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Classic Traveller Discussion on the granddaddy of them all, Classic Traveller!

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  #1  
Old April 8th, 2009, 10:14 PM
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Default The simple pleasure of rolling a character

It's amazing the fun you can have just rolling a character. It becomes an enjoyable evening pursuit while your other half is visiting her sister. The other night I decided to pick a world in the Marches and roll up a character and at the same time take notes and expand on the assignments and service history as I went along.

I'm not a big fan of MT but I like the expanded character generation because of the brownie point system and how the cascade skill system allows a little more choice in skill pursuits. So, I used that as my char gen system.

I chose a Rich, Ag world in the Mora Subsector: Byret. Looking at the UWP I envisioned a semi-collectivist govt that keeps the peasant/farmer population at bay, though not too oppressive. I rolled 3 sets of 6 characteristics. I had to choose one set, but I could assign the characteristics as I wish. Final choice: 886A96.

I saw a young, smart farmer that was able to enter the Party schools perhaps because his family bribed a local bureaucrat. He applied for college but was blackballed because of his Soc standing. Shooting the moon he applied to the Imperial Naval College. He was accepted! He succeeded, but not with honors. Again his Soc standing and early industrial provincialism made it hard for him at the academy. But his Intel saw him through it.

With flight school out, he joined the Imperial Navy as an Ensign. After initial training, he was assigned to...Flight school! Already, coming from his humble beginnings as an early industrial farmer to an Imperial fighter jock, the future looked bright.

To make a long story short, he served 5 terms in the Imperial Navy rising to the rank of Fleet Admiral. Serving many strike missions, Intel School, and Cmd School here is his final stats:

Navy Fleet Admiral 777ABA 5 Terms + Naval Academy Cr90,000
Ship Tactics-3, Pilot-2, Ships Boat-2, History-2 Travellers
Leader-2, Fleet Tactics-1, Vacc-1, Liaison-1 3xHigh Psgs
Handgun-1, Forgery-1, Streetwise-1

He acquired his less savory skills at Intel School and his tactical abilities during strike missions and Command School. He received 3 MCUFs and an MCG. Now he is a retired Fleet Commander, skilled tactician, natural leader and has published a book on the Imperial Civil War.

It was fun to build situations around his assignments, promotions, and skill selections. Not only was I rolling a character, I was building a story.

Goes to show, just rolling a character can be a pleasurable evening. Perhaps, even a great role-playing session.
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Old April 8th, 2009, 10:40 PM
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Excellent synopsis on how the various parts of Traveller have become pastimes in and of themselves.

Whether you build characters, ships, or worlds, it offers near infinite variety and possibility.

That's what makes it my RP system of choice.
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Old April 8th, 2009, 11:36 PM
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5 terms?

Didn't use the hard survival rule, eh?
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Old April 9th, 2009, 12:27 AM
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RKFM,

Great post, thank you!

I used to roll up characters and create their back stories during business trips. Nothing makes a long plane fight go by faster than fitting a character to a back story.

The various tables in MgT may make the process faster and/or easier, but they also make it formulaic. The story you produce can only include those events already written into the tables.

I'd rather use my imagination.


Regards,
Bill
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Old April 9th, 2009, 03:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whipsnade View Post
RKFM,

Great post, thank you!

I used to roll up characters and create their back stories during business trips. Nothing makes a long plane fight go by faster than fitting a character to a back story.

The various tables in MgT may make the process faster and/or easier, but they also make it formulaic. The story you produce can only include those events already written into the tables.

I'd rather use my imagination.


Regards,
Bill
I don't play the MGT chargen that formulaic. My players have added plenty of their own to the MGT chargen. For myself, I didn't see a need for the extra background. I still use CT chargen for NPCs. But some of my players have an easier time getting into a char with the MGT extras. It gets them at about the point it'd take them 2-4 sessions to get, before. Those who were good with CT still do as well with MGT.

Not wanting to start a fight, just passing on my experiences in response to your comment. For some folks the extras help, and in a well-managed game they hurt nobody.

Chargen's a lot of fun. It's always interesting to build backgrounds, I particularly enjoy it when I have a goal in mind for the character as part of a story. Like, for instance, Conn Maxwell from Piper's Cosmic Computer. Has a goal in mind (finding out where the super-duper-computer Merlin is on his home planet, and learning enough to operate it and train assistants), how do you roll with the rolls? What if he'd failed a critical roll, how do you recover?

How would the book's story change? If Conn failed at school and got into industrial espionage, say, to make a living and seek data on Merlin? What would happen when a very different Conn returned to Poictesme (perhaps as a rogue on a pirate ship rather than as a normal passenger on a liner.)

Great post, RKFM!
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Old April 9th, 2009, 04:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saundby View Post
For some folks the extras help...

Saundby,

And for some folks the extras were never needed.

Of course, those extras are now not optional, are they? The background table is part of MgT's chargen, isn't it?

Quote:
... and in a well-managed game they hurt nobody.
Agreed. Try this though. The next game you run as a GM, tell your players they can't use the background tables and, if they want a background, they must create one on their own. How much squealing might you think will occur?

Quote:
Chargen's a lot of fun. It's always interesting to build backgrounds, I particularly enjoy it when I have a goal in mind for the character as part of a story.
That's opposite of my thinking as a GM. I never built player-characters with a goal in mind and never told my players to think of "goals" either. NPCs naturally had pre-assigned goals because they're "tools". I never reduced PCs to the level of "tools" used to reach a goal; Hmmm... they'll need a Dryone linguist to decipher the jump tapes, so I'll make sure this PC has that skill despite that fact he'll use it once.

My campaigns did have goals and the players would strive to achieve them, but they never built a PC with a goal in mind. That's because my pre-game instructions to them never mentioned a goal, identifying a goal was something they and I would do together in the early stages of the campaign.

Quote:
Like, for instance, Conn Maxwell from Piper's Cosmic Computer. Has a goal in mind (finding out where the super-duper-computer Merlin is on his home planet, and learning enough to operate it and train assistants), how do you roll with the rolls? What if he'd failed a critical roll, how do you recover?
Finding Merlin isn't Conn's goal, remember? He believes the computer doesn't exist and has Foxx Travis' word that it doesn't exist. Conn's goal is reversing Poictesme's slide from genteel poverty to "Third World planet" status. He and his father, Rodney, use the belief in the computer's existence to "trick" the others into investing, repairing infrastructure, building new ships, restarting interstellar trade, etc., etc. When Merlin is found and used, it essentially rubber stamps the plans Conn and Rodney father already had begun.

Answering your question now, if I was running a "Cosmic Computer" campaign Conn wouldn't be a PC because he's too central to the events. Putting a player into that role means the player is going to be heavily railroaded throughout the campaign as there are things Conn absolutely has to do. As a NPC, I wouldn't role Conn up either. He'd be "hand built" instead. I already know his age, background, and education so I'd simply assign the stats and skills he needs.

There's no chance of Conn changing because of a "failed" chargen because he wouldn't be a player-character at all.

Quote:
How would the book's story change?
The story would initially change around the edges because that's where my player-characters would be operating. Merlin may be found sooner or later, Shanlee will be uncovered sooner or not at all, his bomb plot will work or not, all of it depending on the players' actions. As their actions impinged on the book's events, those events would change in response. I would never set the campaign up with idea that the events of the book would occur automatically and I would never railroad the action to ensure those events occur automatically.

Quote:
If Conn failed at school and got into industrial espionage, say, to make a living and seek data on Merlin? What would happen when a very different Conn returned to Poictesme (perhaps as a rogue on a pirate ship rather than as a normal passenger on a liner.)
All those question are moot IMHO. I simply didn't and wouldn't plot a campaign to that level of detail. Saying the campaign must have player-character Conn, he must have graduated from cybernetics school, he must have already done X, Y, Z, and all that must be reflected in chargen is nothing more than railroading. Your simply railroading the campaign before the campaign even begins.

Now if I did run a "Cosmic Computer" campaign and one of the players rolled up an alt-Conn like you mentioned above, it would be easy to tweak the campaign so that the alt-Conn became involved in the Merlin hunt just as much as the real Conn did. However, as I wrote above, I wouldn't let Conn be a PC.


Regards,
Bill
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Old April 9th, 2009, 06:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whipsnade View Post
Of course, those extras are now not optional, are they? The background table is part of MgT's chargen, isn't it?


The next game you run as a GM, tell your players they can't use the background tables and, if they want a background, they must create one on their own. How much squealing might you think will occur?
IMHO all game rules are optional. I've never really understood the idea that 'it says so in the rules, so we must do that even if it ruins our game'.
If it works for you, use it; if it doesn't, ignore or change it.

Try telling your players they can use the tables if they want to, if it helps them to define a character, but they don't have to if they want a background that isn't included in the tables. I don't think there would be much squealing.
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Old April 9th, 2009, 06:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whipsnade View Post
I never built player-characters with a goal in mind and never told my players to think of "goals" either. NPCs naturally had pre-assigned goals because they're "tools". I never reduced PCs to the level of "tools" used to reach a goal; Hmmm... they'll need a Dryone linguist to decipher the jump tapes, so I'll make sure this PC has that skill despite that fact he'll use it once.
My highly successful naval campaign set in the Five Sisters subsector had my players constrained to rolling up Navy characters with highly specific ranks and suited for particular positions (i.e. with the necessary skills to fill the position (or, of course, a high social level )). For my "the players are troubleshooters working for Oberlindes" GT campaign, I told my players to design characters that the Oberlindes security chief would hire. For my Buffy the Vampire Slayer campaign, the PCs had to be people the mysterious owner of the Odd Jobs Detective Agency would hire, although since the entire previous staff had recently disappeared mysteriously, he'd had to scrape the bottom of the barrel, so they needn't be quite as competent as you expect from a demon-investigation agency (And a good thing too, since they were beginner chars).

Contrariwise, in that long-ago CT campaign where our ref ran things By The Book, we were four randomly generated characters with a free trader. No back story on how we got that ship, and while a couple of us were qualified to fill a couple of the crew positions, by no stretch of the imagination could we be considered a complete crew. So our ref provided us with NPCs to fill the missing spots and made the two lubbers supernumeraries who were just along for the ride. Said NPCs didn't even come with names attached, and they had just enough personality to help run the ship, but under no circumstances were they able to help with any extra-curricular activity (since that would be cheating).

Believe me, custom-fitting player characters to fit into a specific setting is not always a Bad Thing.


Hans
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Old April 9th, 2009, 07:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Whipsnade View Post
The various tables in MgT may make the process faster and/or easier, but they also make it formulaic. The story you produce can only include those events already written into the tables.
IME, the possibilities of the MgT events are closer to the 75%(+) percentile mark of what I'd see out of players adding the missing details for CT/MT chargen. Some players would weave in that much info; most wouldn't.

I do think the 2d6 tables are a bit brief, but the D66 tables seem more than sufficient to me, and many events in these tables have plenty of room for embellishment. Indeed, when players start using the connection rules, you can see them adding and inventing new angles to the event-as-written. The rules do a good job of encouraging player creativity.

Again IME/YMMV/etc.
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Old April 9th, 2009, 01:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rancke View Post
My highly successful naval campaigns...

Hans,

Fitting a PC to a campaign is not the same as using a PC as a "tool". As a "tool", a non-player-character's stats, skills, and survival or death are predetermined and strictly controlled by the GM. A player-character, on the other hand, will have some, not all, of their stats and skills suited for the campaign and their survival will depend on the their player's actions alone.

It's a matter of degree, not kind.

In the Active Duty IISS campaign I ran, I rolled up a stack of PCs that fit the campaign. Among other commonalities, they were all in the IISS and were all between certain ages. Because they players were going to man a scout/courier, the skills the PCs had were also somewhat preset. The group needed a pilot, navigator, engineer, gunner, medic, and so forth. After the necessary skills were in place, the rest depended on the the role of the dice.

In Saundby's "Cosmic Computer" example, Conn Maxwell is so crucial to the plot that he cannot be a PC. His stats, skills, and very existence cannot risked if the campaign is to succeed. Conn must have computer skills, Conn must be smart enough to solve several mysteries, and Conn must not die prior to Merlin being found and programmed.

Because of that Conn can only be a NPC, a tool. He cannot be a PC whose skills, background, and even survival needs to be actively and regularly controlled by the GM. As Saundby pointed out, something as simple as failing a college roll would result in a very different Conn whose arrival on Poictesme to search for Merlin would require major changes to the campaign.

There were similar characters in my Active Duty IISS and Fixers campaigns. They were NPCs because they were "tools". Their specific skills and stats, along with their existence, were needed for the adventure at hand and thus were strictly controlled by me the GM. After they completed their roles as "tools", these NPCs were then withdrawn from the game.


Regards,
Bill
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