There are a few things I would change about the 1977 edition of Traveller, and chief among them is to add a point-buy character generation option.
In the 1970s, the received wisdom was that you played the character the dice gave you, and were grateful for it. (Published adventures – which were largely intended to be run at conventions – often provided pregenerated characters, which also have their place and may get their own post later.)
However, point-buy allows players to create balanced characters offline by themselves, which avoids burning your first session or two creating characters using the game’s lifepath-based character generation system, and simplifies things if you’re playing by mail, email, or forum posts. (One thing I haven’t grasped about Mongoose Traveller is how connections between PCs work if you don’t know in advance how old your character will be when mustering out; but that’s not important right now.)
Point-buy also allows you to start with a character concept, rather than a set of random dice rolls, and build your PC around that. (As I often say, if I want my dreams destroyed by random events, I have real life for that.)
One thing that random generation does do is remove the need to understand the rules while generating your PC. But, I am not saying we should get rid of the random character generation in the Rules As Written, just proposing a house rule to supplement it. (That’s another 70s thing; the GM was expected, and encouraged, to add house rules to tailor the game to the group – that began to change as we moved into the 1980s, with the rise of tournament play, which required standardised rules so that you could play with a different set of complete strangers every four hours and know how the game worked whoever the GM was.)
Lots of people have created point buy systems for Traveller, which are generally too complex for my taste. Analysing characters my players and I have generated, and those in Supplement 1: 1001 Characters, I noticed that the average beginning character has 6 expertise levels – most often one skill at expertise-2 and four at expertise-1. Add that to six characteristics at 7 points each and you get 48 points, and I rounded that up to 50 both for aesthetic reasons and to give PCs a bit of an edge. So:
- First choose a career.
- You have 50 points to divide between characteristics and skills as you see fit; no characteristic may be less than 1 or more than 15. Remember that you need Education 8 to access some skills, you can use your mustering out benefits to boost Intelligence and Education, and you have to be quite old to explain a characteristic of 1.
- You can have any rank or terms of service that a character with those characteristics and skills could have achieved in the chosen career, but by default you are assumed to have the youngest, highest-ranking PC possible.
- You can choose your mustering out benefits, so long as the die rolls you would have made to get them do not exceed 3.5 points per benefit roll you would have had, rounded down. Example: With two terms and rank 1, you have 10.5 pips, rounded down to 10; you might select benefit rolls of 6, 3, and 1.
- Aging is subsumed in your points expenditure, so don’t roll for it.
- If you want to be psionic, you have to find the Institute on your own, as normal. (Otherwise you’d effectively get Cr 100K of training free, and more importantly we’d miss out on a potential adventure.)
Here’s the crew of the Dolphin as they would have started out in Traveller, reverse-engineered from the Savage Worlds PCs in the Arioniad using my normal conversion guidelines, which I think I have already posted somewhere on the blog but may reprise later.
Arion: 797787. Scout 3 terms. Auto Pistol-1, Mechanical-1, Pilot-3. Cr 40K, Scoutship.
Arion is straightforward, and the Dolphin is his scoutship. Notice that under 1977 rules, scouts only get one skill roll per term after the first, not two.
Coriander: 77778A-5. Merchant 2 terms, 4th Officer. Admin-3, Streetwise-1; Awareness-5, Special, Telepathy-4. Cr 51K.
Cori needs to be a Merchant to get the right skills, which is a surprise. It’s been established in play that she’s a psionic, can read minds, can boost characteristics, and can heal by laying on of hands, so she must have at least Awareness-5, Telepathy-4 and a special ability, heal others – this uses the rules for Regeneration under the Awareness ability. The rules recommend that a special ability requires a focus, and I thought it would be entertaining to make this “a man she loves” rather than a talisman of some sort. So she can only use this power if Arion or her father are within touching distance – notice that in play she has only ever used this power while touching Arion. She can’t heal herself, as that would duplicate the Regeneration power at a much lower level. I rolled up her psionic strength randomly; she can’t actually kill people with her brain, as she has joked in the past. Although her psi levels are almost maxed out against her psi strength, it’s still worth rolling to advance as she might find some psi-boosting drugs. We know Cori’s father is a high-ranking member of the Psionics Institute, and an archaeologist, but he hasn’t become important in the game yet. I picture the Institute using Cori as a courier to carry sensitive information between the Institute and psions on other planets, using her position in the Merchant service as a cover. Brush passes get very easy and hard to prove when you just have to think about the message.
Dmitri: 777977. Merchant 3 terms, 3rd Officer. Auto Pistol-1, Brawling-1, Gunnery-1, Jack-of-Trades-1, Streetwise-2. Cr 81K, Low Passage.
Dima is unexpectedly also an ex-Merchant; this is because in Savage Worlds Shooting qualifies you to operate ship’s weapons as well as personal ones, and we have seen Arion asking him to man the turret. I picture him having a Low Passage and some money in a secret stash, in case he needs to make a quick getaway. Usually, it’s the scout in the party who has Jack-of-Trades, but it’s actually Dmitri we have seen using it (to defuse a bomb in season 1).
Two ex-Merchants and an ex-Scout might very well know each other from encounters at starports during prior service – that hasn’t surfaced as an option in any of the other game systems I’ve used for the Arioniad.