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Tabletop Game: Traveller
This is Free Trader Beowulf, calling anyone...
Mayday, Mayday...We are under attack...
Main drive is gone...Turret number one not responding...
Mayday...Losing cabin pressure fast calling anyone...
Please help...This is Free Trader Beowulf...

The cover of the original Traveller box set.

Free Trader Beowulf...
Come in, Free Trader Beowulf...
Can you hear me? Come in, Free Trader Beowulf...

... hang in there, Beowulf, help is on the way!"
The cover of GURPS Traveller, nearly 20 years later.

Traveller was first published by Game Designers' Workshop (GDW) in 1977. Thirty-plus years later, it still has a rabid pack of followers, despite the fact that GDW closed down in 1996. The publishing license has passed through a number of hands since then.

Traveller was one of the earliest published role-playing-game systems, and probably the first to divorce the concept of skills from that of occupation or class. Characters did not enter the campaign young and untrained; rather, they had careers during which character development occurred. This was generally perceived as giving the game a more "three-dimensional" feel. While there were some assumptions about the campaign world, an interstellar setting called "the Spinward Marches", little actual information was initially provided, leaving the campaign world to the Referee's fertile imagination. The system wasn't static, though; the release of supplements and of subsequent editions of the system, brought more detailed character generation, task systems, rules for skill improvement, and additional skills and rules for them. But Traveller isn't a role-playing system, because you can play GURPS Traveller, which is a different system entirely.

Traveller eventually came to describe an interstellar community of sorts, focused on a "Third Imperium", of which the original Spinward Marches was merely a small frontier area. Published and well-regarded science fiction was a major source of inspiration for aliens and their societies, and for various aspects of technology. A broad history was mapped out, and cultural differences were developed and illustrated. This led to a background in many ways richer than that of previous role-playing settings, yet without significantly limiting the referee. Again, the setting wasn't static; every release of Traveller or Traveller supplements brought new information to light. But Traveller isn't a role-playing setting, though, because you can play Traveller in a setting that is unrecognizable in comparison to what's in published material.

As with any RPG, Traveller can be an opportunity to develop characters, their likes, dislikes, habits, idiosyncrasies, motivations, and so on. The events of any particular session can be part of a grand story arc throughout the campaign, or not, if the players and referee choose not to play that way. The Traveller Supplements, over time, described a very-large-stroke history of the "Third Imperium", but the real story was in the gameplay and gamemaster's hands.

There have been many editions:
  • Classic Traveller (1977-86): The original. Then just called Traveller but it has since acquired the "Classic" qualifier to distinguish it from the later editions. It has also been called the "Little Black Books" because of the printing format and minimalist covers used. The books were nearly all half-size "pamphlets" with a black cover with a narrow colored stripe.
  • MegaTraveller (1987-92): An update to the original rule system, complete with a controversial metaplot shift involving the collapse of the Imperium.
  • Traveller: The New Era (1993-95): A post-apocalyptic take on the original setting, with options for almost-original flavour and an entirely new system. Some retcons as well, mostly dealing with how tech worked in the Third Imperium.
    • The timeline was continued after the end of the GDW game line with Traveller 1248, a series of systemless sourcebooks by Comstar Games, but are now out of print since Comstar lost the licence.
  • Marc Miller's Traveller aka Traveller 4 (1996-98): The first edition of the game after GDW folded. Set in "Milieu 0" - the beginning of the Third Imperium. Mr. Miller has said it was something of a "rushed" product. "Pocket Empires", however, is still quite highly regarded by players interested in the economics of the setting, which as trading is often a major part of the game isn't as esoteric a concern as it may seem.
  • GURPS Traveller (1998-present): Exactly What It Says on the Tin, complete with a timeline reboot in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to unbreak the base. The most recent book, Interstellar Wars, presents the initial contact between Earth and the First Imperium from the Back Story for the first time.
  • Traveller 20 (2002-present): The inevitable d20 version.
  • Traveller Hero (2007-present): Again, Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Mongoose Traveller (2008-present): An updated version of Classic Traveller by, well, Mongoose Publishing. Mongoose has also adapted several of their licensed properties to use the Traveller rule set. A Traveller version of Babylon 5 was released in 2009 to mixed reviews, along with Judge Dredd in the same year. Later adaptations have included Hammers Slammers, Strontium Dog, and a version of 2300 AD. Again, Mongoose Traveller is not the official name: it's sold simply as Traveller. This line is probably the most active currently, with Mongoose continuing to release products.
  • Traveller 5 Finally released in 2013, this version consists of a massive core rulebook that resembles a large toolbox with lots of systems for building characters, vehicles, ships, planets, etc. but little in the way of setting information and no metaplot. Something of a throwback to the original version then.
Not to be confused with the Irish Traveller community. Or one of the titles for Gozer.

Traveller provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 2-D Space: All of the maps of the Imperium and its sectors are flat. Some fans suggest that this is because the maps are jumpspace maps.
  • Absolute Xenophobe: the K'kree, toward any creature anywhere that can be classified as a carnivore.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: The extruded monofilament swords created on the TL 16 world Vincennes.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The New Era supplement Vampire Fleets, adventure "Promise". In the Downbelow beneath Star City the sewer tunnels are up to 4 meters high and wide.
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: SORAG agents created using the supplement SORAG: Handbook of Organization and Equipment could be given this quality.
  • Adventure-Friendly World: One of the best in RPGs. The limitations of the jump drive mean that the Imperium is very hands-off, leaving plenty of room for odd societies to interact with, local wars to fight, lost civilizations to explore, pirates, and just about anything else the Referee can think of.
  • After the End: The New Era and The Long Night.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated: K'kree perfumers just to start with. Aslan epics and stylized weapons seem to go over well too. Some of the minor races have their own artistic traditions which are liked by humans.
  • Ammunition Backpack: PGMP/FGMP (Plasma/Fusion Gun, Man Portable), laser carbine/rifles and flamethrowers.
  • Apparently Human Merfolk: The Nexines, an offshoot of humaniti that were genetically engineered for underwater mining.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Virus, very much so. Technically, this trope isn't quite played straight, though it was the clear reference point for the authors. Virus isn't A.I. in the conventional sense of the word; it's more like an extremely opportunistic, intelligent parasite. That just makes it this trope dialed Up to Eleven when any transistor can become intelligent and malicious. Of course, Virus is doing exactly what it was designed to, so it may be more of a case of Gone Horribly Right.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: FASA's Classic supplement Action Aboard: Adventures on the King Richard and Challenge magazine #32 adventure "A World On Its Own''.
  • Aliens Speaking English: An evolved form of English is a popular language. Justified by the wide spreading of Solomani culture.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Strongly averted. Most of the inhabited planets in the Imperium are actually quite a bit less hospitable than Earth.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Nearly everything in Traveller can have an alternate interpretation - by design. The Imperium itself can be viewed as a peaceful and benevolent federation that lets its worlds largely govern themselves or as an oppressive, tyrannical empire that cares only about the taxes it receives, or anywhere in between. The Zhodani are also especially open to this. invoked
  • Alternate Continuity: GURPS Traveller presented a timeline where Strephen was not assassinated.
  • Alternative Number System: The various alien species use different bases. The Aslan use Base 8, the Hivers use Base 16, and the Droyne use Base 6. Most of the various Human Aliens, as well as the Vargr, use Base 10.
  • Amphibious Automobile: The Amphibious Ground Car (AKA the "Mudpuppy") in the Classic supplement SORAG by Paranoia Press.
  • Anachronic Order: Later editions of the game are all set earlier than The New Era, and most of them are set earlier than MegaTraveller. Some of them much, much earlier.
  • Ancient Artifact: The Ancients, the Pre-maghiz Darrians, the first two Imperiums before the Long Night. All sorts of sources of Ancient Artifacts are available. The Darrians have a whole fleet of starships that had been discovered at a hidden cache.
  • And Man Grew Proud: The Darrians got a little too carried away with their scientific ability. The result was the destruction of their society and the death of nearly everyone on their homeworld.
  • Animal Assassin: Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #12 Amber Zone article "Royal Hunt". Two alien monsters are used against the PCs, an amphibious killer and a small but poisonous animal.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: The K'kree are a Planet of Hats of these, prepared to wage wars of extermination on people for eating meat.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: The K'kree would like to believe that K'kree are incapable of ever eating meat. The Hivers used this belief and their skills in manipulation to win their war, and to keep the peace between the two ever since.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • Both the Long Night and the Rebellion resulted in light Class X-3s, with the fall of interstellar civilization in each case.
    • The Ancients also apparently had a Class X-3, warring themselves into extinction hundreds of thousands of years before any other race had the jump drive.
    • The Darrians caused their own Class 3 on Darrian.
  • Arbitrary Minimum Range: Classic Book 4 Mercenary. Several new weapons could not be used at Close or Short range (from 0 to 5 meters away), such as the various PGMP's and FGMP's. There was no reason given for this.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: The Imperial Marines have a thing for cutlasses, as they don't ricochet in cramped spaceship corridors and hit sensitive equipment like bullets.
  • Arc Number: 6 turns up quite a lot in Traveller - jump drives go up to 6, maneuver drives go up to 6, there are 6 major races, and let's not even get started on the Droyne.
  • Artificial Gravity: Ubiquitous throughout the setting.
  • Artificial Limbs: A failed survival roll during character creation in the later editions of the game might give you one of these instead of outright killing you.
  • Ascended To Carnivorism:
    • In the supplement Aliens of the Rim: Hivers and Ithklur. During a military campaign between the herbivorous K'Kree and the Ithklur, the fighting became so bitter that each side started performing atrocities on the other, including the K'Kree eating dead Ithklur bodies.
    • During the Hiver-K'kree war the Hivers manipulated a few K'kree colonies into this to bring an end to the conflict (the K'kree navy sterilized the worlds in question).
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: The essence of Vargr political philosophy.
  • Asteroid Miners: The typical example is the classic grubby back-of-beyond Asteroid Thicket. Glisten however is an urbane and civilized place.
  • Auto Doc: The Auto Doc Independent Medical Treatment Center in the Classic supplement Merchants and Merchandise by Paranoia Press.
  • Auto Kitchen: Classic Adventure 2 Research Station Gamma and the Judges Guild adventure Darthanon Queen. Both the station and the title ship have fully automated food preparation equipment.
  • Awesome Backpack
    • The grav belt had its Artificial Gravity equipment and power supply in a backpack.
    • The New Era sourcebook Vampire Fleets. The Fer de lance anti-Virus system and its battery power source are stored in a backpack.
  • Back from the Dead: In the MegaTraveller setting Emperor Strephon tried to prove that he really hadn't been assassinated, but by the time he produced any credible evidence nobody cared anymore.
  • Back Story: Most sourcebooks are for developing this. They can make very good reading on their own without actually playing for those who actually like devouring data, fictional or otherwise. The Back Story provides very "realistic" detail.
  • Backup Twin: Before the Rebellion Lucan was this to his twin brother Varian, at least as far as the Imperial succession was concerned.
  • Badass Army: most notably the Imperial Marines.
  • Badass Bookworm: The IISS is not only known for its success in exploration, spycraft, and daring-do (and sometimes daring don't), but for being at the pinnacle of scientific achievement. Furthermore many scouts take package courses (offered as a job perk) along boring voyages to educate themselves and graduate as great poets or scholars after their studies.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: The Bwaps' Hat.
  • Badass Mustache: Archduke Norris.
  • Bad Dreams: The Emperor Strephon suffered from these after his family and his double were killed and the Imperium he had sworn to protect descended into Civil War because they thought he had been assassinated.
  • Barbarian Tribe: The Aslan are a partial example. They have the social and political structure of a tribal society but are technologically advanced.
  • The Battlestar: Several examples, most notably the Tigress battleship which can only be described as a mini-Death Star. The Azhanti High Lightning is the other iconic example.
  • Beam Spam: The larger capital ships tend to mount hundreds and hundreds of laser turrets that let them do this, though they are mostly intended to shoot down enemy missiles.
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: In GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars, the Vilani Imperium was deliberately organized to make the Emperor this. The idea was that there would be less volatility if everything was slowed down.
  • BFG:
    • The FGMP-15 (Fusion Gun, Man Portable). It includes a gravitic compensator so you could theoretically carry and fire it unarmored. If you can survive the radiation it releases all over the place when fired, that is.
    • The earlier PGMP (Plasma Gun) all but requires Powered Armor to be fired by a human without high-level augmentation.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: Traveller Double Adventure The Chamax Plague/Horde: The Chamax have two sensory abilities humans don't have. First, they can detect radio waves and use triangulation to determine their point of origin. Second, they have a limited ability to detect life, which they use to search for food.
    • Hivers have infrared "eyes" on their "head" tentacle.
  • Bizarre Alien Sexes: The Droyne have three sexes: Male, female, and enabler, the enablers being required to give off scent during a mating session. Droyne also are casted in the manner of social insects and each caste has only one sex. Droyne language focuses more on caste then on sex as that is more important in their psychological framework.
  • Bold Explorer: The IISS.
  • Boxed Crook: Several of the adventure seeds in the Classic Supplement 6 76 Patrons involve PCs who are arrested and imprisoned by the local authorities and offered their freedom if they'll do a job for the government.
  • Brainwashed: There is some question whether the Zhodani proles are this, or whether they are genuinely happy.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Sometimes the sourcebooks talk to the reader as if he was a person inside the Traveller Verse reading a database while at other times they sound like they are talking to the reader as if he was a twenty-first century RPG geek.
  • Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards: One of the mercenary tickets (scenarios) in Mercenary is to act as bodyguards to the leaders of the planet Jokotre while they make a pilgrimage to the shrines in the holy lands.
  • The Caligula: Cleon III (Cleon I's great-great-great-great-grandson, first Zhunastu to rule since Cleon II abdicated) was known for resolving disputes within his cabinet by shooting vocal opponents. A year after his ascension the Moot had him assassinated.
    • Lucan also had shades of this after Strephon's assassination put him on the throne.
  • Cannibal Larder: "Double Adventure 1: Death Station". A chemical disaster occurred aboard an orbiting science ship, killing most of the crew and reducing the remainder to madness. The survivors stowed the remains of the dead crew in a locker and have been snacking on them.
  • Can't Use Stairs: Classic Adventure 2 Research Station Gamma. The animal care, janitorial and security robots can't climb stairs because their movement systems won't allow it. They have to use the station elevator instead.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: It's practically the name of the game. It might be considered a little less casual than many other settings, since it takes two years or more to get from one end of the Imperium to another with a fast ship.
  • Cat Folk: The Aslan are race of lionlike creatures. Their name is also a Shout-Out to The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • Cave Behind the Falls: Classic Adventure 2 Research Station Gamma. One room in the station has a Hologram of a rippling waterfall on one wall. Behind the hologram is a room containing a security station.
  • City of Spies: The Federation of Arden
  • The Clan: Universal among Aslan and common among other races notably humans.
  • Cloning Body Parts:
    • Regrown limbs and basic prosthetics cost the same and have practically the same statistics; the difference is thematic.
    • Megatraveller Journal #3, "Worldguide: Vincennes". On the Tech Level 16 world of Vincennes, cloning of injured and damaged organs and limbs is commonplace.
  • Cloak & Dagger: Political intrigue is constantly going on and often a theme in printed adventures.
  • Colony Drop: Whether or not your average player group can use their ship to drop hyper-accelerated rocks on planets that annoy them is a common subject of discussion among fans. The Third Imperium has its own term for this trope: "Deadfall Ordance". That alone says something.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Darrians and Vilani. Subverted in the Vilani case. They knew how to be ruthless but not how to fight.
  • Comes Great Insanity: This was apparently Lucan's problem. He may not have been that stable before he became Emperor, but nobody cared when he was fourth in line.
  • Communications Officer: One of the crew specialties in GURPS Traveller: Starships.
  • Company Town: Double Adventure 3 "Death Station" has a small mining camp on the planet Gadden.
  • Contagious A.I.: Virus again. The way that Virus is contagious is a sticking point for many of its critics.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: Averted: assorted slugthrowers are still in use even at tech level 15.
  • Cool Starship: Just pick your favorite.
  • Corporate Warfare: Particularly in frontier regions. In a zig-zag even the biggest corporations don't do this very often. War is expensive. But it happens often enough to make life interesting for the PCs.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: These show up quite often in the printed adventures.
  • Corrupted Data: In Traveller - The New Era, one of the side effects of infestation by the Virus was a corruption of information transmission, such as Traveller News Service bulletins in Traveller products being replaced by random characters. One of the signs that the Virus had been defeated was Traveller News Service bulletins becoming partially and then fully readable again.
  • Courier: There's no faster-than-light communication other than sending a ship. The IISS maintains a mail system throughout the Imperium.
  • Crew of One: The Type-S scoutship can be operated by one scout. So can the X-boat. Bigger ships need more crew, with many Imperial warships carrying spare frozen crew members to thaw out when necessary.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: The Vilani Imperium. The ruling caste of the Third Imperium as well.
  • Cultural Posturing: A large part of the cause of the Interstellar Wars seems to have been a disagreement over whether Earth was the center of the universe or just an Insignificant Little Blue Planet.
  • The Cycle of Empires: The First Imperium had been decaying when the Terran Confederation conquered it and became the Second Imperium, the Second Imperium couldn't handle their new territory and quickly lapsed into The Long Night. 1700 years into the Long Night Cleon Zhunastu turned the Sylean Federation into the Third Imperium, which falls a millennium later after Strephon's assassination. The New Era setting has hints that a Fourth Imperium will eventually be established.
  • Darker and Edgier: In some ways what The New Era tried to be. It was produced in the '90s, after all.
  • Data Pad: Hand computers.
  • Days of Future Past: Traveller is often compared to the Age of Sail, largely because there is no communication faster than a ship.
  • Dead Man's Hand: Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society magazine #14 adventure "Aces & Eights". A set of playing cards (two aces, two eights and the joker), will, when put in an X-ray machine, create a map to the location of a 20 million credit treasure. The money was the payroll of the 1188th "Aces and Eights" Lift Infantry Brigade. The man with the cards is killed by the bad guys and the cards stolen, and the PCs must retrieve them.
  • Dead Man Writing: In The New Era supplement Survival Margin, a man leaves a message for his descendants.
  • Death by Origin Story: Early versions of the character generation system frequently killed player characters before play began. Was Dummied Out of later printings and editions up to the Mongoose edition, where it was re-instituted as an optional mechanic.
  • Death from Above: The Imperial Marines like to drop their troops in pods from orbit.
  • Deflector Shields: Repulsors literally deflect incoming missiles, but are useless against energy weapons. Other forcefield-type shields include nuclear dampers and the (nearly) impenetrable black globe generator. Otherwise, perhaps surprisingly, absent.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Ranging the spectrum from the merely curious to the absolutely shocking. Yes, it is perfectly possible to roleplay Scary Dogmatic Aliens .
  • Derelict Graveyard: There are lots of these in the Spinward Marches left over from wars through the centuries. The planet Entrope is notable for this. These are often under heavy guard because illegal weapons can be found there.
  • Despair Event Horizon: During the Rebellion Emperor Strephon crossed over after he realized giving up his claim to the throne wouldn't save his followers. Several other claimants to the throne also gave up when they saw how the Rebellion was destroying the Imperium.
  • Determined Homesteader: And any variation thereof. In undeveloped places you will find several examples of these. Once or twice they will end up as sample characters or characters in sidestories. This is the Sword Worlder's second hat to accompany Proud Warrior Race.
  • Dis Continuity Nod: Prince Varian's dream of the Final War and the virus, among many others in GURPS Traveller.
  • Downer Ending/Doomed by Canon: Players of Interstellar Wars who know the background will know that the Terrans eventually win, but four hundred years later galactic civilization collapses completely anyway.
  • Drop Pod: The Kinunir, an early adventure, uses these for the marines.
  • Duel to the Death: There are a number of ways to do this. Aslan prefer dueling with claws. When a human duels Aslan-fashion, he wears an artificial claw (called an Ayloi) on his hand.
  • Dying Race: The Droyne, before Grandfather saved them by introducing the casting ritual. Those Droyne who didn't embrace the caste system ended up degenerating into barely sapient primitives known as Chirpers.
  • Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Averted. Earth is in fact on the extreme rimward edge of the Imperium. It is the center of the Solomani sphere, however.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Zhodani had one of these during the Fifth Frontier War
  • Eldritch Abomination: Grandfather. Some alien races come close to this as well.
  • Empathic Healer: The new Empathic Healing psionic power in the Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #5 article "Special Psionic Powers".
  • The Empire: The Solomani Confederation and Zhodani Consulate have elements of this, and Lucan's Imperium fits the trope to a T.
  • Energy Absorption: The Black Globe.
  • The Epic: The sample campaign 100 parsecs which is about The Migration of a band of Sword Worlders to the far reaches of space. Also the original journey of exiled soldiers through Aslan territory to found the Sword Worlds.
  • Evil Chancellor: Classic Traveller, Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #12 Amber Zone article "Royal Hunt". Hamir, the trusted royal adviser of the Potentate of the planet Krajraha, is plotting with the corporation Nusku Trade LIC to assassinate the Potentate (and the PCs guarding him).
  • The Extremist Was Right: Emperor Cleon created the Imperium by a labyrinthine arrangement of evil and manipulative schemes. And it produced peace, civilization, and prosperity for thousands of years. He read the Evil Overlord List no doubt. That explains it.
  • Fantastic Caste System:
    • The Imperial Nobility acts as a glue to keep the Imperium together. In effect rather than being an ethnic empire (I.E. the Roman empire, etc), it is a caste-based empire and the nobility is the central cadre. Not only that, a state the size of the Imperium could not possibly find high command by merit alone as everyone would die before getting to high enough position, hence there has to be a caste system.
    • The Zhodani are more grotesque. It is a caste of psionics which means that among the rights of the ruling caste is access into the minds of the commoners. The rulers of course are allowed privacy; after all, one must have limits.
    • As for the aliens, Droyne have several physically different castes and the K'kree divide themselves into servants, merchants, and nobles.
  • Fantastic Naming Convention: The game goes into this with several cultures, as described in the appropriate sourcebook.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Between humans and aliens, different human subspecies, and in some cases natives of different planets.
    • Heck, sometimes natives within different planets too.
    • The K'kree are the worst in this regard. They think all carnivore races are a plague to be extinguished or at least brutally reeducated into vegetarianism.
    • The Sword Worlders think every Darian is an Insufferable Genius and Darians think Sword Worlders are a Barbarian Tribe. A cynic might say both are right.
    • Some Vilani and Solomani still hate each other thousands of years after the Intersteller Wars. This is not universal however.
    • Every race that claims to have invented jump drive separately is a major race. The rest are minor races. There is a curious dispute over that with regard to Aslan whom some Solomani claimed to have "stolen" (whatever that means) jump drive from them. They're right - the Aslan reverse-engineered their drive from a crashed Solomani ship, but the Aslan aren't about to be labeled a minor race.
  • Fantastic Rank System: The Vilani have one. See the trope page for details.
  • Fantastic Recruitment Drive: The Zhodani Consulate extensively uses psionic abilities in its government and military. They test children for psionic aptitude and train those with a significant level of power.
  • Fantasy World Map: Worlds have maps, of course, but the scale of the setting can only be appreciated by viewing the online Traveller Galactic Map. Check out the Zhodani Core Expedition sectors; they've gotten all the way to the edge of the uninhabitable regions of the Core!
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Of course, though it is considerably slower than many other forms (see Feudal Future below).
  • The Federation:
    • The Third Imperium, despite its name and feudal structure, is as written closer to this than to The Empire. Some of its successor states, such as the Regency and the Reformation Coalition in the New Era, also fit here. Others don't.
    • The Terran Confederation from the volume Interstellar Wars would probably be The Federation too, despite its expansionist tendencies.
  • Feudal Future: In the setting, FTL communication is only by ships using Jump Drive, which takes a week to reach a destination ranging from one to six parsecs away. With the Imperium being hundreds of parsecs across, it would literally take months or even up to a year or more for information to travel from one end to another, or from the capitol to the fringes. This necessitates a decentralized government, with a large amount of autonomy granted to the local powers. A feudal system is what you would end up with no matter what you chose to call the Imperium's lords. As a side note, the Aslan are a Tribal Future.
  • Fire of Comfort: The Hearthfire is a sacred symbol to Sword Worlders. Soldiers and police "guard the hearthfires" and goodwifes "tend the hearthfires".
  • First Contact: The Imperial Interstellar Scout Service has done this so many times that it has standard procedures for it.
  • Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: most starship weapons did incremental damage and could wear down an opponent over time. Spinal mount weapons (either a particle accelerator or a meson gun) ran the length of the ship and could blow opposing ships to atoms with a single shot.
  • Flamethrower Backfire: Classic Traveller:
    • The Dragon magazine #116 article "Aim and Burn" has several types of flamethrowers, each with their fuel supply in backpack tanks. On any penetrating hit from behind the tanks could explode, which would not only kill the user but cover a large area with burning fuel.
    • The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #3 article "Advanced Powered Battle Armor". The armor has a built-in flamer (flamethrower) with a fuel tank on the back of the suit. If the tank is hit there's an 8% chance the tank will explode, disabling the suit and killing the wearer.
  • Floating Continent: The Imperial Palace.
  • Follow the Leader: Most of Traveller's roots are in the Science Fiction literature of the '60s and '70s, but its initial success might have something to do with it coming out right after Star Wars was released.
  • Forever War: The Intersteller Wars which went on for two hundred years before the Terrans conquered the Vilani. The frontier wars between the Imperium and the Zho which are still going on (in the GURPS version).
  • For Science!: The Darrians' hat.
  • Four-Star Badass: Admiral Manuel Albadawi, leader of the Terran fleet in the decisive part of the conquest of the First Imperium. Lucky dice rolls can give players a retired general or admiral as a character, too.
  • Framing Device: the Backstory to Traveller acts as this. Traveller can easily be used as Fan-fic as well as RPGs and manages remarkable development while retaining flexibility.
  • From Bad to Worse: The transition between MegaTraveller and The New Era reveals that the Rebellion was only the beginning. The Hard Times supplement for MegaTraveller relesed late in the line included rules for reducing the population and technology ratings of worlds in the war zones of the Rebellion.
  • Fungus Humongous
    • 2300 AD supplement Aurore Sourcebook. The Bladehood plant is the shape of a mushroom two to four meters high.
    • The New Era supplement The Regency Sourcebook. The planet Enaaka's ecosystem includes tall, tree-like mushrooms.
  • The Future: Bordering on A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away..., except for Earth still being in the picture.
  • Galactic Conqueror: Cleon is a combination of this and Well-Intentioned Extremist. He is the closest example of the classic model. Albadawi is this in the sense that he is in fact conquering. He is however doing that as a servant of the Terran Confederation rather than on his own, and it is just a function of his being a Four-Star Badass.
  • Generational Saga: One of the sample campaigns in the volume Interstellar Wars is a generational saga called Legacy of War. The characters are not given and creating them is left to the GM and players.
  • Generican Empire: The Third Imperium.
  • Ghost Ship: The Annic Nova, among others.
  • Global Currency: The Imperial credit in Classic Traveller. This ended in MegaTraveller after the Empire collapsed. TNE, set after the fall of the Empire, explicitly claims that the Imperial Credit is still the principle currency. The explanation: well, there sure are a lot of 'em lying about. Averted as well as played straight. The Imperium is strong enough to justify having a large influence on currency. But other worlds often mint their own.
  • Glory Seeker: The Azhanti are a Proud Warrior Race that are rewarded by God according to the challenges they seek out and overcome. Naturally there are other Glory Seekers but these have a religion centered on seeking glory.
  • God Guise: In Classic Traveller Double Adventure 6 Divine Intervention and MegaTraveller supplement Vilani and Vargr: The Coreward Races.
  • Good Guy Bar: Brubeck's, a high prestige bar that advertises itself as a nostalgic throwback to the Cheers style bar. There are also the Altikrigarnir soldier's clubs where veterans of both the Sword Worlds and of Aslan clans in Darrian service visit in between wars, presumably to congratulate each other about what brave warriors they both are.
  • Good Is Not Nice: The Imperium is generally viewed favorably, but this is a government that grew largely through conquest and isn't afraid to put down rebellions hard.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The IISS. It is an exploration and intelligence arm of the Third Imperium. Loosely similar to a combination of NASA and the Indian Political Service. Other analogies can be thought of.
  • The Great Repair: Takes place in the Back Story of the Classic Adventure 3 Twilight's Peak.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: A major theme of the game is that there are very few clear-cut "good guys" and "bad guys", just people who may do good and bad things.
  • Gunboat Diplomacy: One of the ways the Imperium expanded.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Averted, but the different sub-species of humans can interbreed, with the inhabitants of the Third Imperium being largely a mixture of Vilani (humans from Vland) and Solomani (humans from Earth).
  • Hegemonic Empire
    • The Third Imperium is more a straightforward Empire (albeit a semi-benevolent one), but still has elements of this including taking time to flatter substates for ideological and policy reasons.
    • The Sylean Federation went from that into the Third Imperium under Emperor Cleon I, by utilizing the methods of a Hegemonic Empire.
  • Heroic Dolphins: In one sourcebook, a story is told of some uplifted sapient dolphins who helped bring to light a scandal involving the secret enslavement of an intelligent species by a megacorporation.
  • Hero of Another Story: A typical NPC has a good chance of being this.
  • Hidden Depths: Traveller itself. This is easily underestimated because RPGs are a pop-art. However the detail of this setting is even more than that of Dune and the flexibility is greater.
  • Hired Guns: This is a popular background for games. There are a large number of Private Military Contractors available for hire.
  • Hologram: A hologram of a waterfall in Classic Adventure 2 Research Station Gamma and food in Classic Adventure 3 Twilight's Peak.
  • Homeworld Evacuation: Classic Traveller, Double Adventure "The Chamax Plague/Horde". In the Back Story, the alien population of a planet was close to being wiped out by a Super-Persistent Predator species called the Chamax. They decided their only chance was to build a fleet of Sleeper Starships to carry all of the remaining aliens to other star systems.
  • Honor Before Reason: The Aslan Fteirle code.
  • The Horde: Vargr. "Uplifted" wolves who act like, well, wolves.
  • Horn Attack: A possible attack form for alien animals. In the Darthanon Queen adventure the randomly created Dyson monster could have it.
  • Hostile Weather: Mentioned in several Classic supplements, the 2300 AD adventure Energy Curve and the Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #2 article "The Bestiary".
  • Human Aliens: Many varieties, all of which are descended from humans transplanted from Earth by the Ancients, apart from the Solomani who are descended from the humans left on Earth, i.e. us.
  • Human Popsicle: Low berths: a low-cost way to see the galaxy, but not without danger. The crews and passengers of passenger ships sometimes play "the low lottery" - a Cr 10 bet on how many low berth passengers will survive the trip. If the winner doesn't survive the Captain of the ship gets the money.
  • Humans Are Bastards: One item of jewelry called Denuli gems is exceedingly rare and harvesting them is banned in the Imperium. The reason? It turns out that they are the eggs of low-tech sophant aliens.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: Vargr view humans this way especially Zhodani (which are regarded that way by other humans). Humans can build large abstract societies which attract Undying Loyalty from their members, whereas Vargr have trouble giving loyalty to anything but a Magnetic Hero. As a result humans sometimes appear to Vargr the way a Hive Mind appears to humans.
  • Humans Are Divided: Humans are the only species to rule multiple empires, not counting the Vargr's chronic inability to hold a government together.
  • Humans Are Leaders: All three Imperiums were/are ruled by humans.
  • Humans Are Special: Most of the known 'verse is dominated by the three races of humans.
  • Humans Are Warriors:
    • The Solomani have long had a far greater martial reputation than the other two major human races and the Third Imperium's military traditions are largely Solomani. To the extent that 57th-century Imperial Marines aren't that different in culture and ethos from the 20th-century US Marine Corps and Royal Marines, especially in TNE.
    • The Solomani are really the top predators of the Traveller universe. The Vilani and Zho are less warlike and their collectivism is crippling. Vargr are on the other extreme too chaotic, and Aslan too clannish. Vargr make good pirates but bad soldiers and while Aslan have a lot of individually skilled warriors they are limited in their capacity to systemitize warfare.
    • This is speaking of Solomani military tradition rather than the Solomani as a race. The Solomani and Vilani are by the time of the Third Imperium so interbred that the difference is more of identity rather than race. Neither of these marry Zhodani very often as the Psi thing leaves them out on their own, effectively alien and more alien to other humans than Aslan or Vargr.
    • All that said, non-Terran humans usually are no wusses themselves, even if not at the Terran level; and a number are Proud Warrior Races. In Traveller you really do not want to get on Humaniti's bad side.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #19 Amber Zone "Pride of the Lion". An anti-alien bigot captures a group of Aslan and organizes a hunt, with the Aslan as the quarry.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Ships can go into jumpspace and not come out. Or come out at a random destination; or hundreds of years later, with only a week passing aboard ship, or vice versa. Naturally enough, spacers have all kinds of superstitions regarding jumpspace. In most editions, close exposure to jumpspace (usually resulting from battle damage to the hull and the grid that forms the "jump bubble" of normal space around the ship) and its… different laws of physics can cause insanity and other bad effects in sophonts.
  • Hyperspace Lanes: Jump routes are limited mainly by the presence of fuel stops. As most ships can only jump one parsec at a time that means that most traffic follows places where the stars are one parsec apart. A ship equipped for the purpose can obtain fuel at a gas giant without landing in port. It is still necessary to be in-system.
  • IKEA Weaponry:
    • The Smallarms System in the Classic supplement SORAG by Paranoia Press.
    • The Coalition Multipurpose Weapon System in The New Era supplement Smash and Grab.
  • In the Future, Humans Will Be One Race: Both played straight and averted. The Imperium is largely a mixture of two human races that are now largely the same race, but other human races maintain their own empires on its borders. There are also small Solomani ethnic splinter cultures like the Sword Worlders, who are very Germanic.
  • In the Future, We Still Have Roombas: The maintenance robots in Classic Adventure 2 Research Station Gamma.
  • Intrepid Merchant: Free Traders. Who are constantly in a desperate struggle to survive by their wits, on the frontier. A Free Trader centered game is one of the most popular because of its flexibility and the ease with which a small number of characters can fit in. It can have recognizable similarities to Firefly in some ways, but it is set in an even more complex universe. While the Space Trucker variety described above is a favorite possibility, there are several types of Intrepid Merchants that can be imagined.
  • It Makes Sense in Context: The Vilani prejudice against technical advance was the result of a deliberate decision made long ago. When one realizes that they already had an Empire of thousands of worlds and enough technology to give men the power of Olympians, one can understand. After all, they had plenty of wealth and power, there might actually be some things that Man Was Not Meant To Know and their biggest threat was instability as they had already eliminated all outside threats. This actually worked for awhile. Unfortunately the Vilani ran into folk from an Insignificant Little Blue Planet who saw no need to play by their rules…
  • It's Raining Men: The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #19 article "Parachutes" has complete rules for using parachutes.
  • Jabba Table Manners: The Hivers eat rather messily, and they tend to enjoy what humans would regard as extremely fragrant food.
  • Jungle Drums: Subverted in an event in Classic Supplement 2 Animal Encounters.
  • Killer Game Master: Classic was one of the few games where your character could die before you even get out of character creation. More recent editions, understandably, make it optional (Mongoose Traveller calls it "Iron Man" rules).
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Many of the weapons used aren't that much different from ours. It is pointed out that a supersonic lead slug kills you just as dead at tech level 15 as at tech level 7. Space combat is the exception, as conventional projectiles are trivially easy to dodge at the distances and speeds involved.
  • Klingon Promotion: The little-used "Right of Assassination", established after Cleon III allow a high noble to personally slay the emperor and claim the Iridium Throne, with Moot approval.
  • Knockout Gas: Trang spray in Double Adventure 3 Death Station and standard knockout gas in Adventure 8 Prison Planet.
  • The Laws and Customs of War:
    • The Imperial Rules of War, which are an unwritten guideline as to how Imperial vassals will settle difficulties between them. Basically they boil down to, "Have fun boys, but don't make too much of a mess because The Emperor has means to punish you."
    • The Imperium acts as Combat Referee between its substates. There are a number of guidelines to when an imperial intervention will be launched. War crimes, or the use of WMDs on the ground (in space it is different), being too obviously the aggressor, trying to grab too much power or to disturb too great an area and so on are likely to attract an Imperial intervention. The general rule though is "be unnoticeable and you won't be noticed".
    • Client planets are pretty much allowed free play so long as a war doesn't go on too long or cause too much death and destruction. There are a few hard and fast rules, however, which all local warmongers should bear in mind: Do not harm Imperial officials, soldiers, or nobles; don't throw around nukes and other WMDs (the Imperium reserves that privilege to themselves); and don't ever interfere with trade.
  • A Light in the Distance: Twilight's Peak. While traveling on the world of Fulacin, the adventurers can find an octagonal structure with a light in the window. If they encounter it at night, the light will lead them to the building.
  • Living Gasbag: The Luugiir in Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #18, the Oegongong in Challenge magazine #27 and the muqath in FASA's Rescue on Galatea.
  • Loads And Loads Of Sidequests: The computer game Traveller Megatraveller 2: Quest of the Ancients had an large number of sidequests, including Fetch Quests and hunting wanted criminals for the bounty money.
  • Longevity Treatment: Anagathics, frequently banned or controlled. Require monthly doses or the character is forced to make an aging roll.
  • Lost Colony: The Island subsectors in the great Rift were these before a misjump by an Imperial cruiser brought them jump technology.
  • Lost Technology: Loads. Apart from artifacts of the Ancients there are any number of other lost races who left strange artifacts. The Darrians pretend that they still have some of theirs from their first interstellar civilization.
  • Lured Into a Trap: In the supplement The Traveller Adventure, adventure "Kidnapped on Aramanx". The villains who kidnapped Lisa Fireaux demand that Gvoudzon deliver the ransom so they can kidnap him as well.
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service: Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #23 Amber Zone "The Birthday Plot" and The MegaTraveller Journal #3, adventure "Rapid Repo".
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The Terrans employed missile boats during the Interstellar Wars that were basically mobile missile launch platforms. Most Vilani warships in the same conflict used missiles as their main armament.
  • Made a Slave: Forbidden in the Imperium but sometimes done underground. It is not said what slaves can do that machines can't (other than the obvious inference of course). In the Sword Worlds capital crimes are sometimes punished with enslavement.
  • Made of Iron: TNE gave player characters a ridiculously high number of Hit Points relative to the damage of even the heavier weapons in the setting. When you can survive a direct hit from an FGMP, it's time for House Rules.
  • The Manchurian Candidate: Zhodani intelligence does this from time to time with their expertise at Mind Manipulation.
  • Manipulative Bastard: This is the Hivers' hat, to the extent that "manipulator" is the most exalted title in their society and conspiracy theories about their activities reach the level of in-universe Memetic Mutation.
  • Mega Corp.: Commerce in the Imperium is dominated by these. They are probably best used as opposition, but the players can have a Dune-like experience trying to run one.
  • Merchant City: Most starports.
  • Merchant Prince: The Third Imperium, and to an extent the First and Second Imperiums as well, were founded and maintained by Merchant Princes. While the ruling class often went into more traditionally "princely" occupations like military service (especially with the Second Imperium), the role of the Merchant Princes always remained an important one.
  • Meta Plot: The Fifth Frontier War for Classic Traveller, the ongoing Rebellion for MegaTraveller, and the "Empress Wave" for The New Era (though it never got very far). Later editions don't have much of a metaplot, really.
  • The Metric System Is Here to Stay: Most of the editions except the GURPS version use the Metric system.
  • The Migration: Most notably Ihaiti (landless Aslan). Land is a biological obsession to Aslan males, and being landless makes for loss of status. Thus Ihaiti fleets are always travelling and have a reputation for not worrying about who is in the way. Often though they make a peaceful arrangement with a planet's inhabitants. Many planets have room to spare, and some are eager to have a Proud Warrior Race as allies to keep away their neighbors.
  • Military Science-Fiction: One option, though often held to be difficult to arrange for an RPG, given the strict hierarchies of a military system. Private Military Contractors campaigns are more popular than campaigns centered on regular armed forces, though these remain an option.
  • Mind Manipulation: the Zhodani embrace this art, the Imperials outlaw it. Given the considerable advantages it gives in competition for power arguably a ruling class must either do one or the other.
  • Minored in Asskicking: The Darrians are a Proud Scholar Race that has scientists, scholars, or artists as its heroes instead of warriors. They are also some of the toughest in the Spinward Marches.
  • Mohs Scale of Sci-Fi Hardness: Minovsky Physics level.
  • Monster Munch: In Traveller Double Adventure 5: The Chamax Plague, one of the NPCs who accompanies the PCs on their mission is Cal Yotisk. The referee is encouraged to use him as the first victim of the alien Chamax to show the PCs what they're up against.
  • More than Mind Control: On the other hand, the Zhodani might be doing this as well.
  • Multicultural Alien Planet: The Aslan are divided into many different clans with their own parochial customs. The Vargr have no rhyme or reason to their organization, being Chaotic Neutral.
  • Naming Your Colony World: All of the planets have names (of course) and sometimes we get to hear the story behind the name.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Solomani Confederation, with its doctrine that humans are better than aliens and Solomani are better than the other humans, is usually portrayed this way. An Author's Saving Throw in the GURPS Traveller supplement Rim of Fire retconned this into ethnic nationalism, not racism. The old portrayal of the Confederation also owed a lot to Red Scare; it was easy to tell when it was written.
  • Neural Implanting: A possibility with the Wafer Jack augmentation though not much is made of it.
  • Notice This: In the video game adaptation.
  • Not-So-Safe Harbor: In Imperial territory, most starports are a section on the planet administered directly by the Imperial government, and not subject to the laws of the surrounding nation. Just outside the boundary fence on most worlds is a "startown", often an ill-kept area in which The City Narrows.
  • Not Worth Killing: In Interstellar Wars the Vilani don't bother making a real effort to subjugate the Terrans because they are "just another barbarian tribe". By the time they learn differently, it is the Vilani who are being subjugated.
  • New Technology Is Evil: This was the general attitude of the Vilani Imperium after they decided they had expanded enough, thank you very much.
  • Numbered Homeworld: Some of the worlds in the Imperium have just a six-digit number as a name. All of the worlds in the Imperium can also be designated by which hexagon they occupy on their sector map.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: You can do better in the Imperial Navy if you have a higher Social Status characteristic.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The Virus. Of course, that's what it was designed to do.
  • One-Gender Race: The Hivers are all the same gender.
  • One-Federation Limit: Averted. The Third Imperium is the main Federation but there are other states that play that role. For instance the Sword Worlds Confederation is The Federation in the GURPS Traveller volume Sword Worlds and The Terran Confederation was definitely a Federation long before The Imperium. Even the states that most resemble Empires have "Federation-like" aspects to them.
  • Order Versus Chaos
    • The original Interstellar Wars, between the Vilani who were careful, venerable, but something of control freaks and the Solomani (Terrans) who were innovative, freedom-loving but rather reckless. The Solomani won but couldn't figure out how to run the empire they just conquered. This brought about The Long Night which lasted until the rise of the Third Imperium.
    • The Zhodani are the most extreme example of order. Their regime is ruled over by a caste of psis who are allowed to look into their subjects minds and sometimes control them. Mere discontent is a crime and is easily found out.
    • Zhos are used to it, and think being read by a mind reader is no more embarrassing than being examined by a doctor. But non-Zhos think it to be a Fate Worse than Death.
    • Vargr by contrast are the epitome of chaos. They live in ill-organized groups that are led by the one with the most "charisma". They also consider piracy a respectable profession.
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: The K'Kree in the main rules and the Graytch ("spidertaurs") in Marc Miller's Traveller supplement Aliens Archive.
  • Our Dwarves Are Different: The Geonee, a minor human race from a high-gravity world that makes them stocky who once had an ancient empire conquered by the Vilani are rather Dwarf-like.
  • Our Elves Are Different: The Darrians, a minor human race who once had greater technological prowess than the Imperium before they accidently blew up their star are pretty much elves - In Space! Right down to their elvish-sounding language, affinity for trees and the arts, and pointed ears.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: The Ithklur, a Proud Warrior Race that serves in a "gurkha-like" role for the Hivers. They are reptilian and are formidable soldiers. They fit the later adaptation more than the Tolkienite Always Chaotic Evil Mooks. They are all Boisterous Bruisers and think War Is Glorious, but are also often good natured. Though they delight in violence it is in the Blood Knight sense rather than the For the Evulz sense. In fact not only do they delight in violence they think it hones their intelligence so that school classrooms are marked by roughhousing as a natural part of a lesson.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions
    • Averted. Religion is still a part of Traveller life and there is room enough for anything the GM and players desire; even their own Real Life religion if it pleases them. The Backstory does not go to much effort designing religions (deliberately so, apparently, to avoid causing tension between the players) for the game but one or two plausible ones are made such as the K'kree beliefs or the Aslan Fteir code of honor or the Shugalii chef-priests (they actually seem more like Jewish rabbis than priests) of the Vilani. Actually the best comparison to Shugalii might be Kosher-butchers.
    • The volume Humaniti does a good job in describing in-verse religions.
    • The Maar Zon faith of Sylea seems to be a form of Deism but is less abstract than the Terran Deism of the eighteenth century. It has customs that seem similar to some Terran religions. The Vilani seem to be agnostics but have a code of honor that vaguely resembles Confucianism. Bwaps are nature worshipers of a sort that emphasize nature as representing order. Many Sword Worlders are Aesirists which is a form of Nordic-style Neopaganism.
    • One of the more interesting aspects of the Maar Zon is the idea that ideas are free. This is said to have come from days when the Vilani Imperium (who once oppressed the Syleans) would use inordinate and draconian intellectual property laws to ensure that technology could not be used outside the will of the ruling class. Under this theory, it was originally a Take That to the Vilani. As the Maar Zon is dated from before the arrival of the Vilani, actual adherants of the Maar Zon faith think this idea has Unfortunate Implications.
  • Penal Colony: Several prison planets, including Gorgon (in the Classic Adventure 4 Leviathan) and Torment in the Darrian subsector.
  • Planetary Nation: While single planetary governments are the norm, balkanization is common enough that the Third Imperium has rules for intraplanetary warfare. Those Balkanized planets are subversions.
  • Planetary Romance: A number of the planets would make good settings for this. An entire epic can often be made on a single world.
  • Planet of Hats: Played with. The Aslan are warriors, the Vargr are space pirates, the Hivers are manipulators and so on. However there is usually enough complexity available for it not to be too hatty.
  • Planetville: Zig Zagged. While many planets have only one city of interest to starfarers they often have a highly developed civilizations and complex local politics that has only tangential relation with interstellar goings-on. Except at those times when it's a Planet of Hats. All more or less peacefully coexist, as based upon the needs of the tabletop game. Many systems remain unsettled because with jump drive it can often take no longer to get to the neighboring star system than to the outer planets, leaving the outer worlds barren (and a good place for adventures). Then too, some planets just have one small settlement on them and are therefore literally a planetville.
  • Plant Aliens: The Klaxun in the 2300 AD adventure Energy Curve.
  • Pleasure Planet: "Imperial pleasure planets" and Garden Prime in Classic supplements and Kamsii, planetary theme park in GURPS Traveller.
  • Plasma Cannon: PGMPs and FGMPs
  • Poison Is Corrosive: 2300 AD. The Bladehood plant stabs its victims with blades covered by a highly acidic poison.
  • Powered Armour: Battledress.
  • Prayer Pose: Classic adventure Action Aboard - Adventures on the King Richard. Sister Mary Torget is a passenger aboard the starship ISSV King Richard. Her illustration shows her in nun's clothing and in this pose.
  • Precursors: The Ancients AKA Droyne who transplanted humans all across the galaxy. There are also vague references of dubious canonicity to even earlier civilizations.
  • Privateer
  • Proud Scholar Race: The Darrians. They are in a Forever War with Sword Worlders who are a Proud Warrior Race.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Aslan. Also the Sword Worlds, a cluster of Solomani cultures that claim Scandinavian-Teutonic heritage. There are a number of minor Proud Warrior Races as well. The planet of Lanth, as described in the volume Spinward Marches seems to be a fortress world on the Imperial border and can be justifiably pictured as a Proud Warrior Race, especially as the Imperium's strategic interests, would allow the culture to specialize.
  • Psychic Block Defense: Anti-psi technology.
  • Psychic Powers: The Zhodani's hat, rarely found in the Third Imperium (because they're illegal there).
  • Psychic Static: The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #14 "Casual Encounter" Lothario Lochinvar Finger.
  • Puppet State: Many states are like this in the setting. The Darrians are simply allies that happen to be unequal in strength to the Imperium. The Border Worlds Authority is a group of conquered Sword Worlds that barely pretend that they are not a Puppet State of the more degrading sort (they were a rather clumsy policy whose main justification was to keep Swordies from causing trouble without using Imperial troops. No one was really fooled). The member substates of the Imperium are theoretically all there with their own consent, though a number of them of course require rather rigorous persuasion. Imperial member substates have often been in the Imperium so long that they are pretty much integrated into the system and they are distinct from client states. Some planets are directly ruled by the Imperium. Having Puppet States is central to Imperial ideology. Its constitution gives it power primarily over "The space between the stars", meaning that it provides defense needs and central authority to otherwise autonomous states. In practice it is far more complex.
  • Quicksand Sucks: In Adventure Twilight's Peak, Double Adventure Marooned/Marooned Alone, Supplement 2 Animal Encounters and Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #2 article "The Bestiary".
  • Rancher: The ideal Aslan noble family owns a ranch. As Aslan are a Proud Warrior Race the male is supposed to hold it by virtue of his status as a Real Man.
  • Random Number God: In most editions, whether you are playing a naive youngster who washed out of flight school or a grizzled veteran depends largely on how your dice rolled.
  • Razor Floss: In the Megatraveller Journal #3 adventure "Rapid Repo", the PC team can requisition monomolecular garottes.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Aslan think all males have to be interested in little besides fighting or else they're not truly men. This is taken to extremes by Aslan. Anyone not working in the occupation associated with their gender according to Aslan is referred to as being in the opposite gender.
  • Redundant Rescue: In Classic Traveller Book 0.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Because of the limited speed of interstellar travel, entire frontier wars can be fought and ended before orders arrive from the Imperial core.
  • Romani: The New Era supplement Vampire Fleets. The "Gypsies" of the planet Promise are feared, hated and persecuted by the Virus controlled human population. The controlled humans consider them to be outcasts and abominations and tell their children that the Gypsies will steal them. The Gypsies are forbidden to enter the Subject Lands and mostly travel in small bands through the Outback. Many of them have psionic abilities, which would appear to be magic to those unfamiliar with psionics.
  • Royal Decree: An Imperial Warrant. Issued in important circumstances to a holder who has the power to override precedent according to the framework written out by the Emperor. Archduke Norris used one to reorganize the Imperial forces and retake the initiative during the Fifth Frontier War.
  • Sacred Hospitality
    • Vilani consider it rude to force a guest to sleep at a hotel. Rather the local VIP picks someone to billet a visitor. They are responsible for ensuring that the guest is well kept.
    • Aslan, as one would expect of a Proud Warrior Race have a lot of rituals to do with this. In one sidestory there is told a tale of a wounded Aslan warrior who was being tended by a rival clan according to The Laws and Customs of War. When this Aslan's clan made a raid he was obligated to help defend, and in doing so slew his own brother in a display of honor before kinship. After this the two clans made peace and this deed was remembered ever after.
  • Sacred Scripture: Maar Ki Zon is the sacred scripture of the Maar Zon, the national religion of the Sylean people.
  • Salvage Pirates: The Frontier Wars were all fought on roughly the same area with little change in political geography. There are thus planets which have hundreds of years of wrecked ships in them. Finding weapons there to arm the escort for the colonial convoy in the campaign 100 parsecs is one of the options.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: Issue 6 of the Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society had an article on dolphins genetically engineered to have higher intelligence, up to 13 (with the human average being 7). Some of them can learn human languages.
  • Sapient Ship: Classic Adventure 1 The Kinunir. The Kinunir's A.I. security system goes berserk and kills the entire crew of the ship. The PCs must deal with it in order to bring the Kinunir home.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The K'kree insist that everyone become vegetarians or die. This is also another way to view the Zhodani.
  • Schizo Tech: Different planets often have wildly different technology levels. This is really for the purpose of allowing game flexibility and is therefore a concession to the Rule of Cool. However it is Justified by assuming political, social, and economic fluctuations over thousands of years that caused variability over large amounts of space.
  • Science Fiction: One of the first RPGs to have a science fiction setting.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Completely and utterly averted, see the link in Fantasy World Map above.
  • Scrapbook Story: The sourcebooks have a number of short side stories, some presented in this form.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: The Emperor sometimes issues an Imperial Warrant to people specifically chosen as troubleshooters that allows him to overrule standard procedure in areas specified by the warrant. Typically this will be used for special missions like overseeing a Peace Conference or what not.
  • Self Healing Phlebotinum: In the Paranoia Press supplement Merchants and Merchandise, Delta Research sold a device called an E-Circuit Module. When installed on an object (such as a starship), it would gradually repair any damage to the object.
  • Settling the Frontier: Settling new colonies is important for all the major races. The Aslan in particular have a thing for expansion due to the males' drive for land ownership. Aslan have a bad reputation for aggressiveness but they will just as often settle on empty or near empty planets, or trade mercenary service to the local government for land.
  • Shout Out: Multiple examples, including the Isaac Asimov's works, the James Bond films, Frank Herbert's Dune, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Alien series, The Mote in God's Eye, Star Trek: The Original Series, The Stainless Steel Rat stories and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.
  • Shown Their Work: In such a manner as to practically undermine the whole point. There are books explaining the underpinnings of design that occasionally break into the underlying physics of, say, a gun, and the math to translate that into game terms. This is a game that even researches its Applied Phlebotinum, or at least treats it as if it can be. Alas… it constantly goes too far. In the gun example, vast calculations produce virtually the same results for any handgun. Pages detain the minutiae of planet climate, except to prove only Earth-like worlds around Sun-like stars are good for anything. Combat is very harsh… but only if you take into account all of the rules, of which there are many, and many are strange.
  • Silicon-Based Life: Doyle's eel in the Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #15 article "The Bestiary" and rock creatures in Marc Miller's Traveller supplement Milieu 0 Campaign.
  • Single-Biome Planet: There are many Desert Planets, Ice Planets, Ocean Planets and at least one Jungle Planet in the Traveller universe.
  • Sleeper Starship: "Low-passage" is an FTL version. Some races used STL sleeper ships to colonize other systems before obtaining Jump drive, for instance the Island Clusters subsectors in Classic Adventure 5 Trillion Credit Squadron.
  • Space Age Stasis: The Vilani Imperium enforced this for the sake of stability. The Third Imperium has a bit of this owing to cultural cross-pollination from the Vilani.
  • Space Amish:
    • This is a fairly common explantion for all the low-tech worlds with working spaceports. Another reasonably common explanation is simply that the starport was built by the Imperium and the two cultures ignore each other.
    • On the planet of Prometheus there are some literal Amish.
    • The Imperium itself and several other intersteller states have a prejudice against psionics, robotics, and cybernetics and limit them to specific circumstances. This makes the Imperium itself a mild form of Space Amish in the future. It also justifies a few aspects such as We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future, and having Badass Armys, instead of clouds of nanites or hordes of robots and in general gives it a more heroic and personal feel. Taboo technology, can of course still be found in a lost city, or a secret Imperial research station, or whatever.
  • Space Battle: Tons. The Intersteller Wars and the Fifth Frontier War are the two most detailed in the canon, though the Rebellion/Final War was technically even bigger.
  • Space Cossacks: Several variations of these.
  • Space Fighter: Depending on the version of the game, as well as a fanon issue.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Several versions of the game compare the Imperium to the Age of Sail.
  • Space Marine: The Imperial Marines. As well as the earlier Terran Confederation Marines. Curiously hardly anyone else seems to field Space Marines although similar units with different titles are common.
  • Space Navy: several, quite naturally enough. The Third Imperium has one of the biggest.
  • Space Opera: The standard scope of the game, although the game your Referee runs doesn't have to be Space Opera. There's a definite Hard SF feel to the technical limitations of the weapons, the tight parameters for ship design, etc. The character creation system encourages characters with human-scale abilities and limitations, not even Heinlein-style Competent Men, let alone larger-than-life heroes. Contrast this with, for example, d20 Star Wars, in which you can't not play space opera.
  • Space Pirates: The realism of such is a cult-controversy among Traveller fans, rather akin to the "do Balrogs have wings." However Vargr Corsairs (which are somewhat different) as well as pirates from other races often appear. As well as more respectable privateers. The issue is so controversial that Mongoose Traveller's notes on piracy feature a "Flame War Warning" sidebar.
  • Space Police: Imperial Customs in the Imperium, Confederation Patrol in the Sword Worlds Confederation. These often deal with Space Pirates. Some sub-departments of the IISS as well, notably the S3 which are kind of "space SWAT-teams".
  • Space Western: Not only are there quests, epic voyages, and space battles, and all the stuff of grand style Space Opera, there is grubby frontier mayhem, pioneering and that sort of thing.
  • Spheroid Dropship: The Broadsword class mercenary cruiser. Oddly, though its description says it can't land on planets with atmospheres, one does exactly that in Classic Adventure 7 Broadsword.
  • Splat: Lots of expansion materials, especially for the Mongoose edition. There are the Alien Modules, and a whole line is pretty much devoted to fleshing out the 'core' careers by adding new careers and branches/facets of those careers, and providing more information on various parts of the 'verse. There are also a number of supplements with vehicles, ships, more equipment, and so on.
  • Spoiler Title: Guess what the players find out during the Classic Adventure 13 Secret of the Ancients?
  • Staged Populist Uprising:
    • Classic Supplement 6 76 Patrons. Two of the missions involve a rebel uprising in the country of Anisinta on the planet Porozlo. The PC are hired by a group of business executives to either create a rebel force to overthrow the government or take over an existing rebel group for the same purpose. The executives intend to profit by making the government more friendly to business.
    • In the 3rd Imperium's Spinward Marches, the Ine Givar rebels are under the control of and supplied by the Imperium's enemy, the Zhodani Consulate.
    • Classic Adventure 7 Broadsword. On the planet Garda-Vilis the Tanoose Freedom League was originally a home-grown rebellion against off-world control by the planet Vilis, but eventually came under the control of the Ine Givar rebels and switched to an anti-Imperial stance.
  • Standard Royal Court: The Imperial court and the court of every sector and subsector capitol. Generally gives an air of Ermine Cape Effect but there a trace of Deadly Decadent Court as well.
  • Standard Sci-Fi History: Once in their glory days the Vilani ruled over a vast domain for thousands of years. When they fell into complacency a Barbarian Tribe from an Insignificant Little Blue Planet seized the worlds of the Vilani in a series of conquests. However these too fell from their glory and darkness fell on the universe. Then under the reign of Cleon Zhunastu the Third Imperium was founded to explore and colonize and rise to claim the legacy of the two great empires before it. The Imperium stands to this day shining the light of civilization across the stars. But at the borders chaos reigns. Rival empires plot and scheme, warlords clash, pirates plunder and alien races seek their dominion. It is not a safe universe.
  • Starfish Aliens: Although some of the races are Rubber-Forehead Aliens or People in Rubber Suits, or even Human Aliens, several others, especially some of the more obscure minor races, are rather strange. The Hivers even look like starfish.
  • Star Killing: No known race in the "present day" of the setting can do this except the Darrians who have an unusual level of technology.
  • Stat Death: Damage in most editions is done directly to your physical statistics (Strength, Dexterity, and Endurance); you're helpless if two reach zero and die when all three run out.
  • State Sec: SolSec, among the Solomani, and the Zhodani Thought Police.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: K'ree are the most extreme and simplistic example. Some Proud Warrior Races have a more complex and ambiguous take on this.
  • Stealth in Space: The black globe generator, and ECCMs.
  • Subspace Ansible: Averted. One of the fundamental features of the Traveller verse is the lack of these.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The Chamax in Double Adventure "The Chamax Plague/Horde". They can detect life and radio signals at long ranges and will hunt down and eat anything they can detect.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Both Aslan and Sword Worlders have elaborate rules for this. On such occasions when a Sword Worlder desires a masculine vocation she is expected to dress and act like a male (in the cultural sense, not the biological presumably) while engaged in it. This is allowed when home obligations do not interfere, notably in a wealthy female who can hire servants. Such females are called "nontraditional" in canon, which is a misnomer as it actually is a tradition, just rarely enacted one. In the case of Aslan females sometimes become this when there are no male heirs; if they do they are obligated to vow celibacy and perform male duties and are addressed as males rather than females. In both of these cases it is a traditional arrangement to allow for a rare circumstance rather than a disguise.
  • Swiss-Army Weapon: The Smallarms System in the Classic supplement SORAG by Paranoia Press.
  • Sword Fight: While the modern Marine sword drill consists of little more than a salute, the Imperial Marines in Traveller are trained to use their cutlasses in combat. Often this is more for sport (and sometimes dueling) than combat; there are however low-tech worlds in the Traveller Universe. As well, sometimes boarding parties find it inadvisable to start slinging bullets and grenades and laser beams around in close proximity to the reactors in the engine room and appreciate having additional tactical options.
  • Technology Levels: Trope Maker, at least for the medium. TLs may look implausible if taken literally. The Sourcebooks imply that exactly the same technology evolves in planets that sometimes have different conditions and no connection. However, using TLs as a base a clever GM can construct something more believable. MegaTraveller's "World Builder's Handbook" introduced the idea that a world may have different TLs for different areas of science and engineering, and a similar system was adopted by GURPS Traveller's "First In" sourcebook.
  • Technology Porn: Gobs of space tech porn including a system for designing your own Cool Starship. Many find that their favorite part.
  • Teleport Interdiction: In Classic Adventure 7 Broadsword, a unit of Zhodani Commandos tries to teleport aboard the title ship in order to capture it. The crew must prevent this by filling unoccupied parts of the ship with solid material so the Zhodani can't use them as a teleport location.
  • Tidally Locked Planet: Classic Traveller Double Adventure 2 "Across the Bright Face". The planet Dinom is an interesting variation on this. Its north pole points toward its star, so it looks like it's on its side. Its northern continent is always in sunlight (up to 260 degrees Celsius) and its southern continent in darkness (and goes almost as low as absolute zero). Between the north and south continents there's a temperate zone where life can exist.
  • Time Travel: Almost averted. Potential for it exists, but few arrangements are made for it in canon. Those who wish to deal with it can cross-reference Gurps: Time Travel and Infinite Worlds. Zhodani are said to have a secret Ancient Artifact that sees the future but little is made of that.
  • Tranquillizer Dart: A snub pistol loaded with tranq rounds, as described in Book 4 Mercenary.
  • Translator Microbes: Justified, being just a computer program that collects languages. Newly discovered languages have to be decoded the hard way; in the case of the IISS, by listening to transmissions or by putting a robotic bug on the planet to pick up conversation in preparation for First Contact.
  • Truce Zone: The Federation of Arden.
  • Truth Serum: Truth drug. The recipient answers questions truthfully for two minutes, then falls unconscious for an hour and takes moderate damage.
  • Twin Telepathy: The Clotho are a minor alien race that has this. They are born in brother-sister pairs and when they mate one pair is bonded with another pair instead of one individual.
  • Uncanceled: GURPS Traveller, T4, and other latter-day incarnations.
  • Unexpected Inheritance
  • United Space of America: the Terran Confederation. Justified in that the Terran Confederation is only a few generations into the future, close enough time for the culture not to have changed unrecognizably. For this reason the Intersteller Wars era is a good entry level period for players as it does not require roleplaying a strange culture (a fun exercise of course, but one for which some might prefer to wait until they've practiced a bit more). If you consider roughly 150 years from now to be only a few generations that is. But the justification does work well enough for the purpose and is somewhat more believable than 3000 years from now having the same culture as the players.
  • Unobtainium: Lanthanum, which really exists and really is rare, but as far as we know doesn't facilitate Faster-Than-Light Travel - its most common use is in making flints for cigarette lighters. It is speculated that the role of lanthanum in the mechanism of jump drive is connected with the fact that it reacts reversibly with hydrogen, which is used as fuel for the drive. There are enough kinds of Unobtainium knocking around in the Traveller universe to warrant a Lampshade Hanging in Mongoose Traveller, where "unobtainium" is listed as a trade good.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Sort of. Canon can be changed according to the will of the players naturally enough and many distinguish between canon and their traveller universe. Some of the side-stories contain narratives by people who are obviously unreliable (for instance because they are criminals or because they are ideological extremists).
  • Used Future
    • Players can get a good discount on their starship by taking one that is several decades old. The Darrians in the 1100s still use a few of their high-tech starships left over from before they blew their star up - about three-hundred years old.
    • For that matter, one can still find some grubby old Siigiizuni class (predecessor to the ubiquitous Beowulfs) hanging around some places. These ships were from about the beginning of the Vilani Imperium, but the specs remain on record.
  • Vampiric Draining: The Reticulan Parasite (Alien) in the Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #4 and the Dyson monster in the Judges Guild adventure Darthanon Queen could both drain the Life Energy of the victims they killed.
  • The Verse: One of the first really memorable science fiction RPG settings.
  • Vestigial Empire: Obviously all empires become this sooner or later. But a well described one was the Vilani Imperium had been this for thousands of years, its organization ran effectively on autopilot and survived because it hadn't had a competitor in ages. When they met the Terrans they were in for a big surprise. Not least because Terrans were only recently united and still remembered how to fight.
  • Wagon Train to the Stars: Exploration expeditions are a large part and the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service which is an Imperial government exploration and intelligence organization, does this as one of its main duties.
  • Walking the Earth: What most player groups do, only the Adventure Towns are planets.
  • War for Fun and Profit: What mercenary player groups do.
  • War Is Glorious
  • War Is Hell
    • Several units of Imperial Marines were actually disbanded for atrocities committed during the Imperial civil wars.
    • The beginning of the volume Sword Worlds shows a scene where a Sword Worlder soldier returning to find his house blown to bits, and his wife desperately trying to rebuild it. Then in a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming they greet each other and,as the book puts it "Spend the night celebrating being together after all they had been through".
    • Some star systems in the Spinward Marches are choked with wrecks left from hundreds of years of war after war. This is a good place for the adventures of teams of Salvage Pirates
    • The Sword Worlds in general pretty much had a broken jaw from the Fifth Frontier War. Some districts were nearly depopulated of young males. But the whole Spinward Marches is still recovering as of Emperor Strephon's time and damage is splattered all about.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression:
    • Played with. Toward the end of the Intersteller Wars, the constitution of the Terran Confederation became obsolete because Planet Terra had conquered and assimilated so many worlds that Planet Terra could no longer be considered the center of the confederation. When no one could solve the problem, a naval coup took place instituting the Second Imperium.
    • The Long Night could be an aversion. There is no mention of a mass rebellion per se; the Second Imperium just disintegrated.
  • Wave Motion Gun: Spinal mounts on most capital ships.
  • We Don't Need Roads: Triphibians starting at Tech Level 8 in MegaTraveller.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future
  • We Will Wear Armor in the Future: Due to the general lethality of combat, armour is all but required to survive more than a couple shots. Besides Battle Dress available armours range from practically useless leather (jack) to full combat armour that requires a laser or gauss rifle to really penetrate. There's also reflec that only defends against lasers and can be added to other types of armour. However most armour tend to be a higher tech level and much more expensive than the weapons that can pierce it.
  • Weakened by the Light: In the Classic adventure Darthanon Queen, the randomly created Dyson monster can have the Vulnerability of taking 1d6 damage from intense light.
  • Wine Is Classy: The Emperor drinks a Hungarian vintage brought all the way from Planet Terra.
  • Winged Humanoid: The Droyne, among others.
  • Wire Dilemma: In the Classic Judges Guild adventure Darthanon Queen there are several bombs planted aboard the title starship. Each has three wires: red, black and green. To disarm a bomb the red and black wires must be cut. If the green wire is cut the person doing so will have to be scraped off the nearest wall with a spatula.
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Empress Arbellatra
  • Women's Mysteries: The Kenningsboken, a mysterious book containing rhymes dealing with such subjects as child care and home management is popular among Sword Worlder women and only occasionally read by men. Rumor has it that it is in fact a psionic exercise tool.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: Traveller is often compared to the Age of Sail. The main resemblance is the long voyages. On a strictly tactical level it is different.
  • Wretched Hive: The planet Granicus is a notorious pirate haven ruled by three competing organized crime groups.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Once or twice there are anomalies in the description of various cultures that are most easily Handwaved by simply saying "Yeah, well that's THEIR version". In the volume Milieu 0 of Marc Miller's Traveller it actually invites this by giving arguments from both sides about the morality of building the Imperium, as if it was a Real Life political controversy. This sort of thing actually manages to help reinforce Willing Suspension of Disbelief. When writing a Backstory Traveller is Just That Good.
  • You Will Be Assimilated: the Marc Miller's Traveller volume Milieu 0 gives traces of the IISS's Big Book of War that tells how to do this to hapless planets during the founding of the Imperium. It gives an idea what a Magnificent Bastard Cleon was.

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