There’s sort of an unwritten rule in rpg discussion. There’s several of them, really:
I’m telling you, go anywhere on the internet with a correct and strongly stated opinion about gaming and some chuckle-head milquetoast always shows up with this sort of watered down pluralistic nonsense.
I think it’s the ultimate insult you could give to the designers. If you think about how much effort went into the Adventure Conqueror King design process… if you think of the kind of innovations that went into the development of RuneQuest… if you have any appreciation for that, I just don’t see how you can conceive of these people not having something really exciting they wanted to share with people. In that context, you can safely take everything Mr. Rpg Nice Guy has said and turn it inside out:
The fact is, we need more rpg zealots if we’re going to get anywhere on this. Sure, there is more than one way to do things. But discussion on this is not aided by this lame greek chorus of people coming in and telling everyone to dial it back just when they start to get excited about this stuff.
Now, I say all that because somebody over at Black Gate is playing Traveller wrong. I know. It’s sad, really. But check it out:
Seen from one angle, the Traveller RPG has always been a Science Fiction midlife crisis simulator, “40-somethings Innnnn Spaaaacccce.”
The character generation system is a mini-game that lets you play through your character’s career all the way into middle-age, a career that most of the time ends in disaster, and always ends with you mustering out to go “travelling.”
Talk about a train wreck!
Okay, look. If you make Traveller characters the correct way, with the original rule set… then you are looking at making survival rolls, reenlistment rolls, and (most importantly) absolutely punishing aging rolls when characters start to get up in their thirties.
Under this system, you get careers that you would never have chosen yourself thanks to the draft. You get one and two term characters that are in their twenties. If someone has a thirty year old character that is any good, they think long and hard about going in for another term. People start imagining stories about these guys and get attached to them. Even a small chance of failing a survival roll starts to look too risky. Because everyone remembers the most awesome Traveller character of all time that got taken out by snake-eyes in spite of everything.
And those aging rolls…? People tend not to take the risk of losing points from stats that have a direct impact on their hit points just for a chance to get one (maybe two on a good day) skill that might be something they really really want. It’s called diminishing returns. People take them into account when a failed survival roll means death and not just a little a smack on the wrist.
If you think Traveller is a “Midlife Crisis Simulator”, you are playing it wrong. If your edition is set up to consistently produce middle aged characters, you’re playing the wrong one!