Learning How To Play Traveller

This morning I allowed a project that has been bubbling around in my mind for ages to pour out into a rough draft for action. Patrons at the Swordbearer tier will become pretty familiar with images of my Project Daybook, but here’s the picture from today:

Haven’t You Been Playing Since The 80’s, Webster?

Yes, I started playing Traveller sometime around the turn of the 1980s. I actually have some evidence to suggest that, in fact, my first roleplaying experiences were not with RuneQuest (as I had previously suspected) but possibly with my friend Daniel’s first games of Traveller. I was most likely playing RuneQuest in 1983, and it was definately the first RPG I owned… but the evidence suggests that Daniel had Traveller much earlier.

In a forthcoming interview for the podcast (Ep518), I chat to Andy Goodman (Expedition to The Grizzley Peaks) about the fear and freedom of improvisation in roleplaying games. During the interview, Andy raises the issue that Traveller doesn’t contain much in the way of instructions on HOW to play the game. He shares his recent experience trying out Mongoose Traveller 2e and it’s clear that he has a valid point: the writers simply assume (as do most RPG authors) that Referees and Players know how to run a game. This is, is my view, a fatal flaw of almost every game written since 1983’s BECMI Dungeons & Dragons.

With this issue in mind, one that has niggled me ever since The Alexandrian pointed it out back in 2012, I have determined that it’s time to work out how to play Traveller – once and for all – and then share it with interested readers. Thus, the project idea mapped out above.

Knowing me, this will be a non-sequential series of related Traveller articles.

Because I am a Scanner, I tend to loop round projects in an ongoing circular manner: I will keep returning to a project, over and over, sometimes with gaps between returns, until I finish it. I usually finish… but not in the linear, sequential way that a lot of people seem to prefer. Thus, bear with me and look out for further posts tagged “How To” and in the “Cepheus/Traveller” category.

What’s The Plan?

In short, I am going to set up a campaign of my own. This will, I think, focus on using the Classic Traveller retroclone, Cepheus, as the basic rules engine (that then allows me to write for the game and potentially collect the disparate posts into a future supplement all of its own). As noted in the pages above, I am going to embrace blending three things:

  1. Explaining how to run the various fundamental RPG game structures using Traveller/Cepheus.
  2. Using the massive collection of Third Imperium resources that I own to create a personal campaign.
  3. Use the flavour and darker/horror themes that I began to use in my earlier Gygax75 In Space posts (back over on UbiquitousRat.net).

This project excites me a great deal because I feel that it’s time to lay out, in clear language, how to run a good Traveller-style campaign. Of course, in keeping with my usual “sharing what I am doing while I am figuring it out” approach, I don’t quite know what that will end up looking like.

Because I can’t be sure that theory will work in practice, and there is a need for trial and error, I will write everything for this blog in the first instance. After playtesting and trial, I will update the posts and collect them together for the aforementioned supplement. Hopefully, someone out there will be interested in the final product. Do drop comments below if that’s you.

In fact, in the longer term, I’d be interested in recruiting both potential players for an online playtest and fellow Referees who are curious to learn how to play Traveller/Cepheus for themselves. Volunteers for down the line are welcome.

Pretty, beautiful Traveller products

Proposed Article List

Here’s a quick list of the articles that have so far found their way onto my “to write” list for this project. As ever, I am open to suggestions for other areas/issues that you feel need addressing. Here goes:

  • Running Combat Encounters
  • Running a Location Exploration Adventure
  • Running a Planetary Exploration Adventure
  • Running Subsector Travel
  • Making 168 hours in Jumpspace Fun
  • Seeding Patron Encounters
  • Seeding “Deep Setting” Adventure Clues

That’s just for starters. Let me know what you think.

Traveller Resources

I know I said that I will focus on Cepheus / Classic Traveller (for licensing reasons) but I do want to mention that I fully intent on using every Traveller resource in my arsenal. That means everything for Classic Traveller, MegaTraveller, Traveller: The New Era, Traveller Fourth Edition, GURPS Traveller, Traveller20, Mongoose Traveller 1e and 2e, plus Traveller5.

Yes, I do own it all. I am a Traveller junkie.

Game on!

Read the next post: Leaning Into Classic Traveller


  1. It turns out that among my collection of PDFs, I have the CT Traveller Starter Set. The artwork feels very Stainless Steel Rat.


  2. I love Traveller, but there just a few little things that stop it being the ultimate game
    1. Even with the Mongoose character generation rules, the PCs are all just a bit flat and dull.
    2. As a consequence of No. 1, it’s difficult to see what goals/drives each character has, outside of amassing money and trying not to die.
    3. My imagination isn’t good enough to fill in the gaps. I can’t picture a starport or a future city. This is my problem, not the game’s problem.

    Traveller is that girlfriend you craved with her fantastic shiny black boots (sorry, books). Then you got to know her and it turns out she’s into Heaven 17, not The Raincoats


    • An interesting perspective, although I do have to disagree with the premise: I do not view Traveller as “the ultimate game”. I am simply returning to an old favourite to see what I can learn from it… which turned out to be quite a lot.


      • I was being slightly flippant about being the ultimate game, but it has the virtue of being straightforward and elegant. It also has the potential to be extremely flexible and (like space itself) supply an almost inexhaustible supply of potential material.

        I look forward to reading posts.


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