On Assignment

Every now and again, one question pops up on our Traveller forums – after finishing a term during character creation, how do you change assignments within the same career? If, for example, you are a marine working in Support, can you buck for some ‘trigger time’ and become a Star Marine or join a Ground Assault battalion?

Before we give the grand answer to this eternal dilemma, it is worth pointing out that Traveller is not like many other roleplaying games. Balance between characters is far more nebulous, and this is down to the nature of the game.

At its most fundamental level, Traveller is about ordinary people trying to make their way in the world.  Your character has just finished his career and is effectively getting a second start in life, built on his past experiences.  He may have a pension, my have some savings but, other than that, how he gets on in life is up to you. Maybe your character will be a trader, plying the space lanes in a succession of larger freighters as his bank balance increases. Perhaps he will be a mercenary, intentionally seeking war zones and lending his service to the highest bidder. Or he could just ‘see what is out there,’ exploring the galaxy and taking whatever work happens to pop up on the next planet. You could start your own business, mine asteroids, start a criminal organisation, be a space ship salesman (or thief), or become the galaxy’s greatest (ageing) rock star.

Given that, balance between characters is not much use and we intentionally don’t give it much more than a nod in terms of the number of skills and credits a character can earn in a career. After all, one of your friends may be determined to build a combat monster whereas you might prefer to play a ‘face man’ who can bend people round his little finger with a little silver-tongued work. Just as in the real world, both characters have their merits – after all, a blood-thirsty maniac would be no good to us here at Mongoose when it comes to laying out books (Will is more your silent, cloaked assassin type).

So, back to the question; after finishing a term during character creation, how do you change assignments within the same career? Can you just switch, do you need to roll to enlist again, or what?

Here is the official answer…

It doesn’t really matter.

Really, it does not matter.  You are not going to break the game or end up with a monstrous, unbalanced character whichever method you choose – or whether you choose not to allow it at all.

All I can really tell you is what we do in our own games in the office. And before I go on, let me stress that this does not in any way denote the ‘proper’ way of playing the game. It really is just what we do. By all means take this as a starting point for your own campaigns or choose your own options. It is your game and we won’t be busting down your door for doing it differently!

When I am running the character creation session, I tend to vary between allowing an automatic switch and rolling for qualification/enlistment again.  Which is usually determined by the career and also the character involved – an Event may suggest a change in career path, or the player may make a good case for why his character should be allowed to make the change, based on the personality of the character and where the player wants to take him. When rolling for qualification/enlistment, however, I don’t usually use the negative DM for previous careers. After all, the character is already in the career and has, to an extent, already proved himself. Of course, you may want to impose your own penalties if the character has had a string of rather unfortunate Events…

Here are some examples of how we do things.

If a character is in Law Enforcement, it makes plenty of sense for them to make an automatic move to Corporate, especially after a notable event, good or bad (good may mean they are headhunted, bad may mean the character was ‘encouraged; to leave law enforcement and had no choice but to go corporate). If, however, the player wants to take the character into Intelligence, this may be automatic if (for example) they get Event 8 and successfully go undercover to investigate an enemy and impress an intelligence agency. On the other hand, without such a boost, a straight qualification roll may be more appropriate.

Army, Navy and Marines
These can all be treated in a similar way, and we normally do this based on whether the assignment can be seen as a ‘sideways’ move or is a fast track to something more in the limelight.  For example, in your campaign, Support and Infantry in the army may be seen as being the ‘core’ of an armed force and therefore at a similar level as each other, allowing automatic swaps between them. However, if Cavalry is seen as being somehow more important or a ‘cut above’ the rest of the army, then an enlistment roll may be the way to go. On the other hand, if someone in the Infantry rolls, say, Event 12 and displays heroism in battle, perhaps a switch in assignment may be an automatic benefit as well as the promotion or commission.

Well, how many times have you changed job in your life?  It is entirely appropriate to switch assignments on the fly with the Citizen career.

Unlike the Citizen career, being a Drifter is more likely to lock a character into a certain way of life, and so it may be better to treat each one as a separate career in its own right. After all, if you have a Scavenger working as part of a salvage crew, he is unlikely to suddenly become a Barbarian – though maybe something like Event 8, where the character is attacked by enemies, could not only leave him injured but marooned on a low tech world. Now that is a great plot hook to bring back into the game later in the campaign!

I would tend to let players switch between Administrator and Diplomat as they saw fit, as the two can have some obvious links as the character becomes one of the movers and shakers of their world. However, Dilettante… Maybe it is just me, but I am not sure such characters will end up doing anything truly worthwhile!

The final question when switching assignments is how to handle Ranks and, again, I would base it upon the career in question.  If you are switching between assignments within the same military (such as our Army example above), then it makes perfect sense for the character to retain their current Rank and, hopefully build upon it. The same can be said for more informal organisations or even different organisations that have a common basis. For example, a Rogue who starts as an Enforcer, becomes a Thief and ends up as a Pirate could perhaps retain his Rank through all assignments (gaining Skills and Benefits only as he ranks up within each assignment, so you don’t get to ‘double up’ on Benefits), with the reasoning that their reputation is growing and begins to precede them. Someone who has made his name as an Enforcer or Thief could easily be accorded great respect among Pirates. The same argument cold be made for Citizens, as their CV/resume gains weight.

On the other hand, perhaps it does not work so well for Entertainers. How many times has a real world celebrity decided they are no longer a singer/actor/socialite and tried to do something ‘serious’ only for their career to disappear down the plug hole? And, again, the Drifter has somewhat defined lines between its assignments and keeping Rank makes little sense there.

In these cases, it is perhaps better to muster out, get your cash/benefits, then roll for the qualification and start as Rank 0 in a different assignment, effectively treating it as a new career.

The Golden Rule here is to not hamper a player in what he wants to do with his character. There are enough dice rolls to end his character’s greatest dreams already, and if he wants to attempt to do something with his character, let him.  His choices and the dice rolls that follow will determine whether his career choices are the right ones…

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