Thursday, July 24, 2014

Traveller Skills and Setting part 3

Bring out the Big Guns!
Go ahead, space Punk. Make my day.

     The Weapons skills (excluding Gunnery, which I moved to space) fall into two broad categories, blade/hand weapons, and guns.

     Wait, I thought this was a science fiction game in the far future. Why do we need swords and pikes? As well as:
  • daggers
  • foils
  • clubs
  • fists (Brawling skill)
  • broadswords
  • axes
  • long and short bows
  • halberds
  • spears
  • and the Marine favorite, the cutlass!
     This is often leveled at Traveller as a criticism, but not one that is well founded. Any number of sci-fi novels have characters who wield swords & spears, Norton's Voodoo Planet and Pournelle's King David's Spaceship, just to name two. So the designers included them to keep that bit of color in the setting. Recent and well-regarded sci-fi TV shows like Firefly and Dark Matter have characters wielding swords & knives in a 'starships & spacemen' setting and it works just fine.

Laser may beat Spear, unless Spear gets too close. That's why it has Shield.
 The existence of blade skill indicates the existence of low-tech or primitive societies in the setting. PCs could be from these low-tech areas, or have experience with them reflected in their possession of hand-to-hand weapon skills. In either case, technological advancement is not spread evenly throughout the setting. Some worlds have higher tech than others.

The attentive player will notice in the combat section that swords and spears will kill their PCs just as quickly and easily as guns will. 

The list of guns available also point to a diversity of technological achievement among worlds in the setting. I have been told that pre-industrial firearms were meant to be included in the LBBs but weren't for some reason. The guns presented are all generic types rather than specific models:
  • body pistols (the pocket pistol)
  • automatic pistols
  • revolvers
  • carbines
  • rifle
  • automatic rifles
  • shotguns (nothing says Traveller like shotguns in space!)
  • laser carbines
  • laser rifles
The assumption is that these generic types can be found anywhere, and reinforces the idea from Streetwise of all the planets in the setting having some amount of common history.

As a practical matter, bullets will kill PCs as quickly as death rays and blaster bolts will. But for those who wanted them, Mercenary introduced some more futuristic weapons including the terrifying fusion gun. This thing will not only kill you, it will reduce you to a smoking pair of boots. 

It's called science fiction adventure in the far future, so there have to be laser weapons, something which was not available on Earth in the late 1970's, to give it a future feel. Another criticism leveled at Traveller was the limited selection of 'blasters' and other sci-fi weapons. Fair enough, until you read some of the novels that inspired the game – H Beam Piper in particular armed his characters with the kinds of weapons he was familiar with – pistols and rifles. Firefly came along much later, and it employed projectile weapons in a spaceship setting without anything seeming out of place.

In a more general sense, both the blades and the guns say that the setting is a potentially dangerous one, and that not all goals can be achieved with the social skills. When those fail, the weapons come out.
Some players have expressed the opinion that weapons in Traveller were deadly so that players would think twice about getting into combat. The theory goes that combat can result in death, and pretty quick death, so get out those social skills and try to resolve the disagreement with skills and role-playing instead. 

So let's talk about the social skills next.
Part One of this series is here.
Part Two of this series is here.

1 comment:

  1. Even today, soldiers get trained with bayonets and hand-to-hand combat and not using weapons that could blow holes in your spaceship seems like a reasonably good idea to me. I think basic projectile firearms are likely to be with us for a long time.