Published by SJG.
  • Traveller Hero (2006) — (TH). Uses the Hero (Champions) rules. Published by Comstar Games.
  • Mongoose Traveller (2008) — (MgT). Uses a modified, blended Classic Traveller + Traveller 5 rules set which borrows concepts from d20, requiring it to utilize the OGL. Published by Mongoose Publishing.
  • Traveller 5th Edition (2013) — (T5). Published by Far Future Enterprises (FFE).
  • Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition (2016) — (MgT2). Uses an in-house system that closely resembles another blended Classic Traveller + Traveller 5 rules set. Does not utilize the OGL. Published by Mongoose Publishing.
  • Traveller 5th Edition (2019-2020) — (T5); Big Black Books (BBB). In late 2019, Marc Miller and Far Future Enterprises went back to Kickstarter and ran a new campaign for a reprint of Traveller 5. This one (called Traveller 5 dot 10, on the site) includes all errata for T5, as well as breaks up the material into three books similar to how the original Classic Traveller Little Black Books were organized.

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

Traveller 5: A Second Look

I have to say that, as I have now completed reading the tome a third time, I have a new found fondness for what they accomplished. It is a good system with some damn good material hidden within it. But let me make this clear:

  • the system contained within is amazing
  • the material contained within is beautiful
  • the errata that needs to be applied is extensive
  • the organization, however, kills it

The errata document is lengthy. It is ten pages long; it uses a relatively small font in a two-column format; in includes whole tables that need to be replaced in the book. That said, it is not nearly as bad as I had remembered from my first reading of that document.

In other words: Traveller 5 is a great game that is lost in the disorganized mess that is the Traveller 5 Core Rule Book.

Want Traveller 5?

This section is being revised as I update this article in December of 2019. Getting a copy of this edition of Traveller is relatively difficult. But keep reading...

  • Amazon no longer has the Traveller 5 Core Rulebook listed. It does, however, have the new Traveller 5 Big Black Books edition (with the slipcover) listed as being available on December 25th. For some reason, locating anything for Traveller is very difficult based on how they have organized their database.
  • Far Future Enterprises no longer has the Traveller 5 Core Rulebook listed. You can still order the CD-ROM edition. Also, the website indicates that the Traveller 5 Big Black Books edition will be available in April 2020.
  • Noble Knight Games is a great resource for purchasing out-of-print material. They do not have the Traveller 5 Core Rulebook listed in their database, either. You can, however, get on a list that will have them email you if a copy becomes available.
  • eBay, as of this writing, has 8 results for a search of "Traveller 5 Core Rules" in their listings. The Traveller 5 Core Rulebook listings range in price from $38 to over $260. If you want this book, I highly suggest you get it quickly. That said, some people are offering up their sealed copies of the Traveller 5 Big Black Books edition for prices ranging from $80 to $200 — meaning they received their Kickstarter rewards and never even opened them.

Assuming you do get a copy, you will want to download the current errata document.

How Can this be Fixed?

When I originally wrote this article, I provided (in this spot) a breakdown of what I thought a reprint of Traveller 5 should look like. It turns out, what I wanted to see happen is very, very close to what Far Future Enterprises as done with the new Big Black Books.

So, I am removing this section, and replacing it with a heartfelt thank you to Marc Miller and his team for a job well done.

I also followed this section with a poll asking if the method I proposed was the way to go... several people responded, most believing I had the right idea. Given that Marc Miller has gone this route, I felt that the poll was no longer needed — and so I have removed that as well.

Thank you for understanding.


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