Traveller 5 - Thoughts, and Characters

Traveller 5 - Thoughts, and Characters

Marc Miller is a genius.

Now, I'm not saying that T5, as incarnated, is going to be everyone's cup of tea, but going deeper into the wealth of tables available, the most relaxing thing about them is not that they are there when you need a quick and dirty lookup for something you didn't plan ahead of time, but that you can safely ignore them unless there is something going on that requires scientific/universe/random knowledge that doesn't naturally flow from the current state of the game world.

One of the biggest mechanical differences is that almost every roll is a roll-under now, meaning that as stats go up, chances of success do as well, without having to cross-reference anything else.  This allows the game to easily accomodate changes in skills or player stats without having to do a lot of recalculation.

Then there are systems to deal with random breakdowns and failure of critical equipment. Take QREBS (pronounced "krebs"). It's a set of rules for equipment evaluation, and the letters stand for Quality, Reliability, Ease of use, Bulk/burden, and Safety. So, if you pick up a pressurized filtration mask at a spaceport bodega, and toss it into your bag, you may forget about it - until you need it. Will it hold up? Or will it give out, leaving you gasping for breath? Perhaps you can't don it in time because the strap clips get in the way.  Or maybe the integral rigging crane near the hatch of your spaceship has seen one too many load cycles, or a welding failure.  

The beauty is that it's a quick little module of rules that not only can be applied far outside of T5 - but that you can completely ignore until things are pushing the envelope, and the GM needs to know if something might dramatically go wrong. The rules even say:


The most common roll for any of the QREBS values is
zero (or 5 for Quality). If values have not been created or
calculated, the standard values apply.

The presence of standard or expected values makes the
entire system optional, or applicable piecemeal.

Another interesting mechanical add, and it may owe something to Fate/Fudge, is the concept of flux rolls, where you subtract the second die from the first, giving you a range of -5 to +5.

So - characters. The rules for character development are both more intricate and more straightforward than the CT rules. On the downside, you have a fairly steep entry curve because there are a number of concepts you have to grasp to make good decisions, on the other hand, typos and various errata bits aside, almost everything you need to do centers around a  handful of pages and a few simple looping procedures.  At least one person has come up with a set of flowcharts for 5.09 ( a slightly earlier revision, but almost entirely the same), and looking at them, they may be longer overall if you combine all of the options, but there's a better logic and aesthetic flow to them than to the one I created for CT. Also - for those in the iPad/iOS ecosystem, there's currently an app that does most of the lookup work for you, though I recommend you step through manually at least once.

So, how does one create a character? In part, I'm doing a disservice here, because I'm going to do this narratively - and that is going to take a lot longer to write out and overanalyze than simply rolling up a character. What this does illustrate though is how T5 inherently generates the elite gamer version of a backstory, without the special snowflaking common among the background-obsessed in Pathfinder and 5e. Also - I'm going to introduce a lot of concepts that you'll need to know to play or understand what you're doing, but once you've gotten up to speed, won't slow you down.

Page numbers reference v 5.10

Tanner Grim

We roll the dice - 2D6 x6 in order, to generate the UPP or Universal Personal Profile. The characteristics for humans are Str(ength), Dex(terity), End(urance), Int(elligence), Edu(cation), and Soc(ial standing). These are also frequently labeled C1 - C6, as for non-humans, some of these, like Dex, are mapped to similar but different values like Grace or Agility. 2D6 means that 7 will be the average.

Also - entirely optional unless you're messing with clones or population/inheritance groups, the first die for C1-C4 is the "genetic" die.

            C1      C2      C3      C4      C5      C6      
            Str     Dex     End     int     Edu     Soc        
    d1      6       6       5       5       5       5                       
    d2      1       1       4       5       4       4
    gen     6       6       5       5       x       x
    UPP(i)  7       7       9       A       9       9

I kept the genetic info because it was amusing - it look s like Tanner leveraged his learning but absolutely was a slacker when it came to natural gifts in athletics. His intelligence of 10 is noted as an "A" because Traveller uses a pseudohex notation system, swapping in "A" for 10, "C" for 12, "F" for 15, with a chart for higher values, including letters to skip to avoid confusion.

In the campaign being played, he has an option of four homeworlds, and I choose "Drole" - a hothouse non-industrial world that was a prison planet/dumping ground. Like Australia, but hopefully with fewer things that want to kill you.  Checking in on page 56, that means he acquires a driver skill, and the Hostile Environment skill at level 1. Courtesy of 4 terms (16 years) living there growing up to be 18, Tanner also has Knowledge(Drole) 4.

The Driver skill brings us to our first aside. Looking at the master skill list on page 132, a lot of skills are grouped, but in the right two columns, you notice that a number of skills to the left, like Driver, Pilot, and Fighter, are broken out into subskills or what T5 calls "knowledges." In classic Traveller, these specific areas of knowledge were called "cascade skills", but you could never really get a larger familiarity with the field itself, as a familiarity with multiple weapons systems, for example, didn't grant you any general bonus in firearms in general. In T5, once you've gained proficiencies in various knowledge areas of such a skill, you can then learn the skill in general, though you can still always specialize. That overall skill level applies to all areas of knowledge within that skill, and stacks with the more specific training in a knowledge area.

For example - starship Engineering breaks down into systems such as Power Systems, Jump Drives, Life Support, and Maneuver Drives. The first Engineering skill goes to a specific system, such as the M-Drive, much like a Navy crewmember in the engineering department will first most thoroughly learn the specific systems where he stands watch . He also has a de-facto skill of Engineering 0. The second can go to the same system, or one of the other systems. In this example, our navy crewman learns M-drive and Power Systems. The third time he gets the Engineering skill, he can then actually get the overall skill of Engineer 1, which gives him a bonus on all related systems, and a higher bonus or level of expertise on the systems he first learned or specialized in.

One caveat is that for such skills learned in academic training, such as University, you cannot learn the root skill, just an area of knowledge.

Aside - You can gripe about the nomenclature, and I do, but I also don't have many better alternatives. "Skills" is already used, and thus confusing. Given how the skills are now learned, "cascade skills" flat out doesn't make sense. While I think of them as "Knowledge areas", that's just clunky to write every single time.

So - Tanner is upper middle class just shy of lower nobility. Well educated , and smart, but never developed his physical gifts beyond a love of hiking/similar. He has a very reasonable chance of making the entry roll for any service by rolling against the appropriate characteristic, but if he wants to make a career of things, the Marines, being a Merchantman, or being a spacer in the Navy, are not good choices since reenlistment tests against his strength - and the odds of rolling higher are fairly good. Agent is better - reenlistment tests against strength, but there is a bonus for terms served. Being able to make both the initial entry rolls and the re-enlistment rolls, the path of Scout or Soldier seem the best bet.  Scholar is also viable, but I decide Tanner wasn't interested.

Tanner also has educational choices. He could of course go straight in, but if he graduates university and is accepted to OTC, or goes to the service academy, he can go straight in as an officer. Since his parents were typical boomers, they told him "go to college" , and so he applied. Deciding he wants to meet interesting people, and kill them face to face, Tanner applies to the Military Academy. Rolling 2D6 vs Int (higher than the also acceptable Edu) he succeeds with a 9.

Now he needs four rolls to pass, again vs Int or Edu. Having to choose a major and minor from the chart on page 60, he decides he will major in Fighter, and minor in Medic. He does so fairly easily with a 6, an 8, a 7, and a 4 for each year respectively, obtaining one level of skill in his major for each year passed, and one in his minor for every two, as well as graduating. He makes one more roll to see if he graduates with honors, and succeeds with a five. This grants him one more level of his major.  Having graduated, he raises his Edu by one, and obtains the rank of O1 (oh-one) in the Army.

Over the four years of school and training, Tanner has five instances of Fighter. Looking at the table on page 60 for courses available for his major, it breaks down into the subcategories of Battle Dress (basically light power armor), Beams (lasers and fusion weapons), Blades, Exotics, Slug Throwers, Sprays, and Unarmed combat. Tanner gains a level in Battle Dress, and two each in Slug Throwers, and Unarmed Combat. Again, he cannot gain the root Fighter skill. So far his skills and career look like this:

UPP: 779AA9
Army Service Academy: BA with honors

- Driver (Tracked) 1
- Hostile Environment 1
- World Knowledge (Drole) 4
- Ship Skills: Medic 2
- Fighter 0
- Fighter (Battle Dress) 1
- Fighter (Slug Throwers) 2
- Fighter (Unarmed Combat) 2

Note: there is a typo/correction needed for the chart. For whatever reason, the army military academy is initialed with an M in the leftmost two columns of available skills, and the naval academy with an N. Unfortunately, on page 61, those same schools are marked "A" for army and "N" for navy, as both the Marines and the Navy share the same academy, but have different actual schools. In practice, I treat characters on the Marine track as if they were on the "M" academy track just like the army, though they get "M" schools for more specific knowledge areas vice the "A" classes. This allows a marine to get fighter related schooling, but not Navy-specific classes like astrogation. Some courses like power systems are available to the Army, Navy, and Marines, but only if assigned to a specialist school later in their career.

If he had failed any roll, he could have rolled against his social stat for a waiver to stay in, though he would not have received a skill for that year. If he also failed the waiver application, he would be kicked out, but would keep previous skills as he then entered a regular career.

Tanner is now 22, and it's time to make his first aging roll. Actually, looking at p 89, were supposed to do one at age 18 as well. At 18, he was in life stage 3, so Tanner "ages" or has age-related effects if he rolls less than 3 on 2D6. Ditto age 22. With a 9 and a 6 he's safe. Time to start his career.

Flipping to page 73,  we glance at the checklist. As he graduated from the service academy, he doesn't have to make a roll to begin - he's already graduated with an officer's rank, but he does have to roll for branch, and he's stuck with that branch. A roll of 6, with a +2 die modifier due to his education, puts him in the medical branch. That, and his education, gives him a +6 on die rolls on the Operations table for each of his four years. He also gets Leader 1  automatically as a 2nd Lieutenant.

Looking at the operations chart for deployments, that +6 means that if he really wanted to meet interesting people and kill them, it's going to be a boring tour.

For each of the four years he rolls on the ops table, getting an 11, a 12, another 11, and an 8. He spends most of his time on base except for one mission. Since the MOD for that mission is the highest of the four rolled - a two - that is what he uses as a target modifier for his risk/reward roll. His branch - Medical - has no MOD.

Note: "Mods" modify the target number. DM's modify the roll. For the army, the branch applies a DM to what kind of operation you get for the year, but that DM does not apply to risk/reward, only the branch and operation MODs do.

For risk / reward, Tanner can roll against Strength, Endurance, or Intelligence (C1, C3, C4). Once a characteristic is chosen as a controlling characteristic - CC - it cannot be chosen until all the other options are chosen once as well. Dissatisfied with his career options - needs of the Army, and all - he leans heavily on his intelligence, giving him a base target of "A" - or 10 - and a modified target of 8. The mods are flipped for the reward, and his modified target roll for a reward is 12 - mathematically certain on 2D6.

NOTE: I think there's an error or a possible easy misunderstanding here because the tables for the Spacer and Soldier tracks show the mod as an absolute value, and the career checklist pages state to add the mod to the target for the risk roll. Yet, the more dangerous branches and assignments have the higher mods, meaning the target should be reduced, as if the mod were negative, and the reward, when the negative is applied, should be more likely. This also is how the example on page 68 handles things - the mods are treated as negatives for risk just like choosing a negative MOD for "bravery", and helpful for obtaining rewards.

Tanner has the option of being brave or cautious as well, with an option to apply a mod anywhere from -9 (making failure almost suicidally certain) to +9 (hey, your controlling characteristinc is at 3 and you don't want to die....). This, of course, affects the chances of a reward in exactly the opposite way. If Tanner wanted a better chance of getting a medal - not that he needs it - or was just bored, he could be more reckless, and decide to apply a "-2" for bravery. This would make his risk target to be injured a 6, and his reward target a 14. Instead, he decides a little caution - +1 - is warranted, and his risk target is now 9, and his reward target is 11.

With a five for his risk roll, he survives the deployment unscathed. If he had failed, he would have lost 1 point from his intelligence (his controlling characteristic) modified by a "flux" roll (page 19) This can offset some or all of the possible damage, but in the case of career failures, cannot raise a characteristic above its current value. With a seven for his reward role, he gets a medal. Checking the chart on page 70, that is an exemplary service medal. Nothing special that gets him fame, or promotion benefits.

Rolling against his social standing of 9 for promotion, he succeeds with a 7, and becomes an 02. With the promotion, he is elegible for five skills. Because he is in the services, he can only choose skills columns based on missions that term, or based on his branch. Since he was on base and away on a mission, he can use columns 1 (personal can always be chosen), #2 because he was on base, and 6, because he was on a mission. Since he's in the medical field column 7 is also available. Other services or career paths offer more flexibility in what columns are chosen. He rolls a 4 and a 2 on the personal table, bumping his Int and Dex (c2) up by one each. Instead of spending more on the personal column, he elects to distribute the rolls between the other three eligible columns. A four, six, and two respectively get him his academic minor (raising his medical skill), and one science. Since he wants something more adventurous and plans to join the scouts, he learns planetology.

Tanner now faces the choice of re-enlisting. He can forego the roll and transfer to another service (assuming he qualifies), or he can try to stay in or leave. If he wants to stay, he needs to roll against C3 as a soldier, which he can reasonably expect to stay in, but his career path is not what he wanted. Even if he leaves the service to begin adventuring, he has to make a retention roll to see if he's forced to stay in for the needs of the service. He elects to transfer to the scouts. First he makes an aging check needing to roll a four or higher to avoid ill effects at the age of 26, and succeeds.

On page 79 he needs to roll against his choice of C1, C2, or C3 - so he chooses endurance (c3) and rolls a nine. Barely, but good enough. He wants to explore and learn, so tackles explorer duty (8 skills per term) vice courier duty which avoids the risk and reward roll but only nabs him 4 skills. He chooses C2 (dex) for his risk and reward roll, with no excess caution or bravery, and rolls a five, avoiding injury. He also rolls a 6 for success, thus discovering a valuable new world or a valuable feature on a known world, and receives a Land Grant and Fame +1.

He knuckles down and rolls on columns 4-6 for skills to get as many ship / exploratory skills as possible. He gets two starship skills, Survey, Survival, Sensors, Fighter, Flyer, and Engineer. For one of his starship skill he choses "gunner" and elects to specialize in the knowledge of operating turret mounts. For flyer he chooses to train in and obtain knowledge of Grav flyers. For engineering he obtains knowledge of maneuver drives, and for the other starship skill he focuses on the piloting knowledge of small craft. He has knowledge of enough areas that this time, he actually raises his overall fighting ability.

Tanner truly enjoyed his time in the service. He thought he'd lost his edge sitting on his ass at base as a medic, but the time in untracked worlds honed his survival skills, and he obtained the knowledge he needs to handle a single-user scout craft. The very limited chain of command in the scout service suits him. He tries another term, rolling against intelligence, and succeeds with a seven. He also avoids any aging issues (still live stage four).

He elects for the exploratory service again, choosing C2, and decides to be a bit more cautious, with a +1 mod. This makes his risk target 9, and his reward target 7. With an 8 and a two, he scrapes by unscathed, thanking his abundance of caution, yet still lucks into another discovery, adding another fame.

The scout service is lonely, with alien environments that can kill and cramped ships for weeks on end - and takes a mental toll. Tanner rolls his sanity stat (not rolled until first needed) and subtracts one for every two terms in the scouts. Fortunately, with a 9, he's stable, and loses one point to now have a sanity of 8.

Choosing to work on personal development and to get a hobby, he shifts his training a bit, and picks up : Edu +1, Starship Skill (choosing Astrogator), he learns an Alien (vargr) language, Animals (rider) , Fighter 2, Survey, Engineering(jump drive), and learns some more planetology. He is now 34 and needs to roll a five or greater to avoid aging - succeeding with a 9. He elects to take one more term in the scouts. Maybe, just maybe, the discoveries he makes can put him into the ranks of the lower nobility, or he can pass something on to his kids - which he'll need to get out to raise a family.

Rolling a 10 against his intelligence of B (11) , he stays in one more round. If he stays in the exploratory service, his target is now a 7 for risk/ reward. Taking a bit of caution, he now needs an 8 or less to avoid injury, and a 6 or less for a discovery. Unfortunately, he rolls a 9, and is injured. He does make a discovery though.

Injuries happen to the controlling characteristic - C1/strength in this term. He will lose (flux - negative mods) strength. Since he was cautious, with a MOD of +1, that improves his chances of avoiding injury. He rolls a three for his first die, and a five for his second, resulting in a flux roll of -2, modified to -3. In short, he near-miraculously avoids injury. Taking this as a sign from god, he decides now is as good a time as any to get out with his third land grant at the age of 38. He obtains : Endurance +1, Social +1 (now a low-level semi-noble Gentleman), Land navigation, Streetwise, Flyer, Engineer (actually getting the engineer skill),  some chemistry, and learning a trade (gravitics). He avoids an aging crisis, and tries to muster out - successfully avoiding a forced re-enlistment on the roll. With three terms in the scout service, he also has career knowledge of the scout service.

Mustering Out

Flipping to page 67, Tanner makes at least four rolls - one for each term served. One on the soldier/army table, three on the scout table.

Several benefits are automatic. For one, with a fighter skill, Tanner gets to keep one personal weapon, choosing a semiautomatic battle rifle, which will be illegal on many worlds. Another is fame - which can either be determined during the career track, or using the fame rules on page 91. No fame is accrued due to his army service, but specifies that fame for discoveries is equal to 4x the number of discoveries, vice 1x in the career checklist.  Given that high fame from discoveries is the only way to achive higher values on the muster tables, I believe the 4x is correct. Tanners fame is marked at 12.

Having made three discoveries, he is eligible for a life membership in the Traveller Aid Society - conferring privileges such as cheap high-class acommidations and passage tickets on liners.

For his army term he takes the money, and rolling a five (+1 for 1 term in) gets to keep 40,000 Cr (Noted as Cr 40,000)

For his three scout terms, he wants a shot at a scout courier (a possible benefit to ex-scouts) to help develop his discoveries. Since he already has money in the bank, he aims for more tangible benefits. Since his fame is 12, all rolls on this table can be modified by up to + 6, declared before the roll. He gets one ship share, a knighthood, and a boost to C3 (endurance).

With the knighthood, Tanner now has five land grants: Three from "discovery", and two due to each of his elevations in social rank. Looking at page 88, the GM will have to determine which, if any, of the three discovery grants are on undeveloped worlds, and so not worth any annual income except when directly developed. The ones granted for his social rank are worth 5000 or more per year per hex, depending on trade classifications. The first is likely on his homeworld, the second should be on a secondary world or moon, the third on a mainworld.

Tanner has one ship share - insufficient to purchase a ship outright. There is a discussion in the errata thread of the game forums because, while the rules as printed allow the erstwhile scout - or any other character with enough ship shares - to buy a used scout outright, if one is going all the way back to classic Traveller, a retiring scout could get a "loan" Scout Courier, on the condition that he remain in the reserves and available to be called up when needed. For now this is also a GM decision. Maybe this ship share can be converted/combined with another player's.

His final stats:

Tanner Grim 

            C1      C2      C3      C4      C5      C6      
            Str     Dex     End     int     Edu     Soc        
    d1      6       6       5       5       5       5                       
    d2      1       1       4       5       4       4
    gen     6       6       5       5       x       x
    UPP(i)  7       7       9       A       9       9
    UPP(c)  7       8       B       B       B       B

Fame: +12

Sanity: 8

Army Service Academy: BA with honors. 01. 
Army - Medical Branch. Exemplary Service Badge. Promoted to O2. 
Scouts - Discovery and land grant. 
Scouts - Discovery and Land Grant
Scouts - Discovery and Land Grant, "gentleman" land grant (obtains income)
Another land grant due to nobility: knighthood : this one obtains income. 

Personal Weapon - Battle Rifle or similar
TAS life membership . 
Cr 40000

        Drole (A53557B-E Ni Px Ho {1}[B43+1] (751E) );

Skills :    
            Driver (Tracked) 1
            Hostile Environment 1
            World Knowledge (Drole) 4
            Ship Skills: Medic 2
            Fighter 2
            Fighter (Battle Dress) 1
            Fighter (Slug Throwers) 2
            Fighter (Unarmed Combat) 2
            Leader 1
            Career Knowledge (soldier) 1
            Career Knowledge (scout) 3
            Tactics 1
            Gunner 0
            Gunner (turret) 1
            Astrogator 1
            Pilot 0
            Pilot (small craft) 1
            Survey 2
            Survival 1
            Sensors 1 
            Flyer 0 
            Flyer (grav) 1
            Flyer (rotor) 1
            Engineer 1
            Engineer(maneuver drive) 1
            Engineer(jump drive) 1
            Animal 0
            Animal(rider) 1
            Science (planetology) 2
            Science (chemistry) 1
            navigation 1
            Streetwise 1
            Gravitics 1

            Language (anglic) - B (matches higher of Edu or Int) (p 153)

            Alien (vargr) language A (ten) (one less than native language)

He may not have a spaceship, but he can work as crew on most ships and run a 100-ton scout courier on his own. The solo life od a scout certainly suited his self-education and temperment. He would make an exceptional combat medic, with an emphasis on combat, but don't ask him to drive anything resembling a car in hairy situations, though he's good on a grav sled. Despite his level of nobility, doesn't fit in well with that world, and has avoided bureaucracy like the plague. Knowing that, he's willing to lean on his titles to deal with legal roadblocks in a blunt-force way.

Like I said at the outset - this is actually a lot more wordy than the actual rules make the process. Most of the tables and procedures are simple and straightforward, and all of it leads you to some understanding of who the character is in front of you, and why you'll play him the way you do.

About Last Redoubt

Ex nuke mechanic, jack of all trades.