Rough notes in progress to simplify Traveller even further than done with Fast Traveller house rules.
Simplified Rules For Science-Fiction Adventure In The Far Future
Traveller is a science-fiction role-playing game designed by Marc W. Miller and first published in 1977 by Game Designers’ Workshop. Players in the game typically take the roles of a small starship crew looking for work across an interstellar empire called the Third Imperium.
Set 3,000 years into the future, planetary nobles rule their worlds while serving within a galaxy-wide feudal order. These nobles, and those who live under their rule, often look to intersteller travellers to take on jobs ranging from simple cargo delivers, to explorations of uncharted worlds, to decisive military actions against their enemies.
Features of the Traveller universe include:
* Faster-than-light “jump drives” allow starships to travel from one to six parsecs (roughly 3 to 20 light years) during a week spent in transdimensional “jumpspace.”
* The most limiting factor to the Imperium’s citizens is communication between star systems. Messages and news can only move as fast as the starships that carry them.
* The diverse people living across the known worlds include hundreds of alien species, though humans are most common among starship crews.
* The Imperium rules space, planets rule themselves. With rare exception, Imperial forces only get involved where free trade and interstellar capitalism have been threatened by piracy or invasions by foreign forces such as the wolf-like Vargr corsairs or the feared psionic-using Zhodani.
PLAYING THE GAME
As a tabletop role-playing game, Traveller has one player take the role of game master (GM), serving as both rules referee and lead narrator, while other players control the actions of their individual characters. Everyone takes turns listening and responding to situations described in a shared story full of dangerous problems and often tough decisions.
What’s needed to play:
* Character Sheets: One for each player.
* Adventure Outline: Used by the game master for starting and running a story adventure.
* Dice: At least two per player, but up to a dozen more may be helpful.
* Pen and Paper, Or Digital Tablet: Useful for taking notes throughout play.
Staring characters are ranked in the three core traits of Combat, Starships and Worlds. A value of Excellent (6) is noted for the best one, Good (3) in the next best and Fair (1) in the least best. Players decide how to rank their character’s traits.
COMBAT: This trait reflects a character’s physique and fighting ability using fists, blades, guns and all kinds of weapons. Ex-army soldiers and marines usually have this as their top trait.
STARSHIPS: Anything involving ships used for space travel – piloting, navigating, using sensors, targeting weapons and repairing damage – fits with this trait. Former service members from the Imperial Navy and active Scout Service pilots specialize in this trait.
WORLDS: Anything not directly related to fighting or starships is covered by this trait. Natural and social sciences, picking up rumors in bars, assessing cargo values, negotiating with officials, performing medical aid and more could use this trait’s value. Merchants and rogues typically have this trait as their top pick.
In addition to traits, each player should come up with a name, a species and a brief sentence about past service that led to a character’s current skills.
Next, a player should list five goals the character is currently pursuing while traveling the stars. Each time a character achieves a goal, one Experience Point (XP) is earned. Game masters may also award Experience Points for other milestones or unique events.
Finally, players should each note their starting characters’ number of SURVIVAL POINTS, equal to their Combat rating + 4. These points are reduced when a character takes damage and regained through time and healing.
TIME AND TURNS
Each time the game master describes a scene or situation, players respond with what their characters are doing. In most cases, that’s all that’s needed, and the game master continues the story with changes noted from the players’ contributions.
How much time passes in the character’s world can vary. A week-long starship voyage may simply be dismissed by the game master saying “The trip is uneventful and you get there without incident.” Other times, players resolving the outcome of a combat firefight that lasts a few seconds may take several minutes in the real world for everyone to take turns.
For simplicity, time is typically described in turns and rounds…
* 1 turn: Actions taken by an individual character within a round.
* 1 combat round: 15 seconds of character actions during personal combat.
* 1 starship round: 20 minutes of character actions during starship combat.
When a character encounters something with an uncertain outcome, a task roll is made. These rolls usually come up during a turn when a character may attempt up to two actions: a pair of attack tasks, a move to a nearby control panel followed by a sensor task roll, making two move actions (running), move while evading enemy attacks, or other possible combinations.
Imperial universal standard times are used for non-round descriptions following standards established long ago on the planet Terra:
* 60 seconds (4 combat rounds) to a minute.
* 60 minutes (3 starship rounds) to an hour.
* 24 hours to a day.
* 7 days to a week.
* 365 days, 52 weeks, to a year. (There is no leap year to the Imperial Calendar.)
To resolve a task, a player rolls two dice and adds the value of the character’s most appropriate trait based on how actions have been described. The game master may rule which trait best fits, as well as how long the attempt takes if not limited to a single round. The higher the player’s total, the better the character’s result.
* To fire a laser rifle and hit a target within short range, roll 2d6 + Combat as an action during a character’s turn in a round. A total result of 8 or more hits a stationary or moving target, while a result of 10 or more is needed to hit an evading target. If the laser rifle’s damage rating is higher than the target’s armor rating, the target loses Survival Points.
* An explosion on a starship’s hull has caused an airlock hatch to seize shut. To repair the broken door, roll 2d6 + Starships for each minute working on the problem. The hatch can be opened again as soon as a result total of 11 or more comes up. Each attempt for success will take another minute of work.
* To convince a starport dockmaster to allow a cargo shipment to pass through customs without an inspection, roll 2d6 + Worlds for 10 minutes of negotiation. The task may be attempted only once. A result of 10 or more means the attempt worked based on charm and fast-talking alone, but a result of 8 or 9 will also work if the character adds a bribe of 2,000 credits. A roll of 5 or less always fails.
INJURIES, ILLNESS & HEALING
When a character loses Survival Points due to weapon hits, disease or other hazards, abilities get weaker and options become fewer. Non-living objects are affected in a similar way but instead track Structure Points.
FAIR CONDITION (1 to full total of points): Superficial injuries and disease symptoms might hurt, but they don’t slow the character down. For objects, damage may be barely noticeable. At this point, there are no effects on dice rolls.
SERIOUS CONDITION (0 to -total points): Shock and trauma now become a real problem for living creatures. A character’s task roll results are reduced by 2, and personal movement rates drop by half. Using seriously damaged vehicles or tools causes any task rolling a 5 or less on the 2d6 dice roll to automatically fail regardless of the value added from related traits.
CRITICAL CONDITION (Below -total point): The character is mostly incapacitated, vital signs are failing and unconsciousness comes and goes. Movement rates drop to zero. A character’s task roll results are reduced by 4. The character will die in 1d6 minutes unless given medical aid before that time runs out. For non-living objects, a critically damaged item becomes useless or collapses until repaired.
For example, a character with 6 total Survival Points is fleeing a group of hostile bandits armed with firearms. A bullet hit for 3 damage reduces the character to 3 points remaining – a minor flesh wound. A second shooter scores a critical hit doing 6 damage, dropping the character to -3 points and causing that character to suffer the penalties shown for being in Serious condition. Another 4 or more points of damage will put the character into Critical condition, desperately clinging on to life.
RECOVERY: Local medical technology determines how quickly a body heals. A GM may rule some injuries are too mortal to survive, or items too far destroyed to salvage. Damage totaling three times a character’s total Survival Points, or an object’s Structure Points, indicates total destruction and no chance for recovery.
* LOW TECH (TL 6 or less): Regain 1 Survival point every two days through natural healing, plus an additional 1d6 per week if under continuous medical care (rest, doctors and medicines available.) As a rule of thumb, Fair Damage can be fixed and erased in a few minutes. Non-living objects, vehicles and structures can be repaired to full Structure Points from any Serious Condition in 1d6 days at a cost of 50% of the object’s original price, or from Critical Condition in 1d6 weeks at a cost equal to 75% of the item’s price.
* MODERATE TECH (TL 7 to TL 9): Regain 1 Survival point every two days, plus 1d6 per day under medical care (cyberwear, advanced medicines, organ replacements). Non-living objects, vehicles and structures can be repaired to full Structure Points from any Serious Condition in 1d6 hours at a cost of 50% of the object’s original price, or from Critical Condition in 1d6 days at a cost equal to 75% of the item’s price.
* HIGH TECH (TL 10 to TL 12): Regain 1 Survival point every two days, plus 1d6 per hour under care (nanosurgery, growth quickening of natural or cloned cells). Non-living objects, vehicles and structures can be repaired to full Structure Points from any Serious Condition in 1d6 hours at a cost of 25% of the object’s original price, or Critical Condition in 1d6 weeks at a cost equal to 50% the item’s price.
* VERY HIGH TECH (TL 13 or more): As long as the body has been dead for less than 8 minutes, automatically regain 1d6 Survival Points per minute (nanomites quickly repair tissues and organs, including neural pathways). non-living objects, vehicles and structures can be repaired to full Structure Points from any Serious Condition in 1d6 minutes at a cost of 10% of the object’s original price, or Critical Condition in 1d6 hours at a cost equal to 75% of the item’s price.
When a battle begins, game master call slows down general descriptions and focuses on sharp details each character notices as weapons are drawn, shots are fired and blows are made.
To determine which characters act first in personal combat, each player makes an initiative roll of 1d6 + Combat. The GM rolls for non-player characters. The highest totals show which characters or creatures act first, with ties indicating simultaneous tasks and results. Combatants resolve their actions in descending order of initiative, from highest to lowest, and then returning back to the highest result again at the top of the next combat round. The GM will decide when a combat ends and players return to narrative descriptive play.
During a character’s turn in a 15-second round, a player chooses two actions to attempt, or one action to perform twice.
* Attack: The character attempt to cause harm to a target within attack range. Make a task roll of 2d6 + Combat and see below.
* Evade: The character focuses on dodging and staying behind cover as much as possible while moving or attempting another action. While during so until the start of the character’s next turn, attacks against this character require 2 higher results to score a hit and cause 1 die less damage. (There is no benefit to choosing the Evade option twice in the same round.)
* Move: The character moves 20 meters (about 65 feet) while performing another action, or when choosing this option twice in a round, runs 40 meters (130 feet).
* Use A Starship System: The character pushes buttons on a control panel, shouts commands to an automated computer anti-intruder system, attempts to force open a frozen airlock door or otherwise somehow interacts with a ship or starport. While under fire or distracted by enemy attacks, a task roll of 2d6 + Starships totaling 10 or more is needed to perform this action.
* Other Options: Players are free to be creative and think up other actions their characters attempt during a fight. In such cases, a task roll of 2d6 + Worlds totaling 8 or more is needed to succeed, otherwise the effort is wasted for the moment.
WEAPON RANGES: Attacks may only be attempted at targets within a character’s range, based on the method of attack.
* Touching (0m): Any attack possible when in direct contact with a target.
* Close (1m to 2m): Maximum range for hand-to-hand and hand-held weapon melee attacks.
* Near (2m to 5m): Fighting range with melee weapons, flamethrowers.
* Far (5m to 150m): Thrown weapons, shooting range of bows, pistols.
* Distant (150m to 400m): Shooting range of rifles.
* Close Region (400m to 1,000m): Shooting range of tripod or vehicle-mounted cannons.
RANGE PENALTIES: Except for weapons limited to Reach range, when an attack is made against a target in a weapon’s maximum range, that target is automatically treated as having chosen the Evade action. (Targets already using Evade don’t gain any additional benefit at maximum range.)
HITTING TARGETS: Attack tasks are resolved character-by-character in each 15-second combat round by rolling 2d6 + Combat. A result of 8 to 11 is a normal success, while a total of 12 or more is a critical result causing the hit to do double the value of rolled damage from the base dice.
If a target is using Evade as an action during a turn, or when an attacking is firing a weapon at its maximum range, an attack task must total 10 or more for a normal success, or 14 or more for a critical hit.
NON-LETHAL attacks either stun or restrain a target, preventing a character from moving or making attack actions for 1d6 rounds. Some weapons may render the target unconscious. Non-living objects are unaffected by such hits.
DEADLY attacks cause bloody wounds, broken bones, terrible burns and other damage.
* 1D DAMAGE: Brawling bare-handed or using martial arts with punches, kicks and grapples. Throwing heavy non-weapon objects at targets. Melee weapon attacks using a foil.
* 2D DAMAGE: Creatures using claws, bites, horns, hooves or thrasher attacks. Melee weapon attacks using bayonets, blades, clubs, cudgels, daggers, spears, or swords. Bullets shot from flintlock muskets.
* 3D DAMAGE: Creatures attacking with venomous stingers, or huge creatures’ claws, bites, horns, hooves or thrasher attacks. Melee weapon attacks using cutlasses, pikes or halberds. Rounds shot from assault rifles, automatic pistols and rifles, body pistols, carbines, light machine guns (LMGs), revolvers, rifles or submachineguns (SMGs).
* 4D DAMAGE: Gigantic creatures’ claws, bites, horns, hooves or thrasher attacks. Melee weapon attacks using great two-handed broadswords. Rounds shot from advanced combat rifles (ACRs), gauss rifles/coilguns, laser carbines, light assault guns (LAGs) and shotguns.
* 5D DAMAGE: Beams from laser rifles.
* 8D DAMAGE: Rounds shot from vehicle-mounted auto-cannons. Explosions from RAM high explosive grenades (within 25m of target).
* 10D DAMAGE: Rounds shot from vehicle-mounted very-rapid fire (VRF) gauss guns/coilguns. Accelerated plasma bursts shot from a Plasma Gun Man Portable (PGMP-12) support weapon (drops to 5D in Long range and 2D in Very Long range).
* 12D DAMAGE: Shots from a Plasma Gun Man Portable (PGMP-13) gun (drops to 6D in Long range and 3D in Very Long range).
* 16D DAMAGE: Shots from a Fusion Gun Man Portable (PGMP-14) gun (drops to 4D in Very Long range).
COVER AND ARMOR: Before subtracting damage from targets’ Survival or Structure points, some damage may be blocked or deflected due to personal body armor or surrounding cover. Damage ratings versus defenses are resolved before dice are rolled; an attack reduced to 0D damage or less causes no loss of points.
Since critical hit damage is determined after the dice are rolled, a crit reduced to 0D or less does no damage.
A target using Evade as an action, as well as targets within a weapon’s maximum range, subtract 1D from damage dice caused by a successful hit. (This reduction applies in addition to armor protections noted below.) Players and GMs should describe this benefit as characters diving behind bulkheads, creeping low behind tall plants in the wilderness, or whatever fits the combat scene.
For targets wearing armor, reduce damage by the armor’s value before subtracting Survival Points. If armor reduces this difference to zero or less, the attack does no damage.
* MINIMAL ARMOR (-1D PROTECTION): This production includes ablative and relec armor versus non-lasers, jack and mesh armors, flak jackets and body pressure suits.
* LIGHT ARMOR (-2D PROTECTION): Ballistic cloth armor, hostile environment suits and vacc suits of moderate and high technology.
* MEDIUM ARMOR (-3D PROTECTION): Ablative and relec armor versus lasers, combat environment suits, and very high technology vacc suits.
* HEAVY ARMOR (-5D PROTECTION): Moderate and high technology combat armor battlesuits.
* SUPERHEAVY ARMOR (-7D PROTECTION): Very high technology combat armor battlesuits and battle dress (big powered battlesuits).
There are plenty of other things in the universe that can cause damage besides direct attacks. (The Evade action does nothing to reduce this damage.)
* Suffocation, Thirst And Starvation: The rule of thumb is humans can go 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. After those limits, humans lose 2 Survival points per additional minute, day or week.
* Disease: Viruses, exotic bacteria and alien parasites are all out there in the universe. Game masters can start with these guidelines: Exposure risks a 1 in 6 chance of infection, followed by symptoms appearing 1d6 days later. At that point, the infected character loses 1 Survival Point per day for 2d6 days before recovering. Any of these rates can be adjusted to make diseases more or less dangerous.
* Vacuum of Space: Long before suffocation becomes a problem, extreme cold, rapid dehydration and tissue damage will kill a human left in space. Unprotected exposure to such a vacuum causes 6 damage per combat round. Once the character reaches Critical condition, the character also suffers blindness that lasts until all Survival Points are healed.
EXTREMELY LOW (TL0): Stone Age. Crude tools made out of natural materials (stone, wood, bones, fur/pelts). Domesticated livestock, simple shelters, transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture. Tribal gatherings, shamanistic religions and medicine, barter for trade.
VERY LOW (TL1 to TL3): Bronze, Iron, Medieval ages into the Industrial Revolution. Manufactured materials (metals, glass, cement, concrete). Rise of science, mathematics, study of anatomy. Astronomy, telescopes, navigation by star positions in the sky. Ocean travel in ships. Kingdoms, city states, some use of cannons in warfare. Written texts and laws, broad literacy.
LOW (TL4 to TL6): Mechanized, Broadcast and Atomic ages. Widespread use of electricity to power tools, processed oil to power vehicles. Manufactured materials (plastics, fiberglass, titanium). Biochemistry, viral science and vaccines, mapping of DNA. Regional broadcast signals first in audio, later adding video. Industrial robots. Travel by aircraft common. Continent-wide nations and alliances, global trade. Widespread use of personal firearms. Use of orbital satellites for global communications.
MODERATE (TL7 to TL9): Information Age into early stellar/fusion age. Multiple methods of generating electrical power (nuclear, geothermal, solar). Micro-manufacturing of new materials. Bionic and cybernetic prosthetics, artificial organ replacements. Audio-commanded robots. Arcologies on planet’s surface, permanent settlements in orbital stations. Global digital data networks, broad computer literacy. Sublight spacecraft explore local system.
HIGH (TL10 to TL12): Gravitic Age, average Imperial. Jump drives (range 1 to 3 parsecs), grav vehicles and structures (starships, hovertanks, air/raft, speeders, floating cities). Fusion power local and common. Manufacturing of superdense materials. Nanosurgery, advanced medicines, growth quickening, implanted neural computers, personality recording. Robots with low autonomy. Instant multilingual translators. Starship meson and fusion weapons. Planet-wide weather control, regional terraforming.
VERY HIGH (TL13 to TL15): Geneering Age, High Stellar, Imperial Maximum. Jumps drive (up to 6 parsecs). Grav belts for personal flight, whole grav-mobile cities. Industrial nanotechnology. Fast cloning of whole bodies, memory erasure, temporary personality transfers, brain transplants. Robots with high autonomy. Pseudo-reality chambers. Meson communicators, starship x-ray laser weapons. Global terraforming (ecopoiesis on barren worlds).
EXTREMELY HIGH (TL16 to TL18): Self-aware starships. Exotic custom lifeforms. Artificial people with original minds or permanent copies from previous recordings. Short-range matter transport for cargo and people (regional teleporters). Starship disintegrators, tractor beams, Black Globe fields around elite military starships.
ULTRA-HIGH (TL19 and higher): Multi-parsec matter transports for starships. Jump drive range up to hundreds of parsecs. Construction of whole artificial worlds (first small planets, later ringworlds then dyson spheres). Fields to block jump drives. Mobile planets. Hand-held disintegration weapons.
GAME MASTER’S GUIDE
2d6 + trait, min. needed for success
* Easy … 6 or more
* Average … 8
* Difficult … 10
* Formidable … 12
* Staggering … 14
* Impossible … 16
* Radiation: Damage due to cosmic radiation or solar flares in space can takes weeks to be an issue, while an atomic weapon or nuclear accident is instantly deadly. Characters caught 1 km from the blast take 40 damage; 2 km suffer 10 damage; 3 km take 5 damage and 4 km distance suffer 2 damage.
For fallout or travel through radioactive zones, figure 1000s of rads per hour cause 5 damage per hour, 100s of rads per hour cause 1 damage per hour; and 10s of rads cause 1 damage per day.
* Natural Energy Blasts: Falling into industrial acid or running through a burning room causes 1 damage per round. Burning damage per round goes up from there, with 5 damage for a burning house, 7 damage for a forest fire, 9 damage inside a forge, 15 inside an active volcano, and so forth. A lightning strike causes 9 damage.
* Weather: Out on hot or cold worlds, enduring temperatures of extreme heat (120 degrees F/48 degrees C) or extreme cold (-30 degrees/-34 degrees C) causes 1 damage per hour.
* Falling: A 1G gravity landing onto hard ground causes 2 damage per 3 meters fallen after 2 meters. (Falls of 2 meters or less cause no damage.)
* Touching (0m): Any attack possible when in direct contact with a target
* Close (1m to 2m): Maximum range for hand-to-hand and hand-held weapon melee attacks
* Near (2m to 5m): Fighting range with melee weapons, flamethrowers
* Far (5m to 150m): Thrown weapons, shooting range of bows, pistols
* Distant (150m to 400m): Shooting range of rifles
* Close Region (400m to 1,000m): Shooting range of tripod-mounted cannons
* Near Region (1km to 10km): Shooting range of small and medium ship weaponry
* Far Region (10km to 100km): Shooting range of large to huge ship weaponry
* Distant Region (100km to 1,000km): Shooting range of capital ship weaponry
* Close Orbit (1,000km to 10,000km): Upper atmosphere
* Near Orbit (10,000km to 100,000km): Geostationary orbit
* Far Orbit (100,000km to 1 million km): One light-second, range to moons
* Distant Orbit (1 to 10 million km)
* Close System (10 to 100 million km): One light-minute
* Near System (100 million to 1 billion km): One astronomical unit
* Far System (1 to 10 billion km)
* Distant System (10 to 100 billion km)
* Close Sector (100 billion to 1 trillion km)
* Near Sector (1 to 10 trillion km): One light-year
* Far Sector (10 to 100 trillion km): One parsec, neighboring systems
* Distant Sector (3 to 30 parsecs): Systems at the edge of the sector
* Close Galaxy (30 to 300 parsecs): Neighboring sectors
* Near Galaxy (300 to 3,000 parsecs): Average width of a galactic area “ring”
* Far Galaxy (3,000 to 30,000 parsecs): Almost the width of the galaxy
* Distant Galaxy (30,000 to 300,000 parsecs): Beyond the known galaxy