Like Evan, I'm not a Traveller grognard, but I've always found it tantalising. In high school, I managed to score the original 1977 boxed set at a sidewalk sale (paid something like $2 for it), but having no interested players (and finding it too different from D&D), I never played it. As recently as 2009, I got the Traveller bug again and purchased the Classic Traveller CD. Again, no interested players.
But I like Evan's approach, which is to develop a campaign setting outside the published history of the Traveller universe. IOW, ignore all the Imperium stuff, the civil wars, and the "canonical" material that tells you what's happening in your campaign. Pretty much create your own setting in the vein of the original LBBs.
Evan's vehicle of choice is Mongoose Traveller. I'm not sufficiently conversant to know which version of Traveller is best, though, coincidentally, I had just days ago been intrigued by and not purchased the Mongoose Core Rules Pocket Edition at the FLGS. Prompted by Evan's approach, and the recommendation of one of his commentators, By The Sword, I laid out the $20 and picked up the Mongoose Core Rules.
It's a nice little package, and pretty much my speed. Granted, if I were to create a sci-fi campaign, I'd probably use Chimera or some house-ruled variant of Swords & Wizardry to do it, but reading the "universe-agnostic" Mongoose rules reminded me why I never kept up with earlier versions of Traveller universe: I had no taste for the its "official" development of the Traveller universe. Instead, I just wanted sci-fi on my own terms—a sufficiently "generic" universe where I could inject a bit of Starship Troopers here, some Star Trek TOS there, and a bit of Chronicles of Riddick or Aliens in the dark and dusty corners as the mood strikes. The Mongoose version gets rid of the dross and provides an excellent foundation for you to build whatever universe you want.
With that in mind, I naturally started looking for software to do the heavy lifting. One program, Heaven & Earth, appears to fit the bill nicely, but sadly, I couldn't get it to install properly on Windows 7. So let's set the way-back machine a little further and go with the venerable DOS program, Galactic 2.4, written by Jim Vassilakos in 1998.
Installing Galactic 2.4 on Windows 7
Galactic is a DOS program, but runs quite well in DOSBox on Windows 7, and it's pretty easy to set up:
Start in: "C:\Users\Erin\GAL24C\" (well, not exactly--use the directory you created in Step #2, above)
Click OK to save the shortcut, double-click on it, and off you go!
Galactic is pretty well self-contained. There is a metric ton of info in there--from what I can discern, pretty much all the canonical material up to 1998. More importantly, it lets you create your own galaxy, sectors, and sub-sectors. Everything is stored in text files, too, so the campaign data you create is very portable. Plenty of help files, internal text editor, and even the ability to create random worlds. Bonus: beginners (like me) can open multiple instances, so you can leave a help screen open while you work on the other window.
Undoubtedly, I'll have more exciting revelations about this kick-ass program, but for now, I'm still exploring. Many thanks to Jim Vassilakos for creating this amazing Traveller tool.