In my A Game Per Year project, my goal has been to read one roleplaying game corebook for every year they’ve been published. However, I soon started to feel that it was hard to decipher how the games were really meant to be played. For this reason, I decided to start a parallel project, An Adventure Per Year, to read one roleplaying adventure for each year they’ve been published.
Traveller is a fascinating game for me. I’ve become familiar with it only during this reading project and I wanted to understand better about what a Traveller campaign might entail. Because of this, I decided to read the Spinward Marches Campaign book. The Spinward Marches are a region of the galaxy in Traveller’s vast interstellar setting.
As a game, Traveller is fascinating because of its relentlessly technical style. The book reads like a technical manual, not something meant to inspire play. Worlds are described with standardized numbers so that you can just rattle them off instead of using words. I suppose a veteran Traveller player reads those like its nothing but for me they’re pretty opaque!
Spinward Marches Campaign doesn’t spend too much time on the campaign. It’s done in less than ten pages, which set out a loose plot: The characters travel with a military unit, they get set up for a crime they didn’t commit, they have to clear their name. Most of the book consists of supplementary material for the core game: extra character classes, rules for using bows, more skills and so on.
The military history of the Spinward Marches is explained in exhausting detail, often at the level of troop movements. We learn about a few key personalities in the area but not how they fit into play.
There’s something weirdly seductive about Traveller’s fuck you -attitude towards usability. It feels like a challenge: This is not meant to be easy. Do the work!