Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Implications of "Slow" FTL in Traveller

FTL in Traveller takes one week, more or less, whenever you want to go from one star system to another. Whether it's a wimpy Jump-1 or a once in a lifefime Jump-6, the time to get there is still 168 hours +/- a bit. Many of Traveller's literary antecedents (most notably to my mind is H. Beam Piper's Terro-human future history) depicted interstellar travel as taking a long time. For fans of more modern SF media, this can seem odd.

In other SF settings, FTL travel is accomplished instantly. Now, in visual media (Trek/Wars) this is necessary to not drag down the flow of the plot. Rogue One would not have worked if Traveller's jump drive limitations were in effect. The plot required everything to move quickly. That's fine, and it is not for me to say that one method is better/worse than another.

A Youtube character known as the Complex Games Apologist has a number of videos discussing Traveller in different aspects. Here's the CGA explaining the setting implications of the way FTL works in Traveller.

Faster Than Light

The rules of a game build its setting.

Many folks over the decades have noted that "speed of travel is speed of communication" defines the setting of Traveller, whether the OTU or an alternate like my Church & Empire setting. Decentralized governments and local control are the accepted methods when it takes weeks to get reports to and from the borders. It is also this reason that I've focused on the Corridor, a region removed from the Talaveran Empire, but still one where Imperial influence can be felt. PCs have a greater latitude for independent action when the Imperial bureaucracy is too far away to directly monitor everything.

If you want to change the rules of FTL to make it more what you want, that's fine, but remember that you will have to redesign the setting as well, to reflect the internal reality of that setting. 'Fast' FTL will mean more direct control from the home office, as information can be transferred in hours rather than weeks. This in turn means less agency for the players, as their PCs who do sneaky things will be fretting about news of their doings getting back to the Government, which will probably try to stop them. 

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