Monday, November 9, 2015

Thoughts On MegaTraveller

Man, I love this book.
I've been thinking a lot about MegaTraveller lately. I want to run a game for a group of people sitting down at a table, and I want it to be in my own setting. To that end, I've been looking at some of the DGP materials, which seem to add a lot of very useful ideas for running a game. I also want to go back to classic Traveller for those aspects which I feel were altered for the worse in MegaTraveller.

One thing that I want to play around with is character creation. At the moment, I am pretty well set on using variations of the basic generation system, avoiding the "advanced" systems entirely. I'm a little concerned, after analysis, about the changes to the skill charts from CT to MT, but on the whole I think that I'll just go with what is there. That said, I want to revise the careers somewhat to conform better to my setting. For example, I'm considering renaming the Navy as the Spacy, reserving "Navy" for sailors, and adding a Star Patrol as a sort of combination "Coast Guard" and law enforcement service. For simplicity at the start, I will limit players to being from the Terran Federation. I can open up the other human polities later on, if it comes to that. Aliens are… alien. The setting plays with some nonhuman sorts of intelligence, but those creatures have to be treated as animals from the players' perspective. Things like Arrakis sandworms, Chamax colonies, Reticulan parasites, Chtorran ecologies (maybe), or the Solaris entity are pretty much as close as my aliens get to human intelligence and communication - which is to say, not very. Well, there are a couple of exceptions, but they remain not very human-like at all. Hivers are positively human by my setting's standards. Nunclees and Providers (both found in T4's Aliens Archive) are about as close as Traveller aliens to date come to those of my setting. Rather than talking about intelligence, I talk about "overwhelming species" that radically reshape their environments to suit themselves, with human-style intelligence being just one example.

More importantly than those sorts of setting-specific details, I want to retain the Survival roll as a pressure away from longer service, but also I want to alleviate the absolute nature of it. For that, I see in Travellers' Digest issue 13 that there is a possible system to use. Instead of automatically killing the character, it causes a roll on the Mishap table, with the result indicating damage to the character. I don't like the low odds of serious damage using the system as given, though, so I will probably double the dice of damage (so it goes from 2D to 8D instead of 1D to 4D). That also gives the possibility of a character starting the game with prosthetic limbs, eyes, or whatever, which adds flavor. I'll probably also rule that a "flesh wound" result (and maybe even a "moderate wound") won't trigger an automatic mustering out. This changes the Survival roll to a "Mishap" check instead, which is fine.

There is a hit location chart in the article in that issue (so that a determination about which body part is affected can be made). I am considering adding that into the combat system directly, so that each hit has a hit location associated. That would also require applying wound dice immediately instead of at the end of combat, so maybe I'll skip that after all. One of the good things about MT combat is that it is sped up by saving the rolls for characteristic damage until after combat ends, and I am not really sure I want to lose that.

I'm definitely going to take the idea of "genetic dice" from T4/5, so that players record the rolls on each of their dice for the first four characteristics. That may have no impact on the game, but you never know. For characters born when their parents' genetic dice are known, roll 2d10 instead of 2d6, with a 1-6 result being read as the number, a 7 or 8 taking the first or second of the paternal genetic dice, and a 9 or 10 taking the respective maternal genetic die. That means that a character has a 40% chance on each die of taking one of the genetic dice, and a 60% chance of taking some previous generation's dice. That pushes the character toward the dice that their parents had (each die has a 50%-80%* chance of matching one of the parents' genetic dice, but can still range from 1 to 6).

I am tempted to adapt the Career/Life Events idea from the Mongoose edition of Traveller, but I might just make a "Connections" roll each term, with success adding a Contact and exceptional failure adding an Enemy.

I am definitely replacing each receipt of "Ship" (except Scout/Courier or Lab Ship) with MCr8.25 toward ship payments (including down payments). This means that a character can either make a down payment on a Far Trader or the down payment plus some payments on a Free Trader. In addition, it will be possible for characters to take a used ship instead, using more of their ship sum toward payments on the ship. Any left over after the down payment must be spent toward ship payments if possible (Cr171,125 for each payment for a Far Trader, Cr153,812.5 each for a Free Trader), with whatever remainder going into the ship's account. Belters get MCr5.5 each receipt instead, but all other careers use the MCr 8.25 amount - they'd better hope for more than one if they want the ship characteristic of their profession, though a Noble can make the down payment on a Yacht with just one receipt and an extra Cr467,000 (not that there are Nobles as such in the Terran Federation). Scientists are an exception: they get use of a lab ship for free, but it is owned by their patron (University or whatever) and loaned under similar terms as the Scout/Courier. This means that a character with two receipts of "Ship" could even start with a Subsidized Merchant (down payment: MCr13.5, monthly payment Cr281,250; that means that a Merchant character with two receipts of "Ship" would be able to make the down payment, their first 10 monthly payments, and have Cr187,500 in the ship's account, or they could have a Far Trader, make the down payment, 48 monthly payments, and have Cr72,000 left in the ship's account, or with a Free Trader they could make the down payment, 59 monthly payments, and have Cr40,062.5 in the ship's account). This does mean that it is possible for a character who receives "Ship" once to choose between the more lucrative but shorter-ranged Type A or the less profitable but longer-legged Type A2.

The one thing that I can think of offhand that I will go back entirely to the CT method is the normal encounter system. The MT version is changed in ways that aren't helpful.

Anyway, I haven't been able to give complete attention to these thoughts, as I am still working away at NaNoWriMo (though I'm a little behind at the moment, I can still catch up pretty easily). I'll come back to this later.

*If the parents' genetic dice are 3, 4, 5, and 6, then there is an 80% chance that the result will be 3, 4, 5, or 6 - a 20% chance of each result separately - and a 20% chance that it will be 5 or 6, 10% for each one. If all four of the parents' genetic dice are 6, then there is a 50% chance that the result for that die will be 6 and a 50% chance that it will be 1 through 5.

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