Space Truckin’: An Adventure In Classic RPG’s

by Steve Rosenstein

So, as implied in my last post (All Apologies, dated 11/23/15) I have been on a nostalgic kick as of late. I cannot say that I played as much classic Traveller as say AD&D or CoC, but some of my fondest gaming memories were spent tooling around in a beat-up merchant ship with my buddies, adventuring from planet to planet. Recently, I was able to acquire the Little Black Books and decided to roll up a character. The thing about classic Traveller is, your character can die during the creation process, so theoretically, one can roll up some kick-ass characters that end up DOA due to a failed die roll before you get a chance to kill the saps due to poor decision making. I thought that it would be cool to roll up a few Traveller characters and take you the readers through the process with me.

Character generation consists of rolling the six stats, volunteering for one of six services: Navy, Marines, Army, Scout, Merchant, and Other, each service has an enlistment number, if you roll the number or higher, you’re in; failure means you sign up for the draft. Characters who are drafted into a service, cannot receive a commission during their first term. Once in, you roll to see if you survive the four year term, with each service having a different target number; with the Navy, Army and Merchants target being 5 and the Scouts topping it at 7. Each roll is made with 2d6 with modifiers for having higher stats. Once you survive the term of service, you can roll to see if you earn a commission or get a promotion. Each term of service, commission and promotion grants you a roll on one of the Acquired Skills Tables (there are four per service) where you, ironically, acquire skills. The next roll is to reenlist, which is optional. Lather, rinse, repeat. Until you either voluntarily retire, fail a reenlistment roll, or (gulp) die in service. If you make it through your service, you can roll on the Mustering Out Table to see what kinds of rewards you are granted for your service. These range from arms, credits, ship’s passage or your very own merchant ship!!! Don’t worry, there are rules minutia to run a space ship…but that’s a different little black book. So, without further ado, here is the character generation process in action.

C’ril James

Initial stats: Strength 4 Dexterity 6 Endurance 6 Intelligence 6 Education 7 Status 5

Which reads as 466675 as a Universal Personality Profile (UPP). C’ril enlists in the Scouts Service at the tender age of 18, her first four years are filled with excitement, while trying to plot an alternate jump route through the Galactic Axis, C’ril’s ship comes too close to the gravity well of a collapsing blue supergiant. It is only through quick thinking (she rolled a 6 and got a +1 bonus to get the requisite 7) that she was able to use the mass of a neighboring star to slingshot himself out the gravity well. An experience like that is indeed harrowing, but it is the best teacher, C’ril is able to add the skill Jack of All Trades 1. She reenlists in the Scout service to try her luck for another four years. Things settle down a bit, and our gal is able to learn a bit about astro-navigation, Navigation 1. Now she is starting to get into the swing of things, one person in a scout ship, mapping the cosmos; she decides to reenlist. His third term of service does not go so well, in the middle of mapping the Derleth System, her ship, Roselante, gets caught in the cross fire between warring factions claiming mining rights to the gas giant located in the star’s 5th orbit. She was only 28, and will be missed.

Junior” Hutcherson

Initial UPP: 638593

All of his life, Junior wanted to join the space Navy, piloting the big cruisers was his dream. And, when he turned 18 he walked straight into his local recruiting office and signed right on the dotted line. Following basic training, he was stationed in the Derleth System and participated in the operation to quell the uprising of miners on Derleth 5. His entire fleet was wiped out as they attacked a lone Scout ship and were unprepared for the rebel armada that was cloaking themselves by using the X-Ray emissions of one of the gas giant’s 34 moons to mask their engine emissions.

Brian McGuiness

Initial UPP: 2767A7

Brian starts out as a sickly kid, unremarkable in almost every way except perhaps his level of education. When young Brian turns 18, his sub-par strength makes him ill-suited for really any branch of service, but he tries to throw in his lot with the Merchant service, where his 7 INT will garner him a +1 bonus in enlisting, he rolls a 10 and is accepted on sight (7 is the minimum roll). His first four years of service pass by quickly, and Brian’s INT is high enough that he is offered a commission (4+, rolls a 7) and squeaks out a promotion (10+, rolls a 10) achieving the rank of 3rd officer (rank level 2). He is eligible for three skill rolls (enlisting, commission, and promotion); he spends his free time working on cardio so he is able to add +1 to his endurance (every little bit helps) as well as training with a Laser Carbine (+1 Gun Combat, he chooses Laser Carbine). He has shown aptitude in the medical arts and also has started training in medicine. He decides to reenlist and rolls well above the required 4 to start his second four-year stint.

The second four years are marked by a brush with death, as on a routine run shipping superconductors to the outer rim, the merchant vessel the Silver Spoon, is beset by pirates. Brian is able to help fend them off, but becomes grievously wounded during the melee. He survives, which help strengthen his resolve to continue his medical training. His continued work in the gym, allows an added point of strength. Due to his bravery in combat situations, McGuiness receives a second promotion, to the rank of 2nd Officer (rank 3). The thrill has caught him, and he decides to reenlist and continue his career in the Merchant Service…the sky is the limit.

His third term turns out to be quite a bit less exciting than his previous ones; most of his runs slog by, and as he further trains in medicine, he was no longer on the action-side of conflicts, but rather on the support-side. He spends the bulk of his third term honing his medical prowess, adding 1 to that skill. But given little opportunity, McGuiness is passed over for promotion. Life was starting to lock into place in the Merchant Service, so Brian decided to reenlist.

Once again, during his fourth term, promotion passes by McGinnis, while the thrill of the Merchant’s life is starting to wear thin, and a mining rights conflict in the Derleth System starts to strain the coffers of the Merchant’s Guild. In addition to his regular medical duties, Brian starts to learn a bit about the ins and outs of interstellar navigation. When he tried to reenlist for a 5th term of service, he was informed that due to budget cuts and a glut of qualified personnel, members with four or more terms of service under the rank of 1st Officer over are being decommissioned. Not trying to press the issue, McGuinnis decides to muster out and see how civilian life can profit him. Upon mustering out, McGuiness gains several benefits from his years of service (4 terms of service plus a rank of 3 give him 6 total rolls on the mustering out tables), garnering him the following benefits…40,000 credits, a laser carbine, 2 low passages, +1 EDU and +1 INT

So, after 16 years of service and at the age of 34, Brian McGuiness graduates to the rank of Player Character. Making his final UPP as:

Second Officer (Ret) 3778B7 Age 34 4terms Cr40,000

Medical-3, Laser Carbine-2, Navigation-1 Low Passage-2

So, here we have a character that could definitely get hired on as a ship’s doctor and who can act as emergency back-up to the Navigator. He can defend himself if need be. Not a bad character, not ideal in terms of stats, but he has some decent and marketable skills.

This exercise has actually softened my outlook on the old-school games. Granted, there is a lot of randomization and you are supposed to be stuck with shitty die rolls when you make them, making it impossible to have that Paladin you always dreamed of playing if the dice say, “no.” But despite the numbers, I was still able to create a character that could be interesting to play. And the system lends itself to come up with some backstory to flesh characters. I obviously added the common link of the Derleth System for a bit of fun, but the inclusion of this minor (see what I did there) detail in all three character’s backstories has also provided a setting for the campaign in which Dr. McGuiness finds himself. Traveller also provides a random system for mapping and populating star systems and planets.

AD&D was never like this, and honestly, when I rolled up characters way back a long time ago, coming up with backstory was probably the furthest thing from my mind, and the hindsight of 30-plus (cough) years certainly helps.

I’d like to thank my son, Logan for helping me roll the dice on these characters, and for asking what all of the numbers mean. It was a fun project and it afforded me the opportunity to pass on a bit of my love of role playing to him.

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