SUPERCONDENSATOR: freeform Traveller rules (PDF!)

I’ve finished the layout for my Supercondensator variant rules. Hey, there’s even a variant cover version!

  

Regular black cover: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UD1Sg8LmcB3ISUtyl2hry_kQL7kE-P77/view?usp=sharing

Variant cover: https://drive.google.com/file/d/10TxSmo9UsNwTe5bm_YOsc-Xu8yH8-shd/view?usp=sharing

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: 

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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).

Example:
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.

SUPERCONDENSATOR: Classic Traveller, the way Marc Miller plays it: old school 2d6, done right

Classic Traveller, Book 1 of 3.

Classic Traveller, all books combined, German edition.
No special reason why I’m including it here, other than:
It’s simply perfect. My copy still looks so, so good

An online buddy of mine recently shot me a private message on Discord and asked me about Classic Traveller. I love that game, even though I haven’t played it much, or way less than I want to. Marc Miller, the author of the game, is still playing Classic Traveller – which should tell us a thing or two about what version really deserves our attention.

So how does Marc Miller play Classic Traveller?

In a nutshell:

  • The rules in the books are tools for the referee. If you need them, use them. If not, then there’s absolutely no reason to use them.
  • Stats (strength, dexterity, endurance, intelligence, education, and social standing) are the only numbers on the character sheet.
  • Roll 2d6 to determine each stat – no fixed Dice Modifiers (DM), the referee decides when and if to add or subtract from the player’s throws.
  • Pick or roll a service – write down skills, but no Dice Modifiers. Again, the referee decides on how skills affect the rolls.
  • Saving throws are 2d6 + Dice Modifiers, determined by the referee, against a Target of (usually) 8+ (also subject to change according to the referee’s opinion)
  • Weapon Damage: 1d6 for mostly harmless arms, 2d6 for melee weapons, 3d6 for average firearms or really dangerous melee weapons, 4d6 for extremely dangerous weapons like las rifles or shotguns.
  • Damage for the first hit (“first blood” in the rules): comes right off Strength first, then Dexterity, then Endurance. For every hit after the first one, the player can distribute damage between Str, Dex and End as they see fit.
  • One stat at 0 points means injury, two stats at 0 means the character is mortally wounded (but can be saved), and three stats at 0 means instant death.

That’s the complete game system as used by Marc Miller. Very, very Arnesonian in style.

Can I tweak it just a bit to make it more Arnesonian-like? Of course:

The average damage is: 3.5, 7, 10.5 and 14 points.
The average stat is 7. That means, if an average character is hit with a melee weapon (average damage 7), that stat is reduced to zero points, and the character is injured. A second hit means the character is bleeding to death, and a third hit kills them outright. So, a average character can take 3 hits with a melee weapon before they die. They can take bit more if they’re attacked with small weapons, and they are mortally wounded after a hit with a huge weapon. Las rifles or shotguns have the potential to kill an average character with one hit. Firearms have the potential to severely injure with one hit.

The first thing I’d get rid of are stat numbers. Simply write down if you’re above or below average (7 points) in a stat: “strong” could mean you’re stronger than average, while “weak” could mean you are, well, below, average.

I’d keep the saving throw mechanic, it’s simple and beautiful.

I’d give characters 4 hits, +1 for each stat (Str, Dex, End) that’s above average, and -1 for each stat below average. Armor increases the number of hits.

In combat, characters lose hits according to the situation, the opponent’s roll and the weapon the opponent is using. So, a average knife stab in a crowded bar would probably result in pain and injury, but if I roll a 12 for the knife attack, most characters will go down.

So, in closing, these are my Braunstein Traveller rules:


CHARACTER CREATION

  • Roll 2d6 for Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Intelligence, Education and Social Standing. If a stat is 5 or lower, write it down as “below average”, or similar. If a stat is 9 or higher, write it down as “above average”, or similar. Don’t write a stat down if it’s average.
  • In Traveller Book 1, pick or roll your service and play the mini-game.
  • Write down the skills you earn in service, but not the numbers. 
  • Your character can get hit/injured a certain number of times; the exact number of hits is determined by the referee. In combat, if the winning result is really high (again, the referee has the final say in this), or your actions leading to this situation were stupid enough, it is entirely possible that your character is severely injured or even dies. 
  • Note for referees: a character has 4 hits: after the first hit, characters are stunned, after the second, lightly injured, after the third, severely injured, after the fourth, mortally wounded. Armor and above-average stats give the character a number of “free hits” – think damage sponge – before they start getting hurt.


BASIC ROLLS 


  • When the ref calls for it, roll 2d6: 
    • try to roll 8 or more
    • ref might increase or decrease target numbers as dictated by the situation


ONE-ON-ONE COMBAT 

  • You roll 2d6, I roll 2d6. Who rolled higher determines what happens. If we’re close, we negotiate. 
  • Winning with a high number (ref determines what that means) means a really good and/or severe hit.
  • Shields grant a character 1 free hit before they can get injured, light armor also 1 free hit, medium armor 2 free hits, heavy armor 3 hits.