Focused on “science-fiction adventure in the far future,” the game involve merchants, mercenaries and other spacefaring heroes living among various rival space empires, about 2,500 years ahead of the current day.
When & Where…
* It is the Imperial year 1107, or A.D. 5630 by Earth calendars.
* “Known space” includes just a slice of the Milky Way galaxy. Galactic directions are spinward (“west”), coreward (“north”), rimward (“south”) and trailing (“east”).
* For the definitive interactive map of charted territory in Traveller, check out: https://travellermap.com/
* The Third Imperium (or just “the Imperium”) is made up of 11,000 worlds across 21 sectors; each sector has 16 subsectors containing dozens of star systems.
* The Imperium’s government is feudal. Networks of nobles rule planet, make all local decisions and often field their own militaries.
* In general, “The Imperium rules space, planets rule themselves.” Local law varies wildly. The Imperial military mainly exists to protect commerce ranging from small free traders to vast interstellar megacorporations.
* Imperial navies boast warships 100,000-tons in size or bigger to fight pirates or monitor frontiers. All-out interstellar war is rare (once every couple centuries).
* The Imperial Scout Service is a non-military group aimed at exploring and updating library data about worlds.
* Capitalism drives society. There is no “prime directive” restriction. (“If you want to sell guns to the locals, go ahead but make sure you get something in return.”)
* Imperial society is human-centric, but cosmopolitan. Hundreds of alien species freely travel the stars.
* Psionic ability is rare and illegal within the Imperium, though secret Psionic Institutes do exist for scientific study.
* The spinward human empire of the Zhodani Consulate runs on psionics, a cause for mistrust by Imperials. There have been four major wars fought against the Zhodani, though Zhodani individuals may travel within the Imperium. (Imperials may wear anti-psionics helmets around known Zhodani.)
* The rimward human empire of the Solomani Confederation covers 2,400 worlds in 6 sectors, but about 1,000 formerly held worlds are now within the Imperium’s borders. “Freedom fighter” (Earth independence) movements are not uncommon.
* The Vilani are the oldest and most common branch of humanity in the Imperium. Others humans include the Solomani of Terra (Earth), the psionic Zhodani (rivals of the Imperium), and many more.
* The most common non-humans species are the wolf-like Vargr, lion-like Aslan, starfish-like Hivers, centaur-like K’kree and small winged Droyne.
* The “big six” species all share the same environmental nature (oxygen-based atmosphere, water consumption, similar native gravity, etc.).
– illustrations from Mongoose Publishing’s 2008 Traveller Core Rulebook (ISBN-10: 190610333X, ISBN-13: 978-1906103330)
* Communication between worlds is limited to couriers and messages carried by starships. There is no faster-than-light radio.
* Common starships include 100-ton scout ships, 200-ton free traders, and 800-ton mercenary cruisers (private military).
* Interstellar travel on starships is possible through the jump drive and jumpspace (aka hyperspace). There are no teleporters.
* Every interstellar trip a starship makes lasts about one week, moving from 3 to 20 light-years per jump (one to six parsecs).
* Typical technology mixes old and new (buckles and boots for clothes around antigravity cities and humanoid robots).
* Places with low technology often hire professionals with high technology to help deal with problems beyond local means.
* Computer technology and robotic sentience are intentionally hindered to prevent hostile artificial intelligences.
* Time travel, immortality and alternate dimensions are still things of myth and fiction.
* Unknown beings called “The Ancients” long ago spread humans across many worlds, genetically altered other species and left behind relics capable of such advanced technology they are essential “magic.” Sites and relics connected to “The Ancients” are very rare.
* Most campaigns focus around either a free trader crew (picking up goods and passengers to transport for profit) or a mercenary company (providing military-for-hire services where needed across the galaxy).
* Independent crews tend to be hired by a patron to deal with one specific mission or short-term problem, then move on to another system for new work under a different patron. (That said, there’s nothing wrong with a “permanent patron” such as a government or megacorporation.)
* Merchant crews missions involve taking cargo and passengers from system A to system B.
* Mercenary crew missions involve protecting a location, or raiding a location to recover or destroy property or individuals. Rescue missions, escorts and borderline espionage missions are typical since off-world mercenaries are usually not part of the local established military, police or political factions.
* Complications of traveling: http://epicsavingthrow.com/travel-what-can-go-wrong/
A FAST HISTORY OF SETTLED SPACE
* 300,000 years ago: The Ancients alter species across the galaxy, then disappear from history.
* 10,000 years ago: Vilani humans invent starships, explore and conquer space, found First Imperium.
* 3,200 years ago: The Imperium comes into conflict with the Solomani humans from Terra (Earth), sparking interstellar war. The Imperium falls and The Rule Of Man (Second Imperium) begins, dominated by the Solomani.
* 2,700 years ago: The Rule Of Man falls and The Long Night (regressive dark ages) begins.
* 1,000 years ago: Cleon Zhunastu from the Sylean Federation founds the Third Imperium.
* 700 to 20 years ago: Imperial and Zhodani navies fight several limited Frontier Wars in the spinward sectors.
* 100 years ago: Solomani Rim War, Imperial forces seize control of the Solomani homeworld (Terra).
* 36 years ago: Strephon Aella Alkhalikoi becomes Emperor of the Imperium and later begins governmental reforms.
* Now: Psychohistorians predict a Fifth Frontier War against the Zhodani. Terrorist harassment continues along the Solomani border.
(See below about future and alternate timelines.)
WHAT TRAVELLER LOOKS LIKE
* Humans: Look mostly like people of today, or more specifically, Americans in the 1970s. Bionics/cybernetics rare but not unusual.
* Clothing: Picture the costumes from Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Babylon 5 or Farscape. Officials in plain uniforms. Nobles clean in elaborate gowns and ornate suits. Commoners dirty in leather jackets over shirts, pants tucked into knee-high boots.
* Small Ships: The Millenium Falcon from Star Wars or Serenity from Firefly are classic free trader-type ships. Mercenary cruisers are 10-story-tall spheres with four propulsion nacelles and two cigar-shaped cutter “away craft” docked inside the sphere.
* Big Ships: The Imperial navy is made up of battle starships like the Imperial Star Destroyer from Star Wars, or Starfleet capital ships from Star Trek.
* Robots: Most resemble the droids from Star Wars, esp. R2-D2 or C-3P0.
* Zhodani humans: Tall and thin, usually wearing a small turban around their heads.
* Darrian humans: Slightly pointed ears and yellow skin.
* Vargr aliens: Wolf-headed humanoids in human-like clothing, often outfits that look like uniforms from the 19th century Napoleonic Wars.
* Aslan aliens: Lion-headed humanoids in human-like clothing (beta males) or flowing gowns (alpha females).
* K’kree aliens: Vaguely horse-like with four legs, plus two arms ending in fingered hooves, wearing only jewelry.
* Hiver aliens: Starfish-shaped with six limbs ending in six tentacles, working as leg or arm as needed. One limb acts as a “head” with eyestalks around its hand/face. Typically not wearing clothes.
* Droyne aliens: Short somewhat reptilian creatures with huge almond-shaped eyes and small leathery wings, with simple clothing.
* Settlements: A mix of common and rare alien species working and relaxing in markets, bars, etc. – akin to Star Wars or Star Trek.
WHAT EVERY TRAVELLER KNOWS
All Travellers have past experience in an interstellar military group, the Imperial scout service, an off-world merchant group or some sort of dubious enterprise involving multiple star systems. Regardless of background, all characters share the following basic knowledge:
* Basic use of a vacc suit (standard issue spacesuit).
* Recognizing the major species of sophants (“big six” alien races).
* Familiarity with routine starport procedures (screenings, inspections, caro handling, etc.).
* Fluency in galactic standard language (Anglic).
* Familiarity with Imperial banking standards and currencies (credits, megacredits).
* Familiarity with Tech Level 14 technology (recognize and understand use, even if not proficient).
* General knowledge about the Imperium (domains, broad history, social status system).
Traveller uses a special quasi-hexadecimal notation for numbers larger than 9. The letters “I” and “O” are not used in order to avoid confusion with the numbers 1 (one) and 0 (zero).
|* 0 = 0
* 1 = 1
* 2 = 2
* 3 = 3
* 4 = 4
* 5 = 5
* 6 = 6
* 7 = 7
* 8 = 8
|* 9 = 9
* A = 10
* B = 11
* C = 12
* D = 13
* E = 14
* F = 15
* G = 16
* H = 17
|* J = 18
* K = 19
* L = 20
* M = 21
* N = 22
* P = 23
* Q = 24
* R = 25
|* S = 26
* T = 27
* U = 28
* V = 29
* W = 30
* X = 31
* Y = 32
* Z = 33
* TL 0 … Pre-Industrial (primitive stone age)
* TL 1 … Pre-Industrial (bronze age/iron age)
* TL 2 … Pre-Industrial (renaissance, printing press)
* TL 3 … Pre-Industrial (basic science, 1800s)
* TL 4 … Industrial (internal combustion engine)
* TL 5 … Industrial (mass production, early 20th century)
* TL 6 … Pre-Stellar (nuclear power)
* TL 7 … Pre-Stellar (mini electronics)
* TL 8 … Pre-Stellar (superconductors)
* TL 9 … Early Stellar (fusion power)
* TL 10 … Early Stellar (jump drive)
* TL 11 … Average Stellar (large starships)
* TL 12 … Average Stellar (sophisticated robots)
* TL 13 … Average Stellar (holo data storage)
* TL 14 … High Stellar (anti-grav cities)
* TL 15 … High Stellar (anagthics)
* TL 16 … High Stellar (global terraforming)
* TL 17+ … Extreme Stellar
SOCIAL STANDING RANKS
By way of comparison under Imperial recognition…
* 1 … Outcast (criminals or slaves)
* 2 … Disenfranchised (dregs of society)
* 3 … Lower Low Class (indigent, homeless)
* 4 … Middle Low Class (underclass, minimal labor, welfare)
* 5 … Upper Low Class (working poor, minimal skill jobs)
* 6 … Lower Middle Class (clerical, “blue collar” workers)
* 7 … Middle Class (semi-professionals and trade craftsmen)
* 8 … Upper Middle Class (salaried professionals, middle management)
* 9 … Lower Upper Class (capitalists, top-level executives and politicians, “top 1%”)
* A … Middle Upper Class (elites, “top 0.1%” super rich, celebrities and top execs)
* B … Knight (ruler of a large area of a homeworld or a small world/moon)
* C … Baron (ruler of one star system or a major planet)
* D … Marquis (ruler of one subsector, about 20 worlds)
* E … Count (ruler of one sector, the most important dozen subsectors)
* F … Duke (ruler of an important sector)
* G … Archduke (ruler of one domain, about four sectors)
* H … Emperor (ruler of the Imperium)
* Law Level 0 … No restrictions.
* Law Level 1 … Body pistols undetectable by standard detectors, explosives and poison gas all prohibited.
* Law Level 2 … Man-portable energy weapons (PGMP, FGMP) prohibited.
* Law Level 3 … Weapons of a strictly military nature prohibited (auto-rifles, machine guns).
* Law Level 4 … Light assault weapons (SMGs) prohibited.
* Law Level 5 … Concealable firearms prohibited.
* Law Level 6 … Most firearms prohibited, except shotguns. Openly carrying any weapon discouraged.
* Law Level 7 … All firearms prohibited.
* Law Level 8 … Long bladed weapons controlled. Open possession prohibited.
* Law Level 9 … Possession of any weapon outside own residence is prohibited.
* Law Level 10 or more … All weapon ownership prohibited.
SYSTEM ZONE CLASSIFICATIONS
* Green Zone (or blank) … No major cautions about travel to this system.
* Amber Zone … Caution advised due to environmental or political trouble in this system.
* Red Zone … Restricted due to extreme hazards, unrestrained open warfare or quarantine.
OTHER VERSIONS AND TIMELINES OF THE TRAVELLER UNIVERSE
The above setting background is based off Marc Miller’s original game. Over the course of many writers and game editions, the “canon” timeline of the future Imperium changed dramatically…
Traveller (CT, 1977): Largely the universe as described above. Although based on works by classic “hard” sci-fi authors (Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven, et. al.), publication just before the very first Star Wars movie hit theaters had a big impact on how people saw the game universe (big starships, running laser gun battles and so forth).
Most published CT adventures took place in the Spinward Marches sector that spans the Imperium-Zhodani border.
MegaTraveller (MT, 1987): The default campaign setting sees the assassination of the Imperium’s emperor plunge the galaxy into fractured civil war. The game shifted a bit to a more military/espionage focus.
Traveller: The New Era (TNE, 1993): Amid the final months of the broken Imperium civil war, an artificially intelligent “virus” is unleashed as a super weapon. The “computer infection” spreads to almost all machine systems in the universe (starships, cities, robots), turning them against living things in a massive technological apocalypse. What scattered “clean” tech survives is used to explore the devastated galaxy. (This version reflected attempts to tap into the grimdark cyberpunk style that was in fashion at the time.)
T4: Marc Miller’s Traveller (T4, 1996): The game setting throws back to the earliest days of the Third Imperium when one pocket empire, the Sylean Federation, begins a campaign of interstellar expansion which would one day become the Imperium familiar in CT.
GURPS Traveller (GT, 1998): Loren Wiseman (a game designer and friend to Marc Miller) created an official “alternate universe” in which the Imperium’s emperor was never assassinated, the “AI virus” was not released and things as described in Classic Traveller continued more or less in a status quo with the past.
Traveller 20 (T20, 2002): Another game set in the Imperium’s “past,” this time a century before CT and focused on the Solomani Rim War and neighboring Gateway sector.
GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars (GTIW, 2006): Another game set in the Imperium’s “past,” this one focused on “first contact” between the Ziru Sirka First Imperium of Vland and the Terran Confederation of Earth.
Traveller Hero (TH, 2006): A rules set for any era of Traveller.
Mongoose Traveller (MGT, 2008): A modernized rules set most closely set with the setting and rules mechanics of CT.
Traveller5 (T5, 2013): A rules set for any era of Traveller.
Mongoose Traveller (Second Edition) (MGT2, 2016): An update to the 2008 rules.