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Mongoose Traveller Lite: Simplifying Skill and Task Checks

This article originally appeared in the July 2012 issue.

Introduction

The latest edition of Traveller has some pretty solid rules with its skill and task system, but I do feel it’s a bit over-complex. The rules listed here are intended to simplify the complexity of the skill system and make task construction faster. I also wanted to cut down on some of the “DM Escalation” that destroys the bell curve of the 2d6 task system. In particular, I’ve liked certain aspects of the task system developed by Digest Publications Group, and implemented in MegaTraveller.

Difficulty Levels

There are only four base difficulty levels instead of seven, with broader differences between each difficulty level. Unskilled tasks have an additional -3 DM, as in the core rules.

 

Task Difficulty Definitions
Difficulty Use for Mongoose Difficulty DM
Simple Simple, Easy, or Routine +3
Average Average 0
Difficult Difficult or Very Difficult -3
Formidable Formidable -6

Mundane Tasks

Any mundane everyday tasks succeeds as long as the character is either skilled or has an applicable characteristic DM greater than -1 for tasks that don’t require a skill. The effect (if it needs to be known), is equal to either the skill level or the positive characteristic DM for characteristic-only tasks.

Equipment DM Limits

Characters (particularly rich ones) will often be tempted to stock up huge amounts of gear in order to take advantage of all the lovely DM’s. However, this can quickly get out of hand if you let them all stack.

Instead, allow only the best and worst DMs for equipment to apply to any given task. That is, only count the highest positive and lowest negative DM.

Haste and Caution
(Or, doing it faster or slower)

This is more limited than in the core rulebook, and more dramatic. If you shift up on the time scale (Caution, or going slower), you decrease the task difficulty one step. For instance, if a Routine task has a time increment of 10 minutes, you can go to an increment of 1 hour to make the task Simple.

Haste, or going faster, increases the difficulty one step in exchange for the next-lower time increment. If a Difficult task has a time increment of 10 minutes you can shorten the time to 1 minute and make it Formidable.

Tasks that are already Simple can’t be performed more slowly, and tasks that are already Formidable can’t be performed more quickly.

The Task Rolls

The maximum effect allowed is 6, with aid-another benefits and half-effect numbers altered as follows. You can now put all possible task roll effects on a single table like so:

 

Task Roll Effects
Total Roll Task Result Effect Half Effect Aid Another
2 or less Total failure 6 3 -3
3   5 2 -2
4   4 2 -2
5 Exceptional Failure 3 1 -1
6   2 1 -1
7   1 0 0
8 Success 0 0 0
9   1 0 0
10   2 1 +1
11 Exceptional Success 3 1 +1
12   4 2 +2
13   5 2 +2
14 or more   6 3 +3

Reduced Basic Training Benefits

This rule is intended to reduce the relative bloat of 0-level skills in Mongoose Traveller. The character gets three instead of six skills in basic training. This rule is particularly helpful if you’re using the “Life Less Ordinary” rules for character creation.

Skill Specialties

Rather than creating a whole series of extra skills within a skill, the skill specialties system works differently.

The various cascade skills (Gun Combat, Drive, etc) are learned without a specialty at level 0. When a character learns that skill at level 1, the character must choose a particular specialty.

The character gets full use of their skill levels for tasks pertaining to a given specialty, and may also access other specialties at half their skill level (rounded down).

Specialty skills may only be advanced one level per term, regardless of rolls. This means that if you gain 1 level of, say, Gun Combat due to rank or event, that skill may not be advanced by a roll on the skill table. That advance is simply “lost.”

If you’re using the point-buy system, double the cost of buying skill ranks above 0 for specialty skills.

Converting Existing Characters

Most skills will convert directly, the only difference is going to be with the specialized skills and with 0-level skills.

For 0-level skills, simply eliminate the extra skills from basic training. If the skill was subsequently raised above 0, this becomes a moot point.

For specialty skills, first use only the highest single specialty, eliminating the others. Second, pay attention to the “1 advance per term” limit. If your character had 3 terms in the Marines, his Gun Combat (slug rifle) skill can’t be above 3 unless he had some other career that allowed for that advance.

Obviously, if the character has multiple specialties with equal skill levels, you get to pick.