While not the first version of Traveller that I ever played, MegaTraveller remained for a long time my favourite science fiction rules set. I played in a variety of campaigns over the years, from planetary-based cyberpunk styled urban campaigns to explorations of areas beyond the Spinward Marches and even a classic Merchants on the Go game. When I pulled down my MegaTraveller binder to write up this character I was surprised at exactly how beat up my Player’s Manual is. It may not be as abused as my original Gamma World 3e game (which I ended up replacing, twice), but it is definitely in the top 5 most abused gaming books I own.
MegaTraveller had the perfect combination of crunch and simplicity. It geared up the task resolution system from classic traveller while remaining true to the basic structure of the game so it was no problem using old modules with the new edition. It added additional opportunities to gain skills during character creation so you didn’t have to be of retirement age to have a few decent skills.
It also changed the default campaign setting drastically with the assassination of the Emperor and the beginning of a huge civil war.
Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever played in a game that actually used the “Shattered Imperium” as the setting. Most people just kept playing in whatever home-brewed game universe they had created with the random sector creation rules, or in the classic pre-civil war Imperium. The GURPS edition of Traveller even ret-conned the whole assassination, and advanced the timeline with the Imperium still solid and in place.
So, out comes my tattered and abused copy of the rule book to make a character. First thing I have to do? Remove the big insert of character generation rules from a campaign I had played in over 20 years ago – I had forgotten all about these… a dozen races, a bunch of new careers… All laser printed in an era when everyone I knew had dot-matrix printers.
To start chargen we pull out 2d6 and roll them for each of the character’s six ability scores (his Universal Personality Profile). I get results of 8, 12, 4, 7, 11, and 6. Ah-ha! Time to jump into an aside already. This was the game that introduced me to hexidecimal notation. Ability scores over 9 are recorded as letters, so a 10 is an A, an 11 is a B and so on up to F for 15. This allows a character to be quickly statted as a series of six alphanumerics without needing commas or other notation to separate the different numbers. So his UPP would be 8C47B6. The stats in order are Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence, Education and Social Standing. So we have a character who is quite well educated and very agile, but fragile.
Now we get to either choose a homeworld, or roll one up. Since I don’t know what sector the game will be in, we’ll roll up one randomly. If there are no planets that match the final homeworld in the sector we play in, he’ll be from some distant world. The system for rolling up a homeworld is different than the system used to roll up a random planet, resulting in generally higher populations and better starports for the character’s homeworlds than for a truly randomly generated planet. I get results of a B-class Starport, Large planet (10), Standard atmosphere (7), Water World (12), Moderate Population (5), No Law (2), with Average Stellar Tech (9). When converted into the standard World Profile Codes, it comes out as B85A308. So he’s from a totally lawless world that is nearly completely covered in water. Reminds me of Tyrone’s Star from that campaign I played in over 20 years ago – a water world with a few hundred water-mining and research environments scattered across its oceans.
The tech level of his homeworld has him start with Computer skill at level 0, and Grav Vehicle skill also at level 0. As long as he doesn’t take the Barbarian career path, he also starts with Gun Combat skill at level 0.
Looking at his stats, he’s well suited to enlist in the (Space) Navy, Army, Scouts, Flyers (Air Force) or Law Enforcement. I’ve made a lot of rogues, thieves and other unsavoury types so far on the blog, so I go for Law Enforcement. He needs to roll a 3+ on 2d6 to enlist after his bonuses for high Int & Dex, a 4+ to survive each term, a 5+ to get a permanent officer position and a 7+ to get a promotion each term. Law Enforcement also has one of the best Special Duty rolls of 4+, but a difficult reenlistment roll of 6+ each term. Characters advance through their pre-traveller career through a series of 4 year terms. After the fourth term, the character also starts dealing with the potential of aging penalties.
Term 1: With a roll of 5, he gets the job as a cop. A 6 means he survives the term, but a 3 on the position roll means he doesn’t get an officer position this term – he’s stuck as a low-ranking clerk or assistant this term (probably police academy and some other training and then jostling from bureau to bureau). However a roll of 8 means he gets not just special duty, but double special duty (by beating the difficulty by 4 or more) (for two additional skill rolls for the term) (we’ll go with it being special training while at the academy). And a 7 means he successfully reenlists for his next term. For his first term he gets 2 skill rolls, +2 for receiving special duties. He’ll take two Service Skills, and one roll from each of the two Advanced Education tables. He gets Gun Combat, Inborn, Tactics and Interview. Tactics and Interview are his special education skills, so we know what kind of special training he got this term. He also has to decide what to take his Gun Combat and Inborn skill levels in. I’ll grab Neural Weapons for the Gun Combat (for quick takedowns) and Leader for his Inborn skill. He also gets a free Streetwise – 1 for his first term as a law enforcer.
Term 2: Now that he’s 22, it’s time for a second term in Law Enforcement. Hopefully he gets his position this time. a 6 means he survives the term, and a 9 means that not only did he get his position (and the rank of Corporal) but he did so well that he’ll get 2 extra skill choices instead of just 1. He can now try for a promotion (needing a 7+) and rolls a 9, so he gets promoted to Sergeant and gets an extra skill choice. A roll of 5 means he also gets special duty (it is never boring on the force) and another skill choice. Added to the one automatic skill for surviving the term, he gets 5 skill rolls this term. I’ll take 2 rolls on Personal Development, and 3 on Service Skills. He gets Gambling, Hand Combat, Streetwise, Vehicle and Streetwise again. Of these, Hand Combat and Vehile are skills he has to pick a subskill from. For Hand Combat he gets the choice of +1 Endurance, +1 Strength or a level of Brawling or Blade Combat. His low endurance makes that an easy choice. He chooses Small Water Craft for his Vehicle skill, since he works on a water world. He just makes the reenlistment roll with a 6 on the dice.
Term 3: Now 26, we roll for survival getting a 7. He doesn’t roll for Position anymore, but still gets to roll for a promotion. He fails the promotion roll spectacularly (a 2), but gets an 11 on the special duty roll (and thus 2 skill choices). This sounds like a good time for him to have left his home world – he gets special training as he changes police forces, but can’t expect to get promoted when he just joined this force already at the rank of Sergeant. So now we have a way for him to start on whatever world the game starts on. With three skill rolls, I’m going for one Personal Development, one Service Skill, and one from the first Advanced Education table. I get Vice, Hand Combat, and Tactics again. Vice and Hand Combat he has to make choices for. This time he’s going for Brawling from the Hand Combat skills, and Intrusion (picking locks and pockets) for his Vice skill. Sounds like he has moved into a rougher job, working with SWAT entry teams in an urban environment. A roll of 3 means he fails the reinlistment roll and musters out, ending his Law Enforcement career at 30 years of age, and starting him up as a Traveller.
He gets 2 mustering out benefits per term of service (6) and 1 for being rank 1-2 for a total of 7 rolls. He can make up to 3 of these rolls on the Cash table (and cops get lousy cash results) and the rest on the Benefits table. He gets +1 on his cash table rolls because he has Gambling of 1 or higher (as he wins other cops’ paychecks from them at the poker table). He’ll start with one roll for cash and rolls a 1, modified to a 2 which is Cr 2,000. Definitely not enough. A second roll is also a 1, for another 2 grand. He’s getting annoyed. a third roll however is a 6, modified to a 7, which brings home Cr 50,000, much more reasonable. This leaves him 4 rolls on the benefits table which are unmodified because he didn’t make it to rank 5 or 6. He rolls a 5, 6, 2, and 4 – earning him +1 Intelligence, a Weapon, a High Passage and +1 Social Standing. For his weapon, he tkes a Neural Pistol, since that’s what his best gun combat skill is with.
The High Passage is a single high class ticket to anywhere on a spaceship. Nice to have when the adventure takes you offworld in a hurry.
Ex-Sergeant Gerald Douglas
Career: Law Enforcement
Social Standing: 7
Brawling – 1
Computer – 0
Gambling – 1
Grav Vehicle – 0
Interview – 1
Intrusion – 1
Leader – 1
Neural Weapons – 1
Rifleman – 0
Streetwise – 3
Tactics – 2