For the longest time after Imperium Games folded, I more or less forgot about Traveller. I read some of the books and occasionally visited the web sites in the Traveller web ring, but I had more or less written off that there’d be anything new of interest regarding the venerable old game. It was now truly an orphaned system, I thought.

Then there was a rumbling in the industry gossip that Steve Jackson Games was going to print some new material for Traveller in the GURPS system. I was a fairly recent convert to GURPS, but I had grown to like the system rather quickly. Put simply, I liked the detail and character development.

There was a downside to the new printing, though (isn’t there always?). This version would completely exclude the concept of the Rebellion from MT and Virus from Traveller. It was a reset, set in 1116 where the Emperor was not killed and there was no war. As a fan of both those settings, this was disheartening. I felt like all the work put into those settings by fans since GDW’s collapse and all their hope that we’d see more “official” material from some corner were dashed. Nothing, it seemed, would be forthcoming.

I admit I wasn’t pleased. I went to DragonCon that year, where Loren Wiseman himself was hosting a Q&A on the GURPS release. I sat there fuming as he talked about the new setting and stated that there had been a general consensus (it was felt mostly be agreement between Steve Jackson and Marc Miller) that the Rebellion and especially Virus were hoakey and not really worth revisiting. They wanted what many of the classic Traveller fans had wanted since the release of MegaTraveller…a do-over.

It took awhile for me to actually pick up the GURPS Traveller book. It didn’t take me as long to pick up the second book. There were many reasons, not the least being the high quality of the material and solid SJG production values. I was still not happy that the history rewrite was considered the new “canon”, but there was no denying these books were good. There was a selection of art, mixed along with extreme detail that hadn’t been seen since the old Digest Group Productions (DGP) books for MT all those years previous.

Any Traveller fan could find something worthwhile in the books and about every angle, career and race of consequence would eventually be covered by the series of Traveller books. It is often said that more material was published for GT than for Classic Traveller, and that might in fact be the case, volume-wise. Each book was packed with information, some rewritten and some new.

The best thing for me was that, being GURPS, the information was so malleable that you could if you wanted to modify it for use with another setting, like MT or TNE’s settings. There was still no new information for those eras (would there ever be?), but at the very least there was new Traveller material and a creative GM could make do. Like many others, I did just that.

I have to give credit to Loren Wiseman. He had no small task. He had to resurrect Traveller’s prestige and get people to buy an alternate timeline, all from a fan base that was more rabid and more unforgiving than any other game’s (I personally believe). The end result along with the resurrection of the Journal of the Traveller’s Aid Society was, for lack of a better word, miraculous.

This product line renewed my faith in Traveller in general and the belief that it could be a viable system with new and innovative material for a sci-fi RPG setting still. It’s also the reason I’m even contemplating buying some T5 books, so thank Loren for that one, Marc. 🙂

I was perusing my collection, trying to single out one book that I thought was better than most and one that really exemplified the praise I’d heaped upon it above. The latest it turns out is probably the one I liked best, although it’s due to a little personal bias.

GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars was produced as a bridge product to help convert over to the new 4th Edition GURPS rules. It was also produced to highlight a fan-favorite period in Traveller history: First Contact. The quality of the material in the book was excellent and the storyline was about as thorough as could be hoped for, with a myriad of ideas for role playing mixed in.

Where did the personal bias come in? Short story long, years before a very talented fellow named Chris Griffen and myself, both Traveller fanatics, came up with an idea to pitch to Marc Miller a supplemnt for his T4 series on the Interstellar Wars era of the First Imperium. We created an outline, fleshed out some basics for the book and brainstormed to an incredible degree on what the book would look like. We even spoke to Marc, who was receptive of an idea assuming we could produce a good treatment for his review. We never really got the opportunity. T4 folded soon after and by the time GT came out with its Rebellion and Virus-killing storyline Chris and I had largely become disenchanted and shelved the idea.

Imagine my surprise to see the book written some years later for GURPS. First was shock, quickly followed by a pleasant feeling that someone had done the work for me. If any of you harbor notions that it’s glamorous or fun to write role playing games, you likely should check yourself in to the local nut house. It’s tiresome, often thankless work. Labor of love describes it more perfectly than any other discipline, I believe. So to see someone had already done it was quite a thrill. All that remained was to see how they had treated the idea.

The work was impressive. There was no denying that. Interstellar Wars may be one of the best books ever put out for Traveller, and it’s not even set in the “classic” period. And it also helps define GURPS as the gold standard for quality in the Traveller line. Never was it so better produced and with such a wide array of new and veteran talent as under the GURPS umbrella. Hats off to Loren, the writing crew and even Marc. Smart play on that one.

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