Original SA post
Part One: Introduction
Mongoose Traveller, that is!
So, what's the difference? Not much. MT takes the old system, makes a few tweaks and leaves the game's traditional feel and aesthetic unmarred. Fans of the original system (well, that I know) like it, and it stays within the standard universe that the original game was in (Third Imperium, pre-Rebellion).
Anyway, the book opens up on a quick explanation of the game and the universe it's set in, who does what, some examples of types of adventures/campaigns the Referee (GM) can throw at the Players, the basic mechanics (2d6 + Dice Modifiers (DM) vs. a Target Number (TN), an example of play (where the Players happen across the drifting husk of the
and investigate it.
is found within.), and a breakdown of tech levels (TLs). Then it's off to character creation!
Before we go into that (because it's 11:30 at night here, I don't have the time to roll up a character), I'll explain a bit of the background stuff.
The Third Imperium is the second iteration of the old Imperial system created by the Vilani (humans from Vland), after the collapse of the Rule of Man (or the Second Imperium), which was ruled by Solomani (humans from Earth). The first one was taken over by the Solomani during a long string of interstellar wars against the Vilani, ending with the Solomani conquering their empire. The second one, on the other hand, imploded under the strain caused by the Solomani's expansionism and reforms of the old Vilani caste system. After the Long Night (pre-Third Imperium interregnum), Cleon of the Sylean Federation uses his political power as the Grand Duke to reinstate the old Empire, ascending to the Iridium Throne and crowned as it's first Emperor. A few hundred years later, and you enter the game's setting.
Being an Empire, the Imperium has a feudal-ish system of kings, dukes, knights, etc. However, upward mobility is much more common in the Imperial Nobility, and low-born citizens can rise to power through military or public service. Of course, they aren't going to get as high up as those lucky sods who were literally
into their position, but it's a start. Also, to keep the Bureaucracy from imploding, planets are given quite a bit of leeway as to how they are ruled by whatever authority rules them, as long as they stay on the right side of Imperial law. The High Law can be condensed into 4 central rules: Don't mess with trade, don't mess with taxes, don't mess with the Emperor's stuff, and no nuclear weapons. The Imperium will tolerate small wars between the worlds, as long as it doesn't get too out of hand, or if someone starts using nukes.
Anyway, that's it for the introduction and a bit of background. Sample character next week!
Marc Miller teaches us how to die
Original SA post
Part 2: Marc Miller teaches us how to die.
Or, Character Generation.
It's a well known fact that character generation in Traveller can take a while. A
while. That's because Traveller characters don't start play as plucky adventurers with a longsword and something to prove, but as skilled and accomplished individuals in their 30s and 40s. Essentially, character generation builds your character's skills and experiences from 18 to (usually) 42, in 4 year chunks called "Terms".
Another well known tidbit of character generation in Traveller is its lethality. Although it may seem like some relic from the olden days of gaming where writers longed for "realism" in their elf/space-elf games, it has a purpose in Traveller: balance. Early Traveller didn't have a hard cap set on how many terms a character could have, and characters with more terms are much more powerful than those with less, having more skills and more benefits. So, the chance to die during chargen made you think about how much you
character with great stats to go for another term. Now, though, character's can't die that easily in Mongoose Traveller, since failing your survival roll just makes you roll on a "Mishap" table and get booted from the career. To compensate, Mongoose tells the Referee to set a cap on how many terms a character can have.
Anyway, chargen in Traveller begins where many other games do: rolling stats. You roll 2d6 six times, and allocate them to whatever stat you wish. There are six stats: Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence, Education and Social Standing. Social Standing works kinda like Charisma in other games, but mostly in formal settings and when it comes to interacting with the bureaucracy. However, if you play as another race, they switch out SS with some other stat; the Vargr use Charisma, Aslan use Territory, the K'kree and the Droyne use Caste. The Zhodani (good luck getting that past your Referee) use Social Standing, but in a different way, and the Hivers, well...I'll get to them later.
After rolling stats, you choose a planet to be from, if your Referee provides a map, and you choose two of the planet's qualities to gain skills from. Living on an asteroid will give you Zero-G, living in an ice-capped world will give you Vacc-Suit, you get the idea. If your Education bonus is 0 or higher, you pick 1 or more additional skills as "Education" skills. All these skills you get are level 0. Then, you are 18 years old and can attempt to join a career.
And all that is is just going "I'm a pretty tough guy, I'll go out for the Marines!", roll and adding the given stat to see if you beat whatever TN it is (in this case, Endurance 6). If you do,
, you're a Marine! If not, you can either go for the draft (you can only do it once, but you should) or be a drifter for a term (bad idea). You then get your "Basic Training", where you get all your career skills at level 0, and one free roll on one of the skill tables for your career. Skills you roll are gained at level 1, not 0. Then you roll for Survival (insert dramatic music here), which is determined by what specialization you chose. Some specializations are easier to survive in, some harder. If you succeed, you roll on the Events Table, which will give you a random event that happens to your character over that four year period. Then you roll for advancement (getting a promotion), and if you succeed, you get whatever benefits are listed for your rank and another roll on the skills tables. If you fail...nothing happens. Increase your age by 4 years, lather, rinse, repeat.
So, after rolling on tables for a couple hours, you finally reach the end of your 6th term. Last thing to do is to roll for benefits and cash. You get a number of rolls in a career equal to the number of terms you spent in it plus a bonus depending on your rank in it. However, you can only roll three times on the cash table. Benefits may include weapons, armor, stat increases, equipment or ship shares. Ship shares are favors, credit, savings and other financial things that can help players pay for a ship. One percent at a time. Which is why you want a lot of them, because your mortgage has to be payed once a month for the next
So, next week (or maybe this weekend, if I have the time) I'll post a two-fer about skills and combat.
Yes, I happen to be fluent in Vilani.
Original SA post
Part 3: Yes, I happen to be fluent in Vilani.
Skills in Traveller are a different beast than in other games. For one, skills do not have a predetermined attribute to use. Granted, some actions have fairly straightforward skill/attribute combinations, like Gun Combat and Dexterity, for shooting someone. But what if you're sneaking around in some Imperial base, doing some sick Sam Fisher moves with your Stealth 3, and now you're doing the splits between two walls above a doorway waiting for these guards to move
oh god this was a horrible idea
? Do you go with Dexterity? Nope, you use that to see if you can climb up there in the first place. Strength? Are you trying to push the walls apart without the guards hearing? No, in this case, you'd use Endurance. You grit your teeth and bear it while those shitheads keep blabbing about the latest game of gravball or something.
There's also the concept of "Effect", which is how well you succeed or how hard you fail whatever you were doing. While this is a common mechanic nowadays, the big distinction is the fact that rolling 0 Effect (rolling dead on) isn't
a success, and rolling a -1 Effect isn't
a failure. If you roll one of these, the Referee is told to let you succeed, but at a cost. For example, "You manage to shoot one of the pirates trying to hijack your ship, but now you're out of cover and in the open."
Then there are rules for situational and difficulty modifiers, preforming multiple actions and so forth. Finally, there are rules for how long an action takes and how you can "chain" together checks. The Referee will listen to whatever action you're trying to do, like repair the reactor, preform some scans, or get chummy with the local magistrate, and assigns a time variable to it, like hours, minutes or tens of minutes, rolls a d6 and tells you how long you took to do those things. It is possible to change the length of the task so you can get a bonus for taking longer, or a penalty to take less time. While Traveller has rules for basic assistance for checks, characters who want to help their friend out more can declare to the Referee that they are going to "chain together" checks, like preforming a Carouse check to get the magistrate "properly lubricated" so the other party member trying to gather info from him has an easier time. The problem is, if you fail the chained check, you'll end up giving the other person
. Maybe you get the magistrate to drink a little too much, and the other party member can't make heads or tails of his slurring speech.
So, how do you measure how good you are at something, anyway? I mentioned "level 0" in the post before this, that's considered the baseline of competence in a skill. You know what you're doing, but you don't have much experience in it. But it's not that easy. Most skills are linear in progression; you go straight up. But skills like Gun Combat, Drive, Engineering and the Science skills, start off at level 0, but every time you gain a rank, you have to choose some specialization to improve in. Engineering splits into Power, Electronics, J Drive and M Drive, and while you might have Engineering (J Drive) 3, your rank in any other Engineering skill is 0. But having level 0 beats the -3 penalty for lacking the skill completely.
This is where I kinda go off the rails to complain about something that confuses and annoys me. The Space Science skill has three specializations: Planetology, which is just geology with a fresh coat of paint (but there's no Geology skill, so that's fine),
, which seems out of place because "the design and use of robots" seems more like an engineering thing, and Xenology, which is pointless because there's a Biology skill. But what really irks me is that the Space Science skill doesn't have the branch of science that's
on space and the stuff floating in it; Astronomy.
Will post combat stuff later in the week, homework has to get done at some point.
I roll to dodge the PGMP blast.
Original SA post
Part 4: I roll to dodge the PGMP blast.
Combat in Traveller is fairly simple, and people who have experience with 40k RPGs and Shadowrun will see some similarities in the mechanics. Like most systems, you begin combat by rolling initiative, with 2d6 and adding your Dex DM. However, if the characters have had time to plan their actions prior to combat, a member of the party that has the Military Tactics skill can make a check, and everybody in the party can add his Effect on the check to their initiative scores. However, if two characters have the same initiative and Dex DM, they act at the same time. Also, Traveller uses a system called "Dynamic Initiative", where a player's initiative can changed by using high-recoil weapons or by declaring haste at the top of the round.
The round is broken into turns, as usual, and each player's turn consists of one significant action (preform a complicated check, attack, or take two more minor actions), one minor action (moving, changing stance, minor skill checks, drawing/reloading guns or aiming), as many reactions as they like, and as many free actions as the Referee allows. Reactions are actions the player can make during anyone's turn, as they are the player reacting to whatever's going on around them. The two reactions available are dodge and parry. Each use of a reaction lowers the player's initiative by 2, and applies a -1 DM to their action on their next turn. Dodging applies a -1 DM to whatever attack he is being targeted with, and a -2 if there is something nearby he can dodge behind. Parry can only be done in melee combat, and it applies the same penalties to the player using it as dodging, but it's better because it gives the attacker a penalty equal to whatever melee skill the target is using.
Your initiative can also be lowered by using weapons with a higher recoil, or heft (for melee weapons), than your character can withstand. Each weapon has a recoil rating, and for every point less than your Strength DM incurs a point penalty for your initiative. However, initiative penalties only apply for your next turn, then your initiative returns to normal. Ranged weapons also might have an auto rating, which means they can fire in either burst or fully automatic, in addition to the normal semiautomatic shot. Firing in burst increases recoil by one, uses a number of rounds equal to your auto rating, and adds your auto rating to damage. Fully automatic is more complicated, instead of making one attack with increased damage, you make multiple attacks (2-3) with a smaller attack bonus (fully auto attacks do not benefit from a Gun Combat skill bonus above 1). You can apply these attacks to one person, or anyone within six meters of the first person you shoot at.
There are also rules for battlefield comms and sensors, but you probably aren't going to be using those a lot. Essentially, if there's a "commander", usually the guy who was in the Marines or the Army and has a few ranks of Tactics or Leadership, the rest of the party needs to stay in communication with him to retain bonuses/intel/other stuff he might be giving them. The most common system is direct communications, which is just verbal/visual orders that players can hear or see. Then there are radio, lasers, masers and meson systems, which all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Sensors are a lot more useful, but apart from your usual infra-red/EM spectrum sensors and motion sensors, are too expensive and heavy to be used by the average group of Travellers.
Range in Traveller works a lot like it does in Shadowrun, where weapons get penalties for firing at targets at certain ranges pending on whatever type they are. Pistols, assault weapons (like carbines) and shotguns work best in close quarters, receiving minor or no penalties to their attacks, while rifles and rocket launchers are best used at long ranges. Range in Traveller is measured in meters, but the tiles (if you use a mat) are measured in 1.5 meter squares. There is also a range category for
, where the combatants are within the same square. Typically, only two friendly characters can occupy the same square without incurring penalties on their actions.
Now, we get to damage. Damage in Traveller is not measured in HP, but by your character's physical statistics. When damage is dealt, the target subtracts his armor from it and applies the remaining damage to his Endurance first, then either his Strength or his Dexterity. If two stats drop to zero, the character is unconscious. Three, and he's dead. An attack with an effect of 6 or higher always does one point of damage, regardless of the target's armor.
So, vehicle combat in Traveller is fairly simple. Vehicles use their driver's initiative in the order, attacks against vehicles grant a +1 bonus, and all vehicles have four firing arcs (front, rear, sides). Vehicles are split into two types: open and closed. Closed vehicles grant half cover (civilian vehicles) or full cover (military vehicle), but have a set number of firing ports with set arcs. Open vehicles grant no cover, but all passengers can fire in all directions. Mounted weapons use either Gun Combat, Gunnery or Heavy Weapons, depending on what is being used.
Vehicles can make special actions like evasion, ramming and stunts. General movement doesn't require the driver to make a check, but complex actions require the driver to make an appropriate Drive check or damage the vehicle. Speaking of which, vehicle damage works pretty much like damage on a starship, only at a smaller scale. Vehicles have three "stats" when it comes to damage: Armor, Hull and Structure. Armor is self-explanatory, it reduces the damage done by attacks. Hull is the integrity of the outer surface of the vehicle, and also encompasses stuff that would be attached to the outside of the vehicle, like sensors and weapons. Structure is the integrity of the vehicle itself, and the internal systems, including the passengers. A vehicle with 0 hull has had most of it's outer body destroyed, but is still operable, while a vehicle with 0 structure is nothing but a pile of scrap.
When a vehicle is attacked, you compare the damage dealt (subtracting armor) to a table. The table will give you how many "hits" the vehicle received from that attack. Then you roll on another chart to see where these hits went. If you roll multiple hits, you roll for each hit separately on the location table. However, double and triple hits aren't two or three individual hits, but indicate that a component was damaged twice, or even three times, as part of that
hit. The location table is split into two parts, external hits (when the vehicle still has Hull points) and internal hits (when Hull points have been exhausted).
Next up, animal encounters, NPCs and environmental hazards!