Traveller: 1700 – A custom character sheet and some recommended Colonial American RPG books

At Travellercon/USA 2021 I got to play in a great session of Traveller: 1700. This is a free setting for Classic Traveller created by Greg Caires, originally published in the Freelance Traveller fanzine. It’s available for download over at the Freelance Traveller site.

Though designed for Classic Traveller, it’s easily compatible with more modern versions, and the various flavors of the Cepheus Engine.

The setting is Colonial America around the year 1700. Specifically around the Virginia Colony in the Chesapeake Bay area – modern Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

There’s a lot of useful history and details, distilled down to what you’d need to actually run a game:

  • Character generation rules – backgrounds & appropriate classes (Soldier, Sailor, Merchant, Constable, Ranger)
  • Lists of 1700-era weapons and equipment.
  • An explanation of pre-decimalization British currency (pounds shillings,. etc)
  • A nice list of rumors that can serve as adventure seeds
  • Simple rules for witchcraft (basically psychic powers)
  • D66 tables for encounters

The book handles the topics of Native Americans and slavery about as sensitively as is possible. Characters can have backgrounds as either colonists, enslaved people or Native Americans, each which will have a big effect on the character generation.

As I normally do, when encountering a new setting, the first thing I do is create my own custom character sheet. I’ve made a fillable PDF character sheet. It’ll auto calculate modifiers and the UPP. There’s spaces for equipment and history on the second sheet. You can also import a character image. I used antique looking script fonts for this version, but I’m considering making another version with blockier 18th century print fonts. Once I’m sure I’ve got the format I like, I’ll also make a A4 version.

This is another of my infinitely-expanding list of character sheets.

Some possibly useful Colonial America RPG books

I’ve also been thinking of some other books in my gaming library, that I think would be useful companions or settings for Traveller: 1700. Few of these are directly Traveller-compatible, but still useful if you’re running any kind of 1700s-era game.

The Times that Fry Men’s Souls by Seann McAnally

This an OSR hexcrawl set in the Hudson Valley of New York/New Jersey during the American Revolution ( a few decades later after the Traveller: 1700 era). The basic hexcrawl is mostly historical, but the included adventures become weird fantasy very quickly.

All of the provided stats are OSR (AC, HP, etc.), but I think Traveller: 1700 might be a much better fit for this genre.

I also get a kick out of this book, because everywhere I’ve ever lived has a corresponding hex on the game’s map.

Lowcountry Crawl: A Southern Gothic RPG Zine by John Gregory

This RPG zine is designed as a toolbox to help create a setting inspired by the South Carolina Lowcountry. It’s a lot more high fantasy than Traveller: 1700, but has a lot of useful ideas if you were running a more southerly campaign.

The book provides a method for generating appropriate Lowcountry settings – barrier islands, marshes, etc. There’s a small point crawl with a few sample islands, and a list of OSR monsters that fit the swampy island environment. The whole thing has a great deal of atmosphere.

Other Magic by Jesse Ephraim

This is zine listing a few different real world folk magic systems, with a few basic rituals, and spells for each. There are 5 different folk traditions covered. The useful ones for a Traveller: 1700 game are probably the  Braucherei/Powwowing from the Pennsylvania Dutch, Hoodoo/Rootwork , and Ozark Magic. The few rules given are designed for OSR games, but the whole thing is easily usable in any system.

Colonial Gothic

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the Colonial Gothic setting from Rogue Games. This is its own game and system, featuring weird historical horror adventures set during the American Revolution. They’ve put out a bunch of books for this setting, much of which also might be useful for Traveller: 1700.

Archaic Firearms by Zozer games

Another useful supplement if you’re running Colonial American games is Zozer’s Archaic Firearms. It’s a Cepheus Engine supplement with rules for firearms from the 15th to 17th century, including artillery.

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