Sunday, March 29, 2015

Designer's Epiphany in MegaTraveller

I bought the basic "Player's Collection" of the MegaTraveller Bundle of Holding, because I can actually afford the $5.95 minimum price. This version of the bundle includes the three core rulebooks (Player's Manual, Referee's Manual, and Imperial Encyclopedia), plus the Rebellion Sourcebook supplement. It also contains something called the "Player's Guide to MegaTraveller," which seems to mostly be a compilation of pre-release advertisements for the game, with some information inserted by Far Future Enterprises, the company that currently holds the rights to the game.

The brief Player's Guide contains a summary of the vast changes Game Design's Workshop introduced to the default Traveller setting, the Third Imperium, when MegaTraveller was published in 1987. It also has a Designers' Notes section, which goes into detail about changes in the game mechanics. One of these is amusing to read today. As the author's put it:
As obvious as it seems now, the task system was not originally used for combat. Then in a playtest, a newer player, who didn't know the standard Traveller combat rules, asked what task roll was needed to shoot at an enemy. Lightning struck! The light bulbs went on over our heads, and we realized at once that we were really on to something.
And they had this epiphany only nine years after Runequest was using the percentile roll-under mechanic for combat and non-combat tasks. Of course, to be fair, Dungeons & Dragons didn't reach this state of enlightenment until the year 2000.

It's also hard to get self-righteous when I, as a player, wouldn't have thought about the desirability of a single mechanic for most of the 1990s, no matter how many late-night fatigued die rolls left me wondering whether 2e AD&D saving throws were rolled over or under the target number.