Marc Miller Interview

Traveller Interviewer Notes

When I first heard that Marc Miller was getting back the rights to the Traveller line from GDW, my first thought was great! My next thought was maybe Mr. Miller will agree to an interview. Mr Miller was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions. I would like to thank Mr. Miller again for his cooperation.

Hope you enjoy the interview,

Craig Janssen

Q. You been away from the industry for quite sometime. Can you tell us where you have been and what you have been doing? Or were you abducted by Ancients ;-).

A. Between 1988 and 1991, I was executive vice president of Game Designers' Workshop, Inc, which meant that I had day-to-day managerial responsibility for the company, and I did not do large amounts of design. I left GDW in 1991 and pursued a variety of activities: in the real world, I sold insurance for four years, which I believe gave me valuable experience and a grounding in non-game business operations. I work in partnership with my wife Darlene in Heartland Publishing Services... that company provides printing and publishing consulting services to game companies (both established and start-up) in print and in marketing activities. I designed several computer games and published a collectible card game.

Q. What computer games did you design?

A. I worked on MegaTraveller, MegaTraveller II, and Twilight: 2000 (from Paragon/Microprose) and on Challenge of the Five Realms (also Paragon/Microprose). In each case, I was writing the basic story/scenario and then looking over their shoulder as they programmed and implemented what I provided. It's amazing how it changes in light of what is possible and under time pressure.

Q. Can you tell us of your background in the gaming industry?

A. I started in gaming in 1967 in college when, as a political science minor, I worked with political science role-playing and simulation games at the University of Illinois. In 1972, after leaving the Army, I attended Illinois State University, where I hooked up with Frank Chadwick, Rich Banner, and Loren Wiseman in the establishment of SimRAD (Simulation Research Analysis and Design), a project at the university dedicated to producing educational simulations for classroom use. I produced a variety of custom simulations (on politics, economics, and history) between 1972 and 1974. In 1973, the four of us also established Game Designers' Workshop.

Q. Are you going to use ideas and rules based on Classic Traveller for the new Traveller game? Or are you looking to overhaul the entire system? Or start from scratch?

A. My statement on T4 has been that it will be based on Classic Traveller in light of 20 years of role-playing experience. By that I mean, the rules will be upgraded to include a task system, new character career types, and other details. I have seen the final basic rules set (which is now at the printers) which will release at GenCon (keep your fingers crossed).

Q. There have been all kinds of rumors on the direction that you will take the new Traveller. Can you enlighten us on the direction and theme(s), that you currently have in mind?

A. I think the proof will be in the game book at GenCon.

Q. There will be quite a few of us,that will not be at GenCon. Can you elaborate?

A. We have reduced the broad number of character / career types a double handfull. The new ones of note are: Agents, Scholars, and Entertainers. I think entertainer has great potential... as a talented person, you are travelling to the stars performing you speciality in order to survive, and having adventures along the way.

The task system (in its latest incarnation tanks to Lester Smith) continues our effort to make Traveller able to handle any situation.

Q. For the people not acquainted with Traveller product line, can you give us some of the background of the game and changes it has seen?

A. The original Traveller science-fiction game rules were published in 1977 as three 5.5 by 8.5 inch books in a distinctive black cover highlighted with a characteristic red stripe. Book 1 detailed the creation of characters and resolution of personal combat. Book 2 dealt with starships (including interstellar travel, starship design and construction, and starship combat). Book 3 included a system for describing worlds and how to adventure on them.

This original edition (now called Classic Traveller) was envisioned as generic or universal game system in which any situation or adventure could be player out. Each individual referee was expected to create and administer his or her own adventures. Its innovative rules introduced the concept of skills for characters and detailed random generation tables for characters, animals, and worlds.

The game was an immediate success, filling the as yet unfilled need for science-fiction (and more sophisticated) equivalent to the fantasy oriented Dungeons & Dragons. For more than a year, the three black books in a box were the only items in game system. But player response during that period demanded additional game support in the form of additional rules, and in an expanded, more specific background against which to play.

For expanded rules, Game Designers' Workshop began a tradition of issuing additional Books numbered in series with the first three. Mercenary (Book 4; by Frank Chadwick) appeared in 1978 and detailed military characters and operations. High Guard (Book 5) appeared in 1979 and detailed naval characters and space combat. Scouts (Book 6) appeared in 1983 and detailed interstellar scout characters and star system and world generation. Merchant Prince (Book 7) appeared in 1985 and detailed merchant characters and an expanded trade and commerce system. Robots (Book 8; by Joe Fugate and Gary Thomas) appeared in 1986 and dealt with robots and their place in the universe.

For a more specific background, Game Designers' Workshop began a concerted effort to publish materials which defined the interstellar society of the future. In more than 60 additional volumes, extensive details of the vast Third Imperium were revealed to followers of the Traveller game system. This milieu of the Late Imperium became the foundation of the Traveller universe.

At the same time players and referees wanted to publish their own materials, and a series of licensed materials were authorized. Judges Guild, Digest Group, and Seeker produced numbers of materials. It is interesting to note that FASA began its existence as a Traveller licensee.


In 1987, the Traveller game system was revised to consolidate the materials of the past ten years and in the process, it became a more detailed and somewhat more complex game system. To its credit and at its core, it introduced a task system capable of resolving a wide range of situations.

MegaTraveller also introduced violent change in the Traveller universe by advancing the background of the game one step into the future. The new edition introduced the Rebellion Milieu, which chronicled the assassination of the Emperor who ruled the Third Imperium and the deterioration of the empire into a number of competing states embroiled in rebellion and civil war.

Traveller: The New Era

In 1992, Game Designers' Workshop determined that all of its role-playing game rules systems should be consolidated under what was called the house rules system, which was essentially the rules set for Twilight: 2000. An extensive re-write of the game system by Dave Nilsen produced Traveller: The New Era, which again advanced the background one step into the future: into the increasingly chaotic aftermath of the Rebellion called the Virus Era. Although the game won the Origins Award for best role-playing game and has devoted followers, it also introduced another level of complexity to the system.