Thursday, December 1, 2011
For those not familiar with the game, Traveller characters have six randomly determined ability scores, one of which is Social Standing. Scores are generated by rolling 2D6 and results of 11 or 12 for Social Standing indicate the character is of noble birth. Scores can reach as high as 15 a result of events in character generation, with each number above 10 reflective of a different level of nobility (from Knight to Duke). This is all well and good and comports with much of the sci-fi that inspired Traveller, but, other than a title, there is absolutely no difference between a noble character and a non-noble one. One could reasonably argue that it's up to the referee to decide what benefits (and drawbacks) go along with patents of nobility in his campaign, especially given that Traveller presents itself as a generic game without a default setting of its own. However, not a few gamers wanted something more than "make it up yourself" and that's where Crabaugh's article comes in.
"Relief for Traveller Nobility" firstly provides rules for determining what sort of family estate (if any) a noble character possesses, as well as the revenue generated by it. Of course, estates require management and, if a noble does not spend much time on his estate, preferring instead to go traipsing across the galaxy with his old military buddies, there's an ever-increasing chance of a coup or revolt. Of course, estates have expenses, too, and Crabaugh spends some time discussing that aspect of noble life in the article. He also discusses the sorts of personal starships to which a noble might have access, something suggested in various parts of the rules but insufficiently fleshed out to Crabaugh's satisfaction.
In the end, it's actually a very short and sketchy article, but it provides more ideas for dealing with noble characters in Traveller than were ever provided in the rules themselves. One of the things that Crabaugh stresses is that the presence of a noble character who takes running his estate seriously will necessarily change the content and scope of the campaign. Instead of speculative trading and breaking and entering on behalf of shady patrons met in startown bars, the campaign will focus more on power politics and all that that entails. That's certainly my own experience in playing a noble-centric campaign and doing it successfully definitely requires a shift in one's perspective and expectations. On the other hand, it can be a lot of fun, particularly if, like me, you enjoy the ups and downs of political machinations and jockeying for influence.