Traveller: Society in Decline or Post Apocalyptic?

First of all Classic Traveller is a work of brilliance. As Marc W. Miller said he started the game design by reading through sf, and nowhere did anyone tell how much fuel it took to get to Alpha Centauri. He made all that stuff up and he was first! 

Second, it gave you the ground rules for a Universe, in three little black books (LBBB) or The Traveller Book. The price then was not high enough to bankrupt anyone. 

Third, the rules themselves had and have their fans. In fact, many Traveller games to this day are run are run as Proto Traveller -they use the LLBs and maybe Supplement Four -Citizens of the Imperium (SS4). Okay I use snub pistols and a couple weapons from Book Four -Mercenary. But for the purpose of this discussion let's say just the LBBs and SS4. There's no Third Imperium. what do the rules and equipment say about this Universe? 

You can interpret it a lot of different ways. My take away was always that high technology gadgetry was fairly conservative. The only personal weapons that you couldn't find in a National Guard Armory were the laser carbine and rifle. Armor has a few surprises: Reflec, Ablative, and Battle Dress. There were a lot of opportunities to get expertise with bladed weapons. No robots, no androids, no cloning. The really high tech stuff was all big and bulky: m-drives, j-drives, fusion reactors... computers.

A lot has been said about ship computers, a Model 1 approximated a 486, if you were generous. It took up 14 cubic meters! This was 70's thinking. For a similar take I turn to Professor Frank of Springfield Heights Institute of Technology:

Well, sure, the Frinkiac-7 looks impressive, don't touch it, but I predict that within 100 years, computers will be twice as powerful, 10,000 times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them.

I feel all this means the  Porto Traveller setting is a world that experienced one or more awful events that led to society restricting the levels of technology and the amount of high tech available. Maybe there was a Butlerian Jihad or Robot Uprising. People stuck with dumber machines that didn't want to one up organics. 

Or the tons for the computers reflected work stations and access. I do it that way when I draw deck plans. Or maybe the estimates of computer power are way off. Maybe j-drives, reactors, artificial gravity, and m-drives need a lot of monitoring. But there is the matter of portable technology. I get the feeling my phone is about as useful as their portable computer, which fits on a forearm guard. 

So maybe this is the tech in use on the Frontier, big, easy to repair and ruggedized and as hard to kill as a cockroach on steroids. There might be more powerful, sleeker portable computers available but unless your Social Standing is D or higher, you won't see them.

Then there's the nobility. Don't give me that guff about Social Standing representing all manner of status even in democratic societies. We're looking at the LBBs and there are noble titles in this setting. Baron sounds way better than say, Junior Senate Member of the Fiduciary Committee. Now nobility pretty much arises as warlords and despots in really rotten times. After subduing the threats and the locals they wind up in charge and eventually come up with all manner of bells and whistles for their new position. Again you need bad times for them to arise. Like a Robot Rebellion or at least widespread warfare and destruction. 

Technology can be a game changer, robots can take jobs. "Oh your new computer will administrate the planet far more efficiently than the regime? The Duke would like a word with you..." "Your robots will do all manual labor? The Union Chief would like a word with you..." "I have replaced all human labor in my factories with robots. Who cares if the entire planet is out of work? Oh, the populace is rioting and the Duke and Union Chief want a word with me..."

Note in the case of a rebellion, it will not get very far if the bulk of the population has rifles and auto pistols and they're going against troops armed with laser weapons and wearing Battle Dress. 

Hoarding tech, people who were a few generations (or one generation) removed from warfare and barbarism, Anti-tech movements, and repressive hereditary rulers can make for an intriguing background. I'd play in it.



  1. Eh, 14 kiloliters is just about room for a small desk and a chair, which makes a Model/1 a desktop.

    That said, the idea of a Traveller universe being one in the process of socioeconomic collapse is a potentially fruitful one, and one that was explored in much more detail in the Hard Times supplement for MegaTraveller. It would for sure be interesting to incorporate a "Butlerian Jihad" analog into a larger campaign framework. One of the effects of Virus in the Traveller: The New Era milieu was to give a massive hit to computer technology (which was supposed to then be replaced by Virus becoming a sort of AI partner as the timeline went on, but GDW went out of business first; I understand that there is some material that did make it to print under various companies over the intervening years).

    Also, Citizens of the Imperium is Supplement 4. Special Supplement 4 is The Lost Rules, a collection of differences between the original LBB77 and revised LBB81 editions. The Special Supplements were minor supplemental material, like expanded information on exotic atmospheres or the details and design sequences for space combat missiles. The Supplements were more complete supplementary material, though the first couple were more valuable before computer gaming assistant software was more widely available.

  2. Thank you I will correct it.


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