THE WORLD IN BRIEF
STARSHIPS & MUSTERING OUT
THE I.I.S.S. STARSHIP LOAN POOL
EXPERIENCE & SKILL ACQUISITION
AND NOW, A THREAT FROM OUR SPONSOR...
The campaign is based in the “Foreven” sector (the sector directly spinward of the “Spinward Marches”) circa Imperial Year 1116. The general backgound is as set out in the ‘Classic’ and ‘GURPS’ versions of Traveller.
Significant background changes are as follows:
(1) The worlds involved in FASA’s excellent ‘Sky Raiders’ adventure trilogy have been relocated to ‘Foreven’. My only justifications are (a) a hope of using these adventures at some stage of the campaign, and (b) not having a clue where the *&^%$#@! ‘Far Frontiers’ sector is supposed to be anyhow.
(2) The Fifth Frontier War went more or less as described in canon. However, a decisive role was played by an alien starship called “Starbridge” (‘Drakne Station’ by Judges’ Guild, only with Jump Drive). Initially, it was controlled by an anti-Imperial group and caused a lot of problems for the Imperium. Later on, pro-Imperial forces managed to take over, and decimated Coalition forces in a series of decisive battles. The vessel remains under Imperial control, but details of its status and capabilities remain classified.
(3) Emperor Strephon will not be assassinated (hence no Civil War - at least, not as represented in MegaTraveller / Traveller: The New Era), there could ultimately be a Sixth (!) Frontier War (or maybe not), and there are few other guarantees.
(4) Products from GDW, FASA, Judges’ Guild, Paranoia Press, and Travellers’ Digest Group have been "mixed and matched" for background info. So, the Library Data provided is not ‘canon’.
The one absolute certainty is that TNE's “VIRUS” will not exist in my campaign(s). EVER. It is my considered opinion that the infliction of VIRUS on the Traveller Universe was a uniquely mindless act. So don't go there. I mean it.
THE WORLD IN BRIEF
For services to the Imperium, a certain noble has been rewarded with a feifdom - an entire star system to control, administer and nurture. ‘Noah’ (UPP: C98A420-9) is an Imperial world, but many of its neighbours are not. Noah’s population is small, but (as far as is known) mostly loyal to the Imperium. An independant corporation, jointly owned by the planetary government and Ling-Standard Projects, is entrusted with developing the planet’s resources. Other corporations are also interested in that area, for various reasons. Scientists are interested in the planet’s geology and/or ecology. There are “interesting” neighbours, such as an extended family of nobles living in an orbital habitat on the edge of the Noah system, and a proudly independant Belter clan in the next star system. Other groups are interested in Noah’s strategic location, and the noble may have enemies he is unaware of.
Despite two centuries of Imperial rule, and millennia of Human occupation before then, Noah still has its secrets....
The Party: The challenges facing the noble are not to be taken lightly. He gathers a skilled group of friends and allies to aid him in his endeavours.
All Characters will be generated using the ‘MegaTraveller’ system, with the following provisions:
(1) Races - Players may choose from most of both the “official “ and "semi-official" races for their Characters. However, such Characters will be expected to behave within the restrictions of their race as much as is reasonable (eg. Virushi are pacifists, Aslan are touchy about their honour, etc.). Note that some races are considered unsuitable for Player use within the scope of this campaign (eg. the K’kree and the Nunclees). Playing “insane” or “rogue” versions of such races is unacceptable (this idea is so tired that even suggesting it could be dangerous).
Aquatic races (Dolphins and Githiaskio) have definite advantages as regards campaigning on Noah. But major problems will arise when the group goes off-world. If Players are hellbent on playing an aquatic, fine - but they had better have an alternate Character lined up.
The final group must be indisputably Imperial-aligned (probably ruling out Zhodani characters), preferably (though not necessarily) Human-dominated, and suitable members of a Noble’s entourage.
(2) Stats - Human Character stats will be generated, in sequence, using the “Choose 2d6 out of 3” method, with either the Referee or an approved representative as witness. Stats for Alien Characters (and Human subgroups) will be generated along similar lines. Rolling up multiple sets of stats and selecting one set is acceptable. If three sixes are rolled for a stat, its value is automatically 12 + 1d6 (and can be higher than the racial maximum).
Once a set of stats has been chosen, the Player must roll 2d6 once more, and note the result. This figure is the Character’s “Luck Pool”, which is used during the career process (more on this later), but has no other effect on play. Also, the Character’s beginning (NOT final!) Social stat must be averaged with one beginning Physical stat of the Player’s choice (STR, DEX or END) to produce a rating for Physical Attractiveness (applicable to the Character’s racial / cultural group, of less significance outside of that). Where increases to Social Standing are indicated during Character generation, the change may instead be made to Attractiveness. In the case of Attache/Aide duties, or for mustering out benefits, the indicated increases to Social Status cannot be traded off.
Finally, there is no upper limit on the EDUC or SOC stats for any race. An excellent Nobility variant is used, in which the maximum SOC stat (as possessed by the Emperor and his immediate family) is 24 (!).
(3) Career Choices - Players may choose from any of the standard careers. Where there is both a ‘Basic” and an official ‘Expanded’ system (ie. for Scouts, Navy, Army, Marines & Merchants), the latter will be used. The preference is for a diverse range of careers and skills. There are also some non-standard and unofficial career systems in use.
‘Standard’ Imperial Careers: Army, Navy, Marine, Scout, Merchant, Barbarian*, Belter, Noble*, Bureaucrat, Doctor, Scientist*, ‘Wet’ Navy, COACC (Air Force), Rogue, Pirate, Hunter, Police*. (* = Unofficial ‘Expanded’ system available)
‘Non-Standard’ Imperial Careers: Civilian, Journalist,Bounty Hunter, Colonist & Starfarer.
(4) “The Luck Pool” - MT’s “Brownie Point” system is not used. It's a very good idea, but the time Players need those points the most is at the start of character generation.
Instead, Characters begin with a finite pool of luck points. All die rolls made during Character Generation can be modified as they occur, by deducting points from the “Luck Pool”. Such changes are made on a “1-for-1” basis - each Luck Point used will modify the die roll just made by one, for one time only. Luck Points NEVER alter die rolls to levels otherwise impossible to achieve. If a die result is particularly bad, the Player instead can choose to expend half of his remaining Luck Points (rounding down, minimum of 1) to re-roll. Such rerolls cannot be modified further.
If a die roll is to be changed, it must be done before continuing Character generation (ie. no tapbacks). Once used, Luck Points cannot be regained, nor can the Character add to his Luck Pool by any means.
(5) Early Years & Advanced Education- Each Player selects two skills (okayed by the Referee) as knowledge gained by the Character in childhood and adolescence. Character generation for Humans starts at age 16 (not the standard 18) and proceeds in four year blocks (terms) from then.
(6) Failing Survival Rolls - A failed survival roll during Character generation does not mean the end of that Character. S/He immediately musters out of that particular career due to permanent injury. The extent and nature of this injury will be determined by the Referee, based on how bad the roll was. Whatever happens, the Character will not be prevented from selecting another career if desired (within certain limits - see below) or otherwise leading a full life.
(7) Changing Career - A Character can leave one career and take up something else, within certain limits. The first enlistment roll for this ‘second career’ can be automatic under some cicumstances (Referee call).
For example, it is totally reasonable for someone with Medical-2+ to become a Doctor, a Doctor to become a Scientist, or anyone with Social A+ to become a Noble. On the other hand, truly weird career changes (eg. Bureaucrats who turn Barbarian?) are very unlikely to be accepted. Career changes of lesser degrees of weirdness (eg. 'transfers' between Navy and Scouts), will require mustering out from the first career, then a successful enlistment roll for the new career.
(8) Skills - Skill themes such as diplomacy, science, technical, covert ops, and law-enforcement will all prove advantageous, at different times, to varying degrees. Needless to say, combat will always be an option.
Since ‘Noah’ is a waterworld, Characters should not overlook skills that may improve their survival chances in certain situations (such as ‘Swimming’).
(9) Pensions - A retiring Character will receive a pension as per set out in the standard rules. However, that pension will be increased by 1,000 Cr per basic rank (Book 1) the Character holds at the time of mustering out. Therefore, a Navy Admiral will receive 6,000 Cr more per annum than an Ensign with equivalent service.
(10) TAS Membership - This is a compromise between Classic Traveller (where all TAS memberships were lifetime, and the dues were one-time only), and GURPS Traveller (no lifetime memberships, annual membership dues).
TAS memberships last for one year, with successive mustering out rolls of TAS taken as additional years of free membership. Roll 2d6 per year of membership - on 10+, the membership becomes lifetime (and all subsequent TAS rolls become 'High Passage'). Otherwise, the standard membership dues are 1,000,000 Cr per year. All other benefits and privileges from the TAS remain as previously.
STARSHIPS & MUSTERING OUT
Excess mustering out rolls for starships can be used in a number of ways. Where mortgages are involved, each excess roll is used to eliminate 10 years worth of payments (as with the original rules). Alternatively, each excess roll can be used, with Referee approval, in one of the following ways:
(i) Exchange the starship for another type - a stock standard design used for similar purposes as its predecessor, and up to 100 tons larger. So, for arguments sake, if you had a 200 ton Free or Far Trader, expending two excess rolls would allow you to have a 400 ton Fat Trader instead. This option is unavailable to Scouts;
(ii) Improve the starship’s reliability factor by 10% (base random percentile value to start with for 'used' starships, modifiable to an absolute maximum of 98%);
(iii) ‘Exchange’ the starship for another in the same size class that is NOT designed for the same purpose. The Referee must OK the selection (eg. no trading in a Fat Trader for a Gunned Escort!!!). The new ship will automatically have whatever alterations would suit it to the owner’s line of work.
(iv) Add one Referee-approved ‘optional extra’ to the vessel (examples include but are not limited to alternate ID(s), variable ID features, specialized cargo space / quarters, hidden compartments, computer / weapon / sensor upgrades, exterior mounts for fuel / cargo pods, armor, electrifiable exterior hull, or custom interior);
(v) Gain one skill from the ‘Space’ or ‘Space Tech’ cascades;
(vi) As a ‘Weapon’ or ‘Equipment’ benefit;
(vii) With special approval from the Referee, to gain one NPC crewmember (generated by the Referee, with limited Player input) who will be employed on the Character’s ship. This NPC may be a relative, apprentice, spouse, friend, lover, mentor, trusted employee, business partner, ward, or whatever else the Player and Referee can agree upon. This individual must be paid at least a basic wage - and will need to be fed, equipped and generally looked after; but should remain loyal as long as s/he is not mistreated.
Each group of Characters is restricted to ownership / custody of one (and only one) starship overall. If more than one Character has received starship benefits during generation, any excess will be resolved by the Referee in one or more of the following ways.
(i) Amalgamation - Instead of Characters owning a starship each, they may each be part-owners of a bigger ship appropriate to their respective backgrounds, provided a good explanation for this arrangement can be provided. This is not always workable, since care is needed with handling disagreements over the starship’s usage. On the other hand, explaining just how a Darrian Noble, a Vargr Belter, an Imperial Merchant, and an Aslan Corsair ended up partners in the same ship could be an amusing story - and add something to their respective backgrounds.
(ii) Compensation - Instead of his own starship, a Character may get something else. This alternate benefit could be money, extra skills, an inheritance of some description, Traveller’s Aid membership, a complete falsified ‘Alternate Identity’ for the Character, ownership of a high-performance non-starship that just happens to fit into the starship’s vehicle bay, restricted items (such as an obsolete set of Battle Dress, an unusual weapon, or an Artifact), and / or whatever else the Referee deems appropriate.
(iii) Held In Abeyance - In certain cases, a Character’s starship could be loaned or leased out to somebody else. The Character receives regular updates on the ship's status and most of its Net Profit, but seldom actually sees his property.
If a Scout character receives a ship, the probability is 85% of it being the classic ‘Type S’ Scout / Courier; 8% of being a ‘Type S’ variant (such as the ‘Seeker’); 4% of being a “non-standard” Scout (such as the ‘Storm’, ‘Ranger’ or ‘Monitor’ Classes); 2% of being a random starship in the 100-200 ton range (Imperial stock-standard, but with Scout-quality sensors); and 1% of being a unique and/or advanced and/or non-Imperial design of some description (Referee’s discretion - note that not all advanced designs are successful). In all cases, the ship is legally “on loan”, and remains the property of the Imperial Scout Service.
THE I.I.S.S. STARSHIP LOAN POOL
Instead of having his own “personal” starship, a Scout character can opt to “borrow” and “return” stock-standard Scout ships from Scout bases at his own discretion (depending upon local conditions and availability). Such vessels have only the standard computer program package, minimal armament (if any!), no specialized gear, etc.. The Character is liable for all damage incurred to or by the vessel, and both personnel and vessel are still subject to recall in emergencies. The Scout Service's standard debriefing requirements still apply (eg. regular log downloads and crew debriefings).
If no ships are available, Characters just have to wait until something is available. Note that it is extremely unlikely that ships other than standard Scout/Couriers will be in the pool. If so, such ships will most likely be stock-standard civil designs in the 100-200 ton range, with the addition of Scout-quality sensors.
A “borrowed” starship returning to a Scout Base automatically reverts to the loan pool, with no guarantee that the previous user gets that particular vessel again.
Individuals who try to "get around" these limits (by, for instance, deliberately avoiding Scout bases) will, at the very least, eventually incur negative reactions from the IISS. Ships can be reverted to the pool sooner in emergencies, and may not even have to be actually at a Scout Base when this happens. Also, remember that the IISS can 'reactivate' ex-Scouts, or revoke privileges if necessary. Somebody who stays bloody- minded despite these measures will probably end up with a sizable bounty on their head. "Renegade" Scouts are extremely bad PR - and at a unit cost of 29.43 MCR, not even the Third Imperium simply gives Scout/Couriers away.
The primary advantage of the Pool system is that a Character could “borrow” a ship to travel to another Scout Base several systems or subsectors away, “return” it on arrival, spend weeks / months / years doing whatever he likes without worrying about the vessel’s upkeep, then “borrow” a ship (probably not the same one) from a Scout Base when he chooses to move on.
A Scout character can change his ship benefit from 'Permanent' to 'Loan' or back fairly easily. It just requires an interview with the local Scout base commander (Reaction roll, DMs depending on individual circumstances) and filling out some basic paperwork (Admin skill helpful, but probably not essential). Generally, depots and way stations are the best place to do this, since they usually have a number of reserve vessels in any case.
In my opinion, the aging rules as used by ‘Traveller’ are too harsh. Even now, it is possible to remain in excellent physical condition well past the age of forty. By 5634 AD (1116 Imperial), medical science may have progressed to where the average human remains youthful for as long as s/he wants. However, in such a situation, the outlooks and values most of us presently subscribe to may be as relevant as those of Ancient Egypt. A quite respectable RPG background could be worked up on such a basis, but it would not be ‘Traveller’. Also, NPCs and Characters routinely having centuries of accrued skills and benefits is probably something most Referees would not like to think of. I know I don't.
Therefore, in this campaign, the average human life expectancy is better than the twentieth century, but not by a huge margin (110-120 year average for non-Vilani humans). The differance is that humans with access to Imperial-standard basic medical care remain healthy and relatively youthful for most of this time. In game terms, there are no reductions of stats, except via serious injury or at the Referee’s discretion (ie. if somebody insists on generating a Character into his 80s). The Luck Point system and its inherent restrictions discourages Character generation past the usual 8 term limit in any case.
For those who disagree or just want to bitch about life expectancies and aging in ‘Traveller’, my justifications / excuses can be summarized as follows:
(a) The Imperium includes a huge range of worlds, cultures and races - not all of which necessarily have, or can afford, or maybe even desire, the medical capability required for major life-extension. At the very least, on a purely statistical level, the “primitives” or “have-nots” will bias the life expectancy average downwards.
(b) Geneered races exist within the Imperium (eg. the Jonkareen), so why aren’t people simply being geneered for longer lifespans? Well, perhaps this has already happened - refer to the aging roll DMs for “pure” Vilani in MegaTraveller. On the other hand, the average Imperial citizen has a definite “Frankenstein Complex” about Artificial I nt elligence, Eugenics, and Psionics. Undoubtedly, just who or what can be geneered (and to what extent!) is very strictly regulated.
(c) Anagathics in Traveller can at least double one’s lifespan with proper use. However, they are very limited in availability (therefore expensive), and (in my campaign) require a strict regimen for full effectiveness. Frequent medical checks, legal / bureaucratic requirements, dietary restrictions, a stringent physical fitness program, special counselling, and/or limitations on other activities all seem very likely. Even then, nasty side-effects are ultimately unavoidable (check the TNE basic rulebook - one of the few good ideas that TNE had). Therefore, of the comparitively few individuals who can afford anagathics, even fewer are prepared to bother. For the average citizen, use of anagathics is yet another of those things that “nice” people don’t discuss.
(d) There are social problems as well. Nobles who “stay around” for too long can become less receptive to new ideas; lose touch with the ordinary people (don’t think that’s a problem....?); face increasing envy from aging subordinates (who see their eternally- youthful bosses getting ALL the perks); and end up with heirs who are at best restless, most likely resentful, and at worst planning rapid promotion. All of which add up to trouble. Big trouble.
(e) Assuming the Imperium could somehow afford major Life-Extension treatments for all citizens, how would it be administered? Assuming the best possible scenario, that the L-E is a one-off inoculation process for every Imperial citizen, human and otherwise, the logistics are still horrific. Remember that the Imperium has (so it is said) 11,000 worlds, and even Xboats take nearly a year to get from Core to the outermost frontiers. So where do you start and finish? Would it be done by social grouping, or world by world, or through some sort of lottery? Who waits until last?
(f) Following on from (e), think of the socioeconomic problems when your world’s entire population ‘suddenly’ starts living several times longer than previously. Such fundamental concepts as retirement age, pensions, life insurance, jail terms, health care, and a host of other matters will all need to be completely rethought.
Obviously, other races have their own views on Life-Extension:
Given the need for long-range planning, Vargr are perhaps too chaotic to get L-E properly organized on any significant scale or for any length of time.
Aslan may see L-E as somehow cowardly - and therefore dishonourable. End of story.
Droyne and K’Kree could have some degree of L-E for their upper level castes, but the nature of both cultures rules against masters that consistently outlive their servants (OK, so “Grandfather” was the exception for the Droyne).
Hivers could utilize L-E of various kinds, but given their psychology and physical limitations, perhaps they have done so already (think about the physiological problems they may have had before their self-improvement!).
Solomani? Thanks to the Gene War and its repercussions, they are almost as nervy about geneering as the Imperium. Considering the heavily fascist overtones of their society, any form of L-E would probably be for a select few, and kept extremely secret at that.
Zhodani? Their L-E would conceivably have a strong psionic component. Given their culture, it would probably only be available (in a very limited form) to their nobility.
Anyhow, those are my views.
EXPERIENCE & SKILL ACQUISITION
(a) General - To improve a Character’s skill in something requires the acquisition of experience points that have been accumulated specifically for that skill. Generally, to raise a skill one level requires XP equal to that skill’s new level plus one.
A Character earns 1 XP for a given skill for each of the following:
Every critical success rolled for that skill;
One month’s full-time study (or constant usage of that particular skill for the same length of time);
Three month’s part-time study (including ‘on-the-job’ training, or frequent usage of that particular skill for the same length of time);
Six month’s casual study (spare-time reading whilst in demanding situations, or regular usage of that particular skill for the same length of time);
At the Referee’s discretion - as a reward for good role-play, clever skill usage, etc..
In addition, for each critical failure rolled for a skill, 2 XP is received (if you screw up big time but survive regardless, the odds are you learned something important).
If ‘Instruction’ skill is being used in formal training, the studying Character receives a bonus XP for every level of ‘Instruction’ the Instructor has above the skill being taught. Jack-Of-Trades can be used instead (not in addition to), giving a bonus per two levels. As previously, an Instructor can only train someone to one level below his own skill in that subject.
Two skills (or one skill and one stat) may be studied simultaneously, if the Referee accepts them as being somehow complementary (each is treated as part-time study at best). Jack-of-trades skill can only be increased at the Ref’s discretion (with or without XP), not by Character study or practice.
To improve a stat requires a similar use of XP, but SOC cannot be improved without Ref approval. Dedicated study or exercise is unlikely to directly influence one’s ability to mingle with the upper class, or gain one a place on the Imperial Honours List (though there are always exceptions!).
The above covers the generation of XP. To actually use XP for a skill or stat increase requires one additional week of spare-time practice per XP being used. Therefore, somebody increasing a skill from 2 to 3 will need to first generate 4 XP for that skill, then take four weeks to practice and study. This does not have to be all in one go - Characters can take “time-outs” for other activities (including the further acquisition of XP). However, only one skill or stat can be improved at a time. In all cases, Referee approval is required beforehand, and may be subject to the availability of appropriate faciltiies for the Character.
(b) Learning “On The Fly” - Characters in high-pressure situations (frontline soldiers, medics in a hospital ER, tech-support for a huge computer network, etc.) may amass lots of XP, but be unable to take time out for proper study. In such cases, they may forego the study time, but the XP cost to increase a skill is tripled.
(c) “Odd Man Out” - Some Characters may spend less time generating XP, but otherwise contribute to the Group’s well-being via good ideas, inventiveness, diplomacy, etc. (eg. ROLE-PLAY!). Where this happens (and with a majority vote from the rest of the Group), the Referee will award this Character XP equal to the Group average at the end of a session or adventure.
(d) Bonuses - Additional XP may be awarded for good role-play, smart ideas, etc..
(e) WARNING TO ABUSERS / CHEATS - Theoretically, a skill or stat can be reduced as a result of botched training. Think about it.
The MegaTraveller vehicle design system (and its bastard offspring for TNE) is insane. Come on, folks - a hi-tech one-person recreational hoverbuggy that weighs 15 tons ?!? When it takes longer to number-crunch minor alterations to an existing design, than it would to physically make the same changes for real, then there is a serious problem. I have deep admiration (profound skepticism) for those claiming to understand the MT or TNE vehicle systems.
Vehicle designs provided in “official” supplements will be available (depending on the Referee). Only the “Classic” and High Guard systems will be used for starship design, with the following changes:
(1) Computers will have double the CPU and storage capacity listed;
(2) Starships can have more than one hardpoint per 100 tons. This is known as “overgunning”, and cannot be retrofitted to existing vessels. It greatly increases vulnerability to battle damage (which is why most Navies limit its use to small craft), and it is illegal for civilian vessels (for ‘safety reasons’).
AND NOW, A THREAT FROM OUR SPONSOR...
It is natural for Player-Characters to take advantage of situations, move things in unexpected / weird directions, and so forth. This is to be expected and (within minimal limits) encouraged. After all, the idea is for everybody to have fun. However, there should be zero tolerance of deliberate attempts by Players to “screw things up”. When refereeing, my general procedure is two official warnings (eg. "This is an official warning!"), then WHAM! If somebody is offensive in a major way, the official warnings are by-passed.
NEVER use the “I’m just role-playing...” excuse (or variants thereof) to justify being a #$%&!.