#TravellerRPG Ship Combat (Unintended Part II)

In my ship combat example from earlier, I stated that Channing M’rrfeld’s Pinnace had 8 Hull Points. Unfortunately, I was looking at the late-Oct version of the High Guard Beta document and not the December update. Using the December playtest document, the Pinnace has 16 Hull Points. So the battle continues….

When we last left Channing, his Pinnace had suffered 13 damage points in the Attack Step of Round 1. Although a devastating hit, it does not automatically trigger a Critical Hit because the Effect of the attack was less than 6 (p. 158). However, the Sustained Damage rule (p. 158) applies a Severity 1 critical hit for every 10% (rounded up) of the starting hull. (The rules just say “starting hull;” I assume they mean Hull Points not tons.) Every 10% of the starting Hull Points is 1.6, rounded up to 2, meaning the 13 damage caused 6.5 (rounded down?) or 6x Severity 1 Critical Hits. Rolling on the Critical Hits Location table (p. 158) yields the following:

  • M-Drive (Control checks at DM -1)
  • Power Plant (Thrust -1, Power -10%)
  • Armor – Reroll Fuel (Leak – lose 1D tons (roll 6) per hour – but the Pinnace only has 1 ton of fuel to start with)
  • Armor – Reroll J-Drive – Reroll Weapon (Suffer Bane when used)
  • Armor – Reroll Hull (see next hit)
  • Hull (this makes the Critical Hit Severity 2 – suffer 2D damage – roll 10)

Attack Step Summary: Channing’s Pinnace has suffered at total of 23 Hull Points damage, reducing it to zero Hull Points and a total, inoperable, unrepairable wreck (again). Even if the Hull damage had been avoided, the ship has lost maneuverability (M-Drive and Power Plant critical hits) and is out of fuel. (Interestingly, the Core Rulebook does not specifically state what happens with no fuel. One can “assume” the Power Plant doesn’t work based on the statement, “Fuel is required for both the jump drive and power plant” found on p. 145.) If, by some miracle, those critical hits had been avoided then any attacks by Channing will still suffer a Bane. Channing needs his Vacc Suit and a rescue….

Post Battle Comment: Even with the “extended” play based on a (few) additional Hull Points, it still seems that space combat in this Second Edition of the Mongoose Traveller RPG (MgT2.0) is VERY deadly. Most importantly, the fact I had to refer to playtest documents to game out even this simple scenario using the “Core Rulebook” and Common Spacecraft is intensely dissatisfying. A Core Rulebook should be playable BY ITSELF and not rely on external references. This is a clear FAILURE on Mongoose Publishing’s part.

I also question if the system will appeal to today’s gamers. I come from a sorta old-school of roleplaying games and as a long-time Traveller RPG player I am used to the “wargame-like” nature of the combat system. That said, these days I also enjoy a more narrative style of game like Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG series, Firefly (Cortex Plus), Mindjammer or Diaspora  (FATE Core), not to mention older systems like the Battlestar Galactica RPG (Cortex Classic) or something using the Savage Worlds engine. In a previous post I talked about how the Boon/Bane mechanic gives MgT2.0 a more narrative feel; the question in my mind remains, “Is it enough?”

#TravellerRPG Boon & Bane (MgT 2nd Edition)

One of the major rules changes in the new Mongoose Traveller Second Edition (MgT2.0) Core Rulebook is called “Boon and Bane.” As the Core Rulebook states:

“…there will likely be situations that arise that will make things either easier or harder for the Travellers. This is where Boons and Banes come in.” (Core Rulebook, p. 59)

When a Boon is invoked, the player will roll 3d6 and keep the two best die. Bane calls for a roll of 3d6 keeping the low two dice. To see the impact on the chances of success/failure, I recommend you look at Traveller GM and 2nd Edition playtester Shawn Driscoll’s video which graphically lays it all out.

Back in September, I was already confused about the Boon/Bane mechanic. As I wrote then:

I’m sorry – I just don’t get how task difficulty and Boon/Bane work together. Nor do I see a clear difference between task difficulty and exterior factors. Don’t get me wrong; I like the intent of the Boon/Bane mechanic (the 3D6 High/Low 2D roll makes for interesting odds and results) but the RAW are unclear as to when, or even how, Boon/Bane is applied. I would like to think it’s a narrative (role-playing) tool for the players and referee. Regrettably, the rules are silent on that issue.

As the Beta playtest continued, the use of Boon/Bane was reduced and in many cases replaced by a simple die modifier (DM). In this final version, the usage is greatly reduced compared to the early Beta. However, the rule remains. Looking at the few places Boon/Bane is used, it is finally making a bit more sense to me – but only if I make the jump in understanding that MgT2.0 is a more “narrative RPG” than I previously thought.

The eureka moment for me finally came after I read Chapter Three: Combat, Leadership (p. 72). In combat, a Traveller can make a Leadership check. The Effect of the check (if positive) is the number of Boons the leader can give to any skill checks on the same side. Conversely, if the Effect is negative, the opposing side gets that many Banes available to influence skill checks. In the FATE system, this would be called an Aspect:

“Aspects are short phrases or sentences which describe something important about your character, object or situation. You can use an aspect to gain a mechanical or narrative advantage during play….Mindjammer uses several types of aspects: game aspects, character aspects, cultural aspects, situation aspects, consequences, flaws, and boosts.” (Mindjammer: The Roleplaying Game p. 67)

I think that Boon/Bane are trying to be the MgT2.0 version of FATE aspects. The first problem is that the MgT2.0 Core Rulebook is very weak on when a Boon/Bane is applied. The closest one gets is the sidebar in Chapter Two: Skills and Tasks on p. 61:

“In the vast majority of cases, a referee simply need set a Task Difficulty and then decide whether a Boon or Bane need be applied. Any necessary Dice Modifiers will be suggested by the rules.”

In FATE Accelerated (FAE), the simplified version of FATE which I often reference to understand the core mechanic, one can invoke an aspect to give themselves a bonus (Boon?) or make things harder for their opponents (Bane?). Players can also compel an aspect; use it against themselves or others making life more complicated (Bane?) (Fate Accelerated (FAE), p. 27-29). The major difference here is the use of Fate Points. While the FATE system uses Fate Points, a similar game mechanic can be found in Savage Worlds (Bennies), or Cortex Plus (Plot Points). The lack of a similar mechanic – the Fate Point/Bennies/Plot Point economy – in Traveller is the second problem with the Boon/Bane mechanic. Without a Fate Point or similar economy, too much power potentially ends up in the referees hand.

I am now more comfortable with the Boon/Bane mechanic in MgT2.0.It will be interesting to see how it works in play, but at least now i have a better understanding, and acceptance, of the intent and usage.