What’s Traveller? An intro to the sci-fi tabletop RPG that motivated Starfield

Narrative character development, skill-based development and difficult sci-fi – could we see all these in Bethesda’s next impressive?

From Baldur’s Gate 3’s revival of the famous Dungeons & & Dragons series to Warhammer’s dream football spin-off returning in Blood Bowl 3, 2023 seems a year specified by computer game rooted in timeless tabletop video games both clearly and more indirectly – and Bethesda’s sci-fi experience Starfield will be no various.

Starfield imaginative director Todd Howard honestly mentioned the impact of tabletop RPG Traveller on the hotly-anticipated release last October, stating that the upcoming computer game is “hearkening back to those old roleplaying video games that we enjoyed”. There’s a specifically individual connection for Howard too, as he remembered setting a Traveller video game for the Apple II computer system as one of his earliest coding tasks.

When it concerns old roleplaying video games, there are couple of older than Traveller. Launched in 1977, just a couple of years after Dungeons & & Dragons changed tabletop roleplaying, the sci-fi RPG has actually progressed over no less than a lots editions in the last 40- plus years, altering hands along the method from initial developer Game Designers’ Workshop to current-day studio Mongoose Publishing.

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The video game has likewise leapt in between various gameplay systems, with the 1977 video game’s dependence on 2 six-sided dice being changed briefly by the d20 familiar from Dungeons & & Dragons- D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast itself launched a Traveller D20 in the early noughties – and seeing a spin-off for setting-agnostic system GURPS prior to going back to its initial guidelines for Mongoose’s newest edition.

Among the components that made Traveller so distinct at the time of its release – and still held up as one of the very best sci-fi RPGs today – is its narrative method to character production. In contrast to D&D’s usage of stiff classes to specify characters’ abilities and capabilities, Traveller utilizes a lifepath system that replicates a character’s previous experience.


This lifepath system works like a mini-game in its own right, with gamers picking a profession for their character – normally a military course, or life as a merchant – prior to rolling to see what successes and accidents they experienced in their past. This specifies their starting devices, cash and more. In the harshest of cases, characters in timeless Traveller might even pass away throughout character production.

Instead of having actually standard levels struck with a specific quantity of generic experience points, characters’ development in Traveller is tracked by their enhancement in private abilities, which can be enhanced by participating in particular training. Accomplishing greater levels in abilities needs longer training, making it a sluggish procedure – however one that can settle with effective character constructs. This impact can perhaps be seen currently in previous Bethesda video games like Skyrim, where really utilizing abilities is required to enhance your character’s capability in them. Instead of ability development being the only focus in Traveller, characters likewise enhance by getting better devices, cash and social standing, which puts them in a more safe and secure location in the huge universe.

Another crucial impact that Traveller might have on Starfield is its representation of a sci-fi setting that hews a little closer to what the future might really appear like, instead of a more fantastical analysis. In acknowledging the RPG’s motivation, Howard kept in mind that “Traveller has a little bit more ‘tough’ science-fiction” – utilizing the term normally utilized to show sci-fi rooted in real-life science and innovation, even if it’s with a positive optimism.

While Traveller does consist of some more out-there concepts – such as psionics and telepathic powers – deep space likewise premises itself with reasonable guidelines such as the result of Newtonian psychics on ships throughout area battle and the existence of more conventional guns in the location of rayguns or blasters. Howard has actually formerly validated that ship battle in Starfield will need gamers to handle systems such as guards, power output and weapons, contributing to the sense of a more simulationist-flavoured experience.

How deep Traveller’s impact on Starfield runs stays to be seen, however early takes a look at the video game currently mean an experience that might feel extremely familiar to fans of timeless sci-fi roleplaying. It might be that Howard has actually lastly handled to craft his love letter to the tabletop RPG after all these years.


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