Book 1: Mercenary Second Edition
As many of you will no doubt be excited to hear, serious work has begun on the second edition of Book 1: Mercenary for Traveller. It looks like it will be a slightly bigger tome than before, jam-packed with all sorts of goodies for military type characters, with a focus squarely set on mercenaries and mercenary campaigns.
So, what can you expect to see?
We have divided this book into six parts (at present).
This first part of the book will be somewhat familiar for those of you who know the current Book 1: Mercenary and have been keeping up to date with our news and rumours. We previewed Pre-Career Options on Planet Mongoose a short while ago, giving characters a chance to get themselves an education before they start wandering the galaxy and looking for a job. Low tech worlds are not an issue here as, so long as there is a starport, Traveller fully embraces distance learning!
We take a good look at the use of skills, adding some new specialities to cover the likes of flamethrowers, bows, and hovercraft, and we have also done something I have wanted to do for a good few years now – hacked out the new skills that were added in the first Mercenary book. These have been something of a bugbear for me as, from the start, I did not want to have any new skills added to those in the Core Rulebook. New specialities were always fine, but not new skills. This is because we would always run the risk of ‘skill bloat’ where subsequent books add in new skills that have no rooting in previous works and, with the broad range of skills present in the Core Rulebook, it really is lazy writing to add more!
So, what are we doing with the likes of Interrogation and Combat Engineering, two of the main skills added in the first Mercenary? Simple; we integrate them into one or more existing skills, perhaps giving the chance to build task chains. For example, Interrogation can simply be replaced by Persuade but skilled interrogation teams can do much more than this and so become more effective. Imagine one interrogator with a high Persuade skill and another with a high Deception – a perfect blend of good cop/bad cop can be used, with the interrogators taking terns (and thus building the task chain). For those looking for even more finesse, Social Science (psychology) can be brought into play and, for those with the stomach, Physical Science (biology) and Medic…
New careers we have chopped right down, losing all the purpose built ‘mercenary’ careers (they may reappear in a Special Supplement in the future) but keeping and tweaking Air Force and Wet Navy (even if they are not used in a huge number of Third Imperium games, there will be lots of campaigns where they are applicable). We have also kept the extended D66 Event tables for Army and Marines, as well as the War Time Events table.
Finally in this part, we have revised the system for medals being awarded during careers, and these rules can be used for any military career (such as the Navy). While we have used the well-known Third Imperium awards, we have made it easy for you to swap them out for your own medals to suit your campaign.
Building a Mercenary Force
Once you have completed a job or two and had the odd windfall in a Travelelr campaign, you will start thinking about the bigger things in life – a starship, perhaps, or your very own force of mercenaries.
This part takes a good look at recruitment, the business of attracting skilled operatives and signing them up. We go through the whole recruitment process, detailing the best places to recruit from, the best people to do the recruiting (no Recruitment skill any more!), and what employees expect to be paid. We have kept this latter part as flexible as possible so while we do have a good list of suggestions of whom can be hired (for example, this is what a light infantryman costs per month, these are his skills, and you should probably give him an assault rifle), you can specify very focussed individuals with customised equipment, and the recruiting system will handle it easily. And it won’t just be soldiers you will need – there are a variety of specialists from comms operators and intelligence agents to cooks and drivers that you will need, depending on the size of your force.
Now you have some soldiers willing to fight for you, you will need to organise them into units and, from here, know how they will fight. After all, if you recruit an entire platoon of infantry, it would be a tedious process to roll for all of their attacks individually!
Battles and Wars
To handle this, we are taking a leaf out of two books we published more than a decade ago, the Quintessential Fighter and Seas of Blood. Both of these books introduced what we called the Open Mass Combat System (OMCS) into the D20 set of rules. The trick behind these rules was that they used the standard D20 combat system, so everybody already knew how they worked – we simply added a scaling system to handle larger formations of goblins, berserkers and trolls.
We are taking the same approach to the mass combat system in this edition of Book 1: Mercenary. Using a simple scaling system (which we will preview in the future!), you can take a group of men and build them into a squad, platoon, company… even an entire army, as there is no theoretical maximum size of unit that can be built (though larger units are less flexible, and your characters’ wallets might soon run into issues!). The big advantage of doing it this way is that whatever gets added to Traveller in the future (either from one of our supplements, or a rule/piece of equipment you have created yourself for your own campaign) will immediately be compatible with the mass combat system – it will readily integrate into your mercenary units and be used ‘as is’ with no conversion necessary. It will already have been done for you!
Missions and Tickets
If Book 1: Mercenary Second Edition can be likened to a three-legged stool (!), then Recruiting is one leg, Mass Battles another, and the Ticket System the third that allows this book to stand up and be used to its fullest!
However, the ticket system is a set of rules written specifically for the lazy referee (like me!) that generates missions and contracts for mercenary forces, details how they are dealt with, and what the results are. At any point, the referee can step in and create his own more detailed adventures to handle specific parts of the ticket, but the system remains behind everything to fall back on.
For example, the players have their own mercenary platoon, built of three squads, and they have got a contract to protect an installation from rebel fighters in the jungle. A major attack is launched, repelled, and the players see their chance to deal the rebels a heavy blow by chasing the routed forces back to their base (yes, morale is handled in the mass combat system too!). So, they take two squads with them, but leave the third behind at the installation to protect it.
At this point, the referee plays out the chase through the jungle and the wiping out of the rebel’s base as he would a normal adventure. However, when the rebel’s main force (not the diversion the players are chasing) hits the installation, its defence by the remaining squad can be handled by just a few dice rolls – the focus is on what the players are doing themselves and anything that happens to their force ‘off camera’ can be dealt with quickly, yet fairly. In this case, the players will return to the installation to find their battered, victorious squad waiting for them, or perhaps they will find they now have a siege on their hands with the installation in rebel hands…
There will, of course, be a long list of tickets already created for you, ready to go and good for any campaign!
Strongholds and Sieges
It is possible that very rich mercenary forces will want to build their own headquarters, and make sure it is thoroughly defended (you tend to make enemies in the mercenary business). However, this chapter is more about fortifications, strongholds, and other defences, things that tend to make the life of a mercenary commander difficult.
When you want to send your players slogging through a trench complex, up a muddy hill, all the while being bombarded by howitzers and snipers with laser rifles, only to find a walled bunker compound waiting for them at the top, this part of the Book 1: Mercenary Second Edition contains everything you need to construct the most fiendish set of defences, whatever the tech level.
Equipment and Vehicles
With this new focus on mercenaries and mercenary campaigns, there is a wealth of new equipment and, especially, vehicles, that players will want to get their hands on. After all, any edge they can get on their competition will mean more credits in the bank.
There is just one thing though… We have set ourselves a challenge that, despite this being a very ‘martial’ book, we are going to try to do this entire section without including any new weapons at all. We figure the Central Supply Catalogue pretty much has things covered on the weapons front, so let’s try to make this part of the book as interesting as possible without focussing it on gun bunnies!
We have pencilled in a release date of September/October this year but, as always now, it really will be released when it is ready, and this is where you can help! We have opened a thread on our forums where you can make comments and suggestions of your own, based on this preview and the rules snippets we will be posting over the coming weeks and months. So, feel free to dive in and let us know what you would like to see in this book – you have a very real chance to shape Traveller with a book that will be a cornerstone for many campaigns for years to come!