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?

Enlistment (what does that even mean?) in the Rogues is harder than the Other, 6+ vs 3+; Survival is harder in the Rogues, 6+ to 5+, same DM. Re-enlistment is the same. The Mustering Out benefits are about the same and both are unimpressive with one exception: Rogues can get a TAS membership. I am at a loss to understand how that should work. Cash benefits are about the same as well. Rogues can actually get cheated out of cash benefits by rolling a 1 or 2 - this results in 0 credits given.

Just for fun, I did an experiment. I rolled 12 D6's and calculated how much cash benefit resulted for the Rogues and the Other.  Die rolls were as follows:

Rogues result: 370,000 credits
Other result: 202,000 credits
a clear win for the Rogues, even though the 1s and 2s resulted in No Cash.

Here are the skills that the Rogue career features:
Carousing (2) Vehicle (2) Forgery (2) Bribery (2), Brawling, Blade & Gun Cbt, Demolitions, Streetwise [service skill], Liaison, Ship Tactics, Medical, Computer, Leader, JoT, and Stat bonuses for all but SOC.
That bike doesn't even appear to be locked up. Or are you planning to beat up the melons in the window? How many terms have you done this?
Quite the Grab Bag, eh?

Now let's look back at the The Other Service and see what it offers, for comparison. Note that I've made a good case that the Other are not always criminals, just that they could be criminals.

Gambling, Mechanical, and Electronics are offered in the Other, but not the Rogues. Demolitions, Liaison, Ship Tactics, and Carousing are offered in the Rogues but not the Other. Demo was introduced in Bk4, the rest in Bk5. Apart from these, the skill sets of the two careers align.

A PC is more likely to pick up Bribery, one of the two specific Criminal skills, in the Rogues, with two skill slots to the Other's one. This does not impress me as a reason to pursue this career. Thirty years of playing Traveller and I've never had a PC attempt to use Bribery skill. Forgery has gotten scarcely more action in my gaming history. YMMV.

At the end, I say skip the Rogues career, and retrofit the Book 4&5 skills into the Other service, if you want them. 

What alternative career could have taken the place of Rogues in Supp4?  Share your suggestions in the comments. 


Image 1 by OpenClipart-Vectors on Pixabay
Image 2 by Ricinator on Pixabay


  1. I long thought that Rogue, like Bureaucrat and Flyer, was little more than padding. GDW wanted the number of new careers presented in COTI to amount to a multiple of six - just like LBB:1 - and so added a few very lightweight and barely undifferentiated choices. Barbarian, Belter, Doctor, Noble, Pirate, and Scientist were "No Brainers" as all those careers already had skills, stats, weapons, equipment, and ships mentioned in LBBs 1, 2 & 3. Diplomat (Retief & others), Hunter (Dumerest & co.), and (maybe) Sailor (Grimes, et al) weren't too much of a stretch especially given the game's literary inspirations. Bureaucrat, Flyer, and Rogue were merely padding to bring those 9 careers up to 12, IMHO.

    Bureaucrat may have been good for NPCs and certain type of Merchant PCs, but who needs to flesh out NPCs to that extent that often and LBB:7 later handled merchants better. Flyers' jobs weren't that different enough from Sailors, although that might the ex-squid in me thinking. I thought they could have been folded together with vehicle cascade choices providing any necessary separation. Besides, we'd have to wait for MT with COACC and the wet navy rules in "Challenge" to have all but the most generic examples of each careers' specialized vehicles.

    As for Rogue, it does exist on the same "spectrum" as Other and, while the two do "overlap", I have long thought that Rogue skewed more towards the "dark side" of that spectrum. In my hands, Other ran from almost aboveboard through scoundrel to shady without quite reaching the criminal, mobster, slaver, etc. status that Rogue can reach. A fence is an Other, a thief is a Rogue. A bookie is an Other, a leg breaker is a Rogue. A conman is an Other, a mugger is a Rogue.

    It's a rather lame differentiation, I'll admit, but I always thought the Rogue career was padding.

  2. I suspect that the reason most players don't use Bribery is simply because most aren't used to thinking of it as a way of doing business, but instead think of it as a form of corruption first. Perhaps it is, but that isn't the way that everyone in the world thinks of it. Referees, too, have to leave room for bribery to be just part of the cost of doing business instead of setting off alarm bells every time that a player leaves a stack of Cr100 notes in the middle of their passport.

  3. Very good point about many players not "getting" bribery in a cultural sense. However, if it's just a way of doing business - as it is and has been in many times & places - there's no real need for a special skill. It's something any trader, business, or administrator should already be familiar with. Look at the oft-recycled "Exit Visa" adventure. Bribes there are damn near mandatory. only the type of bribe and amount are in any real question. Crawford's "friction" mechanic in "Suns of Gold", the trade supplement for "Stars Without Number", approaches bribery and it's kissing cousin kickbacks as a common business practice and does a better job because of that, IMHO.

    For my games, bribery was something "role-d" more often than rolled, if that makes any sense. Bribery or Streetwise helped a player determine whether quiet gifts were needed along with estimating who should get how much. Occasionally I borrowed the twinned "true/false" roll mechanic from MT during bribery attempts involving large sums and/or big favors. The player would roll openly and I'd roll secretly resulting in a T/T, T/F, F/T, or F/F result which kept the players guessing about whether the bribery attempt succeeded or not.

    Most times however, bribery was just another "fee" I dunned the players with. Just another "cost of doing business" as faoladh neatly puts it.