Tuesday, August 30, 2016

You really can do anything in Traveller!

I hope the OP doesn't mind my sharing this. I was reading the CT board at COTI recently and came upon this post by Pendragonman. The thread was discussing 'what is the point of Traveller? What do you do?' Go read the whole thread.

"I once ran a solo game. The guy generated a 5 term Navy character. After mustering out, he took passage to an industrial world where he bought a house. He then found a job working at a shipyard where he could apply his mechanical skills.

He then bought a car. On his first day off of each week he did his household chores. That night he would participate in some form of entertainment. The other day off was rest.

He kept doing this week after week. I kept waiting for him to do some sort of adventurer-esque activity.

I finally asked him what he was trying to achieve. His response was that he was proving that in Traveller a player can do literally anything that the player wants to do, provided that the player is ready for the consequences."

Now, that doesn't sound like my kind of adventure, but sure, why not? Also, note that all the referee would need to give his player the 'adventure' he wanted was books 1-3 and some imagination.

The thread also has some good posts about what 'character advancement' looks like in Traveller, as compared with level-based game systems. I wrote about this a while back, too. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Why are there no Ranks in the Scout Service?

Chris over at Tales to Astound has been recently exploring the literary inspirations for Traveller. I wish to add a small discovery to that effort. 
An abandoned alien city and an object that appears to made of Absolute Zero.

I've known for some time that the fantasy & sci-fi great Poul Anderson is counted among the inspirational authors for Traveller. Just yesterday I ran across a story of his that provides an answer to my question. His short story "The Entity", with John Gergen, appearing in the June 1, 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction gives us a look at the life of the Scout Service.  Also, it's a good story of an encounter with alien technology.

“Civilization could not expand blindly into the stars. Someone had to go ahead of even the explorers and give a vague idea of what to expect. Only Earth’s finest, the most ultimately sane of all mankind, could endure being cooped in a metal bubble floating through darkness and void for years on end and even they sometimes broke.” 

Perhaps this explains the higher Survival throw for Scouts?

But here's the paragraph that has me convinced (emphasis mine):

"He [the expedition's captain] felt a loneliness as he stood facing the men. They were more than his subordinates; they were his friends. Only those with the highest congeniality indexes could ever have survived a survey trip, so rank and formal discipline were unnecessary and unknown. The captain was only the coordinator of a band of specialists."
Scouts that are really scouting the uncharted regions have to endure long stretches of isolation with a small group. You'd better be able to 'play well with others' in such circumstances. The astronaut Mann in the film Interstellar is an example of the Scout type that 'sometimes broke.'

While the 'laconic scout' trope is popular, if we take this story as source material, the key personality trait for Scouts should be a willingness to collaborate - maybe Liaison skill should be retrofitted into the Scout's skill tables?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Guest Post - Review of Mongoose Traveller, Second Edition

Mongoose Traveller

This is Free Trader Beowulf, calling anyone . . . Mayday, Mayday . . . we are under attack . . . main drive is gone . . . turret number one not responding . . . Mayday . . . losing cabin pressure fast . . . calling anyone . . . please help . . . This is Free Trader Beowulf . . . Mayday . . .

In 1977, the first edition of Traveller: Science-Fiction Role-Playing in the Far Future was released to the public. In April 2008, Mongoose Publishing released an updated, more modern version of Classic Traveller (or CT) rules. In 2016, Mongoose Publishing released a second edition of what has become known to Role-Players as Mongoose Traveller (or MgT). It is very likely that MgT has its critics, but it also has its fans. This gaming system is worth buying for three reasons. This system is similar to, and compatible with, the CT rules, the rules are simply written and easy to understand, and it combines several different styles of role-playing into one system, which makes the game a little easier.
The first reason Mongoose Traveller is worth buying is because it is similar to, and compatible with, the Classic Traveller rules. First, the designers included many new features, such as new careers, equipment, and skills, that can make gameplay more exciting. Then, they took existing rules from CT, such as the computer rules, and updated them to match current-generation technology (compared to the 1970s computers that were around when CT was published). Finally, they added rules for vehicle operations and combat, something CT doesn’t have.

The second reason MgT is worth buying are the simple and easy to understand rules themselves. The writers put detailed examples of play with each set of rules, giving players a better idea of how a particular task is performed. Throughout the book, there are numerous cross-references to make finding things easier. It also has clearly written data cards for all mentioned vehicles, starships and small craft, equipment, and weapons.

The third reason MgT is worth buying is the designers combined several different styles of role-playing into one system, which makes the game easier, both for the player(s) and the referee. The skill check format (2D + relevant skill and/or attribute + any relative DMs) is simple and quick. The target number chart goes from simple tasks requiring a die roll of 2 or better to formidable tasks requiring a die roll of 14 or better makes the referee’s job simpler.

Some role-players may believe that MgT is not worth buying. One argument could be that it has no index. While this is a potential problem with a physical copy of the book, if you have the PDF version on Adobe Reader (which, by the way, is cheaper), the program has a search engine that takes the place of the index, thus resolving the issue. Another argument could be that the book has several typos and seems to be missing certain important bit of information such as hull points on starships. While this is true, there is a PDF ‘printer friendly’ version that comes with the standard copy that has the missing information.

In conclusion, Mongoose Traveller is worth buying because it is similar to-and compatible with-the CT rules, the rules are simply written and easy to understand, and it combines several different styles of role-playing into one system, which makes the game easier. Mongoose Traveller is a good buy for new role-players because trying to get hold of older editions of Traveller, like Classic or MegaTraveller, is getting more and more expensive.

N.B. This review was written by my son. He recently purchased MgT, and has been itching to share something to the blog. So I told him to write an essay. His mother approved.