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Traveller 5 Review

June 24, 2013


Traveller 5 finally arrived a year after the kickstarter began, and about 3-4 months late. It is an impressive achievement, and combines what normally would be several different volumes into one massive 656 page tome.

TL;DR – The layout, editing, and clarity does not reflect how long this system has been in beta (years?). The dice turned out awesome. Ultimately, I’m a bit disappointed.

This book does a few things very well. One of the most impressive is a system to create anything you can imagine. Each has a system depending on what you want to create: GunMaker, ArmorMaker, VehicleMaker, BeastMaker, even ThingMaker (something for creating devices or other equipment). There are also systems to create Starships and Star systems, but they have entire sections dedicated to them, and seem a bit more complex than designing gear.

Graphics and illustrations are somewhat sparse, and tables abound giving it a very retro “wall of text” feel which, in my mind, should have been avoided. It makes it visually boring, and in some cases jarring, to read. To its credit, much like Pathfinder there is a rule for EVERYTHING. Good luck deciphering the acronyms once you find the appropriate table.

I do enjoy the core mechanic of a difficulty number and having to roll under that on a certain number of dice. Often it is a combination of a characteristic plus a skill. The difficulty is set by how many dice you have to roll to stay under that number: i.e. 1d6 easy check, 2d6 moderate, 3d6 hard, up to 10d6 double hasty beyond impossible. I also like the idea of a flex result. Flex is 2d6-7, giving you a result anywhere from -5 to +5. This can be useful for determining the random result of something like current weather conditions, -5 being hurricane, +5 being ideally bucolic, or how much time a task takes. Changing a tire? That will take ten minutes, plus or minus 5, roll Flux.

There are tons of tables, and even a table about tons that will have the math nerds squealing with joy, and thankfully distances are left a bit vague so we don’t have to bust out the protractors and rulers if it comes to a fire fight.

Character generation is very similar to other versions of Traveller, but seems more detailed than the Mongoose version I’ve made characters in before. The career paths are literally written like computer programs with If:Then statements and even the tabs delineating one instruction from the next. Here is the career path for Spacer (Navy):

Roll to Begin vs Int

Select Branch

Roll Naval Operations 4 X

use highest Mod for R&R

Roll Risk and Reward

vs C1 C2 C3 C4

Roll Spacer Promotion vs C2

If Spacer, Roll for Commission vs C3

If Officer, Roll for Promotion vs Soc

Determine Skill eligibility; take Skills

Roll 7 – to continue

If No, end Career

Note Muster Out benefits


Clear as mud, right? Here are side by side examples of Mongoose Traveller layout, and Traveller 5 layout side by side. Which looks like it was released more recently (click to enlarge):

Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 8.58.51 PM Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 8.59.52 PM

Its a shame, really. I wanted to love this game, and eagerly anticipated it’s arrival. There are elements of it that are really compelling and may be excellent, assuming I can decipher enough of the rules to play a game. I just tried unsuccessfully to find a character sheet for this version of the game, and the card in the book looks like it was created in excel, with about as much visual interest.

The dice they made for it are really cool, with vibrant colors, great graphics and nice weight.

Overall, I can’t recommend purchasing this book. It’s a massive, expensive mess. Maybe the next printing will have more graphics, better layout, and additional proof-reading for both content and clarity.

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