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RPG Superstar 2015

Diary of a T20 GM

By Johnny Wilson

When I first placed my hands on the new T20 version of Traveller, I couldn’t wait to start playing. I didn’t have a free night to start a new gaming group, so I contacted my youngest brother via email and asked him if he’d like to try a new version of Traveller. Since Doug had been a member of my Classic Traveller campaign that lasted over 5 years, he readily jumped at the opportunity to play via email.

Since I was the only one who had the book, I rolled up the characters and sent a synopsis of them to him. Unfortunately, I was so convinced that I would intuitively understand the rules based on my previous experience with the classic game that I often skimmed over some of the rules. My most flagrant error occurred when I was using the Prior History rules in creating my characters. I looked at the Survival tables in the Prior History classes and immediately decided that, as in Classic Traveller, anyone who didn’t beat the Difficulty Check of the Survival role for each assignment would die. As it turns out, I noticed in the rules that if a character only rolled EQUAL to the DC that the character would roll on the Survival Mishaps table (where you don’t actually die), but I had the hubris to assume that anything under that caused you to die. That’s how my nostalgic mentality wanted it to read and that’s what I did when creating my characters. It was in error, but it isn’t the first time my personal prejudice has managed to override the actual rules until someone forced me to re-read them. Even though I was wrong, I’m a wicked enough GM that I think I’ll keep my erroneous interpretation as a house rule.

I created a Sydite mercenary named Srat Sakrat in honor of the multi-limbed green martians in Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom and managed to herd him through three levels of Army before mustering him out. Srat hails from Khuur and that meant that I could work with his homeworld’s UPP (Universal Planetary Profile) of E959977-5. Using such shorthand should sound familiar to Traveller players, as it indicates: a starport (E) that consists of some flat bedrock and no fuel or facilities, a planet 14,400 km in diameter with average (1.125g) gravity, a thin (rated 5) atmosphere, hydrographic coverage of 90% surface liquid (9), a population with billions of inhabitants (9), a balkanized governmental structure (7), a law level that prohibits shotguns and higher, and a tech level (5) equivalent to 1900-1939 CE.

 The other character was named Iirvan Vrawsh, a former officer who went through 7 terms in the Imperial Navy and wanted to pilot his own ship. Vrawsh is of Vargr descent, those marvelous canine furries that have been with us since the earliest days of the Journal of the Traveller’s Aid Society. Since they were both mercenaries, I postulated to my brother that these guys had just come out of a minor border war and had landed upon the old Traveller planet of Regina (A788899-A). I wanted to get going quickly, so I grabbed an old classic adventure called The Imperial Fringer, one designed as an introductory adventure and one I’d never actually run before.

I was shocked to discover that the adventure began with the old canard of a brawl in the Starhaven Tavern on Regina. Fortunately, however, I was able to grab some pre-rolled classic characters from my Citizens of the Imperium book and adjust their stats from the 2d6 to the d20 system. I used simple percentages in comparing the 12 point and 18 point systems used to create the characters. A 2  in the old book = 2, 3 = 4, 4= 5-6, 5=7-8, 6=9, 7=10, 8=11-12, 9=13-14, 10=15, 11=16-17 and a 12=18. If I were taking more time to convert an old adventure, I would line these up on the basis of attribute modifiers, but I figured that the percentage calculation made a quick and dirty conversion ratio.

The potential patron joined the two PCs in the fracas and helped one of them get away before the authorities arrived to break up the fight and arrest the PC who had used a weapon beyond the appropriate law level. Suddenly, I was able to explain the Bribery rules from the T20 Traveller to my brother and let him decide how much to offer the investigating officer. It was a suspenseful roll of the dice, but the character had offered enough credits to create just enough positive modifiers that he was successful. I liked the flavor of this and moved forward with the adventure.

In the original adventure, the patron offers the PCs a scout ship to use in surveying the Spinward Marches (a great way to become familiar with one of the most frequently used sectors in the classic campaign). I thought this would be fun, but I wanted the patron to assign them to a merchant ship. Further, I wanted to design that free merchant in order to test the design rules. I did test these rules and the Starship Hispano, at a massive cost of nearly one-half billion credits, was born. I passed along the following spreadsheet to my brother and we prepared to head into the Spinward Marches.

Sketches of Standard Designs in the new T20 Traveller Handbook

Component
Subcomponents
Cost
Tonnage
Tech
Lvl
Cumulative
Cost
Remaining
Tonnage
Cone Shaped 1,000 ton hull
 
110,000,000
1,000
 
 
 
Fully streamlined with
Bridge
 
20
 
110,000,000
980
Airframe Control (+10% cost)
Airframe control+streamlining
110,000
50
 
110,110,000
930
Model 4 Computer
w/ avionics, fiber optic back-up
32,000,000
8
 
142,110,000
922
20 Jump-4 Drive Units
plus 20 tons of fuel each
200,000,000
450
 
342,110,000
472
20 Maneuver Drive Units
 
35,000,000
60
 
377,110,000
412
Fusion Power Plant
with 1 ton of fuel each
60,000,000
40
15
437,110,000
372
Fuel Purification Plant
 
30,000
3
15
437,140,000
369
Fuel Scoop
 
1,000,000
0
 
438,140,000
369
Armor
USP 2
63,000
90
10
438,203,000
279
Hardpoint for Plasma Gun
 
1,500,000
2
11
439,703,000
277
Hardpoint for Triple Turret
two missile racks, one sandcaster
1,750,000
3
8
441,453,000
274
Maintenance Shop
 
2,000,000
10
 
443,453,000
264
Command Staterooms
four cabins
2,000,000
16
 
445,453,000
248
Crew Standard Staterooms
two cabins
1,000,000
8
 
446,453,000
240
Passenger Staterooms
four cabins
2,000,000
16
 
448,453,000
224
Passenger Cabins
four cabins
1,000,000
8
 
449,453,000
216
Low Berths
six berths
300,000
3
 
449,753,000
213
Extra Airlock
 
5
6
 
449,753,005
207
Freshers
six separate facilities
12,000
 
 
449,765,005
207
Cargo Area
 
 
 
 
 
207

Yet, before we took off, I wondered how much more difficult this detailed design work was than the work in Starships of the Galaxy for the Star Wars® Roleplaying Game. I tried to build a similar ship and found that it could be designed much faster and with a much lower total cost. The design process in T20 was more entertaining, but if I needed to build a ship in a hurry, I would prefer Starships. Nonetheless, for comparison’s sake, here is my worksheet for the Star Wars version of the Starship Hispano.
Components
Rationale
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