27 October 2002

Traveller T20

T20 is out.

I’ve always been more interested in SF RPGs than fantasy. The only fantasy RPG I’ve bought is D&D, and that’s because everyone plays it. I’ve never had good luck with SF RPGs, though; for some reason they always seem to do badly in the marketplace, usually just after I get interested in them. Plus, I’m picky—I like “rules light-to-moderate”, hard SF.

My favorite SF RPG was the second edition of Star Frontiers. TSR didn’t even finish publishing that one. The first edition was OK, but a bit comic-book. So I started looking around for alternatives.

Torg seemed like it would work, and I kinda liked the idea even if it was stretching the genre somewhat; but it looked a bit blatantly like an attempt to get people to buy a new rulebook every month. Then West End Games trashed PARANOIA, and I stopped thinking about Torg, and WEG seemed to vanish soon after.

I played some ShadowRun. It was a bit ridiculously deadly, and I really don’t need elves in my SF, thanks all the same.

SpaceMaster impressed me enough with its sections on planetary physics, cosmology and the like that I bought it. The background material really sucked, though—Asimov-style imperial space opera—and while I love the open ended die rolls, the rulesystem was far too cumbersome for enjoyable play. I also picked up ICE’s CyberSpace, which was much better—streamlined rules, and a more believable (and less cheesy) cyberpunk-style universe. Still, assembling a workable SF game using CyberSpace enhanced with selected SpaceMaster material was a lot of work. Then ICE went out of business.

Next I tried Traveller. Specifically, MegaTraveller, which quickly died. I didn’t like it that much anyway. The rules were just about OK, if a bit old and creaky; and the background material somehow failed to be pleasing. I played a few games, but wasn’t wildly enthusiastic.

I considered GURPS Space. Then I looked at the rules and discovered that it was all in pounds, feet, and other stupid old measurements. No thanks, not for an SF game. I suggested to Steve Jackson that they ought to do a metric edition of GURPS in English; bizarrely, GURPS in other languages is metric, but the only English edition is in American measurements. I guess Canada and the UK aren’t big enough markets to bother with.

Next, I was just thinking about trying Alternity when Wizards of the Coast had the unusual decency to kill it off before I had a chance to make the mistake of purchasing it.

In desperation, I started thinking about the Star Trek: TNG RPG. It suddenly died in a messy licensing dispute. You know, maybe I have the kiss of death for SF games..?

A few months ago I was even considering the d20 Star Wars RPG, an act of desperation considering how silly and unsuitable for my thematic purposes the Star Wars universe is. Then I discovered that there was an official d20 version of the original Traveller on the way…

And now it’s out. It uses d20, so it’s compatible with anything I want to use from Call of Cthulhu, D&D, Star Wars, or any other d20 game. The official Traveller universe is hard SF, with jump drives being the one concession to Sci Fi. “Classic” Traveller has been around for 25 years, and is unlikely to go away any time soon. Now it has a shiny new d20 ruleset to replace the creaky old one, and it’s all in metric at last.

In addition, they’ve done The Right Thing: the rulebook is complete in one volume, modulo the need for a WotC core rulebook to explain d20 character generation and level mechanics. T20 runs to a hefty 440+ pages. Print and paper quality is good, artwork is the best I’ve seen in an RPG outside of WotC products.

Plus it has intelligent space wolves. What more could you ask for?

Now to get a campaign ready… I have a good feeling about this one.

© mathew 2017