Friday, January 3, 2014

Classic Traveller: Closing Thoughts

So, takeaways from Classic Traveller:
  • Weapon vs armor to-hit tables solve my gripes with MgT's armor as DR (namely that weapons that both pierce armor and don't instantly pulp anyone not wearing armor end up involving irritating math at runtime).  Turns out CT already had that one figured out.  I don't think the overhead would be terrible as long as folks copied the mods list for their weapon down beforehand (turns out character sheets are just caches); a close table lookup is faster than a division and a subtraction, as most armor-piercing schemes for Mongoose entail.
  • I like their psi rules, where psi is "spend points, magic happens", without a roll.  Turns out that back when, Trav skills were more like feats than skills, which gives me some extra freedom to maneuver should I ever desire to pick the Fantasy Traveller project back up.  Also gradual talent increases and Special talent are neat.
  • Edu improvement is as it should be.
  • Encumbrance seems slightly more reasonable.
  • Starship combat is a funny thing.  We've had trouble with Mongoose's being sort of boring before, if I recall correctly.  I don't know if CT's solves this problem, but it does add maneuver (which Mongoose handles very abstractly) and reprogramming (which Mongoose does not handle at all).  On the downside, more complexity and needs a gridless wargaming table and vector tracking and whatnot.
  • Morale, surprise, reaction rolls, hirelings, and other OSR-type mechanics are good fun and I should use them in Mongoose.  Glad to know the elder travellers shared this wisdom.
  • The limited selection of careers has sparked some discussion among my crew, and I think the fact that the initial system basically only supported military+merchant+thief might help explain why noncombat characters in both T20 and Mongoose are less than amazingly compelling to play.  Basically, the system just wasn't designed with them in mind; they're late-stage grafts, afterthoughts.  The conclusion we drew for future Mongoose games was "make sure PCs each have at least one term from Agent, Army, Marine, Merchant, Navy, Scout, or Rogue - you can have civilian terms if you want, but get some prior adventuring experience."  In our case, the explanation may be "we're recruiting crew for a privateer vessel, and if you're not a veteran or a criminal, you're probably not hired."
    • Though the addition of hirelings has led to the suggestion of having an "away team" hireling from an adventuresome career, coupled with a "command crew" PC who stays on the ship or at base.  This was not really feasible previously. 
In short - there are some good ideas here that I would like to steal and atavize back onto MgT.


  1. You have actually made me want to go and play CT again. The main problem with that is that teh CT book I have (reprint) is quite poor in its presentation of the game - small font, relatively dry language, and almost no art. A bit difficult to get new players into that, and also vector combat might be too much for the non-math-oriented players.

    I sometimes hope that there will be a retro-clone for CT, not that the rules are unavailable (they are - TONS of books on CD in PDf for DIRT CHEAP), but someone should do a cleared out, neatly presented, well-written version of the rules with good art, a bit like some of the OSR clones did to OD&D.

  2. You and me both! I wonder if MgT's OGL could be used? I think we run in to problems with the actual professions, since CT professions aren't under OGL, if I remember correctly.

    I'd love to see a Swords&Wizardry-ish CT "re-statement", but I'm not talented enough to produce one myself.

    1. I can definitely write something from the MGT OGL if there would be a market and if I get help with playtesting, layout and, especially, art.

      Careers can be easily renamed and remade. This isn't a problem. Though no one can really copyright terms such as "marines", "merchants" or "army", even in a sci-fi context, and scouts are in the OGL.

    2. Huh! Neat idea. I'd be down to help proofread it. How much playtesting does a close clone need?

  3. I've been playing a solitaire MGT campaign, but one that is heavily supported by the enormous pile of CT books on my gaming table. I don't know how I'd manage without the NPC reaction table or morale rules. Overall, I think MGT is eminently playable, but I wish they hadn't omitted so much useful stuff.

  4. It's the problem of depth vs. initial presentation. If you want people to adopt your game, it's tempting to cut anything that might be too confusing, or slow down the game too much for new players. But if you do this, you limit the depth of the game once players have picked it up. The solution is expansion books (as MgT has been doing), but there are definitely some things they've been... avoiding? Anyway, that's my read on it.

    1. What do you think they've been avoiding Tim? For my part, I feel like Mongoose has been releasing supplements primarily for cash inflow than for proper rules expansion; consider, for instance, the character generation expansions in CT Mercenary vs Mongoose Mercenary. Mongoose expands the random events tables for army and marines, then adds a bunch of mediocre specialist mercenary careers that are basically just slight variants on existing careers. CTMerc, on the other hand, goes into great detail with the army and marine careers, providing military operating specialties, one-year assignments within each four-year tour, conditional modifiers to the lots of tables such that (for example) low-ranking enlisted are likely to roll Brawling while high-ranking officers are likely to roll Admin on the skills tables, and such gems as "marines who earn Melee must save vs marine tradition (with appropriate modifiers) to take any weapon other than Cutlass, unless the skill was earned as Special Operations Training, in which case it may be with any weapon." CT adds depth and complexity to existing careers, while Mongoose adds breadth of marginal utility.

    2. When you describe what Classic Trav did with the Merc expansion book, it really highlights how little depth seems to be valued in Mongoose. Maybe "avoiding" isn't the right word? That sort of implies there's a reason they don't want to go into that stuff other than "we have cheaper, more moneyable books we could release".

      I still think the initial omissions are an attempt to make the game more accessible. Their choices for inclusion in splat books are a mystery to me. Some of them sound kind of cool though.