Friday, October 23, 2009

Traveller 40,000 - Rogue Traveller

I couldn't figure out which title to use for this post, so I used both.

[yes, today's original intention was to be a marathon of Traveller I said back here, I've had Traveller on the brain lately, but I haven't had a chance to get to my blog till today. However, other events have conspired to put me off my game, so you'll probably only get one or two more...sorry!]

One of the original appeals of the Warhammer 40,000 game (at least for me) was the whole gothic-craziness of it all. I love this kind of dark, dystopian setting...hell, I was the first guy on the block to pick up the original Vampire: the Masquerade!...and the dark, semi-mystic setting of a crumbling space empire is a powerful stimulant for my imagination.

Of course, Warhammer 40,000 isn't an RPG.

My buddy, Scott, is the one who first picked up the WH40K Rogue Trader book back when it was first published. We loved it, but were extremely disappointed to find out it a wargame and not an RPG, since back in the day we only played the latter. Fast forward a few years (an exit Scott) and I found myself purchasing a used copy of Rogue Trader myself. The reason for this? Well, I was playing Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing (the RPG) and had recently picked up the Realms of Chaos book for the creation of Chaos knights and such and needed the stats for a plethora of "modern" weapons that were given as Gifts to the followers of the Blood God Khorne. I was referred to Rogue Trader by the book.

Interesting how the world turns, huh? It was in picking up my own copy of Rogue Trader (10+ years after I'd first perused it with Scott) that I thought I might give this whole "wargaming thing" a try and purchased the 2nd edition of WH40K. Another decade later and I have a game room in my house currently over-flowing with hundreds of space marine miniatures!

ANYway: the setting is the thing I love more than anything. I've said in the past that I am a fan of sci-fi military fiction (I'm reading David Drake this week actually) and the dark and dreary war-torn setting of the 40th millennia is great.

But can it be translated to Traveller?

That's kind of the mega-credit question of the day. I'm wondering if maybe the answer is no (though why post about a non-possibility...that's a might silly waste o blog space, no?). I spent part of my afternoon paging through GW's newest RPG: Rogue Trader. Like all of their books of late, it is a beautifully crafted tome, intricately illustrated (hell, one might as well call it "illuminated") and chock-full o stuff from the WH40K universe. However, there is no way in the world I'd purchase it...far too many rules and crunch for my taste. I simply don't make time for games like this anymore (plus, I kind of reject these slick commercial monstrosities on general principle...sorry but that's the way I'm rolling these days).

Besides, isn't Traveller the original "rogue trader?" Here's what the Mongoose game says on page 2 (paragraph 3):

...the players take on the roles of tramp merchants and mercenaries, wandering the galaxy in search of profit and adventure.

[now, of course, if I had my druthers, good game design would stick that front and center in the first paragraph...but I digress]

So what the hell is a Rogue Trader anyway? From the original description in WH40K:

The potential of new worlds, alien civilisations [sic] and unimaginable resources has stimulated the growth of free-ranging imperial agents known as Rogue Traders. Licensed and equipped by the priesthood, the Rogue Trader is free to explore the far regions of the galaxy, the areas where the Astronomican does not reach, and those areas within its range as yet unvisited.

The Rogue Trader appears based on the historic figure of Hernan Cortes...a dude basically given a writ of expedition and a license to conquest. Which is fine if you craft your Traveller game to the dark, gothic nuances of the 40K universe (Traveller can certainly be played dark and exploitive). Unfortunately there is a bigger obstacle to the setting:

" imperial agents known as rogue traders. Licensed and equipped by the priesthood..."

Despite the title of "Rogue" Trader, RTs are actually beholden to the imperial powers-that-be. In other words, they're yet one more cog in the wheel of the Emperor's army.

The basic Traveller game operates under the assumption that your characters are truly free and un-fettered (probably one of the things that really gets ME fired up...). You are assumed to have left your prior career(s) and are now free on your own recognizance. There is no Imperial Inquisition watching over your shoulder, no members of the Legiones Astartes sworn-to-the-Emperor living in the hold of your ship. It's YOUR ship (though you probably have a mortgage), and you don't need no stinking LICENSE to seek out strange new worlds and conquer primitive civilizations, if that's what floats your boat.

It would be fairly simple to convert battle dress to power armor, add lasguns and bolters, and come up with a couple 40K type careers paths for Traveller. Personally, I'd consider Space Marines as an alien race with Notable strength, dexterity, and endurance as well as automatically possessing the equivalent of subdermal armor. But you know what? Space Marines don't "muster out." And when they go rogue (as did Horus and the traitor legions), they get hunted down.

Playing Traveller in the world of Warhammer 40,000 is very possible. Playing Rogue Trader in the world of Traveller is a different game entirely.

1 comment:

  1. I've often wondered if a role-playing game could be set in that universe. I think it could, but i'm not sure I would enjoy playing it. I like the idea in Traveller that you are a nobody, living on the fringes of society, just trying to earn a living (and not always an honest one). The Warhammer Universe just seems to heroic (or anti-heroic).