Friday, 17 April 2009

Return to the Third Imperium

After a break of almost 15 years I've decided that it's time to return to Traveller. This has been driven by a number of things, including getting the TravellerMap into our Mapscape hub in Second Life (a very Traveller space), the growing (if small) Traveller scene in Second Life, and the general resurgence in Traveller resulting from the new Mongoose Publications edition of the rules and supplements.

In re-embracing Traveller I'm struck by the fact that yet another lynchpin of my youth has become a "fantasy". Just as the Third World War which I trained and wargamed for will now not happen as advertised (central Germany, circa 1985), so too will the future of Traveller, or any "Star Wars" type SF, not happen. I am convinced that AI, or simpler personality constructs, and their gleisner robot selves will be the first "earthkind" to reach the stars. If we ever get there as our biological selves then we'll find local space already populated by our digital selves and their bretheren. This goes far beyond the Cyberpunk of William Gibson et al, and is still best captured by Greg Egan's books - although just how you'd make an SF-RPG of them I've no idea (but it is an idea).

There certainly remains a couple of issues with Traveller, in all its incarnations. The first is the whole take on AI, wetware, cyberpunk, and robotics, which are generally frowned upon (or banned) and the most over-taken by real tech development. But at least an IMTU (In My Traveller Universe) approach can incorporate those without too much damage to the canon. The bigger issue is 3D space. The Traveller Universe is a 2D map, and I love that map. But nowadays it seems just too unrealistic - particularly when I can use SL to visualise 3D volumes of space. Traveller 2300AD was a great product, and in some ways it would be great to have its version of real, 3D space, grow into the accepted Traveller Known Space. But for now I'll accept the 2D map - even if I play around with my own morphing of the 2D data onto a possible 3D mapping.

And why Traveller and not another SF RPG. I love its depth of history, the detail of the history, the community effort, the fact that the only FTL is by jump, the fact that it *was* a beleivable future - if a little Imperial.

So which Rule Set and Milieu to use. I "grew up" in CT, I remember where I was when the Fifth Frontier War broke out (travelling through Minneapolis), so for me the setting has to be the classic one, circa 1100 - 1110. Rule wise I always preferred MT, I love the task system (and still use its principle in other games), and the amount of background detail it had. The fractured Imperium plot-line I can take or leave. TNE was just too different and messy, T4 OK (and I wrote a lot for it), T20 so-so (no great fan of D20), and still haven't got T5. GURPS Traveller is a sore point as I wrote a whole supplement for them which was cancelled at the last moment and I never got paid. Reading the reviews it sounds like the Mongoose Traveller may be good - with improved character generation and a task system - so I'll probably buy that and if as good as it sounds use that as my base.

Then there's a question of style. I probably haven't played a face-to-face game of Traveller since I left school - it's never been the most popular of RPGs in the UK, and a lot of us just get enjoyment from the setting and literature. But virtual worlds like Second Life offer the opportunity for virtual role-play, not just meeting up with Travellers, but acting out adventures in "real" Scouts and at "real" starports. One day I can see an entire OpenSim grid for Traveller (or a more generic SF setting), and I'm happy to help build it. But once I also had fun playing real-time Traveller - where you play a solo adventure but everything happens in real-time - so if you character makes a 7 day hyper-jump trip you spend 7 real days waiting for the to reappear. I don't think I want to constrain myself to such a literal linkage, but the idea of using Traveller to effectively drive a long term narrative does appeal. In fact the other driver to get back into Traveller is my daughters interest in what she calls "role-playing" - collaborative interactive fictions created on discussion board sites live Envision Free. Why not play Traveller more like that.

So I think I'll take a blog approach. My character, Corro Moseley, of course, will adventure across Known Space, initially from Gushemege (where I was HIWG Sector Analyst and so built most of it!) through Vland to the Spinward Marches, and then into Zhodani space, and who knows on to the Galactic core (or Longbow?). I'll record his adventures on the Gushemege blog, using random encounters a lot to spark adventure ideas, and pre-published adventures where they fit.

Of course another driver for this is to try and automate Traveller. If we do get that Open-sim Nirvana I don't want to spend the whole time rolling dice and looking up tables, I want to play it like a fully immersive MMORPG. So the whole exercise will give me an excuse to track down the current web based software and information support for Traveller, make extensive use of (and add to) the Traveller Wikia, and maybe create new resources too. I also want to be able to do a lot of this in dead-time, so that means finding/creating resources which will work on my iPhone or Netbook.

So that's enough of a brain dump about what I want to do, and why. Let's hope I can now make the time to do it.

Follow the evolving adventure on my Traveller site -

***Imported from old blog***

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