Traveller (role-playing game)

Traveller is a series of related science fiction role-playing games, the first published in 1977 by Game Designers' Workshop and subsequent editions by various companies remaining in print to this day. The current edition is produced by Mongoose Publishing.

Originally Traveller was intended to be a system for playing generic space opera themed science fiction adventures, in the same sense that Dungeons & Dragons is a system for generic fantasy adventures. However, a suggested setting called the Third Imperium was detailed with the publication of following supplements and since then this setting has become strongly identified with the game, such that to fans the name Traveller and the Third Imperium are synonymous.

The Traveller rules help construct a far future society that draws inspiration from the Dumarest saga series by E.C. Tubb, the Foundation stories of Isaac Asimov, H. Beam Piper's Space Viking, Larry Niven's Known Space, Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium, Poul Anderson's Polesotechnic League and several other works of science fiction literature. Characters are expected to travel between star systems, engage in battle on the ground and in space, and involve themselves in interstellar economics. Traveller characters are defined less by the need to increase native skill and ability and more by achieving positional advancement in the form of wealth, gadgets, titles and political power. While any version of the game system could be used in many science fiction settings, most published supplements have dealt in some way with the Third Imperium, also sometimes referred to as the Official Traveller Universe, or "OTU".


The Third Imperium is in the distant future—over three thousand years removed from our own time. Interstellar travel is facilitated, and limited, by the use of a technology called the jump drive (known as a hyperdrive in other science fiction settings). Jump drives are capable of propelling a starcraft between one to six parsecs, depending on the individual drive's specifications. Regardless of the distance of a jump, the duration required for the trip is approximately one week. Communications are limited to the speed of travel; there is no "sub-space" or other form of FTL information transfer. This leads to a central principle of Traveller's original setting, that the restraint on the speed of information leads to decentralization and the vestment of significant power in the hands of local officials.

The primary galactic society in Traveller is the Third Imperium, a vast, human-dominated feudalistic union of over eleven thousand worlds currently (as described in GURPS Traveller) ruled by its 43rd emperor, Strephon Aella Alkhalikoi. The Imperium is the most powerful interstellar polity, but it is surrounded on all sides by potentially hostile neighbors. Local nobility operate largely free from oversight, restricted by convention, feudal obligations, and the fear of being caught.

As presented in the original Traveller game, the Third Imperium had a tendency to seem monolithic and unchanging. Characters could work within its systems, but were considered too insignificant to affect matters on a galactic scale. However, the publication of MegaTraveller shook up the status-quo by introducing the great Rebellion, begun when Archduke Dulinor assassinated Emperor Strephon in a bid for the Imperial throne. The death of Strephon touched off a terrible conflict involving imperial dynastic struggle, violent secession of large regions of the Imperium and the advance of foreign powers into the empire's territory. In other words, the sort of "interesting times" that gave characters a better chance at being involved in dramatic, important events.

The Rebellion was finally ended, at the conclusion of the MegaTraveller game line, by the inadvertent release of Virus, an electronic superweapon that invested any computerized hardware it infected with intelligence and a malevolence toward biological lifeforms. Unfortunately, this also reduced great numbers of worlds to a pre-technological state. The following game, Traveller: The New Era, presents the period seventy years after Virus during which the first attempts at reestablishing Interstellar commerce are made.

The Rebellion is an extremely controversial topic for Traveller fans. Some feel that the civil war (and the resulting techno-apocalypse) ruined roleplaying's most dynamic and developed setting. This sentiment was expressed most overtly in GURPS Traveller, which holds to an alternate timeline in which the assassination and subsequent apocalypse never happened. However, the established canon line has its own dedicated fanbase, and has recently enjoyed additional development with two sourcebooks published by Avenger Enterprises/Comstar Games.

"Original Traveller" versus "In My Traveller Universe"

Original Traveller was published at a time when roleplaying games did not typically feature a well-defined fictional universe, but instead offered rules appropriate to the conventions of a particular genre. Each roleplaying group used and altered published rules to suit their setting and play style. Traveller's "Third Imperium" setting became the default game universe, but players deviate from this setting so frequently that "in my Traveller universe" (IMTU) is a very common expression among the fandom. Typical IMTU variables include the power and presence of the Imperium, the role and existence of the various published aliens, the prevalence of interstellar trade and piracy, and the range of technology.

Features of the original Traveller universe

Several key features of the Traveller Universe distinguish it from other settings. Most of them grew from assumptions inherent in the original rules system (for instance, the chance for starting characters to have a Noble Title) which in turn were derived from the literary sources described above. From these features grew the detailed specific background of the Empires and aliens of the Traveller Universe.

The Legacy of the Ancients

At some point hundreds of thousands of years ago our region of the galaxy was dominated by a species, now known only as the Ancients, who wielded fantastic technology. Though the details are unknown (at least to the player's characters; the true history of the Ancients is available to the referee), it is believed that the Ancients destroyed themselves in a 2,000-year period of massive internecine warfare. Though long gone, the effects of the Ancients' reign are still evident, from the seeding of humanity (and creatures genetically engineered from Terran animals) across scores of worlds to the incomprehensible ruins and artifacts which are occasionally discovered.

Humans are common and dominant

Due to the Ancient race that scattered humanity across the stars, there are many worlds on which Human civilizations developed other than Earth. Two major space-faring races, the Vilani and the Zhodani, arose from such transplants. Solomani (humans of Earth) also eventually rose into interstellar dominance. Humans are the most populous species in known space and thus rule or heavily influence most worlds. The result of 300,000 years of individual evolution on such widely divergent worlds (or, in some cases, deliberate genetic engineering by the Ancients) has resulted in broad speciation within the human genotype, however.

The Return of the Age of Sail

Due to the details of interstellar travel and communication, much of the setting carries a feel very similar to the Age of Sail, wherein ships could journey for years at a time without contact from higher authority and individual settlements were isolated and thus individualistic. This isolation causes entire wars to be fought, won, or lost on the frontiers before a message gets to the Capital to let the Emperor know the war has begun. This means that all kinds of agents, from merchants to generals, must show initiative and be reasonably independent from their corporate or political overlords.

The New Feudalism

Since local rulers cannot be directly controlled by central authority, the Imperium is managed by a class of independent nobility, who even make use of classic titles such as Baron, Duke and Archduke. This decentralization of authority is one means of coping with the difficulties imposed by size and limits of speed of transportation technology. In effect, high levels of authority DEFINE policy, and lower levels of authority ENFORCE and INTERPRET policy. High levels also respond to appeals for assistance by dispatching expert advisors, reinforcements from deep reserves, and supervisory personnel to supervise local authority - and if there appears to be a need, relieve local authority and appoint successors. This can make for some rather interesting situations developing.

The cycle of history

By the time of the Third Imperium, Interstellar society has risen, fallen and risen again (and in Traveller: the New Era, fallen again) in a cycle comparable to the history of the Roman Empire, but more directly inspired by the Foundation Trilogy of Isaac Asimov; In fact Asimov's term for the study and manipulation of this cycle, Psychohistory, is used in the setting. The continuing path of this cycle, and its eventual outcome, is a recurring theme in the setting.

The most recent "rise" in the Traveller universe has been the move to the 1248 New Era setting, where the 4th Imperium, a polity far smaller than its predecessors, has been created in 1248. This setting is published by Comstar Games and Avenger Enterprises ( Other small polities have sprung up in this setting, including the Terran Commonwealth, Solomani Imperium, New Ziru Sirka, the League of Spinward States, The K'kree Dominate, Vargr Splinters, Zhodani Concord and many others.

A conservative society

As a whole, the society of the Third Imperium evolves very slowly and prefers what is traditional and established to what is new and different. Even though it exists three millennia in the future, most of the technology and social institutions aren't much different from those of twentieth century Earth. Psionics, though known, are feared by most and have been outlawed and brutally repressed. Artificial Intelligence is extremely rare and is not trusted when it exists. The writers of the setting have admitted that this implied conservatism is a direct result of a desire to maintain Traveller's feel as a classic Space Opera, which by modern standards is somewhat outdated. Others argue that such a society demands predictability, as it is mightily taxed to preserve order as it is considering its large size and resultant time to central authority, and the long practice of setting careful policies and vigorously adhering to set policy whenever possible has bred a culture reluctant to change, at least at the higher levels where decisions are made. In GURPS Traveller, special mention is made of the need to avoid the modern concepts of Nanotechnology and Transhumanism, as they are anathema to the setting. The recent printing of GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars, as well as the out of print Digest Group title Vilani and Vargr, elaborated on the history and social background of the Vilani and its strong conservatism. Previous editions of Traveller have clearly stated that the Third Imperium has both Solomani and Vilani cultural roots. The implication is that much of the Third Imperium's social and technological conservatism stems from those roots.

It isn't utopian

As depicted in Traveller, the human race will not have evolved into a superior state a few millennia hence. People continue to steal, cheat and fight wars. If anything, the Third Imperium is fully aware of these baser human tendencies and encourages them to be vented regularly in small outbursts before they have a chance to reach Imperium-shattering proportions. Thus, planets are allowed to fight out internal conflicts and capitalism is the major driving force of civilization. There is no prohibition on contact or interference with other races protecting them from advanced technology. Economics and other factors that applied to exploration and colonization on Earth are the same factors that shape the Traveller Universe. However, Governments may interdict planets with native primitive intelligent species. These interdicted worlds are commonly known as "Red Zones" based on the Imperial designation for such a world. Though it should be noted that 'Red (or the less restrictive 'Amber') zones are often to protect the interest of the Imperium, not the native population.

Intelligent species

While some were obviously less than inspired when first created, a lot of background information has gone into developing each into something more than a human in an alien suit.

Major races

A major race is defined as one that developed jump technology independently, and thus got an early start on establishing itself in interstellar society. In the setting it is generally agreed there are 6 major races, but how they are defined varies a little. The standard list includes:

  • Aslan are a bipedal species of vaguely feline appearance, slightly larger than human. Aslan society is organized into competitive clans, has a strict code of honor and very strict gender roles (similar to C. J. Cherryh's Hani.). During the Rebellion period it was alleged that the Aslan are not technically a Major Race, in that they reverse-engineered their FTL technology from a salvaged Terran ship. Even accounting for such a pedantic distinction, however, Aslan-dominated space is certainly vast enough for them to qualify as major by any other measurement. (The word "aslan" is Turkish for "lion," and is a possible reference to the works of C. S. Lewis.)
  • Droyne are a short-statured, winged bipedal race of reptilian appearance. Droyne by nature are a highly conservative and group-oriented race, with a caste-based system dependent upon a combination of ritual and biology. Though by far the oldest of the jump capable races, the Droyne were the last to be recognized as such because they do not control any interstellar regions, much less an empire. Instead they are scattered as independent communities on worlds throughout known space, their homeworld unknown even to them. Droyne completely control some worlds but generally share them with other races. A semi-intelligent sub-class, known as Chirpers, consist of Droyne colonies which have lost the ability to caste, and with it all knowledge of technological society or interstellar travel. It is conjectured that the Droyne were either a servant race of the Ancients, or are direct descendants of them. In the original (GDW) setting it was specifically stated that the Droyne were servitors of the Ancients, and that the Ancients were in fact a form of mutant Droyne.
  • Hivers are a race based on sixfold symmetry. Of all the major races they are the most "alien" to humans in both appearance and thought patterns. Despite their name Hivers actually have a highly individualistic society. They avoid where possible direct violence and war, preferring instead to work behind the scenes via covert manipulation and psychohistory.
  • Humaniti is the spelling used for Humanity in the Third Imperium. When humans of Terra first reached out to travel to the stars most were very surprised to find that other humans were already there due to the machinations of the Ancients. Three sub-races of humans independently developed jump drive technology and are therefore sometimes classified as Major Races in their own right. The first two (Solomani and Vilani]]) make up the majority of the human population of known space (and are thus increasingly culturally and biologically indistinct from each other); the third (the Zhodani) remains much more separated, both culturally, astrographically, and biologically.
    • The Solomani of Earth (called Terra in Traveller); It is generally acknowledged that Terra is the original homeworld of Humaniti and that all subsequent sub-races are derived from primitive stock taken from this world by the Ancients. After achieving FTL star travel, the Solomani conquered the stagnant First Imperium of the Vilani and subsequently founded the Second Imperium, or "Rule of Man."
    • The Vilani of Vland; They were the first race of Humaniti to invent the jump drive, and created the Ziru Sirka ("The Grand Empire [of Stars]"), or First Imperium. Traditional Vilani society is highly caste-based, prizes cooperation over individuality, and is extremely conservative. As the ecosystem of their homeworld is indigestible to humans in its raw state, Vilani cuisine (and much of its culture) is based on fermentation techniques.
    • The Zhodani of Zhdant (occasionally referred to as Zhodane); the Zhodani are known for their high level of psychic ability and its formal integration into their society, the Zhodani Consulate. Originally the Zhodani were presented as uncomplicated, vaguely oriental mind-controlling bad guys for the setting, but since then more depth has been added to their depiction, especially in the New Era setting. The more recent characterization of the Zhodani emphasizes the consistent honesty of Consulate citizenry (as befits a telepathically-based society), as well as their distrust of psionically-averse humans (whom the Zhodani regard as duplicitous, thieving crooks).
  • K'kree are a race of massive individuals having 2 arms and 4 legs, reminding humans somewhat of Centaurs. Their homeworld is Kirur, far to trailing of human-dominated space, from which they rule a large interstellar polity known as "The 2,000 Worlds." K'kree psychology is evolved from herding instincts, thus they are rarely found alone and fear enclosed places. So gregarious are the K'kree, in fact, that forcing a member into isolation can be regarded as a form of torture, and a willingly solitary K'kree should be regarded as a dangerously insane individual. Early in their pre-starfaring history, the K'kree were traumatized by a "close encounter" with an intelligent species of exceptionally cruel carnivore, and as a result they have evolved into a society of hierarchical, reactionary, militant and often aggressive herbivores with a disdain (often carried to genocidal extremes) for meat eating of any kind.
  • Vargr are a bi-pedal canine species, slightly smaller than humans. This species resembles the Terran conception of a wolf-man because that is essentially what they are; canine stock taken from Terra that were genetically manipulated by the Ancients to an intelligent bipedal form in an attempt to create suitable servants. (The name Vargr comes from the Old Norse for "wolves").

Minor races

Any species which was contacted before it could independently develop Jump Drive is considered minor. Such species wield much less power than the Major Races, and most are subject to the whims of the established interstellar powers. Numerous minor races exist, some have been fully developed, some only briefly mentioned in the Traveller background material. Listed here are only a few of the minor races.
Minor human races
As well as the three human races that are considered Major, there are at least 22 additional ones that are classified as minor races. Most human races are interbreedable and thus physically increasingly indistinguishable from each other, though a few have unique physiologies due to development in a harsh environment, a period that restricted the available gene pool or other uncommon factors.

Notable minor human races include:

  • Answerin: Tough and stoic beyond all extremes. A core Answerin belief is that fear in any form is merely a curable disease. This, coupled with a unique racial ability to produce adrenalin at will, makes them excellent warriors, and thus widely prized as soldiers. As the animal life on their homeworld is indigestible to humans, the Answerin have evolved into strict vegetarians.
  • Darrians: A slightly built, technologically precocious people who unfortunately nearly destroyed themselves over a millennium previously when a stellar physics experiment gone wrong induced subnova flares in their home star and nearly destroyed their entire civilization. They have since recovered somewhat, and are rumored to be in possession of the "Star Trigger", a flare-inducing superweapon based on their earlier mistake which is used as a deterrent for their much-bigger neighbours of Third Imperium and Zhodani Consulate.
  • Geonee: A stocky, task-oriented race. The Geonee achieved FTL capabilities - and even a minor interstellar society of their own - prior to contact with the much more powerful Vilani. They are not held to be Major, however, due to the fact that their technology was based on recovered Ancient artifacts. The Geonee dispute this claim, and in fact further assert that they, in fact, are the Ancients, a view which is not shared by any non-Geonee.
  • Loeskalth: The fierce, aggressive Loeskalth were early beneficiaries of pre-First Imperium Vilani contact, and used their acquired technology to build a formidable interstellar empire of their own. They ultimately proved no match for the Vilani, however, and the race is considered long extinct. A contingent of ancient Loeskalth may have crossed the Great Rift (a region of extremely low stellar density lying to spinward of most Imperial space) to escape Vilani absorption, however, and as such may be the source of the "Sky Raiders" legend among a number of Spinward cultures.
  • Syleans: Another early conquest by the Vilani, the proud Syleans managed to maintain their culture and language throughout the First Imperium era. They flourished under the Solomani-dominated Second Imperium, and survived the Long Night better than most others. In fact, the Sylean Federation of the Long Night era eventually formed the core of the Third Imperium, with the Sylean homeworld as its capital.
  • Suerrat: Like the Geonee, the Suerrat had built up a small interstellar polity prior to contact with the Vilani. This was based solely on sublight generation ships, however, as the Suerrat had never achieved Jump Drive on their own.

Other minor races
Some of the minor races with a large amount of background material include:

  • Ael Yael: One of the few known intelligent species capable of flight, the Ael Yael are native to a world whose dying oceans make it a trove of easily accessible mineral wealth. The resulting exploitation of their planet (and with it their species) by amoral corporate interests has left them with a deep seated animosity for all forms of private industry. Ael Yael work well with government agencies, however, and are in particular renown as Imperial Scouts.
  • Bwaps (Newts): The Bawapakerwa-a-a-awapawab, as they call themselves, are a slightly built, fastidious, conservative, bureaucratically-inclined race of bipedal amphibians. These characteristics helped them to thrive during the First Imperium era. As such "Bwaps" are the most widespread of the Minor Races, and can be found throughout much of human space (although more so in the coreward regions). Nevertheless, most non-Bwaps find them tiresome to deal with.
  • Ithklur
  • Mahkahraik
  • Schalli
  • Vegans: A minor race, and the closest to Terra astrographically of any starfaring aliens. The Vegans are named after the bright star Vega, which is within a few light years of their home system. They are organized into philosophically based communities, and are the dominant local power in the Solomani Rim sector. They were oppressed during the Solomani Confederation's rule of the region of space, and now have been granted their own Autonomous Region by the Imperium, centered on their homeworld.
  • Virushi

Rules System and Gameplay

The game system introduced a unique character generation system which helped it to stand out from other Roleplaying games of the time. Whereas most roleplaying games start characters as inexperienced youngsters who acquire skills and abilities as the game progresses, Traveller characters got their skills and experience before play began. To accomplish this, players took their characters through a career development path (usually in the military) where the character rolled for different assignments and gained extra skills, rank and retirement benefits, but suffered the risk of possible injury and death. Leaving a character in service for longer before the game would lead to more skills and beginning cash but could also mean that basic attributes (such as strength) would begin to degrade with old age.

The starship design systems and starship combat systems, both the original version from Book 2 or the modified version from High Guard, are like games unto themselves, with a complex balance of starship systems fitting within certain hull weight classes, technology levels, and modifiers based upon characters skills.

Publishing History


The original Traveller gamebooks were distinctive half-size black pamphlets (the so-called "Little Black Books" or "LBBs") produced by Game Designers Workshop (GDW). The main rules were detailed in three such booklets, sold as a boxed set while the same format was used for early support material, such as the Adventures, Supplements and further Books. Currently these LBB's are available in collected reprints from Far Future Enterprises Later supplements and updated versions of the main game system introduced full sized booklets, complete re-writes of the game system and significant changes to the Third Imperium. The second edition of the game, titled Megatraveller, was published in 1986 and attempted to collect and collate the various rules of the system and offer new political twists in the Third Imperium, such as the assassination of the emperor and the rebellion which followed. The last GDW produced version of Traveller was the third, Traveller: The New Era, which broke completely with the previous rules system and presented a setting in which interstellar civilization had been completely destroyed by the rebellion. GDW went out of business before this iteration was completed.

Subsequently, in 1997 Imperium Games published Marc Miller's Traveller, often referred to as T4, which returned to the classic setting and game system, though not without some major alterations. For instance the default setting was "Milieu 0", set about 1200 years previous to the time period laid out in the original Traveller. It was intended that other "Milieus" would be described in following supplements, but T4 proved to be a failure both critically and financially before this could happen. The game was left briefly idle until the publication of GURPS Traveller. Once again the system was replaced, this time with the GURPS system from Steve Jackson Games, but the setting was returned to the present laid out in the original Traveller, albeit as an alternate history in which the assassination and subsequent fall of the Third Imperium never happened. To confuse matters further there is another version of the game being published simultaneously with the GURPS edition, Traveller 20 or T20, which uses the same setting but integrates into the popular D20 roleplaying system and is set a century earlier than Classic Traveller or GURPS Traveller.


Traveller or Classic Traveller

(1977-1986) Published by GDW. The original game system was generic in setting, requiring you to create your whole universe (or copy someone else's), but later supplements described the Third Imperium at its height. This system and its associated supplements are often referred to as Classic Traveller or "CT".

Most of the game's rulebooks and supplements were printed in the distinctive "Little Black Book" format of 8 1/2" by 5 1/2" booklets. Rather than cover art each rule book, supplement, and adventure had a black cover with the title "Book x", "Supplement y" or "Adventure z" each in a distinct color, numbered in the order in which they were produced. The core rules were available as three booklets in a boxed set (cf the original Dungeons and Dragons format).

The character generation system forked with the introduction of the fourth rulebook "Mercenary" which introduced a far more sophisticated system of character generation, but only for military (Army and Marine) characters, leaving the Navy, Merchant, Scouts and 'Others' to use the original rules until expanded rulebooks for them were released. Merchants and Scouts remained popular characters because of the possibility of getting a starship upon retirement but the Navy became unpopular until the fifth rulebook "High Guard" became available. High Guard also introduced rules for large starships and big naval battles in the same way that Mercenary added rules to flesh out ground battles. Book 6 expanded the Scout service in much the same way, as well as adding rules for fully detailing star systems, while Book 7 gave more depth to Merchants and included a new set of trading & commerce rules. Eight separate boxed games were released as tie-in products: "Striker", a game of tabletop miniature warfare, added very complex rules for vehicle design & combat, "Mayday" concentrated on small ship vs ship space combat, "Snapshot" and "Azhanti High Lightning" featured small-unit battles on board spacecraft, while "Fifth Frontier War", "Invasion Earth" and "Dark Nebula" were wargames based on selected interstellar conflicts from the Classic Traveller (though in the case of the later this was not the case on its publication, but they were used as the basis of parts of the 'imperial' background)future history.

At the beginning there was only some very basic background material to the Traveller universe. It appeared that like most other RPG games of the time that individual game masters would develop their own universe to adventure in. As more adventures and supplements were developed the rich character of the standard Traveller universe began to evolve. The starting point for this appears to be the board game "Imperium" -

Most of the Classic Traveller books are available in compendium volumes from Far Future Enterprises, which is the current copyright and trademark holder of all forms of the Traveller game. Far Future Enterprises also sells a CD-ROM containing scans of all the canonical Classic Traveller material in PDF format, including the rules, counters and maps from the boxed games.

Traveller was inducted into the Origins Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame in 1997.


MegaTraveller (1987-1992) was published by GDW but designed by Digest Group Publications which published the popular Traveller's Digest (later the MegaTraveller Journal) Traveller support magazine. The game system used revised versions of the Classic Traveller mechanics with ideas first developed in the Traveller's Digest (and later also adapted to Traveller: 2300). The system is often referred to as "MT".

The game was set during the Rebellion era which shattered the Imperium. Supplements and magazines produced during this era detailed the progression of the Rebellion from the initial assassination of the Emperor in 1116 to the collapse of large-scale interstellar trade in roughly 1124 (the beginning of the supplement Hard Times).

Digest Group Publications also produced a number of top-quality MegaTraveller supplements, including alien modules detailing the Aslan, Vargr, Vilani and Solomani for MegaTraveller and the World Builder's Handbook, which expanded greatly on the world-building system found in the main rulebooks.

Traveller: The New Era

Traveller: The New Era (1993-1995) was published by GDW. The game mechanics were changed to GDW's standardized rules system which had originally appeared in the second edition of Twilight: 2000. It introduced the Virus and described the former area of the Third Imperium after interstellar society had completely collapsed. The game is often referred to as "TNE". In 1994, Traveller: The New Era won the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Rules of 1993.

Where MegaTraveller left the Third Imperium in its death throes, The New Era smashed it flat and turned it into fertilizer to begin the game anew. A common complaint from players new to Traveller was the feeling they had to learn 3000 years of history to play; TNE removed that. Another perceived problem was that players couldn't make much difference to a polity of trillions of beings. TNE made the standard game world one of a few, in which players would be the difference between their survival and destruction. And for those who had been with the game from the start, a pocket of the original Third Imperium was partially preserved, where high tech and frivolity were still rampant.

At the dawn of the New Era, a few survivors have weathered the storm of Virus, and begin emerging and rebuilding, but the galaxy is a lot different. Most worlds are governed by TEDs, Technologically Elevated Dictators, who have found or kept hold of a cache of high-tech weapons and use them to control their worlds. A few have made it back into space to prey upon weak neighbors. And there are still the occasional Vampires, self-aware spacecraft which are insane and will probably attack you, but the Virus is evolving, and not all living machines are homicidal maniacs...

TNE used GDW's new "House System" RPG rules, which were also adapted to Twilight 2000, Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, and Dark Conspiracies (but not 2300 AD), allowing the authors to concentrate on a single set of RPG rules instead of half a dozen, saving lots of work and allowing more to get published. It also made an attempt to go back to a more realism-centered approach to science fiction, doing away with such niceties as reactionless thrusters and partially doing away with fantastic lasers and missiles. With the addition of Fire, Fusion, and Steel, the Traveller Technical Architecture, it became possible to design not just ships and vehicles, but also weapons themselves. FF&S became very popular among "gearheads".

Unfortunately, going to reaction thrusters, even ones slightly more efficient than is possible in reality, made a huge change in the way travel took place, and TNE is the only edition to shun reactionless thrusters. Despite this, the starship combat resolution system was fairly well detailed, and even garnered two games for it: Brilliant Lances for small battles and Battle Rider for large battles. Additionally, Striker made a comeback as Striker 2, a detailed, multi-tech miniatures ground combat system.

Several supplements were published for TNE covering most if not all of what the year 1201 was like, but before any of the meta-events could start to advance the timeline, GDW fell on a string of bad luck and finally was forced to close its doors, after publishing a new product an average of every 22 days, for 22 years (not counting magazines).

Marc Miller's Traveller

Marc Miller's Traveller (1996-1998) was published by Imperium Games after GDW dissolved and the rights to Traveller reverted to Marc Miller, the creator of the original game. It returned to a heavily modified version of the original rules and was set in the early days of the Third Imperium (Milieu 0). It is often referred to as "T4". The publication of this edition suffered from notoriously poor writing and editing, which required the subsequent printing of 25 pages worth of errata.

GURPS Traveller

GURPS Traveller (1998- ) was "Created on a handshake with Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games." The game uses the GURPS (Third Edition) system and takes place in an alternate timeline in which no Rebellion occurred and the Virus was never released. The GURPS Traveller product line has been updated to the 4th Edition version in part by the release of GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars. This has also included a change to the starship design rules first published in GURPS Traveller. Steve Jackson Games produced numerous high-quality supplements for the line, including details for all of the major races, many of the minor races, interstellar trade, expanded world generation, the military forces of the Third Imperium, and starships. The game is often referred to as "GT".

Traveller 20

Traveller 20 (2002- ) was published by QLI/RPGRealms Publishing. The D20 system version is set in the Gateway Domain region of the Imperium and somewhat before the era depicted in the original game.

GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars

GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars is the second GURPS-driven version of Traveller. It concentrates on the 22nd and 23rd centuries, much earlier than the usual Traveller setting, at the time when Earth first started to send out interstellar ships and had just encountered the Vilani Imperium. This setting book uses the 4th Edition of the GURPS rules, and hence is referred to by some as "G4T" or "GTIW." The Interstellar Wars book features extensive notes on period Earth society, Vilani culture and values, and spaceship construction and combat rules.

Traveller Hero

Traveller Hero is a port of the Traveller setting to the Hero System, produced under license by Comstar Games.


Traveller5 or "T5" is the fifth edition of Traveller and is currently in development and due for release in the second quarter of 2008 after missing the planned release on the 30th anniversary of the original Traveller game. T5 is intended by designer Marc Miller to achieve advances in both playability and realism. The planned system will have a Core Rules Set for the Referee, supplemented by a Players’ Manual, a Technical Reference (for ship, vehicle, and equipment design, and system and world generation), and an Encyclopedia.

Support for the system centers on Sourcebooks (each on a specific topic—a world, a milieu, an important thread in history) with an integrated adventure. Sourcebooks will be rule-independent so they can be used with any edition of Traveller

It is planned that T5 will be produced in conjunction with Mongoose Traveller.

Mongoose Traveller

Mongoose Publishing has produced a major revision of the original Traveller game, offering it both in a traditional format and as an open-source SRD around which other games may be built. The core rule book was released in April 2008, with a following a series of supplements starting with Spinward Marches and 760 Patrons in July 2008. The two supplements highlight Mongoose Publishing's dual treatment that separates the intellectual property of Traveller and its Charted Space/Third Imperium setting from the rules set, the result being that some supplements may lack traditional Traveller content that long time fans will want, despite the books actually carrying the Traveller name. Mongoose Publishing holds the license for ten years and has plans to unify the Traveller setting, including the possible incorporation of the Traveller 2300/2300AD RPG setting..

Traveller: 2300

Despite the title, this GDW roleplaying game was not directly related to the Traveller line and did not utilize the same rule system or setting. It was instead intended to be a hard science fiction alternative to the looser space opera of standard Traveller. Presented as a future extrapolation of the speculative World War III of GDW's popular military role-playing game Twilight: 2000, in which the various nations of Earth were only just beginning to explore and colonize the 50 light year sphere of surrounding space. As some buyers mistakenly thought the game was intended to depict the year 2300 in the standard Traveller universe, the 2nd edition of the game was retitled to 2300 AD to end confusion. Recently a third version of the setting, 2320 AD was released as a supplement to the Traveller T20 ruleset.

Traveller in other media

GDW licensee Paragon produced two computer games based on the Traveller universe: MegaTraveller 1: The Zhodani Conspiracy (1990) for Amiga, Atari ST and MS-DOS operating environments, and MegaTraveller 2: Quest for the Ancients (1991) for Amiga and MS-DOS.

Several novels have been specifically set in the various Traveller universes:

  1. Death of Wisdom Book 1 of 3 by Paul Brunette.
  2. To Dream of Chaos Book 2 of 3 by Paul Brunette.
  3. Marc Miller's Traveller: Gateway to the Stars by Pierce Askegren. ISBN 0-671-01188-X
  4. The Force of Destiny by Dale Kemper
  5. Diaspora Phoenix by Martin J. Dougherty
  6. Tales of the New Era 1: Yesterday’s Hero by Martin J. Dougherty

In addition, Jefferson Swycaffer has written several novels set in the "Concordat" fictional universe he originally developed for his Traveller campaign.

Heavy metal band The Lord Weird Slough Feg issued a "Traveller" based concept album, appropriately titled "Traveller" in 2003.

Gaming magazine White Dwarf ran a comic strip called The Travellers by Mark Harrison from 1983 to 1986. The strip blatantly spoofed Traveller and other space opera settings.

Copyright infringement lawsuit

In 1982 Game Designers Workshop sued software publisher Edu-Ware Services for infringing upon Traveller's copyright. Edu-Ware admitted to using Traveller as the basis of its computer role-playing game Space, and in an out-of-court settlement, removed the computer game from the market.



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