Sunday, January 24, 2010

History of Marc Miller and Traveller

Any old-school roleplayer probably remembers Traveller. Allen Varney has a great article about Marc Miller and Traveller up on The Escapist.

Perhaps the most interesting tidbit in the article is the assertion that Miller built racism into Traveller...racism whose flaws were designed to be slowly revealed to the players. This means that the flaws of galactic culture would become obvious as you played the game. It's a nice idea that I never quite got when I reviewed the game materials.

I've hardly ever actually played Traveller. Just pored over its books endlessly. I really like the setting, especially the aliens. Every now and then I dive back into the old books. There are tons of good ideas there, but I never assembled a group of players who were interested enough to do a campaign.

One of the nice things about the ubiquitous interwebs is that you can find out about the authors of things like this. Pre-web, you'd have to hope that a gaming magazine carried an article like this, and you'd have to read the appropriate issue. If you missed an issue, you'd be unlikely to find the info later. Now, it's archived, often forever.


  1. I played in one campaign of Traveller (not sure which edition), but it only lasted a few sessions before we all got bored and annoyed with it, and gave up. The weeks-long jumps between planets were tedious, and the experience system is such that the more experienced the character is, the harder it is to gain new skills or skill levels. Also, worse than having character die during generation is having them end up horribly maimed. Our GM adjust the rules to reduce the odds of both these outcomes. Like a lot of RPG systems, the concept is nifty, but the mechanics make or break the game-play.

  2. Janet -- yes, the original Traveller rules could have your character die during chargen. Later rules changed that so that death during chargen was an option. However, there was never any maiming, unless that's in the new Mongoose rules (I'm pretty familiar with the other Traveller editions). Perhaps that was a house rule?

  3. I've been mulling over a purchase of either the Classic Traveller or 2300AD cd-roms from Far Future Enterprises, which collect .PDFs of all the GDW material for each game line. Wouldn't use the original rules (I'd probably convert to Savage Worlds or Serenity or Diaspora, then never actually play), but the nostalgia value is high and a lot of work went into the setting and the aliens. And some of the adventures are worth mining for ideas, I'm sure.

  4. Janet, I had no idea you had a secret RPG past. :) You know, I love mechanics. As a kid I was into baroque, complicated, detailed ones, and as an adult I want simple and elegant ones. :) But I'm not at all sure they actually make or break a game. The RPG sessions I've enjoyed most have been ones where I let the gamemaster worry about the rules. And group dynamics, personalities, and such seem to matter more. It seemed hard to get a good game session going with other kids, when I was 12. Immaturity was a big problem, all around. And gamers frequently respond that setting material draws them in more than anything else. Traveller certainly did well in the setting and has kept some devotees for that, while the mules have changed and changed.

  5. Janet, come the 1-week-long jumps were a game issue? Surely you just all looked at each other and said "After the week is over, we..."