Because of licensing restrictions imposed separately by both FarFuture Enterprises and DOJ, Inc., Traveller HERO requires that you have a set of core rules for Traveller (any version) and for HERO (5th edition). There are data files for Hero Designer available as part of this project; these require HERO Designer version 3 to use.
The guide provides information and examples for converting Traveller characters and technology to the HERO System.
Freelance Traveller asked the authors to tell us a little bit about the genesis of the TravellerHERO project. This was their response:
TravellerHERO was a group project, coauthored by Kevin, Randy, and Rob. Because of that, I (Rob) wanted all three of us to contribute to this article, and so you will find contributions by each of us mixed into this article.
How We Got Started
ROB -- TravellerHERO started for me as a whim that came to life. I had spent a couple of years on creating TrekHERO and needed a change of pace, when I noticed that a fellow HERO fan was posting Traveller ship and vehicle writeups for the HERO System on the HERO board. I thought back to my college days and Traveller (classic Traveller), and thought how I'd love to see the wonderful Traveller background and setting converted over to HERO. And I remembered that one of my friends had run a MegaTraveller campaign in HERO about 15 years ago which I had thoroughly enjoyed. I took the initiative and contacted my fellow HERO and Traveller fan, Kevin Walsh, and asked him if he'd like to collaborate on a TravellerHERO book. Kevin replied enthusiastically 'yes!', as long as we could get Marc Miller's approval. After we got Marc's approval, we starting planning, converting, and writing. Soon after, Randy Hollingsworth offered to help, and we went to work.
KEVIN -- I started playing Traveller before I started playing Champions, but not by much, and I did have a bit of an advantage living a mile from the GDW home office (Now I live about 3 miles from the old office). Hero is a very versatile system, and you can do almost anything with it. So is GURPS, and I have a complete set of the GURPS Traveller books also, but GURPS - while a fine system in its own right - just doesn't work well for superheroes; The Hero system has never worked all that well for vehicles and vehicle design. Even with the changes in 5th edition, the vehicle design and vehicle combat systems are still a disappointment to me.
RANDY -- I started playing (Classic) Traveller back in college, 25 years ago now (ouch). I've always loved the HERO System for its flexibility, and the idea of playing Traveller using HERO is just irresistible. When Rob and Kevin started collaborating, I was inspired to make my own small contributions. I had tried to run a TravellerHERO game once before. Although the game didn't last, what did come out of it was my system for converting existing Traveller characters into HERO characters.
Converting Traveller to HERO
So why would we want to convert Traveller to HERO? The Traveller universe has a foundation of a rich history, many years of game supplements for races and adventures, and various supporting materials that bring it to life. It's a science fiction setting without the utopic view of Star Trek and without the dystopic view of ShadowRun, a place where mankind is still mankind, living among the stars. It's a place where trade and war and all the traditional sources of conflict (story plots) still exist. The main problems I had with the Traveller system (especially Classic Traveller) were system playability and system holes, as well as the fact that I've never liked building characters by random die roll. Then there's the HERO system, a wonderfully simulative system that lets me build and play the character I want to play. Learning the HERO system can be intimidating to some, but once you learn the basics, you can simulate just about anything. HERO's strength lies in its system and its ability to build anything; GMs can build any setting they want, and HERO focuses more on genres and less on prebuilt campaign universes for that reason. So take a setting that I enjoy, and place it in a system that lets me build anything I want to (within reason), and you've got the best of both.
HERO Games (5th edition) has put out the Star HERO genre book, as well as several campaign-specific books: Terran Empire, Alien Wars, and Spacer's Toolkit. The Terran Empire is a good campaign setting, and there are some ways it could be run as a Travelleresque campaign, but it's NOT Traveller. And based on the size of the SciFi RPG market, there's not likely to be a large number of supplements for Star HERO over the next few years, as other genres have a larger appeal to the book buyers.
Because of the strengths of the HERO System, converting was not a big issue. A few things we had to decide were things like how to handle certain skills, and whether a given Traveller skill was actually equivalent to a set of HERO skills or perhaps some other construct. Thanks to Randy Hollingsworth, we had Racial templates for many Traveller races and a large number of weapons and gadgets. Thanks to Kevin Walsh's specialty of Vehicles, Robots, and other gadgets, we had those available as well. This meant we had lots of meat for the project. I focused mainly on Skills, Psionics, miscellaneous details, and melding it all together into a well-written book. Probably the most complex piece for me was converting the Traveller strictures on Psionics into HERO system terms... things like increased END cost based on the range to target instead of the amount of power used, and costing a lot of END to start up but minimal END to maintain psionic powers. But overall I was happy with the way psionics converted, and gave some ideas on making psionics a little more versatile.
At one point during the book-writing process, we were up to about 250 pages, and Marc pointed out that we were getting close to reproducing Traveller instead of converting Traveller. So I ended up cutting a lot of things out that I would have like to included: Law and Crime, History of the Imperium, and other topics that would have been helpful to run a campaign in the spirit of Traveller. I also had to cut out a lot of background information on the various races. One of the things we truthfully told Marc (Traveller) and Steve (HERO) is that we really hope TravellerHERO would help get people to buy books from both companies - Traveller source books and adventures from Marc Miller, and Star HERO and Terran Empire from Steve Long. And we've already seen postings on the HERO games board asking for advice on which Traveller books to buy for given campaigns, so it's working at least a little.
I went into the Traveller Hero project with several things in mind, and I think I accomplished a lot. First, to help bring Traveller players in to try the Hero system and vice versa. Second, to offer some technology variants and new ideas for vehicle and starship design, primarily for expanding the Hero System rules for both. This is especially true in the way of using multipowers for sensors and communications instead of Variable Power Pools - my reasoning behind that being you're not always going to have exactly what component you need, and a variable power pool for sensors gives too much flexibility, at least in my opinion. Variable Power Pools work fine for space opera campaigns such as Star Trek or the Lensman books, but for something like Traveller, Firefly, or Star Wars, the flexibility just isn't there if you remain true to the genre.
Converting other systems' creatures to HERO has long been a little bit of a hobby of mine. Not nearly to the extent of a lot of other HERO players, but enough to leave me confident enough to tackle the Traveller aliens. The Star Hero book and HERO Designer software made it a snap to do.
When HERO published The Spacer's Toolkit book, I did a little fooling around with Traveller equipment and weapons. TravellerHERO was kind of in the back of my mind at that point, but hadn't reached the point of being a real project. Rob's and Kevin's work pushed me to finish what I had started and contribute it.
Where To From Here?
ROB -- So where do we go from here? Well, the version we put out for download is what we're calling 0.9. There's things we plan on adding, and some revisions we plan on making to some of the ship and vehicle constructs, and when that's done we'll post 1.0. The main thing we have to watch is avoiding putting in material that makes buying Traveller books or HERO books unnecessary - in other words, intellectual property infringement. We love both companies, and would hate to do anything that would hurt them (or give us legal problems).
KEVIN -- It depends on what the fans tell us they want to see within the limits of what we can talk Marc and Steve into allowing. We can't really do a worldbook, at least until Worlds of Empire for Star Hero comes out. I have a stack of ship designs from all eras of Traveller I can convert, and I would like to see if Marc and Steve would allow us to do a High Guard style book. I have a lot of things I can bring to the table for the Ship/Vehicle design systems.
RANDY -- To echo what Rob said, I hope that TravellerHERO inspires you to run fun games, and to support both companies by buying their products.