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Literature / Starship Traveller

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But... what about the Three Laws of Robotics?

"The fate of the Starship Traveller and her crew lies in YOUR hands!"

Starship Traveller is the 4th entry of the Fighting Fantasy series of Gamebooks written by Steve Jackson, but the first entry of the franchise set in the Sci-Fi genre.

Taking place in the distant future, the space-faring vessel, Starship Traveller, has been sucked into a black hole and flung into a parallel universe. You, the hero of the story, are the captain of the Traveller, and it is your duty to navigate and explore planets and faraway worlds to find a way back to your rightful universe.

Forfeiting the traditional Sword and Sorcery gameplay methods seen in the previous three gamebooks, Starship Traveller introduces new mechanics in gameplay, such as Phaser combat, Spaceship Battles, and a crew mechanic where you and your officers and guards fights as a team along your side.

Although a bit of an oddball, being the first of its type, Starship Traveller still manages to be a moderate success, spawning a series of sci-fi based spin-offs in Fighting Fantasy gamebooks including Space Assassin, Star Strider, The Rings of Kether and several others.

Will the Traveller and her crew find their way back to Earth? Or will her crew be doomed to roam the other universe... forever?

Starship Traveller provides examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: There's one planet taken over by androids whom have enslaved the local population. And you too, if you're not careful.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Averted, the only reason you can understand any alien speech is due to your Universal Translator Device.
  • Asteroid Miners: You can direct a few of your crew to search for resources on asteroids. Be warned though, you might lose a few crew from a stray meteorite.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Your ship gets assailed by one at some point, and you risk suffering severe damage with each asteroid strike.
  • Badass Crew: You and your team of officers.
  • Can't Drop the Hero: Any expeditionary party always includes you, the captain.
  • The Captain: You play this role, with all the usual associated tropes.
  • Capture and Replicate: In one of the bad endings you end up getting captured and used to create an identical clone of yourself. It then takes over your position as Captain and orders your entire crew to leave, leaving you stranded on an alien planet...
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Visiting planets is as easy as beaming yourself and your crew down, and having remaining crew of the ship stay aboard on standby.
  • Contamination Situation: Happens in one scene where a plague outburst happens on the Traveller.
  • Cool, Clear Water: One of your crew takes a drink from a stream on an unidentified planet, and ends up becoming Brainwashed and Crazy later on.
  • Cyber Cyclops: The Manslayer Robot in both incarnations is a one-eyed machine.
  • Deity of Human Origin: The "Rain God" worshiped by the citizens of Planet Cliba turns out to be a human scientist who used his invention to change an entire planet.
  • Depending on the Artist: The Manslayer Robot is a lot bigger and bulkier in the redrawn cover.
  • Despair Event Horizon: If you don't find both a black hole sector number and stardate, the ship will just wander through space aimlessly (with some of the crew being Driven to Suicide) and finally fling itself at the first black hole they find out of desperation (which will naturally destroy them).
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: As the first sci-fi based Fighting Fantasy adventure (as well as being a very early entry in the series overall), it has some.
    • Despite being a gamebook set in the wideness of outer space, it's a relatively short adventure at only 340 sections. (There are also three extra sections to cover the extra combat rules.)
    • Combat sequences are scarce, with barely any huge battles unlike later sci-fi based gamebooks, and laser gun battles are treated with extreme realism (getting shot by phasers renders the victim knocked out or instantly killed; later books like Space Assassin or The Rings of Kether would have lasers doing larger damage to STAMINA, but not usually fatal).
    • The "Luck" statistic doesn't work like in any other book in the series, being a static number where how to be successful is different in each instance (sometimes high, sometimes low). And not coming up all that much anyway besides.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: A given considering the setting.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Losing power or fuel while in hyperspeed, and having the Traveller trapped in the darkness of outer space... FOREVER.
  • Genre Shift: After three books in a medieval fantasy setting, comes this inter-dimensional space adventure.
  • Ghost Extras: One possible plot event reveals the ship has a lot of people (and a cat) on board that never get involved in any other part of the story.
  • Hazmat Suit: EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) Suits are used whenever there's a gas leak on the Traveller.
  • Humongous Mecha: You get to battle one of these, called a Manslayer Robot, in a gladiatorial arena.
  • Lizard Folk: The Ganzigates are a reptilian race you may encounter a few times.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: You, the captain, always come along on exploration missions.
  • No Antagonist: Unusually for the series there is no one Big Bad for the book. The Traveller has been marooned in unexplored space via natural causes and while you certainly can encounter belligerent aliens or machines, no one is specifically trying to prevent you returning home.
  • Noble Bird of Prey: Eagles are considered sacred in Ganzigate culture. If you unleash an eagle on a hostile Ganzigate, he will surrender on the spot rather than risk harming the eagle.
  • One-Hit Kill: A single hit with a hand held phaser will instantly stun or kill you or (almost) any opponent, regardless of your or their Stamina score. The book even explicitly warns you about getting into phaser fights due to this.
  • The Plague: You risk picking up some form of these from another planet. In one scenario an alien plague wipes out a large chunk of your ship, including your Engineering and Medical officer.
  • Planet of Hats: Some of the planets are these, like the planet of Dar-Villains, for example.
  • Power Crystal: Dilibrium Crystals can be mined naturally and used as nuclear fuel. You need to find a massive supply of these when your ship suffers from power failure.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Ganzigates falls under these.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: The non-security officers suffer a Skill penalty in combat. All of them except you, the captain.
    Your combat skills are the equal of your professional skills, as befits a true hero.
  • Replacement Goldfish: If you lose any of your officers, you'll get a replacement trainee who has a lower SKILL stat and is strictly forbidden from leaving the ship for space exploration.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Humongous Mecha Manslayer Robot on the front cover is present in the early 2000s reprint as well. The one on the reprinted version kind of resembles a Cylon Centurion.
    • There's a scene in an alien bar which is lifted from A New Hope.
    • Speaking of which, the uniforms of your security staff and crewmen as seen on multiple illustrations resembles attire of Rebel Alliance officers, particularly the helmets.
    • The book takes a lot of inspiration from Star Trek, from the design of the starship itself to phaser weapons that have a stun and kill setting to starships being fuelled with "Dilibrium" crystals. Some plot elements are directly lifted from various Original Series episodes, and the book's dedication page even contains the phrase "live long and prosper".
    • The Dar-Villian race is named after Peter Darvill-Evans, who would later write three Fighting Fantasy books of his own.
  • Single-Biome Planet: A few planets you visit are these.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Your medical officer is the only member of your crew that is specified to be a woman. At one point in the adventure you have an option to add a female alien to the crew.
  • Standard Starship Scuffle: It's called Ship-to-Ship Combat, not to be confused with the YMMV trope of the same name.
  • Teleportation Misfire: Happens a few times.
  • Teleportation: This is how you descend yourself and your crew into planets.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • In one of the bad endings, you and your crew beam down onto a planet completely covered in water without any kind of watercraft and drown on the spot.
    • On another expedition, one of your crewmen has the bright idea to drink from a stream on an unknown planet — after your scanner has already indicated that there's something strange about the water.
  • Translator Microbes: You have one of these, which allows you to communicate with aliens.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: Getting sucked into one in the first page kickstarts your adventure. It’s also how you return to your home dimension if you find the correct one.
  • Unwinnable by Design: To win in the end, you must find the correct sector number and stardate. If you don't find them or find the wrong ones, you'll lose.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The androids which enslaved an entire planet can be disabled instantly if you set your communicator to jamming frequency, turning them into immobile statues.
  • We Cannot Go On Without You: Every other officer can be replaced if they get killed, but if the captain (that is, you) dies it's game over.