What will the future look like in the future? That seems to describe Traveller more than anything. Traveller has gone through a d20 revision *shudder* and now the revised T5 system, which seeks to pull some of the best of the previous systems and fuse them together. In each case, there was the feeling that it was just “reinventing the wheel”, trying to find a way to stay relevant amongst the latest generation of RPG’s.

T20 definitely felt that way. Of course, everyone was doing OGL stuff. For some time after its inception, the Open Gaming License was seen as the quickest way to introduce or entice gamers who only had eyes for D&D over to whatever supplement or system you were selling. There’s not much to say about this unusual historical footnote.

T5 is most unusual in that it actually appears to have new content, instead of just rewritten old material and seems to be a genuine attempt at a refined game system; one that takes from several of its predecessors and tries to meld them into a working more efficient system.

The book layout and adventures for it remind me of a healthy system. Originally, I felt like Marc was once again just reprinting and rehashing old material. There seems to be more creative control and talent on these books, though than T4 had. Of course, that’s not saying much. The difference between the two is night and day. Another factor in T5’s favor is that Marc is working with Mongoose Publishing to get these books out. Of all the remaining gaming companies, I dare say Mongoose puts out the highest quality books (ok, maybe WOTC does better but not by much). My ownership of the B5 and Conan games attests to my confidence in that statement.

To date, I’ve had no interest in owning any of these books, for reasons I’ve previously mentioned. It is possible though that enough years have gone by that I might actually break down and buy T5’s material. It’s more and in some cases new material about a universe I’ve been a voracious fan of for decades now. That alone makes the material valuable.

The biggest oddball in all of this current crop of Traveller is not so current, but the most interesting at least as far as I’m concerned. I’ve spoken at length about Traveller: The New Era and how it fell short of its stated goals, not necessarily due to any faults of its own, but because its parent company was doomed to not survive it.

Those fans, I said, were orphans. Many rely on the parent company of any game to drive the story and to provide background material. The older RP gamers get, the less time we have to create things out of whole cloth and move the timeline forward in some systems. When this is done for us, by and large we are very greatful.

Case in point, a fellow named Martin J. Dougherty through a small publisher, Comstar Games (and Avenger Enterprises), gained the rights for a couple of years of book production via Marc Miller for Traveller: New Era wrap-up material.

Martin produced a whole ream of new material on the New Era’s aftermath, appropriately titled Traveller 1248. As the TNE setting originated in 1201, the point had always been to know how all the myriad plot points would pan out at the end of any logical campaign setting. Well, now we were to know.

Tragically, this series was cut short by the end of the license window and now these products are themselves in limbo. I’ve been able to find the first two sourcebooks, but the rest of the material (apparently mostly PDF format) remains ridiculously elusive. I still find myself practically giddy at the notion of being able to see even a small glimpse of the material. I do hope MJD is able to get these materials available again at some point. Quite frankly, waiting over 10 years only to find out you overshot by a year or two is more maddening that I’d care to consider.

On the upside to T5, Martin, who’s been producing quality material for a long time, looks to be doing a considerable amount of writing for the new Traveller 1105 setting. One thing (with the exception of much of T4) Traveller always had was access through one company or another to monumentally talented writers who were quite able to weave a satisfying story. Hell even T4 had its moments in this regard.

I for one am curious to see what the old girl still has in her, and I expect Traveller will be around for many years to come. She might be around till the stars fade and they come and turn out the lights on the RPG industry; fitting that she should be there at the end as she was at the beginning.