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Payn's Ponderings Traveller Chargen

payn

Legend
Greetings,

This is the third installment of a series on the Traveller RPG. You can find one on editions, and another on settings with those links. This thread is all about my favorite thing in Traveller; Character generation!

Whats chargen like in Traveller?

So, first of all, let’s address dying during character generation. It’s true, it’s possible, and no it’s not easy. Stats are rolled with 2D6 in most editions. If you go right down the line, it’s possible to have very low physical stats. When endurance, along with strength or dexterity reach zero, the character dies. Combine low stats with possible accidents during careers, and aging, it’s possible to reach zero and have the character die.

Why push your luck? There is another lesser known joke about Traveller chargen, “it’s a game of geriatrics in space”. In Traveller characters gain skills, connections, and benefits by living through periods of careers (4 years per career period). The more careers a character has, the more opportunities to learn things. Obviously, the older the character becomes as well. As the character ages, thier physical stats may take a hit, while their mental stats may get a bump. This is to reflect becoming wiser while becoming less agile in game terms.

One of the biggest issues folks new to Traveller have, is thinking of careers like other TTRPG classes. That is not the case in Traveller. Careers simply serve as a way to gain skills and experiences. Getting kicked out of the military and having to take a second career is not multi-classing. The chargen systems is an attempt to model the typical life path of any individual. You are likely to make 1 or more career changes in your life. When new players join my groups, I encourage them to look over skills and decide the type of things they want their character to be able to do, and more importantly, be good at. I encourage them to pursue careers then that will get them the skills and experiences to achieve their goals.

My impressions of Traveller chargen.

Where a person chooses to stop in character generation is going to vary between tables and editions. Most my experiences are with Mongoose Traveller. My players, typically, stop chargen around 38-46 years of age. That is around 5-7 career periods. A career period is 4 years and offers new skills and possible experiences. The character may end up getting married/divorced, or stopping a crime (or being involved in one), getting promoted, or possibly flaming out (failing a career survival check and having to move onto a new career).

I, typically, do not like random character generation in TTRPGs, however, Traveller breaks the typical combat role requirements found in a number of TTRPGs. Since Traveller can accommodate all kinds of characters, and is skill driven, I find randomly rolling up PCs to be a fun and rewarding process. Also, im a fan of having less detailed backstories in RPGs. My belief is that the PCs are about to engage on their life defining adventure in the campaign. Traveller, has a nice baked in way of providing acquaintances, allies, rivals, and enemies. These moments can help create NPCs to thread the PC into the campaign setting. The biggest reward is this happens at the table with everyone together. Mongoose even went so far as giving the players a benefit if they link their PCs via life events.

Traveller has been designed over the years to be very homebrew friendly. Even the official settings are left fairly vague for the Referee to fill out. I do wish at times that there was more encouragement to link PCs to actual setting places. Also, events that are less generic and more specific to the campaign they are about to play. Some Traveller aficionados may see this as a cardinal sin, but I would love to see more players guides published by Mongoose in this area (Pirates of Drinax offers this but in a less concentrated and intuitive place). I full heartedly endorse any Referee to take this on as part of their campaign prep. I think it will give extra legs to your game for your players.

How do you roll?

So, I’ll turn it over to you fellow Travellers. What do you like or dislike about Traveller chargen? What are your experiences with it? Any advice or fun homerules you have taken up that other Referees might want to test out? Any uninitiated out there want to hear from us geriatric Travellers?

Thanks for reading.

-Cheers
 

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pogre

Legend
We created PCs for our current campaign as a group and everybody enjoyed the "minigame" of character creation. I don't know if there is another RPG that creates such an atmosphere of laughing and cheers during character creation!
 

pemerton

Legend
My Classic Traveller rules uses the 6 Book 1 professions (with "Other" rebadged as "Drifter"), the 12 from Supplement 4 (but with "Scientist" rebadged as "Tech" to better reflect their actual skill set), and 2 homebrewed: "Face" which is adapted from an old Dragon/Ares "Cleric" profession and also a "Journalist" found in a MegaTraveller supplement; and "Security" which is adapted from the "Law Enforcement" service found in MegaTraveller.

There are 40+ skills on my charts, which are adapted from but not identical to the original ones: the skills from the original (1977) Book 1, plus several from Books 4 to 7. But not all: I don't use Gravitics (Engineering covers it) nor Legal (Admin covers it) nor Trading (Broker covers it). To accommodate the extra skills in PC build, I use the MegaTraveller "Special Duty" line on the Prior Service table, with a minimum throw to get an extra skill roll and with a throw that is 4 higher than the minimum allowing either two extra rolls or a choice of any single skill.

For weapons and vehicles I use a mixture of Cascade and Included that is adapted from the various Books (1 to 7 plus Supp 4).

I don't like the MegaTraveller skill list, as I think it (1) has too many Cascade skills, overly diluting the random rolls, and (2) has too many skills - especially knowledge and social skills - that for me don't fit comfortably with the system. We use EDU to determine knowledge, with the PC backstory plus development in play being used to help get a sense of what sort of specialisation the PC has.

The Survival rule I use is that a result of exactly one less permits survival if the player desires, but with a short term of 2 rather than 4 years, no Mustering Out benefits gained for that term, no chance of a position or promotion, but the normal base skill gained and also a throw for Special Duty with a -1 DM. When we did PC gen for our current game, we had one death in 9 PCs (a Belter, of course) and another one of the 9 forced out by injury in her first term (ie missing the throw by one).

I agree with @pogre about PC gen working well as a group activity. But it's tricky to interweave PCs' backgrounds during the process in Classic Traveller, because until it's all finished you don't know who has served how many terms and hence who was at what point of their career when, relative to the other PCs. We do find, though, that the lifepath process suggests a relatively "thick" backstory for individual PCs, and makes it fairly easy to drop in NPCs that relate to that implied backstory.

There is a system for points-buy Traveller PC gen in one of the old White Dwarf magazines - The Self-Made Traveller in WD 25 (1981). I think I might have used it once or twice back in the mid-80s. But these days I regard the random lifepath system as pretty core to the Traveller experience.
 

payn

Legend
There is a lot of rolling in Traveller chargen. My houserule during chargen for my players is that the dice results are the dice results, however, I offer two mulligans during the entire process. These can be used on anything. A stat roll, skill table, survival check, muster benefit, etc.. I assumed that folks would use them on failed survival checks, but I'm often surprised that they use them in other ways mostly.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Back in the first edition of Traveller, you could die just with a bad survival role for a term - good physical stats and the ability to soak up a little more injury were completely bypassed. So we'd lose a pretty fair number of characters just in generation. Subsequent editions eased that a bit including survival equating to career-ending injury rather than just death.
But yeah, we enjoyed the character generation mini-game. Can we push things far enough to rate better end benefits like a starship or get the skills we think we want?
 

payn

Legend
I agree with @pogre about PC gen working well as a group activity. But it's tricky to interweave PCs' backgrounds during the process in Classic Traveller, because until it's all finished you don't know who has served how many terms and hence who was at what point of their career when, relative to the other PCs. We do find, though, that the lifepath process suggests a relatively "thick" backstory for individual PCs, and makes it fairly easy to drop in NPCs that relate to that implied backstory.
Where the events in classic Traveller specific? In the Mongoose edition, they are pretty general and vague. There is plenty of room to navigate between characters for the events. For example, in my current game one player was a rogue caught up in some law enforcement bust. Another player had agent for their career, and so they worked with the rogue as a C.I. In another event, a character in the scientist career got caught up in a conspiracy, in which another character in the noble career path was involved. Linked them together nicely and the details were really up to the PCs to work out.
 

pemerton

Legend
Where the events in classic Traveller specific?
There are no events - it's all implied.

For instance, the Navy PC who never gets a commission, but whose EDU grows to D, was clearly working on his PhD (in Xeno Archaeology, we decided) rather than putting his heart and soul into his profession.

The Merchant who got the (easy) position as a 4th Officer but who was never promoted after that was obviously bitter towards his employer (a NPC who came into play and is the lady-friend of another PC). The fact that his STR stayed stable or even grew a bit as he aged, while his END kept dropping, showed he was juicing far more than was healthy for him!

The Army Lt Colonel with INT 3 and EDU 9 was clearly an absolute stickler for the rules, having memorised every handbook and passed every exam but having no initiative at all.

Also, I was wrong in my earlier thread: we have two PCs injured by just-failed Survival checks. One was a Noble, whose skills were Bribery and Gambling an who started with a Type Y Yacht. Obviously he had won the Yacht in a card game, and then been beaten to within an inch of his life by the people he won it from ! (Who also turned up as NPCs in our first session.)

Etc.

I hope I've made sense!
 

cowpie

Explorer
There are no events - it's all implied.

For instance, the Navy PC who never gets a commission, but whose EDU grows to D, was clearly working on his PhD (in Xeno Archaeology, we decided) rather than putting his heart and soul into his profession.

The Merchant who got the (easy) position as a 4th Officer but who was never promoted after that was obviously bitter towards his employer (a NPC who came into play and is the lady-friend of another PC). The fact that his STR stayed stable or even grew a bit as he aged, while his END kept dropping, showed he was juicing far more than was healthy for him!

The Army Lt Colonel with INT 3 and EDU 9 was clearly an absolute stickler for the rules, having memorised every handbook and passed every exam but having no initiative at all.

Also, I was wrong in my earlier thread: we have two PCs injured by just-failed Survival checks. One was a Noble, whose skills were Bribery and Gambling an who started with a Type Y Yacht. Obviously he had won the Yacht in a card game, and then been beaten to within an inch of his life by the people he won it from ! (Who also turned up as NPCs in our first session.)

Etc.

I hope I've made sense!
Yep -- you pretty much can take the results and make up a story as you go along. It's kind of a mini-game where you roll on tables (and press your luck a bit) to see what happens, and that inspires the players creatively to make an emergent backstory.
 

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