Classic Traveller Facsimile Edition Review

Something I managed to pick up just before Christmas, but haven’t had the chance to take a look at yet, is the Classic Traveller Facsimile Edition, published by Far Future Enterprises. This is available in electronic format and softback print-on-demand book from Drivethru RPG for $3 for the PDF / $12 for the PoD+PDF and contains 161 pages. It is as the name suggests, a reproduction of the original 1981 version of the Classic Traveller rules set, Books 1, 2 and 3. This ‘Little White Book’ (LWB) as I’m going to call it, combines these original ‘Little Black Books’ (LBB’s) from the original Classic Traveller boxed set into one handy 6” x 9”-sized soft back book. Though you can buy the Classic Traveller rules and supplements on CDROM or as a download from Far Future or Drivethru RPG and the Traveller Book is available as an A4 hardback book, I’m not aware of the CT rules being reprinted and available in this LBB-style before now.

The LWB – ‘Little White Book’

In the first couple of pages you get an introduction and bit of background to the universe of Traveller, before the first book kicks off with Book 1 ‘Characters and Combat’. Each individual Table of Contents has been preserved, matching exactly the original formatting. Where there are references to corrections, these have been added in the margin with a page indicator and key as to what has been amended.

Where the original layout does allow for the paragraph to be replaced in whole, this has been applied. This has created one or two differences in the font quality which makes it a little noticeable between the original scanned and replacement typed text, which is understandable.

There is a balance to be achieved here in the production costs and time involved in completely reformatting and re-editing the book so that it looks consistent throughout, or simply releasing a lightly-tidied up version with a few quality flaws here or there. There are a few odd marks where it looks like part of an image ‘crease’ has left a slight impression, or the scan of one page needed a bit of tweaking; the subsector map hexes are a perfect example of this. However, these are few and far between and if you was going to use the latter you can get much better single-page versions for printing anyway.

The three books are rounded off with seven pages of errata (relevant to Books 1-3) which were previously published as a separate document in the ‘Consolidated Traveller Errata’, compiled by Don McKinney.

There is an important point I think when looking at possibly purchasing this version of the Classic Traveller rules set, particularly to those of us who have had some sort of association with Traveller since the late 70’s and 80’s. It is how does having the book make you feel? Does it give you that warm fuzzy glow of nostalgia which in turn gives you the inspiration to write adventures / subsectors / die in chargen (again)? Or, do you take it on face value, purely as a functional product and look at it from the quality of repoduction, especially when comparing it against competing products also available from our favourite games resellers?

In my view, there are a couple of approaches; the first is for players who may already own the original Classic Traveller rules who don’t necessarily want to use their original LBB’s for play and want a copy of the original rules to use for ‘day-to-day’ play. Taking a mathematical approach, I believe this can be explained in the following simple formula:

The other is for new players who may not necessarily be familiar with Classic Traveller and want to pick up a copy to see what it is like, possibly for historical reasons and don’t want to commit to a full-blown (and expensive) version from the many editions that are out there now. They would have the nuts ‘n bolts of the game in the three books and that will give them an ideal starting point. At the same time, there has to be a certain acceptance in the quality of reproduction and realise that this isn’t OCR’ed and re-typed text, it is straight out of the original books with the addition of corrections and adjustments from over the years. Yes it is a little rough around the edges with some obvious cut ‘n pasting, but what you have here is an established veteran game, self-contained for a very reasonable price and a wealth of material available to buy or for free. In my opinion, the right balance has been achieved in getting the product out the door and available to purchase, any additional work to reformat and retype the book would have delayed its release I think. For that, I don’t think the LWB can be beaten and is most certainly worth picking up in print format.

If you want to find out more about Classic Traveller, I have posted an article which is available here: Getting Started in Classic Traveller.

If Marc Miller is listening… if there is any chance of the other LBB’s being converted to this sort of LWB format (eg. Books 4-5 in one release, Books 6-8, the Double Adventures – especially as the reprint editions are no longer available) that would be fantastic and I would most certainly be purchasing!

About AlegisDownport

Musings on the Traveller RPG world, technology, astronomy and digital art.
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2 Responses to Classic Traveller Facsimile Edition Review

  1. Shelby says:

    I’ll have to disagree with you on this one. I still play CT and have no interest in all the incarnations that came afterward. So I saw this as a chance to get an edition with all of Don’s errata worked in, which would’ve been very handy, and easy to point my players to. Because as it is I have to painstakingly go through my books with a fine-point mechanical pencil to “fix” the errors (with no such recourse for PDFs), so wow, I was all excited.
    But this edition is all over the place. As you say, it’s old scanned images with additional type added. The separate errata section is completely the opposite of what I wanted. This is no improvement over an existing PDF version used alongside Don’s errata file.
    Now, I see what you’re saying regarding a printed copy, and I sorta agree. I like my hardcover reprint of The Traveller Book, and I often use my old LBBs at the table. I find it difficult to game with PDFs.
    But with all the Cepheus products out there, this edition of CT just looks awful. I can’t lie. There was zero reason not to re-type the book incorporating all the errata changes in the proper places. If you’re going to do it, that seems to be the bare minimum. I’m not a fan of gratuitous artwork, so I don’t suggest going down that route, but for heaven’s sake what a lost opportunity this was, and what a terrible impression to make on folks who might’ve been willing to give a clean edition of CT a try.
    Now they’ll go for Cepheus.

    • Thanks for the feedback Shelby, you make a very fair point; I agree that it is rough and doesn’t have a consistent feel to it, especially when compared to modern versions such as Cepheus Engine. Its certainly a copy that I would at least use as a play copy, but wouldn’t consider it as something that I keep locked away under lock and key like I keep my original CT boxed sets. I intentionally didn’t try and directly compare the LWB against modern Cepheus releases from Independence Games, Stellagama and Zozer as you said, the LWB couldn’t compete on quality of reproduction. My aim in the review was to (through misty-eyed Grognard-ness) to review it entirely stand-alone for what it was, how it has been produced and the price point its coming in at and why you might want to pick up a copy. I do appreciate the feedback though and hopefully this these comments will help better inform potential buyers. Cheers & best wishes, Steve

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