This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue.
In MegaTraveller, advanced character generation revolves around large, formal, and most importantly, legal career paths. On occasion, however, player-characters need access to the seamy side of the Imperium. Whether gun-running, smuggling, or disposing of merchandise of indeterminate ownership, there is a need for the skill-sets that can’t be picked up in a typical law-abiding career.
General Background: The interstellar underworld is divided into three parts.
Organized Crime: Also referred to as ‘syndicates’, these groups tend to be larger organizations involved in multiple non-legal activities. The principal motivation is the accumulation of wealth. Organizationally, they tend to be modeled on the social groups of the milieu in which they are operating (or from which they originate), and in large measure share the same mores and social codes. Often, they will have induced the cooperation of low- and mid-level government functionaries (or covertly placed their own members in such positions) in some of their activities, or in evading or avoiding adverse action. The larger and more influential syndicates also have control over legal enterprises, generally for the purpose of converting illicit gains into ‘legal’ wealth. In some cases, syndicates provide services to citizens that a weak or inattentive government can’t or won’t provide.
Gangs: Unlike syndicates, Gangs generally do not have any connections in local government, nor do they act in the role of a government, except in the most extreme cases of actual governmental impotence (or nonexistence). Often, their members are alienated from the cultural milieu in which they operate. Their motivations vary, but power, profit, or ideology tend to be central. Gang activities are almost invariably wholly illegal, and often actively opposed by local government (with varying levels of success). It is not unusual for all of a gang’s activities to be focused on a particular enterprise, for example, drug-running, bank robbery, jewel theft, or even just general mayhem. Violence is common, and ‘wars’ with other gangs (over territory, or ‘turf’, for example) are to be expected.
Independent Operators: These individuals operate outside the protection of syndicates or gangs, and generally specialize (use a single tactic). Motivation is almost invariably either profit or ideology. They may be approached by Syndicates or Gangs for assistance if the Operator’s special skills are needed—or if plausible deniability is needed.
Underworld Ranks: While Gangs often have a hierarchical structure, it tends to be fluid, and not formalized—one is a leader, or one is a follower. See the special Gang rule under Promotion.
Syndicates, however, generally have a more formal rank structure, and members move through that structure on merit. In these rules, Listener, Runner, and Worker are ‘Working’ ranks, corresponding roughly to Enlisted rank; Enforcer, Seller, Chief-of-Staff, Adviser, Boss, and Kingpin are ‘Made’ rank, the equivalent of Officer rank. Obviously, the referee is at liberty to alter the rank structure and titles on a case-by-case basis.
Individual Operators, obviously, have no need for rank, and do not roll for promotion.
There is no general term for an Underworld character, and the number of terms coined by Law Enforcement for them may well be greater the number of Law Enforcement organizations.
Initial activities include pre-career options, enlistment, organization and area selection, and initial training.
Pre-Career Options: Characters intending an underworld career may consider College (MegaTraveller Player’s Manual, p.44). Characters who choose not to go to college may, with the referee’s agreement, begin their careers at age 14, but may not promote during their first term.
Enlistment: For acceptance into the underworld of interstellar rogues, a newly generated character must throw 5+ on 2D (DM +1 if Social Standing 7-, DM +2 if Strength 8+). Success or failure at this roll represents finding a ‘mentor’—either by being recruited or by the character seeking out such a person—who is willing to protect the character while the character ‘learns the ropes’.
Organization Assignment: Roll 2D on the Organization Assignment table to determine what sort of organization the character initially joins.
Area Assignment: At the beginning of each term, a character determines the area of their activities by rolling 1D on the Area Assignment table.
Off-planet represents work involving space travel, while On-planet indicates the term will be spent on a planet’s surface. The Prison assignment represents the character’s arrest and detention for previous crimes committed. A character’s first term is always On-planet.
Initial Training: The initial year of service in the underworld is dedicated to initial training. At the end of the year, the character receives an automatic Streetwise skill and one roll on the appropriate Organization Skills Table.
Career resolution begins once a character graduates from all pre-career schools and has enlisted.
Each term, a character resolves four assignments.
Each one-year assignment is resolved separately using a two-step procedure: the specific assignment is rolled, and the assignment is resolved in terms of survival, promotion, connections, and skills.
(Note: In the first term, only resolve three assignments. The fourth assignment (actually the first) is Initial Training, as previously described.)
Specific Assignments: Roll 2D on the Assignments table to determine the nature of the character’s activities.
After determining the assignment, a character rolls on the appropriate Assignment Resolution Table for survival, promotion, connections, and skills.
Assignment Resolution: Roll 2D each for Survival, Promotion, Connections, and Skills (but also see the section Resolving Special Duty, below).
Survival: The throw for survival determines if the character survives the current year of assignment. Failing the survival throw forces the character to end character generation and muster out. They must roll on the Discharge Table. If the Discharge Table roll is 2-5, the character must immediately roll for benefits and leave the service. On a 6, resolve one term in a non-military career other than Pirate, Rogue, or Law Enforcement, then muster out. (The character must meet the normal requirements for enlistment in the career, but need not roll for enlistment. This should not be considered a ‘first term’.) On a 1, roll a new character.
Optional Survival Rule: If the character fails the survival roll, roll the same survival roll again. If the roll is failed a second time, muster out as above. If the second survival roll succeeds, the character may continue in the career (subject to referee agreement and other relevant rules), but the Area Assignment for the remainder of the current term and the next term is automatically Prison.
Promotion: Roll if the character is in a Syndicate or Gang (see the Special Gang rule below). A Syndicate character starts out as a Listener and progresses through the ranks, becoming a ‘Made man’ when promoting from Worker to Enforcer. Until becoming an Enforcer, a character may receive a promotion every year; once ‘Made’, the character is limited to one promotion per term (but may roll once each year during a term until successful).
If a character who is not yet ‘Made’ rolls an unmodified 12 for Promotion, they become ‘Made’ and immediately promoted to Enforcer, regardless of current rank.
Special Gang rule: A character who rolls less than the number of terms served (including the current term) on 2D is a Leader in the Gang.
Connections: A successful roll provides a contact that can be useful to the character. Connections signify familiarity with influential people in the indicated area. Connections do not eliminate bribes; rather, they make it easier to bribe the right people. The referee determines the location and relationship. If a character needs to bribe someone where the player and referee agree that an established Connection can be helpful, award an additional DM +1 for the bribe attempt.
Skills: A character may receive skills because of the assignment. If the character rolls the indicated number or higher, then he or she gains one skill that is immediately determined. A character may roll for a skill on either the appropriate Organization Skills or Area Skills table.
Assignment Descriptions: Although not strictly necessary for using the rules, knowing what’s involved in an assignment will allow the referee to better adjust the various tables for specific campaign needs. (This list includes Special Duty assignment descriptions.)
Assassination: See Murder.
Barratry: Typically, theft of carried goods by the ship’s crew or officers, directed against the owner of the goods. More generally, any fraud involving misrepresentation of the fate of goods perpetrated by a transporter against the owner of the goods.
Bodyguard: (Special Duty) Not, strictly speaking, an illegal activity. The character is acting as physical protection for a more important individual in the organization. May involve illegal carrying of weapons, or use of force in ways not legally condoned.
Bookmaking: Facilitation of gambling on various activities. The activities themselves may be legal or illegal; the gambling is always illegal.
Computer Crime: (Special Duty) Crimes that specifically and necessarily involve the use of computers. Generally, these involve the removal or duplication of confidential data and the use or sale thereof.
Factory Labor: Physical toil under relatively controlled conditions. May be productive of goods or services that the state requires or distributes, e.g., manufacture of vehicle registration plates, prison laundry, or other such. Time spent at such labor may equate to later privilege or luxuries.
Fencing: (Special Duty) Sale of goods acquired illegally.
General Detention: The character is in the custody of the state, under conditions that are neither conducive to privilege nor specifically punitive beyond the norm.
Hard Labor: Extreme physical toil under adverse, but usually not deadly, conditions. May or may not have useful results; the principal intent is to ‘break’ the prisoner and make them compliant with prison discipline. Also called Chain Gang, Breaking Rocks, or other such terms.
Highjacking: The interception and appropriation of both a transport and its contents by a party not connected with either the transporter or the owner of the contents. Called Piracy when waterborne or space ships are the transports involved.
Infiltration: Covert placement of personnel who will work in the syndicate’s interests into positions of power or access to information.
Informer: (Special Duty) Superficially, like Infiltration (q.v.), however, the informer is working for (and passing information to) the state, rather than an underworld organization. Also called ‘stool pigeon’ or ‘nark’, among other things.
Kidnapping: Seizure, concealment, and restraint of people, with the objective of inducing a legal entity (company, government, church, etc.) to act in a specific manner favorable to the syndicate’s or gang’s interests, e.g., payment (ransom), release from imprisonment of convicted members, change of policy, etc.
Larceny: Covert or stealthy removal of property from a legal custodian. Includes ‘swindling’ or ‘con games’, where the custodian is induced to ‘willingly’ part with the property.
Murder: (Special Duty) Deliberate killing of individuals. The actual killer is generally acting for profit; the person or organization employing the killer may have a variety of motivations. If the target is a prominent figure, killed for reasons relating to his prominence, this becomes Assassination.
Piracy: (Special Duty) See Hijacking.
Racketeering: Corrupt manipulation of entities such as governments, unions, or businesses, or certain forms of Larceny (q.v.) when ‘inside information’ is involved. May take many forms, such as ‘no-show jobs’, ‘protection’ rackets, union organizing, bookmaking or market manipulation where the organizers have ‘inside information’, and so on.
Robbery: Forcible and overt removal of property from the immediate presence of the legal custodian.
Smuggling: Covert transport of illegal goods, or of legal goods where appropriate taxes or fees have not been paid.
Solitary: (Special Duty) The character is kept away from the general population of the detention facility (Solitary Confinement), and is not permitted even normal activities without direct supervision and enforced isolation from others.
Work-Release: The character is permitted to work outside the direct custody of the state. He is returned to general incarceration at the end of a daily work shift. Limited to cooperative individuals without a history of trouble while incarcerated.
The Transfer Assignment: If the assignment rolled is Transfer, the character changes organization assignment. Roll 1D as follows: 1-2, Syndicate; 3-4, Gang; 5-6, Independent Operator. If a character rolls the same type of organization he is currently in, it represents moving to a new organization of the same type. (Lose one level of rank if changing syndicates.) Roll for Area assignment, then specific assignment, and resolve normally.
Resolving Special Duty: When a character rolls Special Duty for an assignment, resolve as follows:
Roll 1D on the Special Duty Assignment table, taking the assignment from the column for the character’s current Area Assignment. Except as noted:
- Survival and Connection are automatic and no promotion will occur.
- Roll 1D for 5+ on the Special Duty Resolution Table once for each skill listed in the column for the specific assignment. On success, the character receives +1 in the indicated skill(s).
The Special Duty assignments that follow different procedures from the previous are as follows:
Informer: The character has been approached by prison officials with a request to cooperate in an investigation.
If he reports regularly on fellow inmates, he receives Surveillance +1 and is released at the end of the year. If an individual refuses, he is sent to hard labor, with a DM -1 to his next survival roll.
Solitary: No Connection; otherwise, resolve on Special Duty Assignment table.
Murder or Assassination: Individual trains with the local assassin’s guild, or is contracted to kill someone. Resolve as Rogue, MegaTraveller Player’s Manual pp. 24-25. If Skill roll succeeds, roll 5+ on 1D on each Rogue Acquired Skills Table (EDU 8+ needed to roll on Advanced Education table) and choose skill on success. No Promotion, auto Connection.
Piracy: Individual serves a year of service as a pirate. Resolve as Pirate, MegaTraveller Player’s Manual pp.24-25. If Skill roll succeeds, Roll 5+ on 1D on each Pirate Acquired Skill Table (must have EDU 8+ to roll on the Advanced Education table) and choose skill on success. Do not roll Position; automatic success on Connection roll.
A Syndicate character who promotes to Enforcer is considered a member of the ‘family’, and is accorded the appropriate privileges and protections. Gain one additional Connection.
Re-enlistment and Mustering Out
A character can automatically reenlist at the end of a term of service. No reenlistment roll is required. Likewise, a character may muster out at the end of any four-year term of service. A character may be forced to muster out after failing a survival roll.
Mustering Out Benefits: The Underworld Character rolls on the Rogue mustering-out tables (MegaTraveller Player’s Manual, pp. 24-25). A character gets a combined number of rolls on cash and possession tables equivalent to the number of terms spent in service. However, they can only take up to three rolls on the cash table.
The following special rules apply to Underworld characters.
Brownie Points: As Underworld characters are never decorated, award 1 BP per connection instead.
Courtesy Calls: When travelling outside the area of influence of the character’s organization, an underworld character—even one who has mustered out—must conduct one encounter with a representative of the local underworld, to reassure them that the character’s organization is not looking to expand into the area. Independent Operators must do this as well, even though they are not members of an organization, as independent specialists also have their own ‘turf’ and do not appreciate competition.
If this is not done within one local day of landing, the character’s party will receive a -1DM on local encounters until this task is accomplished.
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in: Just because a character has retired from their organization it doesn’t mean that the organization is done with them. On the anniversary date of retirement, roll 2D. On 11+, the syndicate or gang has a mission for the player. The mission is up to the referee.
|Roll 2D||Type of Organization|
|Roll 1D||Type of Organization|
|11||Special Duty||Special Duty||Special Duty|
|Special Duty Assignments|
|Prison||General Detention||Factory Labor||Hard Labor||Work-Release|
Survival: +1 if END 9+ or INT 9+ (cumulative)
Promotion: +1 if DEX 10+
Connections: +1 if INT 9+
Skill: +1 if EDU 8+
|Special Duty Assignments|
|1||Streetwise||Blade Cbt||Gun Cbt|
|2||Vacc Suit||Inborn||Blade Cbt|
+1 if Rank 4
+1 if on Term 5+
|1||Death (killed by police or fellow criminals)|
|2||Character goes to trial; lose all benefits|
|3||Hunted by assassins; lose 2 benefit rolls|
|4||Under close police surveillance; loss of all connections|
|5||Publicly exposed as criminal; SOC-2|
|6||Clean start; transfer to any nonmilitary “legal” service for one more term.|
|Rank||Working Rank||Rank||‘Made’ Rank||Basic Rank|