Friday, March 15, 2019

More about High Level Play

I knew that there was more to be said about High Level Play than I said in my first post.

I spent some time reading through the introductory material in The Traveller Book, and I found not an explicit pattern, but many indicators that High Level Play was anticipated, maybe even intended.

The introduction section gives lots of hints, starting with the mention of "star spanning empires, huge star fleets, Larger-Than-Life heroes". (emphasis mine)

And how about this?
Traveller is open-ended, which means that there are no set conditions for winning. Each player sets his or her own goal, and has a lifetime (in game terms) to achieve it. Traveller can continue for as long as the referee and the players desire. Like the universe, Traveller has no limits.”
The characters have an opportunity to undertake genuine adventures as they search for their own self appointed goals.”
"The typical methods used in life by 20th century Terrans (thrift, dedication, and hard work) do not work in Traveller; instead, travellers must boldly plan and execute daring schemes for the acquisition of wealth and power."

The expectation, then, is that players will have goals beyond the wishes of their current patron, or the referee.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

More on Careers - One Rogue Too Many

I have not played any of the versions of that other RPG from the 1970's, where they re-named the Thief class to the Rogue class. Why, I wonder, did GDW feel it was necessary to use the vague and dissembling nomenclature 'Rogue' when 'Criminal' would have been more accurate? Or would it have been?

Something shady is going on here.

The text description of the Rogues reads as follows: "Criminal elements familiar with the rougher or more illegal methods of accomplishing tasks." I guess it would be more accurate, then. But wait. The word rogue is defined as: 1) a vagrant or tramp, 2: a dishonest or worthless person, a scoundrel. There are a few more connotations, but none are specifically criminal in nature. So, many Traveller PCs could be characterized as Rogues, regardless of what career they went through.

Let us speak truth, a great many Traveller PCs from back in the day were essentially criminals regardless of their chosen background career. They were smugglers, bandits, thieves, hired guns, burglars, and so on. Why the need for a separate career to breed them? Most player, myself included assumed that if you wanted a criminal PC, you went with the Other service. So this ground has been covered already.

Most of the skills the Rogues career offers (discussed later) are not specifically criminal, and with the random skill allocation process, there's no guarantee a PC will come away with a criminal CV. The free Service Skill is Streetwise, not a necessarily criminal skill. This would have been the time to introduce some new skills for the criminal class, but Supp4 does not do this. 

Later editions of Traveller introduced more criminal skills like Intrusion or Lockpicking. I suggested elsewhere that espionage activities (criminals on a payroll) could be handled with Basic skills and attributes. That way any PC could try their hand at clandestine activity

I actually have the chronology backwards. Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium, in which the Rogue career made its appearance, was first published in 1979. This is several years before that other game made the change. So why did they go along with GDW?

Let's have a look at the Rogue career, shall we?

Sunday, March 3, 2019

More Stellagama Goodness

Now I've got the Trio: Light, Pocket Light and Faster than Light!

Three versions
The good folks at Stellagama Publishing have provided me with physical copies of all three versions of their streamlined Cepheus Engine rules. I gave CL & CL:PE to my boys, and they've begun building their own worlds, characters creatures and adventures. 

You can get yours at DriveThruRPG.

Join the Fun!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Implications of "Slow" FTL in Traveller

FTL in Traveller takes one week, more or less, whenever you want to go from one star system to another. Whether it's a wimpy Jump-1 or a once in a lifefime Jump-6, the time to get there is still 168 hours +/- a bit. Many of Traveller's literary antecedents (most notably to my mind is H. Beam Piper's Terro-human future history) depicted interstellar travel as taking a long time. For fans of more modern SF media, this can seem odd.

In other SF settings, FTL travel is accomplished instantly. Now, in visual media (Trek/Wars) this is necessary to not drag down the flow of the plot. Rogue One would not have worked if Traveller's jump drive limitations were in effect. The plot required everything to move quickly. That's fine, and it is not for me to say that one method is better/worse than another.

A Youtube character known as the Complex Games Apologist has a number of videos discussing Traveller in different aspects. Here's the CGA explaining the setting implications of the way FTL works in Traveller.

Faster Than Light

The rules of a game build its setting.

Many folks over the decades have noted that "speed of travel is speed of communication" defines the setting of Traveller, whether the OTU or an alternate like my Church & Empire setting. Decentralized governments and local control are the accepted methods when it takes weeks to get reports to and from the borders. It is also this reason that I've focused on the Corridor, a region removed from the Talaveran Empire, but still one where Imperial influence can be felt. PCs have a greater latitude for independent action when the Imperial bureaucracy is too far away to directly monitor everything.

If you want to change the rules of FTL to make it more what you want, that's fine, but remember that you will have to redesign the setting as well, to reflect the internal reality of that setting. 'Fast' FTL will mean more direct control from the home office, as information can be transferred in hours rather than weeks. This in turn means less agency for the players, as their PCs who do sneaky things will be fretting about news of their doings getting back to the Government, which will probably try to stop them. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Not Quite Human - The Headless Hunters

There is an article from the old Dragon Magazine titled "Make your own Aliens" which was a supplement or variant for Traveller. One of the criticisms of the original game was that it had no aliens, robots or clones, and no rules for including them. Fair point, all three non-human types are common in classic sci-fi. A worthy inclusion into my favorite game.

In my Church & Empire setting, I have made the decision to not include non-terrestrial sentient life forms. However, there's more than one way to introduce the strange, abnormal or weird into Traveller. My avenue is postulating the mis-use of gene sequencing, which is already real science here on earth, to create near-human or partially-human beings. 

I have used the article's method to roll up some genetically modified humans (GMH's). This is one of the stranger types I've created. They are very secretive, but may pop up anywhere. They are known to work as contract assassins, hence their popular nickname,

"The Headless Hunters"

Thursday, February 7, 2019

More on Space Combat - The Select Programs

"The drive signature looks familiar - like a Suleiman-class scout . . . "

The 'Selective' group of Offensive programs have long confused me as to how the results should be applied. I have just now noted the following text from Starter Traveller Rules booklet, page 41. It does not appear in Book 2 (1977) but it does in The Traveller Book, on page 77. I've just never noticed it before. As I have stated elsewhere, TTB is my rules book of reference for my games.
"If a Select program is being used to influence attacks, the firing player rolls one die for each hit inflicted. On a 1 or 2, he picks the hit location, specifying one of the following: Maneuver drive, Power Plant, Jump drive, fuel, hull, hold, computer or turret. If the roll is 3+ roll hit location normally."
I have written before about how I see Classic Traveller starship combat as a Resource Management Game. This program is a great example of what I mean.