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Played some Classic Traveller today

MGibster

Legend
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.

For some reason I missed the whole part about you running a Classic Traveller game. I only know a little about the setting and nothing about those rules.
 

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CT Book 1-3 is almost all rules, very little setting, and even that limited setting is hidden as rules text and/or results of tables shaping the setting.

The skills are one of the crunchiest skill systems, in that each skill is a special case rule... so when I see people claiming it's light, and I've run all the other Traveller editions, and found CT the one requiring me to go to the rules far more often for "what's that special case?", I find it beggars belief.

That may be because I'm a rules-as-social-contract type player and GM, and ignoring the 6 pages of skill rules alone is not something I can casually do without explaining to players that it's being ignored... Last time I ran CT, my player briefing ran 1 page of listing which rules were and were not being used (swapping the DGP-CT task system's 2 pages in for those 6 pages and the additional chunk of skills as special case rules in Supp 4.)...

For me, Traveller NEVER feels light, and the lightest version in terms of needing to reference rules was T:TNE, and yet, was my least favorite until I'd run Mongoose.

Then again, Marc claims he's always used xd6 vs attribute+skill... and has hinted that the 2d6 baseline was Loren's thing... And one of the adventures has a 3d6 for Strength or less check left in... and a page of Bk 0 shows the 1d to 5d odds...
 

I've only played the original Traveller and Mongoose's and the systems feel the same to me.
I appreciate the small cleanups to the rules in MGT2.

We used to use Traveller rules instead of Fasa's Mechwarrior RPG rules. The system can model quite a bit, takes mods like a champ.
 

pemerton

Legend
The skills are one of the crunchiest skill systems, in that each skill is a special case rule... so when I see people claiming it's light, and I've run all the other Traveller editions, and found CT the one requiring me to go to the rules far more often for "what's that special case?", I find it beggars belief.

That may be because I'm a rules-as-social-contract type player and GM, and ignoring the 6 pages of skill rules alone is not something I can casually do
I'm not working from the books unmediated: I've written up my own version of the rules, which is - for my purposes - better edited. Eg I have a section on "Officials and Bureaucracy" which presents the rules on Law Level (chance of being pulled over), avoiding close inspection of documents (from the Admin skill entry), getting away with forged papers (from the Forgery skill entry), chances of successfully bribing them (from the Bribery skill entry), etc.

I find this makes it much easier to play in an AW-style: the activity being attempted feeds into the relevant subsystem, and then that tells us how to resolve it, including what the DMs are.

I don't have a view on whether this is "light" or not - clearly it's not as light as Cthulhu Dark or even Prince Valiant, but it's much lighter than most versions of D&D, or Rolemaster, or even (I would say) RuneQuest.

A big help is that the players don't really need to know the subsystems, so these can be managed by me as referee. The player just looks at the PC sheet and can see what his/her character is good at. That's a big difference from D&D in particular.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
The skills are one of the crunchiest skill systems, in that each skill is a special case rule... so when I see people claiming it's light, and I've run all the other Traveller editions, and found CT the one requiring me to go to the rules far more often for "what's that special case?", I find it beggars belief.

I find it is more difficult for traditional gamers to go back to CT after using the later versions. CT is easy in that PC's only have around 5 skills, and each one makes a sort of free-form playbook like in PbtA, and the skills as "moves" from that system. The later unified task systems make the use of skills more vanilla, the results flattened as CT often has +2 per skill level so that Engineer 2 is a huge advantage, for example; and you have a far larger skill list in later versions. The downside is that the unified systems promote rolling for everything, so that games get 2-3x the amount of rolling than CT. We used to crib our skills on our character sheets, because the actual stats take two lines, and our Ref (GM) would be critical if we didn't know what our PC's were capable of.

CT is really the first of the "indie games" with the narrative play-style, and skills played more as "moves"; Marc W Miller is a really brilliant, but underrated game designer for figuring this out 20 years before everyone else. However he is under-appreciated in the Traveller community, as most fans are die hard grognard-ish traditional gamers, that are hide bound enough to have an apoplectic fit at CT being described as a "story game".
 

I find it is more difficult for traditional gamers to go back to CT after using the later versions. CT is easy in that PC's only have around 5 skills, and each one makes a sort of free-form playbook like in PbtA, and the skills as "moves" from that system. The later unified task systems make the use of skills more vanilla, the results flattened as CT often has +2 per skill level so that Engineer 2 is a huge advantage, for example; and you have a far larger skill list in later versions. The downside is that the unified systems promote rolling for everything, so that games get 2-3x the amount of rolling than CT. We used to crib our skills on our character sheets, because the actual stats take two lines, and our Ref (GM) would be critical if we didn't know what our PC's were capable of.

CT is really the first of the "indie games" with the narrative play-style, and skills played more as "moves"; Marc W Miller is a really brilliant, but underrated game designer for figuring this out 20 years before everyone else. However he is under-appreciated in the Traveller community, as most fans are die hard grognard-ish traditional gamers, that are hide bound enough to have an apoplectic fit at CT being described as a "story game".
All very true, and why I really have always hankered for MORE help from the game in terms of generating that story, like some sort of traits for PCs (skills count, but I think "cool under fire" or something like that could be a nice addition). The EDU and SOC ability scores are also very much in this category as well.
Anyway, I have played around with doing some of my own setting work. The observation that CT core books don't have a LOT of setting is SORT OF true, but the rules are VERY tuned to the Imperium. You can map out random sectors, but most of what you find is not sensible without considering Marc's model of interstellar society. 2300 kind of seemed potentially interesting, but I never could understand why they used that horrible Aftermath-based system for it, bleh!
Anyway, you don't have to hack it much to add some interesting stuff. I'd just make the computers into NPCs and call them 'AI', but you don't REALLY have to change much in the rules for them. Add some more plausible equipment, maybe change the TL system a bit to fold in things like nanotech and cybernetics in lieu of anti-grav. While the ships are a bit unrealistic, probably nobody cares, and they work well enough from a play standpoint.
The various subsystems are OK, but I think society should be a bit more complicated. Maybe I will revisit my d6 Space campaign and run it with CT instead. It would pretty much work... I didn't really find the d6 system was that thematic for what I wanted to do anyway.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
All very true, and why I really have always hankered for MORE help from the game in terms of generating that story, like some sort of traits for PCs (skills count, but I think "cool under fire" or something like that could be a nice addition).

Stellagama has Traits for Cepheus Light:


I just got the printed version of Cepheus Light through Lulu, it is good, very much like CT.

Somewhere between Wintermute and the Machine is where I make AI, good for using the ship as an AI NPC also.

Soc is sometimes better just flipped to Charisma, and use it that way. Unless one wants to dig into the whole space feudalism thing, with Barons and Dukes and all that.

Traveller is really great for all its generators for making your own setting. I do a more hard-ish SF setting myself, the sort of ubiquitous anti-gravity is not to my liking, personally. Nano- and Cyber- stuff is cool as long as it doesn't become "that one trick" which gets used all the time.
 

Stellagama has Traits for Cepheus Light:


I just got the printed version of Cepheus Light through Lulu, it is good, very much like CT.

Somewhere between Wintermute and the Machine is where I make AI, good for using the ship as an AI NPC also.

Soc is sometimes better just flipped to Charisma, and use it that way. Unless one wants to dig into the whole space feudalism thing, with Barons and Dukes and all that.

Traveller is really great for all its generators for making your own setting. I do a more hard-ish SF setting myself, the sort of ubiquitous anti-gravity is not to my liking, personally. Nano- and Cyber- stuff is cool as long as it doesn't become "that one trick" which gets used all the time.
Right, I think AI is BASICALLY just 'set dressing'. In our d6 campaign I explained that AIs were capable assistants. The ship could be ordered to do various things, pretty much in line with the Star Trek 'computer', which could run the ship in a limited fashion, perform certain types of analysis, etc. This translates pretty well into the 'programs' mechanics of Traveler, where you can dedicate a specific amount of your computer to giving bonuses in specific skills.
SOC is definitely a bit focused on the specific elements of the Imperium (or similar) setting, true. Of course that isn't a BAD baseline, as @pemerton has noted. It casts the game into a sort of "Age of Sail" kind of mold where travel and communications are slow, and sometimes unreliable, but there is still a widespread society. The only problems I see with Traveler is it kind of (even the setting specific materials) never REALLY delved into the legal, cultural, and social structure of the Imperium. What sort of rights, powers, social conventions, wealth, etc. adhere to the various social levels within the Imperium? We really do not know. Even Spinward Marches doesn't really make that clear. It also seems as though there is an 'Imperial Culture' and then 'Local Culture' (as well as Law, Govt., Economy, etc.). How things are factored is really never explained, at all. We can draw some very tentative general conclusions from the rules, but in a lot of ways the setting is close to non-existent.
So the 'SOC' ability score is very hard to interpret in Traveler. What does a 15 represent? Does that make your PC a very high ranking Imperial noble? What does that mean? How does that relate to your status in the local culture? Aside from a few tables modifiers what exactly does this very high status do for you? Nothing at all is ever stated about this. I mean, if this was a Medieval European society of, say, the 11th Century, then being high ranking nobility is a huge big deal. You can practically exercise life and death over almost anyone you meet who is a commoner. Certainly over anyone who is your subject, and EVERYONE is a subject of some nobles, unless maybe they are citizens of a free city or something. Is the Imperium similar, or does 'nobility' mean something else? It is REALLY not clear, so SOC can't do a whole lot...
Of course the GM can deal with these types of questions. However its tricky since you would assume every PC would have deep knowledge of these questions, so you will have to create answers with a good bit of detail when it comes up, or again devalue SOC and things based on it by making them "whatever is convenient right now."
 

pemerton

Legend
Soc is sometimes better just flipped to Charisma, and use it that way. Unless one wants to dig into the whole space feudalism thing, with Barons and Dukes and all that.
SOC is definitely a bit focused on the specific elements of the Imperium (or similar) setting, true. Of course that isn't a BAD baseline, as @pemerton has noted. It casts the game into a sort of "Age of Sail" kind of mold where travel and communications are slow, and sometimes unreliable, but there is still a widespread society. The only problems I see with Traveler is it kind of (even the setting specific materials) never REALLY delved into the legal, cultural, and social structure of the Imperium. What sort of rights, powers, social conventions, wealth, etc. adhere to the various social levels within the Imperium? We really do not know. Even Spinward Marches doesn't really make that clear. It also seems as though there is an 'Imperial Culture' and then 'Local Culture' (as well as Law, Govt., Economy, etc.). How things are factored is really never explained, at all. We can draw some very tentative general conclusions from the rules, but in a lot of ways the setting is close to non-existent.
So the 'SOC' ability score is very hard to interpret in Traveler. What does a 15 represent? Does that make your PC a very high ranking Imperial noble? What does that mean? How does that relate to your status in the local culture? Aside from a few tables modifiers what exactly does this very high status do for you? Nothing at all is ever stated about this. I mean, if this was a Medieval European society of, say, the 11th Century, then being high ranking nobility is a huge big deal. You can practically exercise life and death over almost anyone you meet who is a commoner. Certainly over anyone who is your subject, and EVERYONE is a subject of some nobles, unless maybe they are citizens of a free city or something. Is the Imperium similar, or does 'nobility' mean something else? It is REALLY not clear, so SOC can't do a whole lot...
Of course the GM can deal with these types of questions. However its tricky since you would assume every PC would have deep knowledge of these questions, so you will have to create answers with a good bit of detail when it comes up, or again devalue SOC and things based on it by making them "whatever is convenient right now."
I don't worry too much about "devaluing" because - in Classic Traveller - nearly all this stuff is randomly rolled and so there is not player investment in resources that has to be respected. Which means the "whatever is convenient right now" isn't too bad as an answer.

In our campaign, it's come out that nobility can be both local (one of our PCs is a Baron of the world Hallucida), and imperial (in the OP of this thread, one of the PCs seduced a Free Imperial Knight). I consider social standing in some reaction contexts, and it's also a consideration in resolving leadership disputes among the PCs.

This is actually somewhat like Fame in Prince Valiant (which in some contexts grants a prestige bonus to social interactions and contests), except in Traveller it's not also a PC advancement mechanic.

I don't like Soc as Cha, because that then leaves skills like Carousing, Liaison, Leader, etc a bit unanchored.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
I don't like Soc as Cha, because that then leaves skills like Carousing, Liaison, Leader, etc a bit unanchored.

It is imperfect, you are right, though using as some "Social Intelligence" characteristic it can be the stat for social combat in the same way Str is for melee and Dex for ranged combat.

What does a 15 represent? Does that make your PC a very high ranking Imperial noble?

From the 1981 printings of the Little Black Books onward, it makes them a Duke. How that all functions, it's not very well defined. It can be difficult having a campaign with Dukes, Barons, Admirals, and Generals; I mean, what are these people doing on a Free Trader? Players will go for it, because they are Duke! But too often, I find the high status in-congruent, and sort of a one trick pony that neither the player or GM has realistic ideas of playing.
 

Sepulchrave II

Adventurer
I mean, what are these people doing on a Free Trader? Players will go for it, because they are Duke! But too often, I find the high status in-congruent, and sort of a one trick pony that neither the player or GM has realistic ideas of playing.

I’ve always assumed that when characters have a noble rank, it’s a local title from some backwoods world, rather than an imperial rank. It’s kind of absurd otherwise - imperial dukes govern subsectors.
 

MGibster

Legend
From the 1981 printings of the Little Black Books onward, it makes them a Duke. How that all functions, it's not very well defined. It can be difficult having a campaign with Dukes, Barons, Admirals, and Generals; I mean, what are these people doing on a Free Trader? Players will go for it, because they are Duke! But too often, I find the high status in-congruent, and sort of a one trick pony that neither the player or GM has realistic ideas of playing.

In MGT 2nd edition, if you have a high SOC they offer some ways to explain why you're not sitting around doing noble type things. Maybe your family lost its fortune but your name remains intact or maybe your character is famous for some other reason besides being an noble (some career tracks give bonuses to Soc depending on what rank you achieve).

In most RPGs, once you achieve that kind of high status it essentially takes the character out of the adventuring phase of their life. But I'm a bit surprised in 40+ years there's no information in Traveller for how characters might run their own space station, corporation, or fleet.
 

The last few posts illustrate my point perfectly. Traveler is so tightly focused on a party of shiftless waifs on a type S scout, wandering the space lanes that it doesn't really have a complete setting even after 50 years!
This means it works really well for one specific story, but every Traveler campaign is basically just a random variation of that story. The core mechanic is very solid but never extended to the general.
In effect it's the BitD of the 1970s. Except back then we were ignorant of this, so we tried to imagine it was a general SFRPG, but it is not.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
This means it works really well for one specific story, but every Traveler campaign is basically just a random variation of that story.

But I'm a bit surprised in 40+ years there's no information in Traveller for how characters might run their own space station, corporation, or fleet.

There is, Gurps Nobles, T4's Pocket Empires, and Mgt 1e's Dilettante and Dynasty; probably others as well.

This bleeds into that one story, it can play other stories, but it really does that one story well. The above supplements are all more like board games, similar to High Guard and Trillion Credit Squadron, cool, but not very role playing-ish. Traveller does do the footloose Free Trader, as written in Andre Norton's stories, mix a bit of Vance's Gaen Reach, and Tubb's Dumarest - that is 99% where it stands. It is a fertile ground for role playing.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
I’ve always assumed that when characters have a noble rank, it’s a local title from some backwoods world, rather than an imperial rank. It’s kind of absurd otherwise - imperial dukes govern subsectors.

Duke Norris of Regina is a major character in Traveller canon, much more so than Duchess Delphine of Mora, who rules the whole Spinward Marches. Though in fact, Traveller's "Feudal Technocracy" is more an actual monarchy, such as from the UK in the 18th Century; except it doesn't sound as cool as a "Feudal Technocracy".

When we played it that you could assign your characteristic, highest went to dex, and soc usually became the "dump stat", so that ultimately we were usually low soc so the issue never really was there.
 

pemerton

Legend
It can be difficult having a campaign with Dukes, Barons, Admirals, and Generals; I mean, what are these people doing on a Free Trader? Players will go for it, because they are Duke! But too often, I find the high status in-congruent, and sort of a one trick pony that neither the player or GM has realistic ideas of playing.
I wasn't surprised to see @AbdulAlhazred give XP to your post, because this is something he's often said about Traveller.

The last few posts illustrate my point perfectly. Traveler is so tightly focused on a party of shiftless waifs on a type S scout, wandering the space lanes that it doesn't really have a complete setting even after 50 years!
This means it works really well for one specific story, but every Traveler campaign is basically just a random variation of that story. The core mechanic is very solid but never extended to the general.
In effect it's the BitD of the 1970s. Except back then we were ignorant of this, so we tried to imagine it was a general SFRPG, but it is not.
I agree that Classic Traveller is not a general sci-fi RPG. There are claims to that effect in one of the Book 0 (or similar) products, but they're not plausible. You can't do Star Wars using Classic Traveller anymore than you can do Excalibur using Gygax's AD&D.

But I think there are ways of using the nobles without collapsing into absurdity (maybe there are similar ways of using paladins in AD&D without just collapsing into absurdity). In the real world there were (and are) adventuring knights. In our campaign we have a "diplomat" who was clearly a spy (skill in Forgery, Streetwise, Gambling, Interrogation, Wheeled Vehicle) with Soc A: that's a version of James Bond. The PCs' original vessel was a Yacht which one of the noble PCs had won gambling (this was part of his backstory; likewise his mustering out wounded was a result of the beating he received from the losers of that bet).

This is where a bit more use of contemporary techniques - framing situations in light of PC backstory - can help out.
 

MGibster

Legend
The last few posts illustrate my point perfectly. Traveler is so tightly focused on a party of shiftless waifs on a type S scout, wandering the space lanes that it doesn't really have a complete setting even after 50 years!
This means it works really well for one specific story, but every Traveler campaign is basically just a random variation of that story. The core mechanic is very solid but never extended to the general.
In effect it's the BitD of the 1970s. Except back then we were ignorant of this, so we tried to imagine it was a general SFRPG, but it is not.

Do you think this lack of focus is part of Traveller's success? I only just got into Traveller having decided to purchase it after watching Seth Skorkowsky's videos about it on Youtube. I found it a bit daunting at first but thanks to the Traveller wiki and travellermap.com I grew a bit more comfortable setting the backdrop for my campaign. I was blown away looking at the Traveller map online by the number of systems, sub-systems, and worlds available to me. But on the other hand, it looks like I'll have to fill in the blanks if I really want to flesh out the world. Having a party of shiftless waifs will probably help make it easier because there's a lot I won't have to fill in.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
I wasn't surprised to see @AbdulAlhazred give XP to your post, because this is something he's often said about Traveller.

I haven't read that; though it is an old criticism in the same sense where D&D wanders into Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Traveller sometimes becomes the Pirates of Penzance. The adventuring knight works, even the former admiral baron, more in an 18th or 19th century sense, which plays to the age of sail vibe traveller sometimes has; except it also isn't always the sort of thing people have in mind when thinking of sci-fi.

Traveller's rules can be rather thin on the ground in some ways, so it is a question of what type of game someone is looking for. It can be pretty generic if one wants it to be.
 

There is, Gurps Nobles, T4's Pocket Empires, and Mgt 1e's Dilettante and Dynasty; probably others as well.
Also TNE's World Tamer's Handbook, albeit the scope is more colonial than baronial.

One of the key assumptions for PC's is that they're Honor/reward nobles, not Hereditary nor Landed. The exception is the Noble career.
 

payn

Explorer
I dont want to "beam me up, Scotty" or " Use the force, Luke" so Traveller system and setting works fine. I love the large map and even more that there are so many blanks to fill in as referee. It was mentioned earlier in thread that all stories start in the same place. I see this as a strength, because I've done it over and over and it never feels the same. Traveller really lends itself to sandbox play, which perhaps, folks are confusing with the system being generic Sci-Fi?
 

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