Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Using the Traveller: New Era setting with Classic Traveller rules

The Traveller: New Era (T:NE) setting offers many advantages for sandbox-style play, among them limited interstellar authority, an actual "hard" explorable frontier, and a good framework for adventure. However, personally, I care little for the T:NE "house system" rules, which tend to be more complex and less suitable to my tastes than Classic or Mongoose Traveller. So the question arises: If you want to play in the rich, dynamic Traveller: New Era setting, what ruleset would fit it? Somewhat ironically, I think that the Classic Traveller (CT) ruleset (as presented in the three Little Black Books and in the Traveller Book) fits this milieu perfectly. Let's have a look at some of the features of CT which work great with the T:NE setting or similar post-apocalyptic space-opera settings:

First, Book 3 world generation creates a very wide variety of worlds, usually very different from each other in technology and population, and sometimes having very strange combinations of starport, population and environment. Sometimes very low-tech worlds would sit right next to highly-developed ones. This makes less sense in a well-developed, stable Imperium than in the post-apocalyptic Wilds of T:NE. Why do so many worlds have TL 3-8? Because of the Collapse. Why are there higher-tech worlds around? These are recovering worlds. Why a Starport-A and TL-F but only 1,000 inhabitants? These are the last surviving people on a previously heavily-populated world, wandering the empty halls of their old starport and obsessively maintaining it in hope that, some  day, the Imperium will return. Why so many nasty dictatorships around? With the central Imperial government gone, each world went its own way, and many had to enact harsh measures to survive. So an "out of the box" subsector from Book 3 could be a perfect T:NE setting...

Second, it is easier to explain the heavy, low-tech-looking computers of CT in the framework of the T:NE setting than in the "golden age" Imperium. This works the same way as in the Battlestar Galactica remake from a decade or so ago: people have reverted to much lower level of electronics/information technology in order to make it difficult for AI enemies to infect ships. So you have compartmentalized computers and maybe even vacuum tubes and bulky primitive computers on ships, and bulky TL11 hand computers, working in such a primitive way to resist the Virus; any modern computer system would be a prime target for infection. Note that in my take on T:NE, the old Imperium had perfectly modern computers, and the bulky Book 2 computers are a new product of the New Era...

Third, Book 2 (and The Traveller Book) are small-ship rulesets. The big Imperium depicted in later CT products, as well as in MegaTraveller (MT), has very big ships. T:NE, on the other hand, reverts to a small-ship universe, as all, or most, big ships were destroyed in the Rebellion and Collapse - or worse. So, once again, a 1,200 ship is a battlecruiser and a 300 ton frigate matters in actual "big" combat. So, again, Classic Traveller and its "proto-Traveller" assumptions make perfect sense in the T:NE setting...

So how would I approach a hypothetical T:NE game using CT rules? I think that the best approach would not be using the Reformation Coalition, though this is a good option, but rather roll up a new two-subsector Traveller sandbox, using the general T:NE setting ideas but using or ignoring Traveller canon as it fits the setting; I think this will work better for CT to roll up two new subsectors rather than "convert" official subsectors into the New Era using the T:NE or the T:NE: 1248 conversion rules. The rest would be constructing the specific setting as desired... And using all the good bits from T:NE (such as the detailed government ratings from Path of Tears).

1 comment:

  1. Salutations!
    Well, I’m a great fan of the GDW house system. I started refereeing with Twilight:2000 v2.2, so, switching to the great background of Traveller:The New Era without learning a new set of rules was a logical step. The same could be said about Dark Conspiracy, though the system was never totally adapted to the latter version of the rule set of GDW.

    The debate between the convenience about one set of rules or another is not very important. Players and referee must feel a comfortable way to play. So, using the Classic Traveller rules in the TNE set is a good idea if the GDW house system is an obstacle. I recognize I have a personal tendency toward “heavy” systems. In the future, probably, GURPS (Hmmm… nice system!) will be my choice for Traveller. As a good point, the space combat system of the basic rules is better (and better explained) in CT.

    Leaving the matter of the rule system, I agree with your points. Nice coincidence, some weeks ago I mentioned to my players the Battlestar Galactica series as example of the effect of virus in the sophisticated Imperial technological system.

    With TNE the scale of the number of people and the means they could use are one step lesser, too. But not the importance of their actions. Everything seems more personal. The personalities of the RC are at hand. They seem more reachable. The names of the ships and their crews are important, because they are precious, in the Guild, as a free trader or in the RC. If inside the RCES, like in a small village, you don’t need to have met somebody in person to have heard about him or her (truth or not). Planetary systems are not only a starport, a place to buy and sell or a place to fill the fuel tanks. In a good TNE campaign, players must have the feeling that they characters have the chance to leave their footprints. And this fact works great in a sandbox. Players sometimes are confronted with some interesting dilemmas about what must be done and what can be done with their means at hand. And this is because they thing that what they will do will be important.