Let's Read “Traveller: Core Rulebook - Character Creation”

A (Deathless) Mini-Game to Create Your Character

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A part of my Let’s Read “Traveller: Core Rulebook” series. Go grab your copy of Traveller: Core Rulebook and join in.

Traveller is notorious for its character creation. In earlier editions, your character might die during character creation.

Creation Summary

In this version of Traveller, character creation is its own mini-game. You can pick your intended career paths, but the game will push and pull you in unexpected directions.

When I look over this chapter, I really want to sit around the game table and make characters together. To hear how life events keep shaping each character.

Since purchasing Traveller: Core Rulebook, I’ve rolled up 20 or so characters. Each time, I walk away from the character with a strong sense of who they are, and their place in the galaxy. The game provides ample grist for the narrative mill.

Characteristics

You roll for 6 characteristics:

  • Strength (STR)
  • Dexterity (DEX)
  • Endurance (END)
  • Intellect (INT)
  • Education (EDU)
  • Social Standing (SOC)

The fist three easily map to Dungeons and Dragon’s physical characteristics. However, Intellect, Education, and Social Standing don’t immediately map to Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.

Intellect is raw intelligence and quickness of mind. Education is your learning and experience. And Social Standing is your place in society.

That’s interesting. With Social Standings, I’m certainly thinking about Dune and even feudalism. But looking closer to home, I know someone with a higher social standing has access to different elements of society. I think of Burning Wheel’s “Circles” which reflect access to elements of society that are within your background. That does not appear to be the case, given a linear characteristic.

I definitely like the separation of Education and Intellect.

These mental characteristics telegraph the DNA of the game. There may be quick-thinking academic dropouts or deliberate and plodding scholars. With a Social Standing, we see that there must be advantages to those better connected in society. I wonder if this is something that we a character can develop?

To generate your characteristics, you roll 2D6 for each ability. When I’ve made my characters, I’ve rolled the characteristics in order. I’ve adopted a roll two sets of characteristics and pick one. Personally, I love the constraints of working with a character.

Skills

Here Travellers pick a few skills that map to their adolescence and teenage years. These include basic education and experiences, but no “fighting” skills.

Careers

I’m not going to get overly specific on character creation. There’s a lot of nuance. I think I might do an example.

This is where you “play” the character creation mini-game. If you’re curious about the character creation process, I recommend watching Seth Skorkowsky’s Traveller Review Part 2: Character Creation video. He walks through the steps of character creation.

Fundamental to Traveller character creation is that you check different gates. You roll to see if you:

  • Enter a career
  • Complete your term without mishap (e.g. survive)
  • Get a promotion

If you fail to enter a career? You can either enter the draft or become a drifter for that term.

If you fail to complete your term and suffer a mishap? You are ejected from your career and need to pick a new one or call that your last career before you start your adventuring.

If you fail to get a promotion, you may lose heart and leave your career or you just keep slogging away.

For your first career, you get basic training (rank 0) in six skills relevant to that career. And for each term and time you get a promotion, you roll to pick up another skill level (rank 1 or higher) or characteristic increase. During character creation, you can’t go above rank 4 for a given skill.

Pre-Career Education

One option that’s not quite a career is education. Your Traveller can attempt to go to University or a Military Academy. These education opportunities are a bit different and may appeal to some characters.

Unlike most careers, if you try for a term in education but fail to enter that career you may fall-back and attempt to enter another career.

Careers

There are 12 base careers. Each career has different entry requirements, survival checks, advancement checks, life events, and mishaps. It is within these tables that the campaign “world” takes shape. In the Pirates of Drinax campaign, they provide careers for Aslan characters. In the Traveller Companion there’s the Believer and Truther career. Each of these, with their skills, training, benefits, events, and mishaps helps further give shape to the campaign world.

One of my favorite mishaps is in the Scout career:

Your ship is damaged, and you have to hitch-hike your way back across the stars to the nearest scout base. Gain 1D Contacts and D3 Enemies.

With this mishap, you’re out of the Scouts, but your character has a story with villains and help along the way.

The base careers are and their three assignments:

  • Agent: Law Enforcement, Intelligence, Corporate
  • Army: Support, Infantry, Cavalry
  • Citizen: Corporate, Worker, Colonist
  • Drifter: Barbarian, Wanderer, Scavenger
  • Entertainer: Artist, Journalist, Performer
  • Marine: Support, Star Marine, Ground Assault
  • Merchant: Merchant Marine, Free Trade, Broker
  • Navy: Line/Crew, Engineer/Gunner, Pilot
  • Noble: Administrator, Diplomat, Dilettante
  • Rogue: Thief, Enforcer, Pirate
  • Scholar: Field Researcher, Scientist, Physician
  • Scout: Courier, Surveyor, Explorer

There’s also the Prisoner “career”. You might enter the Prisoner career for attempting to take anti-aging drugs or decisions (or rolls) you make during life events.

And for those peeking ahead, there’s a Psion career. This is optional but something you can stumble into as part of a life event.

Benefits

As your Traveller leaves a career they are often eligible for benefits. Each career has different charts to roll on, either money or non-monetary benefits.

The non-monetary benefits include weapons, characteristic increases, shares in a spaceship, equipment, combat implants, use of a ship, and other nice to haves.

If you served at least 5 terms in most careers, you may receive a pension; Money you can collect each campaign year at any class A or B starport. We’ll get to Starport codes in a later chapter. Class A or B starports are the more developed/advanced Starports.

Aging and Injuries

Throughout your character’s career, they might suffer injuries due to mishaps. Injuries typically mean a reduction in physical characteristics. During Traveller creation, you can get medical treatment for those injuries, and restore any reduce characteristics. This may set your Traveller up with initial medical debt.

Aging is a bit different.

You start Traveller creation with a young 18 year old character. Each career term takes 4 years. At the end of each term, you check for aging. If your Traveller is over 34 years old, you roll on the aging table. You subtract the number of 4 year terms served from the roll. If you get a 1 or higher, age does not catch up with you (yet). A zero or lower, and the effects of age start chipping away at your characteristics. And you can’t use medical care to avoid it.

If you choose, you can attempt to start anagathics (anti-aging treatment). It’s illegal, expensive, and may launch you down the Prisoner “career”.

During Traveller creation, once you start anagathics, your character Traveller no longer rolls for aging. Instead, they roll twice (taking the lowest result) to see if they survive this career term. And, when you’re done with Traveller creation, you have a drug debt of 1D6 × Cr 100,000 × Number of terms of anagathics use.

The Connections Rule

Once everyone’s finished wending through their careers, and ready to adventure, the players now connect each other’s Travellers through their events.

This clever mechanism reminds me of Diaspora’s character creation. Each Traveller may make and have up to two connections with other Travellers. Each connection relates to one of the Traveller’s life events. You briefly describe the relationship in the context of that event, and both Travellers gain 1 rank in a skill learned through that event.

Skill Packages

Once your group completes their individual character creation, your group selects a skill package from the following:

  • Traveller
  • Explorer
  • Mercenary
  • Diplomat
  • Trader
  • Investigator
  • Starship
  • Criminal

Each skill package helps round out your group’s skills for the type of play and campaign style you’re envisioning.

Once your group picks a skill package, each Traveller takes turns picking one skill from the list of eight skills. The skill you pick, you add to your sheet, and remove from the available options.

With the Connections Rule and Skill packages, each Traveller has a chance to fill in gaps to help better prepare them for their upcoming adventures.

Aliens

There’s a brief section talking about creating Alien Travellers. The Core Rulebook provides non-human sophonts: Aslan and Vargr.

Post Career Education

With Traveller creation wrapped up, this section explains how you can improve your skills. Spend 8 or more weeks training, then succeed on a training roll (usually Edu).

Conclusion

Reading about Traveller Creation might be useful, but let’s look to next time, when I walk through an example of character creation.