Monday, September 21, 2009

Top Ten things to know about Classic Traveller

Paraphrased from elsewhere, here are ten important points to keep in mind that will help prepare you for a Classic Traveller campaign.
  1. Accomplished characters: Your character will likely be older & retired from his first career.
  2. Minimal character stats: Don’t expect high numbers & lots of skills on your character sheet.
  3. In-game character development: Don’t expect the numbers on your character sheet to get higher or list of skills to get longer. Character advancement is limited. The rewards (& penalties) are mostly all in-game.
  4. Science-fiction: It’s a science fiction game, which tends to run heavy on the “science” as well as the “fiction” - that is, unlike Star Wars or Warhammer 40,000, this is not space fantasy. While it's made-up, we keep "reality" firmly in mind.
  5. Human dominated: Aliens are everywhere, but many of them are human: when humans from our world first encountered an alien race, we were shocked to find they were genetically identical to us. There are some 40 minor human races, presumably "seeded" across the galaxy by the Ancients.
  6. 1970s sci-fi technology: This game was written in the 1970s, so it has a 1970s (sci-fi) view of technology: it's somewhat anachronistic, particularly as regards computers, but that's part of the charm.
  7. Communication = travel: The fastest you can get information somewhere is in a ship. A ship takes at least a week to get somewhere.
  8. Slug-throwers: High tech weapons exist, but low tech weapons predominate. Laser weapons are bulky. Plasma weapons are limited to the military.
  9. Combat is fatal: Getting shot hurts. Getting shot twice is usually fatal. Tactical advice: Hit the deck. Get behind cover. Call for backup. Murphy’s laws of combat apply.
  10. PCs matter to players, but not to the rest of the Traveller universe.

A few points about technology conceits...

  1. Fusion power is cheap & effective.
  2. Gravitics: the science of gravity manipulation. Both anti-gravity & artificial gravity. Spaceships have artificial gravity. Most planetary vehicles are anti-gravity.
  3. Reactionless drives allow extended acceleration without the need for reaction mass. Spaceships are rated by the maximum acceleration they can produce in Gs, one to six. (A G being, of course, the acceleration due to gravity on Earth at sea-level. i.e. 9.8 m/s2.)
  4. Jump drives allow FTL (faster than light) travel through jumpspace (hyperspace). A starship is rated by the number of parsecs it can travel in one jump, one to six. (A parsec is 3.258 light-years.) Every jump lasts one week regardless of the distance traveled. While the star map is in two dimensions, we aren't expected to believe hyperspace is two-dimensional; star maps are more akin to node maps, showing relative distance rather than physical reality.
...and now, for some final words:
  • The Imperium is a government of men, not laws, and it rules space. Planets rule themselves.
  • Commerce is the lifeblood of the Imperium. Don’t get in the way of the Imperium’s lifeblood.
  • There is no Prime Directive. If you think you’re smarter than the natives, trade with them.