Challenge 27
Challenge27 350px
Artist:Steve Venters
Publisher Game Designers' Workshop
Version Traveller: 2300
Author Marc Miller.
Format Magazine article.
Canonical yes
Edition First Edition.
Year Published 1986
Pages {number of pages}
Available from Far Future Enterprises

This article appeared in Challenge 27 and was written by Marc Miller.

Traveller: 2300 is GDW's new science fiction role-playing game, but the conceptualization, design and development of the game has taken more than a year. During that time, the GDW staff working on the project has thought and rethought just about every possible approach to a high quality science fiction game and sought out the best possible approach.

From a design standpoint, I adopted a guiding phrase early in the process - playable realism. My aim was to produce a game that had the utmost in realism, but was also totally playable. Realistic games that aren't playable tend to sit on the shelf; playable games that aren't realistic are unsatisfying. I made it a goal for Traveller: 2300 that it would be both. One of the central concepts in the philosophy of playable realism was the concept of tasks.

Task Resolution[]

Ten years ago, Traveller introduced skills for characters, defining what they were able to do in a way that made playing the game easy for both the referee and the players. Recent advances in game design have introduced the concept of tasks. Twilight:2000 used task definitions to describe basic activities using in the game. In parallel with that, the Digest Group established a Universal Task Profile for Traveller in their quarterly Traveller Digest, and over the past eighteen months has refined and revised the concept to make it more playable and more comprehensive. A corresponding task system for Traveller:2300 was defined early in our design process and became an integral part of the game system, being used in ship combat, personal combat, and even character generation at the most basic level.

Tasks produce a realistic, reproducable feel to Traveller:2300 while making basic activities very playable. Each task defines an action to be performed. Additional information in the task definition indicates the skills required, the difficulty level involved, and the time required to accomplish the task. Special referee notes also indicate consequences, exceptions, or special circumstances.

Difficulty levels range from easy through routine to impossible. Skill levels are a modifier on the throw for success, as are personal characteristics. Time for the task is handled in such a way that it produces an average time for task duration, but better skill levels reduce the required (some tasks also take no time, or take a specific amount of time).

Failed tasks have specific consequences that range from frustration to death. Tasks can be repeated if the character can stay determined enough, (and staying determined is itself a task).

There are also special types of tasks. Hasty tasks take less time, but become more difficult. Hazardous tasks have more dangerous consequences if the task fails. Unskilled tasks allow anyone to try, without a penalty for lack of skill (although having the required skill can still help).

My favorite, however, is the uncertain task; it is used to resolve situations where the player cannot know for a certainty the outcome of a task An example might be diagnosis of a mechanical problem: the player may attempt the task, but does not know if he has successfully figured out the problem.

In an uncertain task, the player rolls for success and can tell from his die roll if he has succeeded. At the same time, however, the referee rolls for success secretly. If both referee and player succeed, the referee produces results that are total truth. If one succeeds and one fails, the referee produces results that are only partially true. If both fail, the referee produces results that are totally false. You can see that diagnosis might take several attempts before a player can be certain he has found the fault.

Setting fuses for demolitions is an uncertain task contained in the Traveller:2300 rules. It is classified as easy, and anyone with any skill will usually succeed. Once in a while, the referee will roll a failure while the player succeeds: somehow the fuse setting failed (although it looks OK) and the explosive won't detonate when the proper time comes. And once in a while, the player will roll a failure (and immediately realize that he has wired the explosive wrong), he can rewire them immediately to try to fix the fault. And sometimes, the player will roll a failure and hear the referee tell him the charges have exploded - because the referee also rolled a failure. The entire procedure is an example of the playable realism that pervades our entire Traveller:2300 game system.

Other Parts of Traveller:2300[]

Task resolution is not the only part of Traveller:2300 that we spent a lot of time on. Frank Chadwick produced an excellent personal combat system, and he wasn't above making the great movie tricks (such as leaping attacks and wrestling holds) part of the action. The GDW staff simulated the course of history from 2000 to 2300, creating a totally plausible, consistent future which reflects developments of technology, and centuries-old power struggles. Tim Brown crafted a space combat system that plays well and also reflects realistic future battle systems. I built on my Traveller researches to develop a realistic system that creates star systems with a minimum of effort.

Next Month: the Traveller:2300 star map - the most accurate star map ever produced for a game.

The Relationship of Traveller:2300 to Traveller[]

The common name for Traveller: 2300 and Traveller leave some room for confusion, and it helps to clear that sort of thing up early. Frankly, I consider Traveller one of the best games ever designed. To quote a recent review, it "set the standard for science fiction games."

Traveller:2300 is not advanced Traveller; it is a completely different game. The similarity of names is due to the continuing dominant theme in each game: players are travellers to the stars. Traveller:2300 is not intended as a direct replacement for Traveller. They have different backgrounds, different approaches, different rules. Traveller is going to be around for a long time, and we will continue to support it. Traveller:2300 is an alternative game system that incorporate new game technology and a different approach to background. The two game systems can co-exist, and will for years to come.