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Classic Traveller: Too Complicated?

Galadrin

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I tend to like older editions of games... whenever I start playing a new game, I always end up just migrating back to the original editions. Now, I am trying to love Classic Traveller, but it just seems way too complicated! In Mongoose Traveller, for example, armour just soaks damage and modifiers are easy to figure out on the fly (a base 8+ roll, plus skill, modified up or down basically as the referee sees fit). In Classic Traveller, the target roll (and if a throw can even be made at all) is dependent on skill, but this may or may not involve a dice modifier relative to the skill (for example, a skill level of 4 may allow a throw of 8+, but a skill level of 3 does not and a skill level of 5 may or may not add a bonus to the throw, depending on the specific skill usage!). I think I might be able to handle that by simply memorizing the skill section of the rulebook, but then I looked at the weapon matrix... am I really expected to halt combat and look up the exact modifier for using a broadsword against ablative armour? There are over 200 modifiers for armour alone listed on page 42 of Book 1! That's not even counting all the weapon range modifiers (for five different range bands), the modifiers for sights or stocks, the modifiers for both required and high ability scores and the situational modifiers on top of that. In Original D&D, I can ask the player to roll a die and just compare it to THAC0 (yes, I use THAC0 instead of the matrix) and I'm done... no modifiers necessary! In OD&D, everything just does 1 die of damage! If Traveller was inspired by OD&D on some basic level, why is it so much more complicated?

So, do I have it wrong? Is there a way to dispense with all these modifiers and just get to the game itself? Also, is there a simpler system for range? I would rather use either miniatures (if it makes sense for the particular battle) or theatre of the mind, and I really don't want to be charting combatants on a range graph and counting down the turns for them to move into a new range band (which would get insanely complicated the moment one or two combatants decide to do something other than move straight at each other).

I haven't even looked at the space combat rules. Frankly, I am afraid to... calling anyone... please help!
 
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committed hero

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A bunch of sociologist wargamers were creating a lot of previously unaddressed things out of whole cloth - including the interaction of both primitive and futuristic weapons with all sorts of armor. Given many rules-light games of today, it is too complicated :)
 

GM Joe

GMing Since 1982
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Yup, it’s a 70s RPG, complete with table lookups to prove it! :)

But Classic Traveller was very modular. They developed variant rules that you could buy for most subsystems, including personal combat. Check out Striker, for example. If you can get past the elaborate unit generation system and the war game stuff, you’ll find the rules for armor deducting from damage instead of making you harder to hit.

If CT isn’t to your liking, though, I don’t blame you. It’s my favorite game of all time, but that’s mostly down to when I started gaming. If I were in your shoes, I’d just go with Mongoose. It’s basically a modernized CT, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
 

Galadrin

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A bunch of sociologist wargamers were creating a lot of previously unaddressed things out of whole cloth - including the interaction of both primitive and futuristic weapons with all sorts of armor. Given many rules-light games of today, it is too complicated :)
It looks to me like they weren't play testing it or something! OD&D was play tested thoroughly and although the writing and organization of the books is poor, the game is solid and simple. I would also say the same of other early games like Tunnels & Trolls. I don't doubt that some people today play Classic Traveller "straight" and probably know these charts and tables like the back of their hand, but for the rest of us that don't have a photographic memory, 40 years of experience with the rules, or incredibly patient players who are willing to go on a smoke break while I figure out a single roll... what should we do?

I want to like CT. I have Mongoose and like it fine, but I would like to give the original a spin. I could house-rule the heck out of it and get rid of all the modifiers (and maybe I will do that as a last resort), but I'm hoping to play something that cleaves a little closer to the game as it is written.
 
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Rupert

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You look up the range and armour type tables. The stat bonus/penalty can be noted along with the weapon skill on the character sheet. As for skills, all those modifiers are examples, and most of the time can simply be replaced with '+level of skill', target number set by the referee as they see fit.

Also, you're rather understating how simple MongTrav combat is. You left out having to allow for having laser sights, for aiming, and for target movement. Oh, and if the target is more than 100m away, don't forget to check to see if the weapon has the 'scope trait'. Also, is the weapon Bulky or Very Bulky? That's another set of penalties. And is the target 'diving for cover' or dodging (and don't forget to track if the shooter did something like that before this turn, because it's a -1 per reaction taken to his hit roll)? Hmm. Apparently you can't aim or use a scope with automatic fire. Fascinating. No wonder Rambo always uses that machinegun from the hip.

And once we have a hit, we see that armour doesn't 'just soak damage', because of the weapon has the 'AP' trait some or all of the armour's effect may be negated. Oh, and a highly effective attack might do damage regardless of the armour. And then there are the armours that have special rules, like different protection vs. some attacks - now we're looking things up on a table! And look! Some armour has a required skill level, and if you don't have it you take a penalty per level missing. That's rather like those skills in CT that you don't like.

You didn't mention that all skill use also has an adjustment for stats - and that the stat varies depending on task.

So, no Classic Traveller is not some insanely complex beast compared to MongTrav. That said, if you want a very clean and consistent task system, MegaTraveller is the place to look (or the task system for CT that MegaTraveller's is based on, which is in the old JTAS magazines). Now, I'm exaggerating the effect of many of those modifiers in MongTrav, because many of them would be pre-calculated (Bulky, for example) and noted on the sheets, but you did this for CT so it seems fair.

BTW, by using THAC0 with OD&D, you are comparing a house-ruled games with CT's RAW.

It looks to me like they weren't play testing it or something!
CT was play-tested. Why would you think it wasn't? Table lookups were normal back then, you've just chosen to remove them from your version of OD&D.
 
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Anfelas

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My take on the dice throw system in CT.
The dice throw system for CT is pretty simple really, once you understand what the examples given for each skill reduce down to. In The Traveller Adventure a lot more guidance was given as to using the dice to resolve stuff but it all boils down to this, skills are more than just 'skills' - they are a measure of training, experience, and yes, skill. They should be broad and applicable in many situations, not just the situation the skill name suggests.

Nor do I think you should be using skills as 'tasks' - players should role play and the referee and players only turn to the dice to resolve a critical situation.
In a critical situation the player or referee could find an unexpected reason why a particular skill could affect the outcome.

The referee should decide on the target number - but should be armed with the % chance of success table, i.e. the referee should be aware of the odds.

The DMs should be a result of negotiation and the player's roleplaying.

This quote from CK sums it up:
2D6 +/- DM ≥ Throw Value equals success
To summarise the dice throw system.

In uncertain critical situations the referee may call for the player to make a saving throw in order to overcome the adversity.
The throw is made on 2d, with DMs based on skill, characteristics, prior experience, environmental circumstances, and any specialist tools needed for the throw.
It is for the referee to decide on the target number for the throw to be equalled or exceeded, and the exact value of any DM (whether it is beneficial or a hindrance) from the above factors. The referee may alternatively decide that a successful outcome occurs if the throw is less than or equal to the target.

Now what they should have put ahead of the skill descriptions in Ct LBB:1:
"In the following skill descriptions examples of saving throws and DMs are provided to guide a referee, but an experienced referee should be free to determine the saving throw target number and DM values to suit the particular circumstance."
<Insert skill descriptions and sample throws from LBB:1.>

Remember what followed the skills in CT?

Skills and the Referee: It is impossible for any table of information to cover all aspects of every potential situation, and the above listing is by no means complete in its coverage of the effects of skills. This is where the referee becomes an important part of the game process. The above listing of skills and game effects must necessarily be taken as a guide, and followed, altered, or ignored as the actual situation dictates.
As to combat - I scrapped the LBB:1 combat matrices years ago, and today just go with armour as weapon damage dice reduction.
 
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Galadrin

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... snip...
Fair enough, MongTrav combat isn't exactly "rules light," but CT definitely seems worse. And I mentioned all that not just to complain, but to seek solutions... I want to play this! Using THAC0 with OD&D is a great example of a house rule that I feel really maintains the original feel of the game, since it changes absolutely nothing mathematically. It just lets you do the combat matrix in your head, and there's nothing wrong with that. Is there some similar mod for Classic Traveller?

I'd be interested if you knew the JTAS issue number so I can see the task system for myself. I could potentially be interested in MegaTraveller, although I've heard that it is largely disfavoured by the community (might be a different edition I am thinking of though... I only remember seeing a comment to that effect in passing). In any case, I am unsure that it would satisfy my itch to play original editions, but I might be open to giving it a try if someone made a good sales pitch.

As to combat - I scrapped the LBB:1 combat matrices years ago, and today just go with armour as weapon damage dice reduction.
Thanks for your post, it really helped me hyperventilate a little less about the skill system (although it wasn't my biggest sticking point). "Rulings > rules" does seem to be the attitude of the black books, and I had actually missed that line at the bottom of the skills section. I agree that your "addition" would seemingly be in line with the attitude in the rest of the book. I really like your description of skills being modifiers, being measures of training, being areas of knowledge etc. Now that I read that, I suspect the task system Rupert mentioned might sanitize and bowdlerize the CT skill mechanics too much... if the referee is free to make things up as he feels is logical and fair, then I am more than happy with the idea of saying "You have navigation 5? Yeah, you think you remember a lost star system on an ancient map. No need to roll." and treating skills flexibly as tools to interpret in-game situations (and not just to calculate dice modifiers). Is there a similar approach that might be used for combat, without losing too much of the feel of CT combat?

I am curious to see what you replaced the combat matrices with. I am not necessarily in love with the MongTrav approach to armour as damage reduction... I would be quite happy with armour as a saving throw, armour as a fixed target number (with maybe a single modifier versus the one weapon type that the armour is best against). In a pinch, armour as damage reduction is fine as well, but it is not the only option in my mind. Armour as a modifier against every single weapon in the game is just too much, though, unless there is some super clever way to simplify it tremendously, like THAC0 in D&D (which I have always found really simple, although some have trouble with that too!).
 
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A2A

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If you haven't already, I recommend this series of blog posts which are all about analysing and gaming with Classic Traveller Books 1-3.
 

Allandaros

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But Classic Traveller was very modular. They developed variant rules that you could buy for most subsystems, including personal combat. Check out Striker, for example. If you can get past the elaborate unit generation system and the war game stuff, you’ll find the rules for armor deducting from damage instead of making you harder to hit.
Here's an adaptation of the Striker rules into classic Traveller, for instance.
 

Strange Visitor

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Its funny how different things bother people; I'm not at all concerned about the complexity of any version of Traveler (except perhaps T5), but the hard-to-remove dependence on quasi-random character generation bothers me quite a bit.
 
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