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The Douchey DM » Reviews » Traveller 5: Second Impressions

Traveller 5: Second Impressions

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

I’m done.

My frustration and disappointment with the organizational nightmare that is Traveller 5 has turned to anger.

No, I haven’t read the full book. I won’t. I have other games that don’t require so many man-hours to learn. I want to play games, not sit around studying while having tennis elbow flareups.

I resent the fact that no one stopped to suggest that this book should have a quick start section, an index, a incremental introduction to the game mechanics, a less random presentation of the rules.

We get none of this.

There are dozens of people listed in the credits. What were they doing? Didn’t anyone take a moment and look at the drafts as a new player might? Or did everyone learn the game at the table and just use the book as a reference?

Did it not occur to anyone that someone might have to actually learn the game from this book? Was no one acting as an editor?  Doesn’t seem so.

There are play testers out there falling over themselves trying to defend this monstrosity. Don’t believe them. Don’t listen to them. The *game* may be great fun, but the *book* sucks.

I’ve read in a few places that were it not for Kickstarter, this project never would have happened. So at least we know where to lay the blame.


Written by

Stu Venable is the producer of Happy Jacks RPG Podcast and writer and editor of He is founder and director of the Poxy Boggards and a member of Celtic Squall. He holds a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from California State University, Long Beach. He is a husband and a father. He hates puppies.

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9 Responses to "Traveller 5: Second Impressions"

  1. maliferNo Gravatar says:

    At least Mongoose Traveller is still good. 🙂

  2. Andreas DavourNo Gravatar says:

    I’m sad to say I’m not surprised.

    I’ve been hanging at the outskirts of Traveller fandom for a long time and I have heard talk of T5 for a long time. Those who got to see it suggested that Marc hadn’t really kept up with the times. When I got a small peek I ran away in horror.

    I’m still sad to heard it came out that bad.

  3. Rot Grub on the forumsNo Gravatar says:

    Sad to hear.

    Love Traveller, but to echo malifer, I felt Mongoose Traveller was such a good edition, I wasn’t interested. Plus, I find as I get older that learning new rules systems is more a chore than it used to be. Seems a chore for the young GMs!

  4. TelNo Gravatar says:

    Citizens of the Imperium holds forums on all editions of Traveller. The response to T5 is mixed, like any game. There are many who claim it has a very elegant skill resolution system, among the best. Equally, there are many who report that the combat resolution is flawed, however, most gripes resound around a particular rule suggesting that NPC’s ignore damage 9-. A simple house rule to side step this clanger if it is indeed in the rules.
    I’m still waiting for my T5 Kickstarter package to arrive, and I’m more than a little concerned!!!

  5. BryanNo Gravatar says:

    Ok, I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who feels this way. I mean man, I’ve been playing RPGs since the days when D&D came in a red and blue box with dice and a wax crayon. I always heard about Traveller but could never find it in any store. I picked up the T5 book when I heard it came out and figured I could get into an “old school RPG” again.. I mean, I figured out AD&D 1st ed, didn’t I? Wow am I lost. I’m not even to character generation yet and everything I’ve read so far reads like a math nerd’s wet dream. Dice statistics tables? Really? I’m probably 50 pages in and still don’t have a clue how to play the game or even how to make a character. The greatest RPG book I think I ever read was the 3rd ed D&D Players Handbook which delved you into character creation after the second page and walked you through it by hand with plenty of examples. I’m going to push on, but as old-school as I am, and despite the fact I’m a professional engineer these days, I may not be nerd enough for this game.

  6. JSpaceNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve been playing T5 for months now and I find it challenging and exciting. I’m currently using this system for a surreal, speculative-science adventure campaign inspired by The Preserving Machine, Vermillion Sands, and Northwest Smith. I’m loving it. My group’s loving it. Great fun. Definitely one of the most intuitive and versatile task resolution systems I’ve ever used. The game is surprisingly loose in play and leaves alot up to individual GMs. Sure, it would be nice to have an index, but it’s absence mostly hurts rules lawyers, so it’s not that bad (take notes when you’re reading it I guess). I certainly don’t miss having giant lists of stupid crap (video game gun porn?) that paralyze players, encouraging mini-maxing. I’d rather make my own stupid crap anyways. “Hey! Are there any telepathic soft drinks or empathy guns!” Made ’em. “How about a sports jacket constructed of cloned-brain synthetic leaf insects that hum John Cage music?” Got it! It might be a train wreck in some ways, but it’s a beautiful levitating flower of a trainwreck.

  7. Pierre SavoieNo Gravatar says:

    I read it all, every last page and table, no skimming (but I needed to take this six-pounder on vacation to do it). It’s a mixed bag, suffering from errata and organization problems and, let’s be charitable, the fact that old RPG dogs can’t learn new tricks. I liked the fact that they had a structured set of skills called Personals, which are used to roll personal interactions (drinking with people, querying them for information, a choice of particular tactics to use, even up to threats and coercing them) which adds specifics to the vague “you meet in a bar” situations. However, the examples page was placed BEFORE the actual details explaining the Personals system! There were many such editing issues which made me wonder if I was in fact the first one to give it a thorough read, and not one of the playtesters or editors.

    The character generation is something that fans of previous Traveller versions can expect, except you get somewhat more than 4 skills per 4-year term. A rule of thumb for converting to T5 skill-levels might be to double the skill-level of a Classic Traveller character and add one. Higher skill numbers are necessary according to the Difficulty Level system (for a defined task, roll at or under your Characteristic+Skill(+Knowledge bonus if any) on a certain number of dice that increases with difficulty). It is mentioned what each skill range means as far as professional proficiency. The user named Hemdian on YouTube made good videos orienting people to T5 character generation AND the combat system.

    As far as I can tell the fresh new meat in this game is about design of gen(etically engin)eered characters, robots, and androids, and a SophontMaker system to generate alien races. Aliens will assume a bit more importance in T5 since it is written that any planet able to harbour life is most likely to develop intelligent life. But it is also explicitly stated that there is no “Prime Directive” and alien culture can only survive as a function of its own resilience in the face of the Imperium setting, for example. Aliens may have sharper or duller senses and may have two senses humans don’t have: Awareness (of electric and magnetic fields, which they sense as the colours Lek and Mag) and Perception (life-force and intelligence). All senses are given numerical ratings that give a way to make sense-rolls for detecting things of different sizes, distances and intensities.

    Guns, weapons, armor, vehicles and other equipment feel “undone”. There is information on the stats and designing it in the “maker” systems but no prepared weapons and armor tables (you can download weapon and armor examples from the Far Future Enterprises site, however.) A generic list of ordinary equipment is listed. The QREBS system defines the qualities of manufactured items, how numbers can be varied, and this throws open the interesting possibility of manufacturers with varying reputations. The Staged Effects system can be used to add differences in item quality with increasing Tech Level. It is very possible to have a culture using the “Ultimate” refinement of an old technology but facing another culture with a “Basic” or “Early” implementation of a new technology they don’t know yet. However, it’s extra work for the Referee to set up some example items and make it work in practice. All that work for weapons still boils down to a final result defining hit-points (which translate into dice of damage applied to physical characteristics much like Classic Traveller, and maybe modifiers to hit and for Burden (the effective weight or heft).)

    Starship construction and starship combat are covered but only for ACS (Adventure Class Ships) up to 2000 displacement-tons (a dton is a volume of liquid hydrogen 13.5 cubic meters, or a 3×1.5 meter floorplan segment 3 m high which is the standard unit of interior starship volume). Much of your space is taken up with fuel for jumps. The game gives characters options to control the ship with nice, logical consoles with user-friendly interfaces or, in a pinch, control ship systems from complex, difficult control-panels somewhere else on the ship that you may have to resort to in the event of hijacking. Starship combat was a rather dense section which I was a little weak at understanding. A separate set of T5 starship deckplans has been released, but the ships are fairly standard classic Traveller types.

    I like the SectorMaker, which generates mainworlds on each hex similar to Classic Traveller but can also generate subsidiary worlds, an average of almost 10 per system. Multiple-star systems can result. Extended planetary stats in the Universal World Profile have numbers about Importance, Economics and Culture. All the worlds in a system are physically different but have the same extended stats because interplanetary travel is so easy.

    I can recommend Thalassogen’s SectorMaker utility for T5, which is at:

    With that help, I made a beautiful original sector outside the Imperium setting. The utility allows you to download most of the data as a .pdf file (with hex maps for the whole sector, individual sub-sectors and a table of mainworlds, minus the Orbit Tables for each system). I made an edited sector which looks like this:

    The raw data or .csv file can be edited and plugged back into the utility; that gives pop-up lines of system stats when you touch a hex, and if you click a mainworld in the table of systems, you get the complete Orbit Table layout of individual worlds in the system.

    As a numerical review rating I would give it 2/10 for organization, 5/10 for rules clarity, 7/10 for original ideas. Combat turns out to be abstracted and simplified over turns which may average out to a minute’s time but vary widely, which a lot of players may prefer. I have not yet started up a game myself but those who have made the effort to study it all are saying it’s playable. I’m personally always weak on absorbing both personal skill rolls and combat rules and starship rules at the same time.

    T5 does provide a framework, sometimes bare in spots, to run a full, rich science-fiction campaign with aliens, high- and low-tech enclaves, psionics, starship trading, combat, detailed planetary stats and planet-mapping — if you work at it.

    1. Ronald SteppNo Gravatar says:

      Please for the love of god, do you have that sectormaker? I tried looking at the heldenhausen site but all it is is a text page that says, “Bunch of Heroes” That’s it. That is all that is there.

      1. Pierre SavoieNo Gravatar says:

        I also noticed that Thalassogen’s T5 SectorMaker site is down. I don’t know if he put it up at a different site. Eaglestone’s T5 utilities on another page are also missing.

        There is a GunMaker app on Android that is pretty good. With that you can design a whole catalogue of weapons, maybe from weapon-makers of different companies, different quality, or even from different alien species! The T5 rules give a diagram of 6 types of limbs of which human limbs are only one type. Or weapons can be said to have “universal” grips and triggers but I’m not sure what that would look like.

        There is also a Word Generator Pro app for T5, also Android. Choose a language, and invent plausible-sounding words or names in that language.

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