Friday, September 17, 2021

Follow me, men! More on Skills - Leadership

The skill as described in Classic Traveller:

The individual has led troops in battle or on adventures and is possessed of a knowledge and self assurance which will make for a capable emergent or appointed leader.”

Like this guy here: 

Leadership is a specifically military skill, then. I had long assumed that Leadership was good for any instance of a PC directing NPCs. There's nothing wrong with playing it that way, but that's not what the skill description indicates.

Leadership is a required ability to control a group of more than six no player hirelings or soldiers. Such a group will tend to obey the general orders of the character with the highest leader expertise. Reaction throws are necessary when the leader and the group first meet. DMs may be applied: +1 per level of leader expertise when consulting the reaction table.

Leader-3 or better is sufficient to allow soldiers to obey orders without hesitation. Leader-4 or better will allow a positive DM when recruiting soldiers or hirelings for adventures. The throws and DMs for such hirelings depend on the situation imposed by the referee.”  This is the only direct reference to hirelings I could find in CT.

I think Leader-4 is too difficult to achieve. I suggest that the positive modifier for recruiting be lowered to Leader-2. 

By inference, it is reasonable to ask the PC for a Leadership throw any time that the troops/henchmen under him have to do something of significant risk. Leadership-3 or better can bypass this, by the skill definition. 

Who gets Leadership training?

Marines and Army, obviously, but only on the Advanced Education tables. Why not the Navy? Swap out Blade Combat or Fwd Observer for a Leadership slot. From the COTI careers, Barbarians, Bureaucrats, Rogues, Nobles, Scientists, Hunters and Pirates all have this skill.

Now for the really perplexing question: Bureaucrats? Bureaucrats get Leadership, which explicitly states the PC has led troops in battle? No. Just No. Let's face it, the Bureaucrat career is an oddball anyway. Perhaps I should write a Career post on that one.

Because leadership has a specifically military focus in its description, I suggest that all of the non-military careers should drop Leadership and replace it with Admin.

Admin skill, The individual has had experience with bureaucratic agencies, and understands the requirements of dealing with them and managing them.”, could be described as civic leadership – the PC is familiar with how organizations are run. See this additional paragraph, which I had not really noticed before.

"When serving in a bureaucratic organization, admin expertise allows competency in the eyes of superiors. Apply a DM of + 1 per level of expertise, with the exact throw to be determined by the referee under the circumstances." This too points towards making the group run efficiently, which necessarily includes getting cooperation from subordinates and superiors.

 The most important role of Leadership skill in the rules as written is controlling NPCs in battle by influencing


The rule: Roll for morale every combat round, once 25% of a party has become unconscious or been killed.

Throw 7+ for the group to stand (not flee); [as close to 50/50 stand or flee as we can get on 2D6.]

DMs allowed:

  • If military or mercenary unit +1 [note first mention of that concept!]
  • If any leader skill present +1 [should be +1 per level]
  • If the leader has tactical skill +1 [should be +1 per level]
  • If casualties (unconscious or dead) exceed 50% -2
  • If leader unconscious or dead -2 (for 2 combat rounds only; then a new leader takes control.)

A leader by being present improves morale to 72%. That fantastic Leadership-4 raises the NPCs to 97% likely to stand. That bunch of NPCs is going to fight to the last man; either for or against the PCs. That's a serious consideration, if you have henchmen backing you up.

If the Leader threw really well on the initial Reaction roll, the target number for the morale throw could be lower. Of if the Reaction was poor, the target number to stand could be higher. You could say it is a matter of when the Leadership skill influences the troops.

Failing a morale check need not mean headlong flight, either. It may be instead the troops freezing in place/seeking cover and being unable to act. Another successful Leadership throw might get them unfrozen and able to move again. Give the leader PC chances to rally his troops or at least conduct an orderly withdrawal. Several failed throws or one really bad failure could mean panicked flight.

Leadership in context

By way of comparison, the Admin skill is the social skill within a bureaucratic organization, Liaison is used on the personal level in civilian/non-combat settings, and Leadership is the skill to influence people in combat. To influence people on the broad social level you need the skill Rulership, which was introduced in Sword of Cepheus. I'll talk about that skill next.


  1. Please do write a post on the Bureaucrat. In the 40 years or so I've had Supp4, I have never figured out how their Reenlistment roll is supposed to work.

    Because I do a lot of MT conversions, here's how I would write up the Morale check as an MT Task:

    To Maintain Morale
    Rout, Leader, Tactics (Instant, Unskilled OK)
    Notes: Check immediately once casualties have reached 25% or more, then every third round after. If casualties reach 50% or more, apply an additional -2 DM. Only use the Tactics skill of the leader. The leader is the character highest in authority by chain of command for formal units, or the character with the highest Leader skill present. If a formal unit, add an additional +1 DM. If the leader is unconscious or dead, apply a -2 DM until a new leader can take command.**

    I do prefer this format because it gives the same results as the longer writeup that classic Traveller has while also allowing a lot more easy customization, though I understand the point of view of people who think that it's too formal. That formalization, to me, is what allows for more actual flexibility at the table, since all of the various ways to approach an action are pre-designed, where the less formal structure requires reinventing them every time.

    *Because MT rounds are six seconds, I think it's worthwhile to increase the span between checks.

    **Because MT has a tendency to break actions down into finer parts than CT does, I'd probably also make a Task for this instead of just specifying a fixed number of rounds. Good leaders (high Leader skill) should be able to do it faster. And if there's nobody with Leader skill left, and it isn't a formal organization, then everything is just going to collapse into panicked individuals.

    1. Sure, and here's the Task I'd probably use for that last bit:

      To Take Command of a Unit
      Rout, Leader, 1 second (Unskilled OK)
      Notes: Formal units require the highest in chain of command to perform this Task, but if that character fails a character lower in chain of command can temporarily attempt to assert command. Roll for time and subtract Leader skill as normal, and take 1 round per every six seconds or remainder to finish the attempt.

  2. "Bureaucrats? Bureaucrats get Leadership, which explicitly states the PC has led troops in battle? No. Just No."

    I don't use anything beyond books 1-3, so Bureaucrats aren't an issue. However, thinking on the absence of Leadership in Naval experience, what I would suggest is that Leadership means leading a group in any situation of personal conflict - this personal conflict need not be physically violent to have important stakes.

    For example, imagine that the inhabitants of Mars are negotiating with Weyland-Yutani over mining rights on Phobos. Each has an ambassador with a team of diplomats and lawyers. The actual stakes here are quite high - and if things go wrong, could lead to armed conflict with thousands of people dying. So it's a conflict situation with high stakes.

    Naval work is necessarily more passive. Soldiers and marines make individual decisions about where to move themselves under fire, diplomats and lawyers make similar decisions, facing legal and verbal fire. But in the navy, people operate machinery - they operate machinery in peacetime, and operate machinery in battle, either way they're operating machinery. Certainly there are stakes, but they're not in their face, so to speak, the way an enemy soldier across no-man's land or a rival diplomat across the negotiating table is.