I've been haunting the Traveller universe since the wee hours of its dawn. Pardon me while I harken back. Waaaay back. As a freshman in a small, private highschool, with new faces swirling around me, I distinctly remember how my peers huddled into groups. There were dancers who hung out in the studio, and those that fancied themselves atheletes who hung out in the gym. I think we called them "Gymies", or something equally as original. There were wealthy kids who we called Preppies, and poorer ones who we called greasers, always trying to supe up the family's cast-off car. We had Smokers who hung out by the back door, and we had Dopers who hung out in the parking lot. The Brains were in the library or the teachers lounge. But there was another group, the group that nobody understood, but whom all distained. They hung out in the "Pit", lounging on bean bags, huddled over dice and Melee boards with strange little books full of digits and bad artwork. Everyone called them the Rug Rats.
I did not join any group at first. I played on the soccer team and took a heavy course load for the fall trimester. It wasn't until Winter that I truely felt as though I was missing something by not being part of a group. My sport was always soccer, so when the season turned to basketball I had free time on my hands. When I came in from the late Autumn chill, I was a stranger and labeled as a member of the only group that wasn't a collective. I was a Loner. I was almost proud of it. There were several of us, milling about, occassionally nodding a mute greeting to others of our ilk. And that worked, for awhile. But Winters are long in Connecticut and huddled groups are much warmer than lone wolves. Like a wolf, I began by circling around the edges of groups. Most made it obvious that I would never fit in. I even circled the teachers' lounge a few times, out of desperation. But at long last my ego was deflated enough that I circled around the last campfire, that of the Rug Rats. I watched them throw dice and argue about "hits" and "armor". I groaned at their foolish excuse for humor. I even threw a few dice from time to time. But I stayed a Loner. Their world did not entice me enough to change my title. Not yet.
My sophomore year was little different. An after hours job at the school helped me to raise some badly needed funds for my tuition bill, but I could not play soccer. I still had a heavy course load, but there was a new mood in the Pit. It arrived in the form of a new freshman class, but with them had also come several pre-freshman. A recession had caused enrollment at our little liberal-arts school to drop and the door had been opened for sellected younger siblings to enroll. This brought an especially large group of new Rug Rats. And with them came a new reason to roll the dice. There was a new game in town. The new genre was my forte, science fiction. The year was 1978 and the game was Traveller. I couldn't help myself. That Fall I became...(sigh) a Rug Rat! I layed around in bean bags, hanging on the words of a young, pimply freshman by the unflattering name of Sam Gailey. But I couldn't help myself. I had been eating up sci-fi for years; Bradbury, Asimov, Niven, plus nearly anyone who's pulp was available from the Sci-Fi Book Club. By the end of my sophomore year I had fallen in completely. I had purchased my own books and had started my own universe. I was in so deep that by my junior year I was the geekiest Rat in the Pit. My universe grew and took over my bedroom, my budget and much of my study time. My worlds were more involved and detailed than would ever be needed or explored by my players. Where before I had read books for pleasure, now I read for inspiration. Non-player characters like The Mule and Jim DiGriz crept into my storylines. When the Rug Rats started playing AD&D, Greyhawk got sucked right into my universe along with everything else. Worlds named Gram and Dirt and New Texas sprang up on my star charts. A complete startown, with street maps and over one hundred business establishments evolved, plus enough Rumors, Patrons and Casual Encounters to fill them all. Joe's Bar & Billiards alone took months to perfect. Mine was truely a Traveller youth!
Though some may say that I wasted the hours upon hours that I poured into the game, I feel confident that I did not. In Traveller games I first learned to interact openly and freely with a group, initially through an assumed persona, but later as myself. I learned to lead and to organize the affairs of a team, how to knit them together into a band who could work for a common goal. I honed writing skills, drawing skills, and of course, my imagination and wit. Perhaps more importantly, my time was spent busily creating things rather than in destructive pursuits, like drugs or premature sexual activity. While many of my peers were having drunken parties, I was holding all night gaming sessions. When others were spending their money for leather jackets and cigarettes, I was spending my last dime on new Supplements and dice. The question to be asked of a typical teen is not did he waste his youth, but how did he waste his youth. Very well, thank you!
I have very fond memories of those early Traveller days, whatever the folly of them. Even now, when someone says, "all of a sudden..." I get flashes of Sam Gailey using those very words, with us gasping in dread. I recall one scenario where we were being exceptionally careful, moving slowly and quietly as cats. When he came out with his standard line we booed and complained. We insisted that we had been much too careful to have been surprized by anything. He thought a moment, scratched his chin and said, "Okay. You win. So, all of a slowness..." and proceded to hatch his diabolical surprize just the same!
There were many memorable games, some for laughter, like the time I hatched an adventure based loosely on the Hitchikers' Guide to the Galaxy, but others for suspense and strange twists. When Nevius of Thagan told Hiemi Beniddleknocker that Time itself was being threatened by diabolical forces [ !] you could have cut the air with a light saber. The awe of the character, Nevius, a huge lion with wings, and of his daughter, the unimaginably charismatic Lady Starlight, was very real. Surreal, at times. And the situation was truely dire. The Plane of Light, the very place where Truth lives, had become a checkerboard of black and white, light and darkness. Dreadful days, indeed. Come to think of it, that adventure was never completed. For all I know, the universe still hangs in the balance, teetering on the brink of total chaos!
Traveller Lives! If you appreciate the Little Black Books, come and join the club. This is my twentieth anniversary of playing and I'm ready to see the original setting (milieu) return to popularity, at least enough that it can support some new material. Adventures and the like. Hey, just because I'm a zealot doesn't make me a kook. 8-}
Traveller Downport copyright 1998 - 2014 Colin Michael.
Gaming is a fun part of life, but life is not a game: BibleFundamentals.org
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