QREBS in the Shopping Mall
This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue.
Amongst the earliest Traveller notes I have from over thirty years ago is a reference in one of my first adventures to several versions of the same piece of equipment. The idea was that the players could choose one of them for the task at hand and at least one choice would be less reliable than the others. There would, of course, be the possibility of it failing at a critical juncture during the adventure. I’m almost certain this was inspired by Double Adventure 1: Annic Nova which offers three atmosphere testers and goes on to reveal that some of them are faulty and subject to recall.
It was therefore with some interest that I saw the QREBS rules in Traveller5 (pp. 190-196). This subsystem introduces the idea of quality, reliability, ease-of-use, burden and safety to pieces of equipment such that not all apparently identical pieces of kit are the same. While it’s not suggested that every item of gear has QREBS values assigned, it certainly provides the referee with the opportunity to give the players real choices when it comes to purchasing equipment, and spices up adventures with the very present possibility that something will fail at a crucial moment. It also allows for some fun role playing as PCs might, for example, be able to show off some really cool piece of kit they’ve purchased to admiring NPCs. Of course, the reverse could be true as well as they’re mocked for some useless clunker that they’ve bought cheap. What’s also great about the QREBS rules is that they can be used in other Traveller rule sets such as Mongoose Traveller or Classic Traveller with no modification.
The following offers a variety of items and three variants of each with their QREBS evaluation. Notes comment on these and what they might mean in game terms. One missed opportunity in the rules seems to be in linking pricing to quality. Core Rules p.599 suggests QREBS can affect price, but gives no mechanism for doing so. However, Q = A is going to be a very different experience to Q = 1 and PCs may wish to spend the time seeking out goods of higher quality; indeed, their social standing might require them to. They should also, generally, expect to pay more for such items. A rule of thumb might be +5% cost for every level of Quality over 5; -5% for every level under 5. Similar variations could be used for the reliability, ease-of-use, burden and safety. Perhaps an additional ±1% per QREBS point for each value. Don’t forget that Burden is reversed: Negative numbers are better. Thus an item with QREBS = 8 +0 -1 +0 +3 would mean an additional 17% on a ‘book’ price (3×5%-1×1%+3×1%). Or QREBS = 3 +2 -1 -1 +0 would mean 8% of the price subtracted (-2×5%+2×1%-1×1%+1×1%). See “Alternative Calculations” at the end of the article for other options; the rest of this discussion will assume the price adjustments shown in the sidebar below.
If the book price (from rules or supplements or other sources) is considered the price for a mid-range or average item, relatively poor QREBS will lower the cost; QREBS which add up to a positive value will increase the price. Of course, this will only be relevant buying new; buying secondhand will be a completely different ball game with PCs perhaps happening on a great bargain or finding themselves at the poorer end of a deal if they’re not careful. Note that QREBS values should not be revealed directly to players or PCs (but see the rules on p. 192 where it explains that a suitably skilled individual inspecting an item for an hour or so can determine its approximate QREBS). On some worlds it may be possible to access consumer guides to certain types of vehicle or equipment which give indications of approximate QREBS values: Which Air/Raft? or The Consumer Guide to Gadgets of Regina or perhaps social media reviews. This kind of information is likely to be more available on higher population, higher tech level worlds but social structures may well have an influence as well. Government type or law level might also affect this.
Of course, referees may not want the price to exactly relate to QREBS; players will quickly work out what’s what. So it is worth introducing some additional variation as well. Real life is always more complicated with, for example, premiums being paid for social cachet rather than quality; good quality models being discounted as ‘end of line’, not to mention the usual retail ‘rounding’ to just below a desired price point. As ever, this system can provide guidelines for harried referees rather than a purely mechanical system which requires no thought.
Although typically vehicles or equipment will have ‘book’ standards of speed or weight and so on, the referee may also wish to use the QREBS values to slightly adjust key statistics to further provide variety in the choices of players. Price isn’t the only thing that might be affected. Burden could relate to weight, for example. This is suggested on Core Rules p.285 for vehicles but no direct link is made. Other vehicle enhancers can affect speed (p. 300).
Where items below are not detailed with TechLevel or Price in the Traveller5 Core Rules, such information has been taken from other sources as noted or invented. Note also that the QREBS rules say that “multi component objects” (such as an air/raft or ground car) which combine several objects into a larger item, should have each subsystem treated separately. If referees care to divide vehicles and the like up in this way, it will of course give much more variation in cost (or whatever variable is being adjusted) and detail. “Yes, last year’s Flypod did indeed have a dodgy nearside aft grav plate, but this year’s model has had a complete makeover.”
Air/Raft [Mongoose Traveller Core Rulebook, p.103, Cr275,000]
GsbAG “A-class” 4 seater
TL8, 400kph, Cost Cr 352,000
QREBS = A -1 +3 -1 +0
GsbAG are well-known for their quality (and in this particular example, safety as well), and that’s reflected in the price. Smooth flight and well-designed controls have long made this a sought-after model.
General Products “Flivver”
TL8, 400kph, Cost Cr294,250
QREBS = 5 +2 +1 -5 -1
This four person air/raft, often nicknamed a ‘geep’ is very common on many worlds in the Imperium. Relatively cheap and cheerful for a robust machine, but reliable and easy to fly.
Ling Standard Products “Flypod” 4 seater
TL8, 400kph, Cost Cr220,000
QREBS = 1 -1 +0 +2 -1
This is a very typical air/raft in many ways and cheap but its quality is so poor that owners can spend as much time servicing it as actually flying. Average in other respects, it’s commonly encountered, but also commonly grounded on the main air/raft routes awaiting a recovery vehicle.
Note: Given that Quality directly relates the Period, for Q = 1 the Period is just hours. Either buyers would avoid an air/raft which, after only a week on the forecourt would be R = -5, or they’re bought by skilled mechanics for other reasons! However cheap the Flypod is, it seems difficult to justify its price. The cost premium on the Q = A model however seems well worth it. (See the footnote if this isn’t felt to be enough of a price differential.)
Atmosphere Tester [Traveller5 Core Rules, p.614, Cr800]
TL9, Size 2, 0.9 kg, Cr912
QREBS = 7 +0 +1 -1 +2
A good quality atmosphere tester known for its safety record – probably due to the manufacturer’s history with computers and software.
Ling Standard Products Model AT28/4
TL9, Size 2, 0.5 kg, Cr824
QREBS = 5 +0 +1 -5 -3
A much smaller and lighter device than others in its category, LSP’s Model 28/4 is known to be somewhat lacking on the software front and can give dubious readings if not interpreted carefully.
Survival Products “Sniffer”
[from Double Adventure 1: Annic Nova]
TL9, Size 2, 1.3 kg, Cr720
QREBS = 5 -1 -3 +3 -3
Long known in the Imperium, and once the subject of a product recall, this is cheap but still hasn’t ironed out all the problems with its original design and is notably on the larger size for such testers.
Note: Weight has been adjusted as 0.1kg/QREBS point of Burden. Naasirka’s +2 on Quality and Safety on the MegaCorporations’ Typical Mods table (Table 12 on page 183) shows through here on what are otherwise fairly average pieces of kit.
Cutlass [Traveller5 Core Rules, p.630, Cr2000]
Imperial Marine Cutlass
TLF, Size 4, Cr2600
QREBS = 8 +5 +3 -4 +3
The ceremonial Imperial Marine Cutlass is finely crafted and to well-trained marines feather light but quite deadly. The ‘Safety’ factor is for the user, not the target. Ostensibly produced in house by the Imperial Marines themselves, it’s widely known that a subsidiary of GsbAG have the contract to actually manufacture the blades.
Kosinar “Standard Issue” Cutlass
TLF, Size 4, Cr1800
QREBS = 4 +0 -5 -1 -1
This a common cutlass wielded by those wanting the look of a Marine blade but without the cost or without the qualifications to be issued one. Any Imperial Marine will instantly know the difference and it’s fairly obvious even to those with only passing knowledge about such weapons. They’re often used by holovid production companies for their actors. The balance makes it much harder to wield efficiently. It’s not quite as light and in averagely skilled hands will leave the user slightly more vulnerable.
TLF, Size 4, Cr1520
QREBS = 1 -1 +1 +0 -4
A cheap knock-off cutlass that only looks like an Imperial Marine Cutlass to the most untutored eye. It can be found in many back street blade bazaars. The blade has been known to break under fairly typical conditions. Not recommended for real combat.
Note: It’s not clear from the Typical Mods table (13 Common Brands, p. 183) whether the ‘0’ for Reliability for Kosinar, known for consumer weapons and armour, means that the Reliability should be set to zero, or that there is simply no adjustment. If the latter, why not a blank space?
TL13 Service Robot [Mongoose Traveller Core Rulebook, page 95; Cr120,000]
(Also in 13Mann Robots, page 56-57 and
Three Blind Mice, page 9)
QREBS = 4 +2 +3 +0 -4
The “Charlie” model is reliable and easy to use but has occasionally been found to have some safety issues. Customers are advised to ensure that the colour processing circuits have had the 1104 revision.
Naasirka Amanuensis 154/3
QREBS = 8 +2 +1 +0 +0
A good quality build from Naasirka that’s reliable and better than some for giving instructions which will be followed accurately.
Spinward Specialities Sophont Servant
QREBS = 4 +1 -3 -1 +0
At the cheaper end of the market, the ‘Four S’ can be hard to instruct accurately but has developed a subculture of owners who collect and exchange command phrases which are known to work well.
Note: Three Blind Mice, for example, suggests ways a robot’s performance might be degraded by age but these could be used for price variations as well. No doubt fun could be had by PCs needing to track down a particular command phrase on the Four S model.
LSP Standard Account
Cr40/year, no free overdraft facility
QREBS = 2 +0 +3 +4 -1
A typical account designed for ‘ease of use’ rather than other features. Although there is an annual charge, the account does, somewhat unusually for the industry, facilitate the transfer of funds to an interest bearing account for user set levels of credit.
Hortalez et Cie Personal Account
No charges, free overdraft facility to Cr1000
QREBS = 4 -1 +3 +0 +5
Probably the best deal commonly available for such standard accounts, Hortalez et Cie have only recently dropped an annual charge in order to attract more custom. They are, of course, known for their stringent safety measures.
Zirunkarish Standard Account
No charges, no free overdraft facility
QREBS = 2 -2 -2 +1 +2
This is the account famed for having investors nearly cause a run on various local branches in 1102. Even now it’s seen as slightly less reliable than its competitors.
Note: Given the nature of these with some being free, QREBS has not been used to affect the cost. Safety factors here give some indication of the likelihood of an account being hacked. As examples of the banks’ ‘standard’ accounts it can be seen that none are particularly high quality. For that, customers should look to other types of account.
As an alternative way of describing equipment, the phrases used in the Traveller5 Core Rules could be used:
QREBS = 7 +3 +3 +0 +0
P=Two Years, New
This is a ‘better than many’ air/raft that is reliable and easy to use. Its handling [burden] is average and its model has an average safety record.
QREBS = 4 -4 -2 +1 +2
P=Six Months, New
Known for its safety features, this air/raft is of below average quality (there’s generally one feature on the vehicle that is broken within six months) and is ‘more unreliable’ in wet weather particularly. Commentators have described it ‘somewhat hard to use’ with its controls in awkward positions for the typical Imperial owner (slightly unergonomic).
QREBS = 3 -1 +2 -4 -2
A ‘lesser’ quality air/raft that’s slightly unreliable but better than many in its ease of use and has very good handling. Its safety record leaves something to be desired, however.
Some Referees might prefer a larger differential between top, mid and low end products. Phil Kitching via the Traveller Mailing List offered this variant which might be preferred. It requires a little more mathematics (rather than just totalling the pluses and minuses and then calculating a percentage change), but does indeed provide wider margins which might be considered more in line with real life. On the other hand, poorer items can be extremely cheap. Each QREBS value is here worth +/-10% (rather than 5% for Q and 1% for the rest as above) but the values are multiplied.
Fractionally better than average:
QREBS = 6 +1 +1 -1 +1
QREBS = A +5 +5 -5 +5
QREBS = 0 -5 -5 +5 -5
Under this system the items above would have the following costs (fractions dropped):
Model AT28/4, Cr1064
Imperial Marine Cutlass, Cr11,119
Kosinar Cutlass, Cr1128
[unbranded cutlass], Cr933
Amanuensis 154/3, Cr212,587
Spinward Specialities Sophont Servant, Cr99,173
(N.B.: under Timothy’s system, Charlie comes out as slightly cheaper than the book price; under Phil’s system, the QREBS variations balance each other out to keep the cost at the book price.)
This addendum originally appeared as a separate article, “QREBS Revisited”, in the October 2014 issue.
Following the original publication of the above article, someone has pointed out that there is indeed linkage between quality and price in Traveller5. Although I’d noted the QREBS rules on pp.190-196 and ‘Cost’ in the ThingMaker section (p. 599) suggest there should be a connection, I completely missed that p.499 has a Tech Level Stage Effect table with QREBS indirectly connected to cost and that in the various Makers, there are QREBS modifications directly contributing to price (e.g., pp.251-253). The example I was sent (sidebar) will service nicely (from p.253).
The error was entirely mine – my fault for not being completely au fait with 650+ pages of rules all at once. My thanks to those who took the time to read the article and write in about it. I’m delighted to see the appearance of Imperiallines specifically supporting Traveller5 and giving worked examples. Perhaps they’ll cover this in some detail. Meanwhile, I hope the article provides some useful notes despite its faults and gives some inspiration to use QREBS in future adventures.