Traveller has been around for a long time, with the three original 'little black books' appearing in 1977, and this incarnation of the ruleset recreates the excitement of the first, with the same simple and elegant ruleset underpinning everything, streamlined to meet contemporary gaming tastes.
It opens with introductory material including a bare-bones introduction to the concept of role-playing games, thoughts on suitable campaign types and a discussion of technology levels, which vary across known space. We then move directly into Character Creation, which as old hands will know, can be an absorbing pastime of itself never mind essential preparation for participating in an actual game. Starting by rolling characteristics, you then choose a homeworld and the career(s) your character has pursued before embarking on an adventuring career, the main purpose being to gain skills. It also builds a backstory for the character, who is generally quite a mature individual compared to other games. The backstory is based, like a lot of the career progression, on die rolls... and yes, it is possible to perish before you even start play! There's quite a wide range of careers available, over and above the predominantly military ones from the original game - as well as Navy, Marines, Army, Scouts and Merchants there are diverse careers like Entertainer, Rogue, Scholar, Agent (law enforcement), Drifter, Nobility and Citizen from which to choose. A neat addition is the 'skill package', a list of skills appropriate to the campaign type you want to play from which the characters take turn choosing skills that they lack, thus ensuring that the party can at least handle basic tasks that will arise. Add the mustering out benefits and you are ready to go. For those who do not like the basic system, there are variants such as point-buy characteristics and even skills, and details on generating alien characters. So far, a human has been assumed. This talks in general terms to begin with, but also introduces the standard Traveller races quite briefly, noting that each could fill a book by itself. (Over the course of time, these books have been brought out, you'll find them in the Third Imperium line.)
The next section is Skills and Tasks which opens with a explanation of 'Task Checks', the way in which actions are resolved. Most are either skill or characteristic based, with a standard 2d6 roll being modified according to the skills or other factors being brought to bear (brute strength, for example) and situational modifiers. For standard tasks, you need to get an 8 in total to succeed, but difficulty modifiers may be applied at the Referee's discretion to make it harder or more easy. There are plenty of examples, and these continue through the ensuing discussion of all the skills available and how they can be used to effect during the course of a game. This is followed by an extensive section on Combat, again well illustrated with examples and with a wide range of possible actions being presented.
Combat is not the only danger characters face, of course, and the next section - Encounters and Dangers - look at all manner of things other than brawls that could threaten life or limb or spoil your whole day - animals and environmental dangers (natural and unnatural), as well as how you heal, creating NPCs and more. The animals bit provides enough detail to let you invent strange critters to be encountered on the planets that you visit. Within the NPC section there are notes on giving them memorable personalities and a collection of ready-made Patrons to give the party something to do. This section rounds out with a wealth of random encounters and events that may be something going on in the background or else may turn into a complete adventure if not campaign.
Next comes a vast Equipment section which will let your character get his hands on virtually anything he might need for the forthcoming adventures. Not just weapons and armour (although there's plenty of those), there's all manner of stuff from drones to survival gear, medical equipment to communications and entertainment systems... you name it, it's probably there... apart from that necessity, a spaceship. This is dealt with comprehensively in the next section, Starship Design - again something that can be as much fun as creating characters. Examples are given, which can be used straight away if you do not wish to go through the whole process. Once you have a ship the following section, Starship Operations, explain the rules and concepts underlying its use, including operating costs and various dangers... and this is followed in turn by the Space Combat section.
The final sections deal with Psionics (powers of the mind, which you may or may not choose to allow in your game), Trade (with lots of tables to enable you to automate the process considerably yet model it fairly well) and finally World Creation. This provides an elegant system for devising planets in an awesome variety for the party to visit in their travels.
Well conceived and updated from the originals, this work recaptures all the excitement and sheer potential for adventure presented by those Little Black Books. A neat addition is little snippets of information scattered throughout in grey text boxes - anything from the tradition of Jump dimming to an adventure seed you could develop into a complete adventure - which are well worth ready. A worthy successor to the original Traveller which maintains its flavour, its essence, well.
[5 of 5 Stars!]