More Classic Traveller Literary Inspiration!


I’ve mentioned before my thoughts about the original literary inspiration for Classic Traveller and how I don’t think Classic Traveller was originally a Hard SF setting. (It moved in that direction through the 80s. But this blog is about Classic Traveller in the 70s.)

I’m reading City of the Chasch, the first book in Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure series set on the world of Tschai. (The next three book are Servants of the Wankh, The Dirdir, and The Pnume.)

The story is basically a planetary romance, but with more of an SF underpinning. A Scout named Adam Reith crashes on a planet, gets picked up by tribesman, learns more about several competing alien races, learns these aliens have humans as slaves (even though no humans from Earth have ever logged this planet before), and gets caught up in adventures.

Miller has referenced Vance’s Demon Prince series as an influence on Classic Traveller’s implied setting. But within pages of City of Chasch came across this:

Marin frowned, rubbed his nose with his knuckle. “I’ll send down the scouts, then we’ll back away, out of range.”

Marin spoke a code-word, gave orders to the scouts Adam Reith and Paul Waunder.

“Fast as possible; we’re being detected. Rendezvous at System axis, up, Point D as in Deneb.”

“Right, sir. System axis, up, Point D as in Deneb. Give us three minutes.”

Commander Marin went to the macroscope and began an anxious search of the planet’s surface, clicking through a dozen wavelengths. “There’s a window at about 3000 angstroms, nothing good. The scouts will have to do all of it.”

“I’m glad I never trained as a scout,” remarked Second Officer Walgrave.

“Otherwise I also might be sent down upon strange and quite possibly horrid planets.”

“A scout isn’t trained,” Deale told him. “He exists: half acrobat, half mad scientist, half cat burglar, half-”

“That’s several halves too many.”

“Just barely adequate. A scout is a man who likes a change.”

Note that the books begins with two scouts. By the end of chapter two, one of those scouts is dead.(!)

And later, we learn that sword play is a basic element of a Scout’s training:

Reith took the rapier which presently was tendered him. He hefted it, whipped the blade back and forth. Never had he handled so supple a sword, and he had handled many, for swordsmanship was an element of his training.

While the Planet of Adventure books don’t have the feel of the post-80s Classic Traveller product line, I can easily see it being the kind of thing the could have inspired an entire campaign of Traveller back in the ’70s. In the books you’ll find:

  • A mix of low tech and high tech
  • Interstellar travellers defying dangerous odds
  • An exotic world to explore
  • Mysteries in the form of ecology and culture that must be unraveled if one is to survive



Issue #40 of The Space Gamer in the Summer of 1981 was a Special Traveller Issue.

Eight pages of the issue are devoted the world of Tschai! The article include a map of Tschai, random animal encounters, random NPC encounters, and descriptions of Tschai’s warring races.

You can find a scan of the issue here at The Space Gamer Archive. The Tschai section begins on page 17.

You can get a PDF of the issue (that you can download) here at Steve Jackson Games.

As the article suggests, there are countless hours of adventure to be had on Tschai. But, more importantly, reading the text brings home how the rules of orignal Traveller line up so well with the kind of pulp SF adventure that Miller had stuffed his head with before he began working on the Traveller rules.



2 thoughts on “More Classic Traveller Literary Inspiration!

  1. Have not read these. I tried the Demon Princes books but after three I decided to put them on hold as they are a bit too samey for me. Plus the Hero having infinite resources made it less interesting for me.

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