Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Traveller Tuesday: the Tech Level Characteristic

This is just a wild hair notion up my nethers. I'm not sure if it's a good idea or not; I'm just getting it written down so I can ponder the ramifications.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Before characteristics are rolled, the starting Tech Level of the character is determined by rolling 3d6-3, with a DM of +1 for Darrians and perhaps a penalty or level cap (at the GM's discretion) to other non-Imperial races. This gives a range of 0-15, which nicely matches the range of TLs available within the Third Imperium. 

The TL stat is used to determine the tech level of the character's homeworld, and therefore the level of technology that he is familiar with. The player should select that character's homeworld accordingly. 

During character creation, any opportunity to increase INT or EDU may be used to increase TL instead with the GM's approval. For example, it makes sense for a low-TL conscript within the Imperial Navy military to increase his TL; it may not make sense for an entertainer.

Using This Characteristic
TL is not rolled for skill checks. Instead it has the following uses:
  • A character injured in the course of a career uses the DM of the TL (+3 for TL15, +2 for TL 12-14, etc) in both the roll for injury severity as well as the roll to see if medical bills are paid by patron or employer. 
  • This DM is also used when rolling to avoid aging effects. 
    • In both of these cases, if the employer is the Imperium, the military of a system, or otherwise has a logically higher TL than the character, then use the TL of the system [15 for the Imperium] instead.
  • It provides a base for the Tech Level Familiarity rules as found in the 1e book Scoundrel, pp.134-135. 
  • Primitive: TL 0 to 3
  • Industrial: TL 4 to 6
  • Prestellar: TL 7 to 9
  • Early Stellar: TL 10 to 11
  • Average Stellar: TL 12 to 14
  • High Stellar: TL 15 to 16
  • Advanced Stellar: TL 17-19
  • Beyond: TL 20+
Familiarity and Comfort can be easily extrapolated to further categories as needed. The pattern is:
  • C for TL and TL-1
  • F for TL+1 and TL-2 to -4
  • U for everything else

U, F, C
Paraphrasing from Scoundrel:

A character unfamiliar with technology will not understand it or know how to operate it due to its alienness, advanced design, or his own technological ignorance, and suffers a -3 DM to his roll when trying to do so. Naturally, this does not apply to lower-tech items which are still in use on that character's homeworld; for example, the knife and fork are TL 1 tools, but even a TL 15 character will know how to use one. However, that same TL 15 character will likely be unable to start a fire using flint and steel without appropriate training in primitive technologies (such as the Survival skill).

DM penalties stack; attempting to manipulate unfamiliar technology without a relevant skill results in a -6 DM.

A character familiar with technology may not necessarily understand how the item works, but he is comfortable with using it and does so without penalty -- so long as he has skills in it. For example, a TL 2 musketeer could grasp the basics of using a gauss rifle after instruction, since he knows Gun Combat, but a farmer would have a -3 unfamiliar technology penalty (likely on top of a -3 unskilled penalty). 

Familiarity is on an item-by-item basis, not blanket across a TL: just because that TL 2 musketeer knows how to operate a TL 12 gauss rifle does not mean he can operate a TL 9 air/raft. Familiarity with the air/raft will also have to be acquired before he can use it, and until then he will suffer from a -3 DM (assuming the GM is feeling charitable and allows his Drive: Carriage skill to apply; if it doesn't, or if he doesn't have the skill, he's back at -6 DM). 

A character comfortable with technology can operate items of that technological rank because he understands the basic principles behind them. He does not need a skill to operate an item, although there is still a -3 DM unskilled penalty. Comfort extends across the entire TL, rather than on a case-by-case basis. 

Current Drawbacks to this House Rule
  1. There is definite benefit to coming from a higher TL (specifically in regards to aging and injury), with no commensurate benefit to coming from a lower TL other than comfort/familiarity with primitive technology. Given that TL is a stat and the conventional wisdom is "High stats good, low stats bad", this limitation may not be a fundamental flaw. 
  2. Players will have to keep track of familiarity and comfort levels for their characters through gameplay. 
  3. Given a term within the Imperial Navy/Marines, TL-as-stat may become meaningless, or at best a range due to 4 years' exposure to high technology. A stat of TL "9 to 15" is so broad as to mean little. 
  4. Given the main benefits of this stats exist during character creation, to adding this retroactively to existing player characters is rather pointless unless your campaign trends toward exposure to TL 16+ technologies. 
What do you think? 

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