Monday, January 07, 2019

Gaining New Level-0 Skills in Classic Traveller

As my campaigns go forward, folks are interested in learning skills at level-0. I play Books 1-3 Classic Traveller, so the Instruction skill is not in play, and the skill list is limited. I don't want it to be sort of trivial to gain level-0 in all the skills, not even all the skills that another PC has. I also allow self improvement to improve from level-0, so easy level-0 skill also means easy bootstrap to level-1 (make your dedication roll and you have skill-1 immediately that becomes permanent if you keep up the self improvement for 4 years).

I think operational skills like Vehicle and Vacc Suit should be sort of easy, though Vacc Suit being too easy means everyone on the ship will get level-0, which may of course be viewed as a good thing overall.

Some of the skills should require some kind of formal training, and maybe making it take a 4 weeks or even 8 weeks of formal training to get level-0 in some skills would deter folks. Others definitely need to be practiced on world.

What have others done in this area?


  • Ported skill chips from cp2020 rpg into the game. Never really thought about it. I'm a bad gm lol!
    A recent comment for another game inspired me: train for a year. If its simple or you can focus/do intensely - it takes a season. Not perfect but dead simple and a great starting point I thought so I’ve noted it as a more general principle for gaming in general. Depends on game mechanics. But for traveller I think it works.
    Among other things, if they fail their dedication roll for training, I'd say that a skill can't drop back below level 0. So, no matter what, they at least get that level out of it.
    I treat Level-0 as basic familiarisation: a new soldier quickly knows enough not to blow a finger off, but takes another couple of months to shoot well (level 1).

    From a GM perspective, level 0 keeps your players from ditching the game in disgust. They have to invest time and cash if they want better.
    +Michael Barry There is a point to that, but how easy should it be for people to have basic familiarization in everything? Level-0 is also the single most important skill rank. It takes one from "can never check this skill" or "DM -5 for unskilled" to can roll for 8+ (usually) on any task related to the skill.

    It works well if the view is that PCs should be able to be jacks of all trades (but then diminishes the value of the Jack of all Trades skill).

    +Chris Vermeers But outside of the sabbatical, you need level-0 to even do self improvement. The way I play sabbatical is that instead of a dedication roll, you are making an admittance roll. If you fail, you can try for a different skill (or give up and wait a year).
    +Alistair Langsford Yea, that might work. And maybe that should fill one of your two self improvement slots for most skills.

    I still feel like some skills should require a sabbatical, but I'm not sure (I feel like Engineering is one of those).

    I'm willing to make Vehicle skills easier (in some ways, I could even see "every PC has level-0 in all vehicles).

    I've just given out Diving-0 after a 3 day course. I'm really torn about what to do with diving... With the number of water worlds in my campaign, in feels like something that needs to be a skill, yet none of the Book 1 or Supplement 4 careers give it. The rules in The Undersea Environment for acquiring Diving skill don't feel right to me. I've also given Diving-0 to a Scout who wrote it into their character background.

    Vacc Suit is a really tricky one. It sort of sucks to not have level-0 for a ship based campaign based on the skill description, on the other hand, making it easy for everyone to get Vacc Suit-0 feels like it diminishes the value of those who get Vacc Suit-1 or better (though they can then wear combat armor or battle dress).

    Thinking about things, my real struggle is how you actually keep away from "skills define what your character is capable of trying" and keeping with the philosophy where skills define the things a character is good at under stress situations.

    Maybe the key there is to be careful about how you read skill descriptions. Someone without Vacc Suit isn't screwed if they need to wear one. But they'd better be careful if a fire fight breaks out. Or they're totally alone. Maybe the answer is that the character who DOES have Vacc Suit skill can talk a character through a tough spot or physically help them. Role play it out. Don't just rely on skill rolls to resolve the situation.

    Now with that philosophy, maybe we can go back to it takes a year of practice (using one of your self improvement slots) to acquire a skill-0. No dedication roll necessary.

    And I can still hand out some level-0 based on character background. And I can still hand out level-0 after some specific training (like the 3 day diving course). I get some control over how easy it is to pick up a level-0 skill.
    +Frank Filz And after a bit you find people have a lot of skills if you go to far... 8-)

    I agree a sabbatical sounds right for certain skills. And for some, maybe only at higher levels when you’re going that next step in a field. Perhaps you might keep a notebook for skills based on these categories, just as a loose framework: 3 day course, season, year, sabbatical. Maybe allow ‘school of life’ vs ‘tech school’ or something to indicate the how of learning. Not all skills are easily learned from books or podcasts etc.

    An idea borrowed from Over the Edge, and often expressed independently by others on other forums - use the Traveller character generation to spur a bit more of a background write up. Then, when something comes up, look at that to determine what type of “throw” is needed. Or if someone can have a go at something at all. If you say that a skill-n really identifies something you’re good at, then consider that to include skill-0 as meaning something. Perhaps an example to show what I mean.

    Vacc Suit. To put one on properly in a normally stressful situation: 8+, say.

    1. If you’re in a space going profession where this sort of thing could happen, you will have had training. So you don’t have to have even skill-0.
    2. Maybe allow stat bonuses, depending on circumstances.
    3. A zero level means you need it for more than passing the weekly or monthly drill, or the 3 monthly eva.

    BUT: its a time critical emergency. There is a breach. You don’t have minutes. Its not prepping for a normal EVA in a hazardous environment where you’ve got a chance to review things. Its get it on NOW. Skill-0 buys you the 8+ along with all the other people who have skill-1+. You’ve done this a bit more than just routine training and safety drills and the occasional EVA. So if you don’t even have a zero level, then apply the -3 or whatever “non-proficiency” DM.

    So having a skill is a measure of what you’re good at, regularly have to use, and where a certain amount of proficiency really has been attained: its a secondary or tertiary requisite of your job. And you use it regularly. But for simple things its not worth the allocation of skill 0. And its those ‘emergency’ type situations where that non-proficiency penalty is then worth applying, and not anywhere else - unless there is a time pressure.

    Hope that has made some kind of sense.

    +Frank Filz That is a very good point. I think that I'd have to rework parts of the improvement system if I am not using the MT one in the future.
    I just started using a modified version of the regular CT skill improvement rules. I halved the time to try for permanent acquisition to 2 years. They can study 2 skills at a time. After 6 months of study of a new skill they can get it at 0. After 2 years they can roll to keep it at level 1. For weapons they immediately get a +1 if they are working on that weapons skill - same rules to make it permanent. I decided to make level 5 the maximum skill level, and it is harder to improve the skills permanently as they get higher. Base roll is 8+, but they get -1 for level 2 through -4 for level 5. So to improve from level 4 to 5 they have to roll a 12.

    Since we don't play every week, I felt like this would allow some character improvement without totally blowing up the system. Mistake? We'll see. hahaha.

    No comments: