About Mike Looney

A long time role player who rants quite a lot. I'm an aging, white, right of center, geeky, male, dyslexic, veteran, bipolar, sociopath with Asperger syndrome and a touch of PTSD that mutters. Most of my meds are to keep me from being a real sociopath.

Mongoose Traveller Core Rulebook MGP 3800 Part 4 Encounters and Dangers

This chapter is rather dense, in that it has a lot of rules and tables and not a lot of fluff.  It starts with animal generation, which is fairly close to it’s Classic Traveller roots, however the “Triphibian” has been removed, there are not any attacks that are like a human weapon  and armor doesn’t go all the way up to Battle Dress.  All that being said you still get the Classic Traveller sort of animals.  A change is that Animals have STR, END, DEX and INT like a character, but have Instinct instead of EDU and Pack instead of SOC.  Damage is figured the same way for an animal as it is for a character, vs the animal having a generic hit points as they did in Classic Traveller.

After animals we have the now obligatory disease, poison, temperature, weather and falling rules.  These are pretty much what you would expect in a modern RPG, with no surprises or strange mechanics in use.

Injury and recovery.
A character that has taken damaged is either wounded or seriously wounded.  You are seriously wounded if have taken at least one point of damage to all 3 characteristics.  If one of the 3 is at full you are just wounded.  If you are seriously wounded you need first aid and/or surgery, because unless the GM is using random first blood, you are going to have a negative END DM and will get worse, not better, using natural healing.   First aid, if applied in the first 5 minutes after the wounding, heals twice the effect of the roll, as a standard medic check.  First aid on your self is a “Difficult (-2)” task.  If you a playing in a campaign where you need to be wearing Combat Armor or Battle Dress a lot, pay the extra 10,000 credits and get the medikit installed.  Having your own personal Medic 3 around will save your life, assuming you have at least one point of something left.  Getting one for your Vacc Suit is a good idea as well.

NPC.  The book says there are 5 types of NPC in Traveller, allies, contacts, enemies, rivals and patrons.  This isn’t quite right because there is also mooks and bystanders, plus the McGuffion or two, but in general major NPC are one of those 5.

Willing to go way out of their way to help a character, but don’t push it to often.
While an ally will give you a gun, a contact will tell you were to buy one.
They want to give the character a hard time, and maybe see them dead in the ditch.
They are much like rivals, but lean much more to towards the dead in the ditch sort of thing.
A Patron in Traveller wants to give you a job.  The Core Rulebook comes with 7 patrons, which are well done, with the Classic Traveller look and feel.  Make a note of this.  This is will come up again, with a rant attached to it.  After the 7 fully fleshed patrons there is a set of d66 tables for doing a quick and dirty patron/mission generation.

The chapter closes out with a set of generic encounter tables and sample mooks

Next up,  Equipment

Mongoose Traveller Core Rulebook MGP 3800 Part 3 Combat

Just want to say that I’m not going to be covering all the books in the series in this level of detail, but this being the core rules I feel it needs a more detailed overlook.

Like most modern RPG Mongoose Traveller has an “roll for a initiative” and subdivided rounds.

Initiative is a DEX check, in that it’s 2d6 + DEX DM. High scores goes first. Initiative rolls can be modified by leadership or tactics skills.

Each round for a character is 1 minor action and one significant action. Movement is a minor action and gives you 6 meters (4 squares). You can convert your significant action to two minor actions. You get as many free actions as you can talk the GM into, as per normal in modern RPG :-) A character may also “react” to other characters actions, allowing them to dodge or parry an attack. You may take as many reactions as you want, however each one reduces your initiative by 2 and gives you a minus one on all skill checks and attacks.

Attacks are significant actions. Melee attacks are based on STR or DEX plus your melee skill level, shooting attacks are based on DEX, plus either your gun combat or heavy weapons skill. Thrown weapons are based on DEX, plus your athletic (co-ordination) levels. Each weapon class has a modifier based on the range to the target. Human scale ranges go from “Personal” (under 1.5 meters) to “Distant” (Over 500 meters)

Unlike Classic Traveller, the type of armor you are wearing doesn’t effect your chance of being hit, it removes some of the damage done to you. Armor ranges from a leather jacket (“Jack”) at one point, to Battle Dress at 18 points. Mongoose Traveller doesn’t have the characteristics based modifiers for each weapon, however it does have either “recoil” or “heft”, which is a number that you must beat with your STR DM, or suffer a modifier to your initiative the next round equal to the recoil minus your STR DM. Damage done is based on the weapon plus the effect of the attack roll. A attack that has an effect of 6+ always inflicts at least 1 point of damage, regardless of armor worn. Damage is applied to END, then STR or DEX. A character with 2 characteristics at 0 is unconscious and is dead if all 3 are 0.

Automatic weapons have 3 options, single shot, burst or full auto. Burst fire adds the “Auto” rating to the damage done. In full auto you roll a number of dice equal to the auto rating and then group them any way you want. The resultant attacks can be applied to any set of targets within 6 meters of each other. You also only get skill level 1 with a full auto attack.

Vehicle combat is a bastard mix of the space combat system with human level damage. To put it mildly it’s not very well done in the basic rules Once the “Vehicle Handbook” (Supplement 5/6) is added in it becomes much better. There is another version of vehicle combat in “Hammers Slammers“, which really isn’t compatible with the Book 0 + Supplement 5/6 system. Use one or the other. My personal preference is the Supplement 5/6 system.

I’m not fond of damage being applied to your characteristics, but it’s an integral part of the Traveller system. I’m still working out how I’m going to replace it, if at all. The optional “knockout” and “random first blood” rules make it some what better, but I’m still not 100% happy with the mechanic

Next up, Encounters, Dangers, Healing and Patrons

Mongoose Traveller Core Rulebook MGP 3800 Part 2 Skills

Mongoose Traveller has taken the Classic Traveller 2d6+modifiers, beat a target score system and made it more consistent.  All skill roles are 2d6+modifiers, beat 8.  The amount you go over 8 on your total roll is called the “effect”.  The effect determines how well you did.  An effect over 6 is, in d20 terms, a critical success.  Because it’s a 2d6 it’s very sensitive to modifiers, so that a plus or minus 1 is much more important than it would be on a flat d12 for example.

If you are completely untrained in a skill you have a minus 3 on your roll.  That moves your “must roll” number to 11+, assuming no characteristic modifiers.   If you have level 0 in a skill, you get no modifier, which makes your “must roll” number 8+, a much easier roll.  (41% vs 8%)

Skill rolls are ranked from “Easy” to “Formidable”, which range from +6 to -6.  Most example skill rolls range from Routine (+2) to Difficult (-2).  Skill rolls are also ranked by how long it takes to make the check.  You can make a roll harder or easier  by taking less or more time to make the roll, with a DM or +/- per step up or down the scale.  You can also do an “Aid other” via task chains, which add a DM based on the  effect of each task in the chain to the next roll.  This doesn’t help as much as it should

MTU errata. Instead of it ranging from -3 to +2, the full effect of the roll is added to the next roll in the chain

Some skills have specialties. Taking a level in a skill with a specialty normally gives you level 0 with the other specialties  in that skills.

The skill list:

Dealing with paper pushers, but not with legal issues
Dealing with legal issues
A very broad skill, ranging from simple riding through Veterinary, with a side of farming
This is a more important skill than it’s name would reflect as one of it’s specialites (co-ordination) is used for throwing weapons in combat
This covers all creative arts, acting, dance, holography etc
Plotting jumps. Vital for ship based games. Jumps don’t happen until you pass an Astrogation check
Battle Dress
This is one of the few skill you simple have to have to use something and is not rolled vs much in game.
Vital for traders.
Yes, there is a skill for being a party animal
Aside for the obvious communications uses, it’s also used for electronic warfare rolls
Using, programming and hacking computers
Lie, cheat and steal
Fun fact, it’s harder to greet the Emperor than it is to negotiate a peace treaty
Ground based vehicles
Space ship repair.
Making things go bang with out hurting your self
Aircraft and Grav vehicles
Having this skill lets you add 1 to your cash mustering out rolls
Spaceship weapons
Gun Combat
Rifles, pistols, lasers, that sort of thing
Heavy Weapons
Any thing bigger than a small arm, to include the PGMG/FGMP things
Forensics etc.
Jack of all trades
A special skill. Each rank in it reduces your unskilled penalty by 1. Level 0 and more than 3 levels in the skill are useless. This skill can’t be learned in game play and cost 5x normal cost if using the point by system. It’s very powerful
Speaking, reading and writing a language other than your native language
Primary use is to increase initiative in combat
Fixing things that don’t require the Engineer skill
Ranges from battle field first aid to surgery and long term care
Smacking people or monsters upside the head with various things.
A more informal version of diplomacy
Flying spaceships. Aircraft is covered by flyer
Seeing things that are either hidden or out of place
Remote Operations
Controlling drones, robots and the like
This is divided into Physical, Life, Social and Space sciences, each of which has their own specializations
The water version of Drive
Reading data from electronic sensor devices
The care and feeding of High and Middle passengers
Yo, keeping it real
Keeping it real in the woods
Covers board games to major fleet battles
Knowing how to produce a good or service.This is the exception to the rule that if you have level 1 in a specialty you have level 0 in the other specialties.
Vacc Suit
Knowing how to wear a vacc suit
Knowing how to move in micro gravity and using a grav belt

Traveller Core Rulebook (MGP 3800) Part one Character Generation.

The Traveller Main Book, (TMB) to use the term that the Traveller OGL SRD uses.
First pass and first impression: Cleaned up and brought to 21st Century role playing game rules version of Classic Traveller books 1-3, more or less.

Getting out the fine tooth comb now!

Character Generation, at first glance seems to be be very close to the “Classic Traveller” mode, however even a character that is a total failure (which in this case means a 2 EDU and a failed survival roll in his/her first term is going to end up a playable character, at least as far as skills goes,  with seven level 0 skills, one career level 1 skill and at least one level 1 package skill (only 1 skill would assume a party size of 5-8 and being towards the end of the party list).   An overachieving and lucky 1 term character can end up with eleven level 0 skills, six skill levels in careers skills, one skill level from the connection rule, and 2 skills from the packages, assuming a party size of 4.

How did I come up with those numbers? Back ground skills, which is 3 + your EDU DM (1-5) are level 0 skills. You get all 6 of the service skills table as level 0 skills on joining a career, if it’s your first career, one career skill level for joining, one career skill level for advancement, one skill level for connections based off an event, one skill from an event and at least 1, and as many as 4 skills from the packages (4 skills would be for a party size of 2 which would be rule rape. 2 is closer to normal).

Looking at the 12 non psionic careers in some detail:

  1. Agent (LEO or spy) Good to great for sneaking around and investigating things, with a good self protection options but not really much use out side of those areas. No rank 0 skills, but does have rank 1 skills. Good planetary character option, however has both TAS and ship share mustering out benefits
  2. Army. Great for breaking things and killing folk, as to be expected. There is a skill level in Gun combat (slug or energy rifle) for rank 0, which makes one of the basic training level 0 skill a wash (gun combat). There is surprising depth to the skill lists, with several important non combat options also available.

    MTU errata: “Gunnery” is replaced with “Heavy Weapons” for the Cavalry specialist.

  3. Citizen. Good to great support character, however has almost no combat skills. No rank 0 or rank 1 skills.

    MTU errata: Colonist gets Gun Combat at rank 0, not  rank 6!

  4. Drifter, the you can always take this career career. Skills all over the map, depending on the specialist taken. Scavenger is a good generalist space crewman character. Wanderer is a dark reflection of Agent and Barbarian is, well, a barbarian. Rank 1 skills, 14 based survival/advancement rolls, which makes it a hard career to either avoid mishaps or advance in, as apposed to the normal 12 base careers, which have trade off options.
  5. Entertainer. More useful as a patron than as a playable character, however has people and creative skills to burn. Rank 1 skills or ability adjustments. Journalist makes a good character in an investigate campaign, however lacks the self defense options of an Agent. If you think your group needs a “Face” this would be a good career to use to generate it.
  6. Marines Great for breaking things and killing folk IN SPACE! Spaced based version of Army and only career in TMB that has Battle Dress skill. Rank 0 and Rank 1 skills. Rank 5 officers are SOC 10 minimum.
  7. Merchants. Good to great for space based characters that don’t really expect to be shot at on the ground. Merchant Marine specialist best non-naval space based career, covering all the major space skills, other than Astrogation, which is available as an Advanced Education skill. A mix of Merchant Marines and Star Marines is a good general group of people for a “Traveller” or “Free Trader” based game. Free Trader specialist is almost as good, however lacks the Gunnery skill. Broker is a star port, not a starship based career in the main, but given that the “broker” skill is a service skill which means the other 2 specialists can get it, Broker is the weakest of the 3 specialists careers of the Merchants.

    MTU errata,the “Free Trader” benefit represents 10 years off the mortgage, not 5% off the cost of the ship.

  8. Navy. Great space based characters that are more about blowing up or capturing hostile space ships than trading on the ground. Flight Specialist best over all, however none of the specialist are weak. Rank 1 skills. Rank 6 officers are at least Barons.
  9. Nobility. Drifter for people with SOC over 9. Damn near impossible to enter unless you have a high SOC DM, but if you do have a high enough (10+) SOC, you get in for free. Assuming a SOC of 9 or greater, which is what you really need to be in this career, you can not fail a Dilettante survival roll, other than on a natural two.  The Administrator and Diplomat specialists give good “people skills”.  Dilettante makes a party animal.  No combat skills, other than Melee (blade). 10, 12, and 11 based survival/advancement rolls, which means this is an easy career to survive and advance in.
  10. Rogue.   Tends to generate a combat character, however there are a surprising number of non combat skills.  Rank 1 skills.  The “Pirate” specialist is a very good choice for a solo or small group space based character, as all the important space skills are included,  plus melee blade, which is fairly effective in “inside a ship” combat environment.  A mix of all 3 careers would make for a good “Burn Notice ” party group.   Only major skill missing is “Broker”, which really only matters if you are planing on doing a merchant legit buy and sell stuff based campaign.

      MTU errata, the Corsair benefit gives you the ship free and clear, as the idea of a pirate with a mortgage  on his/her ship is just to silly for words.  “Ship Share” is replaced with “Armor” and “Two Ship Share” is replaced with “Ship’s Boat”

  11. Scholar.  Generates fair to good support characters, for planetary based groups.  While a scholar has a good chance of getting a ship, they can’t run it by them self, having no “bridge” skills at all.  Rank 1 skills
  12. Scout.  Good generalist characters, missing only “paper pushers” type skills.  Only one that with out house rule changes that can get a ship that is more or less free and clear.  Rank 1 skills.  (note, unlike CT, MGT scouts have ranks, just no titles to go with those ranks, other than “Scout” for rank 1 and “Senior Scout” at rank 3.

    MTU errata, “Ship Share” replaced with “Air Raft”.

As a wrap up, what’s the best Career?  In my opinion it’s a toss up between “Merchant Marine”, “Pirate” and being a multi-specialist scout, however, given the “Skill package” system, a decent party can be made from any career mix.

Which brings us to the wild cards for skills.  By using the “Connection” rules, you, in addition to having a reason to be an adventuring party, gives any character, of any career, at least two “free” skill levels, in any skill, even those not on their career lists.  This can cover some of the “missing” skills for other wise strong careers.  The “skill packages” are designed to insure that a party will have at least level 1 skills in the skills they must have for a given campaign type.  This is very useful, assuming you know what type of campaign you will be running.  The skill package types are

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

Traveller and Explorer being the best all around packages, with Trader and Starship being the 2nd best, assuming a “normal”  Traveller type game.  The other 4 tend to be rather campaign specific.

As in Classic Traveller “aging” is used to prevent making 4+ term super skilled characters.  Injuries are also used to generate medical bills, however most careers have some sort of “insurance” which will cover most, if not all, of the cost of recovery.   Anagathics exists, however will generate medical bills, and double the number of survival rolls a character has to make.  Medical bills are a good reason to start generating cash, even if you don’t have a ship to pay off.

Alternate generation systems:

  • Solo generation .  As normal, however the GM will provide a list of NPC for the character to generate “connections” with, as opposed to the normal system of the connection being a player character, and you just get 1 skill at level 1 instead of using the skill package rules.
  • Iron man.  Classic Traveller all the way.  No mishaps, if you fail a survival roll, you died.  Start over man.
  • Select skills.  Instead of rolling for a skill, you just select one.

    MTU errata, your career skill is selected, your advancement skill is rolled.

  • Point buy.  Just say no.  This has the least “CT” feel of all the methods.   I can see this being used by game groups that have grown up with less random character generation systems.  That being said, the fact that it doesn’t use careers at all makes it really not a “Traveller” character generation system at all.  And because ranks have to be bought, and don’t give any skills or benefits, you will almost always end up with rank 0 characters, at least by min/max type players.

    I am using this as a basis for the XP system I’m using, but that’s post character generation.

All the alternate systems, other than point buy, can be used together.

Character generation ends with a short bit on doing aliens, with very short examples of all the 3rd Imperium /OTU  major races, plus uplifted Apes and Dolphins.   Of these, Aslan, Vargr, Zhodani and the uplifts have been superseded by their own books, which I will get to in due time.

Next up, Skills and Combat.

Mongoose Traveller, a slow read over

I’m going to start a “slow read” review of the Mongoose Traveller (MGT) line of books. The MGT line starts with the Traveller Core Rulebook and goes on for 40 plus books.  I’m going to be reviewing, or what ever it is I’m doing the “Books”, “Supplements”, “Compendiums” rule book series and the Third Imperium series of back ground books. I’m going to be (re)reading and reviewing them by their Mongoose series number.

The Meriwether Lewis (Class FS-II “Far Reach” Survey Scout)

1000 dTon hull, Streamlined

Armor 6pt Bounded Superdense 50
Stealth, Heat shielding, Radiation shielding, Self sealing hull.
Holographic Compact Bridge (+1) 15
Very Advanced Survey Electronics TL15 (+2) 3
Enhanced Signal Processing TL15 (+4) 1.5
Jump Drive P TL15 (Jump 4) 67.5
Maneuver Drive P (4 G) 32.25
Fission Power Plant P TL15 64.5
Jump Fuel 400
Fuel Processor (2 days) 10
Power plant fuel 28
10 Hardpoints

3 Triple Missiles
4 Triple Beam Lasers
3 Triple Particle Beam


1 IISS Surveyor [4 on board] 50
2 Mini Surveyors [2 on board each] 40
2 TL 14 G-Carriers 20
1 Survey and Exploration Vehicle [6 on ship] 15
2 TL 12 Stealth Grav Planes [4 on ship] 10
Ships Boat 20
Barracks and arms rooms 21
15 Statesroom

  1. Sr. Scout & XO
  2. Boatswain & Navigator
  3. 2 Engineers
  4. 2 Small Craft Engineers
  5. 2 Small Craft Engineers
  6. 2 SEV Crew
  7. 2 SEV Crew
  8. 2 SEV Crew
  9. 2 Stealth Crew
  10. 2 Stealth Crew
  11. 2 Lab Scouts
  12. 2 Lab Scouts
  13. 14. 15. Opened as Barrack space for 10 Vargr Gunners
Med bay 4
3 Labs 12
Library 4
200 Smart Missiles 10
100 Nuclear Missiles 5
Luxuries 7.25