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D20-01 Traveller20 Core Rules Set
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2022 12:12:50

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/05/review-traveller20-2002-2007.html

We are now in another new decade. In fact a new century and a new millennium in fact. And of course another new edition of Traveller. Interestingly enough we are now 25 years out from the Little Black Books. But we are now nearing the end height of the d20 boom. Traveler, for the first time in its history, is now using the same system as Dungeons & Dragons.

Traveller for d20, also called Traveller 20 or even T20 used the d20 system under the OGL and d20 STL.

Since this is the 20th day of SciFi month, let's do Traveller for d20!

There are two versions of this game, one out in 2002, which I remember was a single hardcover book. The other, available from DriveThruRPG is the 2007 edition and made up of three books (and a handbook). I had the 2002 version briefly but ended selling it off in an auction. Why? I can't recall. I had a baby and another one on the way, I bet I needed money.

Both versions have similar cover art.

For the purposes of this review, I am going to consider the 2006-7 version from DriveThruRPG and from Far Future Enterprises where I got my copy from.

Traveller20 Core Rules Set (2006-7)

PDF. Four files. Color cover art, black & white interior art.

Ok. I want to start with this. I like d20. I do. My favorite version of the Star Wards RPG is Wizard's Revised d20 version. I know that sounds like blasphemy to so many, but I don't care. Star Wars and D&D are so wrapped up into my childhood that bringing them together under one system was a no-brainer for me. Now if I can add some Traveller bits? Well I don't know if I can just yet, but the idea is so tempting, so tantalizing I just can't help it. Seriously what could be more Summer of 1977 than Star Wars + D&D + Traveller? What does that mean for you? Well. I am likely to cut this edition a lot of slack. Maybe even to the point of excusing some things I shouldn't. Forewarned is forearmed.

The Traveller's Guidebook

PDF. 234 Pages, Color cover, black & white interior art with blue accents.

This is the "Book 0" OR the Book 4 of the 2006-7 Traveller d20 line. This book covers all the basics for the Traveller Player.

We get out Introduction which tells us what we are in for here. It is written for the point of view of anyone new to RPGs or new to Traveller (any version).

We get brief overviews of the d20 mechanic. How to set your Difficulty Levels (DCs) and even a little on success levels.

Character Creation is next. What follows is pretty standard for all d20 games. Roll abilities, choose races, select classes, set skills, add feats, roll up hitpoints. This is Traveller so there is a bit more added on.

D&D/d20 has six Character Abilities. Traveller has six. T20 has nine. These are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Education, Wisdom, Charisma, Social Standing, and Psionic Strength. Ok a mix of both systems. Not exactly what I would have done, but hey. Ability scores are d20 standard, modifiers are as well.

Hitpoints are split between Stamina and Lifeblood. Or what other games might call wound points and health points. One slows you down the other represents how much you have till you die. Loosing either is not good.

Races are discussed and the standard humans are given with variations. You can also choose Vargr, Aslan, Ursa, and Virushi.

Since this is Traveller you have your homeworld to consider. There are plenty of random tables to help you figure this all out. Tech Levels from previous editions remain here. It's a nice touch of course. Also you have your prior history, or what you did before you decided to live the glamorous life of a Traveller. Turns of service enter here with various paths and what that all means in terms of your character (background, credit earned, and skills). I am not sure but it seems like there are a lot of careers here. More than other editions.

Once that is figured out you can choose a class. XP values are the same as D&D 3.x so that is easy enough. There are 12 core classes: Academic, Athlete, Barbarian, Belter, Entertainer, Martial Artist, Mercenary, Merchant, Noble, Professional, Rogue, and Traveller. Nine "Service" Classes: Army, Convict, Corsair, Flyer, Law Enforcement, Marine, Navy, Sailor, and Scout. And eight Prestige Classes: Diplomat, Engineer, Medic, Ace Pilot, Ancients Hunter, Big Game Hunter, Psionicist, and TAS Field Reporter.

Skills are covered and as expected there are a lot of them. A lot. Nearly 30 pages worth. Same goes for Feats (this is d20 after all). Now I prefer a smaller list of skills myself, but I see why the authors did what they did.

Equipment and Starting Funds cover the next 40 pages or so. Imperial Credits are still good here!

Combat is the d20 system with a few twists, but nothing the average D&D 3.x+ player couldn't figure out. The covers personal, vehicle and ship combat.

Adventuring covers quite a lot from what the characters do, living expenses, environments and their dangers, weather dangers, movement, vision, and on to Psionics (which really should be it's own chapter).

We now get into what could be reasonably called the Traveller Black Books of d20.

Book 1: Characters and Combat

PDF. 209 Pages, Color cover, black & white, and color interior art.

I will admit I am confused. This book looks older than the "Book 0" above. No problem. Ok. So I get the idea these textbooks are actually separate from the first one. Not sure what the logic here is, but works for me. I'll take these three books as a group, like the Little Black Books of old.

We start out with some game fiction. Move right on to an introduction from Marc W. Miller, but I think that is all he did for this particular version. This moves on to the Introduction to RPGs section and about Traveller in particular. So while it is similar to the book above it also goes into far more detail.

Characters cover character creation.

There is an overview with page references to where they are detailed later in this book. Most interestingly there are now eight (8) Abilities. The standard d20 ones plus Education (EDU) and Social Standing (SOC).

You generate your abilities first, examples are given of how EDU and SOC work in the game. Determine your race/species included here are humans (with sub-types), Vargr, Aslan, Luriani, Sydites, Ursa, and Virushi. Mentioned ar the Droyne, Hivers, and K'Kree.

As always your homeworld stats are determined and character adjusted as needed. This also helps with skills and what classes are available to you.

Classes are next and there are a lot of them. This time they are better explained. We have the core classes: Academic, Barbarian, Belter, Mercenary, Merchant, Noble, Professional, Rogue, and Traveller. The Service Classes: Army, Marine, Navy, and Scout. And Prestige Classes: Ace Pilot, Big Game Hunter, and TAS Field Reporter. Classes work like the d20 standard.

I do admit I have a desire to run a game with TAS field reporters. If nothing else this is giving me a load of ideas for my Star Trek: Mercy campaign.

Skills are up and we also get a note that this section is Open Game Content. Nice touch. There are quite a lot of skills here, more than the d20 standard of the time. A lot of these are also limited to particular classes or backgrounds. Unlike standard d20 and more like some other games, some skills can be used with more than one ability. Pilot for example can be INT or DEX. I think my favorite addition though is the "Dealing with Bureaucrats" DC table. As expected this section is rather large.

Feats (this is d20 after all) is also a long section. There are also some Final Details to figure out like age, height, and weight.

Oddly, but maybe it makes sense, Prior History is after all of this. Reading through is does actually since it modifies what the character is like. In truth it is like a rather robust "Backgrounds" from D&D 5th Edition, just 10+ years before that.

Combat is up. The book says that combat is pretty much the same as d20 standard except in a few cases. Mostly Traveller universe specific examples. Where things are different it is noted.

After combat, the Prestige Classes are covered. And at the end as always (more or less) is Psionics.

The Appendices follow. Their page numbers start as if all three books are combined. Nice really. So Appendix I starts on page 426. The last page is the OGL and Product Identity information.

Book 2: Equipment and Design

PDF. 164 Pages, Color cover, black & white interior art.

I just want to say right now that I am loving this Classic Traveller presentation of the Traveller 20 rules. I wish I had a POD of this.

This book continues, page numbers and all, from Book 1.

This book covers all the Technology and Equipment (about two dozen pages), the design of vehicles and starships, and some standard designs. All of it is largely what you would expect it to be.

Technology and Equipment. This discusses various TLs (Technology Levels) and the character "shopping list" so lots of weapons. We do have sections of drugs, medical care, food and living expenses, as well as cybertechnology (somewhat that started in Traveller just a decade ago) and cloning. Interestingly enough I did not see a lot on robots save that they can be built like vehicles. I do appreciate the conservation of rule space here, but more might have been nice.

Computers are more advanced, but you are all sick of me harping on that.

The Appendices repeat here as well as the OGL information.

Book 3: Worlds and Adventures

PDF. 107 Pages, Color cover, black & white interior art.

Ok, I have to admit I am enjoying this system.

This is the smallest of the three.

This book covers Travelling (Chapter 14), Starship Encounters (Chapter 15), Universe and World development (Chapter 16), Campaigns (17), and Traveller Adventures (Chapter 18).

The design here is one of characters living in a giant Galactic Imperium that is full of adventure and lite on the details of the Imperium itself. Oh there is information here on it anyone with any knowledge of Traveller can easily fill in the blanks. The focus of this game though is more like Classic Traveller, on the characters and what they do. There is more here than Classic Traveller, but not as much as say MegaTraveller.

I can gather from reading that this takes place sometime prior to the timeline of the LBBs, before 1000. But not much more.

--

Ok so this bundle has two separate versions of the T20 game. For my money, I would rather the Three Books and add in details from The Traveller's Guidebook where needed.

The Three Books cover the same material as The Traveller's Guidebook save for where the TGB goes into additions (more classes, more abilities). I am not 100% convinced that the additions to TGB are better.

I am not going to lie. I like the 3.x d20 system, warts and all. I like the idea of a huge Galactic Empire. So if I am going to play a non-Trek game then some flavor of d20 is likely going to be my choice.

Call me crazy, but I like this one.

Part of me wants to find a copy of the Traveller d20 dead tree book online to buy another part of me wants to print out what I have to put into a binder with other d20-based SciFi games. I know there is d20 Starfleet Battles / Prime Directive and more.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
D20-01 Traveller20 Core Rules Set
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T4 Marc Miller's Traveller
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/19/2022 11:07:49

Originally posted here (with images): https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/05/review-t4-marc-millers-traveller-1996.html

We are now up to 1996. Games Designer's Workshop, unfortunately, had folded at the end of February 1996. At this time the rights to Traveller reverted back to Mark Miller. So Mark started Imperium Games to produce a new game called "Marc Miller's Traveller" but most called T4 online. It has, as far as I can tell, the least amount of supplements for its game line but that is not a huge surprise.

T4 Marc Miller's Traveller (1996)

PDF. 194 pages, color covers and color inserts, black & white art.

For the purposes of this review I am only considering the PDF from DriveThruRPR. There is a softcover POD that includes the color plates, but I do not have that.

There are a lot of familiar names here including Larry Elmore doing some of the interior art.

This game is set at the dawn of the Third Imperium, so in the opposite direction timewise the latest versions were going. It makes it pretty clear that setting wise at least is that this is not a sequel or continuation of MegaTraveller or Traveller: The New Era.

I will note I am not coming into this one blind. Even back then I had heard how this particular edition was riddled with errors and it there is a page (or two dozen pages) of errata out there. I am not going to consider that, nor do I even know if they are included in this file. I am going with no, but I'll check them out later.

Chapter 1: Roleplaying in the Traveller Universe

This is the typical "what is a role-playing game" and "what is Traveller" sections. It is all very similar to the Traveller Book.

Chapter 2: Character Generation

This feels an awful lot like Classic Traveller. In particular, again, the Traveller book. There are more careers here and you get more skills. It also doesn't look like you can die in character creation anymore, but you can be injured and discharged. You still go through background, homeworlds and advanced education, and more. Very familiar I am sure to the seasoned Traveller player. Speaking of familiar, our good friend Alexander Jamison is back. An error, on page 24 Ranks are mentioned (ok, cool same as CT), but in the tables on 29-32 have ranks of E1 to E9 and O1 to O10, Enlisted and Officer.

Chapter 3: Skills

For the first time, the skill list seems a bit smaller than in the last two editions. The chapter not huge and the skills are explained well.

Chapter 4: Task

This is a short and sweet chapter. Only 2 chapters. BUT a couple of things. First, we are now using a "Roll under" system which I am not a fan of. And there are all these "x.5" die rolls. I had forgotten about all the weird-ass die mechanics the late 90s flirted with. This is not the worse, but it is certainly no fun. I mean the task resolution is not terrible, but there are better ones. Much better ones.

Chapter 5: Ground Combat

This is a bit larger than tasks but still smaller than other versions. While there are changes due to the task resolution system it still reads a lot like Classic Traveller. In fact the range bands are now back!

Chapter 6: Equipment

The shopping chapter! One thing I notice is that computers (I know I harp on this, sorry it's my thing) seem to have really advanced. Though I have to point out the "advanced" computers of the Dawn of the Third Imperium are on par with the one I use now to write this. Minus the holographic display. But all in all a big improvement.

I am getting the feeling that somewhere between CT and T4 there is a great Traveller game.

What I am not getting yet is how the tech of this time differs from Classic Traveller's implied tech. This is supposed to be 1100 years before the LBBs.

Chapter 7: Surface Vehicle

This covers vehicles that are not starships. I do want to take a moment and comment on the improved art of this edition. Traveller never really had what I would call inspiring art. It had functional art and it had good descriptive art, but never anything like "wow that looks awesome." Some of the art here is of the awesome category.

Chapter 8: Spacecraft

One of my favorite chapters of past editions. Again starship computers are better handled. Creating a ship is a little like creating a character. There are even some nice photo-like pictures of starships. This section reads a bit differently than the others. Also the tables are organized by layout space rather than how they need to be consulted.

Chapter 9: Space Travel

Guess what is back? Yes! The equations! This whole section is very reminscent of the Classic Traveller books. Though I will admit I do not recall the grisly "Low Lottery" from previous editions. This isn't Star Trek folks.

Chapter 10: Space Combat

This chapter covers combat and it is a bit different. I'd like to say it looks faster, but I have not tried it out at all. Again I'll need to stat out a few ships and give them a trial run. Maybe I could run that Freetrader Beowulf rescue mission I have wanted to try.

Chapter 11: Psionics

Each edition Psionics gets a boost. The material here is again largely similar to Classic Traveller, but now there is a Psiconist service. That's new. I wonder if Babylon 5 was any influence here.

Chapter 12: World Generation

This is also a copy (more or less) from Classic Traveller. No world forms here though.

Chapter 13: Encounters

This is a combination of both the Encounters and Animal Encounters sections. This makes sense really. This is also all word for word from The Traveller Book. The more I red the more déjà vu I am getting.

Now I am not complaining here. In 1996 when this came out the original Classic Traveller was 20 year old. The books were long out of print and GDW was gone. For someone who say played Traveller in High School, skipped all the other editions due to college and now was, oh I don't know, sitting on the train commuting from home to Chicago and back to home every day, this had to be a very welcome sight.

Chapter 14: Referee's Introduction

Our Game Master section. Not word for word from the Traveller book, but close enough. OR at least the feeling is the same. This does include some details on improving skills.

Chapter 15: Running Adventures and Campaigns

This is similar enough to the Traveller Book's "Referee's Guide to Adventuring." I am not sure is the authors (and there is plenty of evidence that there is more than one voice here) wanted to ignore everything after MegaTraveller OR were not allowed to use anything. I don't mean text I mean ideas. I think I wanted to see more here.

Chapter 16: Trade and Commerce

Again similar to other editions of Classic Traveller. Did text search and found it is largely the same text as Book 7, Merchant Prince. And again not a complaint here.

Chapter 17: Exit Visa (Adventure)

This is the same adventure from the Traveller Book.

Chapter 18: Rubicon Cross (Adventure)

This one is completely new as far a I can tell. In fact my online search for it pulled up references to T4 and the errata sheets. Guess I'll grab that.

Library Data and Index

The Library Data is pulled from Classic Traveller. Is it a copy? Yes. And sadly it preserved the focus on the current year being 1105 and Year 0. So the entries on "Dating Systems" and "Holiday Year" only make sense from a later perspective. Ok, I suppose it was possible that Cleon I proclaimed the current year as the Holiday year when he assumed power.

The Index is pretty good.

What do we know?

Well. Let's extend my D&D analogy here to the breaking point.

Original LBB Traveller is OD&D's LBB. I called the Traveller Book the "Holmes Basic" of Traveller, but in retrospect I think Moldvay Basic & Cook/Marsh Expert is a better fit. That makes Traveller Starter Edition the Mentzer BECMI D&D. Traveller 2300 is SPI's DragonQuest, Mega Traveller is AD&D 2nd Edition, and Traveller the New Era is 4th edition.

So what then in Marc Miller's Traveller? Since it is closest to the Classic Traveller line it is the 1991 Black Box or The Classic Dungeons & Dragons Game produced in 1994 and edited by Doug Stewart.

So who is Marc Miller's Traveller for?

In 1996 that answer was easy. It was for anyone that wanted to play Traveller that did not have access to the older Classic Traveller books and did not care for the New Era.

In 2022? Well. That is a harder one to answer. Today Classic Traveller is easily available in a variety of formats and editions. And I have not even started with Moongoose Traveller or the Cepheus Engine materials. IF there had been more material on the start of the 3rd Imperium here then that would give it a solid reason for setting alone. If the rules had been updated more with that 20 years of Traveller experience then that would have been a solid reason. Sadly neither of those are true enough. That added to the errors, the typos and some weird design choices make this a Traveller for the die hard fans only. That is NOT a bad thing. Just for my money I still prefer my Traveller Book.

Now what I might do, since I have the PDF and this is easy. Is go through it all and just print the updated sections I like and slot them into my Traveller 3-ring binder. I have a tab for "4" I could use AND I put in, or pencil in, all the errata I want or need.

I do want to point out again that the art in this book is phenomenal. There are some seriously good pieces that look like they come right off the cover of some great sci-fi novel. I like to think that was the intent. I am sure it makes for a gorgeous PoD book.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
T4  Marc Miller's Traveller
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TNE-0300 Traveller: The New Era
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2022 12:49:20

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/05/review-traveller-new-era-1993.html

"Don't stop thinking about tomorrow Don't stop, it'll soon be here It'll be better than before Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone."

Fleetwood Mac's 1977 hit "Don't Stop" came out the same year as Classic Traveller. It was also, more or less, the theme that covered the intro the 1990s. Newly elected Bill Clinton had used it as his campaign theme song and even Fleetwood Mac got back together long enough to play it at his inaugural ball in 1993. Think about the start of the 90s for a second. Everything seemed possible then. I was in Grad School, working part-time (only 60 hours a week) for the Navy writing code. I was taking classes, and teaching. I had broken up with my long-time girlfriend and soon started dating someone who would in just a few more years be my wife! So yeah the future was full of endless possibilities in 1993.

Traveller: The New Era feels like the most "1993" game ever. Tomorrow was here and Yesterday (Classic Traveller if you will) was gone.

For this review, I am only considering the PDF I just downloaded from DriveThruRPG. My original one was corrupted and I was wondering if I was even going to get to do this one today. I saw the PDF in DT was updated back 2014, so I grabbed a new one. Glad I did. I remember my first one was very hard to read and the text was blurry. This new one is much clearer. I also recall that some of the pages had a green background, this one does not.

Traveller: The New Era (1993)

PDF. 386 pages, color covers, black & white interior art. Oddly there are no PDF bookmarks in this file. The book is also available as a softcover PoD. I have no idea which printing this is. I understand the first printing had a few errors.

This book is a beast. I think (not 100% sure) that this was a boxed set of different books.

One of the first things I noticed about this edition is that Frank Chadwick and Dave Nilsen are listed for Game Design and Marc Millar is only listed for Design of the previous version of Traveller. I remember some of this back in the day, but for now, I am going to focus on just what is in the book.

The book is divided up into various large sections. The table of contents seems to deny my guess that this pdf was separate books at one point. Ok, no problem.

Introduction (and History)

This is our introduction to the Traveller Universe. The History section is the most important for this edition since it sets up how this is different than the previous editions. For starters, the Imperium has completely collapsed. Classic Traveller was taking place roughly around 1110 of the Imperial Calendar. MegaTraveller dealt with the aftermath of the Emperor's assassination in 1116. This Traveller jumps ahead by 85 or so years to the 1201 "The New Era." Honestly from a design/edition perspective, this makes a lot of sense.

It is a neat background and welcome (in a manner of speaking) to older players but new players likely won't care about this. The "world" of TNE is very different than that of MegaTraveller of Classic Traveller. Even at just a few pages it is still more background than we got in the LBB of Classic.

Characters

Character creation in TNE feels similar and different at the same time. You are still rolling 2d6, though now it is a 2d6-1. This changed the average from 7 to 6. There are still six attributes that are roughly the same. TNE has Strength, Agility, Constitution, Intelligence, Education, and Charisma. Classic Traveller had Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence, Education, and Social. So similar. TNE also offers a point spread of 36 to distribute if you prefer. We are still using the UPP, only now a 666666 denotes an average character instead of 777777. Abilities are determined, then the background generation begins. Like previous versions of Traveller, you decide on a homeworld (which can affect some abilities) and work out your starting careers.

This version seems to have more careers than previous versions, but keep in mind I am only looking at core books for now. Character generation covers about 43 pages total. So quite a lot really. NPCs cover about 8 pages, with a nice playing card system to determine motivations.

The character creation rules now make no assumption of species or gender, so that is left to the player. Thre are 5 pages of alien templates to add to characters at the end of this section. There are Hivers, Vargr, Aslan, Zhodani, and Droyne.

The New Era

This covers what is, well, new for this version of Traveller's universe. These are the AI Virus, the Star Vikings, and The Wilds. I don't need to know much about Traveller or TNE to know these elements were not well received. The Virus reads like how we looked at computer viruses in the 90s. The flowchart looks like something you would find on a Mac Quadra 900 (btw I consider that a Feature, not a Bug).

I can see a smart AI virus attacking all sorts of computers, but even today we have good anti-virus software and still a couple of dozen operating systems (I count 7 or 8 different ones in my house alone) that do not transmit viruses to each other even when networked.

The Star Vikings seem like an inevitable addition to the game. The Wilds, likewise.

All of this seems like an attempt to provide a little more chaos around the "edges" of the star systems. That is, give the PCs more to do and ways to make it through or hinder them in some ways.

Referees

A little more than a quarter of the way through we hit the Referee's section. The system seems closer to that of Traveller 2300 than it does of Classic Traveller or MegaTraveller. There are now d20 rolls added to the rules. Reading through in detail now there are a lot of d20 rolls. More details are given on how to make the rolls than I recall in MT or CT.

Skills are discussed in terms of what they can do. And the Referee gets some adventure ideas. This section is only about 70 pages. I was expecting a bit more.

Worlds & Travel

Now, this is a meaty section of about 100 pages. The world generation system feels similar-ish to other Traveller games, no point reinventing everything I guess. Though there is a lot more detail here. It does look like it can create worlds much the same way as MegaTraveller.

This section also includes the Encounters and Animals sections from previous versions with some modifications. Same with space travel.

Interestingly enough the Psionics section, usually stuck into the back of the book, is now here. I still think it should be with Character creation, but ok. It is also expanded. In the realm of purely new-to-a-core-rules material, there is a sections robots. Even if it tells us there are nearly no production facilities for robots still operational outside of the Spinward Marches in the New Era.

Combat

The next nearly 100 pages deal with all forms of combat. From personal to space combat. The rules are updated and seem to cover most situations. Hard to tell without doing it. I am still thinking I need to run simulated combat for each version to see how they are. Do something silly like a Borg Cube vs the Death Star or a Colonial Viper vs an X-Wing vs. a Buck Rogers Thunderfighter.

Combat is different than other versions of Traveller.

There is some advice here too on using minis in a game. Their recommendation is to paint them all white to make them easier to see. "Step 5 Admire your Work" is something I do naturally!

Equipment & Technology

The section covers roughly 40 pages. I can't help but notice the effect that Star Trek: The Next Generation has seem to have had here. Med bays and medical scanners look like they were taken from a Federation garage sale. Ok...it's not that bad. Excuse a little levity on my part here. We still have a section on drugs.

We are keeping the same assumptions (and rules) about Technology Levels which is still hanging out at TL 16.

Computers have fared a little better in this edition. At least the batteries of the future are closer to what we have right now. I hate to harp on this, but my phone today can do nearly everything on pages 340 to 343. I am being unduly harsh here I know.

The section of Starships though once again fills my heart with longing for the stars. Many of these I am familiar with. You may not have been on the internet talking about Star Trek or starships, but I certainly was.

The last few pages are worksheets for Characters, Combat charts, and the Index.

--

So. My feeling on Traveller TNE is that it was an attempt to keep Traveller moving forward.

I have gone through the TNE book more and compared them to my "Gold Standard" the Traveller Book and I am now seeing a lot more differences in terms of rules than I did on my first couple of read-throughs. This is the issue with reading a gamebook vs. playing the game. Further research outside of this book lets me know that other GDW games of the time were using the same rules. This is expected really. Game companies began to discover that using one system in-house was much cheaper in the long run. Not only did it mean you could hire fewer people to write, but you could also lift large sections of text from one game to fill in for another. This does create an issue though. There are two different writing "tones" here. I have no evidence but I am going to say the older-ish material was Frank Chadwick and the newer stuff was Dave Nilsen.

Rereading the rules prior to this post it dawned on my why I felt so much of it was familiar. It was Traveller-speak, but the rules were an old favorite of mine Dark Conspiracy. I rather liked that game back in the later 90s when I first encountered it and was looking for a new horror game to be my "home game" (spoiler, it was CJ Carrella's WitchCraft that won that battle!)

This an interesting idea though. Dark Conspiracy + Traveller The New Era would make for an interesting BlackStar-like game. I am sure I am not the only one who did that. Given the post-apoc feel of TNE I am not sure that hoards of undead would not feel so out of place, to be honest.

So we have a system that the older players don't like and newer players can't get into in a setting that the older players hate and the newer players have no investment in. Sound about right?

Still. There are some ideas here that I might mine. I am glad I have the PDF but I am not picking up the PoD anytime soon.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
TNE-0300 Traveller: The New Era
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MT MegaTraveller Players' Manual
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/17/2022 12:27:45

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/05/review-megatraveller-1987.html

It is 1987. The year I graduated from High School and my first year in University. I knew about MegaTraveller, anyone that read Dragon Magazine even as infrequently as I was then knew about it. But again it is not a game I played. I do recall seeing it* played at a local con (SIU had a bunch of them) but (and this is the asterix) I could not really tell if it was Classic Traveller or MegaTraveller at the time. They had a lot of cool spaceships on a black hex map. I would not actually read MegaTraveller until the late 1990s. I was working on my Ph.D. and commuting all over Chicago. I found a local library that would honor my U of I Chicago library card and they had a copy of the MegaTraveller Player's Manual. I can't recall my impressions of the time all that much, just a memory of being on the commuter train and reading it.

Rereading it now I find the rules are largely similar to Classic Traveller. I know some clarifications and changes have been made but I am not qualified enough to pick them out.

The thing that is most obvious is the setting. The Emporer has been killed along with all his heirs and his assassin is claiming the throne. And so are about half a dozen or more people. So the empire has fallen and this is called the "Time of Rebellion." Does Traveller have...Star Wars envy?? I am sure that is not 100% true.

I have NO data to back this up, but my perception is that MegaTraveller was a hit. I think it appealed to people that wanted to play but not have to get into 10 years worth of back product. In many cases my D&D analogy extends here with MegaTraveller as AD&D 2nd Edition. The Jim Holloway art certainly helps that along.

My understanding is that MegaTraveller came as a boxed set. With Players's and Referee's books. Today you can get them as PDF via DriveThruRPG or from Far Future Enterprises. I will be considering the PDFs from DriveThruRPG for these reviews. It is nice to have these now after so many years.

In general, the scans are ok to good. Some attempt has been made to clean them up, but they are obviously scanned from printed products and not the original files. They are OCR'ed and have bookmarks. The scans look fine on my PC and on my iPad, but I don't think they would work well for Print on Demand yet.

MegaTraveller Referee's Manual

PDF. 108 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art.

The Referee's Manual opens with the various factions vying for control in the Imperium. Just a page, but it really set the tone for me. I can see how this would be a great game to play with the various factions working with and against each other for ultimate control while the PCs work whatever angles they can to either get more power or just stay alive. I was skeptical of change when I first read it, but now re-reading it many years later I am very excited about it.

This book covers similar territory as the Players' book, save from the game master's perspective. Again I am drawn in by the parallels of the format and layout of this game as AD&D 2nd Ed. which will hit the stands in another 2 years. I am not suggesting TSR copied GDW but instead that this was something that was a logical extension of many 2nd Edition games released around this time.

There is a longer breakdown of Tasks and resolutions here that makes me happy to see. I never ran a Traveller game, but with this book I think I could.

Star System and World Creation is next including a discussion on world profiles. It is detailed, without being overly so, and will get any Ref going on world creation. It doesn't have the same feel to me as the Classic Traveller section doing the same thing, but I think that is fine. Lots of tables here and no equations to solve. Kinda miss that.

Sections on Animals and Encounters are similar to their Classic Traveller counterparts. Detailed enough to keep you going for a while

Trade and Commerce cover the next 10 pages. Again, brief but enough to start. I imagine that entire books can (and maybe have) been written on this topic. I also imagine that this is an area where the Imperium's fall would also be a prime place for adventures. Smuggling cargo, protecting shipping lanes, getting something like medical supplies to another part of the system but other factions want to stop you or steal what you have? Yeah, lots of ideas.

Craft Design and Evaluation cover the next 34 or so pages. More craft seem to be available to the MegaTraveller character/group than the Classic Traveller ones. If this review is late in posting it was because I was making starships again. With CT I like system building more, here I like starship building more.

This is logically followed by Starship Combat.

We end with a couple of stellar maps.

Reading through these now I kind of lament not getting in on this fun back then. Classic Traveller with all its supplements, and add-ons, and alien modules, and board games seemed like a steep hill to climb. I erroneously felt MegaTraveller was the same way. Just looking through was DriveThruRPG and FFE have on their sites it doesn't seem to be that much to me know. It is still far more than want to buy right now and far more than I'll ever play, but it is nice to know it is all there.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
MT MegaTraveller Players' Manual
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MT MegaTraveller Referee's Manual
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/17/2022 12:27:40

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/05/review-megatraveller-1987.html

It is 1987. The year I graduated from High School and my first year in University. I knew about MegaTraveller, anyone that read Dragon Magazine even as infrequently as I was then knew about it. But again it is not a game I played. I do recall seeing it* played at a local con (SIU had a bunch of them) but (and this is the asterix) I could not really tell if it was Classic Traveller or MegaTraveller at the time. They had a lot of cool spaceships on a black hex map. I would not actually read MegaTraveller until the late 1990s. I was working on my Ph.D. and commuting all over Chicago. I found a local library that would honor my U of I Chicago library card and they had a copy of the MegaTraveller Player's Manual. I can't recall my impressions of the time all that much, just a memory of being on the commuter train and reading it.

Rereading it now I find the rules are largely similar to Classic Traveller. I know some clarifications and changes have been made but I am not qualified enough to pick them out.

The thing that is most obvious is the setting. The Emporer has been killed along with all his heirs and his assassin is claiming the throne. And so are about half a dozen or more people. So the empire has fallen and this is called the "Time of Rebellion." Does Traveller have...Star Wars envy?? I am sure that is not 100% true.

I have NO data to back this up, but my perception is that MegaTraveller was a hit. I think it appealed to people that wanted to play but not have to get into 10 years worth of back product. In many cases my D&D analogy extends here with MegaTraveller as AD&D 2nd Edition. The Jim Holloway art certainly helps that along.

My understanding is that MegaTraveller came as a boxed set. With Players's and Referee's books. Today you can get them as PDF via DriveThruRPG or from Far Future Enterprises. I will be considering the PDFs from DriveThruRPG for these reviews. It is nice to have these now after so many years.

In general, the scans are ok to good. Some attempt has been made to clean them up, but they are obviously scanned from printed products and not the original files. They are OCR'ed and have bookmarks. The scans look fine on my PC and on my iPad, but I don't think they would work well for Print on Demand yet.

MegaTraveller Players' Manual

PDF. 108 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art.

This book covers everything the player needs to create a character, including Basic and Enhanced options, learn about the core mechanic (and the Universal Task Profile), skills, combat, and psionics.

Reading through this I do get the feeling that this is a cleaned-up and updated version of Traveller. While I can see the larger changes, the subtle ones are less clear to me. My impression is that a MegaTraveller character could operate in a Classic Traveller game.

Layout and rule-wise there are a lot of clarifications. For example, Page 9 details Task Resolution and the Universal Task Profile. This would be called setting a difficulty level in other games. There are the levels of difficulty and what you need to roll over (3, 7, 11, and 15) which is different (slightly) than the "just 8 or better" of Classic Traveller. Rolls can also be altered by skills, risk, time, and other factors. This page gives a great overview and the first place I see a real improvement. Now my understanding is that many of the rules here came about in various publications, both books and supplements from GDW (Merchant Prince and Mercenary seem to be prime sources here) as well as periodicals. IT IS POSSIBLE that by 1986 people were playing with rules that resembled this. This the codification of all of those rules.

Character creation, both basic and Advanced/Enhanced are covered. This is largely similar to what I saw in Classic Traveller (CT) except I did not see anywhere where you can die before mustering out. The tables have been expanded to include military and non-military careers including Scouts and Merchant Princes. Even the example is a Doctor now.

Skills are detailed and this list seems to get larger with each new edition. What I like about MegaTraveller is that skill advancement is right after this section and much clearer.

Character creation and skills take up half the book.

SIDE NOTE: A lot of the tables and other character creation details (like character flowcharts) are set to one page or two pages. So printing out material from your PDF is easy. I can take a page with me to know what my character needs to do to advance for example or keep a list of all the skills with me. Page 9, the UTP is a prime example of this layout feature.

Combat comes up next. Again not a surprise since combat is an important part of Traveller. I don't think I expressed this before, but maybe MegaTraveller makes it more obvious, but combat looks like it is a deadly affair. Again, no practical experience here, but going through the numbers I am surprised I did not notice it before. There are charts of weapons and damage, but not the catalog of guns we found in Traveller 2300.

The last dozen or so pages cover special rules, like mapping and special types of combat.

At the end, where it always is it seems, is the section on Psionics.

Throughout the book, there are little boxed texts that give some more background on the fallen Imperium. Little bits of history and background to add flavor. This new time period is the big deal with this edition.

The inside cover maps of the Spinward Marches and the Third Imperium look like they were taken from a previous version of Traveller. The Imperium map is dated 1115 and this game takes place in 1116 and beyond.

Reading through these now I kind of lament not getting in on this fun back then. Classic Traveller with all its supplements, and add-ons, and alien modules, and board games seemed like a steep hill to climb. I erroneously felt MegaTraveller was the same way. Just looking through was DriveThruRPG and FFE have on their sites it doesn't seem to be that much to me know. It is still far more than want to buy right now and far more than I'll ever play, but it is nice to know it is all there.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
MT MegaTraveller Referee's Manual
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2300 AD Traveller: 2300
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/16/2022 12:35:19

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/05/review-2300-ad-traveller-2300-1986.html

Traveller, in its first 10 years, stayed pretty consistent and took me about two weeks to work through. The next 20 years are going to be much faster.

I am going to start off with one today I only know very little about. Traveller: 2300 also known as 2300 AD.

Before getting into any books or research here is what I do know. This was supposed to be the start of a new line for GDW. It dealt with the earliest time in the Traveller Universe, specifically 2300 AD on Earth. There was a tie-in with their Twilight 2000 game line. In 1986 I was very deep into AD&D to exclusion of all else save for college prep.

So this one is 100% new for me.

2300 AD or Traveller: 2300

Ok. Let's do this one right from the start. This is not really a Traveller game. While I am sure many people worked it out so it could be the past of Traveller, my very, very limited understanding of the history of Traveller's Imperium suggests that likely isn't. But I am sure people with better knowledge than me can say for sure. Since I have a sci-fi game set more or less in the 2300s I figure why not pick this up to see what it is like.

For this review, I am only considering the PDF available from DriveThruRPG. I thought I had bought it from FFE years ago, but I can't find my copy.

PDF. 131 pages. Color cover, black & white interior art. The scan is OCRed and bookmarked. The scan of the cover is rough, but the interior looks better.

The Introduction reads like many RPG books. "This is an RPG", "here are some expectations." And so on.

Player's Manual

History covers the history of this setting with the horrible nuclear war in 2000. I must have been sleeping. I am kidding of course, RPGs are great fun but they have not been great at predicting the future really. Now I have no way of telling, but I think this is basically the same history as GDW's other game Twilight 2000. It certainly feels the same. I never played the game myself. This history section covers the fall and rise of humankind as they venture out into space by the year 2300. Wars and geo-political rivalries are also covered and how they still affect the day-to-day lives of humans on Earth and in Space. The flows into the next section.

Political Geography talks about Earth and beyond of 2300. America is split up (ok that one is not so far-fetched) with Texas as its own republic (which seems to be a reoccurring theme in a lot of things I am reading right now) and other "American" nations. Mexico is split up. Europe ie, well Europe. I think the authors overestimate the older rivalries a little. Germany reunited long before 2000 in a largely peaceful integration and the European Union has been going pretty strong if you ignore Brexit.

In space we colonies at L-4 and L-5 (LaGrange Points), Mercury (not likely, but I'll go with it), Mars, the Asteroids (much more likely), the moons of Jupiter, and just beyond Saturn. No mention of Lunar colonies at all here.

The chapter on Technology is interesting. By 1986 we had seen nearly 10 years of Moore's Law in effect for computers, so the authors of this game give computers a bit more power. I would argue it is not really enough still, but getting there. There is a bit about AIs and psychosis that feels like something I just read in Robert A. Heinlein's Friday. There is some detail on transportation and medical sciences as well.

Colonies cover the fifty-five colonies on twenty-nine inhabitable worlds. Since these colonies are largely extensions of Earth-based interests they are classified by which "Arm" they are in (American, Chinese, French) or which "Finger" of the Arm (Canadian and Latin for America or the French Frontiers). This is followed by Foundations that provide services for citizens after the collapse of the governments in 2000.

Twenty pages in we finally get to Character Generation. If you didn't know this was "not Traveller" before then you learn it here. There are four physical attributes: Size, Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, and four psychological ones: Determination, Intelligence, Eloquence, and Education. You roll a 4d6-4 (generating a score between 0 and 20) and you can re-roll one physical and one psychological attribute. Strength and Dexterity are altered by homeworld and gravity type.

Like Classic Traveller you have skills that can be determined by Background and Career. But no hint of dying in Character Gen (is this even Traveller then???).

This all takes us right to Skills and Careers.

The "Shopping sections" Equipment, Weapons, Vehicles, and Armor follow. Weapons cover all sorts of guns (as expected) and a few laser-based ones. Vehicles does not cover starships. The currency of choice is the French Livres (Lv).

We get some star charts and tables of the nations of the systems.

Referee's Manual

While this is all one file, it was obviously once a boxed set with separate books. Pages 54 to 105 cover what was the separate Referee's Manual. I will also point out that the Bookmarks in my PDF stop working well at this point. There are bookmarks, but they don't always go where they should and are indented oddly.

What would have been the back cover of the Referee's Manual has some really great insight. It credits Marc W. Miller (Traveller) and Frank Chadwick (Twilight: 2000) as two of the "big name" designers of 2300. The implication here is that 2300 was something of an in-house game combining elements of Traveller and Twilight:2k. As a designer myself, I find that fascinating. Maybe, just maybe, more fascinating than the actual game! Internally they called it The Game. And it sounds like that played it out from 2000 to 2300 in turns of 5 or 10 years to get us where we were then.

Life on the Frontier covers the implied setting of the Traveller 2300 game.

Tasks and Combat are largely the same sorts of sections, with combat a special case of task resolution. Clue #2 that this is not your father's Traveller: 1d10 for task resolution and not a 2d6. Here you need to roll higher than a 7 with every 4 points above or below that as a target number difficulty. You add your plusses from skills to your roll and if needed an attribute divided by 4 (+0 to +5) range.

Both Tasks and Combat have charts of successes and failures and what you do with each.

Star Travel finally gets off of the Earth and out into the colonies. The stutterwarp is travel mode of choice to get to distant stars. There are limitations. The drives of these ships can travel great distances but have to jettison their spent radioactive fuel in the gravity well of a system. This process takes some time. So there is a limiting factor on how far a ship can practically travel. There is some detail on tinkering with your starship, but not at the level I have come to associate with Traveller. Space Combat follows right after this. What is nice about this one is there are some photos of ships on a space hex-grid.

Ship Listing is the "shopping list" of Starships. It lacks the "used cars" feel of Classic Traveller.

World Generation is next. It covers quite a lot of detail to be honest. More than I expected.

NPCs are next, followed by World Mapping and Animal Encounters.

There are some star maps, star charts, and some blank forms for Star Data, World Data, and Colony/Outpost Data.

Also included is a sample adventure, The Tricolor's Shadow. It has maps, adventure ideas and two scenarios to run.

Two alien species are introduced in the end, The Kafers and The Pentapods. They are presented as NPCs only, not as playable species.

--

Traveller 2300 is not a bad game to be honest, it just isn't really Traveller is it? I would be better with it IF I could try to figure out a way to make it work with more up-to-date history. But by that point, I could instead use it as a guide and run a Classic Traveller game and limit it to this time period and location.

There is another issue with playing this sort of game. Traveller 2300 suffers from our collective inability to really predict the future. That is no slight on the designers, that is just human nature. Compare the tech in this game to that of The Expanse RPG. Both cover humanity's first step to the solar system and beyond. Both cover roughly similar time periods (2300 vs. 2359) and both can play the same sorts of games. In Traveller 2300 you have the stutterwarp to get to extra-solar planets and int he expanse has the ring gates. The differences lie in the subtle predictions. Computers are much more powerful in the Expanse, but FTL tech is non-existent (save for the ring gate). Traveller 2300 has FTL (in a limited fashion by design). Compare both to say Star Trek of the same period, neither has anything at all like the Ambassador Class Enterprise-C.

Still this is a good game for a grittier version of Traveller, if you don't mind the system change, or for an advanced version of Twilight 2000.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
2300 AD  Traveller: 2300
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CT-AM8-Darrians
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2022 10:13:59

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/05/review-traveller-alien-modules-1984_11.html

Alien Module 8 - Darrians

PDF. 50 pages, color cover, black and white interior art.

Our last Alien Module of the Classic Traveller series and one of the last books before the big edition change. The Darrians are of human-ish decent and would be a minor player in the game of Galatic politics save for two reasons. While the majority of the Imperium is TL15 (tech level) the Darrians are TL 16 and have been for a long time. Also they have the knowledge of the "Star Trigger" essentially a weapon that causes a star to go supernova.

For a major power player the Darrians only occupy a small subsector of space. So this make talking about their history into space shorter. This Alien Module covers all the same basics as the previous ones. Again, as expected, since the Darrians (more on that) are from human stock seeded by the Ancients 300,000 years ago there is no comparative anatomy or physiology presented.

"Darrian" can mean many things, a gentic Darrian are the ones that were seeded 300k years ago and evolved on their own in their sector of space. It can also mean someone living in the Darrian Confederecy. It can be anyone that is a citizen of the Darrian Confedercy. These details are explored more in the History and has an effect on Basic and Advnaced character creations. Darrians are golden skinned, tall but slight of build and have pointed ears. If you are thinking "Space Elves" then I am right there with you.

Darrians can be fairly described as the academics of the Imperium. A "Darrian vacation" is going to the library. Or something in the pursuit of knowledge. I kinda like these guys.

We get the usual background information on their history, technology, starships, worlds, society and government.

There is also an adventure, "The Secret of the Star Trigger", included at the end.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CT-AM8-Darrians
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CT-AM7-Hivers
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2022 10:13:56

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/05/review-traveller-alien-modules-1984_11.html

Alien Module 7 - Hiver

PDF. 52 pages, color cover, black and white interior art.

Back to another very alien species and one I knew nothing about till I bought this.

Where the other books typically opened with a comparative anatomy/physiology this one opens with just an overview of the hiver physiology as there are no reference points for comparison.

They are called Hivers due to their hive-looking cities, but they are not really hive-mind creatures (say like bees), they are cooperative and work together well but respect the individual (otherwise we could not have characteristics of them).

This book follows the outline of the other Alien Modules, with details on the Hiver's homeworlds, their government, and technology. Likewise, there is detail about their starships and the world they inhabit.

As expected there is a bit more on their psychology as a completely alien species. The rules for character creation are present for both "Basic" Traveller (LBB and such) and "Advanced" (High Guard, Mercenary, and beyond). Special attention is given to their unique physical and psychological differences.

There is an adventure included at the end to introduce these aliens to players.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CT-AM7-Hivers
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CT-AM6-Solomani
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2022 10:13:53

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/05/review-traveller-alien-modules-1984_11.html

Alien Module 6 - Solomani

PDF. 52 pages, color cover, black and white interior art.

This "alien" species has a familiar name and a familiar look. The Solomani are space-adapted humans. Maybe "space-adopted" humans is a better term. Like the Vargr and the Zhodani, the Solomani were from Terran stock, human in the case of the Zhodani and Solomani. While the Zhodani (and other humans) developed on other worlds, the Solomani or Terrans stayed on Earth and then went out to the stars on their own.

This book has much more history and background details than all the other Alien Modules. It also gives us some starting insight to the various other human races in the galaxy (45 total according to the internet). There is also quite a lot on the Solomani Rim Sector of space.

Like the other Alien Modules, this covers some new character creation details, but is not too different than the Traveller standard which assumed human.

We end with an adventure about a lost colony and the deaths of thousands.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CT-AM6-Solomani
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CT-AM5-Droyne
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2022 10:13:49

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/05/review-traveller-alien-modules-1984_11.html

Alien Module 5 - Droyne

PDF. 52 pages, color cover, black and white interior art.

We are getting into very unfamiliar territory for me. The Droyne are an ancient race that had Jump Drive technology long before (at least 50,000 years before) the other major races. Though they tend to placid lives on pastoral planets. They don't seem to have the desire to get out to other worlds like the races covered so far.

They are a smaller race, standing under a meter tall, reptile/bird-like, with small wings. The original homeworld of the Droyne is believed to have been a low gravity one to allow their relatively small wings to work. Droyne are divided into six main castes and this affects their psychology and their physiology. In one example the Droyne have three genders and all three are needed to gestate a clutch of fertilized eggs. Certain genders belong to certain castes and rarely are there exceptions. Droyne can also be high psionic.

There are the typical sections on worlds, there is no longer a Droyne "homeworld", starships and service. This includes a character creation section that also differs from Traveller standard to cover the unique qualities of the Droyne species.

The biggest "Feature" to alien is where did they come from? How did they develop jump drive technology and why are they not spread out over known space more given their 50,000 year head start?

I can see where playing a Droyne character would be an interesting challenge.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CT-AM5-Droyne
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CT-AM4-Zhodani
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2022 10:13:46

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/05/review-traveller-alien-modules-1984_11.html

Alien Module 4 - Zhodani

PDF. 52 pages, color cover, black and white interior art.

Ok, I have heard of this one, it just, at the time, didn't grab my attention as much as the first three. The Zhodani are a race of psionic humans that established themselves on their homeworld about 300,000 years ago. That is the same time period as the Vargr. No idea if there is a connection yet.

This Module is much like the first three save there is no comparative anatomy section. The psychology is expanded and the character creation section is altered from the Traveller standard to deal with a race of psionic humans.

There is a small section on the Zhodani "Thought Police" that I thought could have been larger, given their role in Zhodani society. Still though, an interesting take on an "Alien" for Traveller.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CT-AM4-Zhodani
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CT-AM3-Vargr
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2022 13:02:00

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/05/review-traveller-alien-modules-1984.html

I thought it behooves me to spend some time with the major Alien races we encounter in Traveller. Indeed, it was the aliens and the ads for the first three books in Dragon Magazine that made me want to go back and check out Traveller some more.

Alien Module 3 - Vargr

PDF. 50 pages, color cover, black and white interior art.

While I knew about the Vargr, they were the big three alien races GDW was advertising back in the day, my first real interaction with them was way back in the early 2010s when I was looking for new ideas for Ghosts of Albion adventures. I stumbled on one from White Dwarf #62, "An Alien Werewolf in London" about a Vargr in Victorian London. It was an odd adventure, but I gave it go for Ghosts and always wanted to try it again with Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space.

This book is a bit larger than the previous two, largely because there is a lot you can do with these guys. Also they are the most fun in terms of history.

Vargr look like Terran wolves because generally speaking that is what they are. They were transplanted from Terra (Earth) to their homeworld by the Ancients over 300,000 years ago. Now 300k years is not enough to evolve any stock into something like the Vargr so they had been artificially engineered for intelligence and survivability. They share a number of physical characteristics of both humans and canine stock but have some minor differences as well. They still have the psychology of pack hunters following a charismatic leader and working in small, but somewhat unstable, groups. Pack membership can change and leaders can be followed or discarded at any time. This has had two effects on the Vargr. One their history is a confusing affair with no one narrative of what happened. Most of their 300,000-year history is largely unknown to them. Also it leaves them with no central government nor even any type of government that could be considered "typically Vargr." See why these aliens can be fun!

We get the now usual sections on character creation along with a brief language update for names. Some basics on the Vargr worlds and space travel.

We also get a section called "Gvurrdon's Story" which is given to us from the point of view of a Vargr.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CT-AM3-Vargr
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CT-AM2-K'kree
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2022 13:01:36

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/05/review-traveller-alien-modules-1984.html

I thought it behooves me to spend some time with the major Alien races we encounter in Traveller. Indeed, it was the aliens and the ads for the first three books in Dragon Magazine that made me want to go back and check out Traveller some more.

Alien Module 2 - K'kree

PDF. 44 pages, color cover, black and white interior art.

These aliens were very alien to me. While I could relate to the Aslan and the Vargr, these centaur-like aliens were very different and thus pushed a lot lower on my "wish list." I don't even think I had read any of this book until I picked up the PDF ten years ago.

This book is set up much the same as the Aslan book and the future books in the line. I found the bits on K'kree psychology most interesting. As herbivores, they tend to be peaceful. This combined with the race's inherent claustrophobia goes to explain that while they had Jump technology they had not expanded as fast as other races.

We do get the sections on history, politics and governments, space travel and starship design, and the language section on creating K'kree names. There is a section on character creation as well.

This Alien Module also gives a few pages on adventures with or about the K'kree. So a little bit more background here than on the Aslan, but I think needed since this species is so different.

Reading this 10 years ago I was not overly impressed I think. Today I am of a completely different mind and would like to see these guys used more.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CT-AM2-K'kree
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CT-AM1-Aslan
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2022 13:01:09

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/05/review-traveller-alien-modules-1984.html

I thought it behooves me to spend some time with the major Alien races we encounter in Traveller. Indeed, it was the aliens and the ads for the first three books in Dragon Magazine that made me want to go back and check out Traveller some more.

Alien Module 1 - Aslan

PDF. 44 pages, color cover, black and white interior art.

While not the first Traveller alien I encountered, this is the first module or data file for the various aliens Traveller has to offer. This one seemed like a no-brainer to me at the time. I had read Joan D. Vinge's "psion" earlier that year and between the Caitian and Kzinti (introduced to me by Star Trek) I was primed to want a Cat-like race in space.

The book covers the basics. Aslan physiognomy, which includes some evolutionary details and how it plays into their current civilization. Their political structure (or almost lack thereof) is also discussed. While the Aslan (named such by the first human explorers to make first contact) are described as proud warrior race, they are not really a unified one.

We are given a bit of their history and their forays into space and their encounters with the Imperium. We get a bit on their psychology, which includes the territorial nature of the males (explained the loose confederacy) and their ritual duels.

The next large section is Aslan character creation. This covers the basic character creation going back to the 3 LBBs and "Expanded" character creation for other types of characters.

We are also given background on the Aslan homeworld, worlds within the Imperium, and a bit on starship design. There is even some detail on the Aslan language, at least in terms of names.

For 44 pages it is pretty well packed. There is not a lot of "fluff" here, mostly all "crunch." So no fiction from the point of view of an Aslan mercenary or a human living on an Aslan world. Just the basics and enough to get you going on to your own adventures. Honestly, it is all you need.

This was the Alien Module I wanted the most back in the day. Researching it now I see that a lot of people did what I was going to do with it; mix in liberal amounts of Kzinti and some Caitian as well. Plus I was going to have psionic ability be a bit stronger in Aslan women. A nod to a lot of the scifi I was reading at the time. I also noticed just as many people complaining about others doing exactly what I wanted and described! Yes, the Aslan are fine just as they are but I also like my ideas too. Thankfully this book lets me do all of that.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CT-AM1-Aslan
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CT-ST-Starter Traveller
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/09/2022 13:11:58

Note. This review has been updated.

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/05/review-traveller-starter-edition-1983.html

If there was a "Golden Year" of classic RPGs then I am willing to put my nomination in for 1983.

By now what I considered to be the "Big 3" were well established; AD&D/D&D, Call of Cthulhu, and Traveller. Indeed there were even alternatives to these that were very good games in their own right; Runequest, Chill, and Star Frontiers respectively. While Edition and System Wars have always been with us, it was a great time to be a gamer.

1983 also gave us a "new" version of Traveller. Well, not really new at all, but certainly reorganized and edited again. To keep up my analogy of Classic Traveller = Original D&D and The Traveller Book = Holmes Basic D&D (although with the inclusion of The Traveller Adventure a better one is Moldvay Basic/Cook & Marsh Expert D&D) then the 1983 Traveller Starter Edition is Mentzer BECMI D&D.

The Traveller Starter Edition was the version I saw the most in the pages of Dragon Magazine. No surprise. My prime Dragon reading years were 1982 to roughly 1991 and then not again until the 2000s. Until Mega Traveller came onto the scene this was the Traveller book that GDW was pushing. Easy to see why. The cover of the Traveller Book, despite how much I love it, was always more "sci-fi novel" cover. The new cover? That's Star Wars meets Dune meets Battlestar Galactica. This was a cinematic cover, even if the rules were the same. I could not tell then, and in fact it was only today I noticed, but that ship looks like the Azhanti High Lightning from below. Or maybe it isn't. Either way that cover says Space Adventure. The Traveller Book says "Space is Dangerous and I got bills to pay!" to me. Both are perfect.

Traveller Starter Edition (1983)

For this review, I am considering the PDF I bought from DriveThruRPG split into three separate files. The front cover and the back cover of the original book are not preserved here.

Book 1: Core Rules

This PDF is 68 pages and features black & white interior art with black & white covers with red accents. They look very much like the classic Traveller covers.

This book features all the rules from the Classic Traveller system. It is largely the Traveller Book but reorganized and edited for clarity. Some sections read a little differently, but for the most part, it felt the same. There is some new art here, but a lot of art from previous editions remains. The new art is, as expected, better and gives more detail. The red accents to some of the art have been removed. Character creation reads faster, but it could also be that I have read this section many times now in one form or one book or another that I am "getting it."

A trained or expert eye could spot the rule differences, but that is not me. This largely feels the same. This is not a bad thing mind you. The difference feels the same as that between Moldvay Basic and BECMI Basic. Two books for the same game are designed to do the same thing only in slightly different ways.

Book 2: Charts and Tables

This 28-page PDF covers all the charts and tables. References to the charts are in Book 1.

Book 3: Adventures

This is a 23-page PDF with two adventures; Mission on Mithril (from Double Adventure 2) and Shadows (Double Adventure 1).

Thoughts

When it comes to learning how to play Classic Traveller then either this version or the Traveller Book would be fine since they cover the same ground. The analogy of The Traveller Book = B/X D&D and Traveller Starter Set = BECMI D&D extends here. The trade dress of all future Traveller books will follow the Start Set design. This will hold until Mega Traveller and 2300 later in 1987.

Which one should YOU buy? That is entirely up to you. The Traveller Book has the advantage of also being out in POD format and this one does not. But this version is a little more friendly to newcomers.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CT-ST-Starter Traveller
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