Traveller in 2017

We covered some broad strokes for what would be coming up for Traveller this year in the State of the Mongoose, but now we can delve a little deeper and let you know what to expect for your favourite sci-fi RPG.

We will be continuing the regular(ish) release of ebook support for Traveller throughout the year, including more Referee’s Briefings (the next two will be Incidents and Encounters, due in a few days, and Garden Worlds, later this month) and various regions of the Traveller universe (the Lunion Shield Worlds will be appearing in a couple of months or so).

 

Vehicle Handbook

However, the next big hardback will be the Vehicle Handbook, which pretty much does for vehicles what High Guard does for ships. We have based this book on the previous edition, spearheaded by the mechanics of Colin Dunn, but we have focussed heavily on usability, meaning it is even quicker to put vehicles together now. The second edition Traveller rules have helped a great deal here, streamlining the mechanics for vehicles and how they integrate into the wider game.

As well as giving plenty of options for the types of vehicles you can create (from hovering submarines to bouncing walkers to massive airship aircraft carriers), we have also included a veritable fleet of vehicles, some familiar, some brand new, for you to insert straight into your campaigns. We have been at pains not to simply give you a car, a lorry, a motorcycle – that is a bit boring. Instead, we have been working on creating vehicles, across all Tech Levels (yes, we have TL1 vehicles in the book!), that may be found throughout the universe. So, if you are looking for low tech nomad raiders, the wind-powered land ship with a full complement of bolt throwers will be just the ticket (and can provide a nasty surprise even for well equipped Travellers!). At the other end of the scale, Travellers might be interested in dropping MCr5 on the Abel thermospheric reconnaissance drone, capable of staying on station above enemy territory, undetected, as it relays intelligence back to them.

Or you can go full Mech with the range of fighting walkers we have included.

Vehicle Handbook is in layout right now, and you can expect to see the electronic version around the beginning of February, with the hardback surfacing late spring.

 

Traveller Starter Set

One reason for the new edition of Traveller appearing when it did was because of a request from Mr Miller for us to do a starter box set (it did not make sense to do one towards the end of the product cycle of the last edition, so the new rulebook was written).

This box set will contain everything players need to dive into Traveller, from the rules (which, while the Core Rulebook will have more breadth, will not be a cut-down version of its rules) to a complete mini-campaign. The campaign is set in the Traveller Universe, but many, many light years away from the Third Imperium or, indeed, any part of Charted Space. It is our intention that it will serve as both an introduction into the mechanics and concepts of Traveller, as well as a long-running campaign that we may return to at a later date (possibly as part of an ‘advanced’ rules box set, but we will have to see…).

The keen-eyed among you will recognise that the front cover of the starter set is the reverse of the Core Rulebook, taken from the point of view of the Corsairs…

Expect to see the electronic version of the starter set in February…

 

Reach Adventure 4: The Last Flight of the Amuar

The next full adventure set in the Trojan Reach will be the Last Flight of the Amuar, a re-imagining of the classic adventure, Leviathan.

The original adventure presented details of the Leviathan-class merchant cruiser and an outline of an adventure aboard one. In this adventure, Leviathan was engaged in an exploratory trade cruise into the so-called Outrim Void, a region just over the border from Imperial space.

In this adventure, written by fan-favourite M J Dougherty, the Travellers will iscover that Amuar continued heading into deep space rather than turning for home as her mission plan had indicated. The clues point to the backwater world of Pa’an, where the wreck of Amuar is found. Entering it, the Travellers will seek clues as to why the mission profile was changed, and how the ship came to be crashed on a nowhere world…

 

The Pirates of Drinax

This is the biggie. The previously free-to-download Pirates of Drinax is getting a major uplift, with all material re-edited, re-written, and expanded, combined with source material on both the Aslan and Trojan Reach, and bundled together with a giant poster map into two full colour hardbacks within a slipcase.

This is going to be a magnificent Traveller set to own and, we believe, the best campaign written for Traveller thus far (and one of the best written for any RPG – the principal writer, Gareth Hanrahan, has a real gift for this kind of work).

Along the way, we have accumulated way more material than we can possibly fit into the slipcase books (well over 700 pages worth!), so we have decided to package a lot of these extra bits and pieces as ebooks that can be downloaded to expand and enhance your campaign. We should be at pains to point out that nothing outside of the slipcase books is necessary for the campaign – it really is extra supplements that can be added for an extended Drinaxian experience.

For example, we have included a large number of Patron encounters in the campaign – however, we have also expanded half a dozen of those encounters into full blown adventures (perfect for the lazy referee!). The campaign includes a full chapter on the ship the players start with, the Drinaxian Harrier, covering its capabilities and ways it can be improved – there will also be a Harrier supplement adding yet more options to this magnificent ship.

Beyond that, we have a Ship Encounters supplement with ready-to-go vessels for the players to plunder (all with extensive backgrounds that can lead onto brand new adventures or, at least, greatly complicate the pirating operation), and we already have released supplements for Drinax covering specific regions, such as Theev (expect to see similar releases on the Florian League and Glorious Empire!).

Finally, we will be introducing a brand new chapter to the campaign, in the form of the Shadows of Sindal, a trilogy or linked adventures that will take the players ever deeper into the story.

We are aiming for all of this to be released over the summer months but, with Traveller in general and Drinax specifically, it will appear when it is ready – there is no way we are going to rush projects of this magnitude.

Either way, the Pirates of Drinax is set to be a truly epic campaign or the most monstrous proportions!

 

The Traveller Companion

Despite being mentioned in the Core Rulebook, the Companion did not appear in 2017 – we are taking steps to rectify that right now!

So, what is the Traveller Companion?

Well, a good description would be all the material that did not make it into the core books released thus far. Its chapter structure mimics that of the Core Rulebook, with different or additional takes on each – for example, in the character creation chapter, there are new pre-career options alongside new ways to create characters that do not use the career system. In the Encounters chapter, you will find new hazards and additional traits for animals, while the Spacecraft Operations chapter includes, among other things, what happens when a ship strays a bit too close to a black hole…

It is basically a repository for every whacky idea the designers ever had, along with a good dollop of material that has been put together from comments made by players on various Traveller forums. We are still adding ideas into the mix (‘say, wouldn’t it be whiz-o-whiz if we added rules for T Tauri stars?’), and the end result will be a massive toolkit for referees to plough through, picking and choosing what they want to use for their own, unique campaigns.

Expect the Traveller Companion during the summer, and as a full colour hardback in autumn.

 

Expedition to Zhodane

For the next stage of our Traveller storytelling, we will revisit another classic adventure in the run up to one of the mightiest events to engulf the Third Imperium.

Once again, M J Dougherty will be taking a classic adventure and reworking it – this time, turning it into an eight episode mini-campaign that will send the players deep into Zhodani space and serve as a suitably climactic build up to the next mega-campaign we will be working on, the Fifth Frontier War (likely to be a 2018 release itself – but well worth waiting for!).

Expedition to Zhodane will start appearing towards the end of summer, and will be completed by the end of the year, followed by a hardback compiling the campaign in early 2018.

 

2300AD

All going well, the new edition of 2300AD will be arriving this winter – brought up to the spec of the new Traveller rules, streamlined to make it easier to get into, and in glorious full colour throughout.

The design is being headed by Colin Dunn,who will be well known to fans of this setting, and work on supplementary support has already been started, including Bayern, the Aerospace Engineer’s Handbook, and a brand new epic campaign that will get players with little or no experience into the 2300AD universe.

Expect a much bigger commitment than before to 2300AD over the next few years.

 

Anything Else?

These titles form the cornerstones of our plans for Traveller throughout 2017 but, as ever, we will be trying to squeeze more in where we can – there is a long, long list covering what we want to do with Traveller, in terms of both game and setting, and we would very much like it if you all came along with us. We believe there is tremendous scope for Traveller, in terms of mechanics, source material and stories, and we will be aiming to touch on all three throughout the year.

If you have any suggestions for must-have titles, feel free to swing by our forums and let us know!

 

A Worrying Little Drone

Work continues on the Vehicle Handbook (actually, we are in the very final stages!), which means I get to tinker around with all sorts of vehicles – seeing just what is possible.

With certain (not to be named) players in mind, I set about trying to create something very cheap, and yet very destructive. This is what I came up with…

 

Zircon Nuclear Gun Drone

Found only within military forces keen on testing the limits of interstellar law, the Zircon nuclear gun drone looks innocuous enough, being a relatively small and light grav vehicle, sporting only a single autocannon. However, the autocannon is loaded with californium rounds that have an effective yield of just under a kiloton. While high Tech Level enemies can render the Zircon all but useless through the use of nuclear dampers, more primitive armies will have few defences against a squadron of Zircons.

TL 13 Armour  
Skill Flyer (grav) Front 55
Agility +1 Sides 40
Speed (cruise) Very Fast (Fast) Rear 25
Range (cruise) 2000 (3000)  
Crew - Traits -
Passengers -
Cargo - Equipment Camouflage (advanced), Communication System (advanced, encrypted), Fire Extinguishers, Manipulator Arm (improved), Prismatic Aerosol Discharger, Robot Brain (advanced), Sensor System (improved, increased fidelity)
Hull 20
Shipping 5 tons
Cost Cr444000
  Weapons Small Turret (medium autocannon, improved fire control)

Weapon Range Damage Magazine Magazine Cost Traits Fire Control
Medium Autocannon 6 6DD 100 Cr30000 Auto 3, Blast 500, Radiation +2

 

 

Vehicle Handbook Development Diary – Taking to the High Seas

In a universe full of grav vehicles and spacecraft, it is easy to brush over more down-to-earth methods of travel. However, we wanted one of the core areas of the Vehicle Handbook to be more mundane vehicles that demanded attention from referees, that provided encouragement to be inserted into adventures – and keeping them relevant even at higher Tech Levels, where lower tech solution to a problem still made sense (especially in terms of cost).

The Research Ship is a good example of the latter. It appears in an era where grav transport is beginning to be ubiquitous but, for a mere MCr3.31 provides long term scientific support not possible with the equivalent grav vehicle. Perfectly fine so long as you don’t need to get anywhere fast.

 

Research Ship

Capable of conducting a wide variety of scientific investigations, the research ship provides a full suite of research facilities and can stay at sea for extended periods of time without resupply. Even in a technologically advanced society, the use of such watercraft does not strain research grants and so the pioneers of science can conduct their research without real world hindrances.

TL 9 Armour  
Skill Seafarer (ocean ships) Front 9
Agility -6 Sides 9
Speed (cruise) Slow (Very Slow) Rear 9
Range (cruise) 8000 (12000)  
Crew 4 Traits -
Passengers 12
Cargo 22.5 tons Equipment Atmospheric Sampler, Autopilot (enhanced), Communication System (improved, increased range, satellite uplink), Computer/1 x 2, Crane (heavy), Fire Extinguishers, Galley (seats 10), General Purpose Laboratory (4 scientists), Holding Tank (6 spaces), Hydrographic Sampler, Internal Bay (5 tons), Navigation System (improved), Sensor System (improved, increased range x 2), Sensor System (improved, underwater), Staterooms x 16
Hull 1200
Shipping 150 tons
Cost MCr3.31

 

We have had modern Sloops pop up in previous vehicle books for Traveller – but some rich guy’s plaything is not a lot of fun, so we have gone back in time for the new Vehicle Handbook and provided something more appropriate to pirates!

 

Sloop

Typically sporting a single mast (some rare boats may feature two), the sloop was designed as a utilitarian vessel – cheap, easy to build, and capable of a wide range of seagoing functions from fishing to mercantile activities. However, those seeking to prey upon merchants quickly saw a sloop made for a fine pirating vessel when armed. Fast, manoeuvrable and with a shallow hull that let it sail up rivers or ride right over shoals, a good pirate can make a powerful name for themselves in this boat.

TL 3 Armour  
Skill Seafarer (sail) Front 1
Agility -1 Sides 1
Speed (cruise) Very Slow (Idle) Rear 1
Range (cruise) -  
Crew 70 Traits -
Passengers 5
Cargo - Equipment Crane (light)
Hull 130
Shipping 32.5 tons
Cost Cr62500
  Weapons Fixed Mount (Black Powder Cannon, left) x 7

Fixed Mount (Black Powder Cannon, right) x 7

 

Weapon Range Damage Magazine Magazine Cost Traits Fire Control
Black Powder Cannon 0.5 7D 1 Cr50 - -

 

And because Black Powder Cannons are inherently cool, we made provision for piracy on rivers during the age of steam (or the odd civil war, if you prefer).

 

Liberty-class Ironclad

Sitting low in the water, due to its immense weight of armour, the Liberty-class can, in theory, sail the oceans but is much more comfortable (and safe) on rivers as it has a tendency to be swamped by any wave. The Liberty is intended to bombard shore-based targets as much as engage other ironclads and serves as a superb blockading vessel, its sheer size making it a stable platform for its weapons.

TL 4 Armour  
Skill Seafarer (ocean ship) Front 10
Agility -6 Sides 10
Speed (cruise) Very Slow (Idle) Rear 10
Range (cruise) 500 (750)  
Crew 60 Traits -
Passengers -
Cargo 3 tons Equipment Bunks x 10, Smoke Discharger
Hull 400
Shipping 50 tons
Cost Cr
  Weapons Fixed Mount (black powder cannon, left side) x 4

Fixed Mount (black powder cannon, right side) x 4

Weapon Range Damage Magazine Magazine Cost Traits Fire Control
Black Powder Cannon 0.5 7D 10 Cr500 - -

 

But what about the warships of tomorrow? Before grav tanks make them all obsolete, perhaps they will look a little like the Achilles-class…

 

Achilles-class Frigate

For many Tech Levels the main workhorse of any fluid ocean navy, the Achilles-class is perhaps the ultimate expression of a frigate before grav technology truly outmodes them. Despite their relatively small size frigates are both fast and extremely well-armed, able to threaten vessels much larger than themselves, while still capable of engaging in a wide variety of roles such as search and rescue, anti-submarine patrols and fleet air defence.

 

TL 9 Armour  
Skill Seafarer (ocean ship) Front 10
Agility -5 Sides 10
Speed (cruise) Slow (Very Slow) Rear 10
Range (cruise) 8000 (12000)  
Crew 120 Traits -
Passengers -
Cargo 10 tons Equipment Anti-Missile System (minigun), Autopilot (improved), Bunks x 30, Camouflage (improved), Command Centre (seats 10), Communications System (improved, encrypted, increased range x 2, satellite uplink, tightbeam), Computer/1, Control System (improved), Crane (heavy), Decoy Dispenser, ECM (improved), Fire Extinguishers, Freshers x 10, Galley (seats 30), Internal Bay (10 tons), Navigation System (improved), Operating Theatre, Prismatic Aerosol Discharger, Sensor System (improved, hardened, increased fidelity x 2, increased range x 2), Sensor System (improved, hardened, increased fidelity x 2, increased range x 2, underwater), Smoke Discharger, Stateroom x 2
Hull 2000
Shipping 250 tons
Cost MCr9.58
  Weapons Large Turret (heavy laser cannon x 2, improved fire control) x 3

Fixed Mount (long range anti-air missile, top, improved fire control)

Fixed Mount (torpedo, left side, improved fire control)

Fixed Mount (torpedo, right side, improved fire control)

Weapon Range Damage Magazine Magazine Cost Traits Fire Control
Heavy Laser Cannon 25 2DD+2 - - AP 20 +2
Long Range Anti-air Missile 40 8D 15 Cr330000 One Use, Smart +2
Torpedo 50 5DD 5 Cr60000 One Use, Smart +2
Minigun 0.5 2D 600 Cr1000 Auto 6 -

 

Stay tuned for more previews of forthcoming Traveller books, there are plenty on their way!

 

 

 

 

Vehicle Handbook Development Diary – August 26th

The development of the new Traveller has been a fairly long road, but a most enjoyable one – tinkering with interstellar mechanics for your day job never has a dull moment!

The Core Rulebook came out earlier this year, and High Guard has just been released in ebook format, while we are just awaiting on the Central Supply Catalogue to come back from print.

Right now, we are putting the final touches to the Vehicle Handbook, the tome that will not only allow you to build just about any vehicle you can think of but also comes packed with loads of already-created vehicles that can be inserted straight into your campaign.

Many of these will be obvious – we need a high TL tank for the armies of the universe, for example, just as we need a TL5 tank for players to use when they are on more backward worlds. However, there is always the desire to push things alittle bit further and see just what the design system is capable of.

So, I have been doing just that!

Here is one example. I decided it would be whizz-o-whizz if we had a hypersonic transport in the book – basically, a Concorde II. This is what I came up with as a first pass:

 

Concordia II Hypersonic Airliner

Before the advent of grav technology, supersonic airliners like the Concordia II provide the fastest form of air travel though high ticket prices tend to place them beyond the reach of the common man. However, those who can afford it are in for royal treatment and a transportation system that can get them to anywhere on the planet in a matter of a few short hours. The Concordia II is capable of speeds in excess of Mach 5, though it normally supercruises at around Mach 4.

 

TL 8 Armour  
Skill Flyer (wing) Front 2
Agility -1 Sides 2
Speed (cruise) Hypersonic (Supersonic) Rear 2
Range (cruise) 8000 (12000)  
Crew 5 Traits -
Passengers 80
Cargo 2 tons Equipment Autopilot (improved), Bunks x 2, Communication System (basic, increased range x 2, satellite uplink), Computer/1, Control System (improved), Entertainment Systems x 80, Fire Extinguishers, Fresher x 8, Galley (seats 10), Navigation System (basic), Sensor System (basic, increased range x 2)
Hull 150
Shipping 300 tons
Cost MCr165

 

The trouble with doing this kind of aircraft at TL8 is, of course, ubiquitous grav technology is just around the corner (not to mention spacecraft), so the Concordia II very much represents the last gasp of traditional passenger aircraft. It carries a mere 80 passengers and will struggle to get across the Atlantic (massive range was never really a thing for the real Concorde). However, it is fast. Very fast. Mach 5 in perfect first class comfort. We even have a decent bar in there where passengers can stretch their legs and get a drink (and maybe some peanuts).

The downside?

Well, take a look at the cost. How many passengers are you going to have to fly to pay that back, eh? (Again, the real Concorde had a similar issue).

This aircraft could be made a lot cheaper under the Vehicle Handbook system, but I managed to create a ‘perfect storm’ of requirements – the increased speed was a big spend (there was no way I was going to settle for a mere supersonic transport!), as was range. You want a small super-fast fighter, it is not a problem, but if you want to get a bunch of passengers across an ocean in an aircraft like this, you need to spend the Credits. And as far as those passengers go? Just squeezing in 80 of them was tough enough. The seats might be comfy, but you will be wanting to use that bar to get some space.

Then again, at the speed this thing goes, you won’t be sitting down for long.

It does beg the question though: Aside from being an exercise in what the Vehicle Handbook is capable of creating, who in their right mind would actually purchase and try to run one of these?

Well, we have had some ideas…

  • A world that has yet to discover grav technology (or decent space travel, for that matter) simply has no choice if they want to go far and fast. That grav tech breakthrough might be just around the corner, TL-wise, but they may not know that.
  • A world of the super-rich might find it simply more convenient to fly like this rather than use some sort of sub-orbital shuttle. It may be that check-in for the Concordia II takes minutes whereas any type of spacecraft requires you sit in the spaceport lounge for two hours while they repeatedly scan your luggage (they won’t scan you, you are going first class – and terrorists never go first class).
  • Money might not be an object. Dictators spring to mind here.
  • It might appear on a world that has a no-space-travel-zone imposed upon it. Atmospheric flight is just fine, but your oppressors might well shoot down anything that comes anywhere close to orbiting.

So, given that, the Concordia II will be making an appearance in the Vehicle Handbook, however impractical it might actually be in the ‘real’ world.

What do you think? Take a trip to our Traveller forums, and let us know! And swing back here from time to time – we want to make these Development Diaries a permanent (and regular) feature of Planet Mongoose, and you never know when we might accidentally drop a hint of projects that are in the works but have not been announced!

 

 

 

 

 

Traveller – A New Edition in Development

The new Traveller has appeared, the product of many years tweaking, adjusting and listening to the thousands of players who have travelled the universe of the far future. Here, we will take you through the entire design process; what we have done with the game, what we have been aiming for, and our plans for the next ten years of Traveller.

So, grab yourself a coffee, and settle in for a good read! Alternatively, dive right in by picking up your own copy here!

First off, you can dive into the new Traveller right now with the Beta Rulebook PDF. It is a mere $20 on DrivethruRPG and we’ll return that $20 to you in the form of a voucher when the final Core Rulebook is released in early 2016.

So, what do you get in return?

Well, aside from the chance to directly influence the longest running sci-fi RPG of all time, you will be getting the following;

  • The Beta Playtest Core Rulebook, laid out and ready to go! After many, many moons of writing and internal playtesting, this book is now ready to be seen (and commented upon!) by dedicated Traveller players. All that is missing from this PDF is a few pieces of artwork!
  • A free copy of the adventure High and Dry, a revised edition of the original Type-S scenario, fully updated to the new Traveller in both rules and format. This will allow you to jump right in and start playing Traveller immediately with a cracking adventure written by fan favourite Martin Dougherty.
  • Access to draft (Word format) documents of the ‘core set’ of Traveller rule books – High Guard, Central Supply Catalogue, Vehicle Handbook, and the Traveller Companion, plus the chance to comment upon them and thus influence Traveller at a fundamental level.
  • A $20 voucher to be redeemed against the final Core Rulebook, meaning the Beta Core Rulebook will end up not costing you a penny!
  • If all goes well, some other goodies will be turning up in your Drivethru folders during the playtest period. We have some projects currently on the go that are set for release with the new addition, but if we can complete them according to schedule, they will be offered for free to all registered playtesters.

 

A New Traveller

When we released the last version of Traveller, it proved immensely popular – the Core Rulebook retained the feel and atmosphere of Classic Traveller but brought instantly accessible rules to the fore that could easily translate across multiple universes.

With such a solid base, there was no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater but there were always changes we wanted to make.

Graphics and Art

The first was the approach to graphical design. The last edition rested heavily on the minimalist approach of Classic Traveller – the new edition has all the bells and whistles you expect from a modern RPG. From isometric deck plans to flow charts that walk you throw character creation and ship design, from subsector maps to equipment pages that look as though they come straight from a space-based mail order catalogue, we have spent months striving to make the new Traveller not only look the best it can, but also to use these graphics to help it play better on the table top.

The goal has been not only to bring the Far Future to life through art and design, but to do so in a way that makes logical sense and aids gameplay.

It is our intention to make every Traveller book a full colour hardback – but more on those plans a bit later.

 

The Rules

Before we dived headlong into the design of the new Traveller, we created a long (very long!) Master Wish List of everything we thought might be good, interesting, or just plain cool to include. It was at this point that we decided (with some degree of insanity involved…) to work on not just the Core Rulebook in isolation, but to develop the Core Rulebook alongside what we started calling the ‘core set’ of supplements, those books that would become integral to the campaigns of many players, such as High Guard and the Central Supply Catalogue.

The idea here was that all these titles would be integrated at a very fundamental level so consistency was maintained across all of them. To give an example, in the past edition of Traveller, the ship design rules were written for the Core Rulebook and then High Guard was written on top of those to expand options. With this edition, High Guard was written first and then all ship-based material in the Core Rulebook was drawn from that.

This ensures there are no clashes or incompatibilities between the core set books. One follows on naturally from the others.

 

Traveller Creation

One of the absolute hits of the last edition was the career system and the events that tied into it, allowing players to create fully-fledged individuals who were ready to explore the universe. With a foundation that solid, we were understandably not going to change a huge amount!

Instead, guided by our internal playtesters, we have made clarifications to eliminate areas of confusion, tweaks to balance out any discrepancies and a few humble additions we hope will greatly enhance the creation process. These include;

  • Ship shares – these no longer provide a few measly percentage points on a ship. They will either get you a ship (with varying stages of mortgage paid off – and there are now rules that only one ship will be present in the party during creation) or are considered an investment, adding to your pension.
  • The pre-career education that appeared in past supplements such as Mercenary II has been refined and is now part of the core rules.
  • The Prisoner career has been added to the core book and yes, there are several Events and Mishaps that will send you straight there.
  • Proper rules have (finally!) been added to handle the changing of assignments within a career. So, if you are an Agent you might start off in Law Enforcement, but you now have a path to the world of corporate espionage!

 

Skills and Tasks

This is a very important area of the core rules and while we have not made substantial changes in the way the rules work, we have tweaked how they flow.

The skill list itself has been revised to make more sense and create characters who will be a little more capable. For example, Computers, Comms, Sensors and Remote Ops are no longer separate skills but have become specialities of Electronics. This means that anyone with the Electronics skill has at least some chance of being able to use an electronic device – not an unreasonable assumption in a technological society that has interstellar travel.

We also took a good, long look at that old standby, the 2D task resolution system.

Now, with just 2D controlling the fates of characters, you have to be very, very careful about what modifiers can be included or you can easily end up with automatic successes and failure – not very exciting during a tense situation in a game. We recognised this and wanted to lay down a foundation that not only flowed well for the Core Rules, but on which future supplements could be based.

To this end, there are three factors involved in every task check in Traveller.

First, the referee or adventure sets the Difficulty of the check. This is done in exactly the same way as the last Traveller, except that instead of imposing a modifier, it directly affects the target number – so, an Average check needs 8+, Difficult needs 10+, and so on. The maths are exactly the same as before but doing it this way round allows the referee to keep the target number (and thus difficulty) hidden from the players.

Next, Dice Modifiers are imposed. The change in this addition is that (referee fiat aside), DMs are always hard-wired into the rules, never imposed by circumstance. So, being strong might grant you DM+1 to lift something heavy, but being able to do so accurately in a howling gale does not affect this. That would be covered by…

…Boon and Bane dice. These are extra dice the players roll alongside their normal 2D under the direction of the referee. In a nutshell, the referee no longer has to determine Dice Modifiers on the fly, simply whether the circumstances are beneficial (have a Boon dice) or adverse (use a Bane dice). This has the dual effect of making the game flow faster and removing the reliance on DMs placed upon a 2D roll.

Simples!

Combat

The use of skills and checks has a knock-on effect with attack rolls, and you will find everything maintains compatibility throughout; if you know how to perform a skill check, you know how to fight in combat.

The big change here is the integration of Travellers, vehicles and starships into one combat system that flows effortlessly between all three, always a muddy area in the last edition. You can now fly your Corsair through a system, destroy the orbiting defence stations, then descend into the atmosphere to dogfight the aerospace fighters. A critical hit system for ships and vehicles allows you knock out vital systems in your opponent’s craft, while an expanded action system will give everyone on board something to do in battle.

And yes, starship captains will now be worrying about the amount of Power available to them. In most situations, it will not be a factor (and this will not intrude on gameplay) but if you overload a trader with high-powered weaponry or take damage to your power plant, you’ll be screaming down the comms to your engineer to give you more power!

 

Encounter and Dangers

A lot of the rules in this chapter will seem very familiar to players of the past edition but, again, we have made additions and tweaks that integrates everything into a much more cohesive framework that will translate into smoother play. For example, proper rules have been added for adverse gravitational effects and the quick character creation system pioneered by 2300AD has been brought into the Core Rulebook.

We have also made changes to the way animals are handled, making their creation a thing of simplicity for referees; come up with a concept for your creature, assign Hits and Attacks, then add Traits and you are done. The Traits for animals handle special abilities such as heightened senses or psionic capability and we will be adding to them in future supplements – especially useful as they are also used for alien species, forming another common bond within the mechanics of the game.

 

Internal Playtesting

A great deal of playtesting has gone into Traveller, long before we could look at releasing a beta version. Our playtesters were recruited from across the Traveller community and were divided into four separate and distinct categories, with communication between the categories limited throughout the initial playtest stages to allow us to make ‘blind’ tests. These categories were;

  1. The PTB, Marc Miller’s own Inner Circle with notables such as Colin ‘2300AD’ Dunn. These were the gatekeepers, so to speak, the Powers that control the canon of the Traveller Universe.
  2. The crew from Digital Arc Systems. These are the chaps working on the Traveller Suite Software package (check out rpgsuite.com) which integrates the use of tablets and laptops with the table top game. This ensured there would be no hiccups in translating the rules to the screen.
  3. Third party publishers. Early on, we brought on board the leading publishers who had produced third party products for Traveller. We felt that the input of people who had a financial stake in Traveller would be invaluable (far less likely to hand wave anything) and, in return, they would have a front row seat in developing products for the new edition.
  4. For the final group, we trawled the Traveller forums (both our own and other sites) for the most passionate, dedicated, opinionated and yes, pugnacious Traveller players – those we believed could be relied upon to tell us exactly what was wrong with any proposed rule and not to be soft about it! As I told them from the start, we were not looking for Yes-Men, we wanted players who genuinely wanted Traveller to be the best game it could possibly be.

We are now ready to receive comments and suggestions from the wider Traveller player base through the Beta Playtest Core Rulebook, and we have already set up forums to handle your comments (you will find them here). We will read every comment made and, where possible, either integrate your suggestions or at least try to explain why certain things will not work. All we ask is that you keep things civil!

 

A New Sector

Creating new worlds and universes has always been a staple of Traveller, and you will find planet creation in this Core Rulebook with a few minor tweaks. However, we also wanted to provide a complete subsector (with patrons!) to give starting players an area to immediately explore and start adventuring in with their newly created Travellers.

Enter the Sindal subsector.

Traditionally, Traveller books have always gravitated towards one of two areas within the Third Imperium – either the Solomani Rim or, far more commonly, the Spinward Marches.

Now, both will be represented in the new Traveller but, to kick things off, we fancied it was time for a change so we are heading Rimward – to the Trojan Reach.

This will be an area of space instantly familiar to anyone who has been playing the epic (and free!) Pirates of Drinax campaign, and it lies directly next to the Spinward Marches, making it easy to bring existing Travellers down into it or send new Travellers up to use your existing Marches sourcebooks.

As one-time Traveller writer Gareth Hanrahan once said, if the Spinward Marches are the frontier, then the Trojan Reach is the Badlands.

That just seems a more exciting place to be, and we hope veteran Traveller players will take the journey with us to this sector where men are real men, women are real women and furry Aslan are… well, you get the idea. This is a sector where danger rules, the machinations of huge empires are present but not cloying, and adept or lucky Travellers can carve out their own future without having massive implications for the setting as a whole (well, unless you want them to have that effect…).

We will getting behind the Trojan Reach in a big way over the next few years, so strap yourselves in, check your lasers, and hit the jump controls.

What is Next?

As well as the Core Rulebook we have, as mentioned earlier, also been developing High Guard, Central Supply Catalogue, the Vehicle Handbook and the Traveller Companion. All of these will be available as drafts for playtesting to those of you who dive into the Beta Core Rulebook.

Of these, most will be familiar to veteran Travellers, but one bears a closer look.

The Traveller Companion is our ‘odd bits’ book, the ‘toolkit’ book. Basically, it contains all the rules and additions that did not quite fit in the Core Rulebook and is intended for referees wanting to create their own universes or put a spin on an existing one. These would include, to give just the briefest of examples, varying character creation systems, new approaches to various skills and their specialities, introducing new characteristics, using an abstract wealth system rather than counting credits, variant technologies, alternate planet creation rules, and a host of new ways of creating aliens and animals.

It is a dip in/dip out book, a toolkit that will allow referees to fine tune their own Traveller games to avoid being locked in by one play style or another.

It is our intention to complete the playtest period around Christmas, with the Core Rulebook released in printed form around March 2016.

For the next six months, we will be releasing one Traveller hardback every month, culminating with a brand new Traveller starter set aimed for Gen Con next year. This ensures dedicated Traveller players will be able to get their hands on the ‘core set’ of books as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality.

Beyond that, we are adopting a very different path for Traveller, with one hardback book appearing every 3-4 months. It is our intention to ramp up the quality of this line, in terms of both presentation and mechanics, and that takes time. This will likely be supplemented by smaller ebook-only releases, but the core range will remain full colour hardback.

The other change we are making as part of the Traveller line up; we are removing hard deadlines and replacing them with strong guidelines. Basically, books will be coming out when we deem them ready and not before.

We believe that with the combination of these approaches, the bar for quality will be raised to the highest point on Traveller, with each book becoming a solid ‘must-have’ for the dedicated Traveller player.

The Far Future is looking bright!

 

Future of Traveller

Beyond the new edition, we have lots of exciting projects in the works for Traveller. I have already mentioned the RPG suite from Digital Arc Systems which will integrate all supplements into a seamless digital aid – but I will let those chaps cover what they are doing in far finer detail.

The Trojan Reach will be a focus for us as a setting within the Third Imperium, and the Pirates of Drinax campaign will be getting the luxury hardback/full colour treatment next year as befits this truly marvellous epic. The sector will also be the base for any PC or console games that may or may not be in the works.

Beyond that, we have a brand new setting waiting in the wings that has been dubbed Walking-Dead-meets-Firefly, and our journey through the Third Imperium will continue, starting with a Tour of major worlds in several sectors, penned by Traveller-fan-favourite, Martin Dougherty.

The Far Future begins to look even brighter!

You can pick up your copy of the beta playtest pack here.

The Battle Scooter

With the imminent release of German Vehicles of World War II and the forthcoming Mercenary Second Edition, it seems like the perfect time to do this, the Battle Scooter. This is a real world vehicle used by the French in the 50′s (though I oh so wanted it to be true that the French Resistance used them during the Second World War!), and it is just brilliant. A scooter with a bazooka. Just doesn’t get better than that.

In terms of Traveller, this is a very cheap vehicle with which to equip mercenary forces – and given how expensive mercenary forces can be to run (as you will soon see in the new book), a low-priced attack vehicle is just the ticket. Its handy size also means it will not take up much room in the cargo bay of a scout or trader who needs an escort for the ATV…

And yes, we are choosing to ignore the fact that, in real life, the recoilless rifle was removed from the scooter before shooting. We want your characters to be bombing round the combat zone, letting rip with these rounds!

 

Battle Scooter

Designed by the French after the Second World War, a scooter (a Vespa 150 TAP) was married to a three inch recoilless rifle capable of destroying light armoured vehicles. It was used by airborne troops who could be dropped into a combat zone and have not only immediate mobility but could also engage enemy vehicles. The battle scooter also had the advantage of being very cheap.

Vehicle TL Skill Agility Speed Range Crew/ Passengers Cargo Open Hull Structure Cost (Cr) Shipping size
Battle Scooter 5 Drive (wheeled) +1 70 100 1/1 - Yes 1 1 4,860 1

 

Armour

Front 0
Right 0
Left 0
Rear 0
Top 0
Bottom 0

 

Weapons

Weapon Location Damage Range Auto Ammo
Recoilless Rifle Fixed Forward 7D AP7 

7D HE

Long No 6

Other Equipment/Modifications: Decreased Range, Decreased Speed

 

Weapon TL Cost (Cr) Damage Auto Spaces Range Ammo/Space
Recoilless Rifle 5 500 7D AP7 

7D HE

No 1 Long 3

Recoilless Rifle: The forerunner of the RPG, the recoilless rifle is typically mounted on vehicles or used upon a tripod to defeat enemy armour. It comes with a choice of AP or HE rounds.

Mercenary II: Mass Combat

In the last playtest preview, we showed you how to put your recruits together into a cohesive force – now we show you how to get them fighting!

 

Battles using the mass combat system use exactly the same rules presented for combat in the Traveller Core Rulebook, with just a few changes. These changes are listed below but, whenever in doubt, the Golden Rule is always assume that the standard combat rules from the Traveller Core Rulebook are used as normal. This will allow you to use rules from any Traveller book with no conversion or adaptation necessary at all.

 

Initiative

In mass combat, Dexterity is not a factor for determining Initiative. Each unit must instead make a Tactics (military) check, with Intelligence used as a modifier. This is made by the leader of the unit.

 

The Combat Round

A combat round in mass combat usually lasts for six seconds of game time, just as it does when it involves characters. This is increased to a minute if units of greater than Size 1,000 are present, and an hour if units of greater than Size 10,000 are present.

 

Minor Actions

As with characters, units can perform one minor action in every round (or two if they forgo their significant action), allowing them to move, change stance, draw/reload and aim as normal.

However, movement is increased to 50 metres if the rounds are a minute in length and 2,500 metres if the rounds are an hour in length.

 

Significant Actions

Again, the significant actions available to units are the same as those for characters.

 

Miscellaneous Actions

For both minor and significant actions, miscellaneous tasks are effectively unlimited for units, as a unit has many members that can be delegated to perform them. However, while a unit may perform many miscellaneous actions in a single turn, only one miscellaneous action of any one type may be performed in that turn.

For example, a unit may have someone make a Leadership check to issue specific orders to another member, one member use a psychic power, while yet another tried to break through the security systems to open a bunker door they are all attacking. However, the unit could not have two members make Leadership checks to issue orders to the same individual (they would likely contradict each other and the individual may not know who to listen to – or worse, would choose who they want to listen to…).

Any individual of a unit not actively engaging in the unit’s own action will instead act as though they were an individual character for that round, using the normal rules in the Traveller Core Rulebook.

 

Reactions

Units may make reactions just like characters. Dodging, for example, represents a unit taking best advantage of the terrain around it in order to avoid taking incoming fire. It also represents the effects of suppressing fire upon a unit forced to take multiple dodging reactions in a turn.

 

Attacks

Attacks are performed by units in the same way as for characters, using all the common modifiers to attack listed on page XX of the Traveller Core Rulebook, including the use of environmental conditions, cover, and automatic weapons. Range bands are also used as normal.

 

A unit takes damage to its Endurance score. When this reaches 0, the unit has ceased to function as a fighting unit. Its individual members are assumed to have been killed, seriously injured or disbanded, scattering themselves in an effort to leave the battlefield. The unit will take no further part in the battle and is effectively destroyed, though it may be possible to recover some of the individuals and rebuild the unit (see page XX).

 

Outmatching

When one unit is much larger than the enemy unit it is fighting, it will outmatch its enemy. The unit it is fighting will be outmatched.

This has an effect on both attack rolls and damage dealt, and is based on the unit’s Size. If a unit is at half the Size or less of its enemy, it will be outmatched. If it is at least twice the Size of its enemy, it will outmatch the target. In either case, the table below is consulted for modifiers to both attack rolls and damage.

Unit Size is… Attack DM Damage
At least ten times the size of the enemy or more +5 x10
At least five times the size of the enemy +3 x5
At least three times the size of the enemy +2 x3
At least twice the size of the enemy +1 x2
No more than 50% the size of the enemy -1 x1
No more than 33% the size of the enemy -2 x1
No more than 20% the size of the enemy -3 x1
No more than 10% the size of the enemy -5

Damage is further multiplied by the overall Size of the attacking unit. Larger units are able to carry a lot more guns and unleash a truly awesome amount of firepower. Damage is therefore modified by unit Size as shown on the table below.

Unit Size of Attacker Damage
10 or less -5
11-20 -3
21-50 +0
51-100 x2
101-250 x3
251 or more x4

 

Morale

Even the most disciplined and battle-hardened troops have their limits. When great adversity rears its head, be it through starvation, lack of ammunition or watching half one’s own unit get massacred, troops can lose the will to fight, becoming less effective in battle or even breaking into a full blown rout.

This is handled by the Morale score of a unit.

A Morale check is made the same way as a characteristic check, rolling two dice and applying the unit’s Morale modifier. Morale checks are necessary whenever one of the situations below arises. Referees can, of course, call for a Morale check in other circumstances as they see fit.

Situation Morale check Difficulty
Unit Endurance reduced to half of original score Average (+0)
Unit Endurance reduced to quarter of original score Difficult (-2)
Unit Endurance reduced to one third of current score in a single round Very Difficult (-4)
Unit suffers more damage in a round than enemy during close combat Average (+0)
Unit suffers damage from an enemy unit of three times or greater Size Difficult (-2)

Morale checks can also be subject to further modifiers, depending on the specific circumstances in which they are taken.  Some suggestions are shown on the table below but, once again, referees can change these modifiers or impose new ones dependant on the mission being undertaken and the actions of the players.

Situation Morale Modifier
Unit in a strong defensive position +4
Unit not paid last month -1
Unit not paid for last three months -4
Unit won last battle +1
Unit on the winning side in the campaign +1
Unit lost last battle -2
Unit on the losing side in the campaign -4
Unit not eaten in the past day -2

 

Recovering Casualties

The Endurance of a unit does not specifically track deaths of individual members though, after a heavy battle, there are likely to be plenty of those. As mentioned earlier, a unit’s Endurance is a representation of its ability to continue fighting through individual death, injury, surrender and cowardice.

At the end of every battle, a percentage of lost Endurance points can be recovered as those who were injured receive medical care and those who ran come out of hiding.

Roll 2D for each unit, modified as shown on the table below. Then compare the total on the next table which will show you the percentage of Endurance points that can be recovered.

Unit… Recovery modifier
Was reduced to 0 Endurance -4
Was reduced to at least 25% of its starting Endurance -2
Was reduced to at least 50% of its starting Endurance -1
Was reduced to at least 75% of its starting Endurance +2
Was reduced to 0 Endurance in close combat -6
Has at least one Medic for every 10 individuals + double Medic skill
Has at least one Medic for every 30 individuals +Medic skill
Has at least one Medic for every 100 individuals + ½ Medic skill

 

2D Endurance Recovered
1 or less None
2 10%
3 25%
4-5 33%
6-8 50%
9 66%
10 75%
11 90%
12 or more All

 

Characters Within Mass Combat

Generally speaking, the players’ own characters should be kept apart from mass combat – have the players make the rolls for the units under their command, by all means, but their actual characters should have a chance to perform heroics and necessary tasks beyond the skills and daring of the men and women they are leading.

The length of the round in most mass combats is the same as a combat round for characters (six seconds), so anything a character could attempt to do in a round of combat is equally applicable during a round of mass combat.

If a player’s character is within a unit engaged in mass combat, he should always have the chance to act independently, on his own initiative order (giving him every chance to act before his own unit, and thus perform some truly heroic/stupid actions).

 

Engaging Units

Individual characters may not engage units as such, but will instead attack individual members of the unit. This is done using the normal combat rules presented in the Traveller Core Rulebook. Every casualty they cause in an attack will reduce the unit’s Endurance by 1.

 

Morale

The characters of players are effectively immune to morale, with the players themselves making the choice of whether to fight on or surrender (though units trying to surrender may take a dim view of characters continuing to fight and thus provoking the enemy). Indeed, many actions by characters can have a direct influence on how the unit they are within or near will fight.

The table below lists a few options players may try to boost (or not) the morale of nearby units, though the referee is always welcome to add more as the need arises – all else being equal, a player should always be rewarded for bravery and earn the respect of the unit. The DM earned by the player is applied to the next Morale check the unit is called upon to make, though the referee may extend this to several checks if the action was particularly noteworthy.

Player’s Action Morale DM to Unit
Single-handedly killing an enemy leader +2
Single-handedly killing a minor officer or sergeant +1
Destroying an enemy vehicle +1
Destroying an enemy armoured vehicle +2
Fleeing the battle or hiding in fear -4
Reducing an enemy unit’s Endurance by at least 10% with one attack +1


Battlefields

The mass combat rules presented in this chapter handle battles between two forces simply and easily. Even when two entire armies are fighting one another, each is assumed to be acting as a single unit, even though both might have separate companies, air units, artillery and specialised troops. It is assumed all such components are acting together in the best fashion they can to achieve the combat results that are rolled for each round.

However, at some point, both players and referee are going to want to add a bit more detail to their battles. The players might want to detach a company from their main force, for example, and send it on a wide-flanking manoeuvre to make a direct strike on an enemy artillery position, thus making things easier for the rest of their army. They may want an armoured unit to take position in a thick forest and lay low, hidden as they wait to launch an ambush. Perhaps they issue orders for a company to split with its three platoons each assaulting a different section of trench lines.

This is when a mass combat using multiple units is desirable, with the players giving orders to each unit as they respond to the actions of units under the control of the referee. There are two ways to handle this.

 

Map-Based Battles

The immediate response of some referees will be to grab a few sheets of graph paper and start plotting out terrain and unit positions – and this is perfectly valid. Every unit uses the same rate of movement as it does in regular Traveller combat, so the referee need only pick a scale suitable to the units fighting and the battlefield he has planned.

For example, if two company-sized infantry forces are fighting, split into separate platoons and, possibly, squads, then the referee might use a scale of 50 metres to a square on graph paper. This will give enough room for each unit to occupy a square and a unit on foot will be able to move one square every ten rounds.

The benefit of using maps in this fashion is that everyone will know where every unit is, there will be no confusion during the battle and players will be able to make direct, tactical decisions.

The downside is that map-based battles take more time for the referee to prepare and can seem a little ‘flat.’ Traveller is, ultimately, a game of the imagination, and staring at graph paper with little symbols denoting units marked upon may not be the most exciting approach for some groups.

For when the referee wants to inject a little colour into his battles without spending a great deal of time preparing before the game begins, albeit at the cost of hyper-accuracy, we recommend using the freeform system described next.

 

Freeform Battles

Fundamentally, there is no reason why a mass combat cannot run in the same freeform way most firefights involving the players and a handful of enemies are played; the referee describes relative positions of the combatants, their actions, and how they respond to the actions of the players.

In this way, each unit is a single combatant and operates in much the same way as a single combatant in a firefight.

For example, the players might be leading their company against enemy-held fortifications, having first split it into three platoons (3 units) and then splitting a single specialised squad of explosives experts from one of those platoons (a fourth unit). The players themselves are each leading one of those platoons personally, or perhaps they have formed a temporary field base just out of range of the fortifications and are controlling their units via remote communications.

They have identified three weak points in the fortifications that will be the target of each platoon (perhaps a small bunker and two separate trench lines), while the demolitions squad has been ordered to approach one of the main walls of the fortified position while remaining unseen, using the platoons’ assault as cover.

This is where the combat begins. The referee will describe how long it takes for the platoons to reach their firing positions and begin attacking their targets, while the demolitions squad is making Stealth checks as it moves into position. The players make the appropriate roll and then perhaps start to react in alarm as the referee describes the gunships moving in to attack one of the platoons on their flank…

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the referee, his players, and their preferred style of play. If you and your players enjoy pouring over maps and figuring out the most efficient way to destroy the enemy, then map-based battles are likely what you are looking for.

If, instead, your players prefer to hear about the explosions ahead and bullets whizzing past their ears, while shouting orders at their men to advance, the freeform method may be more to your liking.

You will find Traveller can handle both styles, or even a mixture of the two, quite readily.

Mercenary II: Force Organisation

In the last preview of the playtest rules for Book 1: Mercenary Second Edition, we demonstrated the rules for basic recruitment. Now, how to organise your recruits into a coherent force that can be used in-game…

 

Force Organisation

Once you have recruited your first few soldiers, you will need to organise them into a fighting force. These will be formed into one or more units within the mercenary force.

Units are used in larger battles to handle dozens, hundreds or even thousands of fighting men without players and referees rolling for the attacks of each one. By organising a mercenary force into one or more distinct units, it will be all set to take missions and launch attacks (or fight defensive actions) against any enemy it is contracted to take on.

 

Standard Organisation

A mercenary force may ultimately be organised into any pattern its commander chooses as his whim, but there are certain accepted formations that have withstood the test of time, and most forces mirror these in at least some fashion.

The basic unit of any military force, mercenary or otherwise, is the squad (sometimes called a section). The size of a squad can vary wildly, dependant on the nature of the force it is part of, casualties sustained and its precise role on the battlefield. Squads typically contain between 6 and 20 fighting men (any more and it is probably best termed a horde), with 8-12 being most common. Larger formations are built by bringing a number of squads together to form a larger cohesive unit.

Again, how larger units are composed is up to the mercenary commander but there are tried and tested formations that have been proven in battle.

Platoon: 3-5 Squads
Company: 3-5 Platoons
Battalion: 3-6 Companies
Regiment: 2-5 Battalions

Larger formations, such as Divisions or Armies exist, but it is very rare for mercenary forces to reach such huge sizes. Many struggle to stay at Company size and most are based around a single platoon or two.

 

Units in Traveller

All units, regardless of size, are represented the same way in Traveller, with a unit roster. An example of a unit, in this case a squad of mercenary light infantry, is shown here.

Unit Name: Rawshack’s Razors                Organisation: Squad

Type: Light Infantry                                       Size: 12

Morale: 7

Endurance: 12                                                Attack/Damage: +1/3D

Traits: None

Skills: Gun Combat (slug rifles) 1

Weapons: Assault rifle (3D)

Armour: Cloth TL10 (5)

 

Unit Name

This is the designation used to identify the unit, whether in official terms (1st Platoon, C Company, for example) or a nickname, as shown for Rawshack’s Razors.

Organisation

These are used as an easy reference to define the unit, based upon its organisational size (squad, platoon, etc.). As with the unit’s name, this can be, in theory, anything the mercenary commander desires but most follow the standard organisation model described earlier.

Type

This is the unit’s role on the battlefield and, again, its definition is largely down to the mercenary commander.

Size

This is the number of men, robots or vehicles within the unit.

Morale

Even the most hardened soldiers have their limits. Morale represents the unit’s continued willingness to fight in extreme conditions. Most units will have a Morale of 7, though this can change depending on conditions and experience.

A unit’s basic Morale is modified by the factors shown on the table below. Other circumstances can affect Morale as shown on page XX.

Unit Morale Modifier
Leadership + Unit leader’s Leadership skill level *
Unit paid 10% higher salary +1
Unit paid 25% higher salary +2
Unit paid 50% higher salary +3
Unit paid 100% higher salary +4
Unit paid 10% lower salary -2
Unit paid 25% lower salary -4
Unit paid 50% lower salary -6
Highest unit skill level 0 -1
Highest unit skill level 2 +1
Highest unit skill level 3 +2
Highest unit skill level 4 +3

* Note that if the unit leader does not have the Leadership skill, the normal DM-3 for not having the skill applies.

Morale is treated as a new characteristic, and checks are made with it in the same way as other characteristics, such as Strength and Intelligence, using a modifier based upon its score as shown on page 6 of the Traveller Core Rulebook.

Endurance

This represents the amount of casualties a unit can sustain before it ceases to be a functioning fighting force. Normally, Endurance is equal to the Size of the unit.

Attack/Damage

This is a quick reference that shows how skillful a unit is in battle and how much damage it deals. Combat between units is covered on page XX. Attack is equal to the skill level of the unit’s main Gun Combat, Heavy Weapons or Melee skill, and Damage is equal to the damage of the weapon used by that skill. It is possible for a unit to have multiple Attack and Damage scores to reflect different weapons it carries.

Traits

These are a number of special rules some units have to reflect their capabilities in battle. Traits are covered fully on page XX.

Skills

While the individuals of a unit will have a lot of different skills between them, this lists just relevant battle skills that all share, taken as an average. It is assumed that some members may well have higher or lower skill levels but the skill level of the majority is used.

Weapons and Armour

While a unit is likely to be carrying a great deal of varied equipment, only its main weapons and armour are recorded here, together with the damage and armour protection for easy reference.

 

Creating a Mercenary Force

When starting a mercenary force from scratch, it is likely individual squads will be created from individuals recently recruited. A newly formed mercenary force, therefore, is likely to have just a squad or two, meaning it can be represented by just one or two unit rosters.

As mercenary forces grow in size, things can get a little more complicated and players may find it useful to have several unit rosters, each representing different levels of the force as a whole.

For example, let us return to Rawshack’s Razors, introduced above and assume they were the first squad recruited for a new mercenary force.

Two more identical squads are later recruited, Talman’s Tigers and Banoi’s Badgers. They all have the same unit rosters as the Razors, meaning this mercenary force has three unit rosters, one for each squad.

However, there will be times when the whole mercenary force fights as a single unit – under the standard organisation model, three squads make a platoon, so a new unit roster is created to represent all three squads fighting together as a platoon-sized force.

This can be done whenever you have several units with identical Morale, Traits, Skills, Weapons and Armour, combining them into a single larger unit.

 

Unit Name: Rawshack’s Regulars                           Organisation: Platoon

Type: Light Infantry                                                      Size: 36

Morale: 7

Endurance: 36                                                               Attack/Damage: +1/3D

Traits: None

Skills: Gun Combat (slug rifles) 1

Weapons: Assault rifle (3D)

Armour: Cloth TL10 (5)

 

Because we have brought together three identical squads, we can simply add their Size (and thus their Endurance) together to create the platoon. When this mercenary force is used in battles, its player can decide whether to use the platoon as a single, large unit which will be more powerful than its constituent squads, or break it back down into squads for greater flexibility.

This is why it is useful to have not only a single roster representing the bulk of a mercenary force, but also rosters to cover smaller units within the greater organisation, that can be broken off for individual missions and battles.

Note that if Rawshack’s Regulars were to add a different type of squad, perhaps a heavy weapons squad, it would need its own unit roster and could not be combined into the platoon as it would have different skills and weapons.

 

Traits

Some units have traits, additional rules that represent equipment and abilities not reflected elsewhere in the unit roster. Many can be added to a unit simply by recruiting people with the relevant skills and equipping them accordingly. For example, to add the Support trait to a platoon-sized unit, a player need only recruit a number of people skilled with heavy weapons, such as rocket launchers, and then purchase those weapons.

 

Marksmen xXD

The unit has several designated marksmen within its ranks, soldiers trained to pick out specific enemy targets or those within cover. These marksmen are armed with weapons designed to take advantage of their skills, typically with either dedicated sniper rifles or scoped versions of the main squad weapon.

The presence of marksmen allows one or more of the dice used to deal damage to be re-rolled upon a successful attack. The number of dice that can be re-rolled depend on the number of marksmen present, as shown on the table below.

Number of Support Weapons Number of Re-rolls

One per 5 men

3D
One per 10 men 2D
One per 20 men 1D

 

Support +XD

This unit has several members who carry support weapons such as machine guns and rocket launchers to lend a greater weight of firepower to the unit’s attacks. This increased the Damage dealt by the unit according to the number of support weapons in the unit and the damage they deal, as shown on the table below. Support weapons must either deal more damage or have a higher Auto score than the rest of the weapons carried by the unit.

  Damage of Support Weapons
Number of Support Weapons 3D or less 4-6D 7-8D 9-10D 12D or more

One per 5 men

Support +1D Support +1D Support +2D Support +3D Support +4D
One per 10 men - Support +1D Support +1D Support +2D Support +3D
One per 20 men - - Support +1D Support +1D Support +2D

 

Tough +XX%

The unit has exceptional tough members within its ranks who are able to shrug off adversity. If the unit has a majority of members with individual Endurance scores of 9 or higher, then the unit gains the Tough +10% trait. If their Endurance scores are 12 or higher, this increases to Tough +20% and if their Endurance scores are 15 or more, this becomes Tough +30%.

A unit’s own Endurance is increased by its Tough trait. For example, a unit that normally has Endurance 20 but also has the Tough +20% trait will instead have Endurance 24.

 

Weak -XX%

The unit has members within its ranks who are noticeably weak and susceptible to adversity. If the unit has a majority of members with individual Endurance scores of 5 or less, then the unit gains the Weak –10% trait. If their Endurance scores are 3 or less, this decreases to Weak –20%.

A unit’s own Endurance is decreased by its Weak trait. For example, a unit that normally has Endurance 20 but also has the Weak –20% trait will instead have Endurance 16.

 

So, now you have recruited some warm bodies, and got them to line up in specific units. Next preview will show you how they fight!

Building a Mercenary Force I: Recruiting

A core component of the developing Book 1: Mercenary Second Edition are mechanics that will allow players to hire their own squads, platoons and companies, and arrange them into fighting units. These rules are very much at the playtest stage, but we wanted you chaps to see them and make comment.

Without further ado, we first present the rules for recruiting mercenaries.

 

Recruiting

People are at the heart of the a mercenary force, be they frontline soldiers or support personnel. Well-defined recruitment procedures will ensure these employees will also be steady when under fire.

Going to planets in the hopes of finding the right personnel to hire, recruiters are often charismatic and persuasive, and attempt to get as many recruits as possible from each trip. To do this depends on the type of world they visit, the nature of mercenaries they are after, and their own personality. On a low-technology world, a charismatic recruiter might do a lot worse than visit settlements with the equivalent of a soap box, and harangue gathered crowds with stories of riches among the stars. On more developed planets, ploughing through networked databases and scattering advertisements online will likely prove more fruitful.

Recruits will have their resumes reviewed, checked and vetted before being passed on to the next stage where their skills are tested. This usually takes the form of several exercises designed to highlight any potential weaknesses and demonstrate the necessary skills, and it is at this point that a number of recruits will be dismissed, having failed to demonstrate those skills or shown to be mentally or psychologically unsuitable for the unit.

After this, recruits will be indoctrinated into the unit and taught how their skills will be applied within the context of other serving personnel. The ethos of the unit will also be made clear, as well as any rules or regulations they will be expected to follow.

Only after this lengthy process can the mercenary force be sure the new recruits will be a worthy investment.

 

The Recruiting Process

Despite any glamour that may be attached to the role of a dashing recruiter hitting a new world and beguiling young men and women to fight for his force across the stars, most of the work during recruitment involves going through reams of resumes drawn from immense databases.

To recruit personnel, a character must select the type of mercenary he is looking to recruit from the list on page XX, then make an Admin check.

This takes 1-6 weeks and includes selection, basic training and induction, assessment and shake-out of anyone who does not make the grade. However, multiple recruitment campaigns may be performed during this period, either for different types of mercenary or to gain larger numbers of the same type. The recruiter may make a number of Admin checks equal to the level of their Admin skill to recruit mercenaries during these 1-6 weeks.

A number of modifiers are applied to the Admin check, starting with either the recruiter’s Int or Soc modifier.

The rest are dependant on the type of mercenaries being recruited and the world on which recruitment is taking place, as shown on page XX. The referee is free to add further modifiers, dependant on his campaign and the actions of the players.

The Effect of a successful Admin check after all these modifiers have been applied will determine how many recruits have been found with the necessary skills and attitude. Roll a number of dice equal to the Effect – this is how many suitable recruits have been gained.

The recruiter is under no obligation to accept them all, but this is the maximum that can be hired with this recruitment campaign.

Population Code Recruiting DM
0 (Few) or 1 (Tens)
2 (Hundreds) –4
3 (Thousands) –3
4 (Tens of thousands) –2
5 (Hundreds of thousands) +0
6 (Millions) +0
7 (Tens of millions) +2
8 (Hundreds of millions) +2
9 (Billions) +4
10 (Tens of billions) +4
11 (Hundreds of billions) +6
12 (Trillions) +6
Government Code
0 (Anarchic) +1
1 (Company or Corporation) +0
2 (Participating Democracy) +1
3 (Self-perpetuating Oligarchy) –1
4 (Representative Democracy) +0
5 (Feudal Technocracy) –2
6 (Captive Government) –2
7 (Balkanisation) –2
8 (Civil Service Bureaucracy) +2
9 (Impersonal Bureaucracy) +2
10 (Charismatic Dictator) –2
11 (Non-charismatic Leader) +2
12 (Charismatic Oligarchy) +0
13 (Religious Dictatorship) –4
Law Level
0 +2
1 +2
2 +1
3 +1
4 +0
5 +0
6 –1
7 –1
8 –2
9 –3
Starport
A +2
B +1
C +0
D +0
E –2
X –4
Miscellaneous
Scout or Naval Base present –4
Pirate Base present +2
Halve recruiting time -4
Double recruiting time +2
Pay 10% higher salary +1
Pay 25% higher salary +2
Pay 50% higher salary +3
Pay 100% higher salary +4
Pay 10% lower salary -2
Pay 25% lower salary -4
Pay 50% lower salary -6
Recruits to have Tough +10% trait -2
Recruits to have Tough +20% trait -4
Recruits to have Weak -10% trait +1
Recruits to have Weak -20% trait +2

 

Planetary Population: The number of people living on a planet has a fundamental effect upon the efforts of a recruiting mercenary. The larger a population, the more likely there will be potential recruits. Planets with negligible populations (0 or 1) will usually have no chance of producing recruits, simply because there are not enough people to draw upon.

Government: The government of a world can affect the attitude of potential recruits. A democracy might give its citizens the freedom to choose a mercenary’s life, but a balkanisation of warring states might not take too kindly to mercenaries stealing their soldiers.

Law Level: Worlds with laxer laws, especially those based around the freer use of personal weaponry, tend to be happier hunting grounds for recruiters rather than those whose citizens enjoy a safer, if stricter, way of life.

Starport: Better facilities at a starport can greatly aid a recruiter’s efforts, while the lack of a well-functioning starport often means a population is not used to space travel and will be far less willing to leave their world.

 

Salaries and Equipment

Once recruits have been brought on board, they must be paid their agreed salary (the standard rate listed on page XX, plus or minus any adjustments made by the recruiter) and equipped. It is up to the owner of the mercenary force as to what equipment recruits are given, from weapons and armour to basic kit. However, referees will have the option to increase or decrease the effectiveness of mercenary units in battle if their equipment is markedly above or below the standard expected for those troops.

The table below lists typical mercenaries that can be recruited, but both players and referees should create their own to suit the requirements of the campaign and their own mercenary company.

In general, a monthly salary should be Cr. 1,000 for a recruit with a primary skill (the skill most applicable to the role they are being recruited for) of level 0, Cr. 2,000 for skill level 1, Cr. 3,000 for skill level 2, and Cr. 5,000 for skill level 3.

Skills the referee deems harder to acquire or otherwise be rarer in the marketplace (such as perhaps Heavy Weapons or Flyer) should command up to a 50% higher salary, as should recruits with multiple primary skills. The Tough +10% and +20% traits (see page XX) should typically command +25% and +50% higher salaries, respectively. In all such cases, the referee should be prepared to make final arbitrations for salaries of unusual recruits.

Recruits of skill level 4 and higher should be extremely rare, few in number and extremely expensive – mercenary forces are normally better off recruiting lower skilled personnel and increasing their skill levels through training and battle experience.

Recruit Salary Skills Recruiting DM Standard Equipment
Accountant Cr. 3,000 Admin 2, Advocate 1 +0
Combat Medic Cr. 2,000 Gun Combat 1, Medic 1 +0 Assault rifle, knife, flak armour, medikit
Computer Operator Cr. 2,000 Admin 1, Computers 1 +2
Electronic Warfare Operator Cr. 4,000 Comms 2, Sensors 1 -1
Gunship Pilot Cr. 3,000 Flyer or Grav, Heavy Weapons 1 -1 Autopistol
Heavy Weapons Soldier Cr. 2,500 Gun Combat 1, Heavy Weapons 1 +0 Machinegun, knife, flak armour
Intelligence Analyst Cr. 4,500 Recon 1, Sensors 2, Tactics 2 -2
Mechanic Cr. 2,000 Engineer 0, Mechanic 1 +0 Tool kit
Militiaman Cr. 1,000 Gun Combat 0 +2 Assault rifle, knife, cloth armour
Rifleman Cr. 2,000 Gun Combat 1, Recon 1 +0 Assault rifle, knife, flak armour
Sniper Cr. 3,000 Gun Combat 2, Recon 1, Stealth 2 -1 Sniper rifle, flak armour
Special Forces Soldier Cr. 5,000 Explosives 2, Gun Combat 3, Recon 3, Stealth 2 -4 Assault rifle, knife, flak armour
Tank Crewman Cr. 3,000 Drive (tracked) 1, Heavy Weapons (field artillery) 1 +0 Autopistol, flak armour
Truck Driver Cr. 1,000 Drive 0 +3

 

NCOs and Officers

Mercenary forces are not undisciplined rabbles (or, at least, they should not be), and require just as many NCOs and officers as government-backed military forces.

In general, NCOs should have the same skills (combat or otherwise) as the people they lead, along with one or more levels in Tactics (military), and perhaps a level in Leadership (the latter becomes more important the higher ranks they are).

Officers should have at least basic combat skills and one or more levels in both Leadership and Tactics (military). Effective officers should also have a level in Admin, though some mercenary forces have dedicated administrators to take this burden away from the fighting men.

NCOs and officers receive a salary dependant on their skills, as detailed previously, but gain an additional amount due to their given rank, as shown on the table below.

Rank Salary Increase (Cr.)
Corporal +500
Sergeant +1,000
Gunnery Sergeant +1,500
Sergeant Major +2,000
Lieutenant +2,000
Captain +3,000
Major +4,000
Lieutenant Colonel +6,000
Colonel * +8,000

* The Colonel of a mercenary force is often the owner or, at least, one of the owners and so will also receive a proportion of the profits the entire force earns. The salary, in comparison, is mostly symbolic and some Colonels forgo it altogether.

 

Alternative Pay Method

In an effort to defray starting costs, some mercenary forces operate on a split salary and share scheme for their recruits. While each member of the mercenary force is paid less on a monthly basis, they have a direct share of the (perhaps not inconsiderable) revenue the force brings in. A referee may choose to impose DM-1 to recruiting checks if this method is used, particularly if rival mercenary forces are not using it.

Under this salary-share scheme, salaries are halved.

Total payments to a mercenary force, after salaries and expenses have been paid, are divided up into equal shares. Each recruit receives one or more shares according to their rank and skill specialisations.

Before shares are determined, the mercenary commander (and possibly  his business partners) take 50% of all revenue after salaries and expenses as profit. Salaries of deceased members of the unit are paid to next of kin or another designated recipient; only surviving members of the unit receive shares. The remainder are divided into equal shares, with each recruit receiving one or more shares dependant on their rank in the force and level of skill, as shown on the table below.

Rank Number of Shares
Private 1
Lance Corporal 2
Corporal 3
Lance Sergeant 3
Sergeant 4
Gunnery Sergeant 4
Sergeant Major 5
Lieutenant 5
Captain 7
Major 8
Lieutenant Colonel 9
Colonel 10

Recruits with a primary skill of levels 2-3 will receive shares equal to one rank above their actual position. Recruits with higher levels in a primary skill will receive shares equal to two ranks above their actual position.

 

Design Notes

There are, of course, all sorts of things we could add to these rules, with more types of personnel being a start (don’t worry, they will be in the final version!). We could also lock down a far tighter regime for hiring people and what their skill sets are actually worth. On this side, we have kept things a little looser and provided guidelines rather than hard rules, as the buck always stops with the referee and he knows better than us what his campaign needs. An important consideration for us with these rules is that the players should be allowed to attempt pretty much anything (and you will see this line of thought come back in future previews when we start looking at, say, inadequate admin or medical facilities within a mercenary force). We also want to keep things fairly simple so a referee can leave the book in the hands of his players to work out what they want most of the time, but have the ability to make a quick (and easy) ruling when needed.

Anyway, have a wander around the Marches or the Reach and recruit a few willing men and women to see how this part of the rules work out, and let us know of any issues on our forums. Next time, we’ll show you how to organise your recruits into a proper mercenary force, and then we’ll go through the rules needed to get them fighting!

Mercenary 2: Skills and Specialities

The military requires individuals to not only adhere to discipline but also exhibit initiative to overcome obstacles. Personnel must learn to adapt existing skills to evolving situations and, if necessary, specialise in entirely new areas.

This sections introduces some new ways of handling existing skills and new skill specialities that will allow characters to expand what they are capable of doing. Those with the skills already will be able to use these specialities at level 0, while new characters or those undergoing training can go straight into a new speciality and perhaps get an edge on the enemy.

 

Using Existing Skills

The following are all suggestions for using skills within the Traveller Core Rulebook to cover a wider range of situations and tasks.

 

Combat Engineering

Combat engineering is the rapid construction of field fortifications, large-scale camouflage, appraisal of a structure’s ability to withstand enemy fire, and landmine placement and removal – the ability to mould a battlefield to best effect. This may be used defensively, to create a series of trenches and bunkers to resist attack, or offensively, breaching similar defensives as quickly as possible to allow an assault to take place.

This covers an enormous range of disciplines and so cannot be covered by a single skill or speciality, so a dedicated combat engineer needs to be well-versed in a range of skills. Instead, referees should call for checks on different skills according to what a player is attempting. A few examples are given below. All of these assume the players have appropriate equipment to hand.

 

Physically detecting mines during an assault on an enemy stronghold: Recon, Int, 10-60 minutes, Difficult (-2).

Using specialised equipment to detect mines on a road: Sensors, Int, 10-60 minutes, Average (+0).

Safely defusing discovered mines: Explosives, Dex, 20-120 minutes, Very Difficult (-4)

Build a short line of defensive trenches, barricades and obstacles: Trade (military engineering), Str, 1-6 hours, Average (+0).

Build a small bunker: Trade (military engineering), Str, 1-6 hours, Average (+0).

 

Instruction and Training

The transference of new skills and education is a vital one for any organisation, be it a small and tight-knit crew of a tramp freighter or a sector-wide military force. Although this can be attempted by anyone, some will always be better teachers than others.

Principally, training subjects in a new skill requires an understanding of the skill being taught (at least level 1) and use of Education and the Leadership skill. Those lacking levels in Leadership may still instruct subjects but will do so with the usual DM-3.

A character can learn new skills on their own, as covered on page 59 of the Traveller Core Rulebook, but having an instructor or tutor can speed this up the process considerably.  A good instructor can also teach skills to more than one subject at a time.

An instructor can teach one level of one skill at a time, starting at level 0 and going up to one level less than the instructor has himself in the skill being taught. So, an instructor with, say, Pilot 4 can teach subjects up to Pilot 3.

Teaching a level in a skill takes half the time it would normally take the subject to learn the skill by themselves, again as covered on page 59 of the Traveller Core Rulebook.

The instructor must then make a Leadership check, modified by their Education and the factors listed below.

 

+1 Teaching a single student
-1 Teaching 5-10 students
-2 Teaching 11-30 students
-4 Teaching more than 30 students
-2 Instruction time cut in half
-4 Other activities undertaken during instruction

Each subject being taught must then make either an Intelligence or Education check, modified by the Effect of the instructor’s own check. Success will result in the skill being gained, while failure will mean the lesson must be taught again, from scratch,

Quick and efficient training, therefore, requires a good teacher and a bright and receptive student.

 

Interrogation

The majority of interrogations can be handled using the Persuade skill. However, other skills can be brought into play by skilled interrogators to create a task chain, depending on how far they are prepared to go to get the information they want.

Most commonly, Deception is used to convince a subject that they should divulge information, perhaps suggesting that the lives of their comrades may be saved if they talk, or that the subject will in some way be rewarded. This also covers the classic Good Cop/Bad Cop approach, with one interrogator using Deception to soften the subject up, beginning a task chain that will end with another interrogator using Persuade. Social Science (psychology) is also a common skill among good interrogators and one that can be integrated into such a task chain.

The use of extreme methods of interrogation is not only controversial but their effectiveness is also disputed by some. One school of thought suggests that a subject will reveal everything if under enough stress or pain. The other counters that a subject will say anything it thinks the interrogator wants to hear. Nonetheless, some interrogators swear by these methods, which can be reflected by adding new checks into a task chain before the final Persuade check is atempted.

Typically, these will be skills such as Life Science (biology) and Medic, both being applied not for the benefit of living things but for deeper knowledge into the application of pain and the limits to which a subject can be pushed.

 

Specialities

The following specialities are intended for military characters (in service or mercenary) though others may find a use for many of them. Referees should also feel free to create their own and respond to requests for new specialities from players. Just remember – if it is already covered by a skill or existing speciality, you do not need a new one!

 

Athletics (archery): The use of bows and crossbows for hunting or in combat.

Drive (hover): For hovercraft and other ground-repulsion vehicles.
Weaving through a wooded area at speed: Dexterity, 1-6 minutes, Very Difficult (-4)

Gun Combat (energy carbines): Using energy weapons larger than pistols but smaller than rifles, such as laser repeaters.

Gun Combat (slug carbines): Using slug throwing weapons larger than pistols but smaller than rifles, such as submachine guns.

Heavy Weapons (flamethrowers): Using weaponry that projects a controllable stream of flame or acid.

Seafarer (personal): Used for any man-powered craft, such as canoes, kayaks, and rowboats.

Older Entries