Saturday, July 2, 2011

Traveller: Enlisting in "Other"

A friend recently agreed to begin a pbem game of Traveller with me, something I haven’t played in decades. It should be a good way to become reacquainted with the rules, and I’m tempted to buy the buy the newer 0-8 compilation softcover from Far Future since pages are starting to fall out of my little black books.

I started looking through book 1 and realized that I’m unsatisfied with the “Other” option for a chosen enlistment service. “A newly generated character is singularly unequipped to deal with the adventuring world, having neither the expertise nor the experience necessary for the active life. In order to acquire some experience it is possible to enlist in a service.” - Traveller, Book 1 (Characters & Combat), page 5. A player can choose to enlist in one of the six services: Navy, Marines, Army, Scout, Merchants, or Other. “Other” seems a ridiculously broad category, and very ripe for tweaking. Maybe this changed in later editions of Traveller?

The heavy emphasis on military service here is really off-putting to me, and maybe unrealistic or limiting in many ways. Why does a supposedly futuristic vision of interstellar travel seem to rely so heavily on concepts of military service (particularly naval) that harken back to the 17th century or earlier? That is, why is it presumed that you most likely would have served in the armed forces if you’ve made it off planet and gained valuable skills? Why couldn’t I, as a relatively middle-class citizen of relatively moderate means, simply jump into my Vogelsong Saucer, put the top down (figuratively), and cruise around my star system - or even jump to a nearby one where the Grateful Dead are playing (having been re-grown from original DNA and groomed, of course). Maybe I got mad experience from dropping acid and living on a commune, fixing up buses and building stuff. Just sayin’.

Or maybe the Star Wars rpg would be more to my liking. Does it have classes? I’ve never played that one either, and haven’t read my copy of the d6 rules yet (it’s around here somewhere). The baggage of the Star Wars movies bugs me a little, but maybe I could work around that. For what it’s worth, Space Opera might be a little better, in that it has classes where you can be an armsman (soldier), a technician, a scientist, or an astronaut (pilot/all around great guy). It comes off as a little more Star Trekky and progressive, although at least Traveller does offer the catch-all “Other” option.

I’ve also thought about using X-Plorers instead of Traveller, but it does pretty much the same thing as Space Opera: the Scientist, the Soldier, the Scout, the Technician. In a way, X-Plorers is even more irksome to those of us who shudder at the thought of being ruled by a “United Corporate Nations (UCN)” - a global political entity “composed of thousands of powerful corporations.” I get a bad taste in my mouth just thinking of playing the part of a character that works for The Man. To get around that, I could create a new character class, one that’s overtly anti-UCN. “The Hacker” comes to mind, for example, though that could be argued as being just a Scientist with heavy emphasis on the Computers skill. Page 7 offers “The PCs may be more idealistic, working for one of the colonies of the Reaches, or perhaps for a single individual’s interest…” and “..they may simply be mercenaries or smugglers…” That helps warm me to it a bit.

Back to Traveller though, I’m mighty tempted to explore that “Other” service more thoroughly, maybe laying out some specific alternative “services” that one might enlist in… “Career paths” is more descriptive of what I have in mind. The first one I want to write up is a Rock Star path - trying something a little gonzo like that with the oh-so-serious Traveller might be great fun.


Dangerous Brian said...

I'd suggest using the D6 Star Wars rules with traveller. I've never played it this way myself, but have heard good things from those who have. There are no character classes in D6 SW as such, you simply pick a concept and assign dice to skills and stats to match.

Timeshadows said...

When we were playing Traveller extensively, I used to roll up Scouts (prior to the Scouts book), and Others, almost exclusively.

Paranoia Press/FASA produced the Scouts & Assassins supplement for Traveller, and I think there was also an 'Other' book put out by Mongoose, if you'd like a little inspiration.

Another idea is to use a mashup of R. Talsorian's CyberPUNK with 'Other's, and do your criminal/hacker/revolutionary thing.

In any case, I wish your 'Other'ing goes well.

christian said...

"Maybe I got mad experience from dropping acid and living on a commune, fixing up buses and building stuff. Just sayin’."

Now you're talking. I've tried many times to get into Traveller, but I don't quite grok the 40 year old stating characters, the decidedly low-tech feel and what not. I was always a low brow, Star Frontiers goober. I felt it was much more loose, free and fun.

Keep on keepin' on,

ze bulette said...

@Brian: I really need to dig out that Star Wars book.

@Timeshadows: Great suggestions! The Paranoia Press supplement looks interesting - I wasn't able to find the "Other" book by Mongoose anywhere, was that its name? In looking for it I did run across the Dilettante book though, which has rules for entertainer careers.

@Christian: I only played SF a few times. It's the only old box set I got rid of that I haven't replaced. I'd love to see the rules again... maybe its time to visit eBay.

Brutorz Bill said...

Ze bulette you can get the Star Frontiers rules Remastered off of lulu! $10

Unknown said...

A couple of years ago I got it legally online for free. I don't know if that option is still available, but it' worth a shot.

Timeshadows said...

Well, zb, I am not finding the Other book, by them, so I suppose it was by someone else -- or a product of my fevered imagination. :D

I hope the Dilettante book fits the bill for the Others.
--Citizens of the Imperium had a few interesting Others, or was it 1001 Characters?


By The Sword said...

May I suggest the game Stars Without Number? The skill task resolution system is nearly identical to Traveller yet the characters have classes and levels and the game is compatible with old school D&D.

I have not played with the system myself but I really admire the way it is put together.

You may download the rules as a free PDF from Drivethru RPG:

Alternately I suggest you check out Mongoose's version of traveller. It's a lot like Original Traveller but they have ironed out many of the kinks in the rules. There's no more "other" option, instead they have civilian professions like the ones from Citizens Of The Imperium supplement.

Each profession has three options and a character gets at least one skill per term.

Best of luck to you.

ze bulette said...

@Brutorz Bill: Thanks! If I'd seen that before I'd completely forgotten about it. Much appreciated.

@Timeshadows: I have 1001 Characters - it's just a Rogue's Gallery thing - the Others NPCs are generated "using a modified procedure" (just basically randomizing their skills more than usual). I'll check out Citizens of the Imperium, thanks again.

@By the Sword: I've been meaning to take a closer look at Stars Without Number. For now I'm keen to play something I've already played (though not in a long time). Nostalgia maybe, I don't care. X-P does tempt with its simplicity though. Maybe I can find some of Mongoose's Traveller at a local game store - thanks for the suggestion.

Unknown said...

Stars W/O Numbers is truly excellent (and Diaspora is not too shabby as well), but nothing beets the original Traveller is nostalgia is what your looking for. What about that Citizens of the Imperium supplement. I seem to recall a bunch of non-military classes (and a few extra military classes like wet navy as well).

Desert Scribe said...

Seems that Traveller is set up that way to give characters the background and resources that will enable them to survive the dangerous situations that make up the game. In the default setting, your average galactic citizen wouldn't have his own starship.

Book 6: Scouts and Book 7: Merchant Princes offer alternative backgrounds that are less military in nature.

Pulp Herb said...

Other was addressed several ways:

1. The afore mentioned "Citizens of the Imperium" supplement, which was like 1001 Characters but with rules for 12 more characters.

2. At least once in Dragon: The Other Option in issue 35 which broke other down a la Mercenary

Dragon also had a lot of alternate careers in its run: athletes, clerics, spies, secret police, nobility, police, and rouges.

ze bulette said...

Thanks for the suggestions all. The amount of Traveller material out there can be overwhelming...

@Herb: I have a copy of Dragon #35, I’ll look that up.

@John Adams: Thanks for stopping by - I think we’re going to try some homebrew X-P down the road once we scratch the Traveller itch. I look forward to seeing the upcoming X-P supplements.

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