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Played some Classic Traveller today

pemerton

Legend
Our Classic Traveller campaign continued today (over Zoom). The last two sessions were in January and February, before lockdown hit. This was the fifteenth session of the campaign.

In the last session, the PCs had defeated all the Aliens on board the mysterious starship the Annic Nova, which had appeared unexpectedly in the vicinity of Novus. Novus is a developing, frontier world that is desirable location for settlers and primarily agricultural, but the PCs were there mostly because it was on their way back home after a serious mis-jump.

The Imperial Navy Cutter Modiphius had caught up with their starship (the laboratory research vessel St Christopher), but the wordsmith PCs - Methwit the "diplomat" (ie spy) and Vincenzo von Hallucida, the noble owner of the St Chrisopher who was being patched through from on-board the Annic Nova - were stalling Commander Lady Askol and her aide-de-camp Marine Lt Kadi.

We started the session with a recap - given the 6-month pause in this particular game - and then the players decided that more stalling was in order. Their computer programmer on board the Annic Nova, Zeno Doxa, would need a week to have a chance of deciphering the workings of the alien computer. And so Vincenzo proposed that there be further discussions onworld about the strength of his salvage claim over the Annic Nova. He figured that it must be possible to fill a week on a winery tour! With another strong reaction roll Lady Askol agreed to this, and so seven player-controlled characters (Vincenzo and his close friend Leila Lo, the former owner of the St Christopher from whom he won it in a bet; Methwit; the other two noble PCs Sir Glaxon and von Jerrel; and as hangers-on Bobby "the Robber" (handy with an auto-rifle and with Streetwise-1) and Alissa (handy with a cutlass)) and the two NPCs went down to Novus, where for Cr 2,000 per day they had a good time.

Meanwhile the more methodical members of the crew - Roland the navigator and xeno-archaeologist; Zeno; Tony the all-round tech guy (Mechanical-1, Engineering-1, Jack-of-all-Trades-4); Blaster McMillan, the not-too-bright but very well-trained former Navy technician; and Xander and Johnny (Bobby's brother) as muscle in the event of more Aliens appearing - stayed on the Annic Nova. The roll to understand the computer was successful, and the characters also examined and made sense of the vessel's power system: rather than a standard power-plant the vessel has a great "sail" that collects solar energy and stores it in an accumulator that is able to power to jump pods (one jump-2, the other jump-3). Roland studied the video recordings on the vessel, which included astronomical information, and once the computer was working was also able to study the navigation logs. What he worked out (which did not require any rolls: as GM I just told the players) surprised him: on its last jump, instead of travelling 2 parsecs (jump 2, or approx 6.2 x 10^16 metres) in 1 week (approx 6 x 10^5 seconds) it had travelled 600 km (ie 6 x 10^5 metres) and had jumped forward in time about 2 billion years (6.2 x 10^16 seconds). He was also able to identify the location of the alien's world: it was jump-3 distance away, at the edge of the galactic rift which the PCs had crossed in their mis-jump, and was now known as Zinion. Their main settlement was at about 60 degrees latitude; but there was reason to think that Zinion would be colder than it once had been, as its sun had been burning for 2 billion years.

The players decided that they must have this ship - no need for fuel, and time travelling! But they didn't want to open the sail, which would be a dead give-away of their plan to abscond, and so they came up with a new plan: the St Christopher refuelled and charged its own jump pod, and then with some jury-rigged cables this power was transferred into the accumulator on the Annic Nova. The St Christopher then returned to Novus and refuelled again. A successful reaction check by von Jerrel's player (he has Liaision-1) ensured that the naval authorities on Novus didn't notice the double refuelling. And as it turned out, this was the beginning of von Jerrel's play to seduce Lady Askol.

The St Christopher then returned to the Annic Nova, accompanied by the Modiphius. The players had estabslihed a crew roster for each vessel - the St Christopher and the Annic Nova - which was workable, although it left the Annic Nova a bit understaffed on the engineering front. Von Jerrel invited Lady Askol on board the Annic Nova to be personally shown around the vessel; and with another successful check he was able to blow off her aide-de-camp, so she was not accompanied by any other Navy personnel. His reaction roll when he went to kiss her was a natural 12 (on 2d6) and so she didn't notice when the jump drive was activated. It was only when he took her up to the astrogation dome that she realised the vessel was in jump space. Another two strong rolls meant that von Jerrel assuaged her initial outrage and was able to continue his seduction ("I thought that you wouldn't want us to be separated!") - but she did continue to insist that, from the point of view of her official duties, it was a kidnapping and not a desertion.

The Annic Nova module describes the astrogation dome thus: "At the top center front of the ship is a transparent astrogation dome with a bearing race along the front half of its circumference. Mounted on the race is an electro-mechanical sextant connected to the computer; whenever the ship's power is on, this sextant is in constant motion." I told von Jerrel's player that von Jerrel - who has Psionic Strength 6 though no psionic talents - could sense that the sextant was a psionic amplifier. A successful throw (adding his psionic strength) allowed him to "attune" to it, and realise that this device enabled converting travel in space to travel in time (and vice versa).

Von Jerrel - who is extremely strong - carried the (now) sleeping Lady Askol down to a stateroom, and brought Roland and Alissa to study the sextant. Alissa, who is also psionic (and has some rudimentary talents), was able to sense the power of the sextant but did not attune. But with a successful throw based on Intelligence she was able to intuit that the device would permit travel backwards as well as forwards in time, but with a very significant degree of dilation in the former case. (None of us has sufficient command of general relativity, let alone quantum gravity, to do anything but handwave this stuff in the sci-fi context.)

The throws for misjumps and drive failure all succeeded (despite the short-handed status of the Annic Nova), but there was another problem onboard the St Christopher. While exploring the Annic Nova Vincenzo had inadvertently inhaled some dust/spores from some bales of vegetation in the cargo hold. Now he found himself afflicted by terrible pain; but he made a solid throw on Endurance, and so the condition had not progressed very far when Leila (who is a surgeon as well as former starship owner/operator) was able to operate on him: a growth had begun in his lungs and tendrils had broken through to his abdominal cavity, but she was able to remove it. Unfortunately he was still very week when she restored him to conscious (another successful throw on Endurance after she injected him) and so stuck at 2 rather than his normal 7 Endurance.

The two vessels came out of jump space at Zinion, which is the satellite of a gas giant. The first thing that was done was to use the St Christopher's ship's boat to skim unrefined fuel from the gas giant and ferry it back to fuel up the two pinnaces that also serve as "tugs" for the Annic Nova (it has no inherent manoeuvre capability). Then the St Christopher sent a signal down to Zinion. A scan with the vessel's sensors revealed that it was extremely cold (average surface temperature around -90 degrees Celsius) but that there was an area of warmth at the equator, suggesting a settlement of some sort. The signal - "We come in peace" - was transmitted in both the alien language (as best it had been deciphered) as well as in standard Imperial form. A welcoming return signal was received, in standard rather than alien language. The St Christopher landed - the "starport" was just a patch of ice kept clear and hard-packed, and the settlement included many greenhouses for the cultivation of food. The PCs was greeted by Isle and Cassie, who explained that Zinion is a free planet - so while the noble von Jerrel and the others were welcome, they would have no special status here - settled by people who had found Novus to socially/politically demanding. They called themselves "Greenlanders", alluding - as they told the PCs - to a movement of free peoples to a new land on old Earth. Cassie was a former Scout and had the use of a surplus Type S vessel, and so occasionally, if supplies from off-world were needed, she would do a run to Novus for them.

Von Jerrel - not used to deception - explained that the travellers had come here looking for an ancient alien civilisation, maybe billions of years old. The locals knew nothing of this. They had done some planetary surveys, from Cassie's ship, and so were able to give the PCs some maps and other basic cartographic/geological data; but the warmth of at least some of the waters on Zinion suggested seismic activity, and with no working model of the tectonics of the world there was no way to correlate a present to a past map and get a sense of the longitude of the alien settlement. But it seemed pretty clear that it would be buried under ice, and so once a possible location was determined they would have to blast through the ice with the St Christopher's beam lasers (luckily Johnny is handy with an ATV and is trained as a forward observer).

It was also established that the locals had no submersible for underwater exploration; nor do the PCs.

VIncenzo's player decided that, if ever there was a world with a branch of the Psionics Institute, this must be one: and so he suggested the characters look for it. I showed them the relevant rules (via screen share):

Throw 20+ for a branch to exist on a given world (DM + world’s population);​
If a branch exists, throw 9+ to locate it after a one week search (DM +1 per extra person participating (up to +3 if 4 or 5 people in total, or +4 if 6 or more); +1 per level of Admin. Streetwise and/or Liaison expertise); each participant is subject to separate encounter checks while searching.​

The world's population rating is 5 - so as I explained, to get 20+ on 2d6+5 would require a further significant modifier to be introduced by the referee. But the players decided nevertheless that Alissa, Bobby and von Jerrel would spend a week working their way around the settlement - of some 10s of thousands of people - looking for signs of the Institute's presence. So they did; and the throw at the end of the week was a 9 (7 on the dice +1 for Streetwise and +1 for Liaison). I rolled the encounter checks (5+ on one die) for 7 days, and got four encounters: two with fugitives, one with peasants, and one with a religious group. Partly for reasons of real-world time (ie the session had to finish soon) and partly for reasons of pacing and framing, I made some fiat decisions here: I narrated the fugitive and peasant encounters just as colour, to help flesh out the character of the "Greenlanders'" society; and I narrated the religious group as the final encounter.

The 8 worshippers called themselves the Temple of Assar - which the players might have noticed resembled the name of the world Ashar, where von Jerrel comes from and where the PCs first encountered psionics as more than just hearsay. Their leader calls himself “Enli” - reminiscent of "Enlil", a world where the inhabitants have a mixture of alien and human DNA, and which was a major focus of activity earlier in the campaign. Alissa wears a religious amulet she acquired on Enlil, and that was manufactured on Ashar, as a focus for her psionic powers. Their doctrine holds that the worlds of the Imperium will gradually come to an end as their atmospheres become poisonous and their temperatures too hot - whereas Zinion is the cold and pure land where survival and flourishing will be possible. There is a noticeable degree of similarity between this doctrine and the information in the prayer book that Alissa acquired on Enlil, according to which there are three worlds – a middle world, toxic hells (places of death), and a cold pure paradise (with no death or sickness, and travel by teleportation).

I also explained that the worshippers produce drawings when they go into ecstatic or trance-like states. Vincenzo's player asked "on spherical surfaces?" and I did answer that the drawings have a possibly cartographic appearance. A successful reaction roll meant that the worshippers showed these drawings to Alissa, who was able to remember them (Intelligence 11) and reproduce them (Dexterity 12) back on the St Christopher, for Roland to study.

My roll of one die indicated that it would take 6 weeks for the Annic Nova to fully charge from its solar sail; Roland's player's roll of one die indicated that it would take Roland 6 weeks to use the maps to work out a conjecture as to the tectonics of Zinion sufficient to get a sense of what the longitude might be of the alien settlement; and consulting the psionics rules indicated that Methwit (who together with Sir Glaxon as pilot and Olya, a NPC engineer in Vincenzo's employ, had remained on the Annic Nova) would be able to scan for life from orbit using his telepathy.

We finished up there, with Vincenzo's player saying that he didn't really want Cthulhu buried under the ice; I suggested that he might read At the Mountains of Madness.

********************************************************************

There was a fair bit of GM exposition in this session: the time travel, and the information about Zinion.

There was also some key decision-making by the players: to escape with the Annic Nova, taking Lady Askol with them; coming up with a way to keep both their starships together; and looking for the Psionics Institute on Zinion, which in conjunction with the encounter rolls led to my account of the Temple of Assar.

I was the one who decided to mix the Annic Nova with the theme of Alien, aliens and psionics. The players have turned this into an expedition to find alien ruins (?) in my ice-bound world.

I'm not sure I can explain why, but I am continuing to really love Classic Traveller as a RPG.
 

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pemerton

Legend
I just started a Pirates of Drinax campaign in Mongoose Traveller 2.
I've never looked at Mongoose Traveller, but I gather it's not too different from Classic.

I am using a mix of 1977 and 1981 revised rules, with some systematisation of subsystems (especially around evasion and escape and vehicle use) and some incorporation of subsystems from articles, modules and later supplements.

We use simple PC gen but with some skills from the later supplements placed onto the tables taken from Book 1 and Supplement 4 (plus a couple of my own design). One thing I have adapted from MegaTraveller is to add a special duty line onto the charts, to allow for slightly more skill gain - which (i) corrects for what I think is a slight shortage of skills in the original rules, especially (ii) when the skill list has grown from 23 to 43 skills.

The main thing I prefer about Classic over MegaTraveller is its various subsystems for different sorts of activities. I don't like the uniform task resolution from MegaTraveller, which (I feel) tends to flatten out flavour and reduce the significance of skill ranks.
 

Sepulchrave II

Adventurer
I'm not sure I can explain why, but I am continuing to really love Classic Traveller as a RPG.

Because it's awesome.

I'd like to say that I really enjoy your Traveller threads, @pemerton, and hope you continue with them.

For me, Classic Traveller is as close to perfect as a game can be; as I get older I'm more-and-more awed by the power of its mechanics and how they force/demand a kind of explosive creativity. My sense is that it was way ahead of its time in some regards.

But I have a question: how do you handle J-o-T (2, 3 or 4)? I don't think this was ever satisfactorily covered by the rules, although I recall a JTAS article which tried, and I've seen various houseruled solutions over the years. I treat J-o-T as a standalone (can't be higher than 1) and instead let characters choose a skill on that table if they roll J-o-T more than once. Just curious.
 

pemerton

Legend
I'd like to say that I really enjoy your Traveller threads, @pemerton, and hope you continue with them.
Thanks!

Because it's awesome.

<snip>

For me, Classic Traveller is as close to perfect as a game can be; as I get older I'm more-and-more awed by the power of its mechanics and how they force/demand a kind of explosive creativity. My sense is that it was way ahead of its time in some regards.
Agreed on all points. It's the closest system I know of to PbtA that predates

But I have a question: how do you handle J-o-T (2, 3 or 4)? I don't think this was ever satisfactorily covered by the rules, although I recall a JTAS article which tried, and I've seen various houseruled solutions over the years. I treat J-o-T as a standalone (can't be higher than 1) and instead let characters choose a skill on that table if they roll J-o-T more than once. Just curious.
The answer is, in a pretty ad hoc way. Mostly we let it inform our sense of what the character is capable of doing with his Engineering and Mechanics. Occasionally I set a throw and then it acts as a DM.

If we had a number of PCs with different levels of expertise I might have to get more sophisticated about it, but in a crew that has now grown to 18 there are two other characters - one a PC, one a companion NPC - who have J-o-T-1 and who don't rely on it all that often.
 

payn

Explorer
Three from his 6 terms of service, and then +1 from a successful self-improvement rule.

It seems J-O-T is one skill that got a work over in Mongoose Traveller. It's no longer something you can self-improve. Though, it applies to all skills across the board and having a score that high would make a character pretty good at everything.
 

payn

Explorer
I've never looked at Mongoose Traveller, but I gather it's not too different from Classic.

I am using a mix of 1977 and 1981 revised rules, with some systematisation of subsystems (especially around evasion and escape and vehicle use) and some incorporation of subsystems from articles, modules and later supplements.

We use simple PC gen but with some skills from the later supplements placed onto the tables taken from Book 1 and Supplement 4 (plus a couple of my own design). One thing I have adapted from MegaTraveller is to add a special duty line onto the charts, to allow for slightly more skill gain - which (i) corrects for what I think is a slight shortage of skills in the original rules, especially (ii) when the skill list has grown from 23 to 43 skills.

The main thing I prefer about Classic over MegaTraveller is its various subsystems for different sorts of activities. I don't like the uniform task resolution from MegaTraveller, which (I feel) tends to flatten out flavour and reduce the significance of skill ranks.

I played very little of classic Traveller, most of my experience is with Mongoose era. There are some changes to a number of things, but its still feels relatively close in my opinion. Though, many classic die-hard fans might beg to differ.

Either way, Traveller is my favorite Sci-Fi system. I enjoy your write up.
 

I've never looked at Mongoose Traveller, but I gather it's not too different from Classic.

I am using a mix of 1977 and 1981 revised rules, with some systematisation of subsystems (especially around evasion and escape and vehicle use) and some incorporation of subsystems from articles, modules and later supplements.

We use simple PC gen but with some skills from the later supplements placed onto the tables taken from Book 1 and Supplement 4 (plus a couple of my own design). One thing I have adapted from MegaTraveller is to add a special duty line onto the charts, to allow for slightly more skill gain - which (i) corrects for what I think is a slight shortage of skills in the original rules, especially (ii) when the skill list has grown from 23 to 43 skills.

The main thing I prefer about Classic over MegaTraveller is its various subsystems for different sorts of activities. I don't like the uniform task resolution from MegaTraveller, which (I feel) tends to flatten out flavour and reduce the significance of skill ranks.
The Mongoose version seems like more of a "Go back to the original 1977 rules and fix a few things." It doesn't pick up where Megatraveller left off. I haven't really run it, and like you I haven't found a really compelling reason to replace the original LBB rules (plus various supplements) all that much. I did find that the later character gen which goes year-by-year instead of in 4-year blocks was a little more fun and produces better rounded characters (IE the stuff from High Guard, Mercenary, etc.). As you say, there's more chance to get skills, more chance to focus on some of them and get them to higher levels, and it better fits with the more varied skill list which evolved over time.
Overall though, I think the Mongoose version is very close to the original, from my brief readings. There are a few minor tweaks, but it seems to retain versions of all the same subsystems and whatnot. Hopefully they have been tweaked some, because a lot of them were not all that solid to start with. All of them, like the trade system, WORK as story-generators, but if you actually try to, for instance, have a PC build a trading business using the trading rules, you will soon find out that they are unworkable as an actual system. I think various later editions 'fixed' those issues in different ways.
The only other real issue I ever had with Classic Traveler is that the space combat system is not really all that workable. Again, it is not bad as a story generator, but you can't actually play 'space combat' with it. Its more good for describing how your scout ship got into a huge jam when the navy patrol cruiser shot a hole in the maneuver drive...
 

payn

Explorer
The Mongoose version seems like more of a "Go back to the original 1977 rules and fix a few things." It doesn't pick up where Megatraveller left off. I haven't really run it, and like you I haven't found a really compelling reason to replace the original LBB rules (plus various supplements) all that much. I did find that the later character gen which goes year-by-year instead of in 4-year blocks was a little more fun and produces better rounded characters (IE the stuff from High Guard, Mercenary, etc.). As you say, there's more chance to get skills, more chance to focus on some of them and get them to higher levels, and it better fits with the more varied skill list which evolved over time.
Overall though, I think the Mongoose version is very close to the original, from my brief readings. There are a few minor tweaks, but it seems to retain versions of all the same subsystems and whatnot. Hopefully they have been tweaked some, because a lot of them were not all that solid to start with. All of them, like the trade system, WORK as story-generators, but if you actually try to, for instance, have a PC build a trading business using the trading rules, you will soon find out that they are unworkable as an actual system. I think various later editions 'fixed' those issues in different ways.
The only other real issue I ever had with Classic Traveler is that the space combat system is not really all that workable. Again, it is not bad as a story generator, but you can't actually play 'space combat' with it. Its more good for describing how your scout ship got into a huge jam when the navy patrol cruiser shot a hole in the maneuver drive...
Yes in my experience the Mongoose version just does a bit of clean up, but tries to retain the classic system as much as possible. Chargen is about 80% the same, but they added a few tweaks to aid players and make more well rounded PCs. Space combat is one area Mongoose did some of the bigger changes, which I feel are improvements. There are some nuance level differences with the alien species that I cant really speak to. Some classic fans can be pretty negative about them. I dont think too much of them myself, but find them workable. Alien species are the weak point of Traveller (any edition) for me.
 

pemerton

Legend
Overall though, I think the Mongoose version is very close to the original, from my brief readings. There are a few minor tweaks, but it seems to retain versions of all the same subsystems and whatnot. Hopefully they have been tweaked some, because a lot of them were not all that solid to start with. All of them, like the trade system, WORK as story-generators, but if you actually try to, for instance, have a PC build a trading business using the trading rules, you will soon find out that they are unworkable as an actual system. I think various later editions 'fixed' those issues in different ways.
The only other real issue I ever had with Classic Traveler is that the space combat system is not really all that workable. Again, it is not bad as a story generator, but you can't actually play 'space combat' with it. Its more good for describing how your scout ship got into a huge jam when the navy patrol cruiser shot a hole in the maneuver drive...
There are some nuance level differences with the alien species that I cant really speak to. Some classic fans can be pretty negative about them. I dont think too much of them myself, but find them workable. Alien species are the weak point of Traveller (any edition) for me.
I've never used the classic Alien Modules. In our current game there are no aliens (as far as we know) other than the mysterious ones the PCs are investigating.

We have used the trade system once - the Merchant Prince version - and it seemed fine. I have no idea how it would work on a longer term basis.

We have had three episodes of space combat. Once the PCs lost their ship. Once they defeated an enemy ship. And once they took a hit which cost them millions of credits to repair. It doesn't support Star Wars-type space combat, that's for sure!

the later character gen which goes year-by-year instead of in 4-year blocks was a little more fun and produces better rounded characters
It's a lot of work to build advanced character gen systems for every servcie.

Andy Slack's solution for standard characters (which I know from Best of White Dwarf v1) is to throw one die for each term: on a 1 to 4 get that many additional skills, on a 5 choose a skill, a 6 is a bust. I think the Special Duty line on the chart is a good option: throw to get an extra skill throw, and the way we work it (which I guess I took from MegaTraveller, but maybe I made it up) is that a throw of 4 more than needed is two extra skill throws or choose a skill. This gives well-rounded characters but keeps PC gen reasonably quick. I think it's a good approach.
 

Well, a LOT of things are 'weak points' in Traveler. In fact it is a bit odd that it is really so successful a game when it really doesn't do much to address a LOT of the themes of sci-fi at all. Aliens are sort of an afterthought, AI and really anything to do with the sorts of technology which often show up in sci-fi related to it are basically entirely missing. Basically its future is a sort of a slightly tweaked version of the Foundation universe, basically just 20th Century with a superficial gloss of anti-gravity, fusion, and jump drives. It works well, but I have always wanted more.
If I were going to create a new Traveler campaign I think I would include some rules for alternate attributes and maybe giving each PC one or two 'traits' and a rule to allow them to be leveraged by players. Things like cybernetics, aliens, etc. can be handled that way. So maybe a new strange sort of alien would have a persuasiveness attribute, or a persuasive trait, or a 'wings' trait, or whatever. A PC with a cybernetic arm might have a 'cybernetic strength' trait that they can invoke where it would be appropriate in the story.
These things can then be included in chargen and some of the other subsystems as things that you can invoke there too.
 

payn

Explorer
I like the simplicity of Traveller. It does hard sci-fi really well. My favorite kind of setting too. A golden age of piracy 1650; but in space. I also like characters being skill driven and not mechanically complicated. The system does great for these needs. I definitely get why some sci-fi fans want a lot more from it though.
 

pemerton

Legend
Well, a LOT of things are 'weak points' in Traveler.
Mechanically, we've hit two.

There's the point about space combat that you mention: it's not very Star Wars pew-pew or even Star Trek "lower the cloaking device and raise the shields".

And the system for onworld exploration doesn't produce finality of resolution, and so ultimately depends on GM fiat.

In fact it is a bit odd that it is really so successful a game when it really doesn't do much to address a LOT of the themes of sci-fi at all. Aliens are sort of an afterthought, AI and really anything to do with the sorts of technology which often show up in sci-fi related to it are basically entirely missing. Basically its future is a sort of a slightly tweaked version of the Foundation universe, basically just 20th Century with a superficial gloss of anti-gravity, fusion, and jump drives. It works well, but I have always wanted more.
I don't really know sci-fi literature beyond a little bit of Arthur C Clarke and Dune. When I think of sci-fi films I think Classic Traveller can do Alien (recent and ongoing experience confirms this) and a certain sort of Blade Runner feel (though replicants really have to be dealt in if you want them - Book 8 Robots is in my view the weakest of the original rulebooks). With psionics, also a version of Minority Report. And also at least aspects of Total Recall.

The most striking thing in our group, setting-/tech-wise, has been the poor quality of computers/infotech. My explanation is that all the research money that in the real world was put into IT and miniaturisation has, in the Traveller universe, been spent on quantum gravity research, fusion and jump drives.

If I were going to create a new Traveler campaign I think I would include some rules for alternate attributes and maybe giving each PC one or two 'traits' and a rule to allow them to be leveraged by players. Things like cybernetics, aliens, etc. can be handled that way. So maybe a new strange sort of alien would have a persuasiveness attribute, or a persuasive trait, or a 'wings' trait, or whatever. A PC with a cybernetic arm might have a 'cybernetic strength' trait that they can invoke where it would be appropriate in the story.
These things can then be included in chargen and some of the other subsystems as things that you can invoke there too.
If I was going down this pathway I wouldn't use Classic Traveller at all. Over the Edge would be good for this.
 

Sepulchrave II

Adventurer
I've always thought that with the various supplements (and JTAS articles, and White Dwarf articles; come on, it was the 70s) Traveller can do most sci-fi just fine, if you regard it as a toolkit; I think that sometimes the Third Imperium can bog it down, as various ideas from that campaign setting have intruded too far into the assumed "rules." That said, it's the minimalistic power of books 0-3 that impresses.

Traveller forces you to find solutions to apparent contradictions (how are 10 million people living on this lifeless rock with no atmosphere with Bronze Age technology? Ancient arcologies devastated by disease and nanotechnological war? Underground silos full of humans maintained by aliens as a food source?) There is a kind of perpetual emergent energy in its mechanics. You can literally encounter a world, invent it in 5 minutes, and - collectively, sometimes with a little effort - something quite amazing emerges which takes the game in a completely unexpected direction.
 

pemerton

Legend
it's the minimalistic power of books 0-3 that impresses.
100% agreed with this.

I think that sometimes the Third Imperium can bog it down, as various ideas from that campaign setting have intruded too far into the assumed "rules."
We use the implied setting - nobles suggests an Imperium - and hence an Imperial Navy and Imperial Marines. I have a one-page write up for the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service which combines bits of Book 6 with material from Andy Slack (including the Covert Survey Bureau) and from Bob McWilliams (including the Planetary Rescue Systems Inspectorate).

Beyond this, we make it up as we go along. The world generation and patron encounter systems are good for this

Traveller forces you to find solutions to apparent contradictions (how are 10 million people living on this lifeless rock with no atmosphere with Bronze Age technology? Ancient arcologies devastated by disease and nanotechnological war? Underground silos full of humans maintained by aliens as a food source?) There is a kind of perpetual emergent energy in its mechanics. You can literally encounter a world, invent it in 5 minutes, and - collectively, sometimes with a little effort - something quite amazing emerges which takes the game in a completely unexpected direction.
Yep.

When I rolled up a highly-populated low tech world with a tainted atmosphere, I decided on an endemic virus (this was before the current pandemic) and ultimately this led to the idea of the inhabitants as having mixed human/alien DNA and being linked to the mysterious psionic forces at work in the galaxy.
 

MGibster

Legend
It seems J-O-T is one skill that got a work over in Mongoose Traveller. It's no longer something you can self-improve. Though, it applies to all skills across the board and having a score that high would make a character pretty good at everything.

Rules-as-written, you can't have a Jack of All Trades higher than 3 in Mongoose's Traveller 2nd edition. Though given the low chances of getting 4 JoAT results during character generation I guess see why a Referee might let a player keep it.
 

Mechanically, we've hit two.

There's the point about space combat that you mention: it's not very Star Wars pew-pew or even Star Trek "lower the cloaking device and raise the shields".

And the system for onworld exploration doesn't produce finality of resolution, and so ultimately depends on GM fiat.

I don't really know sci-fi literature beyond a little bit of Arthur C Clarke and Dune. When I think of sci-fi films I think Classic Traveller can do Alien (recent and ongoing experience confirms this) and a certain sort of Blade Runner feel (though replicants really have to be dealt in if you want them - Book 8 Robots is in my view the weakest of the original rulebooks). With psionics, also a version of Minority Report. And also at least aspects of Total Recall.

The most striking thing in our group, setting-/tech-wise, has been the poor quality of computers/infotech. My explanation is that all the research money that in the real world was put into IT and miniaturisation has, in the Traveller universe, been spent on quantum gravity research, fusion and jump drives.

If I was going down this pathway I wouldn't use Classic Traveller at all. Over the Edge would be good for this.
The thing is, I LIKE what Traveler has, I was always just running a bit out of options at some point. They did sort of touch on a lot of stuff in later supplements, but the treatments were generally very dry, technical, and the gist of most of it was "you can't really do this" or "it doesn't do much for you", or "this is so forbidden that you're an outlaw now." etc. Like with psionics, clearly the idea was "this will change society, so we'll banish it to the dark corners of the Empire." Likewise AI and even computer tech. Of course, a lot of it is just a 1970's view of things. Computers were hulking things that were useful, but super expensive, huge, and specialized. I mean, stock Traveler cannot even do HAL 9000...

Classic Traveler is basically Isaac Asimov's Foundation universe, except travel times are much longer in Traveler (hyperdrive in Foundation could take you 100's or 1000's of light years, a journey to Trantor from the edge of the Galaxy is time consuming, but quite feasible and fairly routine, at least in the days of the Empire). Foundation is a universe without ANY aliens, robots don't exist, there is no AI, nothing. Technology seems to be 1960's Earth, except for hyperdrives. There are hints that there is more, at times, but it never appears in very meaningful ways (there are holograms). Weapons seem to be basically firearms, or else large shipboard missiles and perhaps lasers (space combat doesn't really figure in any of the books much IIRC). Later on (in the 1980s) Asimov wrote some prequels and sequels which sort of addressed WHY this was true, but it was definitely a sort of retcon, an attempt to make 1950's future tech seem logical in the light of ACTUAL 1980's tech. It is actually kind of odd that Miller took this 50's view of future tech and went with it in 1977, when the alternatives were Gamma World/Metamorphosis Alpha, etc.

I like the somewhat hard tech aspect, but weirdly it is undermined a lot by the simplifications and omissions. Space craft don't work at all like they would in the real world, despite being (jump aside) justified by hard science. Travel times and accelerations are ludicrous for example, and mass and fuel requirements trivialized, and all papered over with the oddly out of place magic of 'anti-gravity'.

But it is still a compelling game system. I've always just wished to marry it to more interesting material!
 

pemerton

Legend
Rules-as-written, you can't have a Jack of All Trades higher than 3 in Mongoose's Traveller 2nd edition. Though given the low chances of getting 4 JoAT results during character generation I guess see why a Referee might let a player keep it.
In Book 1, 1977 - which is the starting point for the tables we're using - J-o-T is the "6" result on the Merchant's Service Skills table. Rolling three 6 results on that table is not all that unlikely.

Pushing it from 3 to 4 via self-improvement requires making the 8+ throw to maintain dedication to one's program of study and practice.

There is no concept, in Classic Traveller, of the referee letting a player keep it.
 

pemerton

Legend
The thing is, I LIKE what Traveler has, I was always just running a bit out of options at some point. They did sort of touch on a lot of stuff in later supplements, but the treatments were generally very dry, technical, and the gist of most of it was "you can't really do this" or "it doesn't do much for you", or "this is so forbidden that you're an outlaw now." etc. Like with psionics
In our current game we've treated this approach to psionics as a feature rather than a bug.

Your description of "very dry and technical" is absolutely true of Book 8.

I like the somewhat hard tech aspect, but weirdly it is undermined a lot by the simplifications and omissions. Space craft don't work at all like they would in the real world, despite being (jump aside) justified by hard science. Travel times and accelerations are ludicrous for example, and mass and fuel requirements trivialized, and all papered over with the oddly out of place magic of 'anti-gravity'.

But it is still a compelling game system. I've always just wished to marry it to more interesting material!
For me, this is the sort of thing that goes to replay value. So given where I am in my life, how much time I have for RPGing, and how many other systems I want my group to try, it's probably not going to come up!

But that's not to deny that it might come up for others, especially when they were younger and had more free time on their hands.
 

Halloween Horror For 5E

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