Dungeons and Dragons is considered the granddaddy of all roleplaying games. Approaching 50 years since it’s first publication and it is still going strong. There was another game that was very popular when RPGs were new and that was Traveller from Games Designers’ Workshop. While D&D was fantasy, Traveller was science fiction and had a very popular following. So why did I never get a chance to create a character before now? Unfortunately the friends in my gaming circles were primarily players of D&D, FASA’s Star Trek, WEG’s Star Wars and others. I saw the Traveller books, but couldn’t afford to pick them up when no one I knew personally was playing. As the years went by, I’d see the new editions of Traveller come out, some sounded interesting, some did not. The idea of roleplaying in a universe where a centralized empire was no longer in control sounded very intriguing.
Thanks to various PDF bundle sales, I’ve been able to pick up a couple of versions of Traveller including the first edition commonly known as the Little Black Books. I knew that I had to create a character for the 2022 Character Creation Challenge. So opening up the first book, let’s see where the dice take us in.
So the very first thing the RAW states is: All characters start at the age of 18, untrained and inexperienced. You build your character from here and take them through a career before you use them as a player character. That makes sense.
I like how they have the series of characteristics set up. There is the usual list that you can find in most RPGs. Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence (defined as an IQ representation), Education (highest level of schooling reached) and Social Standing (social class and level of society). Instead of writing them out or using abbreviations on your character sheet, you use the Universal Personality Profile (aka UPP). All characteristics are listed in the order posted above and are represented by hexadecimal (base 16) characters. 0 through 9 correspond to the numbers they represent. Numbers higher than 9 are represented by the letters A (for 10) through F (for 15). So the UPP is listed in a string of six digits. For example, a UPP could be B97A58. Strength would be 11 (represented by the letter B), Dexterity is 9, Endurance is 7 and so on. I remember seeing stats for characters in reference books and did not understand what they meant until now. When the game was made, I could see the designers trying to save space by using a setup like this. I still remember the 8+3 file name format in older computer DOS displays. Characteristics are generated by rolling 2d6. Yes this doesn’t generate a lot of stats that are above 12, but the game seems to indicate that other factors can change your characteristics. The clicky-clack of the dice was completed and I had my UPP of B96667.
The Social Standing was not high enough to automatically bestow a Noble Title, but I was instructed to select my character’s name at this time. Pulling some ideas out of the air this character shall be known as Tyrell Balto. The Rank is mentioned as a commission or promotion that Balto may have earned while in the service and can be referred to even after leaving.
Speaking of service, Balto would have enlisted in one of six possible options. Navy, Marines, Army, Scouts, Merchants or Other (unproductive carriers such as a criminal organization). You don’t just automatically join one of these, you have to enlist and roll to see if you are accepted. I had to scroll down to find the enlistment target numbers. There are some bonuses to the roll if you have certain characteristics. The advantage for enlistment is that you become an officer sooner, this comes with some bonuses to various skills and stats. I debated about which service to try to enlist for. All had their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s try for Navy. I rolled higher than the enlistment target number so Balto is a part of an interstellar navy.
The first term is four years, now making Balto the age of 22. Did he survive in those four years? Yes there is a chance that the character can be killed during creation. I remember hearing about this, but this is the first time I’ve actually experienced it. Needed a 5+ and rolled a 5, whew. Did Balto earn a commission during the first four years? the dice say yes, again I rolled exactly what was needed. However I did not roll high enough to earn a rank promotion. A commission and a rank promotion is worth acquiring extra skills. So I get to roll for three skills (2 for initial term and 1 for the commission). There are four tables but I can only roll on the first three. I want to increase one of my characteristics so the first roll gives me +1 to Endurance. Next I rolled for the skill Gun Combat-1 and finally Electronic-1.
Now I can retire from the service or I can reenlist. Again there is a target number to see if the Navy will let me stay, which I succeeded. So four more years in the service, which he survived (I don’t know if I like this survival rule). No commission but he did get a promotion to Ensign. So two more skill rolls which were +1 to INT and Vacc Suit-1. Let’s try for another term in the Navy. Rolled a 6 which is what was needed (now age 30) of which he survived. No commission or rank advancement this time. So only one skill roll which resulted in Mechanical-1. Let’s try for one more term, which was not accepted. So now Balto is mustering out. Which results in more benefits (4 in total due to the numbers of terms and rank). This resulted in a membership to the Travellers Aid Society, High Psg (I think this is High Passage? I’m not sure.) and 60,000 in cash.
So Tyrel Balto was an engineer in the interstellar navy for twelve years. And there are a lot of blank spaces on the sheet and I have no idea what my equipment is. I think if I would have looked in the other books there may have been something. Perhaps I should have used the Classic Traveller Facsimile Edition to create this character. Here is the sheet.
For a game published in 1981, I think I followed the character creation process pretty well. I was still jumping back and forth between several pages (which is a pain in a non-bookmarked PDF) and a few things still confused me. The number of skills seemed a little low, but not actually playing the game I could be wrong. Having the possibility of the character dying during creation would have probably made me upset. There is an option of an early retirement with a wound, but that didn’t really appeal to me either. The ranks seemed woefully low as well. A service record of 12 years and only exiting as an Ensign?
If I was planning to make more characters (or assist others), I probably would have put together a worksheet to speed the process up. I’d like to play this game once just to say I’ve tried it. After I’ve done that is when I would determine if I was going to continue playing or attempting any homebrewing.
Thanks to the power of Twitter, DwD Studios liked and responded with answers to my post yesterday regarding White Lies. It was actually kewl to have the conversation with them. They clarified the COST question on upgrades that I had posted. The cost for the upgrade is the same as the base weapon. HALF is half the cost of the base weapon, etc. It was mentioned in the rules that I had missed. They also confirmed that the XP bonuses do stack, but he stressed that this was an optional rule. I think it’s good when companies actually interact with their customers in a manner like this. I doubt I would have gotten a quick response like this from a larger group.
Coming Up Next:
Blue Rose The Roleplaying Game of Romantic Fantasy