Thursday, July 23, 2015

Say No to generic equipment

Classic Traveller's vehicle section is not the game's strongest point - starships get a lot more coverage, and more detail. Striker has vehicle design rules, but for most folk that's too much detail. Here I propose an experiment; not yet a house rule. By means of a table already part of the game we can introduce variables into the generic vehicle designs, which can be just background/color or a plot hook. Please feel free to tell me whether you think this will work or not.

What I suggest is this:  open up your copy of the Traveller rules. I'll be quoting from Starter Traveller (the copy I have with me). Turn to the chapter on Trade and have a look at the Actual Value table (Charts & Tables, p22). For those of you without access to your rulebooks, I reproduce* it here:

2D Percentage
2 40%
3 50%
4 70%
5 80%
6 90%
7 100%
8 110%
9 120%
10 130%
11 150%
12 170%
13 200%
14 300%
15 400%

When your PCs go to buy something, the referee rolls 2D and consults the table. If the PCs are willing to pay an extra 20% up front, the referee can add +1 to the roll. The result gives the extent to which the item purchased misses or exceeds stated expectations. This roll should not alter the price directly; that kind of negotiation should be role-played by the players with Admin, Bribery or Broker skill.

If the result is less than 100%, penalize the item by subtracting from its performance. Let's take the standard Air/raft (Rules, p 55) as an example. Our heroes want to buy one, and the referee rolls low, a 4. Some combination of factors must be reduced to 70% of listed capability.

This could be a 30% loss of top speed (84 kph), or an extra 30% mass (5.2 tons), or a 30% loss of usable cargo space; or any combination the referee can come up with. Unless the PCs ask good questions, they should not be aware of the vehicle's defects until after they've purchased it.

As a second example, the PCs (who passed on this substandard air/raft) decide to visit the ATV dealer, and pick a model. The referee rolls high this time, a 9. The tracked ATV (Rules, p 56) cruises at 48 kph, maxes at 96 kph and can off-road at 36 kph. Another model may have standard performance but only takes up 8 tons when shipping it.

The speed change can be a factor in escapes or chases - if the PC's vehicle is a bit faster than their pursuers, they stand a better chance of escaping.

This variation can be applied to more than just vehicles. Communicators can get better range or weigh more; weapons can be larger or more compact, or weigh more than 'standard'. To change a weapon's accuracy (the Range DMs) by +1 requires a 20% bonus on the table. (7+ to 8+ is a change of 16%, round up to 20%)

The referee may decide to raise the price by 5% for each 10% bonus in performance or let the PCs 'get lucky'. PCs who get a 'lemon' may want to attempt to upgrade the vehicle to fix the flaw. In any event, the vehicle/equipment is now more than just a note on the character sheet, it has some character of its own.

What do you think, fellow Traveller?

*This is fair use, tables and the like cannot be copyrighted.

Photo credit: Pixabay


  1. I'm glad you liked it, Dan. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Once you have generated these stats for a revised bit of kit, it's fun to give it a brand name - "We need a new air/raft, but let's not buy another GTL, no matter how cheap - Genorom Technum make ok ATVs but their air/rafts are slow and handle .. well, like an ATV".

    1. There's even a canon precedent for this. In the adventure Shadows the PCs have a choice of atmosphere testers with different serial numbers. One of them is a notably less efficient choice. The description does not include make or model, but the idea is there.

  3. The QREBS system in Traveller 5 is based on this. Of course, being a Traveller 5 system, it's more complex than just on table.