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Design Notes for Special Supplement 3: Traveller: 1700

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2020 issue.

Classic Traveller (CT) was my first role playing game and despite dalliances with others, it has remained the true love I return to again and again. I recognize it is imperfect – the space combat rules in Book 2 are personally incomprehensible, and I know that many dislike the rules about armor affecting a PC’s ability to hit an adversary. Regardless, I find many of the rules to be simple, elegant, and suitable for use beyond the science fiction genre. Somewhere during the past four decades I learned, and internalized, that CT’s best attribute is its adaptability to other settings unconstrained by the “Official” Traveller Universe or even “Adventures in the Far Future” in one form or another.

Inspired by Paul Elliott’s Mercator and based on my long-term interest in Colonial American History, I’ve created a ruleset for those who want try adventuring in the distant past – the Chesapeake Bay circa 1700 CE (Common Era, formerly called “anno domini” (AD) to avoid divisiveness). I call it Traveller: 1700 (T:17). In its creation and format, I have tried to emulate the original as much as possible to help readers more easily understand what I’ve written. As with all Traveller rulesets, it begins with Character Generation. While the 17th century was a dangerous place with a much shorter life expectation, these Character Generation rules are constructed to be fun while remaining true to the concept of the mini-game without the frustrating possibility of character death. Once generated, your characters should be well suited to explore, trade, fight and prosper in and around Virginia colony decades prior to that bit of unpleasantness revolting against the British Empire.

With but a little imagination, elements from many existing CT adventures can be adapted to Colonial North America: Shadows could be set among those odd earthen mounds of unknown but likely native origin along the Ohio river. The Annic Nova could just as easily be an unmanned sailing ship found adrift off the Virginia Capes. Twilight’s Peak could be reshaped to tell the tale of pre-Columbian visitors to North America. Prison Planet is universally applicable regardless of time or place. And Horde could be the story of Chamax bursting out of the Shenandoah valley and threatening the placid idylls of Tidewater because they are just so damn scary.

And if you prefer to use another ruleset than CT, please feel free to take this adaptation and adapt it further for compatibility with your preferred Traveller ruleset. I hope I have provided enough rules, descriptions and other elements – rumors, patrons, encounters – to get you up and running your own T:17 games as quickly and easily as possible. I welcome both your feedback and encourage you to further expand this setting with your own writings, ideally provided for publishing in the pages of Freelance Traveller. Jeff has been good to me, good to many of us, and keeping his noble pursuit alive with fresh material helps continue the decades-long run of success Traveller has enjoyed.

I intend to run a T:17 game at TravellerCon USA in October 2020 [Editor’s Note: Cancelled due to Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic] at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Please feel free to bring along any characters you have made for inclusion in that game, and/or let me know what problems you might have discovered or improvements you can suggest to further refine the world of, and rules for Traveller: 1700.

Editor’s Note: I do not have permission from the author to print contact information. However, if you send your comments to me at editor@freelancetraveller.com, I will most assuredly pass them on to Greg. Please ensure that you include an email address that you are willing to release to Greg, and also that you put “T:17” or “Traveller: 1700” in the subject line.

Traveller: 1700 may be downloaded separately from this issue of the magazine. It is formatted to A5 size as the closest standard size to the original Classic Traveller “Little Black Books”.