Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Thinking Ahead

On Character Generation and Creation in TRAVELLER:

Traveller character generation requires quite a few random dice rolls. OK, who am I kidding, a lot of random rolls. In all honesty I don't tend to favor games with a great deal of randomness in the character creation process but Traveller holds a special place in my heart. Convincing a group of players who similarly don't like their character creation to be so focused on generation to give the system a shot can be tricky at best. Many see it as an experience where they have very little control over their character's design. I see it very differently.

To me, character creation in Traveller is a strategic mini-game all its own.
Before you begin creating a PC for Traveller, consider what kind of character you would like to play. Imagine the galaxy of the distant future and you living in the vast, star spanning Imperium. What kind of person are you? How do you make a living? Ignore Species and Professions for a moment and think of what you want the end character to be like.
Let's take me for example. I love Science Fiction and my favorite thing about Science Fiction is aliens. Ah the fascination with extraterrestrial life forms. I want an explorer who travels to far off planets and learns about the aliens who live there. I want to make friends with the aliens if they are sentient and study them if they are more animal-like.
When I look at the Professions, I consider which ones work for my concept. Scout definitely. Scientist? Hmmm, maybe. Diplomat would be useful and appropriate. Hunter? I don't want to hunt aliens...but...being able to track them down and the skill to survive on exotic planets is cool. OK...
I start by applying for Scout and...(roll of the dice)...get it! I'm a Scout! Let's say luck is with me and I remain a Scout for three terms (12 years). I decide to switch Professions and roll to see if I can be a Diplomat...(roll of the dice)...no! Bullocks! Oh well, I have other options. Maybe Hunter...no, this guy is really more of a  Mr. Spock/Science Officer character in my mind. Ok, Scientist it is! So...(roll of the dice)...Yes! I do a term of Scientist. Now I am 34 and ready to explore the galaxy!
Fighting type? Marine, Army are both good. If you want to go more Starship Officer go Navy. A Pilot type? Flyer or Navy is best but others may work as well. Some kind of Bounty Hunter? Hunter and Law Enforcement maybe. I often get asked how to make a Han Solo/Smuggler type of character. So many ways! Merchant with Pirate, Flyer and Rogue, Merchant and Rogue, Navy and Pirate or Rogue, etc. 
Next it becomes a question of Skill picks and a few added elements from the 'Mustering Out Benefits'. Don't forget to record any successful Commission, Special Duty or Promotion rolls. They affect your Mustering Out Benefits and in my house rules, they can give you additional background, skill or contact information. I have a number of random charts and 'pick lists' that enable you to determine, for example, what the Special Duty you had was and what went on during it.

I also have alternate rules (charts and pick lists) for what happens if you don't survive character creation. You can actually be dead and start over or something far more interesting and otherworldly may have happened.

Barking Alien



  1. why not simply houserule it in a way that players get to play what they want? anything wrong with that? :)

    1. Wrong? No. But is it Traveller?

      While I will (happily) add and subtract rules from a game in order to improve my ability to run it and my players' ability to enjoy it, I often refuse to change something so integral to the experience of playing that particular system.

      My thinking is, if I alter an element at the core of the game, why don't I just play a different game?

    2. That suggestion might be GURPS Traveller but it's not Traveller Traveller. Rolling thru your background is a pretty big part of that.

  2. Which version of Traveller are you using?

    1. Primarily it's original, classic, little black books, Game Design Workshop Traveller with a little bit of MegaTraveller thrown in.

      And a few houserules here and there.