Thursday, August 21, 2014

Traveller Character Damage - Pulp vs. Beaten to a Pulp

One of the reasons my home group has given for not wanting to play Traveller is that it's not very "heroic". People can (and do) die easily, and aside from getting better equipment and ships, there's no character advancement to speak of. (Not technically true of course, but "leveling up" is not as exciting an event as it is in D20 games.)

So that got me thinking. Sure, I could switch to "Stars Without Number" (a very well done fusion of D&D and Traveller concepts), but if I were to keep good ol' Traveller as the basis, how could I make personal combat less punishing for the characters without requiring them to always use their Battledress and Plasma Rifles?

Well, one way is to adjust how damage and healing are handled.

In the versions of Traveller I like the best (Classic and Mongoose), damage comes straight off the 3 physical stats. I like this convention because it means as you get hurt, you lose capability. But in both versions, healing is more "realistic", in that it takes days or weeks to recover from wounds. That's SO not Pulp...

Inspired by later edition D&D's handling of damage, I've come up with an alternative, synthesizing CT, MgT and to a very lesser extent, D&D 4+. It's not that different from the stock system(s), but hopefully will be different enough to "pulp" things up a bit.

(Aside: I had a more comprehensive system laid out, but after writing an "or you could just do it this way..." section, I decided I like that way more, so it's the only one I've presented here. Also, CT's standard system is pretty forgiving if you don't actually "bottom out" a stat, so maybe this is just an MgT thing....)


  • In combat, Endurance represents how "tough" you are, and acts as a buffer against "hard" damage.
  • Strength and Dexterity damage is real "broken bone, deep cut" damage, and actually requires healing.
  • Instant healing Medkits are available, and fill a role similar but not identical to "Health Potions" in fantasy games.
  • Resuscitation of recently dead characters is possible, given prompt attention and/or sufficient medical technology.

  • Damage is applied to Endurance first.
    OPTIONAL: reducing Endurance to zero with the first shot will knock the character unconscious. (The "first blood rule" - I generally only use this for NPCs.)
  • Once Endurance is Zeroed, other damage must go to Strength or Dexterity, player's choice. Apply the WHOLE damage to that stat, and spill any extra on to the remaining stat.
  • Strength and Dexterity don't start taking damage until Endurance is ZERO.
    • Zero out Strength OR Dexterity, and you're unconscious
    • Zero out BOTH, and you're dead
  • Endurance restores after a "short rest" (1 hour), or by using a Medpack as a standard action.
  • First Aid is assumed to happen during the "short rest".
    If it can't for some reason, then Endurance only recovers 1/2, and must heal like other stats.
  • Once Endurance is restored, other Stats may heal, though never past their initial values:
    • 1d6+END points per Medpack used.
    • 1+END point per day for light duty, 2 for "bed rest".
    • A doctor can use Medic to assist this recovery
  • OPTIONAL: if you use more than 1 Medpack per hour, you'll suffer 1D damage from overdose. This damage goes straight to Strength or Dexterity, player's choice. It might be worth it, if Endurance is higher than the number rolled, but it's clearly a risk.
  • Recently (within 5 min) killed characters can sometimes be resuscitated:
    • A character who has taken total damage beyond twice the sum of all three physical stats cannot be resuscitated. (For an average 777 character, that's 42 points to "vaporize" from healthy. Though it's only 21 points to "mangle the body beyond recovery" from dead.)
    • A Resusci-pack (Cr100,000) will bring a character back to 1 in all stats.
    • A Difficult Medical/DEX check can work, but each failure adds MoF to the next attempt to resuscitate.
  • Some military armors are equipped with automatic medical drug systems. Assuming the armor's supply of medicine is available, the automatic systems will apply the drug any time the character's Endurance hits zero. However, this will happen AFTER the rest of the damage has been distributed, and will not happen if there is a possibility that drug overdose could kill the character. (No stat left is greater than 6.)