#TravellerRPG Ship Combat (Mongoose 2nd Edition)

Continuing my exploration of the new Mongoose Traveller RPG 2nd Edition (MgT2.0), today I experimented with ship combat. Using my previously generated character, Channing M’rrfeld, I laid out a simple scenario where Channing, in his Pinnace now outfitted with a Beam Laser in a fixed mount, is being pursued by a Light Fighter (p. 189). The Light Fighter mounts a Pulse Laser that has a maximum range of Long (p. 159) so this seems a good range to start the combat.

Before moving into Space Combat (Chapter 8, p. 155), I resolved Sensor actions (p. 150). This requires an Electronics (Sensors) check. Channing does not have this skill so he automatically suffers a DM -3 (Skills and Tasks, p. 56). His Pinnace outfitted with only Basic Sensors giving him a further DM -4 (p. 190). The Light Fighter is radiating using Radar/Lidar which gives him a DM +2 for counter detection (p. 151). With a roll 0f 8 and a final DM -5, Channing fails to detect the fighter (though he likely knows he is being radiated). The Light Fighter pilot has Electronics 0 (no unskilled DM) and is using Military Grade Sensors with DM 0 (p. 188) against a target running with its transponder on (DM +4, p. 146). The fighter pilot rolls 7 with a DM +4 and successful detects the Pinnace. At Long Range he has Minimal Sensor Detail (p. 150) which gives him the basic outline of the target. We now move to the Space Combat system.

Initiative: The first step in Space Combat is to determine Initiative (p. 155). Though Channing has not detected the fighter, he does know he was radiated by something so he is not surprised (p. 154). Channing possesses the skill Tactics (Naval) 1 which allows him to make a check to influence his Initiative. His roll gives him Effect +1. He will also use his Pilot (Small Craft) 1 skill and add his Thrust 5 from the Pinnace. His roll of 10 gives him a final Initiative number of 17. The Light Fighter has only Pilot (Small Craft) 1 and Thrust 6, which added to a roll of 7 gives a final Initiative number of 14.

Maneuver Step: Channing hedges his bets and spends 4 thrust on movement (p. 155) and reserves 1 thrust for Combat Maneuvering (p. 156). The fighter, trying to close range, spends all 6 points for movement. Assuming the fighter is in a stern chase, this closes the range by 2 points, meaning there are 8 more thrust points needed to change the range from Long to Medium (p. 156).

Attack Step: Channing has not detected the fighter so he cannot attack. The fighter attacks. This requires a roll of 2D + Gunner + DEX DM. Assume the fighter pilot has Gunner 0 and a DEX DM +1. He is also using Fire Control/1 in his Ships Computer meaning the fighter can conduct one automated attack with DM 0 OR grant a DM +1 to the Gunner – the fighter pilot decides to let the computer handle the attack (p. 151). Other Common Modifiers (p. 156) are Using a Pulse Laser +2, Long Range -2. Channing can react (p. 160) and try Evasive Action (Pilot) which gives the fighter pilot a DM -1 (Channing’s Pilot (Small Craft) rating). Final DM is -1. The pilot,s attack roll is 12, making his Effect +3. Pulse Lasers roll 2D for damage (roll 10) to which the Effect of the attack is added (p. 158). The result is 13 points of damage. Channing’s Pinnace has 8 Hull Points (not found in the Core Rulebook…had to reference the High Guard Beta document – FOUL!). This reduces Channing to zero Hull, meaning his Pinnace is wrecked, totally inoperable, and beyond repair (p. 158). Channing now finds himself without power or life support….

Actions Step: Given the Pinnace is “beyond repair,” none of the Actions in the Actions Step (p. 160) seem to apply. Let’s hope Channing already has a Vacc Suit on or his future will be very short!

After Action Comment: That’s it? One shot from a light fighter totally wrecks a small craft? No chance to even get into Close Range Combat (p. 162)? The out-of-combat Sensors detection is cumbersome with so many modifiers spread around the book, some in the Encounters and Sensors section and others in the Space Combat chapter. The same goes for the attack modifiers with some found in Spacecraft Operations and others in Space Combat. Finally, the fact that Hull Points are not defined in the Core Rulebook is a clear foul – to use the Core Collection of ships should NOT require purchase of High Guard!

In retrospect, the fact that the fighter had a sensor detection and Channing only had limited awareness of the threat would of made the attack roll a good candidate to use the Boon mechanic (p. 59). This could of represented the “advantage” the fighter had with its detection. Not that it would of made much of a difference….

#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.