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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 12:55 pm 
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So my old musings about converting Traveller to a non-SF setting (see here: viewtopic.php?f=45&t=2873) have come back to haunt me, and after perhaps having played a bit too much of Sid Meier´s Pirates lately, I decided to just give it a try, primarily based on Mongoose Traveller (specifically the free Main Rulebook PDF). It´s all still very much a work in progress, but I think I could do with some feedback.

The whole thing is set in the Carribean and surrounding parts of the Americas, in 1630 AD, right in the middle of the 30 Years´ War. There are quite a few similarities in concept with the classic Spinward Marches region in regular Traveller - a frontier region far from the capital, dominated by one imperial power (except it´s the Spanish Empire and not the Third Imperium), with a number of established and civilized ports to call in (such as Vera Cruz, La Habana or Cartagena) but also plenty of smaller towns and relatively isolated frontier outposts, many of them havens for smugglers, scoundrels and outright pirates.
This isn´t a strictly historical setting, though - in this setting, part of Zheng He´s fleets was blown out onto the open Pacific on one his voyages and eventually landed on the west coast of the New World, so in the setting´s present time, there is a substantial Ming Chinese presence in North America centered what we know as San Francisco Bay - most of California, parts of Nevada and Arizona - as a rival and neighbor of New Spain. Speaking of parallels to the OTU - I think the Ming Chinese are alien enough in their culture to 17th century Europeans to make a passable stand-in for the Zhodani.

As for the rules, I decided to add two new characteristics, Charisma and Faith.
One thing that irked me, with most versions of Traveller (T20 excluded) was how Social Standing alone is inadequate (IMHO) as a basis of social and interpersonal skills - why would, for example, Leadership skill checks be based on Social Standing (according to Mongoose Traveller) when there´s no reason a lower-class character could not be as inspiring a leader (or even more so, since presumably lower-class troops would respect a lower-class superior even more as "one of them") as any noble, rather than being penalized for the lower Social Standing score? Likewise, there are many kinds of charme and personal magnetism that are poorly, if at all, portrayed by either Social Standing, Intelligence or Education - I think Traveller in general gives somewhat short thrift to social interaction skills compared to the technical and combat side of things, so I decided I needed a social characteristic: Charisma.
Faith, then, serves as sort of a counterpart to Education - where education is both the literal education of a character and his grounding in a rational, logical world-view, Faith covers both their personal faith in whatever they believe in (keep in mind the 17th century was a rather more religiously focussed era than either the early 21st century US/Europe or the Third Imperium), and their grounding in the supernatural, magical aspects of their world; a character with high Faith finds it easier to accept and take into account the workings of magic, the same way a character with high Education accepts and takes into account the workings of natural science (whatever there is of it in the 17th century); on the downside, a character with high Faith but low Education is as likely to falsely believe in superstition ("red hair means she´s a witch") as a character with high Education and low Faith is to dismiss genuine supernatural elements ("cursed treasure... yeah, right..."). Faith also serves as sort of counterpart to standard Traveller´s Psionics characteristic, as a basis for magical skills.

The skill list gets an extensive overhaul as well, with all of the modern/SF skills being removed, others being added as appropriate. For example, the main shipboard skills are now:
Helmsman - steering a ship via tiller or wheel, analogous to Pilot
Oarsman - rowing either an oar-powered ship like a galley, or a small craft such as rowboat
Seaman - handling the sails, rigging etc of a ship; the idea is that proper operation of a ship requires a number of successful Seaman skill checks by the crew, the number depending on the ship type and size
Gunnery (Cannon) - fire a ship´s cannon
Navigation (Sea) - chart a course to a destination, or determine current position, analogous to Astrogation
Craft (Carpenter/Sailmaker/Ropemaker) - repair a ship´s hull and mast, its rigging and its sails, respectively
Alertness - used by lookouts to spot distant ships, land, storm clouds etc

Since I mentioned magical elements above... rather than psionics, I intend to incorporate an array of magical traditions more appropriate to the setting. The most commonplace would be Alchemy, i.e. using "secret sciences" to create various useful substances such as antidotes, smoke powder, sleep potions and the like. Sorcery and Witchcraft deal with symbolic and sympathetic magic - a sorcerer could, for example, use an item closely connected to a person to divine their current location (or use a corpse as a focus to divine the circumstance of its death), whereas a witch can exploit the link between a symbolic representation and the actual person or object to pass on beneficial or harmful effects (the stereotypical image of stabbing a needle into a voodoo doll in order to hurt the victim comes to mind here...). Lastly there are various kinds of Conjuration, which involve in contacting and making deals with spirits - those of the dead, those of nature and locations, and with demons. So in total, not D&D magic, but more like what people back then believed in.
To a large degree, these magical elements are optional to the Privateer setting, at least as much as psionics are in standard Traveller. Other than some basic Alchemy to supplement the generally poor state of medical science at the time (and I fully intend to have mundane careers such as Physician to have some access to Alchemy), there should be no magic so powerful that a party would be hamstrung by not having access to it. Besides, magic tends to have its own drawbacks to the practitioner - starting with the automatic suspicion nearly everone (*cough* Holy Inquisition *cough*) harbors for those who associate with the supernatural.

So what kinds of campaigns could there be in Privateer?
Trader - the characters are traders (and/or smugglers) travelling between the various ports of the Caribbean, perhaps coming from Europe with a cargo of manufactured goods and intending to return there once they have a profitable cargo of New World products
Explorer - the characters intend to strike out find one of the fabled treasures of the New World, like the Fountain of Youth, El Dorado, or just a "merely" legendary treasure hidden in a ruin somewhere in the jungles of Mesoamerica
Pirates - the characters are (part of) a crew of either privateers or outright pirates hoping to collect a tithe of the treasures the Spanish have gathered in their colonies
Intrigue - the Spanish Empire isn´t one big happy family; the characters are part of, or in the employ of, a faction in one of the innumerable feuds and schemes that plague such a far-flung empire, either out of conviction or in it for the money and power - they might even work for Spain´s enemies to sabotage the Empire from within!
Traveller - the characters have recently arrived from Europe, perhaps with their own ship, to see the New World, have adventures, and if at all possible to gain power, wealth and fame (or even just wealth, but lots of it); this campaign can contain elements of most of the others



So, what do you think? Does this sound like an interesting setting? Would you like to hear more?

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Man has earned the right to hold this planet against all comers, by virtue of occasionally producing someone completely bat**** insane. xkcd #556
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 3:35 pm 
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Hey, it even takes place in a time when speculative trade makes more sense.

You might consider, if this is MgT, making some of those seafaring skills a cascade, so that if you know one thing, you know a little about all the others. I might be completely wrong about that, but I would think that if you know how to work the sails, you wouldn't be incompetent at the tiller, and so on.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 4:21 pm 
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Have you seen the Maelstrom RPG? It's was originally released in 1984 and is set in Tudor England (a bit before your setting) but it had some interesting rules for Magic (including quite a bit of herbalism as I recall) that you might want to look at - it's available on DTRPG: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/542 ... =1684_4422

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 5:22 pm 
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Matt Wilson wrote:
Hey, it even takes place in a time when speculative trade makes more sense.

You might consider, if this is MgT, making some of those seafaring skills a cascade, so that if you know one thing, you know a little about all the others. I might be completely wrong about that, but I would think that if you know how to work the sails, you wouldn't be incompetent at the tiller, and so on.


Good point. Helmsman, Seaman and Oarsman should probably be a cascade.


Maelstrom looks interesting. I might get it at some point.

I wasn´t planning for a hyper-complex herbalism/alchemy system, though. I mean, I love alchemy in the Elder Scrolls games, but that´s just too complicated and book-keeping intensive for a Traveller-esque game.

My plan was to take a page out of the old idea of the "four humors" - choleric, sanguine, melancholic, phlegmatic - and use that for ingredients. There would be different "levels" of ingredients for each humor - base, ingredient, amplifier, maybe one or two more - out of which the various alchemical substances are produced. Each humor corresponds to a kind of effect - destruction, restoration, transformation and preservation - the the substances containing it have.
A simple compound such as flash powder would consist only of, say, choleric base, whereas more complex compounds might consist of all four bases plus an ingredient or two and a single amplifier; the most complex and powerful substances could also have additional rare and powerful specific ingredient that may well take an adventure to acquire.

Through the four humors, herbalism/alchemy would also have similar connotations of sympathetic/symbolic magic - use a choleric substance to create choleric (i.e. violent, forceful) effect - as sorcery and witchcraft.

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Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards. Sir Frederick Hoyle
Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Man has earned the right to hold this planet against all comers, by virtue of occasionally producing someone completely bat**** insane. xkcd #556
Just like people, stars can be very important without being terribly bright. Phil Plait, "Bad Astronomy"


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 4:59 am 
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Sir Chaos wrote:
there´s no reason a lower-class character could not be as inspiring a leader (or even more so, since presumably lower-class troops would respect a lower-class superior even more as "one of them")

That presumption is far from being a social universal. In many societies — including British and American society up until WWI at least — troops expected a "proper officer" to be an aristocrat, resented officers from their own order out of jealousy, and despised the middle-class officers of the technical branches. A successful aristocracy is not resented by its subordinate classes — once such resentment sets in the aristocracy becomes unstable, but aristocracies have sometimes persisted for hundreds of years.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 3:24 pm 
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Agemegos wrote:
Sir Chaos wrote:
there´s no reason a lower-class character could not be as inspiring a leader (or even more so, since presumably lower-class troops would respect a lower-class superior even more as "one of them")

That presumption is far from being a social universal. In many societies — including British and American society up until WWI at least — troops expected a "proper officer" to be an aristocrat, resented officers from their own order out of jealousy, and despised the middle-class officers of the technical branches. A successful aristocracy is not resented by its subordinate classes — once such resentment sets in the aristocracy becomes unstable, but aristocracies have sometimes persisted for hundreds of years.


Fair enough.

A superior isn´t just an officer, though - a lowly private is just as likely to look up to the grizzled sergeant who´s been in the army since long before the private was born than to the new Lieutenant (who in the 17th/18th century probably bought his commission rather than graduating from a military academy).

And I might point out what you yourself write: "a successful aristocracy". A title alone does not inspire as much as a reputation of competence and success, or as a title AND a reputation of competence and success. A Wallenstein or a Tilly (to stay in the time period) didn´t inspire their soldiers mainly because they were nobles, but because they won battles and provided their soldiers with opportunities to gain loot.

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Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards. Sir Frederick Hoyle
Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Man has earned the right to hold this planet against all comers, by virtue of occasionally producing someone completely bat**** insane. xkcd #556
Just like people, stars can be very important without being terribly bright. Phil Plait, "Bad Astronomy"


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 8:56 pm 
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The presumption I wished to question was "more so, since lower-class troops would respect a lower-class superior more as one of them". That's not an historical attitude for most societies.

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© My posts to this board are copyright under the Berne Convention. They may be quoted on the board with appropriate attribution. They may not be reproduced beyond the board except with explicit permission from me.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 9:53 pm 
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Agemegos wrote:
The presumption I wished to question was "more so, since lower-class troops would respect a lower-class superior more as one of them". That's not an historical attitude for most societies.


I take back what I said and claim the opposite from now on. ;) Besides, it is only a minor detail anyway that we probably shouldn´t get sidetracked by too much.

_________________
Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards. Sir Frederick Hoyle
Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Man has earned the right to hold this planet against all comers, by virtue of occasionally producing someone completely bat**** insane. xkcd #556
Just like people, stars can be very important without being terribly bright. Phil Plait, "Bad Astronomy"


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 11:00 pm 
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Some thoughts on Benefits...

Cash benefits are perfectly viable for a 17th century Caribbean campaign - although of course Imperial Credits are replaced by Spanish Pesos, the iconic "Pieces of Eight" (thus named because they were worth 8 reales each). Generally I intend to "translate" Cash Benefit sums through an exchange rate of 1 Peso per anywhere from 50 to 200 Credits, giving characters tens to hundreds of Pesos per roll.

Among the Material benefits, Ally, Blade, Characteristic Increase, Contact, Gun and Weapon can essentially stay as they are, though naturally with a different selection of weapons.
Armor changes in that, if you roll it once, you get a gambeson or buff coat, i.e. light armor. Roll it twice, and you get a breastplate and helmet, cheap mass-produced version, instead. Roll it three times, and you get a full tailor-made (well, technically armorer-made) plate cuirass instead. The first Armor benefit also gets you Wear Armor 0 (analogous to Vac Suit and Battle Dress skills) if you don´t have it already, and at any time after the first, you can decide to upgrade your Wear Armor skill rather than receive better armor.
Rather than an Air/Raft or Ship´s Boat, characters in some careers can receive a horse (even a trained warhorse in military careers) as a material benefit.

There´s no TAS, of course, or any comparable organisation. So instead I decided to introduce Privileges instead.
Privileges come in three tiers (minor, intermediate and major) and entitle the one who has them to doing things that run-of-the-mill subjects of the Crown are not allowed to do. For example, the classic Letter of Marque and Reprisal is an intermediate Privilege, while the Trade Accreditation (permission to officially trade with Spanish colonies in the New World) is a minor privilege for Spanish characters and an intermediate one for everyone else. Major Privileges would be things like owning and operating a true warship (too much power in the hands of just one person for the Crown to allow just anybody to have one) or to undertake an expedition to conquer a native tribe or capture/destroy a foreign colony in the Americas, the sort of thing that would take hundreds or thousands or armed troops and a small fleet of ships, enough forces to cause serious trouble in the New World if you go rogue.
Generally, for a party of characters to be allowed to do something, only one character needs to have the required Privilege, although it usually means that character will have to act as the official leader (or at least strawman).

I´ve also decided to overhaul the way Ship Shares work as benefits. It didn´t make much sense to me how characters could relatively freely choose which ship their shares count towards, given the price disparities between ships. Why should a given number of shares go as far towards financing a mercenary cruiser as financing a scout/courier?
So instead, all characters who receive ship shares receive one or more generic Ship Shares, and different ships cost different numbers of shares. Now I don´t have exact numbers on ship construction costs in the 17th century, nor do I have the exact ship stats worked out yet, but I did find a mention that a more or less typical galleon at the time cost 6,000-7,000 pounds sterling to build, which (with the pound sterling being a pound of silver and the peso being an ounce of silver) works out to roughly 100,000 pesos. From that, I more or less eyeballed the costs of the smaller ships.
I also decided that a Ship Share benefit should be equivalent to about 500 pesos of ship value, meaning that a standard galleon would take about 200 ship shares to own outright. Smaller ships take a lot fewer shares; a party with several characters who had successful Merchant, Noble or Pirate type careers may well end up with enough ship shares to own a sloop, the smallest useful ocean-going ship (and thus probably the closest equivalent to a Free Trader there is), outright, or very nearly so - or not go completely over their ears in debt by acquiring a mid-sized ship.
In parties that, for some reason, don´t pool shares to acquire a ship, Ship Share benefits could also represent shares in another ship, not used by the characters - simply as a share in a commercial venture that at certain intervals provides extra income for the character, maybe in area of 5-10 pesos per month per ship share. And, of course, as co-owners of the ship they and their entourage would be entitled to free passage, including an allotment of cargo ship, aboard the vessel whenever it happens to be going in the same direction they are.

As another consequence of having played Pirates quite a bit, I´m also including land grants as material benefits for some careers. Besides the prestige of owning land, and having an estate to stay at between adventures (and to use as a sort of base for adventures), land could also serve as a more regular (and less easily sunk) source of extra income than a share in a trading vessel.

_________________
Space isn't remote at all. It's only an hour's drive away if your car could go straight upwards. Sir Frederick Hoyle
Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Man has earned the right to hold this planet against all comers, by virtue of occasionally producing someone completely bat**** insane. xkcd #556
Just like people, stars can be very important without being terribly bright. Phil Plait, "Bad Astronomy"


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2016 4:48 am 
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Sir Chaos wrote:
Some thoughts on Benefits...

Cash benefits are perfectly viable for a 17th century Caribbean campaign - although of course Imperial Credits are replaced by Spanish Pesos, the iconic "Pieces of Eight" (thus named because they were worth 8 reales each). Generally I intend to "translate" Cash Benefit sums through an exchange rate of 1 Peso per anywhere from 50 to 200 Credits, giving characters tens to hundreds of Pesos per roll.

Pieces of eight (pesos de ocho) are also known as "Spanish dollars", because they were the Spanish version of an international almost-standard silver coin (approximately 38 mm in diameter and three millimetres thick, massing about 29 grammes). The German-language versions were called "thalers" or "talers"; in Dutch they were "daalders" (until they became "guilders"); the Scottish version were "dollars". The US silver dollar, introduced as an equivalent to Spanish dollars in 1792, and not replacing them unil 1857, was an instance of the standard. By no coincidence whatsoever the usual size of a poker chip is that of a US silver dollar, and therefore of a piece of eight, or of a taler, guilder, florin, or forint.

The reason that a US quarter is known in slang as "two bits" is that it was originally worth quarter of a piece of eight.

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— Brett Evill

My SFRPG setting, Flat Black

© My posts to this board are copyright under the Berne Convention. They may be quoted on the board with appropriate attribution. They may not be reproduced beyond the board except with explicit permission from me.


Last edited by Agemegos on Thu Aug 11, 2016 7:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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