Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Vala Kontiri - a first attempt at Traveller PC generation (updated)

I'm determined that at some stage I'm going to get my head round Traveller, and I'm going to run it, damn it! It seems like an excellent system for running a sandbox campaign as it actually does lack the level of crunch you can encounter in some other games systems. There is plenty of heavy lifting for a GM to do behind the scenes, but that seems to be more an issue of creativity. The important thing is that at the table it is no more complex than Basic Roleplaying, as far as I can see at first glance.

To this end I'm going to cook up a sandbox campaign on the fly, in the odd spare moment, with a view to dipping into it now and again, when the opportunity arises.

To begin with, then, I'm going to generate a couple of PCs for my kids to use. I'm informing my choices by their style of play and general preference for characters. I'm using the Mongoose version of Traveller.

My first character is Vala Kontiri. At this point I have not detailed the sector they will be adventuring in, so I have just picked four background skills at random.

Attributes (adjusted for accident - see below): Strength 8, Dexterity 8, Endurance 5 (-1), Intelligence 9, Education 11 (+1), Social Status 5 (-1).

Background skills: Art (Dance) 0, Seafarer 0, Streetwise 0, Social Science 0

At age 18 Vala Kontiri begins as a Rank 0 Entertainer, going with the Performer specialisation. Because it is her first career, she picks up all the service package skills, namely Art (Dance) which I think now goes to +1, Art (Holography) 0, Carouse 0, Deception 0, Persuade 0 and Steward 0. She also picks up Athletics - Coordination 1, but she fails her survival roll, and gets booted out of Entertainer at 22 due to a scandal (undetermined at this stage).

I decided to take a shot at the Citizen career for Vala, and she makes it in! She goes with the Colonist specialisation in an effort to get away from whatever scandal ruined her dance career. She picks up Melee (Unarmed Combat) 0, and Recon 1. But she fails her survival roll AGAIN, and is harassed by a gang. Her life is ruined and she picks up the gang as an enemy. One for the sandbox.

Back on the street, Vala has a shot at the Agent career, but fails to get in. Her average Intelligence continues to punish her. She now has a choice - Drifter or the draft. I went with the draft, and rolled Navy. Vala ends up as Line Crew. She gets Vacc Suit 0, Comms 1 and fails her survival roll once again. She is invalided out of the service following a near-fatal accident.

At 30 she is still penniless, having failed to come away with any mustering out benefits to date. She goes for Rogue, but at -3 DM for her previous careers, she fails (modified 7), and opts for Drifter. She gets Streetwise 1, and goes with the Scavenger specialty and receives Astrogation 1. She makes her survival roll, finally, and can muster out of Drifter at 34 years old. She gets a Ship Share (1%) on mustering out. At this point I decide to give up and make her a Traveller.

Vala finishes off with four skills from the Traveller background package, namely Mechanic 1, Sensors 1, Medic 1, and Engineer (Electronics) 1. I see her as a failed entertainer/dancer, ex-Navy line crew, now looking for work in a space port somewhere, aged around 34-35. She has a grudge against a gang that she ran afoul of as a colonist and a stake in a ship. We've got plenty of meat to work with here.


  1. I played Traveller: The New Era for a bit but that was so complicated it made Pathfinder look like Fighting Fantasy so I've long wanted to try the simpler version, either in original or Mongoose form. So count me in for your sandbox!

  2. I liked the New Era's post-apocalyptic setting a lot, but have heard plenty that is negative about the system. One solution might be to run TNE with Mongoose Traveller.

  3. Yes, I liked the setting -- although I've heard long-term Traveller fans dislike it -- but the rules were beyond me.

  4. Traveller system - if it works - fine - but the setting..... never been a fan Stuart! Use the Fading Suns setting/ something like that and I know it would work.... Traveller was always an antiseptic setting in my experience of it. Clinical, clean, too shiny. Maybe that was how others ran it - but having read some of it, it seemed to sum up my problems with sci-fi rpgs: alien places which are hard to get a handle on, zipping on from planet to another....too much emphasis on trading (fine for a pc game)

    But I am happy to give it a go. I haven't played your version of it! Can we not play a trading game in space though? If we are trading, can this be a backdrop issue .... unless it is a personal interaction thing like in Firefly (a setting I like!)

    1. To be fair, Firefly is a perfect example of how Traveller should be, so my guess is that whoever ran it for you got it wrong. It's supposed to be about rogues on a grotty space ship trying to make a quick credit; "shiny" and "clean" are not what Traveller is about.

    2. It is widely rumoured that Joss Whedon based Firefly on his old Traveller campaign in the 1970s. When I first watched it, I immediately thought "But this is Traveller!"

  5. Rules-wise it seems slightly simpler than WFRP. With Traveller, I think you make of it what you want. It is also deliberately written to make sandbox gaming easier. You can place an emphasis on trading, but that is not the be all and end all and can be relegated to the background, like estate management is in Pendragon (!) Mercenary campaigns involve more fighting, less trading, for example.

    I'm going to try to run a test campaign at home with the kids to see how it plays. But I like the simplicity. Given a choice between Fading Suns and the 40K background, I'd always opt for running the latter, as I'm more familiar with it (can do without Orks though). I also like the New Era post-apocalyptic background after the fall of the Third Imperium.