You know I’m not sure why they chose _Mega_ for MegaTraveller. It does sound impressive, doesn’t it? Regardless of their motivation, GDW by the time of the mid-80’s seemed to feel Traveller needed an overhaul.

A staple now of many successful gaming systems with elaborate campaign settings is the standard of the dynamic setting. In such cases, a setting can and often does change. The timeline advances and with it there are often unforseen changes for those who enjoy that setting. A case in point was Traveller’s morphing into MegaTraveller. A decision was made, never mind the reason, to shake things up a bit. Classic Traveller had as its principle setting the everlasting and rarely changing Imperium. Someone somewhere decided that was too monolithic. Players couldn’t affect change beyond say a system-wide issue. Interstellar changes as a result of their actions were only to be rare and highly unusual events.

MegaTraveller, which postulated the dissolution of the Imperium into several warring factions, changed all that. At no time is there greater chance for players to screw the whole pooch than when there’s lots of chaos, death and mayhem. An 11,000 world conflict, you could imagine, would be quite the setting to drive this point home.

It was at this stage that I actually started collecting Traveller for the first time; in its second incarnation. The initial books were complete enough that you could run the game from them and they were nicely packaged in a set. Also, every supplement that came after either advanced the storyline or helped develop some small part of it.

The quality in art and layout compared to the LBB’s was night and day. This was a true ’80’s game with all the new talent emerging in the field to fuel a really impressive product. Traveller had also used a means of proliferation and expansion that MegaTraveller continued, which I didn’t like. It used licensed producers of the product. In fan circles and from GDW alumni it is regarded as fact that GDW produced a new product every 22 days for 22 years. Imagine the scale of that. Try to find a modern RPG company that could match it. You can’t. Still, they found the need to license out to other companies the production of Traveller merchandise.

In the original classic Traveller, the most impressive notable subcontractors for Trav were RPG legends in their own right: FASA and Judge’s Guild. Their material was good, but also a lot harder to find than the straight-GDW material, hence my disdain overall for the idea.

MegaTrav made it worse. GDW contracted out some of their products to Digest Group Productions (DGP). These products were incredible and are considered some of the best to be produced for Traveller in detail and overall quality of layout. The Starship Operator’s Manual, Vilani & Vargr and Solomani & Aslan remain some of the hardest to find and most expensive of the old Trav products. Thus, I hate them. It’s a love-hate thing. I have ’em, but it took forever to acquire them. They were never offered by my local game store, which outside of the parent company was the only way to get a new game back in the ’80’s. You had no internet to get you by.

All the same, MegaTrav and the accompanying new setting won me over and I started collecting books for this series. The enhanced character creation, in my opinion even more detailed and impressive than that of Classic Trav, was a real winner. The clunky game system was not. Vehicle and starship combat rules, well, let’s just say if you honestly spent time trying to learn them you would need therapy afterwards. They were far too complex, even for gamers. Certainly it wasn’t the worst mechanics I’d ever run across (*COUGH* Fantasy Games Unlimited *COUGH*) but it was up there.

It was with MegaTrav that I finally fell for this particular GDW system and what got me on the road to collecting, in some cases, far more Traveller products than I should have.

If you played this, which faction did you back? I went for the Brotherhood of Varian first, but when they went straight terrorist I contemplated either Margaret or the “real” Strephon. I ended up thinking the “real” Strephon was the right horse to back and it turns out I was right.

One of my all time favorite supplements for any system also came from my initial foray into MegaTrav, Arrival Vengeance. This was a module centered around a grand tour of the Shattered Imperium in an absolute classic of a Traveller starship, the Azhanti High Lightning-class Arrival Vengeance. Read the review. There’s a reason why I liked it and it’s obvious. This was Star Trek in a war zone. Who could beat it?

The problem came late in the line when the uber-geniuses (and I use that as a term of endearment) at GDW were scratching their heads trying to figure out how to advance the timeline further. After you’ve bashed the Imperium into little bitty sheriff meatballs, how do you declare a winner? They apparently wrestled quite a bit with that question, but I (as one of a very few) genuinely liked the answer they ultimately arrived at.

New Era…here we come.

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