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*Freelance Traveller

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#20: Mixed Feelings

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2016 issue.

It’s happened before, in 1987 and 1993. Then again in 1996 and 1998. These are the dates, of course, of the release of MegaTraveller, Traveller: The New Era, Marc Miller’s Traveller, and GURPS Traveller, respectively. 2002 and 2007 might also be added for Traveller20 and Traveller HERO. And 2008 and 2013 for the current Mongoose Traveller and Traveller5.

Each time referees and players have faced learning new rules. Each time there’s been the adjustment of things not being quite as they were before. Some changes have been bigger—TNE’s switch to the standardized Game Designers’ Workshop rules is one example. Some might cite GURPS, particularly with its Imperial units of measurement. Some have even introduced dice of different shapes to the traditional d6! Some have been smaller adjustments—the change from the original Traveller to Mongoose Traveller, for example. This is before you even start to think about setting revisions which are also the subject of much pain and loathing on occasions, even when they’re fascinating.

Of course, not everyone has been through every change. There are those who’ve steadfastly stuck with ‘classic’ Traveller and know no other system as though they were some kind of heresy. There are those embedded in the GURPS multiverse and the opportunity for switching between settings. There are no doubt those who were introduced to Traveller with Mongoose and know nothing else. There may even be fans for whom T5 is the bible and no other version will do. Some of course may have switched once or twice—as I did from the original rules to MegaTraveller and then Mongoose. (Which isn’t to say I haven’t loved other editions, just that I’ve not played under them or had to learn actual rules1.)

Soon, it’s been announced, we’ll have another date to add to the roll call above: 2016. Mongoose Publishing have announced a second edition of their rule set to be published next year. It’s different enough to be considered a new version with skills, for example, changing. Conversion between 2008 and 2016 rules shouldn’t be difficult, but it will be an adjustment, more to learn (and unlearn) and more choices of what a referee wants to manage.

Naturally I understand the need to be contemporary although that seems to mean designing pages with text on graphics that are difficult to read. Of course I understand the need to appeal to new generations of gamers who don’t have any knowledge of what’s gone before. I can even see something of the sexiness of isometric deckplans even though they are rather useless for placing characters or objects accurately. The revision isn’t aimed at the likes of myself who is no doubt going to come to cherish it eventually regardless of any faults. I just struggle with having to learn, for example, combat again when I still battle with the 2008 version because I do it so little. Or I wonder how much it’s a way of selling the same setting material yet again. Or I feel daunted by having to revise manuscripts not yet submitted for publication to meet the new standards. Or I wish, sometimes, that more attention was paid to getting the basics right—such as editing and proofreading—rather than the flash and the whizzy. And I really feel for those third party publishers who’ve invested a lot already in supporting material which will now feel outdated even if it’s still excellent and useful.

But I’m also excited to see Traveller breaking new ground; attracting new players; introducing new aspects of rules or settings that we’ve not seen before. I’m delighted that Mongoose’s recent slowing of titles isn’t due to losing interest but due to their work on the new edition. I’m thrilled that Traveller continues to go from strength to strength. Long may that continue. And I’m sure that I’m going to enjoy creating, and playing and writing with the new book(s). I wish Mongoose all the best with the venture and despite my mixed feelings want the future to get on and arrive now.

1 That’s not quite true. I have waded through two different editions of GURPS character generation in order to provide stats for JTAS contributions and I’m pretty certain I have some unused MMT bits and bobs in my files.