So… for some odd reason, I love building characters. I used RPGSuite’s Traveler Character Generator and Mark Musen’s 2nd Edition Traveler Character Generator to make several hundred characters and came up with the findings in this article.
What you have to understand about Traveler character generation is that it’s a probability game, and characters with high starting attributes have a WAY better chance of being a WAY better character than those with low starting attributes. Because of this, I recommend that your Gamemaster allow you to start with at least one 9 and one 10 attribute, unless your group is okay with wildly unbalanced characters (both good and bad).
The second thing about Traveler that you need to understand is that it’s mostly about chasing the cool gear, not about improving your character’s stats or skills to giddy heights.
That said… here’s my take on creating a character with the best stats and skills you can.
The most important attributes, in order, are:
It can be argued that DEX isn’t that important in character creation, but as combat and piloting skills depend on it, it is a very important attribute if your campaign has some combat and ship encounters.
Note that EDU can be heavily increased by attending University (+1 EDU if you get in, a total of +3 if you graduate). Thus, an 8 in EDU is a decent starting score if you plan to attend University.
END is used for a lot of Qualification and Survival rolls (7 of the 12 Careers use it for something), although it’s mostly necessary for Marines and Scouts.
SOC is a strange one. It CAN be very important if you want to be the “party face” character, but otherwise it’s relatively useless for character creation. A “10” in SOC gives you automatic admission to the Noble career, which can get you a Yacht and/or some good cash.
Strength is ONLY good for these things:
- Wielding very bulky, man-portable Heavy Weapons
- Survival rolls for the Army/Infantry career assignment
- Doing a little bit of extra damage with basic melee weapons
- Lifting or breaking things with brute force (without tools or tech)
… everything else Strength-related can be accomplished with technology, unless your Gamemaster likes forcing Athletics-Strength checks frequently, but even then I would argue that several Travelers together could accomplish most brute-force tasks.
When I first started making characters, I tended to dump STR, END and SOC. However, in Traveler, the sum of your physical attributes is your hit points, and damage comes off your END stat first. Although I haven’t played a lot, I found during testing that PCs with less than 20 hp didn’t last long, and could often be outright killed in 2 hits in an unarmored shootout (which is something you want to avoid at all costs, but sometimes things happen…)
Dumping SOC really hurts your role-playing opportunities, but also has serious effects on your ability to Trade, which can be a major part of the game, depending on the campaign.
However, if you MUST dump a stat because you rolled low, you can do so in bottom-to-top order of the attribute ranking above (first dump STR, then SOC, etc).
Assigning Attributes – General PC
The goal of creating this type of character is to have a variety of useful skills, including combat, ship-related, social, and knowledge.
If you have a 12, put it in DEX. If you have second high stat with a bonus (9+), put it in INT. Attributes of 7 or 8 should go in EDU, because University can push them up into bonus territory.
If you want a more brainy character, you could go INT>DEX, except that INT increases during character creation are much more common than DEX increases, for many careers, since INT bonuses can appear both in Personal Development and in Benefit rolls, and INT can be boosted with cybernetics, too.
If you have a 10 and a 9, the 10 should go in INT and the 9 in DEX, because it’s much easier to increase INT than DEX, and getting to 12 will give you a +2 bonus. If I get an 11 and 9, I’m tempted to put the 11 in DEX if I want a more pilot/combat character, because there’s a chance I can get a DEX boost, even without racial adjustments (more on that later).
STR is lowest priority, and I prefer a slight penalty to END over SOC, because the difference between 5(-1) and 6(0) makes a lot more difference to rolls (SOC) than the extra hit point (END). You can make up hit point deficits by buying better armor, but you can’t make up in social situations if you can’t form words coherently (although I suppose bribery or physical intimidation can work…)
Assigning Attributes – Combat PC
Your best pure-combat careers are Army and Marine, meaning you need END to qualify, END or STR to Survive, and EDU to advance.
However, shooting things, either with Gun Combat, Heavy Weapons, or Gunnery, requires DEX. This means that regardless of your other stats, getting a bonus in DEX increases your rolls for all the activities you probably want to do most.
Because we’re in the age of technology, I generally advise going END instead of STR. You would like a positive modifier in EDU if you can get it, too, and ideally you’d like to get into an Academy instead of University, so you can increase your combat-related skills. However, I think that it’s actually better to get your EDU high enough to get a bonus, to round out your character with some non-combat skills.
Your number of background skills starts at three (3), modified by your EDU modifier.
The hardest skills to get through “starting skills” (from your first career) are:
Useful skills that you might want to pick up in case you can’t get them from your main career, education, or by changing careers are:
- Vacc Suit*
- Athletics (Dex, then Str)
*Vacc Suit is campaign-specific, but it’s required to wear Combat Armor, which your character may want to wear someday!
Background Skill Sets
My favourite 3 background skill choices are:
- Electronics (unless my first career will give it to me)
Pilot/Driver: If you have high DEX, and want to be the driver/pilot, you could take these skills, and choose Navy or Scouts as your first Career.
… or alternately, you could take Agent as your first Career, which gives you Driver and Flyer, and then switch Careers into one with Pilot. For non-spacefaring campaigns, Agent career is also good for pilots.
Army/Marine: you probably want some utility skills, so I would probably take:
- Carouse or Mechanic
… I like Carouse, even if your SOC sucks, because it’s fun to be able to drink people under the table using your high END. Without the Carouse skill, you take a -3 penalty for being unskilled at being a drunk… I mean, frolicking.
Scholar: you need some other utility skills that you won’t get through Scholar, and you will likely have high EDU. I suggest taking skills in this order of priority:
- Vacc Suit
(Alternatively, have your Scholar take their first term as Navy (Engineer), and go with my favourite list above, instead). The advantage of starting your “academic” career with non-academics is that you will likely get Gun Combat 0, so you can actually fight, at least a little.
I recommend attending University for almost every character except the most combat-heavy grunt, who should try for Army Academy (it’s the easiest Academy to qualify for). Simply put, there’s no better use of a Term than getting at least two good non-combat skills of your choice, and a bonus to EDU.
The choice of skills is extremely campaign-dependent, but I would tend towards:
- Electronics (Primary, choose as Level 1 skill)
- One of:
Careers and Assignments
All Careers, except for Citizen and Drifter, have a single set of starting skills, regardless of which Assignment you choose.
Because surviving in a carerr = benefit rolls, I recommend choosing Assignments with lower Survival roll requirements over easier Advancement. For example, take Corporate Agent instead of Intelligence Agent. Mishaps are bad, and can both reduce your stats through injury, and forfeit your Benefit roll for the term.
Each switch in career gives you a lower chance to qualify (e.g. DM-1 for each previous career), so you should progress from the hardest-to-qualify (e.g. Agent, Marine, Navy, Rogue, Scholar), to the easier ones (Citizen, Entertainer, Merchant, Scout). Noble is a special case, where you auto-qualify if you have SOC 10+, so leave that for the end if you have that score.
It’s worth noting that your INT usually goes up over time, as many careers can give you an INT bonus, so careers like Marine (END-focused) and Rogue (DEX-focused) are relatively harder to qualify for later, because your INT might end up with a greater bonus, and mishaps actually might reduce your physical scores, as well.
Best Starting Careers
If you are planning for a variety of skills, the Careers with the best starting skill sets are (in alphabetical order):
The following are actually okay, but you can usually pick up many of the skills as Background skills:
- Citizen – Colonist or Worker
I actually like the Merchant starting skills for a Social character, but because of the low qualification roll (INT 4+), I think it’s better to move into Merchant after picking up other skills from elsewhere.
One thing you might overlook with Careers is the Rank Bonuses. These are instant Level-1 skills that you get for just having Rank 1 (or higher) in a Career, which you get if you make the advancement roll after a successful survival roll. It’s often VERY worthwhile to take 1 term of one of the following Career Assignments, and hope for successful advancement, just to get that boost, in addition to the other goodies:
- Agent (Corporate): Rank 1 = Deception 1
- *Army – Enlisted: Rank 0 = Gun Combat 1; Rank 1 = Recon 1
- Entertainer (Performer): Rank 1 = DEX +1
- Marine – Enlisted*: Rank 0 = Gun or Melee 1; Rank 1 = Gun 1
- Merchant (Free Trader)*: Rank 1 = Persuade 1
- *Merchant (Broker): Rank 1 = Broker 1
- Merchant (Merchant Marine): Rank 1 = Mechanic 1
- Navy – Enlisted: Rank 1 = Mechanic 1, Rank 2 = Vacc Suit 1
- Rogue (Thief): Rank 1 = Stealth 1
- Rogue (Enforcer): Rank 1 = Persuade 1
- *Rogue (Pirate): Rank 1 = Pilot or Gunner 1
- Scout (any): Rank 1 = Vacc Suit 1
*one of my favourite choices. These are easy ways to get rare or multiple skills.
… note that there are other good Rank Bonuses, but they aren’t as easy to get through advancement, or the skills can be obtained easily enough in other ways. Also… the only way to get these rank bonuses is to make your advancement roll(s), so it does rely on a bit of luck!
I want a Ship!
The following Careers have Benefit rolls that can get you a ship:
If you want a ship really badly, I recommend taking only Benefit instead of Cash rolls until you get a ship, especially if rolling for one of the above careers! You need luck to get a ship (unless your Gamemaster is really nice), which means you need as many chances as possible (this is another reason I recommend every character take at least 1 term as a Merchant – it gives a chance at a ship, with easy Qualify & Survival rolls).
Ship Shares: These are nice to help defray the maintenance costs of whomever rolled the ship, and gives a role-playing reason for Travelers to be “all in it together” (since every PC will own part of the ship), but otherwise they aren’t all that important unless your Gamemaster is really cheap with handing out cash, and you’re always struggling to pay for your ship loan…
Typical Character Archetypes
I have five typical character types that I tend to make:
- Balanced: Agent/Rogue/Merchant. May have a ship. You generally need good attribute scores or this character will be underwhelming, with many skills, but good at nothing in particular. Good for smaller groups, though (2-3 players).
- Pilot: Navy (Flight), Scout, or Rogue (Pirate). Will only have a ship if you get very lucky or go heavily Scout (which tends to have a bad Survival-Advancement tradeoff). You can actually stay pure Navy(Flight), and get a pretty good Pilot, if you roll well. You may also just get a good Astrogator instead of a Pilot, even if trying for a Pilot…
- Grunt: Land Combat + some other skill = Army (Infantry) or Marine (Star Marine) + Scout or Rogue for some utility.
- Social: Start with Rogue or Agent, then Noble, then Merchant. Gives a balance PC with good social skills but some Gun skills, too. May roll a Yacht as a starship.
- Brains: Navy(Engineer) into Scholar (Physician): You pretty much have to go University first, but you can get really good Engineer /Electronics /Mechanic /Medic, plus some ship skills like Gunner. This is your “Scotty/Bones” specialist character, with only basic skills outside of a ship’s engineering or medical bay, but Navy gives you at least Gun Combat 0, which is nice to have.
Skill packages are available based on the campaign the GM chooses to run. These sets of skills are meant to round out the party and fill in gaps in the skill sets of PCs. This means that even if players make fairly similar characters, at least someone will be able to pilot a ship, man the guns, talk to people, or pick up on clues.
I recommend that PCs who rolled worst get the first pick of skills. It’s worth noting that if there are an uneven number of skills compared to the party size, some characters will get more skills from the skill package.
Character connections can be done during or at the end of the character-creation process, and gives the PCs reasons to adventure together (this is a sidebar rule on page 17 of the MGT2 Core Rulebook). I personally prefer doing it afterwards, after you see how your character is shaping up, and which event(s) would most suit a connection between two particular characters.
Generally, you can get any skill except Jack-of-All-Trades at level 1, or increase an existing skill by +1, to a maximum of Level 3 in that skill.
This process allows characters to get useful skills (such as Stealth or Recon) that they wouldn’t otherwise have, and boost specialist skills to that juicy Level 3, which is really hard to level up to after character creation, because of Traveler’s training (experience point) system.
Unlike the Skill Packages, I feel that you can use PC connection boosts to get skills that are harder to get, such as Explosives, or give that character who has all Level 0-1 skills at least a Level 2 in something, so they can excel at least at one thing.