Monday, May 9, 2022

Review: Traveller Starter Edition (1983)

Traveller Starter Edition
If there was a "Golden Year" of classic RPGs then I am willing to put my nomination in for 1983.

By now what I considered to be the "Big 3" were well established; AD&D/D&D, Call of Cthulhu, and Traveller.  Indeed there were even alternatives to these that were very good games in their own right; Runequest, Chill, and Star Frontiers respectively. While Edition and System Wars have always been with us, it was a great time to be a gamer.  

1983 also gave us a "new" version of Traveller.  Well, not really new at all, but certainly reorganized and edited again.   To keep up my analogy of Classic Traveller = Original D&D and The Traveller Book = Holmes Basic D&D (although with the inclusion of The Traveller Adventure a better one is Moldvay Basic/Cook & Marsh Expert D&D) then the 1983 Traveller Starter Edition is Mentzer BECMI D&D.

The Traveller Starter Edition was the version I saw the most in the pages of Dragon Magazine.  No surprise.  My prime Dragon reading years were 1982 to roughly 1991 and then not again until the 2000s.  Until Mega Traveller came onto the scene this was the Traveller book that GDW was pushing.  Easy to see why.  The cover of the Traveller Book, despite how much I love it, was always more "sci-fi novel" cover.  The new cover?  That's Star Wars meets Dune meets Battlestar Galactica.  This was a cinematic cover, even if the rules were the same.   I could not tell then, and in fact it was only today I noticed, but that ship looks like the Azhanti High Lightning from below.  Or maybe it isn't.  Either way that cover says Space Adventure.  The Traveller Book says "Space is Dangerous and I got bills to pay!" to me.  Both are perfect.

Traveller Starter Edition (1983)

For this review, I am considering the PDF I bought from DriveThruRPG split into three separate files.  The front cover and the back cover of the original book are not preserved here. 

Book 1: Core Rules

This PDF is 68 pages and features black & white interior art with black & white covers with red accents.  They look very much like the classic Traveller covers. 

This book features all the rules from the Classic Traveller system.  It is largely the Traveller Book but reorganized and edited for clarity.  Some sections read a little differently, but for the most part, it felt the same.  There is some new art here, but a lot of art from previous editions remains. The new art is, as expected, better and gives more detail. The red accents to some of the art have been removed.  Character creation reads faster, but it could also be that I have read this section many times now in one form or one book or another that I am "getting it."  

A trained or expert eye could spot the rule differences, but that is not me.  This largely feels the same.  This is not a bad thing mind you.  The difference feels the same as that between Moldvay Basic and BECMI Basic.  Two books for the same game are designed to do the same thing only in slightly different ways.

Book 2: Charts and Tables

This 28-page PDF covers all the charts and tables. References to the charts are in Book 1. 

Book 3: Adventures

This is a 23-page PDF with two adventures; Mission on Mithril (from Double Adventure 2) and Shadows (Double Adventure 1). 


When it comes to learning how to play Classic Traveller then either this version or the Traveller Book would be fine since they cover the same ground.  The analogy of The Traveller Book = B/X D&D and Traveller Starter Set = BECMI D&D extends here.  The trade dress of all future Traveller books will follow the Start Set design.  This will hold until Mega Traveller and 2300 later in 1987.

Which one should YOU buy?  That is entirely up to you.  The Traveller Book has the advantage of also being out in POD format and this one does not.  But this version is a little more friendly to newcomers.


Harun Musho'd said...

Seems like the game would be better served if this was the version of Classic Traveller that was made available on POD, rather than the Traveller Book (the version of the game I first had).

Timothy S. Brannan said...

A POD would be great, but the scan is still not really great so I am not sure how well it would work as a POD.

Dick McGee said...

Never owned this. I had my LBB collection by this point and didn't feel the need to buy anew until Megatraveller came out - at which point I wound up going right back to the LBBs in short order.

Russell said...

David Dietrick's artwork was always spot on no matter what game he was illustrating. This edition came out when I was exploring other RPGs and I missed it. ­čś│

Damyanti Biswas said...

The cover art is so satisfying to look at :)

Chris Miriable said...

I own the original box version of this. It really is a great intro to how Traveller works. The one thing I didn't like about it was one random reference to "format your dates according to the Imperial calendar" and then never telling us how to do that. For some dumb reason that really rankled teenage me. (Still don't know how, by the way.) Otherwise, if you like Classic Traveller and want to introduce it to someone else, this is for you.

Christopher B said...

I'm still moved every time I see that wonderful cover. Isn't that the same artist who did the artwork for Milton Bradley's Dark Tower?

BTW, you're not missing anything in the PDF - this wasn't published as a single book, I believe - just as a boxed set. Okay, so maybe you *are* missing the back side of the box... :P