Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Scientist Career Revisited

Citizens of the Imperium introduced the Scientist prior career. My first thoughts (years ago now) when I looked at it were "Who wants to play a lab-coat wearing test tube jockey [not a direct quote]" and "why are there no Science skills for a career called Scientist?"

Time for a re-evaluation. Is it really that bad of a choice of career?
It's gonna be for him, as soon as he gets a case of that super-virus.

Not all scientists are laboratory Researchers - lots of of Scientists are practically applying what's already been discovered/learned. A quick look over the skills list for scientists tells you these are not lab-coat wearing office dwellers. Traveller scientists are probably practitioners, or possibly field researchers.

All of the UPP characteristics except social standing can be improved. The service has a blend of technical skills, interpersonal skills, social skills, and a few slots for vehicle and weapons skills. This service does have it all. There's even Navigation skill, which will come in handy as one of the benefits is a laboratory ship. A scientist with Navigation can claim to be familiar with shipboard life, and be able to manage the ship. In the advanced education table there's an entry for Leadership skill, which will also be useful for directing a crew of NPCs.
Navigation suggests a focus on Astronomy. Electronics or Mechanical skill can mean degrees in those Engineering specialties. Gravitics and Computer are also engineering specialties. You could argue that the Scientist career is really the Engineers career.

But it is only for the exceptional and clever! The enlistment throw is comparable with sailors flyers and rogues, but the DMs are hard to get: INT 9+ and EDU 10+ and this is the only service that depends entirely on brain power. Survival is harder (5+) than bureaucrats, nobles, doctors and diplomats; and as hard as for sailors and flyers. Clearly these scientists do more than hang about in laboratories.

For comparison, I searched around for examples of scientist or scientifically-minded heroes in literature and television. Here's a sampling of what I found:
  • Buckaroo Banzai (film) is a neurosurgeon and particle physicist
  • Doc Emmett Brown (Back to the Future movies) mechanical, electrical and temporal engineer
  • Richard Hannay (The 29 Steps novels) a mining engineer
  • Dr. Daniel Jackson (Stargate TV show) archaeologist
  • Dr. Leonard McCoy (Star Trek TV/films) physician
  • Indiana Jones (films) archaeologist
  • Doc Savage (Pulp novels) surgeon and multi-discipline scientist
  • Bernard Quartermass (British TV) rocketeer and physicist
  • Tom Swift (Sr. and Jr.) (Boys adventure novels) gadgeteer and inventor
  • Dr. Stephen Maturin (Aubrey/Maturin novels) surgeon, biologist, botanist
I'm sure there are many others, plus all of the real world scientists who did cool stuff. 
Who wouldn't want him on their team?

Most of the time, the adventures were not directly related to doing research or routine use of science knowledge. The science was there to lead to the adventure, not to be the adventure. Without the Player and Referee having significant knowledge of the PC's specialty, it would be very hard to play field research. Take Archaeology for example: Roll to discover historical artifacts in this 10 meter square of swamp: 11+. Roll, fail, repeat, BORING.

Compare that to the Double Adventure Shadows. Rather than a random discovery, it could be easily arranged that the Archaeologist character is organizing the expedition to explore the recently detected pyramid.

JTAS issue 22 had a career article detailing the Imperial Academy of Science and Medicine. Science Fields from the IASM article include:
physical anthropology
cultural anthropology
political science
  - agricultural
  - computer
  - electrical
  - macro
  - mechanical
naval architecture
transportation engineering

In the sadly brief SS Sibersk campaign, the central character was a Roboticist. His loose mission was to study and catalog the robotic types produced in the Corridor. It was a good reason to wander around, have encounters and hear rumors. All of these lead to adventures. 

A referee can create all sorts of Rumors that would catch the attention of a scientifically-minded PC. Not all of them will be directly related to their scientific field, but it is more a matter of bringing a scientific mind-set to the problem; fighting bad guys and disasters with brains, and perhaps brawn as well.

And what's the point of being a Scientist without Gadgeteering?

A problem comes up and the group doesn't have the tools/equipment they need to handle it?  Build it from scrap parts! The player states what the kit-bashed device is supposed to do. The Referee considers how difficult it might be to accomplish this, or does a random roll to determine the task target. Player makes the case for what skills and other factors would provide +DMs, Referee decides what factors would provide -DMs. Determine the time needed, the cost and let the player make the throw. Retries with additional time & cost should in most cases be allowed. Gadgets might also have a reliability score: throw X+ or X- to find out if it works this time.

Building a gadget to handle a problem is a Situation.
From the Traveller Adventure:
Situation Throws: In the absence of any other guidance, the referee may always resort to the situation throw. When an incident first occurs, throw two dice to determine its relative severity. A low roll means that it is easy, a high roll means comparative difficulty. The number achieved is now the situation number. The player characters involved, when they attempt to deal with the situation, must roll the situation number or higher on two dice. They are, of course, allowed DMs based on any appropriate skills. Tools, assistance, and equipment may also provide beneficial DMs; weather, haste, adverse environment, or other handicaps may impose negative DMs. It is even possible for a referee to make the situation number greater than 12, thus making success impossible unless the players can provide necessary skills or tools with DMs to get their throw also above 12.

1 comment:

  1. Did you actually forget the most famous science officer in all of science fiction? SPOCK!!!