Friday, August 1, 2008

Ah, Traveller...

I first got Traveller in about 1982 or so. I'm pretty sure that was the year.

It was the second edition, which I didn't know at the time; I doubt if I would have cared. There were these three awesome looking black books with a bold red stripe and the title.

There was the text on the cover of the box, the distress call from the Free Trader Beowulf. To this day it gets me going.

One day, a guy in my group asked if he could borrow my copy of Book One. I said sure.

I never saw it again.

Many years later, I was at my Friendly Local Game Store and found a copy of Book One in a used bin. For only two dollars! Woo-hoo! They had Book Three, also, and since my stuff is all stashed away somewhere, I bought them both.

They turned out to be the originals, from 1977.

Once I had found out that my original set was the second edition, I had always wanted to see the first edition. I like to know where things come from. Also, whenever people come out with a second edition, there's something from the first that they only put in part of, and it always bugs me.

In this case, my old Book Two discussed space combat. It said that Pulse Lasers weren't as accurate as Beam Lasers (which cost twice as much). But there wasn't a damn thing in the actual combat system to differentiate.

Well, I finally got a copy of the original Book Two, and it gives a DM (die modifier) of -1 when using Pulse Lasers. (I've since gotten the Starter set, which was the final version of the three little books, and it gave this DM as well as saying that Pulse Lasers do two hits instead of only one, like Beam Lasers do. Weird.)

So, I have both the last produced and the first produced versions of the original Traveller set (without the complications of the subsequent books, which in my opinion drastically messed up the beautiful simplicity of the original set...and the silly buggers at Mongoose are doing the same thing over again, it appears! Those who don't know history, and all that.), so I have a variety of options here.

What I'd like to do, though, is create my own mini-campaign (or setting, anyway), just using the three original books, as the sole rules for the game. No Official Traveller Universe (OTU), no supplements, no nothing.

This is to be in keeping with my 'old school gamer' -ness. I'd take it round to conventions and show people how it used to be done.

But I'm growing to like the OTU, which I've always looked askance at. It does what it needs to do, and there's a certain nostalgia for how it was back before MegaTraveller and all that.

Anyway. That's what I'm thinking about today.

Other points of difference between the first and second editions:

Scouts in 1e got one skill per term; in 2e they got 2.

Jump Drives in 1e didn't need power plants; in 2e they did.

In 2e your computer number had to be the same as or higher than your jump number; in 1e it didn't (and the ship designs of the era show this).

Slight changes in the costs of computers; slight changes in the costs of hulls.

Small craft fuel was completely different; craft burned fuel at a rate of 10kg per G per turn. Fuel tankage was considerably higher.

Space combat was a 10 minute turn, with 2 inches representing 1 G. In 2e, it became a 1000 second turn (16.66 minutes), and 1G on the table was 100mm (= roughly 5 inches -- you need a much bigger floor...)

Book Three had a table for determining comm routes (like the ones on the maps GDW produced). It also said that the 8x10 mapping grid was a "convenient size", not absolutely mandatory as later. (And, given the size of the Third Imperium, it also noted that one or two such subsectors should be adequate for years of adventuring...!)


KenHR said...

There were a few other differences in the combat section, too. My old campaign wiki mentions a couple in the rules section here:

Will Douglas said...

Very cool site, thanks for the link!

Yeah, I also didn't bother describing all the changes in weapon damage from Book One either. I was just going from memory.

Y'know, considering the geeks out there (and I speak as one of them; no offense is intended) who love Traveller, I'm surprised I haven't yet run across a detailed comparison of the first and second editions.

I recently picked up the first volume of reprints of the Journal of the Travellers Aid Society, and there's a three part feature on the changes between first and second edition High Guard in there, totalling some 20 or more pages.

But the changes to Book Two go unremarked.

Ah, well.

KenHR said...

Thanks for the compliment! There's not much beyond a ton of fluff there, really; it was our "Library Data" for the game. Probably the most detailed page was the home system of Dikala:

As you can see from the rest of the site, I got very lazy early on in posting up our campaign journal. We did about 10 sessions total before the game ended.

I remember finding a comparison on CotI a long time ago that went into Book 2 changes, but nothing comprehensive. Personally, I never understood the allure of High Guard. Like you, I like the simplicity of the base 3 books (plus Citizens of the Imperium).

Will Douglas said...

I even have a gripe with the CotI supplement.

I don't want to use Mercenary or High Guard, so I really don't want to use any of the skills from those books, either. And yet, the CotI tables are littered with them.

I'm in the process of adapting the five or so careers I really want to keep from there, but only using the skills from the Traveller Book (plus one I made up, Heavy Weapons, which is a cascade skill for the Army, consisting of MG, Mortar, Tube artillery, and probably some other think I just can't think of right now).

I won't keep all of the careers; in all my years of gaming I've honestly never seen anyone play a Flyer or a (wet navy) Sailor. Just have never seen it.