Thursday, July 12, 2012

Traveller Core Rulebook (MGP 3800) Part one Character Generation.

The Traveller Main Book, (TMB) to use the term that the Traveller OGL SRD uses.
First pass and first impression: Cleaned up and brought to 21st Century role playing game rules version of Classic Traveller books 1-3, more or less.

Getting out the fine tooth comb now!

Character Generation, at first glance seems to be be very close to the "Classic Traveller" mode, however even a character that is a total failure (which in this case means a 2 EDU and a failed survival roll in his/her first term is going to end up a playable character, at least as far as skills goes,  with seven level 0 skills, one career level 1 skill and at least one level 1 package skill (only 1 skill would assume a party size of 5-8 and being towards the end of the party list).   An overachieving and lucky 1 term character can end up with eleven level 0 skills, six skill levels in careers skills, one skill level from the connection rule, and 2 skills from the packages, assuming a party size of 4.

How did I come up with those numbers? Back ground skills, which is 3 + your EDU DM (1-5) are level 0 skills. You get all 6 of the service skills table as level 0 skills on joining a career, if it's your first career, one career skill level for joining, one career skill level for advancement, one skill level for connections based off an event, one skill from an event and at least 1, and as many as 4 skills from the packages (4 skills would be for a party size of 2 which would be rule rape. 2 is closer to normal).

Looking at the 12 non psionic careers in some detail:

  1. Agent (LEO or spy) Good to great for sneaking around and investigating things, with a good self protection options but not really much use out side of those areas. No rank 0 skills, but does have rank 1 skills. Good planetary character option, however has both TAS and ship share mustering out benefits

  2. Army. Great for breaking things and killing folk, as to be expected. There is a skill level in Gun combat (slug or energy rifle) for rank 0, which makes one of the basic training level 0 skill a wash (gun combat). There is surprising depth to the skill lists, with several important non combat options also available.
    MTU errata: "Gunnery" is replaced with "Heavy Weapons" for the Cavalry specialist.

  3. Citizen. Good to great support character, however has almost no combat skills. No rank 0 or rank 1 skills.
    MTU errata: Colonist gets Gun Combat at rank 0, not  rank 6!

  4. Drifter, the you can always take this career career. Skills all over the map, depending on the specialist taken. Scavenger is a good generalist space crewman character. Wanderer is a dark reflection of Agent and Barbarian is, well, a barbarian. Rank 1 skills, 14 based survival/advancement rolls, which makes it a hard career to either avoid mishaps or advance in, as apposed to the normal 12 base careers, which have trade off options.

  5. Entertainer. More useful as a patron than as a playable character, however has people and creative skills to burn. Rank 1 skills or ability adjustments. Journalist makes a good character in an investigate campaign, however lacks the self defense options of an Agent. If you think your group needs a "Face" this would be a good career to use to generate it.

  6. Marines Great for breaking things and killing folk IN SPACE! Spaced based version of Army and only career in TMB that has Battle Dress skill. Rank 0 and Rank 1 skills. Rank 5 officers are SOC 10 minimum.

  7. Merchants. Good to great for space based characters that don't really expect to be shot at on the ground. Merchant Marine specialist best non-naval space based career, covering all the major space skills, other than Astrogation, which is available as an Advanced Education skill. A mix of Merchant Marines and Star Marines is a good general group of people for a "Traveller" or "Free Trader" based game. Free Trader specialist is almost as good, however lacks the Gunnery skill. Broker is a star port, not a starship based career in the main, but given that the "broker" skill is a service skill which means the other 2 specialists can get it, Broker is the weakest of the 3 specialists careers of the Merchants.
    MTU errata,the "Free Trader" benefit represents 10 years off the mortgage, not 5% off the cost of the ship.

  8. Navy. Great space based characters that are more about blowing up or capturing hostile space ships than trading on the ground. Flight Specialist best over all, however none of the specialist are weak. Rank 1 skills. Rank 6 officers are at least Barons.

  9. Nobility. Drifter for people with SOC over 9. Damn near impossible to enter unless you have a high SOC DM, but if you do have a high enough (10+) SOC, you get in for free. Assuming a SOC of 9 or greater, which is what you really need to be in this career, you can not fail a Dilettante survival roll, other than on a natural two.  The Administrator and Diplomat specialists give good "people skills".  Dilettante makes a party animal.  No combat skills, other than Melee (blade). 10, 12, and 11 based survival/advancement rolls, which means this is an easy career to survive and advance in.

  10. Rogue.   Tends to generate a combat character, however there are a surprising number of non combat skills.  Rank 1 skills.  The "Pirate" specialist is a very good choice for a solo or small group space based character, as all the important space skills are included,  plus melee blade, which is fairly effective in "inside a ship" combat environment.  A mix of all 3 careers would make for a good "Burn Notice " party group.   Only major skill missing is "Broker", which really only matters if you are planing on doing a merchant legit buy and sell stuff based campaign.
      MTU errata, the Corsair benefit gives you the ship free and clear, as the idea of a pirate with a mortgage  on his/her ship is just to silly for words.  "Ship Share" is replaced with "Armor" and "Two Ship Share" is replaced with "Ship's Boat"

  11. Scholar.  Generates fair to good support characters, for planetary based groups.  While a scholar has a good chance of getting a ship, they can't run it by them self, having no "bridge" skills at all.  Rank 1 skills

  12. Scout.  Good generalist characters, missing only "paper pushers" type skills.  Only one that with out house rule changes that can get a ship that is more or less free and clear.  Rank 1 skills.  (note, unlike CT, MGT scouts have ranks, just no titles to go with those ranks, other than "Scout" for rank 1 and "Senior Scout" at rank 3.
    MTU errata, "Ship Share" replaced with "Air Raft".

As a wrap up, what's the best Career?  In my opinion it's a toss up between "Merchant Marine", "Pirate" and being a multi-specialist scout, however, given the "Skill package" system, a decent party can be made from any career mix.

Which brings us to the wild cards for skills.  By using the "Connection" rules, you, in addition to having a reason to be an adventuring party, gives any character, of any career, at least two "free" skill levels, in any skill, even those not on their career lists.  This can cover some of the "missing" skills for other wise strong careers.  The "skill packages" are designed to insure that a party will have at least level 1 skills in the skills they must have for a given campaign type.  This is very useful, assuming you know what type of campaign you will be running.  The skill package types are

  • Traveller

  • Mercenary

  • Trader

  • Starship

  • Explorer

  • Diplomat

  • Investigator

  • Criminal

Traveller and Explorer being the best all around packages, with Trader and Starship being the 2nd best, assuming a "normal"  Traveller type game.  The other 4 tend to be rather campaign specific.

As in Classic Traveller "aging" is used to prevent making 4+ term super skilled characters.  Injuries are also used to generate medical bills, however most careers have some sort of "insurance" which will cover most, if not all, of the cost of recovery.   Anagathics exists, however will generate medical bills, and double the number of survival rolls a character has to make.  Medical bills are a good reason to start generating cash, even if you don't have a ship to pay off.

Alternate generation systems:

  • Solo generation .  As normal, however the GM will provide a list of NPC for the character to generate "connections" with, as opposed to the normal system of the connection being a player character, and you just get 1 skill at level 1 instead of using the skill package rules.

  • Iron man.  Classic Traveller all the way.  No mishaps, if you fail a survival roll, you died.  Start over man.

  • Select skills.  Instead of rolling for a skill, you just select one.
    MTU errata, your career skill is selected, your advancement skill is rolled.

  • Point buy.  Just say no.  This has the least "CT" feel of all the methods.   I can see this being used by game groups that have grown up with less random character generation systems.  That being said, the fact that it doesn't use careers at all makes it really not a "Traveller" character generation system at all.  And because ranks have to be bought, and don't give any skills or benefits, you will almost always end up with rank 0 characters, at least by min/max type players.
    I am using this as a basis for the XP system I'm using, but that's post character generation.

All the alternate systems, other than point buy, can be used together.

Character generation ends with a short bit on doing aliens, with very short examples of all the 3rd Imperium /OTU  major races, plus uplifted Apes and Dolphins.   Of these, Aslan, Vargr, Zhodani and the uplifts have been superseded by their own books, which I will get to in due time.

Next up, Skills and Combat.


  1. It's a far cry from Army, Navy, Marine, Scout, Merchant, Other (i.e. thief)!

    I don't see any careers here that specialise in being technologists. Is that something you're expected to bend an existing career to achieve (e.g. a Navy tech or a Scholar engineer)? Ditto healers.

    As I've mentioned to you elsewhere, my system of choice is GURPS, and I think it does this sort of game quite well. I find the heavy background and history of Traveller a bit overbearing, and I like designing hyperdrive physics...

  2. Alexander JamisonJuly 13, 2012 at 5:03 AM

    There is a Naval Engineer in High Guard, I'll be getting to it fairly soon, and the Scholar Scientist career is mainly Engineering and Science skills. Scholar Physician fills the healer role fairly well. More on both the skills, which need a little bit of explaining, and healing, both in and out of combat, in the next post!

  3. Alexander JamisonJuly 13, 2012 at 5:04 AM

    Oh, yeah, there is hyperdrive options in the ship design section. Should get to it in 2 or 3 posts.

  4. Need to make sure I log in as Mike, not Alexander when posting as other than "Sr. Scout". :-)

  5. Right on, Commander!

  6. A mortgage is a little silly for a pirate, but they could owe money to mob, or just favors.