Saturday, August 17, 2019

Hirelings and Henchmen for Traveller

Hirelings! Everyone could use a little help now and then, even your PCs. They can't rely on the Random Encounter to bring along a helpful troop of soldiers or adventurers. What to do? Hire them and bring them along yourself! A solo player in particular would benefit from having some helping hands by his side.

There is a problem though. How do the PCs do this? The only concrete advice or discussion of hiring NPCs we get in The Traveller Book is crew salaries on page 55. Ship crews are specialists, trained to operate a multi-million credit ship. This should not be the standard rate of pay for NPCs.

When the PC party is small, or the danger is going to be large, hired NPCs can spread the work-load, and supply needed skills. NPCs can also be convenient red-shirts for the referee to signal impending danger. The Referee can harm an NPC, giving the PCs a chance to react to the danger.

A general assistant NPC should will expect Cr 300-500/month. That's enough for 'subsistence' to 'ordinary' living standard, plus a potential for profit. A general assistant, a factotum or dogsbody, has average stats and one or two skills at zero level.

Better trained NPCs (skill-1) might ask Cr 500-1,000/month. Any NPC with skill-2 or better will work as a contractor on a specific project. At that skill level, they can be in business for themselves. NPCs with higher mental stats will ask for higher pay. Depending on difficulty and danger, a Senior or Master Technician could ask Cr 2,000 to 10,000 for the job.

Friday, August 9, 2019

D66 Reasons Why the Colony Failed

A few months back I asked a question of one of the Facebook Traveller groups that I read. I have a scenario in mind where the PCs are exploring an abandoned habitat. No specific setting, no specific arrangement. Just some kind of colony. The idea may have grown out of the tables in Stellagama's Pirates & Privateering source book, which lists abandoned space stations as a random encounter.

The question was: Why did the colony fail?  Much to my delight, the answers poured in. I have collected here the bulk of the answers (deduplicated for near identical answers) and arranged them in a D66 table. To roll D66, roll 1D for the 'tens' digit and a second 1D for the 'ones' digit.
Clearly something has gone dreadfully Wrong here.
If you have any ideas that don't appear on this list, share in the comments!

D66 Reasons why the Colony Failed
11 Pilgrimage site for some religion that was later deprecated as a forgery
12 Fast-acting or slow-acting contagion (bacterial/viral/fungal/parasitic)
13 Mining site, better yield found elsewhere and everyone moved.
14 Mining site, ore vein tapped out
15 Colony set-up was a scam. Shells of buildings only, no infrastructure. Scammers on the run.
16 Environmental factor not initially detected caused health problems (i.e. death)

Monday, July 22, 2019

A High-Level Traveller Character

I have written before about High Level Play in Traveller, and what that might mean. Today I want to share a character I've created, to illustrate what that might look like. 

Here is the character, right after character generation finished:

Jackson Law     Age 22   7A87B5     Ex-Army Captain
Tactics-4, Rifle-1, SMG-1, CG Vehicle-0, Carousing-0
Cr 2,000        
Our good Captain. Still a young pup. That will change.

Quite the junior tactician, eh?  But out of the service after only one term. What's that about?  Was it because of his low SOC that the other officers didn't approve of the young man?  Well, could be a lot of things.

Skip ahead 20 years.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

More Traveller Literary Inspiration - The TAS

As I browsed through old issues of Planet Stories (in particular Vol 2 #7, Summer 1944) to my great delight I found this:

A welcome sight at Class-C and better Starports everywhere!

I never knew that the TAS could have been modeled on a real wartime organization, but it's not too hard to imagine that the writers of Traveller came across these ads while reading old sci-fi tales. 

Has anyone else seen advertisements like these in pulp magazines or other sources? How long did this TAS last?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Clubs and Cudgels - What's the Difference?

From the beginning of my time playing Traveller (circa 1983) I found it odd that the combat rules included club and cudgel as two different weapons. I decided that I would look closer and see why that was. This is, I recognize, not a burning issue among Traveller players. My words will have little effect on how anyone plays the game. Well, this is my blog, and if I want to write about this, I will. I hope you enjoy my observations anyway.

There is not a lot in the official rules to go on.

Clubs are not purpose built weapons. They are, by TTB p. 38, found to hand in the brawl location. So a PC can ask the referee if there is anything lying about that can be used as a club. Bar stools, chairs, crowbars, briefcases, table legs, long handled flashlights, lamps, etc.

Looking at the combat tables, a club requires STR of 5 or faces a -4 DM. That's pretty severe, on par with the broadsword. STR of 8+ gives a DM of +2. My explanation is a club is a temporary expedient - it is not balanced or formed exactly to use as a weapon. If you haven't the strength to lob it in hard, the table leg will work against you.

The club can be abandoned at the end of the combat. It may not be, if it was originally a tool. The club base weight is 1 kg, as heavy as a sword. The referee can decide that the object the PC is using is not heavy enough and assign a -DM to the club. A pencil is not an effective club.
Nice try, bub. No DM for you.
Or it might be too heavy, and it can't really be used at all, except to drop down on someone. Clubs have the lightest penalty for weakened blows. This means a club wielder can keep going past his END score without too much worry. But I've never seen or heard of a Traveller combat that lasted that long.

Referees, have you ever had a mass brawl with enough combatants that a PC might have to fight to and beyond his END limit?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Crashing Suns

The Fantastic Technology of Crashing Suns

Last night I finished reading Crashing Suns by Edmond Hamilton, (AKA the World Wrecker) published in the August & September 1928 issues of Weird Tales.
Random Chance or just Carelessness? You Decide.

The story is set in our solar system some time in the future when the EIGHT planets are inhabited. [Pluto's discovery was still two years away.] The solar system is threatened by a rogue star hurtling on a collision course with Sol. This would result in annihilation of the human race and all its works.

The protagonist, Jan Tor, is a pilot of the Interstellar patrol. He is tasked with leading the expedition to the approaching star to find if there is a way to avert this disaster.

Space Opera, indeed.

The story is actually a straightforward affair of exploration, discovery, capture, escape, conflict and a last minute rescue. By now, this is a by-the-numbers tale of not great impact. We've seen it before. In 1928, though? This might have been hot stuff. Hamilton's reputation among space opera/sci-fi writers is outstanding, even if he's less well known today than during his lifetime.

The story's structure is heavy on exposition and description (needs to be, set in another solar system), light on dialogue and character development. Beyond their names, I saw only the scantest details to differentiate the hero and his companions.

But that's not what I found interesting about this story.