Once the powers-that-be at GDW had made up their mind that a new edition of Traveller was needed, a complete makeover was attempted on the Trav system. Most importantly, the new edition was brought in line with the new GDW “House Rules”, back when companies were trying to mimc SJG and a couple other companies and create common rules for all their systems. The other was to figure out the answer to the question from MegaTraveller of “so who won?”.

Their answer was…nobody. An AI Virus, a modified silicon life form that had been driven insane in a weapons lab was accidentally released on warring fleets and those warring fleets spread it throughout the Imperium, its surrounding neighbors and every Traveller mailing list and bulletin board apparently. Almost immediately there were divided camps on the subject. Some loved the new idea, solidified in the great compilation/teaser product Survival Margin. Others flat out hated it.

I was safely in the “love it” category. I did. Everything about it seemed like a good idea to me. I admit I was a little bummed to see the factions I was cheering on take one up the tail pipe, but ultimately without GDW “declaring a winner”, and even if they did, there would never be resolution and the Imperium wouldn’t be the same. We couldn’t have the “Bobby in the Shower” do-over a la Dallas. We had to live with the setting GDW had provided, and it was pretty damn bleak.

Traveller New Era was wonderful for several reasons. For one, you could actually play it again, after the errata-ridden monster that was MegaTraveller’s rule set. This, sadly had the effect of also over-simplifying certain things including character creation (still “built” characters, but less detail).

I was a big fan of the big ships from the earlier additions of Traveller as well. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the latent Star Wars fan in me that I like the big capital ships, but TNE originally didn’t have any, putting them either beyond the scope of the game or as “Vampires” to be avoided, Virus-ridden old warships that were all death-trap and no fun. I can see the reason for this. Small ships make for easier player control, but still. Arrival Vengeance, which I’ve previously mentioned, had already proven that “big ship” campaigns were possible and in some cases more interesting than “small ship” campaigns. Why not have the big ships?

The addition of material for the Regency brought some of these back and I got the feeling they intended to bring back even more before the “Great Fall” when the company sadly had to close its doors.

When I say this was a game that some loved and some didn’t, I’m really not giving the “situation” its due. The love was and is strongly apparent in a core group. We all helped chip in to create the BARD pages for goodness’ sake; a collection of information intended to enhance and color the universe left behind as vacuum by the departing GDW. A new mailing list (the tne-rces list) was set up just for TNE fans, away from the flame wars and badgering of the old TML and Xboat lists.

I have yet to see a game bring forth such hate from such adoring fans of the overall system. To this day I’m not sure why. The “ivory tower” Imperium suddenly became this harmonious standard everyone had liked to play in until GDW f’ed it up with MegaTrav and TNE. I would often remind people with such opinions that the “idealized” Imperium was rife with corruption, disenfranchisement and evil, just as much as the later stage systems. It was all point of view, but the damage caused by the destructive forces in the game existed at different levels. At the very least, I had no idea some Traveller fans were so virulently monarchist. 🙂

I loved the TNE settings because they allowed for exploration and starting fresh in a ruined Imperium. There was an actual “Wilds” that was unexplored and full of dangers and loot (pretty much what gamers love the most). The old Imperium, even the war setting had been so consumed by static behavior or engagement that it became stifling to have players really make a difference and thrive in the campaign setting. TNE gave me a chance to exercise my favorite plot devices in a game…that one small group can make a big difference in the lives of others in the game.

I also really enjoyed the new races that were now more heavily explored than ever before. The Schalli, dolphin-like, were interesting and a nice addition since Dolphins were not as popular in the RC’s part of the Old Expanses. Hivers had never had such a prominent role, nor had their Ithklur warriors. I thought their addition was outstanding. You could even do something with the K’Kree if you really wanted to. After all, they were supposed to be the cause of the Puppeteer strain developed and sent out from the “Black Curtain”. After reading David Nilsen’s comments on GDW’s plans of where they wanted to go with the setting, it sounded like it was going to be an incredible amount of fun.

Again and alas, GDW wouldn’t survive to see it happen. TNE was a system orphaned before its time. Its untimely demise and many of our personal devotions to the game caused us to feel orphaned too as game owners, not the least for all the plots and ideas left half-developed or on the drawing board. A real shame.

The worst of it was that sadly this would set the stage for many of us to buy into a system that few of us under normal circumstances would’ve given a plug nickel to had we known better and in advance, the infamous Traveller 4 or T4.