My 2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition (Mongoose Publishing, 2008)

Having started my tabletop roleplaying game life using the Traveller Little Black Books in 1979, I eagerly embraced the “new” Mongoose Traveller (MgT) when it appeared in 2008. While there was plenty of familiar aspects in character generation, there also were some differences that really stood out to me. The two most jarring were “Level 0” skills and the fact that death in character generation was now an optional “Iron Man” rule.

Truth is I rather liked the Mongoose Traveller rules—at least the first edition. The rules were in many ways a cleaned up version of the Little Black Books. I would play MgT for many years…at least until the Second Edition arrived. More on that later.

Young Agne

Strength B (+1 DM) / Dexterity 8 / Endurance 7 / Intelligence 8 / Education B (+1 DM) / Social 9 (+1 DM)

[MgT is the first time I recall seeing a by-rule Characteristic DM used in Traveller. The rule totally makes sense but it it can have an outsized impact on a 2d6 die roll.]

A Merchanting We Will Go

[One part of MgT character generation I really like is the checklist approach. It is actually rather well laid out and easy to follow. Like most Traveller character generation systems it’s also fast.]

Agne grew up on an otherwise nondescript Industrial planet (Background Skill – Trade 0) and gained some education in how bureaucracies work (Education – Admin 0). as soon as he turned 18 he joined the Merchant Marine as a Crewman (R0). His Basic Training teaches him Drive (Wheeled) 0 / Vacc Suit 0 / Broker 0 / Steward 0 / Comms 0 / Persuade 0.

Agne’s first term becomes very important to him as he meets a great mentor (Life Event – New Contact). He advances to Senior Crewman (R1) and learns how to pilot a spacecraft (Pilot- Spacecraft 1) as well as Mechanic 1 and Advocate 1.

[Life Events and Mishaps are intended to make “connections” or plot seeds for characters. Having an event each term seems a bit excessive to me; maybe my life has been too boring?]

In Agne’s second term he stays in the Merchant Marine and continues to network amongst traders (Life Event – Gain Contact). He does more extravehicular work (Vacc Suit 1) but fails to promote.

Sensing a change of pace is needed, for Agne’s third term he uses his contacts to sign on to a Free Trader. This change has immediate career benefits as he learns more of the “people” side of the business (Diplomat 1) as well as improving his piloting skills (Pilot-Spacecraft 2) and learning how to pilot a Small Craft (Pilot-Small Craft 1). He “advances” to R2 but is still just a “crewman.”

Now 30 years old, Agne continues as a Free Trader for his fourth term. He goes “back to school” for some training and acquires Sensors 1, Engineer-Electronics 1, and Engineer-Maneuver 1. He is rewarded by “advancement” to Experienced Trader (R3) which also means he has learned a bit of everything (Jack of All Trades 1).

It is Agne’s fifth term that life goes sideways. Lots of trade with airless frontier moons means more Vacc Suit expereince (Vacc Suit 2) but he gets caught up in a war (Mishap!) which forces him out of business but not before he learns a bit about pistols (Gun Combat-Pistols 1).

Agne leaves the Merchant Service after 20 years of service ranked as an Experienced Trader. He musters out with 20,000 Credits, a Blade, and two (2) Ship’s Shares.

The Quiet Bulldog

Agne decides he wants to go into business for himself, but he doesn’t have much to start with. He finds a 20-year old Far Trader that he gets on discount at 9% (see Old Ships rule on page 136 of the Mongoose Traveller Pocket Edition). Adding in his Ship’s Shares he is able to acquire a “gently used” ship for an 11% discount as long as he doesn’t mind the chemical spills in the cargo bay or the extra maintenance effort (+1 DM). This means his mortgage is “only” 45,733,095 Cr. or 190,555 Cr per month plus 4,383 Cr per month maintenance and another 20,600 for Life Support. Agne needs to clear at least 215,538 Cr. each month…not counting crew salaries.

Fortunately, Agne has his old mentor-contact that is willing to stake him to start his new life as Pilot-Owner of The Quiet Bulldog. Now all he has to do is, “Find a crew, find a job, keep flying.”

Agne T’vern, Pilot-Owner The Quiet Bulldog

  • Agne T’vern / UPP B878B9 / Age 38 / 5-Term Merchant – Experienced Trader
  • Skills: Admin 0 / Advocate 1 / Broker 0 / Comms 0 / Diplomat 1 / Drive-Wheeled 0 / Engineer-Electronics 1 / Engineer-M Drive 1 / Gun Combat-Pistols 1 / Jack of All Trades 1 / Mechanic 1 / Persuade 0 / Pilot-Small Craft 1 / Pilot-Spacecraft 2 / Sensors 1 / Steward 0 / Trade 0 / Vacc Suit 2
  • Credits: 20,000
  • Contacts: 2 (1x Life-long mentor)

Pilot-Owner The Quiet Bulldog, a 20-year old Far Trader with chemical spills in the cargo bay and extra difficult maintenance.


Feature image from the TV series Lost in Space courtesy imdb.com

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

My 2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – Failing d20 Modern with The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook (Mongoose Publishing, 2004)

I’ve mentioned it before, but if if you go back through this blog and look at my tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) history, you will not find Dungeons & Dragons. You will find lots of Traveller RPG, but not the other grandparent of the hobby. So to show you how really dark my RPG milieu from 1994 to 2005 was, we’re going to talk d20.

In that dark milieu I was desperately seeking a new role-playing game system. As much as I loved Traveller I felt that it wasn’t “fresh” anymore. Someway, somehow, I “heard” that you could play an RPG in a modern setting using a variation of the D&D rules. All you had to do was get this thing called a “Handbook.” So I searched, and in those early-Internet days I found a publisher all the way across the pond in the UK called Mongoose Publishing that sold this thing called The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook (Mongoose Publishing, 2004) for a very respectable price of $19.99. So I bought one. The first envelope arrived—empty. Fortunately an appeal to the publisher resulted in another copy being shipped “With Compliments.”

Sitting down, I immediately started out to try to make a character…and failed. What went wrong?

Remember, I had not touched any of the d20 D&D world. I had no idea about “Edition Wars.” Most confusing was the text on the back of the book that talked about something called, “Modern OGL rule set.” What the heck is OGL?

Little did I realize then, I had encountered what I later learned was called a System Reference Document, or SRD. As the back book matter states:

The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook is a simple guide to the world’s most popular Modern roleplaying game system. It contains exactly what a reader need to play the game and nothing else.

With this guide to the intricacies of the Modern OGL rules set, Players and Games Masters can make use of any other setting material or devise their own for a campaign that is uniquely theirs while still retaining the basic framework of the Modern OGL game. If it is a basic rule covering character creation, combat, equipment, vehicles, creatures or magic, it has a home in these pages.

Back matter, The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook, 2004

Way too slowly did I realize that The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook is not a fully formed RPG but just like it says a basic, generic, set of rules. Still, you can create characters and put them in your own setting, right?

Creating a modern character is a simple, but well-detailed, process that requires several basic steps.

“Modern Characters,” The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook (2004), p. 18

Reading through the Modern Pocket Handbook I jumped to the character creation chapter. The first step to making a character in is to pick an occupation. This was familiar given my Traveller RPG history. Then I encountered classes.

Wha?

What I came to realize years later was that many of the “classes” in The Modern Pocket Handbook were actually archetypes. Further, like The Babylon Project before this, you don’t really randomly create a character, you methodically “develop” them.

As I worked though the Modern Pocket Handbook I encountered classes and talents and feats in character creation. What also threw me off was the lack of a setting. The last real “setting-less” rules set I used was my original Traveller RPG, but even that one had moved to the Third Imperium setting rather quickly.

I also realized that character creation chapter skipped a major part of character creation; abilities. For that you had to go back to the first chapter of handbook that discussed concepts.

Each character in a d20 game has six basic abilities.

“Ability Scores,” The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook (2004), p. 5

After learning all about occupations and classes and skills and talents and feats I tried to make a character using the Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook. I wanted to introduce you to Joe Mundane. But I can’t. The book simply does not give me the “ability” to do so. Really.

Nowhere in The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook is there a single sentence on how to generate the basic ability scores. No “roll a d20.” No “roll d20-2” or “Roll d20+1.” Nothing. Zilch. Nada. So how do I even start? Since I was not a d20 player, I had no “background” material to look at to see how others did it.

I didn’t look further…I just gave up and moved along.

Only later did I find another version of the Modern SRD and then have the confidence to make my own decision as to how to establish initial Ability scores. That time came only after I became more aware of different RPG system designs and actually paid close attention to the math behind the numbers.

As poor as my expereince with The Mongoose Modern Pocket Handbook was I did learn a few things:

  • I learned what an SRD is.
  • I learned about the Open Game License (OGL)
  • I discovered Mongoose Publishing which in a few years grew into a love/hate relationship with Mongoose Traveller.

What I didn’t learn was how the d20 system worked in play. This would take another few years to change…but (not-so-spoiler alert) not for the better. For the time being, my dark RPG age continued.

Pocket sized but not complete…

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

My 2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – The Babylon Project (Chameleon Eclectic, 1997)

Babylon 5 is one of my favorite sci-fi TV series. As I wargamer I certainly was entertained by the ship battles, and even went so far as to buy the ship combat wargame Babylon 5 Wars from Agents of Gaming (1997). Around that same time, there was another Babylon 5 ship combat wargame based on the Full Thrust set of rules by John Tuffley found in the Earthforce Sourcebook (Chameleon Eclectic, 1997) supplement to a new role-playing game, The Babylon Project. Since the wargame and the RPG seemed to go together, I got both. Twenty-five years later, I still enjoy the Earthforce Sourcebook ship combat rules. On the other hand, The Babylon Project is little more than a footnote in my RPG history. Like I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the period of 1996 to 2005 was a dark milieu of role-playing games for me. The Babylon Project certainly cast a “shadow” in over that dark, forgettable time.

Photo by RMN

This Really Ain’t Traveller…

In every RPG I had played before The Babylon Project character generation was by die roll. In a major change of pace, characters in The Babylon Project are not “generated” but instead “developed” through a thought exercise. At first I was totally lost—where are the die rolls and tables? As much as I loved the setting, this was totally NOT what I expected in an RPG. So I bounced off the game system very hard. It also didn’t help that the Task Resolution system was the polar opposite of character generation with a seemingly endless demand for table lookups Even this Grognard wargamer had difficulty with multi-step combat resolution system that had table after table…for what? Even worse, The Babylon Project uses 2d6 but not in the traditional sense; here you have “The Random Modifier” where you roll a “positive” die and a “negative” die and generate a result from +5 to -5. Sigh…

In the last 25 years I have occasionally revisited The Babylon Project and while I really enjoy the Gamemaster advice and setting material, I have never really been able to get into the character generation part of the system. I will admit however, that this time around it was a bit better. Maybe this is because after 25 years I understand more about life and understand what happens in different eras of aging.

Attributes

The first part of character development that surprised me in The Babylon Project was that you don’t roll for attributes. Instead, you started with a list based on your race and do a maximum +2/-2 exercise to “customize” that you wanted. This approach demands you know at the beginning of character development what you want the outcome to be. This was an approach I was not at all ready for; up until this point the only RPGs I had played were ones that I “rolled up” characters. While some systems gave me a degree of flexibility and choice during character generation, for the most part you “took what you got” at the end of the process. I was used to and very comfortable with this approach; I think it actually makes for a better RPG player because you have to truly role-play what you got, not what you dreamed up.

Childhood-Development-Adulthood

When developing a character in The Babylon Project, you go through a thought process that asks you to imagine your character in three eras of their life. You think about what they did in Childhood, then their Development years, and finally what they did in Adulthood. Along the way you pick out skills and characteristics. Again, this demands a good amount of prior player “knowledge” of what the outcome of character development will be.

When I first ran into The Babylon Project I was around 30 years old and not far into a military career. I certainly could relate, but not fully understand, what I learned and experienced in my childhood years. I was truly in the midst of my Development years and was still unsure what Adulthood really would bring. So to ask me to make a fully formed character was in some ways asking a bit much. Today, I am a quarter century older with my own children, some of whom are in those Development years already. My perspective on life gives me insights I didn’t have before. Developing a character for The Babylon Project is now a totally different experience.

J’Mak – A Reputable Business…Narn?

Meet J’Mak, a Narn trader. Well, J’Mak looks like a Narn trader. He acts like a Narn trader. He even owns a small fleet of merchant ships like a Narn trader. What only a few people know (though others suspect) is that J’Mak is much more than a trader. Rumor has it that if you want arms shipped to or from certain areas of space J’Mak is your go-to contact. Centauri intelligence absolutely believes J’Mak is a secret arms trader; the Earthforce seem less convinced. The members of the Non-Aligned Worlds seem more than happy to do business with J’Mak…though few talk about exactly “what” that business is.

A Terrified Childhood

J’Mak was born in the last years of the Centauri occupation of Narn. This was a brutal time, and J’Mak is Haunted (characteristic) by memories of losing family members to the Centauri occupiers in a brutal fashion. He also became a bit Paranoid (characteristic) about losing anything to the Centarui. In these early years, he learned to draw on Religion (skill) for personal strength but also excelled in Athletics (skill) that he often used for Survival (skill) and Hiding (skill).

Fanatical Development

The end of the Centauri occupation of Narn occurred just as J’Mak was coming of age. He eagerly joined the space forces. He learned how to Pilot (skill), Navigate (skill), handle (Shiphandling skill) and fight (Tactics and Weapons Systems skills) a starship. He also learned how to handle himself in a fight (Unarmed and Ranged skills) as well as bit of the Human language (skill). J’Mak was Fanatical (characteristic) and Proud (characteristic) of his service.

Adult Respectability

J’Mak left the service and quickly established his own small merchant trading company (Assets characteristic). For a Narn that was fanatical, he has become a very Dedicated (characteristic) businessman (skill). He has learned the art of Diplomacy (skill) and is recognized as a Savvy (skill) dealer while also being very versed in Human Law (skill).

Along the way J’Mak also picked up some skill in Driving and Investigation. He is even a bit famous (characteristic). Or is that infamous?

J’Mak – Narn Trader and regular visitor to Babylon 5…

Attributes (scale of 1-6): Charm 6 (+2) / Finesse 4 / Presence 5 (-1) / Xenorelations 5 (+2) / Intelligence 5 / Insight 5 / Wits 4 / Perception 4 / Strength 5 (-1) / Agility 4 (-1) / Endurance 5 (-1) / Coordination 5 / Toughness 0 / Initiative 4 / Resolve 5

Learned Skills

Primary Skill: Business 4 (Operations, Merchant)

Secondary Skills: Diplomacy 3 (Obfuscate, Persuade) / Law 3 (Human, Centauri) / Savvy 3 (Underworld, Human)

Tertiary Skills: Hiding 2 (Conceal) / Investigate 3 (Research) / Shiphandling 2 (Freighter) / Combat, Ranged 2 (Handgun) / Language, Human 3

Characteristics

  • Haunted by memories of family deaths during the Occupation
  • Paranoid and unable to ever trust a Centauri
  • Fanatical to the goal of Narn rising
  • Proud of his efforts to rebuild Narn
  • Outwardly Dedicated to his business (a ruse)
  • Inwardly Dedicated tot he fall of Centauri
  • (Assets – 3x freighters)
  • Famous and a popular businessman (Infamous as as gun runner)

Skill Check

If character development was a thought exercise, Task Resolution is a table heaven. Let’s say J’Mak has been approached sumggle arms by a contact he has never met before. Before signing on for the contract, J’mak decides to do a little “background check” on his potential client. This will require him to use his Investigation skill and let’s say he is using his Research Specialty to ask about. The Gamemaster decides this will use his Intelligence Attribute. The client is being vague and evasive with providing background information, so the GM decides this is a Difficult task,

  • J’Mak has an Ability of Intelligence 5 + Investigate 3 + Specialty +2 for a total of 10
  • The player rolls a Random Modifier (Good d6 – Bad d6) or 3-2 = +1
  • Ability (10) + Random Modifier (+1) = 11 which EQUALS a Difficult Task.

J’Mak has a “Marginal Success.” He uncovers that his client has some indiscernable shady past but can’t find any connection to an intelligence service. J’Mak goes ahead with the contract, but asks for a bit extra of a premium to cover potential “complications.”

Of course, when making the delivery that “complication” arrives. Just as the cases are being dropped, a “concerned” bystander pulls out a PPG and opens fire! The bad gang member’s first shot drops one of J’Mak employees, but J’Mak now has a chance to draw his PPG and open fire.

  • This is a Ranged Combat situation
  • Bad Gang Guy is standing 8 m from J’Mak making the Ranged Attack Difficulty = Average
  • J’Mak aims for the center of mass of the bad guy (Default Aim Point – No Modifier)
  • J’Mak’s Ability is Agility 4 + Combat, Ranged 2 + Handgun Specialty +2 = 8
  • The Random Modifier is 5-1 = +4
  • J’Mak’s attack of 12 EXCEEDS the Average Difficulty (7) by 5…a Significant Success and Aim Point hit
  • A PPG has Damage Rating = 12; Bad Gang Guy is not wearing any armor but has a Toughness of 1 reducing Damage to 11
  • Cross-referencing Damage 11 to a Torso hit on the Immediate Damage Effects Table yields Stun=2 / Impair= 2
  • Random Modifier roll for Stun is -2; Bad Gang Guy is STUNNED and cannot act next turn…
  • …which is a good thing as the combat ends next round
  • Turns out Big Bad Guy is a local crimelord (Major NPC) so Final Wounds are determined
  • Hit in the Torso is No Damage Modifier so Final Damage is 11
  • The Bleed Shift for a PPG is -1; Big Bag Gang Guy is bleeding but will not bleed out
  • By table look-up the Final Impairment number is 4 (this is a -DM to actions)
  • As the damage is greater than 8 we look up and see Big Bad Gang Guy suffers a broken bone.

As you can see, combat in The Babylon Project is far from streamlined. This is another reason I don’t play this much at all.

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – My retro-foundations first milieu (1979-1986) #RPGThursday

So far, my 2022 tabletop roleplaying game character generation challenge has been a great trip down memory lane. For myself, my first “milieu” of the roleplaying game hobby was the years 1979 to 1986. In many ways, these years form the foundation of my roleplaying game hobby views. Alas, after this point, I entered college and, though I still kept in touch with RPGs, the truth was I was distracted. As you will see, my second milieu of gaming doesn’t pick up again until 1993.

Looking back over the seven earliest games in my collection, one should immediately notice that the 800 lb gorilla of the hobby, Dungeons & Dragons, is not there. Although I had friends who played D&D, it never grabbed me. I was a science fiction and military history fan and not a strong reader of fantasy fiction. So I stuck with games more in my wheelhouse; Classic Traveller, Behind Enemy Lines, James Bond 007, FASA Star Trek, Paranoia, Twilight: 2000, and Traveller: 2300.

From 1979 to 1986, the foundational roots of my RPG hobby were laid. Classic Traveller remains a favorite game. Behind Enemy Lines, with the emphasis on “adventuring through encounter tables,” is worthy of deeper analysis. James Bond 007 remains one of the best cinematic depictions in an RPG. FASA Star Trek would influence Star Trek: The Next Generation. Paranoia is still the dark-humor standard of the hobby. Twilight: 2000 created such an intriguing world that even the end of the Cold War could not kill it off and a new edition is out in 2021. Traveller: 2300 may be a step-child of Traveller, but its influences back into space opera Traveller, and eventually even TV shows like The Expanse should be noted.

This retro look at my roleplaying games, though focused on character generation, has reminded me of other reasons I long for the simple days of the retro beginning of the hobby.

  • Classic Traveller is technically setting-less—the Third Imperium setting came along after the three Little Black Books. Adventures are driven by encounters and patrons. So simple; so fun.
  • Behind Enemy Lines is build around missions, but within each mission one moves from encounter to encounter.
  • James Bond 007 came with missions based on familiar movies, but they are changed up in ways that make each familiar, yet very unknown. Such excellent writing.
  • FASA Star Trek is a “bridge-crew” focuses adventure, but once again the lack of canon made exploring the setting so much fun. Later supplements like The Klingons are still amongst my most favorite.
  • Now that I am older, I really understand the humor behind Paranoia better. Too bad all the snowflakes of today wouldn’t be able to handle it (“I died? But…I spent hours in the coffee shop developing my backstory!”).
  • Twilight: 2000, while maybe the most mechanically complex game, is really a medieval world with modern weapons.
  • Traveller: 2300 is under-appreciated and arguably made a very significant (albeit very behind the scenes) contribution to the world of The Expanse.

In 1986, my first milieu of gaming was coming to a close. The next milieu, which I call the “My Lost Traveller D20 Years” would start in 1993 and run though 2005. As I will show you over the next few posts, it wasn’t such a great time for my RPG hobbying.

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – Hard traveling the stars with Traveller: 2300 1st Ed. (Game Designers’ Workshop, 1986) #RPGThursday

By the time 1986 rolled around, I had been a Traveller RPG player for seven years. Surprisingly, while the Traveller rules had moved on from (Classic) Traveller in the Little Black Books to The Traveller Book and MegaTraveller, I had not kept up. As a high school student who was into both roleplaying games and wargames, my budget couldn’t support constantly “buying up” into new rules systems (more honestly, I was big into the science fiction wargame Star Fleet Battles and spent the majority of my money there). However, when GDW released a “new” Traveller game called Traveller: 2300 I eagerly bought the base set and the boxed ship combat game, Star Cruiser.

…and I was confused.

Traveller: 2300 took place around the year 2300AD but the game was, well, very un-Traveller. The setting was based on the events started in Twilight: 2000 and were totally unrelated to the Third Imperium history found in Classic Traveller. This created much confusion for me and anger among others as many loyal Traveller-player accused GDW of deceit. Later, GDW would “clarify” this confusion by renaming this setting/rules set as simply 2300AD.

Traveller: 2300 billed itself right on the box cover as, “Playable Realism in Science Fiction Role-Playing.” Whereas Classic Traveller was (classic) space opera, Traveller: 2300 attempted to hue to a more realistic, or hard sci-fi, gaming experience. The result was a setting that tried to be more realistic, like the inclusion of a Near Stars map that was based on reality, and not a randomized die-driven star map generation system like that found in Traveller.

Fortunately, though Traveller: 2300 grew from the Twilight: 2000 setting, the former did not use the character generation or task resolution mechanisms of the later. At this time, GDW was moving towards a “house” rules system and eventually the rules for MegaTraveller, Traveller: The New Era, Twilight: 2000 2nd Ed., and 2300AD would share commonalities. For now, though, Traveller: 2300 led the change with a return to a relatively simple character generation system that again emphasized career paths.

[The Task Resolution System in Traveller: 2300 uses 1d10 against a difficulty: Simple 3+, Routine 7+, Difficult 11+, Formidable 15+, and Impossible 19+. Crucial Characteristics (Attribute/5) and Crucial Skills serve as positive die modifiers. For instance, to drive a vehicle evasively is Routine, Driver, Absolute (1 action in combat round) where the die roll required is 7+ and the relevant driver skill serves as a positive DM. I remember being really confused about Tasks as the Referee was encouraged to build a notecard set as different tasks were created. Are you telling me the game didn’t come with any tasks? It took me a bit but I eventually figured out how a Referee colud make a task on the fly—pick a difficulty, determine which skills or characteristics were assets, and chose a time interval.]

Unlike Twilight: 2000 with its extensive Character Generation Worksheet, Traveler: 2300 returned to a relatively simple process and a character sheet that could be on a 3×5 notecard if needed. The rules for Character Generation were found in the Player Manual and for the most part was reduced to a one-page checklist. In my box I found a home-made “player’s handbook” which included the checklist page and the two pages of the Skills List stapled together and folded in half—easy to stash in a notebook. The process is so well laid out for this character generation challenge I started by simply going down the checklist. Amazingly, I had to refer to the Player Manual only a few times, and if I was a regular player of Traveller: 2300 the few check-ups would probably be done once and not needed again.

Building Storm

I’m going to walk yo through the process of generating Leonard ‘Leo’ Storm, an American hailing from the normal-gravity frontier colony Ellis (Pick Nationality, Frontier/Core?, Homeworld, Homeworld Gravity). His basic body type is “Endomorph;” short and stocky they suffer less from the effects of extreme gravity and acceleration and often make good pilots.

Physical Attributes

[Usually 4d6-4 for a range of 0-20; Characteristic divided by 5 often used as an asset (+DM) to task resolution.]

Size – 12 / Strength – 12 (Normal G, 11 in High-G, 10 in Low or Zero-G) / Dexterity – 13 (Normal G, 14 in High-G, 12 in Low G, and 11 in Zero-G) / Endurance – 14

Psychological Attributes

[Usually 4d6-4]

Determination – 13 / Intelligence – 11 / Eloquence – 11 / Education – 10

Background and Career

Characters gain a number of Background Skills equal to Education/2. There is a separate list of Frontier and Core background skills to chose from. Of note, skills are usually purchased at a rate of Skill Level/2 (round up).

Leo decides to enter the Scouts which is an Exploratory Career. This gives him a set of Initial Training Skills. Leo faces his first “Turning Point” at five years.

[Unlike Classic Traveller’s set four-year terms, Traveller: 2000 uses the concept of a Turning Point to determine “term” length. A Turning Point comes a number of years based on a d10 die roll. In the case of Leo, his first Turning Point was five years. When a Turning Point is reached, characters gain skill points equal to the number of years that can be used to purchase new skills. Each career defines Primary and Related Skills; Primary Skills are purchased at 1/2 point per skill level, Related Skills at double-cost, and purchasing an unrelated skill will cost triple. At every Turning Point an Easy, Determination Task Roll must also be passed to continue on. In the case of Leo, he must roll 3+ on 1d6 with a +2DM based on his Determination attribute. Leo’s first Turning Point was after five years and he continued on to a second Turning Point after another 8 years. At this point I could roll to continue on but decided to stop and finalize the character.]

Skills

[Rated on a scale of 0-10; crucial skills often used as a +DM on Task Resolution]

Aircraft Pilot-2 / Astronomy / Combat Rifleman-1 / Electronic-2 / Ground Vehicle-1 / Mechanical-2 / Melee-2 / Pilot-2 / Sidearm-2 / Survival-2 / Trader-1 / Vacc Suit-2

Character Finalization

Eyesight – Average / Hearing – Excellent / Appearance – Attractive

Consciousness – 2 / Life Level – 4 (see the Errata sheet correcting a major error in the Player Manual!)

Mass – 126 kg / Encumbrance – 48 kg / Throw Range – 96 m / Coolness Under Fire – 5

Native Language – English (no secondary language)

Money: Lv13,000

Leonard ‘Leo’ Storm was always itching to get off the frontier world of Ellis. He always thought there was much more out there in the Black. After being a Scout for 13 years, Leo isn’t so sure about his dreams. Life in the Scouts devolved into boredom as they just pushed the end of the American Arm and kept coming up empty. Leo has decided to leave the Scouts and go free-lance for the large Corporations. Last time out near the end of the Arm he heard rumors of “beasts from beyond” but laughed it off as soon as the next round of beers arrived. Funny thing is, he keeps hearing that rumor over and over again…

Storming Out

Even having not picked up Traveller: 2300 in many years, the process for character generation was fast, as in I made this character in around 20 minutes even with a few references to the Player and Referee Manuals. After the last few games, like James Bond 007, FASA Star Trek, and Twilight: 2000 that all seemed to be trending toward more complicated character generation processes, Traveller: 2300 was (relatively) a return to simplicity.


Feature image Beagle Class Scout – by Laurent Esmiol 

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

2022 #TTRPG CharGen Challenge – Bright memories of Twilight: 2000, 1st Ed. (Game Designers’ Workshop, 1984) #RPGThursday

Frank Chadwick. It’s a name I usually associate with wargame design, but as I look at my early roleplaying games it’s a name I also repeatedly see. Mr. Chadwick is credited as “Game Designer” for Traveller Book 4: Mercenary (GDW, 1978) and in Behind Enemy Lines (FASA, 1982). In 1984 he designed another game, Twilight: 2000 1st Ed. (GDW). My familiarity with the name built up expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed. When I first saw Twilight: 2000 (T2K) I thought it was the coolest military roleplaying game ever. Here was a roleplaying game set in today, and you could play Army soldiers. It also seemed very, well, real. Everyday we lived with the knowledge that the Cold War could go hot anytime. In 1983, we all had watched the TV movie The Day After which made everybody (even President Reagan) think about what happens after the bombs. In the summer of 1984, just a few months before T2K released, the blockbuster movie was Red Dawn. Growing up in Colorado, that movie hit very close to home and we all sat around the lunch room talking about how we were all Wolverines. With T2K we did more than talk, we adventured in that unthinkable-yet-right-in-front-of-us world.

Red Dawn—A Twilight: 2000 version of a High School Documentary

What I remember of the first few sessions of T2K was…pain. Here I was, a long-time Traveller RPG player (5-year veteran at this point) and seeing a product from GDW I expected another simple character generation process. What I got was…lots of math. I mean, I could generate a character for Traveller on a 3×5 notecard. Most others games I played up to this point used a pretty simple character sheet; the most complicated one was James Bond 007 (Victory Games, 1983) but for a character sheet that looked complex generating that character was actually pretty straight-forward. In T2K, however, you need to use a Character Generation Worksheet that you then transferred to a Character Record Sheet. Furthermore, you really did need a calculator to generate a character. This was not something you could easily do in the lunchroom between sandwich bites with a few photocopied pages from a Little Black Book.

Back to Yesterday – T2K Today

Coming back to 1st Edition T2K after all these years, I have to say the Play Manual is actually pretty good. I literally was able to pick up the Character Generation Worksheet, open the Play Manual, and start making a character with almost no pre-reading.

To generate a character in T2K, you start with Basic Attributes. Using classic d6, you roll 4d6-4 for each. I had totally forgotten the Favor/Slight choices where you can chose to Favor an attribute (add to roll) while slighting another (subtracting from roll). After your Basic Attributes are rolled, well, then the math starts. Of the first 21 steps of the worksheet, a die roll is called for in only seven; the rest are calculated (and even in the ones where there is a die roll it usually acts as a randomizer in a formula).

Looking at what goes into a character in T2K, it also becomes obvious this is a very combat-oriented game. In some ways I can see a legacy from Traveller Book 4 Mercenary and Behind Enemy Lines, but T2K elevates it to another level. Hit Capacity, Throw Range, Coolness Under Fire are what concerns you the most along with combat skills. The skills in T2K read like an Army training manual, if you can understand all the acronyms. When T2K says your characters are all in the military, they mean it. As a matter of fact, I can’t see any way to generate a simple civilian. In later years, as I was in the military, we would sometimes try to “model ourselves” in T2K. Amazingly, we could get pretty close; at least, to the self we wanted to be!

Grant Worth, SSgt, US Army

  1. Basic Attributes (4d6-4)
    1. Fitness 12-8=8
    2. Agility (Favored) 12+2=14
    3. Constitution 15-4=11
    4. Stature (Slighted) 11-7-3=4
    5. Intelligence 20-4=16
    6. Education 12-4=8
  2. Total = 61
  3. Strength STR[=FIT+STA/2] = 9
  4. Hit Capacity
    1. Head [=CON] = 11
    2. Chest [=STR+CON+STA] = 24
    3. All Others [=CON+STA] = 15
  5. Throw Range [=2xSTR] = 18
  6. Weight [=(4xSTA)+40] = 56
  7. Load [=(2xSTR)+CON] = 29
  8. Military Experience Bonus [=(120-TOT)/7] = 8
  9. Time (Months) In Combat [=(MEB)D6] = d6=6 = 48
  10. Rads [=(MEB)D6] = d6=3 = 24
  11. Coolness Under Fire [=10-D6-(Time/10)] = 10-4-2 = 4
  12. Age [=(Time/12)+EDU+8+(N)D6] where N is from Table 1 = 4+8+8+(1)6 = 26
  13. Army & Nationality: US Army, USA
  14. Native Language: English
  15. Officer: NO
  16. Rank Number [=(TIME/10)+Nd6 from Table 2] = 2+3 = 5
  17. Rank: Staff Sergeant
  18. Specialty: Cavalry Scout
  19. Service Branch: Armor
  20. Benefits and Specialty
    1. Tracked Vehicle Driver 20 / Heavy Weapons 20 / Recon 20
  21. Skill Points
    1. Military [=MEDx40] = 320
    2. Education [=EDUx20] = 160
    3. Background = 300
  22. Skills – Body Combat BC 30 / Civil Engineer CVE 40 / Combat Engineer CBE 30 / Combat Rifleman CRM 30 / Computer CMP 50 / Electronics ELC 50 / Farming FRM 50 / Gunsmith GS 50 / Heavy Weapons HW 30 / Mechanic MEC 30 / Medic MED 50 / Melee Combat MC 30 / Meteorology MET 30 / Pistol PST 40 / Reconnaissance RCN 30 / Scrounging SCR 30 / Swimming SW 20 / Thrown Weapons TW 30 / Tracked Vehicle Driver TVD 30 / Wheeled Vehicle Driver 50
  23. Body Combat Damage [=(STR+STA)x(BC/200] Look up table gives “2+D6”
  24. Base Hit Numbers (Close / Med / Long)
    1. CRM 18/9/3
    2. PST 24/12/4
    3. HW 18/9/3
    4. LCG NA/NA/NA
    5. HB NA/NA/NA
  25. Equipment Purchase Allowance 24,000

Grant actually joined the US Army just before the bombs fell. Since then, he has watched the world crumble around him. Originally an M3 Bradley Cavalry Scout, few tracked vehicles remain in service and Grant has moved on to up-gunned trucks. Whenever somebody calls them”technicals” Grant just smiles because he know that, technically, bullets don’t care about trucks or tracks. While Grant has a fair bit of “technical” knowledge about computers and electronics, more and more of those systems are failing and he finds the bit he knows about farming and scrounging are far more valuable skills.

M2 Bradley during a REFORGER exercise in the 1980’s

Afterthoughts

In T2K it’s easy to make a military character, but sometimes hard to play that character in an adventure. While many people (including myself) see T2K as a combat roleplaying game, if you pay attention to the setting you will find it’s very much like Army life—long hours of boredom punctuated by a few moments of sheer terror. If one plays close to the setting, one will be spending most of their time foraging for food and goods rather than fighting. In many ways, T2K is a giant survival game.


Feature image: Stylized “urban warfare” by Terranozoid

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0