SUPERCONDENSATOR: Classic Traveller: Playing it fast and loose, part 1: Armor

A few days, ago, I posted about Marc Miller and how he plays Traveller. According to him, all he really uses at the table are stats, numberless skills, the world creation rules, the daily random rolls and a healthy dose of improvisation.

I like that. I like that because it is exactly the way I referee my games, as well. Just recently, I was thinking about armor in Traveller personal combat. How can I wing it? How can I emulate “what’s written in the rules”?

The following is what I came up with.

Book 1 (1977) describes different kinds of armor:

Jack A natural or synthetic leather jacket/body suit. Better than clothing or bare skin, no protection against guns.

Mesh A jacket/body suit of natural or synthetic leather reinforced with a lining of flexible metal mesh, similar to chain mail but lighter and stronger. Good against blades, somewhat effective against gun. No protection against lasers.

Ballistic Cloth A heavy duty jacket/vest covering the upper torso and legs, tailored from ballistic cloth. Good against all kinds of weapons. 

Reflec Reflective material may be tailored into a body suit, ineffective against any weapon except laser.

Ablat Ablat is the cheap alternative to reflec, and is fashioned from material which will ablate (vaporize) when hit by laser fire, carrying the energy of the attack away. Ablat also has some value as protection against other forms of attack, primarily from its bulk. 

Battle Dress The ultimate in battle armor, military battle dress consists of a complete vacuum-suit-like array of metal, synthetic and electronic armor. 

I could write a super-simple table like this: 

.demo { border:1px solid yellow; border-collapse:collapse; padding:5px; } .demo th { border:1px solid yellow; padding:5px; background:gray; } .demo td { border:1px solid yellow; text-align:center; padding:5px; }

Armor Protection
Blunt Blades Guns Lasers
 Jack  +1 +1 +1
 Mesh  –  +2 +1
 Cloth  +1  +2 +2  +2
 Reflec +3
 Ablat +1 +1 +1 +3
 Battle Dress +4 +4 +4 +4

…but the question is: Do I want to use it at the table?

My answer is a resounding ‘No‘. So, what can I do? Wing it, but wing it with structure. I’ll simply attach “tags” to each type of armor to signify its weakness. So…

Jack: guns
Mesh: lasers
Cloth: –
Reflec: all but lasers
Ablat: expandable reflec, like cloth
Battle Dress: –

The numbers? They will be improvised.

But you know, that last sentence often enough is the problem for referees. How much is too much? How little is too little? Thankfully, Classic Traveller offers a solution. It’s hidden in The Traveller Adventure (1983), and it’s called ‘Situation Throws’. To quote:

Situation Throws: In the absence of any other guidance, the referee may always resort to the situation throw. When an incident first occurs, throw two dice to determine its relative severity. A low roll means that it is easy, a high roll means comparative difficulty. The number achieved is now the situation number. The player characters involved, when they attempt to deal with the situation, must roll the situation number or higher on two dice.

How can I use Situation Throws for armor? I’ve come up with the following solution:

  1. The player characters don’t know how old or good a piece of armor is that someone is wearing.
  2. As a referee, I should know, but I refuse to burden myself with details like this. So I use a Situation Throw. 2d6, take the lower number. That’s the protection (used as negative DM) a piece of armor offers. Yes, I know, this might result in Jack armor offering a -5 DM. I don’t care – who knows what that guy is wearing underneath it? Maybe he’s layered up like a birthday cake or something. 
  3. Battle dresses use the higher number. 
  4. Really old and worn-out armor might have 1d6-1d6 (with zero being the obviously worst result).

Army Trooper Noam Zhang 985487 Age 22 Skills: Rifle
Rifle (4d6), Mesh armor (2)

against some low-life rabble 777777, armed with a revolver (4d6), wearing ballistic cloth. Both are hiding behind rotten dumpsters in a dark alley. The distance is 30m.

I roll 2d6 for the Situation Roll and get 2 and 5. So the goon’s cloth has a -2 DM, same as Noam’s.

It’s dark, the goon is hiding behind a dumpster, and Noam has to shoot at him while trying to keep his cover. I rule this is a -3 DM. The cloth armor of the goon adds another -2, for a total of -5. Noam has experience with the rifle, and he fought in a war, so I grant him a total DM of +3. Remains a -2 DM.

For the goon, we also have darkness, plus firing around cover, plus target is hiding behind cover: a -3 DM. Noam’s armor grants a -2 DM, for a total of -5. The goon has experience with the revolver, but this only means he has no negative DM on his roll. All he can hope for is boxcars, for a lucky hit.

Noam rolls a 4. Miss.
Goon rolls 6. Miss.

Noam rolls 6 and misses.
Goon rolls 8 and misses.

Noam rolls 9 and misses.
Goon rolls 8 and misses.

Noam rolls 12 and hits!

Goon rolls a 10 and misses.
Damage: 2,5,2,3 =12.
The goon loses his Strength, and 5 points off his Endurance. Before he drops to the ground, unconscious and bleeding heavily, he squeezes off another round, but misses.

4 thoughts on “SUPERCONDENSATOR: Classic Traveller: Playing it fast and loose, part 1: Armor

  1. I love CT. This is a great post and I'm looking forward to more. Just one comment:>Screw initiative, Noam is a trained soldier and goes first.In classic trav there is no initiative, combat rounds are simultaneous.


  2. For Traveller gun-combat I always use the table from Azhanti High Lightning: 2d6 + weapon Pen – Armor (both values pulled from a chart) where 2- = no effect, 3-7 = minor wound (cumulative -1 on future rolls per minor wound), 8-11 = major wound (unconscious), 12+ = dead. It's not as simple as what you're proposing, because you still have to look two values up on a chart (though, honestly, the common ones get memorized very quickly) but it's very fast and also very deadly, teaching players that gun combat isn't something to mess around with lightly!


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