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Traveller is the first published Science Fiction RPG. First released in 1977 at the Origins convention, it has gone through four rule set revisions and been adapted to numerous other game system rules including the D20 System and GURPS.

The main attraction of fans to the game is the background: The Third Imperium is a space opera background, which spans 11,000 worlds and thousands of years of history. Each new revision covers more of the background, including the rise and fall of empires, numerous alien species, strange new worlds, and the people who live there. While the details of the setting and the game mechanics used to depict it vary from version to version, many themes are common across all versions.

  • There exists Faster than Light starship travel, but the speed of communication is the speed of the starships. The Traveller FTL system is a Jump Drive, a system which requires a week to travel between stars, regardless of distance. This was intended to give the feeling of the Age of Sail. All of the settings attempt to recreate more or less of the other features of this age.
    • Worlds are isolated but not alone. Empires from the large Third Imperium to the small Dawn League can render assistance to its members, but only after a significant delay. This places a premium on local resources to resolve problems.
    • The isolation of worlds and lack of quick communications produces a broad range of access to technology. Some worlds have flying cars and ubiquitous computing while the next world they are still knapping flint axes.
    • Information is at a premium. News from other worlds is always important.
    • Few people travel between systems, they don't see the need for or dislike the idea of being cut off from everything they know for weeks, months or years. People who are willing to take the risks are few in number.
  • Technology has not significantly changed humanity. There is highly advanced technology in Traveller, but it is not the primary focus of the adventures or the settings. The stories in Traveller revolve around the actions of people and how to resolve human problems.
  • Traveller characters tend to be older and more experienced, often from a military background.
  • Alien Races are not just humans in suits. Many space opera depictions of aliens are merely odd-looking beings with completely human personalities - effectively "humans in suits." While the Traveller universe is human centric, the aliens of the setting have distinctive cultures and do not always behave as humans would.

Note that a similarly titled game Traveller: 2300 aka 2300 AD aka 2320 AD is not actually a part of the Traveller universe. The system was likely launched with the Traveller name to bring recognition to the line, it is more of a sequel to GDW's Twilight:2000 game system. The name was eventually changed to 2300 AD. While the systems involved could be played with the Traveller rules, the differences are significant.

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