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 (it's 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.


  1. Consider this idea stolen.

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.