Wooden Ships and Iron Men, or “Yes, the Map Really Is Flat”: The Two-Space Traveller Project
This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of the downloadable PDF magazine.
For most of 35 years, the Traveller community has been looking at Traveller, and playing Traveller, and playing with Traveller, and saying that it’s fit for more than Space Opera/Science Fiction gaming. Until Paul Elliot wrote Mercator, though, low-tech, though regularly acknowledged as possible, wasn’t really supported except as an adjunct to a “normal” campaign, or as the occasional half-formed idea that wasn’t followed through except maybe in a personal one-off.
At the same time, much was made about the connection between Traveller and the historical “Age of Sail”—but, again, nobody took the next step.
Then, in 2004, Baen Books released The Two-Space War, by Dave Grossman and Leo Frankowski, and in 2007, a sequel, The Guns of Two-Space, by Dave Grossman and Bob Hudson. These books represented a completely different melding of Space Opera and the Age of Sail from any that had been seen before—or since.
After about the third reading, the editor decided that there really was some potential there, and wrote to the author and publisher with an idea… and received permission to try it! The “Two-Space Traveller” project was born, and a small working group was put together. Unfortunately, that group didn’t make much progress, and the project was shelved, with a promise by the editor, to the editor, that it wasn’t dead. This, and the August contest announcement, represent the “un-shelving” of the project, with the eventual aim of generating not one, but two sourcebooks for the project: one will be a “generic” Two-Space sourcebook, with rules that can be used for any setting in which the basic ideas behind Two-Space apply; the other will be specific to the setting portrayed in the two novels.
But enough about the nearly-aborted history of the project: since you’re being invited to participate, you’re going to want to know what the goals are, with a few more specifics about them…
(By the way… while it’s not a requirement, it’s strongly recommended that you read the two novels, both available at $5 each from Baen’s e-book publishing arm at http://www.webscription.net. Formats for most of the major e-readers are supported, as well as Microsoft Word and HTML. They’re entertaining stories, even though they’re more “Space Fantasy” than “Space Opera” or “Science Fiction”.)
Separate out the basic principles from the setting-specific details. When Messrs Grossman, Frankowski, and Hudson were writing the novels, they were looking primarily to tell stories, not play RPGs. The “rules” that they wrote for the setting were for the story setting, and only written for what was needed to support the stories. Just as we generally agree on certain principles making a game “Traveller”, we want to find the principles that define “Two-Space” in general, as opposed to the specific story universe. We have some authors’ notes to share for the purposes of the project.
Define the basic careers. As the novels were written, they portray the various Two-Space naval organizations as essentially the only space-going organizations, and handling not just defense, but trade, travel, colonization, and even the mail. This need not be the case for a generic Two-Space, so we will want to define a set of careers to support both.
Adjust rules for low-tech. Speed, range, and accuracy are all generally poorer than at high-tech; high-tech materials are not available, meaning that e.g., armor of equal protection value is heavier, and so on.
Adjust equipment lists. Some equipment simply won’t be available (e.g., energy weapons); other equipment will be less capable (e.g., pistols will have slower RoF, among other limitations); still other items will have at best only roughly corresponding equivalents (e.g., no rifles, just rifled muskets). Additionally, in some settings, it may be necessary to distinguish between items designed for use in Two-Space vs. Three-Space.
Generate campaign material. This is a longer-term goal, and need not be part of the initial efforts of the working group—in fact, it’s probably best left until the other goals are mostly worked out. Still, it’s an essential part of supporting an alternative setting properly.
If you’re interested in participating, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and say so—we’ll be setting up a mailing list once we’re ready to go...