Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Painful Traveller Character Generation Experience

I’ve been taking a break from the blog, watching tons of baseball instead of posting here, but we have still been playing our S&W and OSRIC games. Nothing terribly post-worthy has happened in those games, so I’ve refrained from writing up any detailed session journals here. In our S&W game, Aleger the dwarf rejoined the group - turns out his brother was killed by kobolds a while back when the two had sought to investigate a mine they’d inherited. Aleger had been frequenting prominent taverns in the Dordogne before finally stumbling upon Wagstaff and his mostly newer, local companions.

Tonight Nick and I got together online via Skype to follow up on the idea of our Traveller game via email. Character generation turned out to be a real drag, as Nick’s dice throws continually ended up killing his PCs before they could muster out of service and actually become playable. None of them got into their 3rd term. He tried first with the Merchants, then the Army, and then “Other.” I haven't gotten around to picking up Citizens of the Imperium anywhere - I’m reluctant to invest any money on this Traveller experiment before we find out whether we can have any fun with it. Using “Other” though, we decided that one character was a famous musician/band member. He survived his first term (age 26?), learning the Electronic and Jack-of-all-Trades skills, before once again failing his survival throw. So we decided he’d overdosed and tried again. What the hell!

On his next attempt, he finally mustered out alive (albeit after only one term of service) but still managed to reap a 50,000 CR cash allowance as a Scout, along with an automatic pistol. Nick didn’t like any of this, being totally unfamiliar with classic Traveller. He seemed really unimpressed so far, but still agreed to do a one or two-shot. I tend to think that if we'd tried to roll up several more characters it might not have been so bad, but to be safe I just suggested that we use some pre-gens.

At that point I decided to describe X-P to him in some detail and how it was very similar to OD&D’s simplicity and he seemed more open to that. What he really wanted to play, turns out, was a post-apocalyptic game. Soooo, I got out the Mutant Future rules and we quickly rolled up two characters there. I became a little worried when he rolled on the mutations table and one character got Weak Will and the other Pain Sensitivity, but at least they’ll see gameplay.


John M. said...

One doesn't have to die on a failed survival roll. In our game failed roll = reroll -- 2 = death, normal fail = some sort of disability or permanent condition, perhaps marooned or prison for 1-6 years. No fail = no further advancement in that career. 11 or 12 saves with some sort of blemish on their record. If you don't want that character to die, a roll of 2 or 3 means grievous disability or condition of some sort.

A little imagination and the failed survival roll can flesh out a character nicely.

John M. said...

Oh yeah, forgot to mention another house rule: a failed survival roll that results in no further advancement can also mean a career change, thus creating an even more versatile character. If you're using Book 1, it means one can either join the Scouts or Other. With the more advanced character books, there are more options.

ze bulette said...

Thanks John, those are excellent suggestions.

I agree that it might be interesting and more fun to devise ways to deal with this character death during creation thing - if I hadn't originally had in mind little more than scratching a nostalgic itch with Traveller I think we might have come up with something like your ideas here. There's a part of me that really just wanted to follow the rules as written though, to see where they take us and what impression is left after not having played it in 20+ years.

I haven't personally seen anything quite like Traveller's character generation in other game systems; maybe last night's newb experience is one reason why.

Adam Dickstein said...

I have a chart I used to use for failed survival rolls that basically indicated you got discharged from the service dishonorably or were fired from a non-military occupation. You loose the last term mustering out benefits but may gain something from the experience.

For example, the random d66 chart included losing an eye or limb and getting a cybernetic replacement, having a psionic 'episode', being disgraced or kicked out but someone knows the real deal and is now a contact you 'owes you one', etc.

ze bulette said...

@BA: That sounds excellent too. I wonder how common it was back in the day for GMs to come up with similar charts or other methods for dealing with failed survival rolls.

DaveL said...

There are a lot of games out there. Many of them are quite good overall, but have some FLAWS. D&D is heavily flawed in many areas, but didn't stop us from playing it. Traveler has some flaws too, I found CharGen to be clunky, time consuming, and irritating, especially if your character dies before you get to play him/her. So, reroll. What's the problem? It's CHARACTER GENERATION, for goodness' sakes, are you afraid the GDW time travelling rule nazi's are going to take your dice away? C'MON, QUIT SCREWING AROUND AND ROLL A CHARACTER!!!!

ze bulette said...

@DaveL: haha, yeah - me, I actually like the system! I think it's a fun little game unto itself. I'll relay your thoughts to Nick though. ;)

DaveL said...

I'm not against it, per se, but I haven't much patience with things that prevent me from "getting on with it," stupid rules, or things that just take a long time without any obvious benefit/payoff at the end. My two cents, anyway.

Unknown said...

I've always liked the Char-gen minigame of Traveller.

I need to implement something similar for my LL game.

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