- The Dark Times ‘zine Now Available
- The Mug and Meeple
- [Mongoose Publishing] Traveller: Pirates of Drinax: The Cordan Conflict
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- [Ennead Games] Dungeon Feature Volume 6: Fountains
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- [DramaScape] Mayan Temple
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Everything you wanted to know (and probably a lot more) but were afraid to ask.
This was going to be posted in the Tavern section as the request to do it originated there, but I thought I'd better behave and post it here.
The new edition of Mongoose Traveller has vastly improved layout, artwork and coherent streamlined rules that remain compatible with previous editions. The proofreading and quality of the book is a step change from Mongoose’s previous output. There are two areas that stand out as missing - the starship design sequence (covered in the new edition of High Guard) and an index - but these are not significant issues. If you have the old edition, you do not need to upgrade, but it is a very nice package. Overall, I recommend this new edition wholeheartedly. (8/10)
So, challenged by a few of my friends on the Tavern (First Age and SatBunny especially), here’s a review of the new edition of Mongoose Traveller.
My first reaction on hearing about Mongoose doing a new edition was incredulity as I couldn’t see the reason that they would want to do that. I’ve been of the opinion for a while that the first edition is one of the best implementations of Traveller that has been put together in its nearly 40 year history. It captures the feel of the original Classic Traveller, and is quite approachable by new players. Everything you need is in one core book (like the old Starter Edition and Traveller Book editions) and it meshes nicely with old material from the past. Sure, there was errata, but it wasn’t at the level that previous books had. MegaTraveller was notorious for it (yet the beautifully crafted task system overrode a lot of those elements for me) and the less said about T4 (Marc Miller’s Traveller), the better.
About a year ago, I bought into the playtest PDF (which got you playtest access and also the final PDF plus a discount on a POD (print on demand) copy of the final version of the rules. I read the whole thing in one sitting on the train from York to London to attend the BITS Traveller stand at Dragonmeet, and I was impressed. All of a sudden, the layout in the game felt like a modern game (unlike the previous edition which felt very much like Classic Traveller cleaned up with some variable art thrown in). The text was much more friendly to new players, and character generation was focussed with a flow chart. I saw Matt Sprange at the show, and congratulated him (and mentioned the few things that I had seen, most of which had already been flagged).
When the book was announced, I winced at the cost (£36 vs the previous £30) and then didn’t buy when it was mentioned that the POD version was worse quality than the Studio 2 version. Give Matt Sprange his due, he was upfront on this when he sent the voucher out. Anyway, fast forward to October, and I picked up a copy of the Studio 2 print at Furnace, and used it in anger for the first time properly to run a game later that day..
## First Impressions
I have the Studio 2 printing, which is a gorgeous hardcover book which has the cover that Traveller has needed for years. The first edition nailed the nostalgic feel for Classic Traveller, but this version is so much more exciting and screams out ‘science fiction adventure’. The image has the Free Trader Beowulf travelling out of the page from an asteroid field, under fire from two Type T Patrol Cruisers. This instantly raises questions in my long term Traveller mind about what the crew has done to deserve such attention. The old cover text hinted that they were under attack from pirates, but never said as much. The book is 240 pages long, and full colour throughout. The artwork mostly captures the feel of Traveller, and there is only one image that feels out of place (p61), mainly due to it’s cartoon feel which doesn’t mesh with the rest of the book. Key sections are in inverted white on black, and there are clear tables and flowcharts used to aid the reader.
The logo has been redressed, becoming more 3D in feel and the line and arrow used for emphasis on the Mongoose line has become a dynamic ‘swoosh’, almost like a ship flying around the logo. It’s very reminiscent of the Blakes 7 TV series logo in many ways, something that coincides with the time that I started to play Traveller in the early 1980s.
Overall, this is a great refresh; the quality is stepped up significantly, the layout is modern, and the artwork is good and appropriate to the theme. It feels like a quality, premium product.
How does it compare to the 2008 first edition from Mongoose? That is also a hardback, but it is black and white throughout and ‘only’ 204 pages. The cover is stark and evokes the original, but relies on that to attract your attention. The layout is a simple two column approach, with a mixture of art, ranging from decent starship renders to some pretty disappointing black and white work that doesn’t need the standards of the few images in the original GDW release. So, we have a book that is 20% longer, in full colour and with a much improved layout.
## ‘Chapter 0’ - Introduction
This chapter weighs in at 5 pages, giving a quick introduction to Traveller as a setting and a game engine, what a Traveller is, and the most common campaign types (trade, military and explorer, or the ‘Traveller Campaign’ which is just a blend of the other three). It suggests further reading in the Mongoose line but only two of the books have been released at the time that I am writing this. Game conventions for dice etc are discussed and then the core Traveller concept of Technology Levels is discussed. Tech levels 0 to 15 are outlined, with the comment that these are the ones usually found in the Third Imperium setting.
It does mention ‘Rule Zero’ - that the referee is free to ignore or change any rule in the game. It references this against the ‘mini-games’ of trade, world creation and character generation and specifically states that the scope is there to ignore the dice results should the referee feel it is more appropriate. I’ve always valued the statement of such a rule, ever since an incident with a rules lawyer player in first edition AD&D who triggered our whole group to buy 2nd edition to be able to use that rule! I think it’s important, especially in character generation where you may be looking to achieve a certain style of character.
Overall, this chapter is a light touch and will no doubt be skimmed over by most experienced referees and players.
**How does this compare to the 2008 book?**
* Much of the content is the same, but the three pages of the first edition chapter include an example of play which hasn’t made it over to the new edition.
* There’s no rule zero element either.
* They both achieve much the same, the difference in length being driven by a larger typeface and two half page illustrations in the latest release.
## Chapter 1 - Traveller Creation
So let’s dive and and see if it’s possible to die in character generation, as it was back in the heady days of the 1977 old school Classic Traveller edition. The section is 49 pages of the book, so a significant element of the game material presented. One interesting element at the start of the section is a sidebar encouraging you to run the Traveller Creation session as a mini-game, and do it as a group session where you start to tie the characters together using the connections rule and more.
The game uses six base characteristics - Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Intellect, Education and Social Standing - as the previous edition, although the INTelligence characteristic has been renamed INTellect for some reason. You roll 2D6 six times and assign the rolls to the characteristic that you want. This means you can start to shape your character from the very beginning, assign characteristics to give advantage in the career that you want them to pursue. You gain 0-6 skills at level 0 (basic competency) as part of your background, and then you move into the meat of character generation.
This starts with a one page flowchart with page references for all the actions that you need to take. This is very positive and useful, and we’ll explore it further in a minute when I create a character in the manner of Pookie’s reviews. The flowchart is immediately followed by a two page spread with an overview of the character sheet on the left, and an example completed sheet on the right.
Once background skills are selected, the character can look for pre-career education at University or a Military Academy. This takes the place of a four year term in a career but must be done in the first three terms that a character serves. You have to make a successful check using characteristics as modifiers; success gives you skill points and an increase in the EDU characteristic. You have to make another check to graduate (and a roll of 11+ on 2D means that you graduate with honours). Graduation further lifts skills up, adds more to EDU and gives a bonus to entering certain careers. It also opens up the opportunity to enter a career with a commission. The main difference for Military Academies to Universities is the skill mix, and the fact that graduation from a Military Academy allows automatic entry into the related career. The section on pre-career education is rounded off with a random table of events that have effected the Traveller, which can also be linked to using the Connections Rule. These could lead to skills, allies, enemies, rivals and more for reasons ranging from war breaking out to political involvement or even some kind of tragedy.
The Connections Rule means that if two players can agree a reason that their characters would be involved in the same life event then they each get an extra skill point. It gives the group a reason to know each other, and overall adds up to two extra skill points in total.
Before moving into the career summaries, the book takes two pages to describe how each of the careers works (Qualification, Skills and Training, Basic Training, Survival, Events, Commissions, Advancement, Ranks and Bonuses and, finally, the benefits accrued in the career). All very much how Traveller has always worked. Maximum skill levels are capped at level 4 for any skill during Traveller Creation and you can change career, but this becomes progressively more difficult the more often that you do it.
I mentioned the Survival Roll. Each term in a career, you get to make a roll to see if you survived. Failure means that you have suffered a mishap of some sort that forces you out of the career with some kind of consequence. You can suffer a serious injury, but you cannot be killed.
There are twelve basic careers presented: Agent, Army, Citizen, Drifter, Entertainer, Marine, Merchant, Navy, Noble, Rogue, Scholar and Scout. A thirteenth exists - Prisoner - which is used if the character ends up in jail due to an event in their career. This uses modified rules to allow exit from the prison system; you have to roll above a parole threshold to escape back into the normal career process. The core 12 careers are presented on a single table with key rolls needed and then each career has a two page spread with the core important tables needed.
When a character leaves a career (which they will do even if they are ostensibly still in it when the game begins) then they gain cash and other benefits. The other benefits can include a ship with at least 25% of the mortgage paid off, a Ship Share worth 1 MCr (MegaCredit) of a ship’s value, membership of TAS, characteristic bonuses and more. Some careers give pensions, but the Scout Service, Rogues, Prisoners and Drifters can’t get this opportunity. There are rules for aging (which kick in at 34 years) and also for taking anagathics to counteract the penalties that can accrue. They can also mean a character goes deeply into debt.
There are brief summaries on how to create the two most common alien species in the Traveller universe - the Aslan and the Vargr. A sidebar also explains the Classic Traveller UPP (Universal Personality Profile) and how it relates to the characteristics used in this edition. There are also rules for the development of characters going forward. However, gaining more skills is a long a arduous approach. You need to complete a study period of eight weeks (not necessarily consecutive, but one week at a time) with a minimum of eight hours per day focussed on the training. At the end of this, a 2D check is made using EDUcation and success means that a new skill is learned at level 0. To raise an existing skill, it needs study periods equal to the present level plus one, with only one level increase allowed at a time. There is also a maximum skill cap of INT+EDU multiplied by 3. So an average character with 7 in each could have a maximum of 42 skill points.
So let’s create a character. I fancy the idea of a Scout who went to University before they started their career. EDU and SOC helps secure successful entry into University, whereas INT secures successful graduation. The Scout Service values INT for the entry qualifications, and a good END is important for survival. Advancement is determined in INT or EDU, dependent upon which career assignment is taken.
Dice rolls for characteristics - 8, 6, 11, 6, 8, 9, which are assigned out as follows.
INT 11 (+1)
EDU 9 (+1)
Background skills total out at 4 and, thinking of a character that’s had time in some kind of organisation like Scouting or Cadets, I pick Electronics, Mechanic, Medic and Survival as starters at Level 0.
Entry into University requires a roll of 7+ with EDU as the base characteristic. Roll of 7+1 = 8 gives success. I select Astrogation at Level 1 and Navigation at Level 0 as the basic skills gained, and increase EDU by a point to EDU 10. Let’s find out if the character graduates successful, with an INT 7+ roll needed. Roll of 10+1 - 11 which means graduation with honours. Astrogation and Navigation are both increased by another level, with a further +2 to EDU which increases the DM for that characteristic to +2. There is also an additional +2 DM to qualification to a career as a Scout. It would also allow entry into a military career as an officer, but this isn’t the route I want to take this character.
I roll 4 on the life events table which says that ‘a harmless prank goes wrong and someone gets hurt’. I fail the SOC roll and gain an Enemy.
Putting University behind, entry into the Scout Service is a formality. I roll 10 +1 (for INT) +2 for Graduation with Honours giving 13 against a target of 5! Basic skills give Pilot (Spacecraft), Vacc Suit and Gun Combat at Level 0 (repeats for Mechanic, Astrogation and Survival mean no benefit there; had I studied the tables in advance, I could have added 3 more level 0 skills onto the character). I decide that the Surveyor Branch is the assignment that our hero craves, so the survival roll needs a 6+ which is made easily with a 12. The events table gives ‘survey an alien world’ and from the associated skills I pick Recon 1. The advancement roll is just made (perhaps a little over confident at first, he gets his stripes as a full qualified Scout and gains further Vacc Suit training).
Aged 26, continuation in the Scout Service seems to make sense, and the survival roll is a formality. The advancement last term gave an extra skill roll, both taken on the Surveyor table. This yields improvements to Navigation and also an understanding of the requirements for diplomacy. The events table generates a life event, a romantic relationship that leaves an ally for the future. There’s no promotion this term and a roll of 4 is only 2 above the threshold to stay in the career.
The third term in the Scout Service sees an application for a transfer to the Explorer Branch, which is only just successfull (roll of 4 +1 for INT = 5 which is target number). The skill roll on the Explorer Table gives an understanding of Science. The life event involves an incident at the edges of Charted Space which gives a contact in an Alien Race and a level in any skill of his choice. I pick Jack-of-all-Trades as it is so useful. The advancement roll is successful (boosted by the fact that the Explorer Branch roll draws on EDU), which promotes our character to Rank 2 and gives the bonus of an extra skill roll next turn.
Aged 34, this is the first term that will require an aging check. A roll of 7 on 2d6 is reduced by 4, leaving the final result as a 3, which means no effect this term. Two skill rolls give Science again and then Stealth, both from the Explorer table. Survival roll is made successfully. The life event shows a life spent jumping from world to world in a Scout Ship, giving Electronics 1 as a skill. The advancement roll is made once again, bringing a promotion to Senior Scout and formalised pilot training.
Aged 38, a roll of 5 vs 5 terms means a reduction in a physical characteristic, which is taken on END (perhaps a touch of an alien ‘flu). Experience is gains in Piloting, and then in Explosives. The Survival roll is passed again, and the life event indicates that our hero has served as a courier for an important message for the Imperium. We take the extra point in diplomacy. A roll for 8 for advancement sees a promotion to Rank 4 (still a Senior Scout), but this is the point where we’ve decided to muster out of the career to go adventuring, aged 42.
Mustering out after 4 terms in the Scouts, gives a base of 4 rolls on the Benefits tables. Rank 4 adds an extra 2 rolls. So 6 rolls, with no more than half on the cash table.
Cash rolls; 5,5,4 = Cr130,000
Benefits; 3, 2, 6 = EDU +1, INT+1, Scout Ship
To summarise our character; we have University educated former Senior Scout, who has resigned from the service with a tidy lump sum and the use of a surplus Scout Ship. They are skilled in diplomatic situations, but their first love was the art of Astrogation, with further study undertaken as part of their service (the specialities are not noted, but I suspect a point in astronomy and a point in planetology would be appropriate). The only thing that they are lacking is training in Engineering which is key for some of the starship operations rolls. A good excuse to seek other Travellers to journey with them. They have an ally from a romantic entanglement, plus an enemy from University. They have also made a contact from an alien race which needs to be fleshed out.
What’s missing from our character? There are no connections to other characters yet, which would potentially give up to two extra skill points, and the skill package for the campaign is not yet chosen which would again give further skills. We can also spend up to Cr 2,000 on initial equipment, should we choose.
**Changes from 2008?**
* Overall, the section has grown by 7 pages.
* In characteristics Intelligence is now called Intellect but serves the same purpose.
* Character generation is now presented as a flow chart rather than a checklist; I find both useful reference styles but the flowchart has the benefit of referencing the relevant pages to look at.
* The Background Skills list is now broad (with only the suggestion that you pick something appropriate to your homeworld) whereas it previously had a tie to planetary trade codes.
* Advocate, Comms, Computer, Engineer, Trade and Zero G have all disappeared from the skills listed for this section in 2008; see next section for comments on these changes.
* The character example has changed from Classic Traveller's Alexander Lascelles Jamison to Dzaeth Dar, a Vargr Pilot.
* Pre-career education (University and Academies) has been added.
* Specialisms are now called Assignments.
* Entertainer gains an option for Dex to be the governing characteristic during the qualification roll, but otherwise the requirements seem to be the same.
* Layout much clearer (and career pages very distinct white on black) and no longer have the tables competing and overlaid with the artwork.
* Other benefits lose Air/Raft (replaced with Personal Vehicle), and Corsair is removed from list.
* Ship Shares now represent MCr1 rather than 1% of the ship’s value (although I’ve just noted that the table for 1% value in the 2008 version is broken).
* Optional Maximum Terms rule is not mentioned.
* Anagathics now need a SOC 10+ roll to be available, with a risk of prison on a fail.
* The older rules have a fully expanded version of Jamison’s creation, but this is not present in the new rules for Dzaeth Dar.
* The material on Alien’s (traits etc.) has been moved to the Traveller Companion.
* Guidance for generating Droyne, Hivers, the K’Kree and Zhodani is no longer in the book; only the Aslan and Vargr remain.
* The 2016 edition adds the Prisoner as a career type and details on how to deal with it.
* It also has a section on post career education (character skill development) which was previously in the Skills and Tasks section. Progression for skill development has been made significantly slower than the first edition, as each study period taking 8 weeks, and multiple periods being needed to increase a skill. In the first edition, going from Skill 2 to Skill 3 would take 6 weeks training previously, and now it would take a minimum of 3 study periods of 8 weeks (effectively half a year) and three successful average EDU checks. This is more realistic, but a significant change.
## Chapter 2 - Skills and Tasks
This chapter begins with description of the task check system for the game. It may seem surprising, but Traveller was the first game to popularise a structured task system, properly deployed in anger for the first time in MegaTraveller. It seemed so radical, structured and advanced at the time, but now pretty much every system has some version of a task engine.
Mongoose Traveller reset the skill level inflation from the Classic Traveller little black books that had been seen ever since the various supplements like High Guard, Mercenary and Merchant Princes were released. This continued in MegaTraveller and was also mirrored in Marc Miller’s Traveller (T4) where the whole balance between skill and characteristic shifted heavily in favour of the characteristic. The 2008 first edition restored the 8+ target number (on 2D6) common to the Classic version for Task Checks, and formalised the relationship between characteristics and modifications to the dice roll.
Every task check is associated with a characteristic which can contribute a dice modifier (DM) or -3 to +3. More typically this is in the range of +/- 1DM.
On top of the DM from the characteristic, the player usually adds the character’s associated skill. If unskilled, a -3DM is applied. This can be offset with the Jack-of-All-Trades skill which can (at best) negate the penalty if a high enough level is held.
Level 0 skills negate the unskilled penalty (showing a basic awareness but no deep competence). Level 2-3 would reflect a skilled professional and level 4-5 is an expert in their field, probably with a reputation across a number of systems.
The Task Check can also be modified by the difficulty of the task, which is expressed in terms of a phrase like ‘Average’ or ‘Simple’ or ‘Very difficuly’. These were originally expressed as DMs in steps of +/-2 but for speed the rules have now adopted the MegaTraveller convention of set target numbers for difficulties. This is no different in effect, just a different way of expressing the impact. Previously, the target would have been to roll 8+. A Very Difficult check would have had a DM of -4 and a Simple Check would have had a DM of +6. These would now be expressed as a target number of 12+ and 2+ respectively. Exactly the same mathematically.
You can also make the task harder by rushing, or easier by going slower. You can also do more than one task, but that makes all the tasks a level more difficult for each extra task.
The biggest change in the game is the introduction of Bane and Boon dice. These are a shorthand way for the referee to acknowledge that a character has an advantage or disadvantage. If you have a boon, you roll an extra dice in your task check, and take the two highest dice results. If you are suffering from a bane, you again roll an extra dice, but this time you take the two lowest dice. In principle, these cancel out and you can never have more than one bane or boon die. I consulted our very own RPG Mathematician, Dr Mitch, and he confirms that with the Boon dice in use, the average roll is increased by about 1.5. However, it decreases the probability of really low results (for example the chance of a 2 drops from around 3% to about 0.5%) and increases the probability of really high results (the chance of a 12 rises from 3% to 7.5%). The Bane dice works the same, just the other way around. The rules now encourage the referee not to apply DMs unless they are detailed in the rules and just use bane and boon dice. Having used the system at Furnace in 2016, I’m quite happy with this and it works smoothly and effectively in play. It doesn’t feel like it imbalances the game.
Sometimes, the degree of success is important. If this this the case, then the Effect of the dice roll is calculated. This is done by subtracting the target number from the dice roll achieved. This gives a ‘quality’ of result that can be used to determine how successful characters are. If opposed checks are needed between player characters, the effect is used to determine success. The highest effect wins.
You can help other players through a task chain. This uses the level of effect to provide an additional DM to the other character. This can be negative as well as positive, so it pays to consider carefully whether you can help. A character can also chain their own tasks together if it is logical to do so.
After the description of the system, the chapter moves on to describe each of the skills in detail. Some skills have specialisms which you are required to identify when you reach Level 1. These mean that you get the full skill value when carrying out checks with the specialism, and a reduced value for other subskills. With a low skill game, there are times that I wonder whether there really is a huge value in this mechanic, but it does work.
**Changes from 2008?**
* The introduction of bane and boon dice as detailed above - they’re the only fundmental rule change.
* Electronics becomes a cluster of skills and wraps up a whole group of similar skills as specialisms underneath it (Comms, Computers, Remote Operations, Sensors). Implicitly, it also replaces Science - Electronics, but that isn’t stated.
* The other big change is that Battledress and Zero-G both merge into Vacc Suit, and Gun Combat is simplified into less specialisms.
* There are around 25 skills that are significantly changed or re-clustered and a similar number with minor name changes or shifts.
* The section on learning new skills is moved into the Traveller Creation chapter, as discussed earlier.
## Chapter 3 - Combat
Combat is one of the areas that Mongoose Traveller got right in its first iteration, unlike most previous editions of Traveller. Classic Traveller was beset with combat tables which struggled every time something new was added to the game but had the clever idea of applying damage directly to the physical characteristics. MegaTraveller had a clever interrupt based system, but the damage engine was clunky and the way that the game was presented made the rules quite opaque. Traveller: The New Era had flaws in how the mechanics worked and could lead to a lot of dice rolls. Marc Miller’s Traveller was quite clever and slick in how it worked, but overall the game was undermined by the poor editorial and quality control standards in the rest of the material. Mongoose took the learnings from past editions and presented a slick and simple system that worked effectively with the task system at the heart of the combat engine.
The start of each combat begins with DEX or INT characteristic task check for every player and NPC. Ambushes give a huge initiative penalty to those surprised, and a similarly large bonus to those carrying out the ambush. The initiative value is the Effect from the roll, with higher being better. One character on each side can make a Tactics skill check (if they aren’t surprised) and they can add their Effect from this roll to all the characters on their side. Initiative is then set for the whole combat.
The rules support the use of a map, but work equally well with a more narrative based combat. Each round of fighting lasts 6 seconds, with characters able to take a Significant Action and a Minor Action, or three Minor Actions. A Significant Action is something like a melee or ranged attack, whereas a Minor action is something like aiming, changing stance from prone or movement. Characters can also carry out any number of Reactions and Free Actions. A Free Action is something that can be carried out very quickly, like shouting a warning. Reactions will be covered in more detail following. Extended actions are allowed for (treated as Major Actions that continue for more than one round) and suffering damage can negatively affect them.
Characters with the Leadership skill can make a check to pass advice on to other players. This manifests as a task check where a number of boons can be passed on to the other members of the team equal to the Effect of the check. There is a slight lack of clarity as the rules do not define if this can be done once per combat or once per round (although I would personally rule this as Significant Action as per the first edition rules use of Leadership). It’s worth noting that a failed roll means that you get to give banes out to the other players instead of boons, so think carefully before you use leadership!
Attacks are made with a task check, with DEX or STR as the governing characteristic and the appropriate skill as a modifier. Ranged combat also gathers modifiers for range, speed and advanced targeting like a laser sight.
Reactions include dodging, diving for cover, and parrying. Each Reaction culmulatively adds a -1 DM to the next set of actions taken by a player.
Melee combat locks the character into battle with the opponent they are facing; they can’t attack another. Trying to move (for example run away) generates a free action with a positive DM for a free attack. Pistols can be used, but larger firearms have to be deployed a clubs.
Once hit, damage is assessed. On normal attacks, the player rolls the damage dice for the weapon (for example, a rifle rolls 3d6) and the effect of the attack roll is added to the total. With Melee weapons, the character also adds their STR DM (which effectively makes it count twice if it was part of the original check). Armour reduces damage by the value to which it is rated, unless an armour piercing round is used, which reduces the value of armour protection by a set amount. Cover from physical objects gives a penalty to attacks and also acts as armour. Attacks with an Effect of 6+ will always score at least one point of damage.
Damage is initially applied to a character’s END score, and then any excess damage is applied to STR, DEX with the target choosing which suffers first. If two characteristics are reduced to zero, the character is unconscious. All three reaching zero results in character death.
Some weapons are noted as being Destructive. This means that they are capable of - for example - blowing up small vehicles with a single shot. Notation for such weapons would be 3DD rather than 3D, and any damage is multiplied by 10! However, there is the small mercy that Effect is never applied.
The chapter continues with notes on grappling, the use of two weapons and then discusses the traits that can be applied to weapons. For example, the use of automatic weapons, the impact of radiation from fusion weapons, stun attacks and more. Overall, it’s a short but effective set of rules.
**Changes from 2008?**
* Initiative now allows the use of INT as well as DEX (you can be fast or smart)
* Stance simplified (only prone creates a DM, crouching has no effect, and the impact is lower)
* Use of the Leadership Skill to generate Banes/Boons
* There is no separate Thrown Attack roll and the ranged attack task check description assumes Gun Combat should be used, but in reality Athletics - Dexterity needs to be substituted. Thrown weapons aren’t discussed in the chapter at all.
* The rules for Delaying an action have been removed (possibly one of the changes that loses a little from the older edition).
* The discussion of Battlefield Comms and Sensors has been removed. These were more descriptions of how the technology worked rather than game rules.
* The impact of conditions from weather has been removed (I assume as would be addressed through the use of an appropriate Bane or Boon dice).
* Recoil and Heft are no longer used.
* Cover is simplified and no longer applies a DM to be hit. It does provide armour now.
* Diving for Cover from an explosion (now a Blast weapon trait) only provides the armour from the cover type rather than halving the damage.
* Blast damage cannot be dodged.
* There are no rules for firing into combat.
* Range is now on a per-weapon basis rather than abstracted by weapon type.
* The optional rules for knockout blows and random first blood are removed.
* The entire Vehicle Combat section is moved to the Vehicle Chapter.
## Chapter 4 - Encounters and Dangers
On a first look, although this chapter has been rearranged, the topics appear to be broadly the same as the previous edition. There are some additions - environmental hazards which have been added from other sections, consolidating the relevant information together.
The first section covers Environmental Dangers. It starts with mechanics for diseases. These require an END check or damage is suffered. The level of the task check depends on the aggressiveness of the disease. If the check is failed, then a subsequent check is made after a set interval. There are no rules on how this interfaces with the Medic skill. The Medic skill entry in Chapter 3 gives a task check description, but there is no description on the effect of this check. I would suggest that it is either handled as a chained task, or by giving the sufferer a boon dice. I suspect that the lack of detail means that this kind of danger is rarely faced in games. Poisons have mechanics similar to diseases.
Falling is the next area covered. Damage is based on the depth of the fall, with modifiers for high and low gravity worlds. A successful Athletics check will reduce the damage.
Fatigue follows, with impact from extended wakefulness, heavy labour and repeated melee attacks in a single combat greater than the END characteristic that a character has. When you become fatigued, you automatically have a bane dice. You can become fatigued enough to become unconscious, but this is left to the referee’s discretion, as is the effect of dosing up with Red Bull, Coffee and Pro-Plus tablets (i.e. drugs and treatments).
Gravity is handled by clustering worlds into four different types - normal, high, low and zero. Planets with a gravity of more than 1.4G add in skill penalties until acclimatisation occurs, and may require the use of pressure or powered suits. Low gravity worlds require similar acclimatisation, and potentially medical supplements.
Zero Gravity can causes the same issues as low gravity, but weapons that don’t have a Zero-G trait can cause a character to lose control and spin uncontrollably. The need for task checks to avoid this is the same whether you are a trained Space Marine or have never been in space before. I would suggest that you consider removing the need for such checks for characters with the Vacc Suit skill, especially as this includes the use of powered armour. It would be fair to assume that a character with such training understands how to brace and operate in space.
Radiation is covered, with characters having the potential to build up a cumulative dose of Rads from ongoing exposures; these range from slight damage and nausea, all the way up to massive internal damage, permanent reduction in the END characteristic and internal bleeding. The only protections are Vacc Suits, Starship Hulls and then anti-Rad drugs to aid recovery. The rules also provide details of typical exposure sources from weapons through to solar flares and the infamous reactor leak.
Vacuum is dangerous, as are toxic atmospheres and drowning, so simple rules are presented for suffocation. The average character is not going to last very long if they are placed in an unbreathable environment as they will suffer 1D damage per round, so potential dead in 6 rounds (or 36 seconds game time). In the event that they are thrown out an airlock, or exposed to the vacuum of space, the damage is more extreme; 1D in the first round, 2D in the second etc. and an exposure to radiation if unprotected by a suit.
Exposure to the extremes of temperature is also detailed, with a table providing details of damage if suitable protection is not available. Extremes of weather are addressed with a simple -1 DM to all skill checks; I am surprised that this wasn’t just made a bane die.
The next part of the chapter is one that player characters are all too familiar with: healing! This is split into two different areas - medical treatment and natural healing. The latter is quite simple. If you are injured and don’t need surgery, you regain 1D plus END DM each day of full rest. If you need surgery, you regain your END DM each day. If this is negative, you may well just deteriorate and die. At this point, an ambiguity is introduced into the rules (and this existed in the previous edition as well). The text for the ‘requires surgery’ element suggests that the END DM is reduced on receiving damage. This isn’t mentioned anywhere in the characteristics or damage section. There is a logic to this, but implementing it means that damage is significantly more impactful than you may want in a space opera game. It would have been good if the rules could be clear on this; is the END DM a reflection on the inherent state of a character, or is it a dynamic modifier? In the previous edition it is more clearly implied that the second case is in play, but even there it isn’t absolutely unambiguous.
Medical Treatment begins with First Aid, which must be undertaken within a minute (10 combat rounds) of an injury. The Medic task check is made and characteristic points restored equal to the Effect of the roll. Again, some ambiguity here as there is no clarity on whether a failed roll and negative Effect causes additional damage.
If all three characteristics are still damaged after First Aid, then Surgery is needed. This is carried out exactly the same way as First Aid, but a failure causes an additional damage and could ultimately kill the character. A character may need multiple surgeries to recover. Once one of the characteristics is restored to its full value, a character can be restored through the use of Medical Care. This needs bed rest but no skill check and should soon see a character back on their feet.
It is clear that the priority for any medical intervention should be to restore the END characteristic if it is damaged (and it will be because the combat rules apply damage to this characteristic until it hits zero before STR and DEX are affected).
The rules also address the impact of Tech Level upon cybernetic or genetic augments and healing of mental characteristics, plus recovery from unconsciousness.
The next section covers Encounters. It beings with a definition of range bands, and then a random generation table for the distance at which an encounter happens with DMs for terrain types and also pointers on the use of stealth and sensors.
Following immediately after Encounters is the section on Animals. Animals are defined by the number of points of damage that they can take, how fast they can move and any relevant skills that they may have should a task check be required. They can also have traits to define unique characteristics (such as camouflage, armour or poison). Animals are categorised into different types (such as hijackers, grazers, killers, pouncers) which can also link to traits and skills. Finally, the animal type also links to a ‘fight or flight’ table, where 2d6 are rolled to see how it behaves. If the fight or flight trigger isn’t reached then the creature will carry on as before. There is also a table which gives Earth examples to allow a referee to select the appropriate range for hits, traits, and damage rolled. The section also provides some optional rules for when damage may drive an animal off, knock it out or completely destroyed (for example you shoot it with a Plasma Gun, Man Portable). Seven different creatures are presented as examples.
The Other Characters section details how to create non-player characters quickly and the roles that they may play (such as an Ally or a Rival). This is summarised into quick reference table with typical skills and characteristic modifiers, with experience ranging from green through to elite (in a similar way that BITS has summarised characters in the past). There are random tables to generate allies and enemies, quirks for characters and random opposition.
Patrons and Missions are covered with a good selection of random tables to work from, combined with a large selection of Random Encounter tables.
Overall, this is probably the most varied Chapter in the book.
**Changes from 2008**
* Damage in the diseases section has been amended and the DMs shifted to formalised task check difficulties.
* The Poisons section has more formalised difficulties rather than DMs and now has intervals.
* Fatigue is now handled with the bane die rather than a DM.
* Falling damage is simplified (you no longer multiply by the G rating, just reduce or increase the number of dice rolled) but this is not expressed simply. Falling in normal gravity does 1D damage per 2m. Falling in low gravity generates 1D damage per 4m (1D per 2m minus 1D per 4m). Falling in high gravity generates 3D per 4m (although the extra dice is only applied in the last two metres - falling 10m generates 7D, but 12 metres 9D as it is 1D per 2m and 1D per 4m).
* As there is no Zero-G skill any more, skill checks to maintain control in Zero Gravity are defaulting to Athletics - Dexterity and there is no way to avoid the checks in combat.
* Radiation and suffocation covered in this chapter not Starship Operations.
* Exposure to vacuum (explosive decompression) is now treated as a special case under suffocation and causes higher rates of damage and exposure to radiation.
* Extreme weather is now a -1 DM rather than a -1 to -4 DM.
* First Aid treatment used to give double effect if applied with 5 minutes, and single effect if applied within an hour. There was a -2 DM when applying to yourself.
* The Range Bands have shifted slightly vs the earlier edition. This affects the closer distances which have now been aligned with 5, 10, 50 metre increments rather than the older Traveller squares/hexes being 1.5m multiples. There is no random distance table in the older chapter.
* The animals section is heavily amended. The section on Planetary Quirks is not present, Instinct and Pack have been removed. The use of characteristics for animals is removed.
* The Terrain Chart DM Table is removed.
* The Rural Encounter Table and linked Animal Type table is removed, as is the weapons and armour table.
* There are more, updated, creature examples.
* Traits for animals are a new introduction.
* The experience table is new.
* The two pages of sample non-player characters are not present, but are arguably subsumed into the Experience Table.
## Chapter 5 - Equipment
The equipment section opens with a description of the Imperial Credit, and then a note on how it is assumed that the number of credits needed is consistent in whichever setting that you play in. 2300AD is cited, where the primary currency is the Imperial French Livre, as an example of how this will work. There is then discussion on the challenges of using money in a star-spanning empire with hugely varying technology and long distances. Effectively, electronic money may not always work so the traveller may have to resort to physical cash, gemstones, equipment or even barter to make their way through the galaxy if they cannot arrange for a line of credit to be established. There are also short notes on selling equipment to obtain cash. The introduction to the chapter ends out with guidance on standards of living and encumbrance, which links back to the fatigue rules.
The remainder of the chapter comprises equipment lists; armour, augments, communications, computers and software, medical and care supplies, sensors, survival gear and supplies and weapons of all types are covered. There are good illustrations throughout (albeit some of them are not quite aligned with past Traveller canon in style) with a strong realistic SF feel.
Armour has all the usual Traveller favourites; mesh, flak, reflec, cloth, ablat, combat armour and the mighty battle dress powered armour. There are also details for Vacc Suits and Hostile Environment Suits.
Augments covers ways of significantly enhancing human performance, either through cybernetics, genetics or surgery. The descriptions are laid out so that they look like small ads in a magazine.
The section on communication starts with radio and laser transcievers and moves onto bugs, commdots (think a Star Trek: The Next Generation style communicator) before moving into a discussion of computers. Computers have a processing score, which represents its capability to run software; each available package has a bandwidth level which - in total - cannot exceed the capability of the processor. However, a higher bandwidth program could be deliberately run at a lower level to allow it to be used. It is noted that computers on starships are much more sophisticated. A range of different software packages are outlined, ranging from packages to use skills through to software to hack networks or translate. Expert skills packages have a limit on the maximum difficulty of task check they can handle. There are notes on using variant computers such as prototype technology (this will be more powerful but larger and more expensive) and retro-technology (deliberately building an optimised lower technology version of hardware).
Medical care is the next focus; it starts with costs for healing and replacement of lost limbs, covers cyroberths, medikits and drugs. The latter include Traveller staples such as anagthics, Combat Drugs, Fast Drug and Slow Drug.
A variety of sensor systems are covered including basic technologies such as binoculars, IR and light intensifier googles, up to more sophisticated equipment such as densitometers, geiger counters and neural activity sensors.
Details are provided for toolkits and a wide range of survival gear, before the catalogue moves into the weapon section. The types presented include; Melee weapons, Slug Throwers, Energy Weapons (including lasers and plasma weapons), grenades, Heavy weapons (such as the feared FGMP and PGMP fusion and plasma guns) and Explosives. The chapter concludes with details of how the weapons can be tailored for use with a variety of add-ons.
**Changes from 2008**
* Vehicles now have their own chapter.
* Robots and Drones have been removed.
* The information is reorganised and some examples no longer present (and really no longer needed).
* The artwork is full colour and improved in many cases.
## Chapter 6 - Vehicles
This is a new chapter for this edition; previously, vehicles were covered earlier in the chapter on Combat. It begins by defining speed bands for vehicles and how they can be changed. Effectively, these define how fast the vehicle is going, and they range from Band 1 ‘Idle’ (0-20 km per hour) - the speed that human would be moving at - through to Hypersonic (Band 10, 6,000+ kph). There are specific rules for the impact of going off road or into rough terrain which impacts maximum speeds and makes any task checks to control the vehicle more difficult. Some vehicles may not be capable of going off into such terrain at all.
Airborne movement is discussed and the capability of a flyer that requires lift is linked back to world size and atmosphere. Artificial gravity propelled flyers are exempt from these rules.
A full page is taken up describing the vehicle stat box (card?) and then the chapter moves on to discuss combat. One significant change from sophont/human combat is that the facing of the vehicle is important, as weapons may not be able to bear in all directions. Vehicles act on the initiative of their driver. If a vehicle is defined as closed, the passengers and crew will benefit from its armour at the cost of limitation on how they can attack. Open vehicles allow anyone to shoot or be shot at, and provide no protection.
There are specific vehicle moves - dogfighting (which boils down to an opposed skill check to see who gets to decide which firing arc bears), evasive action (which gives a DM to be hit), manoeuvre (avoiding obstacles), ramming, stunts (more challenging manoeuvres that warrant a check to succeed) and weaving (avoiding a crash in a dangerous situation - think flying through an asteroid field or driving through a busy market street without hitting anyone. Any task checks for these moves are affected by the vehicle’s base agility rating.
Use of vehicle weapons is detailed, requiring the Heavy Weapons skill. Weapons are tied to specific fire arcs unless they are turreted. Damage rolled is reduced to armour (which can vary between the different facing of the vehicle) and reduces the hull value. Once this reaches zero, the vehicle is wrecked, inoperable and irreparable. Any attack that has an effect of 6 or more will score a critical hit. This damages vehicle systems, selected by a 2D roll. The severity of the hit is established by dividing the damage by 10, rounding up. This is referenced against a table with six levels of severity. Subsequent criticals always increase the severity, and once level 6 is reached, extra hull damage is scored every time another critical is scored.
There are further rules for repairing vehicles, and then a list of typical vehicle weapons and equipment. The section rounds out with four pages of typical vehicles. Each is presented as a colour isometric view CGI external, combined with a data block/card. All the Traveller basics like the air/raft, the G-Carrier and more.
**Changes from 2008**
* The fundamental difference is that all the vehicle rules have been located to a single locationn.
* There are minor changes within the rules - for example there is no DM to hit because of vehicle size, and the rules clarify that passengers in closed vehicles cannot be targeted directly as they cannot be seen.
* The dogfight action is new.
* Damage from collisions is aligned to speed bands rather than kmph.
* The damage mechanic is amended; there is no structure value anymore (only hull) and the CT style damage table to determine hits and then a linked location table has been dropped with critical hits introduced.
* Vehicle equipment options are increased, and there are example vehicle weapons.
* Previously vehicle mounted weapons relied on the appropriate Gun Combat skill, whereas now they are explicitly linked to Heavy Weapons.
* The same example vehicles are present, but the AFV now sports an autocannon rather than a laser turret.
- Location: Wetherby, Yorkshire
- Thanks: 295 given/285 received
This chapter opens with definitions of the differences between a small craft, ship, capital ship, hull types and more. The displacement ton (the measure for starships) is used, and continues to be linked by the the volume of tonne of liquid hydrogen (~14m3). Options (and especially costs) for buying a ship are described, along with the possible links to career benefits when mustering out. A sidebar deals with the consequences of skipping out on your starship debts, and the likelihood of being recognised when you enter a star system. Your characters may feel that they need to do this when faced with the running and maintenance costs for a starship; of course, you can skimp on maintenance but that may have serious consequences the longer that you avoid the work. The consequences are covered in a specific critical hit table for poor maintenance.
Common starship operations are covered; how airlocks work, flight in atmospheres, docking and landing are all covered, although boarding operations are held until the starship combat chapter. Another sidebar explains common astronomical terms like Astronomic Units (AU) and Parsecs (3.27 light years per parsec).
There’s the best part of a page on the importance of power and the consequences of not having enough to operate effectively (short version - you can shut down systems to cover gaps in power generation including parts of the life support systems if you’re feeling daring).
Starship encounters follow, using a D66 table. This has the modifiers that you may expect, and the first obvious bit of errata that I’ve seen as it says that encounters in bold cannot be avoided. There are no encounters in bold… Now, I figure that this must be an error as why mention it otherwise? Details are included on salvage operations, asteroid mining, collisions, distress signals and piracy!
Jump travel is explained in detail, including the task checks required. Jump is the default technology used by Traveller starships to move faster-than-light; jump takes a week, during which the starship is out of contact as it is in a parallel universe. Jump drives are rated in the number of parsecs that they can cover with a maximum rating of 6 parsecs (nearly 20 light years) in the Third Imperium setting. Consequences of misjumping is also covered. The different types of passage options are covered, ranging from the risks of frozen sleep to the luxury of High Passage. There is information on remote operation using drones for mining, probes and repairs, along with detail on the costs and difficulties repairing starships. Sensors and Starship Computers are covered in depth, followed by a description of starship security.
Calculations for travel times are detailed; perhaps a little disappointingly the formulae are expressed more like a line of Excel code than a formula, but I guess that Traveller has a history of screwing this kind of thing up (T4 especially) so this may not be as bad as it seems! The chapter ends with transit time tables for quick reference.
**Changes from 2008**
* In the first edition of Mongoose Traveller, this chapter is preceded by one that is called ‘Spacecraft Design’. In the new edition, all the starship construction rules have been removed from the core rules and put into ‘High Guard’. Only one other edition of Traveller - Traveller: The New Era - has had a core ruleset without the starship design rules. It has to be said that there were issues with the way the construction rules integrated between the core book and High Guard in the previous version from Mongoose.
* The new edition is modified so that it uses the critical hit rules from the starship combat section for maintenance issues.
* The formulae to derive the Transit Times are included in the section.
* Remote Operations are included in this section rather than the Equipment Chapter.
* The impact of radiation and suffocation have been moved from this section to the Encounters and Dangers chapter.
## Chapter 8 - Space Combat
Traveller’s handling of space combat has always been seen through a lens of wet naval combat - perhap even submarine engagements - rather than the fighter battles that were so exciting to watch in films like Star Wars. Of course, when the fighters operate with similar drives and equipment to capital ships, they can be easily outclassed and this has been the canon through the various editions of Traveller. Power is projected through fleets of capital ships, and the deciding factor in battles between similarly equipped opponents may be the number of spinal mount weapons that they can bring to bear. This edition does include some rules for dogfighting smaller vessels at closer ranges, with ships with less than 100 displacement tonnes having a significant advantage. I’ll explore how they affect the feel of battle below.
Most combat will be beyond visual range; because of the large distances and scale of the combat, combat round are 6 minute long, not 6 seconds as in personal combat. Typically, each ship’s crew will have to fulfill a variety of roles; pilot, gunners, engineering, sensor operator and more. There are eight defined in total. The ship’s computer can be used to substitute for a role if the appropriate software is available.
Every combat cycles through a number of steps;
1. Manoeuvre - order based upon initiative and limited by the thrust of the starship
2. Attacks - order based upon initiative
3. Other actions - repairs, jumps, launches and more
Facing and firing arcs are not considered important in the scale of the combat; it is assumed that the ships can roll and bring all weapons to bear during a combat round. It does have some impact in the dogfighting rules, but more on that later.
Ranges extend out past 50,000 km; however, shots are unlikely to be exchanged until the ships come in range of their weapons. After the initial range is determined, initiative is rolled using the Pilot skill and the vessel’s thrust score as a bonus. Tactics (Naval) can be used as a chained skill to help the initiative. Surprise is unlikely.
The Manoeuvre step starts with the pilot allocating thrust between combat manoeuvring to attack or defend and movement. Thrust can be spent over multiple rounds to change range bands. As shifting between Very Long and Long or Very Long and Distant takes 25 thrust points, this can take some time. If ships are racing each other, the thrust in play is set off against each other and the ships will close/move apart accordingly. For example, if a Type T Patrol Corvette used its 4 points of thrust to close on a Type S Scout/Courier which was also burning to pull away at the maximum Thrust 2, the net change each round would be 2 thrust. So it would take 13 rounds to close from Very Long to Long in such a case (an hour and eighteen minutes). If the ships were heading at each other, it would take 5 rounds (30 mins) and if the Scout was stationary it would take 7 rounds (42 minutes). Thrust can also be spent to carry out combat maneuvers; helping the gunners, docking or taking evasive actions.
The Attack step is carried out in initiative order; gunners roll to hit, modified by the effects of evasive action, point defence fire against missiles, and sand caster dispersion against lasers and boarding parties. Damage from starship weaponry is at a higher scale than normal ground weapons (a factor of 10 for damage and the application of the blast trait). Weapons types are beam and pulse lasers, and missiles. Defenses are armour, sandcasters and the use of lasers in point defence fire. The rules account for double and triple turret mounts increasing damage.
The damage rolled has the target starship’s armour subtracted, and hull is reduced by the difference. Attack rolls with an effect of six or more that penetrate armour will cause a critical hit in a similar manner to vehicle combat. A severity factor is applied (based on the damage taken divided by ten); this directs to the correct part of the critical table to use. Low level criticals are also caused each time a ship loses 10% of the total hull it started with. If a low level severity has already been suffered, the next highest effect is used.
Criticals aside, if hull reaches zero, the ship is wrecked, inoperable and can no longer be repaired. Anyone on board faces a slow death in a wreck without power or life support.
The Actions step is a chance for the various crew members on the ship to gain an advantage, based upon the role that they were assigned at the start of the battle. Initiative can be altered, the ship can jump, reallocate power usage, overload systems, attempt a sensor lock, reload turrets and board starships. Pretty much any starship combat activity is covered here.
The rules for missiles are a little more complicated; all missiles fired from a single ship at the same target are grouped into a salvo. They have an effective thrust of 10, and will run for 10 rounds (an hour) before running out of fuel. Beyond running, electronic warfare can be used to protect against incoming missiles. Each round with a success will reduce the number of missiles in the salvo by the effect. Obviously, running from the missiles to increase the number of rounds they are active increases the number of EW attempts that can be made. If some missiles get through, then the target will have to rely on point defence and armour to survive. The final attack roll is based upon the number of missiles in the salvo, rather than the firing character’s Gunner skill on the assumption that the missiles are smart weapons. Damage is applied slightly differently. If a missile penetrates, damage is multiplied by the effect of the attack roll (capped with missile numbers) meaning that a large amount of damage can rack up.
Dogfighting rules come next; these leave me a little nervous because of the potential to play hard and fast with the laws of physics, but I’m just going to imagine that this is like the Rocinante spinning around in The Expanse when it engages at close range and suspend my disbelief for a while. Overall, dogfighting overrides the usual combat rules. Pilots make opposed task checks penalised by ship size and the numbers ships involved, with a bonus from thrust points spent for dogfighting. The winner gets to select firing arcs and gains a bonus on attack rolls. The loser gets to live with the arcs selected and has a penalty on attack rolls.
It does not give any advice on how to handle more than two ships involved in a dogfight; for example two fighters attacking a ship. If a dogfight continues into the next round gain momentum from the success which acts a bonus the next round. There are short notes for using vehicles in a dogfight, for example if a battle breaks out in the atmosphere.
Although I like the overall idea here, the rules fail to identify how you integrate ships that are dogfighting with other ships in ‘normal’ space combat. This, combined with the fact that the dogfighting rules using personal combat rounds (i.e. 6 seconds not 6 minutes resulting in 60 rounds of dogfighting to every round of starship exchanges) leads me to feel that the rules haven’t been tested very practically.
There are abstract rules for boarding actions; these are probably most useful in the event that you are rolling for a battle in the background or carrying out a fleet action. If players are involved, then you’ll probably be roleplaying this.
Overall, the rules seem clear, but they could benefit from a clear simple list of steps (like that seen in Classic and MegaTraveller) or a flowchart.
I played out two test combats. The first was a Type S Scout being pursued by a Type T Patrol Corvette. The encounter started at Very Long range. Some things became apparent; it is very easy for a ship that has no real concern on expenditure to overwhelm another ship with missiles by sustaining fire over multiple rounds. If missiles get through, the multipliers for the attack effect are deadly. The engine works smoothly, but it will take a long time to close distances, especially if you are having to deal with inbound missile salvos which are eating your thrust pool for evasive action.
The second combat was a single light fighter which engaged the Type S at close range. With thrust 6, it easily won initiative and the dogfighting phase. It easily hit the Type S, and caused minor damage. The Type S was very lucky - I used the same dual beam laser turret which meant it hit on the exact roll - otherwise the -8 DM from being \>100 tons and having lost the dogfight would have meant a miss. The +4 DM for beam lasers really helped. The fighter took substantial damage on the first hit - enough to take it out. Multiple fighters would be able to pick the ship apart. My gut feeling is that the -6 DM for attack rolls for being a vessel larger than 100 tons is harsh, especially as a lot of the ships will be using turreted mounts.There’s already a significant DM for losing the dogfight roll. This makes the feel of the game very different to all previous editions of Traveller. I think I will house rule the -6 DM away.
**Changes from 2008**
* There is no overview step-by-step for starship combat to reference quickly.
* The initiative mechanic has changed - skill has more effect upon it.
* Damage Control role amalgamated into the Engineering role (which is also made more generic).
* Missiles can be used at adjacent or close range but are no longer smart.
* Missile Thrust is now 10, not 5.
* The rules for missile attacks have been changed and depend more upon the salvo size.
* Meson guns, particle accelerators, fusion guns and nuclear missiles are not detailed.
* Pulse weapons corrected in line with Traveller canon - originally done in High Guard in the previous edition.
* There is no separate hull and structure values - ships only have hull points now.
* The damage mechanic has moved away from one similar to Classic Traveller and differs between missiles and beam weapons.
* The scaling between starship and ground weapons is different (reduced)
* Dogfighting close combat rules that change the feel of combat and Traveller.
## Chapter 9 - Common Spacecraft
The chapter begins by talking about older spacecraft, which may well prove attractive to characters as they can present a significant discount over new builds. They also have a lived in and unique character; the older the ship is, the more rolls that have to be made on the quirks table. This is a 2D based table with different quirks for Traders, Military and Other ships. It is a great idea, but older ships may well require a significant number of rolls (100 year old vessels get 10 rolls on a table with 11 outcomes!) and - like the earlier edition - there is no guidance on whether the issues roll stack, require a reroll or you just get lucky and you miss the opportunity or another bit of character. Quirks range from the mechanical like damaged thrusters giving a DM -1 to all pilot rolls through to fixtures and fittings like smuggling compartments.
The remainder of the chapter presents 19 different starships and spacecraft. There’s a one page key to the isometric deckplans, and then each starship has a page of statistics, some background and then a full colour isometric deckplan rather than the older style 2D plan views. This looks excellent and modern compared to the older deckplans in the previous edition. The spacecraft are presented two to a two-page spread as they are smaller and need less information.
**Changes from 2008**
* Gains Type T Patrol Corvette, Safari Ship, Subsidised Liner, Slow Boat, Slow Pinnace
* Loses Corsair, Gazelle Class Close Escort, Heavy Freighter, Serpent Police Cutter
* Buying older ships used to give the characters extra ship shares, but the whole process is now much more simple.
## Chapter 10 - Psionics
Psionics - the powers of the mind - have long been a staple of the science-fiction that inspired Traveller, and the timing of the game’s release forty years ago also happened to tie in with a rather successful film by George Lucas which had psionics at the core of the story. The primary setting for Traveller, the Third Imperium, has outlawed such powers due to past abuses and the fear of a technique wholeheartedly adopted by the rival Zhodani Consulate. The mechanics used in Traveller align well with the characteristics and skills test mechanics used at the heart of the game.
Psionic powers deteriorate with age much faster than the other characteristics unless a character has received training in their use. The PSI characteristic starts with the same base 2D level as all other characteristics, but each subsequent term of service results in a reduction; there is no delay to the aging process. Training is obtained by locating an appropriate teacher, which usually mean a Psionic Institute, many of which went underground when they were banned by the Third Imperium. Of course, if you are using a homebrew setting, this may not be as difficult; the challenge may be getting them to accept you for training. Whichever way that you play it, the search for psionic training can be an adventure in itself, and something that may put the various characters at odds with each other.
Once an institute is found, the character is tested to see if any residual psionic powers remain, and - if they do - they then embark on a number of months of costly training. Establishing if a character has raw psionic power is only the first step; the next part is to find if the character has any specific talents. This is done through a PSI check. The player rolls a normal check using PSI as the characteristic modifier, and then adds a modifier based upon the talent that they are trying to learn. If chosen first, telepathy will be an automatic success. Any other talent has to be rolled for; each subsequent attempt is at a penalty. All the usual psionic powers are covered: telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, teleportation and awareness. Success in a check gives the character a level 0 skill in that talent.
Use of the talent is made with a skill check with PSI as the characteristic. Use of a talent temporarily reduces the PSI characteristic dependent upon the talent used and the range at which it is being used. Failures will reduce PSI by a point. You can use a talent power that you don’t have enough PSI points for (so long as you have a minimum of one point of PSI) but any excess points will be applied as damage. Points start to regenerate three hours after their last use. The difficulty level of a psionic power check is defined under the description of each of the powers within the talent. Telepathy starts with Life Detection and ends up with the Assault and Shield powers which are much harder to use. The text references that other powers are available, and references the Psion book, which I assume is the supplement from first edition as there is no book of that name released or planned to be released in the current second edition line.
The chapter rounds out with description of technology that can be used to aid or oppose psionics. This includes drugs to restore PSI points or even boost them above their natural maximum, inhibitor drugs, psionic shields and interfaces and more. It concludes with career X, the Psion. This can only be accessed with the referee’s permission or through a specific life event. With assignments like Wild Talent (think the Mule in the Foundation books), Adept and Psi-Warrior (think Jedi or Sith) this is a pretty unique career, and one that the referee will need to think carefully about as it will add a definite flavour to their campaign.
**Changes since 2008**
* The ability to get telepathy automatically has been added.
* The range calculation for psionic costs has been simplified so that it is the same for all talents, but it means that there is no longer a quick reference table to look up against. It works by having a default maximum range which can be pushed.
* Telepathy has the Mind Link power (psion-to-psion telepathy) and the Suggestion power added. The latter is new and didn’t appear in Psion.
* Telepathy - Assault Damage mechanic has changed.
* Telekinesis - Flight has a speed added.
* Telekinesis - Telekinetic punch has reduced damage potential (now just effect, not effect + 2D)
* Telekinesis - Pyrokinesis has become significantly easier as the check has moved from Difficult to Routine (a shift of DM +4 between versions).
* Awareness - Body Armour has been renamed ‘Fortitude’. Mechanically, the difficulty has been reduced to Difficult from Very Difficult.
* Awareness - Regeneration has had the difficulty reduced from Difficult to Very Difficult.
* Awareness - Enhanced Awareness has been removed
* Awareness - Inspiration has been added. It serves a similar purpose to Enhanced Awareness but provides a Boon dice to any one check.
* Teleportation has been tweaked to account for the changes in the range mechanic.
* The tables on ‘Alien Horror’ and ‘Psionic Phenomenon’ have been removed.
## Chapter 11 - Trade
The game rules for trade are a core part of Traveller, especially if you’re running a merchant based game. Running a starship is expensive and carrying passengers, freight and speculative trade materials are a good way of defraying the costs of ownership. The referee’s notes for the chapter imply that the engine has been designed overall to make a good return, but I haven’t tried to do this in anger yet. Passengers have four different options for the type of ticket they get; high, middle, basic and low passage.
High Passage is the luxury option; the game describes it as being like a luxury cruise or first class flight. Characters that offer this on their ship will need to ensure that they provide the right standard of care with a steward, dedicated cabin and cargo space. Middle Passage is what the UK rail network would call ‘standard’ class, the old second class. The level of service and cargo allowance is reduced from High Passage, but the Traveller still gets their own dedicated stateroom. Basic passage - or steerage - involves shared accommodation (which could even be a section of cargo or engineering space), minimal cargo allowance (about half that typically allowed for aircraft in today’s world) and very basic food and facilities. Low passage is the cheapest option and dates back to the original days of space travel. It involves being cryogenically frozen for the duration of the flight, which presents a medical risk when you are thawed out. Passengers often die if the equipment or appropriate care isn’t taken. That said, it is less than ten percent of the cost of High Passage and a third the cost of basic passage for a one parsec jump, and less expensive in most circumstances. A D66 table is provided to inspire the referee to provide exciting passengers which could provide complications, allies, or enemies.
There is a table which provides details of how many passengers are available at a port. The numbers are affected by the steward skill, the type of passage, the world population, starport type and whether the destination is a more dangerous Amber or Red Zone. There are also standard Passage and Freight costs listed (presented from the perspective of the passenger or cargo owner - they are gross income before any costs for the starship operator).
Freight differs from speculative trade in that it gives a fixed return at no risk to the carrier. However, it isn’t going to make you rich. Lots are available in three different sizes - Major, Minor and Incidental - and a similar table to that used for passenger numbers is used to generate how much is available, with the only restriction being that the carrier has to take a full lot as they cannot be broken up. Mail is sometimes available and can offer a good return, but there will only be a limited tonnage available.
Speculative Trade is the higher risk option for cargo. The characters will have to use their own cash to buy goods for trade, take them to a market and hopefully sell them in another star system at a profit. The rules presented are for characters; the Merchant Prince supplement from first edition is referenced for players that want to run shipping lines. The process is simple; the characters need to find one or more suppliers, and through them they get access to Goods which are classified and Common or Trade Goods. Trade Goods are only available in systems that meet certain criteria (defined by a trade code). Illegal Goods are only available from a black market supplier (of course, if you fancy a career as a smuggler, the best way is to find a system where the goods are legal and then take them to the restricted market). All the goods are contained in a D66 table. Purchase and sale price is determined through a modified roll on a 3D table.
**Changes from 2008**
* Basic passage has been introduced, this is new as part of the core rules.
* The costs of high, middle and low passages have been changed (increased).
* The number of passengers a point of steward skill can support has been increased.
* Trade code modifications have been removed from affecting passenger numbers and the effect of population and travel zone has been changed.
* A single table is used for number of passengers available with differentiation driven by a DM to the roll.
* Trade code modifications have been removed from affecting the amount of freight lots available and the effect of population and travel zone has been changed.
* A single table is used for number of freight lots available with differentiation driven by a DM to the roll.
* Sidebar describing the Imperial Credit has been removed
* Costs for using a broker have been increased.
* The modified price table has been changed even though the input DMs appear to be the same on the Trade Goods table.
* The Dangerous Cargo sidebar has been removed.
* The Trade Goods by World Type has been removed.
## Chapter 12 - World and Universe Creation
This chapter starts with an overview of the process which is carried out in two stages. Traveller uses a convention of hexagon grids for mapping space, where each hexagon is one parsec across. The smallest template is a subsector - ten parsecs by eight parsecs, and 16 subsectors are grouped together into a sector. A short glossary gives key terms like travel zones, gas giants, communications routes and polities. The galactic directions (coreward, spinward, rimward and trailing) are explained. It’s also mentioned that you could use pre-generated material like that already published for Traveller or 2300AD.
The first stage is to establish if the hex has a world present. This is done with a simple dice roll, with the base assumption being that there will be a star system present 50% of the time. This can be modified if the referee desires. If a world is present, a further check is done to establish if a gas giant is present. This is important; gas giants are free sources of fuel for starships, who can dive into the atmosphere and scoop hydrogen gas fuel. This makes gas giants important strategically (space navies that hold a gas giant can bypass the main world in the system) and economically (scooping and refining your own fuel will save money at the cost of an extended journey).
Guidance is given on how to establish both communications and trade routes, but elements of this require initial world generation to be completed. World creation starts by establishing the size of the world through a 2D-2 roll, which is referenced on a table that gives size, and the expected surface gravity. Atmosphere follows in a similar manner, but modified by the Size that has just been established. This gives a whole range of challenges from taints, corrosive, and exotic, insidious and the more mundane thin or dense. Hydrographics follow, using the atmosphere and size as a modifier, establishing what proportion of the surface is covered with liquid (most likely water). This is modified by a sidebar that establishes the temperature of the planet raising from frozen to boiling.
Once the basic physical conditions are established, the Government type, Law Level and Technology Level are established. Population is established with a 2D-2 roll, the outcome being the number of zeros at the end of the population, so a six is a population in the range of 1,000,000 to 9,999,999. Government Type is derived from a similar roll, modified by the population level, which is referenced against the Government table. Higher population worlds are likely to be more autocratic and controlled. Law Level is derived in a similar way, using Government Type as a modifier. Again, higher population worlds will tend to be more restrictive. Guidance is given on how to handle legal issues with the local government, including common offences and the likely sentences.
There are short rules for establishing if there are any political factions present on a world, and a D66 table that gives ideas for cultural differences should a referee need them.
The Starport type is determined next, ranging from Class A (which will have shipyards, repair facilities and refined fuel present) through to Class E or X (no starport facilities or no starport). The roll to establish the Class of Starport is modified by the population of the planet. There are subsequent rolls to check is Naval, Scout or Research Bases are present, or even a TAS hospitality facility.
Tech Level is last randomly generated characteristic of a planet. This is affected by the Starport type present, and all the other characteristics except Law Level. Certain atmospheres require a minimum Tech Level to sustain an ongoing population. Trade codes are derived characteristics based upon the rest of the world’s characteristics.
It is worth noting that the rules presented here do not detail the type of star in the system, only the main world. This could actually be a moon of a gas giant. All you will have is the detail of the main inhabited planet and whether there is a gas giant present in the system.
There is a sidebar explaining how previous editions of Traveller strung all this data together in a line of code so older material is easily accessible. A further sidebar explains how the Third Imperium assumes jurisdiction over starports, making them extraterrittorial and outside the control of local governments.
**Changes since 2008**
* The diagram showing how a hex is usually formatted has been removed
* The example District Red 27 subsector map has been removed.
* The sidebar on factionalism has been removed but the general information on factions has been increased.
* The law level table for illegal possessions has had the sections on drugs, information, technology, travellers and psionics removed; some of this is now rolled up into summaries in the government table.
* The starport facilities table has lost the roll target numbers for TAS for Class A (4+) and Class B (6+) and the options to generate Imperial Consulates or Pirate bases have been removed.
* The Starport Class table is now modified by the Population Code.
* The sidebar that gives suggestions on how to modify world creation for Space Opera or Hard SF settings has been removed.
## Chapter 13 - The Sindal Subsector
This is a whole new chapter; whereas the previous edition showed a typical subsector map, there were no world details associated with it. The chapter presented the Sindal Subsector, a subsector in the Third Imperium located in the Trojan Reach. The Trojan Reach sector is on the border between the Imperium and the Aslan Heirate. A subsector map and sector overview are both presented. The subsector map deviates slightly from the standards presented in Mongoose Traveller First Edition (which aligned with previous editions of Traveller). The previously published Alien Module 1: Aslan and the forthcoming Trojan Reach book are both referenced for further information.
A short summary of the history of the subsector is given, long with descriptions for each world and patrons that could provide employment for the characters. This is usable, if a little plain, material that doesn’t really show that much of the Third Imperium setting off. I think that there’s a missed opportunity here to give a good taster entry into one of the most developed SF game properties outside Star Wars.
First of all, the presentation of this edition is a huge step up from the previous releases by Mongoose, and this something that they can rightly be proud of. In addition, there are very few typos and other errors. The artwork - with the one exception I noted - is generally good and the cover is excellent and evocative.
As presented, the rules are coherent, simple and work well. The bane and boon dice integrate well to the existing mechanics. There are some rough edges; I don’t see why the tasks moved to a more MegaTraveller style target number (although the reality is it’s just expressing the same thing a different way) and the integration of the dogfighting rules with the starship combat rules is very poorly executed. Some areas, like starship combat in particular, could have done with a more systematic flow for the mechanics in the way that the original Traveller and MegaTraveller rules had to make them easier to use and cross reference. Character generation has an excellent example of the use of a flow diagram to do this.
The removal of the starship construction rules is disappointing; however, the opportunity for a single coherent system in High Guard is welcomed. Perhaps the most obvious missing item is a decent index. This was present in the first edition and is conspicuous by its absence.
Overall, I am very impressed with this edition; it is the best release of Traveller in a long time; nine years of play for the first edition of Mongoose shows through in the general streamlining and focusing of the rules. I recommend this edition wholeheartedly as a good step forward.
**TL;DR:** *The new edition of Mongoose Traveller has vastly improved layout, artwork and coherent streamlined rules that remain compatible with previous editions. The proofreading and quality of the book is a step change from Mongoose’s previous output. There are two areas that stand out as missing - the starship design sequence (covered in the new edition of High Guard) and an index - but these are not significant issues. If you have the old edition, you do not need to upgrade, but it is a very nice package. Overall, I recommend this new edition wholeheartedly.*
16 August 2017
 Yes,ONE image. But because the rest feel appropriate it really stuck out for me.
 This appears to be stated wrong as 3+ Effect of roll. This means a worse failure will give a better outcome than a slight failure… I think it should be the Effect of the roll (which will be negative) minus a further 3 points.
 A table that effectively creates 36 options by using one dice for ‘tens’ and one for ‘units’.
 Referencing the original book, it’s clear that this is an error as exactly the same table is present. The encounters that are bold are 02, 11, 23, 24, 51, 55, 71 if you haven’t got the original Mongoose Traveller edition.
 The forthcoming Traveller Companion will give other options according to the text.
 I had written ‘lunches’ here initially; this would be a valid action in an extended combat, but that wasn’t what I was thinking of.
 I would suggest that the best approach would be to make a single roll for each ship’s pilot and cross reference the results against all ships involved in the dogfight.
 For example,can the ship that has limited fire arcs as it loses out on the dogfighting rolls still engage other vessels with the guns that do not bear. If weapons are turreted, do they ignore fire arc? What if it’s a huge ship? Are bay weapons (okay, these are in High Guard, not this book) arc limited? There are lots of unanswered questions.
 It may make more sense to make this 1 min rounds if a frenetic feel is wanted, although I suspect that it would also work fine if you had the same rounds as the rest of the starships do. I’d also recommend that a mixed combat has the normal starship exchange go off first before dogfighting is resolved as it means that defensive fire from accompanying ships can reduce the overall number of rolls being made.
 Azimov’s Foundation trilogy, Andre Norton’s SF and more
 Star Wars (aka Episode IV: A New Hope)
 There appears to be a glitch in the passage and freight costs table on p207. At jump 5 and 6, low passage becomes more expensive than basic passage.
 This is nowhere near as complicated as GURPS Traveller: Far Trader, which is probably the most realistic system ever developed for Traveller.
 This is the UWP - universal world profile - expressed here in the short form. The extended version which is not covered also includes the star type, number of planetoid belts, population modifier and number of gas giants.
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I'm a little concerned that I'm going to have to buy 3 or 4 £35 books to get all the core rules (core book, High Guard, Vehicles and Central Supply Catalogue).
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High Guard is essential if you want to design starships and spacecraft.
Central Supply Catalogue is a great big list of kit with options. The previous edition would work fine. Not essential, but useful. It does have a variety of robots.
Vehicle Handbook is useful if you want more vehicles or drones.
I would prioritise them in that order.
I'm not sure if the Great Rift kickstarter is still taking pre-orders, but it had a very cost effective way of getting all the books.
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I figure there's enough "stuff" in the core book to run a game no problem, but as soon as you start actually getting into it you'll be wanting all those cool extras, which come at quite a high price.
I did think about the Great Rift kickstarter, but although it was cost effective it still wasn't cheap (£100 for the 4 core hardbacks or £150 for everything, on top of the £50 for the campaign set).
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