Subsector 1977

Posted: 6 May 2013 in Rules

No game this weekend, and of all the things I could have done, for some reason I got the urge to generate a Traveller subsector. For me, solo gaming in the 1970s was generating setting information; dungeons, subsectors, NPCs, starships, encounters. Here is a completely random subsector using the original 1977 edition of Classic Traveller, rendered in Hexographer; the point of this exercise is to show how subsector maps have changed over the decades.



Under the 1977 rules, a subsector would look more like a Stars Without Number sector; a bunch of black dots connected by lines. However, even then I was writing information on the map; so I’ve done that, and used later conventions for bases, gas giants etc. How is CT ‘77 different from more modern implementations of Traveller?

Jump Routes

These were created using dice rolls and a table showing the odds of a route depending on the starport types at each end, and the distance between them. It was a royal pain dicing for all the possibilities, which is probably why this rule disappeared almost immediately; but I like the outcome better than the contemporary approach, not least because it lends itself to solo sandbox play; you can generate a viable map using just the starport classes, and fill in the rest of the Universal World Profile as you explore the subsector.

Players could travel to worlds not on these commercial routes, but couldn’t buy passage; they had to use their own ship, or charter one. However, you could make a long Jump over a series of shorter ones; so for example, a Jump-3 ship could move directly from 0101 to 0401 without stopping at the intervening worlds in 0201 or 0302. That makes less sense than the rest of the rules on jump routes, but was intended to make subsector maps more legible.

I always used the jump routes to identify interstellar empires, although that is not in the rules; I reasoned that any group of worlds connected by commercial traffic would be part of the same political unit – completely unrealistic, but it worked for me, and I’ve used it in this map too. In fact, the 1977 rules made no assumptions about multi-world states, other than a brief explanation under noble titles that “The title emperor/empress is used by the ruler of an empire of several worlds.” Empires were small in those days, and presumably determined by the chance presence of government type 6 (“a colony or conquered area”), although I immediately made the leap to a galactic empire of thousands of star systems; judging by the changes in later versions, so did everyone else.

World Statistics

There are some combinations of world statistics that were legal in 1977, but not possible to generate randomly in later rules sets. Notice the world in hex 0302, for example, which has Population 0 (then meaning 0-9 inhabitants) but a feudal technocracy for its government, and quite a high law level; later editions would assume that Population 0 meant government, law, and tech levels of 0.


There are fewer types of bases; naval (five-pointed star), scout (triangle), and Travellers’ Aid Society (not shown on the map, because it is implied by the starport type). Quite enough for me.

Trade Classifications

There are only six trade classifications; agricultural, non-agricultural, industrial, non-industrial, rich and poor. Later editions have added many more, which I find unnecessary. In particular, the various versions of “T-Prime” or “Garden” worlds essentially duplicate the Rich classification.

Travel Zones

These didn’t appear until the early issues of the Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society, and weren’t in the rules originally.


What’s most striking about this exercise is how little Traveller’s world generation rules have changed since 1977. I could use this map to run a game under any incarnation of Traveller, from Classic to Mongoose, without doing anything else to it. I suppose I might need to do a little conversion for GURPS Traveller, but that’s about it.

Maybe I’m just a gaming dinosaur, but the first generation of RPGs nailed quite a few things that we’ve drifted away from over the years with more elegant and complex rules. In fact, I wish the Far Future CT CD had the 1977 rulebook on it as well, as there are some bits I find superior to all later attempts.

Watch for future posts on other Stuff Classic Traveller Got Right.

  1. Don McKinney says:

    Updated versions of the CT cdrom should have the 1977 LBBs and both editions of High Guard on them; I rebuilt the PDFs for Marc.

  2. Brass Jester says:

    I have to admit, I love generating Traveller subsectors, even if I don’t use them. The various subsector generation programs out there, although impressive, to me take a lot of the personal fun out of the whole thing. When you roll it all yourself (using Traveller black dice with red spots of course!), the world ‘becomes real’. Combine that with SWN World Tags and Diaspora (which I’m currently experimenting with, as Ben has taken over running our Savage Worlds game at the moment) and a pleasant evening can be spent designing the universe (much to the wife’s disgust, who thinks I’m putting together a chest of drawers for the nursery).

  3. Sean says:

    Very cool, although now I want to get my own copy of the Far Future CD. 😦 My rules lust knows no bounds.

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