Thursday, January 27, 2022

Traveller in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

 On day 27 of the #CharacterCreationChallenge I take to the spaceways of 1977! 

I've been noodling with Traveller a lot lately as it's what my play group has voted upon for 2023 when we finish our Mutant City Blues game, but I've seldom made a character myself. So lets rectify that. Like some of the older games I've been looking at this month, Traveller uses the character creation not just as a mini-game (and a harsher mini-game than most, since you can die in character creation as a counterweight risk against pushing the system as far as you can) but as a simulationist tool. 

Once you roll your PCs stats you have to select service to join, but joining requires a die roll, with the chance of access being specific to each branch, with bonuses based on whether you meet the branches preferred criteria. (if you miss your first choice you're randomly assigned to one as a 'draft', which may put you back in your first choice. Once you're in, you serve a series of 4 year terms, with each term having a chance of your dying in action, getting a commission, getting a promotion once you're commissioned, and being able to reenlist. Getting a commission in the Navy is notoriously difficult but much easier if you're from a high social class, and promotions are slow. Getting a commission in the Army is much easier, improved with Endurance, and promotions are quick. The rules of the universe are played out in PC creation; this is all very old school, and reinforces the rules of the setting over designing your exact hero.  

Since your characters starting skills and resources (aka mustering out benefits) are dependent on how long you serve, there's a pressure to keep going, but there's always the risk of death, and older PCs start to see reduced stats. Traveller is the game of middle-aged heroes starting their second career. In my case we're looking at Zann McClintock, Solomani citizen of the empire. 

The Stat rolls were Str 4, Dex 6, End 7, Int 7, Edu 7, Soc Status 2. Weaker than average, not terribly coordinated, average otherwise and born into the lowest possible social strata. I'm picturing him having been born in the tent cities of a refugee camp of some ecologically devastated world suffering a civil war inside the Empire. 

Looking at his stats an the tables, I decided on Army as my first choice, not least because with a 7 End he makes I in with a roll of 3+. When the imperial army stepped in to end the conflict and rescue the survivors Zann saw his future, and joined as soon as he was old enough. 

The first set of rolls saw him survive his first 4 year term, get a commission and a promotion – he ends is first term at age 22 as a Lieutenant – and makes it through on reenlistment. This term gives him 4 stall checks, as well as an Rifle +1 and SMG +1 for being in the army and being a lieutenant, but with an EDU of 7 he can't access the 4th Advance training table. I put 2 of those on table 1 to get a boost to EDU, but instead get +1 Strength and Gambling. The other two rolls go on the service skills and advance training, and get Gun Combat+1 and Electronics+1. The Gun Combat needs a specialization, and even Zann's low Dexterity hits their minimum level, but I settle on SMG, so I have Rifle +1, SMG +2, Gambling +1 and Electronics +1 at the end of his first term. Is low Social Status didn't matter in the field, clearly, with the quick promotion to Lieutenant and training in electronics, but he did learn some of the more poncy members of the army never really learned to play cards or dice. 

The second set of rolls shows Zann nearly not making it through: target for Army Survival is 5+, and I roll a 3… but his 7 Edu gives a +2 on the roll. Whew! He does not manage a promotion this year with a second roll of 3, but he easily reenlists. His one skill this year gives him my desired +1 EDU. I imagine this as Lt. McClintock barely surviving a horrible conflict and spending much of this term in recovery, taking classes to improve his education during this time and set him up for future success. He's now 26 years old.

His third term he survives, receives a promotion easily (roll of 11, +1 for his EDU), and reenlists (roll of 11). Quickly becoming Captain McClintock, his two skill rolls on the now accessible second Advanced Skills tables produced Tactics twice. Returning to the field Zann serves under a commanding officer who takes him under her wing, pouring tactical knowledge and expertise into his head and giving him plenty of chances to practice it in the field. He's now 30

His 4th term shows him easily surviving and making another promotion to Major. I was going back and forth as to whether to have the 30-34 period to be his last, but I decided to roll for it, and missed it. His two skills in this term were spent on the Personal Development table to try to bring up that DEX, but it instead netted another +1 STR. A roll on the Advanced education gave another +1 Electronics. (I nearly went with the second advanced table again which would have given him +3 Tactics total, but I'm happy to be a little more diversified). At age 34 he's out of the army, due to the retirement of his mentor and the intervention of another senior officer who still saw McClintock as his social inferior (and who had lost a lot of money to him gambling). 

Now to the mustering out benefits. He gets one for each term, and another +2 for his rank. These can be on the benefits or cash table, and with his Gambling skill the cash table rolls are at +1. He ends up with another +2 EDU (which I see as his last 2 years in his last term being spent in officer training programs, which means his failure to reenlist came as a great shock), and a pair of passage vouchers to get him around the galaxy – these he's pocketing, with the Low Passage one being his way out if he ever finds himself again at rock bottom. The 3 remaining rolls on the cash table are very much in his favor, and he leaves the service with 70,000 credits in his accounts. Enough to make a start. 

Major McClintock is a skilled army officer, exceptionally good at large scale combats and electronics, who can hold his own briefly in a firefight. He's clawed himself up from the humblest beginnings and is always prepared for finding himself back in that circumstance. I've given the GM a potential benefactor in his last commanding officer and a potential rival in the officer who blocked his reenlistment. Despite his lower-than-average stats he's a worthy addition to any Traveller team. 

The character sheet for this one comes from the website Polyhedral Nonsense, who listed it as a work in progress, but I loved it so much I used its unfinished state for Zann's sheet. You can check out the site here

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