Monday, January 23, 2023

Mor on Skills: Carousing and Streetwise

In this series of posts on skills, I have assumed that the given skill descriptions were suggestive, not restrictive. ‘Generally, the skill works for this, but other uses may occur to players’.

 In Traveller, a PC’s skills are the primary tools for interacting with the universe. They are the first measure of a character’s power. The skill list in CT is not large, so it is only sensible for skills to have broad, not narrow, application. You don’t need a big list of skills to be a worthwhile character.

Sometimes, though, skills seem to overlap. This is one of those cases.

Streetwise and Carousing: Close but not Quite the Same

Streetwise: The individual is acquainted with the ways of local subcultures (which tend to be the same everywhere in human society), and thus is capable of dealing with strangers without alienating them. This skill is not the same as alien contact experience. Close-knit subcultures (such as some portions of the lower classes, trade groups such as workers, and the underworld) generally reject contact with strangers or unknown elements. Streetwise expertise allows contact for the purposes of obtaining information, hiring persons, purchasing or selling contraband or stolen goods, and other shady or borderline activities.

Referee: After establishing throws for various activities desired by the characters, allow streetwise as a DM. If streetwise is not used, impose a DM of -5.

I realize this picture has nothing to do with the topic. Rule of Cool, people.

I have often looked at this skill as “how to crime”. Note the underlined phrase above. Now I think of it as also being “I know a guy” and “figure out who's who”. Streetwise is the more familiar skill, coming from Book 1. Carousing was introduced in Book 5. For the most part, I’m talking today about Carousing.

Monday, November 7, 2022

More on Skills: Naval Architect

Presenting possibly the least useful skill introduced in the Advanced Character Creation books!

Definition, from Book 6 Scouts

The individual has been trained in the design of starships and small craft. Knowledge of the requirements for accurate, usable ship design plans and of the details of ship design are part of this skill. The character is capable of acting as a naval architect, subject to the level of skill attained.

Naval Architect-1 is sufficient to occasionally design ships, especially for personal or group use, but generally requiring three or four times the time called for by a professional (about 16 weeks). Naval Architect-2 allows design of a ship in 10-12 weeks. Naval Architect-3 indicates a level of skill approaching professional. Naval Architect-4+ allows the individual to function as a professional naval architect.

This skill operates in conjunction with the established starship design and construction rules, and does not allow the invention of new devices or equipment.

First of all, Naval Architect skill (hereafter NA) is found in the Technical School skill table, roll 5. This is the only instance of the skill in the skill tables. So it is rare for a Scout character to get it at all, let alone to have it at skill level above 1.

Once acquired, it does exactly one thing: draw plans for ships. No throws are suggested, the skilled PC has only to take the time and produces the results. There is, as far as I can imagine, exactly one instance where this skill would come into play. That is, a group of PCs want to build their own ship, or pay to have it built. NA skill will save them some money up front, but that’s all.

I would like to learn the rationale for including a skill with this narrow of an application. In contrast, Book 1 skills are widely applicable. Compare NA with Mechanical for an example. With this skill, a PC can attempt to build or repair or destroy any number of manufactured devices. Mechanical works on starship airlocks or factory machinery or ATVs. NA can produce blueprints, a narrow application.

To the end of making NA more useful, let’s see if we can broaden out NA skill.

Friday, October 28, 2022

The Big CT Skill list and Book 1 Characters

One of the popular features of the “Advanced Character Generation” systems in books 4-7 was the introduction of new skills. Along with this came the controversy over ‘skill bloat’, which I have addressed elsewhere. I have nothing more to add here; I’m interested in the skills as skills.


Not all of these advanced skills are equally useful, but many of them are clearly beneficial. I got to thinking about how to work them back into Book 1 character creation. I have two ideas to present. Both result in the players having access to a wider array of potential skills, without the skill bloat.

The first is to derive the 'advanced book' skills with the skill set from Book 1, then allow players to choose: if you roll Skill X, you can take it, or substitute one of the derived skills attached to it.If you're not familiar with what a skill does, the Traveller Wiki is a good resource to explain. (Find the link under "Check out Other Traveller Sites" in the sidebar)

The second is compiling an 'alternate' Service Skills table – or a Table 5, whichever you prefer – for each of the original six services.

It would not be wise, I think, to throw open the gates and let a character in any service take any skill from the full list. That would invalidate the concept of services being distinct organizations doing specific things.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Just Get us On the Ground - rules for landing your ship

 "Just get us on the ground." - frustrated starship captain

"That part will happen pretty definitely." - his stressed-out pilot

When the PCs arrive in a new system, do they always head for the starport? Why not put down somewhere else instead? There's all kinds of reasons to do this. The barrier between the ship and the land is of course, the atmosphere. 
 
Any time a ship wants to put down on the surface of a planet, the pilot must make the following throw:  
To land a ship: Throw UPP Atmosphere code or better. DM +Pilot Skill, + starport DM, -1 per unrepaired hull hit, +2 if small craft, +1 if the pilot is a Scout, -2 if in combat, -1 for bad weather. 
Starport DM: Class A +6, Class B +4, Class C +2, Class D/E +0, Class X -4 
Landing a ship away from the starport uses the DM for Class X (no port) 
 
Going in reverse, taking off, the planet's gravity is the major barrier.  
 
To take off from a planet surface: Throw the UPP Size code or greater. DM +Pilot skill, +ship's M-drive rating, -1 per unrepaired hull hit.
 
Familiarity: a pilot must land on a planet [5-pilot skill] times to become familiar with that planet's landing profile. After that, the pilot gains an extra +2 DM.
 
Unstreamlined ships always suffer a DM of -4. They're not supposed to be operating in atmosphere to begin with.
 
Failing the throw does not mean the ship automatically crashes. If the throw is not made, then the referee rolls once on the starship or small craft damage table. The referee can allow the pilot's player to 'bump' the roll by the Pilot's skill level. In effect the pilot chooses to spare one component and sacrifice another.
 
The referee can use the CT tables, or the tables presented in the article “New Space Combat System”. It appeared in Space Gamer issue #40 on pages 6-8. 
 
Hull hits, by the rules, result in explosive decompression. This compromises the ship's vacuum integrity. There is less danger while the ship is in atmosphere. Yet, on some worlds, the concern is that an unpleasant atmosphere will get in! Landing on a world with a high Atmosphere codes is risky.
 
Damage repair costs 2Dx10% of the new cost of the component. This leads to adventures as the PCs try to raise the cash to fix the ship.
 
Starship crashes will happen as often as airplane crashes occur on Earth. Planets with tougher landing conditions will have more of them, but no planet will be free of crashes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Encounters in the Corridor

I present here a customized Random Encounters Table for Holtzmann's Corridor, where most of the play in my TU happens. The standard table from TTB works well, but why not have one that more reflects a particular subsector?

Die Roll

Encounter

Number

Notes

11

Peasants

4D

-2

12

Laborers

4D

-1

13

Shantymen

3D

-2

14

Thugs

2D

L

15

Local Authorities

1D

L

16

Churchmen

1D+2

L

21

Rioting Mob

5D

 

22

Imperial Noble w/retinue

2D

LGAV +2

23

Police Patrol

1D

LAG

24

Pilgrims

4D

-1

25

Company Agents

1D

L

26

Corporate Security

2D

L

31

Beggars

3D

-3

32

Imperial Merchant crew

1D

+1 V

33

Imperial Marines

3D

LGVA +2

34

Tourists

2D

V

35

Local Soldiers

3D

LGA

36

Missionaries

2D

LV

41

Researchers

2D

+1

42

Students

3D

 

43

Unemployed spacers

1D

+1

44

ICO criminals

2D

LG

45

Rebels

2D

LG

46

Revelers

4D

 

51

Prospecters

2D

V

52

Fugitives

1D

L

53

Fugitives (Imperial)

2D

 

54

Imperial Adventurers

1D

LGV +1

55

Local Noble w/retinue

1D

LGV

56

Celebrity

1D

LV +1

61

Free Trader crew

2D

 

62

Salvagers

3D

LV

63

Press Gang

3D

LGA

64

Petty Thieves

1D

 

65

LTP Merchant crew

2D

L +1

66

Anti-Imperial Protesters

5D

 

 

 

 

 

Explanations:

  • Imperials are from the Talaveran Empire, not the 3I
  • Shantymen are drifters & tramps who congregate around starports
  • Local Authorities are government officials, not law enforcement
  • Churchmen are clergy rather than missionaries
  • Pilgrims can be of any religion
  • Company Agents are businessmen or spies
  • ICOs are Interplanetary Criminal Organizations
  • Revelers are loudly celebrating something (sporting event, holiday, etc.)
  • Fugitives are wanted by either a local government, the Empire or an ICO
  • A Celebrity will have reporters around them
  • LTP Lycosky Trade Protectorate is the Empire’s main rival
  • A= some or all are wearing armor
  • G= some or all have guns
  • L= a leader (with skill) is present
  • V= the group has a vehicle, local tech & LL appropriate
  • +/- N group is equipped to local tech level adjusted by N
 
The next project is a Starship Encounter table for the Corridor!
 
What kind of Encounters will Travellers have in your game?  Share your ideas in the comments.