I’ve always found rolling up characters for roleplaying games to be an amusing way to spend an afternoon. Perhaps it’s the creativity of stitching together random results to form a coherent narrative, or perhaps it’s just as simple as the tactile pleasure of rolling dice and applying them to the game. I suspect there’s a little of both going on. One thing is for sure: ever since I first discovered Traveller, way back in the era of the classic 1977 Little Black Books, I’ve always enjoyed the character generation mini-game therein.
Today, I have decided to delve back in to the Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition rules, as revised for the 2022 Update book, and see what emerges from an hour or so of play. Armed with 2d6, a pencil, and the character sheet, I feel curious to discover a new face for a potentially new solo game.
Rolling 2d6 six times gets you a beginning character for Traveller. In theory, you could begin play right there and then with just those six characteristic rolls, and perhaps the addition of some background skills, aged 18 and all innocent of life in the Far Future. It’s the decisions we make as we play the Traveller character creation mini-game, plus the luck of the dice, that determines who we get to play.
First, the rolls: 8, 4, 8, 8, 2, 6.
I decide to assign the 2 to Social Standing, suggesting a very low-status Imperial citizen. As I was reading about Arcturus Station the other day, located in an asteroid belt on the Solomani Rim, I decide that perhaps he was born into a family of belters working the mines. The 4 can go to Education and reflect poor opporuntities for learning in the schools available to company worker’s children. I feel the 6 can go to his Intellect, meaning he’s a little below-average with the smarts, and the 8s all go to Strength, Dexterity, and Endurance – reflecting the hard, physical nature of belter life. His die modifiers are not encouraging, totalling -3 across all six characteristics but, hey, that’s the nature of the game.
For background skills, he’ll get three modified by his Education modifier (-1), which means I get to choose two skills from the list. I opt for Vacc Suit-0 and Athletics-0 to represent his early life among the asteriods.
I decide to name my Human character “Hosea”. He’s 18 years old.
Wanting to escape the life of a belter miner, Hosea decides to try and enrol in a Military Academy. Although he could go to University, the entrance exams are tough and he thinks he might stand a better chance going down the Army Academy route. To succeed, I need to roll 2d6 and add his Endurance modifier (+0), scoring 7 or more: the roll… 7. Success! Hosea passes the physical exam and begins military training in the Army. He gains all the service skills associated with the Army: Drive-0, Athletics-0 (he already has this), Gun Combat-0, Recon-0, Melee-0, Heavy Weapons-0.
While at the Army Academy, Hosea will have a “life event”, so we roll on the table… the roll is a 5. Hosea parties as much as he studies and gains Carouse-0. Nice! Come graduation, Hosea must face the intellectual challenge of the final exams. He’ll need an INT 7+… the roll is a 7. He scrapes the exams and graduates. Because Hosea aims to enlist in the Army straight after graduation, he gains three service skills at level 1. select Gun Combat (Slug)-1, figuring the government equips soldiers with rifles, alongside Athletics (Endurance)-1 and Recon-1. Hosea’s EDU gains +1, taking it to 5. He also automatically enters the Army and gains a commission roll before he leaves the Academy with a Die Modifier of +2. The test is SOC 8+ and the DM+2 offsets his characteristic modifier of -2. The roll… an 8. Hosea is commissioned as an Army Lieutenant and gains the Leadership-1 skill.
Hosea is 22 as he begins his first term in the Army, choosing the Infantry assignment. He chooses the Infantry skills table and rolls… a 5. This means he gains the Athletics skill and I decide to boost him to Athletics (Endurance)-2. To survive, Hosea will need a STR 6+ roll and scores… 5. Ouch! We roll on the Mishap Table, scoring 4, and discover that the commanding officer is engaged in some illegal activity. Hosea decides to cooperate with the Military Police and an official whitewash gets him discharged, although he does keep the Benefit Roll from the term of service. I decide to see what Benefit he receives, rolling… 5, for Armour. I decide Hosea gets to leave with his Army-issue Vacc Suit as a consolation prize.
Looking at his career options post-Army, Hosea decides to try to enlist in the Imperial Star Marines. He’ll need an END 6+ roll with a DM-1 due to this being his second career. He’s 26 years old, so maybe they will take him. The roll… 9 is a success! He opts for the Star Marine assignment and begins basic training, choosing Stealth-0 from the service skills. He attempts a commission roll to see if he can transfer with officer status – he needs a SOC8+ roll, and scores… 7-2 = 5 to fail. Hosea is an enlisted Marine but gains Melee (blade)-1 as additional training.
Survival is another END 6+ test, so he rolls… 7. The event table is next, scoring 6: Hosea is assigned to assault an enemy fortress and must test either Melee or Gun Combat 8+, so I choose Gun Combat because of the +1 it’ll give him. The roll… 8+1 = 9 to succeed! He takes Tactics (Military)-1 as a reward for the mission. Does he advance within the career? To find out we need to test EDU 6+… the roll is a 6-1 = 5 to fail.
Hosea is 30 years old and decides to try another term with the Marines. He selects the Star Marine skill table and rolls… 5, gaining Electronics (Sensors)-1. The survival roll scores 7 so he moves on to the Event Table, scoring 8: Hosea is on the front lines of a planetary assault and occupation. I opt for a Gun Combat (Energy)-1 skill upgrade as a reward for the assault, given that the Star Marines use plasma weapons for such engagements. Does he advance? Roll EDU 6+… scoring 12-2 = 10 to succeed but also noting that the natural 12 means he must serve another term because he has proven too valuable to his unit. Lance Corporals gain Gun Combat (any)-1 so I opt to give him the Archaic specialisation. He also gets to roll an extra skill, so I choose Personal Development and roll… 2 for DEX+1. This kicks his Dexterity to 9, gaining a +1 modifier.
Hosea is 34 years old and must serve another term. He chooses the Service Skills table and rolls… 6 for Stealth-1. He makes the survival roll with a 7 and then rolls for an Event, scoring 10. Hosea is assigned to a Black Ops mission and gains a DM+2 to his next advancement roll. Making that roll, he scores… 7+2-1 = 8 to be promoted to Corporal. His extra skill roll gets taken on the Personal Development table, rolling… 3 to gain END+1. That takes Endurance to 9 and nets him a +1 modifier. Being 34, Hosea must make an aging test by rolling 2D-4. He rolls… 9-4 = 5 for no effect.
Hosea is enjoying Marine life and opts to stay another term. He’s 38 now and bucking for promotion again. His skill choice goes to the Star Marine table and he rolls… 4 for Melee (Blade)-2. The survival roll scores… 7+1 = 8 to succeed. The event roll is… 10, placing him on another Black Ops mission with the DM+2 for promotion. The advancement roll is… 7+2-1 = 8 to succeed. Hosea is a Lance Sergeant but already has the Leadership-1 skill that comes with it. Still, he can choose another skill table and opts for the Personal Development table, rolling… 4 for Gambler-1. His aging roll is 2D-5 = 7-5 = 2 for no effect. Phew!
As he turns 42, Hosea is doing well in the Star Marines. He’s going to stay one more term and see if he can get to Sergeant rank. The Star Marine skill table gives him a… 5 for Electronics (Sensors)-2. Useful. His survival roll is… 11+1 = 12 to succeed. The event table serves up a… 7, Life Event. Rolling on the Life Event table, he scores… 10, Good Fortune! Perhaps he comes into some unexpected money and gains a DM+2 on one benefit roll. Interesting. Advancement is the key for him this term, however. Hosea needs a EDU 6+ and rolls… 4-1 = 3 to fail. Damn it! The aging roll is 2D-6… 8-6 =2 for no effect. Hosea feels like he is hitting a glass ceiling and decides to muster out of the Marines, aged 46.
Having served 5 terms he is entitled to five rolls plus two extra for being Rank 3: Lance Sergeant. Being a Gambler, he will gain DM+1 to any cash table rolls. He also has a one-time DM+2 to any benefit roll. Let’s make the first roll on the benefit table with the +2, rolls… 3+2 = 5, to gain either Armour or END+1. I’ll take the characteristic boost because Endurance 10 will help keep him alive. Next, let’s make a cash table roll with DM+1… 3+1 = 4 for Cr10000. I’ll roll again on the cash table to score… 4+1 = 5, for Cr20000. For my fourth roll, I choose the benefits table and roll… 4 for a Weapon. Hosea chooses a TL11 Laser Pistol. For number five, we go with another benefit roll… 5 for TAS Membership. The sixth roll is on the benefits tables too, rolling… 2 for INT+1, taking his Intellect to 7. Nice. I opt for a final roll on the cash table and score… 4+1 = 5 for Cr20000. With Cr50000 in his account, Hosea is ready to begin life as a Traveller.
I feel he needs a partner in the game so I will roll up a second character before we assign a Skills Package. When playing solo, I feel like two characters is a nice balance of flexibility and managability. I think my next Traveller will be a Vargr.