Classic Traveller Rules In Action, But Not In Space

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One of the main themes of my posts about Classic Traveller is to look at the rules found in the box and to focus on how to play the game. (This is in contrast to not looking at the rules and how to play, and focusing instead on years of yammering about a setting and how it doesn’t make sense but could make sense if only everyone argued about it for another 40 years.) It is has been my belief that Classic Traveller has an excellent system for running loose and fun RPG sessions–independent of anything to do with starships or the implied setting found in the basic rules.

Recently, at a local convention, I had a chance to give this notion a test drive.

I decided to run an RPG session one evening on the fly. I hadn’t planned to run Classic Traveller but two of my friends and one of their friends who had never played an RPG all wanted a game and I volunteered to run something. I had a dice bag, index cards, and whatever PDF I had posted on this blog.

I decided to use the Classic Traveller rules as my framework. They are simple, flexible, and crazy easy to run if Old School Referee-driven-adjudication is your thing.

I established a setting: A mythic kind of place in Eternal Winter and Eternal Night. The Sun had been taken away generations ago. The PCs would be from a village along the coast where fishing still took place. A few scattered communities existed across dark, snow-covered lands. Trade existed, as well as marriages across communities.


I handed out an index card to each player for characters: “Assign the values 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 to STR, DEX, END, INT, EDU, and Social Status. Add +2 to two of those, or a single +4 to one. Give yourself a profession and write that on the top of the card. You character can do all thing things that that profession can do. Then add three more skills, the things you are really good at, which might tie to your profession or be something else. Assign a +1, a +2, and a +3, respectively to each of the skills as you see fit. Tell me who your character cares about in the village. Tell me about the god your character pays homage to. Give your character a name.”

We ended up with the chieftain’s bard, the chieftain’s thane, a whaler who loved his sons, and a witch who lived outside the walls of the town with her ailing sister.


I came up with a situation: There had been a kin-killing on the seas when two clans fought over the kill of a whale and The God of the Deep had stopped sending fish up to the surface from the ocean’s bottom. The village would die.

The PCs ended up going to the underworld to find the dead man who had not been given proper burial and returning him to the mortal world. While they were in the land of the dead the PCs saw the sun in the sky (for it, too, had died long ago) and brought back new hope to their village that the sun might return.

I ran the game a little bit like HeroQuest in that a single roll generally handle a full conflict and then we moved on to fallout and new choices. (We had only four hours and had spent some time creating the setting. I wanted to keep things moving along.

I didn’t use a single rule book or reference anything but some notes I scribbled while the Players made characters.

It was kind of RPG Convention Gold. We had a blast.

In essence, I approached resolving situations as I’ve outlined in two posts I wrote a while back. As I discovered while running my Improvised Classic Traveller Convention Game at the previous convention, my assumptions about how robust and effective the Classic Traveller are seems to be paying off for fun times at the gaming table.


6 thoughts on “Classic Traveller Rules In Action, But Not In Space

    • Actually, it was a post at ODD74 site I read a while back that sent me down this path:

      Here’s the post, in which someone uses the CT rules to run a game of Cthuhlu World War II in a one-shot with his son:

      Just checking in… I haven’t posted since April (but have been reading daily and keeping up with the group). I’ve played OD&D with my son several times, but caught the “Traveller Fever” after buying the PDF’s of the first 3 Little Black Books.

      As much as I like OD&D I am finding that Classic Traveller is something equally as great. I’ve discovered that Classic Traveller (CT from here on out) really packs a punch and is an elegant little system that really works (and is also great for homebrewing). I can mix and match Technology Levels without creating an unbalanced system of resolution and also use the statistical aspect of characters for saving rolls with a bit of modification (subtracting Stats from the F base [F being the equivalent of 15 using the Base 16 method of numbering] and trying to roll over the result with Damage Modifiers.

      I recently ran a Cthuhlu World War II one-shot with my son. It worked better than CoC or BRP and was less intrusive of a system than just about anything I’ve run (except OD&D). Oh, and the horror in my son’s eleven year old eyes when he discovered the child that the Nazi’s had locked away in a monastery was really a horrid tentacled beast that could only be killed by the self sacrifice by one of the NPCs who he’d really grown to depend upon. Honestly, probably one of the best one-shots we’ve had together.

      I haven’t really gotten into the Sci-Fi apsect of CT as much as using it as a mechanism to run modern, 1700’s and mixed technology settings. Long story short, I am finding that I am turning to using CT for one-shots with my son and using OD&D for our campaigns.

      That being, I am working on using various SRD’s and awaiting the upcoming Mongoose Traveller SRD to create a Gritty Medieval Setting (sorry, no magic). I’ll post a link on this thread once I’m “legal” with using only SRD’s and not inserting anything that’d be considered a violation of copyright. I’m not developing a Magic System with what I’m working on, but the whole thing will be OGL so you’ll be able to modify it and use it however you see fit (heck, you can even package and sell what you make when your done with OGL). I am including ancient guns, cannons and such so it’ll be more realistic (and yes, life is cheap as there aren’t character “levels” and character’s depends more on CON or Endurance Stats for HP’s).

      Character creation is similar to CT and “older and more mature” characters are created with backgrounds. For those who like more control there is a “Buy” system of acquiring skills, and even an option for “pick-n-choose.” Still, a lot of this aspect must wait until the final Mongoose Traveller SRD is released and depends on what makes the SRD and what doesn’t.. Although it includes “Classes” of a sort, it still is more skill based like CT was.

      It’s a Skill Based System so it won’t be everyone’s thing, but still, it’ll be a freebie that you can add to your PDF collection (once the SRD’s finalize and my project is finished). Oh yeah, it is entirely 2d6 (except for damage when variations of d6’s come into play).

      Ha, like anyone who’s read my posts would have to ask if it is 2d6 or not…

    • Not necessarily, to my mind. I’ve run a variety of horror-mystery-twilight zone like stuff using Over the Edge (which uses 2d6, 3d6, and 4d6 rolls) that has less developed skills than the above system. I’ve been toying with running a merged game of OTE and classic traveller 2d6 style mechanics just to provide a little bit more granularity than OTE’s rules do. Emphasis on ‘a little’. I think the CT 2d6 mechanics provide a sufficient broad brush approach to keep things simple and fast. I really like the example above and think it shows the strentgh of the CT mechanics very well. And, as written, it provides the spec for a Cthulhu-esque implementation. You assign stats as described. Since you have Social Status I’d go for an 1890s or 1920s Cthulhu setting myself. And I’d look up the professions listed in my Cthulhu rules and suggest them as examples – but not limited to that. If I had time I’d maybe brainstorm a few deliberately outside the normal set that seemed reasonable just so the players would get the hint. And as you’re using a character’s profession plus background story as developed by you with the player to determine their overall competence, developing the requisite 2d6 roll target no. and DMs shouldn’t be too hard.

  1. Classic Traveller is timeless regardless of whether people break their rigid thinking…

    Great post. Interesting use of Traveller. It does seem like it has all you need as a base to build on for pretty well any genre you might want to play.

  2. Pingback: The Heart of the Classic Traveller Rules — For Me | Tales to Astound!

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