Traveller vs. Stars Without Number: the Thread: the Poll

What’s your SF go-to?

  • Traveller

    Votes: 14 58.3%
  • SWN

    Votes: 8 33.3%
  • other

    Votes: 2 8.3%

  • Total voters
    24

The Butcher

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What it says on the tin. I’m thinking of SWN2 vs. CT/MgT1/Cepheus but feel free to substitute for whatever edition you prefer. Or maybe some other game?

Traveller is a classic I’ve come into only in the last few years. I love how the system places the dangers of space travel up front and center, how it generates grizzled veterans with histories, and how it has a strong default setting and implied mode of play yet welcomes other settings and premises with little effort.

SWN is such a good toolbox. Even when playing Traveller I’ve used it’s fantastic planet generation tools to complement Traveller’s, and the support for stuff ranging from mecha to AÍ to transhuman body-swapping to actual frickin’ magic is amazing. But class-and-level in the D&D mold doesn’t strike me as a great fit for most SF games I’d like to run.

Please, please elaborate in the comments.
 
I have a weird position: id use the rules from Traveller, especially the brilliance of the character generation, but I’d use SWN for all the tables on creating planets, factions, npcs etc. One game for mechanics, the other for fluff and GM ideation.
 
Traveller does it for me.

In my view, the classic version of the game (1977) is truly among the most innovative of RPGs ever made. It introduced all of the ideas about planetary and system generation, life paths for characters, alien design, ship design, tech levels, randomised-tables-for-basically-everything and so on that we all take for granted today. It is the original 'tool box' RPG. The initial success after it's 1977 release may have something to do with the release of Star Wars in the same year (and why it wasn't ever quite as dominant in the scifi rpg market after the first licensed Star Wars RPG came out ten years later), but it's sleek little black box design with minimal art must have felt pretty futuristic at the time.

With the modern Mongoose version of the game, I find an engine that is as simple to run as any game engine I have ever run, and the sub-systems within it - especially character and planetary generation - are just fun to play with. The Pirates of Drinax campaign which I have been running for a year or so now, and has plenty of running time left in it, is a varied and absorbing set of scenarios and adventures with lots of humour and colourful NPCs, while the general support of the game is pretty huge (and has a huge back catalogue from previous editions too).

With Traveller we have support for campaigns (or soon to be coming out) to play space pirates, deep space exploration (The Great Rift), the wild west in space (Spinward Marches), high command in massive imperial vessels (Element Cruiser), and I'd imagine they'll get to the political imperial campaign (around the Imperial centre or the old Solomani region), mercenary units, psions (both due next year) and maybe robots after then. This is all within the same Third Imperium setting, although you could open the system up to alternative settings (which was more prevelant in the last edition and, to a degree in the original Classic version of the game).

I've had a look at Stars Without Numbers, and it seemed to me like the same idea of Traveller married to a D&D-style system. This is fine, but the major difference of course is that it doesn't have 40 years of history or support. And I prefer rolling 2D6 for scifi, I guess.
 
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SWN is an impressive conversion of Traveller to D&D, but the only reasons that I can see to use it over Traveller are because you have a group that won't play anything but D&D or because you really want to reskin D&D monsters as alien creatures or use D&D magic items as alien artifacts.

Like others have said, use Traveller and just take ideas from Stars Without Number.

I've had a look at Stars Without Numbers, and it seemed to me like the same idea of Traveller married to a D&D-style system. This is fine, but the major difference of course is that it doesn't have 40 years of history or support. And I prefer rolling 2D6 for scifi, I guess.

I feel obliged to mention that SWN does use 2d6 for skill rolls. It's the Traveller skill system bolted onto D&D. It means that if you want to import subsystems the rely on skill use into SWN, there is usually very little work. For example, PCs mainly interact with the space combat rules in Traveller by making skill rolls. That means it almost effortless to bring those rules into SWN.
 
I have a weird position: id use the rules from Traveller, especially the brilliance of the character generation, but I’d use SWN for all the tables on creating planets, factions, npcs etc. One game for mechanics, the other for fluff and GM ideation.
In fairness, that's the intended design for all SN products; it hugely increases the potential audience for them.
 
Between the two of them, Stars Without Number all the way. It's easier for most RPG players to grok thanks to its D&D B/X chassis, its GM support is second to none, and it isn't tied to the frigging Third Imperium with support for mecha and "magic."

I admit though that I am biased against Traveller, so take my opinion with two grains of salt. I really tried to get into Traveller with Mongoose Traveller Second Edition seeing as science-fiction is my jam, but between the Traveller grognards at Citizens of the Imperium and elsewhere, and that I am still waiting for the physical Mongoose Traveller 2E Great Rift set that I pledged to in the Great Rift Kickstarter which supposedly was shipped months ago yet I never received a shipping confirmation for, I am turned off from it.
 
In a head-to-head competition between Traveller and Stars without Number, I'd vote Traveller without hesitation. It has the chargen and the toolbox components I'd rather use.

I've always found SwN to be rather bland, and one of the least inspiring releases that Sine Nomine has produced. Admittedly, I haven't seen the 2nd edition of SwN, but it would have to be a dramatic change from 1e for me to get curious.

But if the question really is, "what's your Scifi go-to?". The answer is: neither. I'd much rather use WEG Star Wars, or Star Frontiers for anything pulpy and adventurous. And I'd likely use Jovian Chronicles (or Heavy Gear) for harder Scifi.
 
And I'd likely use Jovian Chronicles (or Heavy Gear) for harder Scifi.

What system does it use, Interlock?

I’d love to do something with the premise of JC, but I’m not sure I’d have the patience to learn the system at this point in life.
 
When SWN was first produced Traveller had open content but no retro-clone. What was open content required a lot of work to make into a standalone. But with the screw up with 3PP with the debut of Mongoose Traveller 2e, Traveller has a retro clone. Cepheus Game Engine.And not tied to any particular setting including the Third Imperium.
https://www.rpgnow.com/product/186894/Cepheus-Engine-System-Reference-Document

So the choices are different now. Either is worthy for folks wanting a straightforward method of playing a science fiction campaign.
 
I admit though that I am biased against Traveller, so take my opinion with two grains of salt. I really tried to get into Traveller with Mongoose Traveller Second Edition seeing as science-fiction is my jam, but between the Traveller grognards at Citizens of the Imperium and elsewhere, and that I am still waiting for the physical Mongoose Traveller 2E Great Rift set that I pledged to in the Great Rift Kickstarter which supposedly was shipped months ago yet I never received a shipping confirmation for, I am turned off from it.
I recieved my Great Rift set months ago, so all I can suggest there is that you communicate directly with Matt Sprange on the matter - you certainly should have got it.

With regards to Citizens of the Imperium grognards, they are a difficult bunch to say the least. You have my sympathies.
 
In a head-to-head competition between Traveller and Stars without Number, I'd vote Traveller without hesitation. It has the chargen and the toolbox components I'd rather use.

I've always found SwN to be rather bland, and one of the least inspiring releases that Sine Nomine has produced. Admittedly, I haven't seen the 2nd edition of SwN, but it would have to be a dramatic change from 1e for me to get curious.

But if the question really is, "what's your Scifi go-to?". The answer is: neither. I'd much rather use WEG Star Wars, or Star Frontiers for anything pulpy and adventurous. And I'd likely use Jovian Chronicles (or Heavy Gear) for harder Scifi.
Jovian Chronicles was my prefered scifi game in the 1990s, before I discovered Traveller (honestly, I hadn't heard of it until GDW collapsed). I'd say that both JC and HG were influenced a lot by anime cartoons, although JC did have vector based space travel which was neat.
 
When SWN was first produced Traveller had open content but no retro-clone. What was open content required a lot of work to make into a standalone. But with the screw up with 3PP with the debut of Mongoose Traveller 2e, Traveller has a retro clone. Cepheus Game Engine.And not tied to any particular setting including the Third Imperium.
https://www.rpgnow.com/product/186894/Cepheus-Engine-System-Reference-Document

So the choices are different now. Either is worthy for folks wanting a straightforward method of playing a science fiction campaign.

I was just looking at the Cepheus Engine titles on DriveThruRPG, and one of the comments made about five weeks ago mentions that there is a second edition in the works?
 
Traveller (1977 if I have to choose a version, followed by 1981/Starter/Traveller Book). I don't care for D&D mechanics and 20-sided dice very much. But Stars w/o Number makes a great supplement for world, plot, and scenario generation.
In fairness, that's the intended design for all SN products; it hugely increases the potential audience for them.
It's a smart move as I bought 2 of their books solely to use as supplements to Traveller and might consider more.
...it isn't tied to the frigging Third Imperium with support for mecha and "magic."
Reasons to get a copy of the original pre-Imperium edition of Traveller from 1977!
I feel obliged to mention that SWN does use 2d6 for skill rolls. It's the Traveller skill system bolted onto D&D. It means that if you want to import subsystems the rely on skill use into SWN, there is usually very little work. For example, PCs mainly interact with the space combat rules in Traveller by making skill rolls. That means it almost effortless to bring those rules into SWN.
:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
 
Reasons to get a copy of the original pre-Imperium edition of Traveller from 1977!
I discovered Traveller and Runequest at about the same time... and though I was instantly in love with their systems (no classes! no levels!) I never did take to their respective settings.
Well... I did a delve a bit further into the 3rd Imperium stuff than I did Glorantha, but that was mostly to get my hands on deckplans and such. I might have liked Traveller's setting a lot more if I'd been better grounded in its 'Appendix N', but all I knew of scifi at the time was snatches of Star Trek, Lost in Space, Dr. Who, and Star Wars.
 
I discovered Traveller and Runequest at about the same time... and though I was instantly in love with their systems (no classes! no levels!) I never did take to their respective settings.
Well... I did a delve a bit further into the 3rd Imperium stuff than I did Glorantha, but that was mostly to get my hands on deckplans and such. I might have liked Traveller's setting a lot more if I'd been better grounded in its 'Appendix N', but all I knew of scifi at the time was snatches of Star Trek, Lost in Space, Dr. Who, and Star Wars.
Traveller '77 doesn't have a setting. What edition did you start with? '81?
 
I'm basing my entire opinion on the box art. Traveler 1st edition had possibly the greatest visual presentation of any scifi RPG ever. And they didn't even need to use pictures...

Traveller-rpg.jpg
 
I'm basing my entire opinion on the box art. Traveller 1st edition had possibly the greatest visual presentation of any scifi RPG ever. And they didn't even need to use pictures...
:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup: just the one illustration on page 25 of Book1...
20181005_184704.jpg
...I contend that the lack of imagery goes a long way to eliminating preconceived notions of how Traveller "should" be played, what the technology level is, or what your campaign setting should be. Nothing to be annoyed or offended by, the only real "setting" information wouls be the jump drive and no communication faster than travel, both of which you can easily alter if you want a different feel. Definitely the best box and booklet designs ever for any game!
 
um, isn't that a Dore illustration from Gargantua & Pantagruel?
 
I’m glad you guys like it. When I first saw it, I was like “that’s it”?
 
Ive always liked space fantasy more than sci-fi. It’s just me.

I find they both press completely different buttons for me. Even though I know they are lumped into the same genre overall, I find them distinct enough that it's the difference between discussing a Victorian comedy of errors vs a Samurai epic - both "historical genre", but I can't really compare the two in any meaningful way. I like them both equally for completely different reasons.
 
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I find they both press completely different buttons for me. Even though I know they are lumped into the same genre overall, but I find them distinct enough that it's the difference between discussing a Victorian comedy of errors vs a Samurai epic - both "historical genre", but I can't really compare the two in any meaningful way. I like them both equally for completely different reasons.
Science fiction is barely a genre at all in any helpful sense. If I say a book is a mystery or romance, it gives you a pretty good idea what you are getting into, whereas a science fiction story can be following the conventions of any other genre out there.
 
Science fiction is barely a genre at all in any helpful sense. If I say a book is a mystery or romance, it gives you a pretty good idea what you are getting into, whereas a science fiction story can be following the conventions of any other genre out there.

Yeah, almost a "meta-genre" I guess. I think it mainly just exists as a means for organizing bookstores rather than serving any practical purpose. It gets really hard when some folks lump all of fantasy in with science fiction.
 
Science fiction is barely a genre at all in any helpful sense. If I say a book is a mystery or romance, it gives you a pretty good idea what you are getting into, whereas a science fiction story can be following the conventions of any other genre out there.
It's not a genre at all. It's just a set of trappings. Write a mystery, add a spaceship, it's science fiction. Write a horror story, place it on a space station, it's science fiction. Write a romance, put it on Moonbase Alpha, it's science fiction.
 
It's not a genre at all. It's just a set of trappings. Write a mystery, add a spaceship, it's science fiction. Write a horror story, place it on a space station, it's science fiction. Write a romance, put it on Moonbase Alpha, it's science fiction.

Pretty much the same way I fee about Superheroes. Although, confusingly, there are some distinctly superhero genres. I guess SciFi is the same. And I guess technically every superhero story is SciFi.
 
And I guess technically every superhero story is SciFi.
Mmmm... Thor and Wonder Woman and Dr. Fate and Dr. Strange and blah and blahblahblah... are more like fantasy to me. But then I'm one who thinks all 'scifi' is fantasy anyways...

Dumarest said:
Traveller '77 doesn't have a setting. What edition did you start with? '81?
Probably '81, but even then it's minimal. Though I quickly bought supplements for it (those brightly striped booklets were irresistable, on the spinning rack there along with Chainmail and The Arduin Grimoire).
Both Glorantha and the OTU seemed like example settings I was free to use, borrow from, or ignore.
 
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Not a huge fan of either, but I'm admittedly not as familiar with the Mongoose Traveler.

For me, it depends on what kind of SF campaign I'm running. I tend to work horror into most anything I run, so if it's built-in that's a bonus but not necessary.

1. Harder SF - set within the solar system. I like 'Shadows Over Sol' or I use CORPS.
2. Harder SF - multi-star-system setting. 'M-Space' (the SF version of Mythras), CORPS, 'Fires of Heaven' or 'Eldritch Skies' (the classic Unisystem version.) 'Thousand Suns' is close, need to give it another look.
3. Epic, sprawling space opera - not sure yet. Looking at 'Faith'. This is probably the category I've yet to find a satisfactory system for.
4. Best vaporware - I wish Zaon had been completed. This had it all. I still have the last playtest version...I should probably take a look and see if it actually made it to a playable state.
 
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