Wednesday, July 26, 2023

The Implications of Jump Drive

 The Jump Drive is the technology in Traveller that allows for FTL travel. We play Traveller, We know this. But have you thought about what that means?

The Jump Drive moves the PCs from hex to hex, yes. But how?  You look at the jump rating, which is a cross-reference of the size of the ship and the letter code, A to Z, of the drive. These give us the ratings from 1 to 6. Still telling you things you already know.

The point is this: a jump drive is not rated by how fast it can go. Any jump “takes about one week” (TTB, p. 49) whether you have a tiny type-A in your Free Trader or a mammoth type-Z in your super-cargo freighter. 

A jump drive rating tells you how far it can go in that one week. A jump-2 drive is not twice as fast  as a jump-1 drive; it has twice the range of the jump-1 drive.

There is no real-world comparison for this distinction. We rate vehicles, from bicycles to Blackbirds in rate of distance per unit of time. Faster vehicles cover the distance in less time. Not so in Traveller. A jump-1 drive takes as long as a jump-6 drive to do a one-hex transit. End of story. 

The difference is of vital importance to Travellers. Why? Because of a hard-wired fact of the Traveller setting, whether the 3rd Imperium or my own Church and Empire setting. Information, in order to propagate, must be carried. In ships, that all take a week to jump. 

From Supp 8, Library Data: Another central fact of interstellar travel is that no method of information transfer faster than jump drive transmission has been discovered. Ships can carry messages, but radio still lags at mere light speed. Communication is always restricted to the speed of interstellar transportation.

The distances between worlds is a fixed and unchanging quantity. If you want information about a world 6 hexes away, how long will it take for that information to reach you? Answer: either six weeks, or one. If you get your information delivered express, you get to act a month and a half before the other guy does, who’s waiting on a jump-1 courier to bring it.

The same goes when Travellers decide to, well, travel. A ship with Jump-4 can get a Traveller from Holtzmann to Stavanger in one week. A Jump-2 ship will take 3 weeks to make the same trip. Look at the map to figure out why. If your PC and his competition have a goal to reach on Stavanger, what is the essential play?  Securing the ship with long enough legs to get you there in one week.

Add to that this complication. Not all planets have the same access to the information delivery network. TTB page 89 says: 

Within the subsector, local governments will have established communications or trade routes connecting some (but not all) worlds.


Communications routes should be carefully drawn so as to avoid making all parts of the subsector accessible; a subsector should reserve some areas as backwaters for exploration and adventure.

Depending on where you are, it may take even longer for the Big News to reach you.

The Traveller who wants to do big things and make a name for himself needs information, and needs it faster than his competition. Knowledge is Power. The Jump drive is the key to that power. 

Image credit: Pixabay

Friday, July 14, 2023

Play Report - Prospecting!

 Not all of our regular players were at game this week, but it is quick and easy to roll up Traveller characters. Graham Clark and C-418, along with their new friend Chuck Norris (his player is a gal with a sense of humor) found themselves with some leave time from the service of Count Murietta. Hoping to make some fast cash, they decided to try prospecting in the wilderness of Holtzmann. 

A pencil sketch map of Holtzmann's inhabited region.

They did some research, and chose an area between two of the rivers flowing south out of the mountains. After hiring an ATV and equipping for a fortnight in the wild, they set off for what they hoped would be a small fortune. 

The way I decided to handle the prospecting part was to secretly dice for the number of 6-hour work periods that they would have to put in before discovering the resource, in this case some type of precious metal. During the multiple days it takes to work through those periods, I diced for random and animal encounters. 

The prospecting work itself was in the background. Traveller has a Prospecting skill, introduced in the Supplement 4 Citizens of the Imperium with the Belter career. None of the C3 group had it, so I fell back on the Education stat. The group made an initial throw to determine a likely spot to prospect in, with DMs for high EDU and JOT skill. I left the results uncertain to them. This was so that they had to decide how long to 'keep digging away' before deciding that they were looking in a wrong spot.

Supplement 2 Animal Encounters gave them a number of curious critters to encounter. At least one was hostile, and Clark was slightly wounded trying to put it down. 

A group of tourists from Dekalb wandered by the prospecting camp in their contra-grav 'bus' and took some pictures. That's just what the Random Encounter table said. Fortunately, their reaction throw was a 7. I can imagine the mess if the tourists had decided to attack the PCs!

Right at the end of the session, the random encounter table gave up the result of Ambushing Brigands. We left it as a cliffhanger for next time how they would resolve that encounter.

Each group of players at my table has an Imperial Calendar page. By comparing it to my official events calendar, I can keep up with multiple parties pursuing multiple ends. The C3 Group is on day 084, about ten days behind the main group. 

If they make it to the end of their prospecting trip, they may return to the city a lot richer. In that case others might get the same prospecting bug and start a gold rush. Who knows?  We'll find out next session.


The following session, I had the players who were prospecting on one 'team' and the rest of the players formed the Brigand's team. There was a brief but spirited combat between the prospector's ATV and the brigand's off-road trucks. While the prospectors got away with the ATV and their skins intact, they were driven off the dig area before they found any of the resources they sought. Such is the nature of adventuring. 

Second update:

In the most recent session, the main group of PCs kitted out an expedition to Holtzmann Gamma, a world restricted by the Imperial Navy, as they use it for combat practice such as orbital artillery and hot landings. 

This map shows H/Gamma's surface. The black hexes are the No-Go zones, either due to active Navy missions, or [CLASSIFIED]. The PC's went to the hex marked with a red plus sign. This time they found some recoverable ordnance and a cache of Marine cutlasses, which they were able to sell for a tidy profit!

Thursday, July 13, 2023

What does Classic Traveller Do?

I have followed with interest  Brad Walker's postings on his blog about game design, and the wargame roots of the RPG hobby. In a recent post he says:

Classic Traveller retains its power despite being decades away from the spotlight, such that every other space adventure game is compared to it- including its successors. It has a separate and distinct play experience from both of the aforementioned, and has itself influenced many others after it (e.g. Twilight 2000).

I thought about Traveller's design and why the game has endured so long. This is by no means a definitive essay on the subject, merely my thoughts at this point.

What do the Classic Traveller Rules Do?

By the way, the short answer is