Learning Traveller 4: High Guard

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m pushing beyond the confines of Classic Traveller Books 1 to 3 and delving into the Character Generation systems presented in Books 4 to 7. This post is about my first taste (well, since about 1986) of High Guard: Traveller Book 5.

High Guard presents rules that build upon the Navy Service type in Book 1 alongside offering revised rules for Starships, Starship Construction, and Starship Combat. I’m just sticking to the Naval Characters section for the time being.

One thing of significant note is that, throughout Books 4 and 5, we see increasing reference to the Official Traveller Universe, the Third Imperium. Because I love this setting and am seeking to learn to play within it, that’s not an issue… but it might be if you are seeking to play in a Universe with different basic assumptions.

Read from the beginning: Learning Traveller 1

Naval Characters

As with Mercenary before it, High Guard seeks to offer an alternative to generating the “general adventurer characters” from Characters and Combat: Traveller Book 1.

We are introduced first to the concept of three tiers of Navy: Imperial, Subsector, and Planetary. We are also told that we’ll need the Player to know the Technological Level of the Referee’s subsector for play. These factors will, we are told, influence which naval forces are available.

Given that I am tempted to play my forthcoming campaign in the Solomani Rim sector of the Third Imperium, I opt to start our new character out in the Dingir subsector. This is close to the Imperial-Solomani Confederation border and brings me one step closer to running my game in that region of the Imperium. Dingir is the Imperial Sector Capital. It’s Tech Level 15.

Book 5 is the first time I’ve seen the Pre-Enlistment Options enter the Classic Traveller game. In short, characters can opt to go to College or the Naval Academy instead of direct enlistment into the Navy. Interesting stuff.

Tex Falcon Emerges

My naval character will be Tex Falcon, native of Dingir. He’s an Imperial loyalist whose grown up in the shadow of the Solomani and wants to give something back. His initial characteristics give him the following UPP: 6678B7

Tex doesn’t have the Social Standing (9+) needed to get into the Naval Academy, but there is little to lose in rolling for admission to College. With a high Education, Tex gains DM+2 and needs a 9+, scoring 6 to fail. Oh, well. He’s still 18 and can see about enlistment in the Navy.

The three Naval options can be attempted in turn, so Tex applies to the Imperial Navy, needing a 9+ with DM+1 for his Intelligence 8 and a DM+2 for his Education 11. The roll is 8+3 = 11 for a success.

Term 1

Like the process in Book 4 (Mercenary), Book 5 divides the four-year Term of Service into 1-year assignments. On enlistment, Tex gets to placed into a Branch of the Navy. He’s entering as an Enlisted man, so he rolls 1D on the relevant Branch Selection Table. Interestingly, DMs are applicable but used “at the character’s option”. We discover that Tex is entering the Gunnery Branch.

The first assignment is to combined basic and advanced training. Tex gets two rolls on the Branch Skill Table for Gunnery. He gains Gunnery, and Gunnery. This makes me smile, by the way. When you get Gunnery, you choose from between Ship’s Lasers, Ship’s Energy Weapons, Ship’s Particle Accelerators, Ship’s Missiles, Meson Weapons, or Screens. Tex opts for Ship’s Lasers-1 and Ship’s Missiles-1. This concludes the first year of service.

As Tex is not an officer, his second year begins with determining his specific assignment. This clarification does away with the somewhat pointless General Assignment roll from Book 4 in which non-commissioned Army/Marine characters rolled to no effect.

Tex rolls for assignment and gets a Special Duty. Nice. He’s placed in a Specialist School. There’s an interesting rule here in that you can pick a DM from +0 to +6 before you roll 1D on the table to find out what school you are sent to. Tex doesn’t fancy the first three options (Admin, Medical, Liaison), so we add DM+3 and roll. He’s sent to the Vehicle Specialist School. From the Vehicle skill entry, Tex picks Ship’s Boat and becomes a shuttle pilot.

Year three rolls around and Tex is assigned to Training. It seems the Imperium is keen to develop well-rounded Spacehand Recruits. He automatically survives and cannot be decorated (given a medal), nor promoted. Tex gains a skill roll, chooses the Navy Life table, and gains +1 Endurance. Fair enough: extra physical training, clearly.

The final year of the Term sees Tex assigned to Special Duty in Engineering School. He trains and gains Mechanical skill. He could have got three other skills but got sucky die rolls.

As Term 1 comes to a close, we need to see if Tex can re-enlist. He’s certainly keen to do so. Tex rolls a 10 against the 6+ re-enlistment target, so he chooses to enter another term of service. He’s 22 years old and keen to get out there.

Term 2

Spacehand Recruit Tex Falcon enters Term 2 with an assignment to a Patrol.

In Book 5, there is a new innovation around Survival and Decorations: you can choose a negative DM on the Survival roll and gain and equal positive DM on the Decorations check.

As Tex is on Patrol, he pushes his luck with a DM-4 to survive… he rolls, needing a 4+, scores a 9-4 = 5. He survives, to gain a DM+4 on the Decorations roll. Rolling a 12+4 = 16 gets him a medal: an Medal for Conspicuous Gallantry (MCG) on a Patrol mission is highly improbable. It’s very cool, though.

The promotion roll is boosted by DM+2 for the MCG and is successful, making Tex a Spacehand Apprentice, and he’s lucky enough to learn a skill too. Not wanting to get too type-cast this early, Tex opts to roll on the Shipboard Life table and learns Gambling. This seems fitting, somehow.

For the second assignment this term, Tex faces a Battle. He plays it safe for survival and makes it through. He’s not decorated but he is promoted, becoming Able Spacehand. He also learns a skill and it seems appropriate to roll on the Gunnery Branch table. Tex learns the Communications skill.

Tex’s third year puts him into another Battle assignment. He plays it safe again, just scraping the survival roll. Getting the required score exactly means that Tex is injured, receiving a combat wound and a Purple Heart. He’s decorated with a citation for Meritorious Conduct Under Fire (MCUF), promoted to Petty Officer Third Class, and learns a skill.

Tex choose the Shipboard Life table and learns Blade Combat. Let’s give him Cutlass. I picture a desperate hand-to-hand battle in which Tex’s vessel was boarded and he had to fight for his life. I do enjoy how Traveller creates an emergent narrative through character generation.

In the last year of Term 2, Tex is placed back into Training. He’s promoted to Petty Officer Second Class and learns a skill. He chooses the Shore Duty table and learns Liaison. Perhaps this is some kind of counter-extremism training to lessen the hatred of Solomani. At the end of the term, Tex succeeds at re-enlistment.

Term 3

Tex is 26 as he enters Term 3. He is assigned to Training (again) and is beginning to feel cheesed-off because he isn’t promoted and he learns nothing new.

Year 2 rolls around with Tex assigned to Shore Duty. Wanting a little excitement, Tex takes some risks (DM-4) with the Survival roll. He scores enough to make it, earning him DM+4 on the Decoration roll. The roll is 8+4 = 12 to succeed! Tex gains another MCUF. This helps with the Promotion roll, giving him DM+1; this is enough when he rolls 5+1 = 6 to be promoted to Petty Officer First Class. As Shore Duty nets him no skill roll, Tex at least feels he’s making a name for himself.

Heading out for the third assignment, Tex is put into a Patrol mission. Finally, some action… sort of. He takes DM-2 for survival and makes it with spades. The decoration roll fails, however, and Tex has to settle for promotion to Chief Petty Officer. He doesn’t, however, learn any new skills.

The final year of the term sees Tex continuing his Patrol assignment. He takes a DM-2 to survive, makes it, and rolls 12+2 = 14 to be decorated again – an MCG medal! This brings his promotion chance up with DM+3, getting him pushed to Senior Chief Petty Officer. This year, Tex learns something new. He chooses the Petty Officer table and improves his Cutlass skill. As the term closes, Tex is feeling disillusioned with Navy life and wants to get out. He rolls enough to re-enlist but chooses to muster out instead.

Mustering Out

Tex Falcon has three Mustering Out rolls. He takes the first on the Cash Table, netting Cr5000. The second goes onto the Material Benefits Table and he gains +1 Intelligence. He drops the third roll onto the Material Benefits Table too and nets Traveller’s Aid Society Membership. That’s pretty cool.

Tex Falcon, Senior Chief Petty Officer 6689B7; Ship’s Lasers-1, Ship’s Missiles-1, Ship’s Boat-1, Mechanical-1, Gambling-1, Communications-1, Cutlass-2, Liaison-1; Cr5000, TAS; Age 30.

Again, I feel the procedures in High Guard: Traveller Book 5 add a lot of colour to the game. It’s nice to get a more rounded sense of your character’s past, albeit at the cost of a longer process.

As long as you remember that Character Generation is meant to be a game in itself, a playable session of roleplaying intended to start you off in the campaign and teach you the basics of the rules, then there is nothing to lose by choosing to add Book 5 to your collection.

Read Learning Traveller 5: Scouts

Game on!


  1. Che
    I’m really enjoying this series about Classic Traveller.
    If you ever play a live online game, I’d like to give it a go.


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