Friday, October 22, 2021

From Front Office to the Frontier - the Bureaucrats Career

 Adventures in the Office? Or maybe more than meets the eye?

What are Bureaucrats?

Individuals serving a government or organization in a management or executive capacity.” From The Spinward Marches Campaign version of the COTI careers. In the Supplement book we find the same. The only useful addition is from the pages of sample Bureaucrats: “They are assumed to have mustered out of their particular bureaucratic service and have embarked on some sort of activity within the universe.” [As opposed to outside of it?]

I have long regarded the Bureaucrat career as a placeholder. Something to round out the COTI tables to a multiple of six entries. Paper-pushers at the Department of Redundancy Department. Why would anyone from this background become a Traveller?

The usual answer is “they got bored with the desk job.” I suppose that serves well enough for now. I cannot think of any examples from adventure literature of a cubicle-dweller deciding to live a life of Adventure, except perhaps as a comic relief or buffoon character that the actual heroes have to protect. If you know of a good example, please share in the comments!

Let's take a look at the nuts and bolts of the Bureaucrat career.

Enlistment: 5+ (83%) plus DMs for EDU8+ and STR 8-. This is the only career that grants a DM for a physical stat below a target level. Pretty low bar for entry. Education is the key characteristic for this career. It pays to know stuff.

Friday, September 24, 2021

More on Skills - Rulership, from Sword of Cepheus

Or, How to be The Boss

This post is mostly about Sword of Cepheus, but I will bring it back around to Classic Traveller.

I have not seen a skill by this name, or with its implications, in any other game that I can think of. All that we are given in the Sword of Cepheus skills list is this:

Rulership: administration and dealing with realms, bureaucracies and the law. Also covers forgery.”  So, what this guy did for a living:

"L'etat, c'est Moi." 

As given, Rulership is a conflation of the CT skills Administration, Bribery, Forgery, and Legal. What interests me is the phrase “dealing with realms”.

What does this imply about the setting of the game? My read is that characters may end up in charge of realms, whether kingdoms, duchies, towns etc. They can end up as Rulers in Sword of Cepheus. If Conan the Cimmerian can do it, why can't your PCs? I would love to see Stellagama publish a realm-building supplement.

Let us call this Type I Rulership. There can also by Types II & III.

If your game works better by letting Rulership address all of these disparate tasks equally, well and good. If you want more nuance in handling this broad-application skill, read on.

Who gets Rulership skill? Nobles do, obviously (at Rank 3, 2 skill slots), but so do Commoners (at Rank 3), Pirates (only 1 Adv Ed skill slot), Priests (1 skill slot), Rogues (1 skill slot), Sailors (1 skill slot), Scholars (at Rank 1! 2 skill slots), Soldiers (1 skill slot), and Vagabonds (1 skill slot). So just about everybody except Shamans and Barbarians. I think this is odd. Unless you keep in mind the wide range of tasks this skill covers.

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.

Friday, September 10, 2021

My first Traveller campaign - a look back

I have often on this blog written about my Traveller adventures with my sons. But my first attempt at Traveller, as an adult anyway, with me as the Referee, was with my wife, Angela. It seems appropriate to write about this, because my wife died in May of this year, four months ago today. This is the reason for my long absence from the blog. With my return, I want to remember my wife and her impact on my gaming life in particular. This blog is not the place to discuss the fullness of my marriage.

In the first year we were married we moved from North Carolina to Pennsylvania as I took a job at a school there. We knew nobody, and had been married less than a year. What to do?  Play Traveller, of course. 

Angela was fond of the Dragonriders of Pern series by Ann McCaffrey, so she asked if her game could take place on a world like that. I've said before that you can model just about anything with Traveller, so I said sure, let's have a world with starships and dragons. I selected Bellesile from my TU, and set about designing the world and figuring out how humans and dragons exist together. I kept all the notes from that project in a folder through all the subsequent moves.

She named her character Alina Madrig, and chose the Noble career after getting a good SOC score. This is her hand-written character sheet:

Alina also possessed Animal Telepathy - she could talk to the dragons! Beyond rolling dice, she took a character building guide I found online and wrote out a pretty thorough description of who Alina was, where she was from and whom she knew. I used that to build a list of major NPCs that her character could interact with. She may have had the most complete backstory of any Traveller character I've ever dealt with.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Almsgiving as Adventure: Charitable Work in Traveller

During this Lenten season (for the Orthodox Church, Pascha this year is on the 2nd of May) I have thought about giving & almsgiving. There are lots of references in the Scriptures to the importance of giving alms. Generosity is a Christian virtue, a way to live out the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.

Traveller players get to set their own goals, how the PCs will make their mark on the galaxy. Common goals include military victories, building trade empires, amassing great wealth and seeing all the places you can go. Or murder-hoboing. I have a suggestion for a different sort of goal.

What about almsgiving as a campaign framework? Yes, Travellers can strike off large amounts of cash from the character sheets by fiat, or by purchasing new vehicles or starships. What I propose is a means of disposing of cash for a larger purpose.

Pick a charitable organization (see the list) and then go on adventures to raise money for that charity. Give away the profits. Make the success of the charitable organization (CO) the goal. The CO serves as the source or generator of adventures first by inspiring the PCs to make money. Second, the CO as an organization will need the PCs to protect and defend it from various sources of harm.

Referees can create evil empires, and dissolute Nobles, so why not earnest and hardworking people who care for their fellow man in one of these:

Charitable Organizations

  • orphanages – tending to the fatherless! This is commanded in the Scriptures.

  • monasteries (esp. ones that need life support equipment, or themselves do charity work)

  • homeless shelters

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Another perspective on Not Using Experience Points in Traveller

 A perspective on Leveling ad Experience from the Tao of D&D

Over the decades, many folks within the RPG hobby have observed critically that Traveller is lacking for having no XP or advancement. This presumes that level-based games are the standard, and Traveller is the exception. No, it is another paradigm that has held up just as well. Traveller is only 3 years younger than D&D, and has survived and flourished along side it for four decades.

This criticism lacks force for two reasons. First of all, it does have Experience rules. Second of all, Traveller is not dependent upon Leveling up for rewarding game-play.

I quote here from the post referenced above although his main point is about something else. It is a good argument against D&D having levels. It also works as a defense of Traveller for not using a leveling system. This was also the first time I'd heard a fan of that game questioning the importance of the leveling system. Maybe there are others, I just haven't encountered them.

Begin quote, emphasis added:

This is my problem with circumventing rules about distribution or reward for the sake of 'fun' or ensuring that player entitlement to rise up a level every two or three sessions is ensured. It isn't a reward any more. It isn't even a measure of relative game play. After all, what if the characters never went up? What if the level was perpetually 5th, without any experience whatsoever? Would it mean there were no goals to fulfill? No achievements? No threat from battle? No reason to play?

Or is it possible, just possible, that we could all agree not to care about levels? Suppose the game simply had no sense of improvement, the players just acted upon their agency or in the stories the DM fabricated. . . would it be any less of a game?
. . .
Play as a 5th level forever or as a 15th level forever, the sense of overcoming obstacles, solving problems and achieving triumph would be the same, would it not?

What is it that makes the level matter?

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Forget Adventuring, Become a Broker!

 In the article High Finance by Terry McInnes from JTAS #13 

"After a character has reached his late 50's or early 60s - an age when rough and tumble adventuring loses its appeal, he may wish to . . . settle into the brokerage business. Cargo brokers help ship captains get increased prices for their goods and charge a percentage of the final price for their services. Brokers also arrange the sale of goods by planetside farmers and manufacturers to ship captains who invest in these cargoes for resale to another world."

Cargo Brokering. Wow. You can make an absurd amount of money with this little technique, all without the wear and tear of adventuring. I ran the numbers, keep reading and you'll see.

So you're sure this cargo isn't illegal on this world, right? Ohhh-kay.
The general process is this: the Referee determines the number of captains per week who may want to contract with the broker. This is presented in the article as always being a non-zero number. Perhaps this should be modified by the starport rating of the world the PC works from.

Friday, February 12, 2021

More on Skills - Steward Skill

Ah, the Steward. The Dump Stat of Traveller skills. Even less popular than Jack of All Trades. Why is this skill here? Here's the skill description from TTB:

The individual is experienced and capable in the care and feeding of passengers: the duties of the ship's steward.

The responsibility for the welfare of passengers aboard a starship falls on the ship's steward. Although anyone can be hired as a ships' steward, this skill represents training in the various duties necessary, and serves as an advantage when attempting to get such a job.

Referee: Steward skill represents a general awareness of cooking, personal care and attention, and other areas of experience which will make passengers and crew happy and content with their conditions of passage.

As given, this does not tell the player much about what the Steward lets you do, or how it can lead to adventures. But it can, and like every other skill, it should.

What does the Steward skill do? The Steward skill turns NPCs into revenue, or into adventures.  

Friday, January 15, 2021

How much room is there on a planet?

Talavera, the capital of the Empire of my Church and Empire setting, is a large planet with vast oceans. The UPP is A-969835-F, and 947 million people. But how much room do they actually have for a billion people?

Size 9: 9,000 mile diameter

Hydro 9: 90% of the planet is oceans

I had an initial idea of a densely populated island, where the buildings reach high into the sky to make room for nearly a billion people.

Then I did some math. What I found was, to say the least, not that dramatic.

Talavera has 25,446,900 square miles of land area. Spread 947,000,000 people over that and you get a population density of 37.215 ppl/mi^2.

According to this table of population densities of countries, that's less than Norway or Sweden. Neither are the sorts of places you think of when you think of dense populations. China, at 378 ppl/mi^2 is ten times denser. 25 million square miles is several times the size of Russia.

I did up a table to compute the square miles of surface area on planets in Traveller. By taking the Size code and cross-referencing with the Hydrographics code, you can find the land area of any planet of normal parameters. It may be water, it may be ice, it can be some other kind of liquid.

Here is a sample of the table, including a few Earth examples for comparison. The entire table, in MS Excel format, is available here.  The long and short of it is this: any planet is going to have plenty of room for exploration, or to hide something or someone. Even a Size-2 planet with Hydro-5 has space near to the size of Russia to work with.

Of this area, only a scant percentage is going to be inhabited, unless A) the population is in the Billions or above and B) most of the planet is covered by liquid or ice. A planet with only a few million people is going to be 90+% uninhabited.

What might go on in the frontier areas of a lightly populated world? Possibly a lot.  Share your ideas in the comments.
Size Code Diameter Radius Total Area Hydrographic-5
0 500.0 250.0 785,398.2 392,699.1
1 1,000.0 500.0 3,141,592.7 1,570,796.4
2 2,000.0 1,000.0 12,566,370.8 6,283,185.4
3 3,000.0 1,500.0 28,274,334.3 14,137,167.2
4 4,000.0 2,000.0 50,265,483.2 25,132,741.6
5 5,000.0 2,500.0 78,539,817.5 39,269,908.8
6 6,000.0 3,000.0 113,097,337.2 56,548,668.6
7 7,000.0 3,500.0 153,938,042.3 76,969,021.2
8 8,000.0 4,000.0 201,061,932.8 100,530,966.4
9 9,000.0 4,500.0 254,469,008.7 127,234,504.4
10 (A) 10,000.0 5,000.0 314,159,270.0 157,079,635.0










New York


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Putting more High Tech into Traveller

Fantastic Technology for Traveller? Why Not?

It has been observed over the years that the Classic Traveller Technology seems dated. Like stuck in the 1970's dated. We all know about the computers. Someone I know recently compared the CT equipment section to a 1970's hardware store.

Well what should be done about this? Simple: Add More! Add in anything you like. If you see it in another sci-fi property, put it in.

Really? Won't that wreck the game, or make it silly or something? With very few exceptions, no it won't 'ruin' Traveller. I say the opposite – that it will make Traveller even better.