Tabletop RPG Podcast and Roleplaying Resources

Essential Traveller Rules


What are the essential rules to play Traveller? My below findings were from a campaign that Robert Eaglestone and I co-GM’d (he ran half the games, I ran the other half) over a calendar year. Additionally, I ran a couple of Con games. It was a total about 50 hours of gaming. Rules were mostly Classic Traveller with a smattering of T5 thrown in on occasion. Our main resource was The Traveller Book.

Here were the rules we actually used during the game.

Campaign Games


  • Character generation (since it was Classic Traveller this included potential death in character generation).
  • Skill checks
  • Characteristic checks (e.g. roll under Strength, no skills consulted.)


  • Combat (including damage, armor, and range rules)
  • Positive and negative die modifiers based on cover and other situations
  • Combats vs. animals
  • Mass combat rules for fighting large numbers of animals (mimicking the ‘Hordes/Chamax Plague’ probably rules to simplify combat vs. large numbers of creatures)

Vehicles & Ships

  • Dealing damage by strafing ground target with shots from our ship
  • Vehicle speed and vehicles taking damage
  • Effects on occupant when a vehicle is destroyed
  • Travel time from planet to orbit and between planets within a system

Gear & Trade

  • Cost and availability of various gear
  • Trading Tables (used once to calculator value of bales of high-quality hallucinogenic weed)
  • These were the only rules we used in our year-long campaign.

Rules We Hand-waved

The following rules were abstracted and handled narratively (no dice rolling)

  • Outside the game, ships were built and upgraded with armament, but the only thing that came in the play was ground strafing
  • Jump rules and refueling ships (no dice rolls)
  • Buying, selling and trade (didn’t use accounting tables; we hand-waved the accounting and said ‘you made enough to buy a ship’ or what have you)
  • A mass battle between starships
  • A nuclear explosion
  • Welding a hole through a hull
  • EVA

Con Games

The following additional rules came up during two convention games I ran:

  • Fatigue
  • Space hazards such as asteroids, x-ray burst and gravity sheers and their effect on a ship
  • Damage on occupants of a spaceship when a ship was hit from the above effects
  • Effects of ship damage on ship systems (e.g. grav plates malfunctioning) and the subsequent skill checks to repair of those systems
  • Gambling almost came up (bar scene in The Neutron Star Directive) but didn’t have time to get into that

Solo Gaming

The other thing I’ll call out is that there is another type of game in Traveller, what I’ll call GM Solo Gaming. This is worldbuilding, building vehicles, rolling up characters, etc. I’m not including those activities in the above list, although that is certainly a great thing in and of itself. I would say GM Solo Gaming material doesn’t need to be in the core rulebook but can be located in a separate GM Guide.

Forum Comments on Essential Rules

Here are comments from Google+ on what others think are essential Traveller rules:

“Character advancement, i.e. acquiring new skills and improving old ones.”

“House rules such as: ‘Don’t use character death during characters generation. If you fail a survival roll, character generation ends. You immediately make an aging crisis check (as if one age group higher). You get your mustering out benefits and your character enters play with a medical discharge.'”

“Starship combat rules, but which ones? Players have preferences all over the map. One such poster said: ‘I use Mayday for adventurer level starship combat. The missile customization rules are awesome. For big battles, these days, I use MJ12’s Starmada AE or Starmada Fleet Ops. I never really much cared for the abstract nature of Highguard’s combat system. I guess it’s the war gamer in me.'”

“Psionics rules.”

“Alien character generation rules.”

“Once I get past character creation, ship creation, and the occasional planet creation, there is really only one rule that I find to be essential. You say you want to do something. the Ref has you roll 2D6. You add a couple of modifiers. If the total is 8+ you succeed at what you do.”

“I’ve been using that rule since 1979 and it has worked marvelously. Sure, depending on the group we concentrate more on the space combat rules, or ground combat, or skill use, or trading. For the most part, however, just the rule I stated above does 90% of the work for me.”

“I don’t think my last campaign used any rules beyond Books 1–3 and Supplement 4.”

“Then the question of what within that did we not use or handwave? I don’t think we actually designed any ships. We didn’t get into any ship combat. There was no drug use. We had no animal encounters. We didn’t use psionics.”

“Of course, ship design, ship combat, and animal encounters are still things I’d consider essential, we just didn’t happen to need them.”

“But I think one of the great things about Traveller is that we could have pulled in something “non-essential” if the situation called for it and then set it aside again once we don’t need it. A good example is the system details in the Scouts book. If we were going to do some in-system stuff, then that’s great to have. But most of the time that extra detail just isn’t needed.”

So…what other rules do you consider to be *essential* to run a great Traveller campaign?



  1. Rob Eaglestone

    “Cost and availability of various gear”

    Stan, I think we should try to inventory these. I know there were several weapons that kept showing up (Laser Rifle, SMG, Cutlass, AutoPistol) and armor of course, but what non-weapon equipment did we use?

    • S. W. Shinn

      Ones that I recall: 1) communicators and 2) datapad (for hacking and communication) — I don’t recall any other gear.

  2. Xiao

    I enjoyed the T:TNE quite a bit too. Some of the game mhacenics were a bit too easy to min/max (I played with several lawyers ), which reduced some of the fun for me but it was a compelling back story.I’d heard the that D D was a whole new game again saw it the shelves, but haven’t picked it up to see what’s happened.

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