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A Life Less Ordinary: Alternative Character Creation Rules for Mongoose Traveller

This article appeared in the February 2013 issue of the magazine.

Introduction

The character creation process in the Mongoose edition of Traveller is pretty decent. However, many don’t like the random skill selection process, and I don’t care for the way aging and career-induced injuries work in the system. It’s possible to “game” aging effects to some extent, and the injuries you can get in your career don’t mesh with the damage system outlined in combat.

I’ve also tried to deal somewhat more realistically with the “70-year old admiral” adventurer motif by adding the “thirst for adventure” rule. Those familiar with older versions of Traveller may see some familiar concepts here: the aging rules are a combination of MegaTraveller’s aging table and Mongoose’s single aging roll. The experience limit is also from MegaTraveller.

Background Skills

A character may have one or more background skills at skill 1 instead of skill 0. Taking a level 1 skill uses up two background skill slots. This represents the sort of single-minded pursuit of a study or hobby that leads to friends and family asking exasperatedly, “Don’t you think about anything else?”

Character Limits

The maximum characteristic level for a human is 15. For alien species, alter the maximum by the modifier for normal/weak characteristics. If the species is large, change the maximum by 6 points per die of difference. The maximum characteristic DM stays +3.

Maxmium skill level is 4. Also, characters have an experience limit equal to the total of Intelligence + Education. A character’s total skill levels can’t exceed this. 0-level skills count as a level, rounding fractions in the total up.

For example, the sample Merchant Character in the Core Rulebook (Alexander Jamison) has Int 12, Edu 9, for Experience 21. His skills are Admin 1, Broker 1, Comms 0, Computers 2, Deception 1, Drive 0, Gun Combat (slug pistols) 1, Gunner (turrets) 1, Mechanic 2, Medic 1, Persuade 0, Pilot (spacecraft) 3, Pilot (small craft) 1, Sensors 1, Steward 0, Streetwise 1. Alexander’s skill total is 18. If he were to gain Melee 0, his total would go up to 18.5, rounded up to 19.

Changes to the Career System

Most aspects of the career system stay the same as in the Core Rulebook. However, skills not gained through events are no longer random. A character may pick a skill or two each term, from the appropriate lists for that character’s career. Characteristics are advanced in the same way, from the allowed skills on the various lists.

If a character’s skill total is at their Experience limit, that character may only increase a given skills’ level at the expense of another. However, a character can’t completely “forget” a skill below 0. This rule is intended to represent the fact that the character is focusing on their increased skill, at the expense of getting out of practice with another.

Aging

Aging losses are fixed, based on the result of the aging roll as in the core rules:

 

Aging Losses
Result Strength Dexterity Endurance Intelligence
0     -1  
-1 -1   -1  
-2 -1 -1 -1  
-3 -1 -1 -2  
-4 -2 -1 -2  
-5 -2 -2 -2  
-6 or lower -2 -2 -2 -1

Large alien species should increase losses by 1 point per extra die of Str or End, and reduce losses of Dex by 1 point.

Rather than using complicated rules for angathics, assume that characters get a DM of +1 per home world tech level above 6.

When a characteristic is reduced to zero by aging, it can’t be increased by character advancement. When two characteristics are reduced to zero, the character is incapacitated and loses 1 minor action per round in combat. When three characteristics are reduced to zero the character dies.

On average, the numbers work as follows:

 

Aging “Timetable”
Tech Level Aging Starts Average Lifespan Maximum Lifespan
0-6 34 70 90
7 38 74 94
8 42 78 98
9 46 82 102
10 50 86 106
11 54 90 110
12 58 94 114
13 62 98 118
14 66 102 122
15 70 106 126
16 74 110 130

The table assumes a character with average stats in all 3 categories.

Injuries

Roll 3d6 for normal injuries or 5d6 for serious injuries (such as in the military career mishap table). Roll 1d6 on the following table for the type of injury and the characteristics affected:

 

Injury Effects
Roll 1d6 Injured Part Characteristics Affected (in order)
1, 2, 3 Arm or Leg Str, End, Dex
4, 5 Torso End, Str, Dex
6 Head Dex, End, Str

Regardless of the injury level, the character always survives. If a character is seriously injured (2 characteristics reduced to zero), the character must make a “saving throw” for each characteristic, using the DM for its normal full value. If this is failed, the characteristic is reduced 1 + effect points.

Thirst for Adventure

Adventurers tend to be restless and ambitious individuals who wish to seek their fortune outside of the normal career path. Or, they’re people who’ve failed in their careers and have no choice but to make their living dangerously. To that end, the following rules should be used for creating characters: