T5: GunMaker, ArmorMaker, and VehicleMaker…
December 9, 2013
Posted by on
I finally dug in to this monster a little more. This thing really is gigantic. The first stage is flipping through and finding things that you can use with whatever Traveller system has already won at your house: the world maps and system “fillforms” are really nice for this. Then you’re noticing things that can help out in other games you run– stuff like QREBS and the animal encounter system. But at some point you start to wonder what this game actually is on its on and by itself. To really grasp the sine qua non of Traveller⁵, I suggest checking out some of the Maker systems.
GunMaker is particularly cool. “Most personal and military weapons can be created using this chart.” Insane. It’s just a few tables on a single page, and with it… you can roll up any conceivable weapon of the Third Imperium. I do suggest you have a blank fill form handy when you do this, as looking up all the numbers on the charts can be a little confusing the first time. But this thing really works– and the guns it kicks out all have cool milspec type names à la the FGMP-15. My first weapon with this was a Mod-LRLT-7, a light rocket launcher designed for the betentacled Vegans! Instantly my mind whirled as I inexorably worked out just where this shipment of weapons came from, where it was going… who ordered them… who smuggled them. (Were they left over from the Rim War…? What’s their shelf life?!) This is the exact same effect that even the most broken world generation system seems to have… and it is pure Traveller.
(A low-pop garden world next to a high-pop airless world…? Let me explain…. No, wait… I’ve got it!)
The ArmorMaker and the VehicleMaker each follow the same formula: you get a very highlevel breakdown of all the terms and so forth, a bunch of charts, and the inevitable fillforms. The ArmorMaker also includes a similar “one page of charts makes anything in the galaxy” type generator. Vehicle stats have the exact same type of values as what Armor gives you… and you design vehicular weapons with the same system that you use for making personal weapons. This is some seriously cool stuff.
BUT… there’s a catch. Well, maybe a few catches:
- All of this “stuff” is being plugged into a range band system that has
one minute combat turns that last an unspecified and potentially variable duration of time. The granularity is very low, so this is far from being an “End All Be All” monster system. The resulting playability may be a Procrustean bed to more detail oriented game masters.
- The range bands are logarithmic, so translating to “real” combat maps will require a little creativity. (It’s odd that there wasn’t room for a Snapshot type game in all of this!)
- There appears to be at least three different damage systems supported by this game, none of which are explained particularly well. This one choice makes a hard-to-learn system nearly impossible to wrangle without outside help.
- Vehicles don’t have hit points of their own. They just have a hit location table. The idea seems to be that something will get damaged on a vehicle and then the players will have to fix it to get away or whatever.
I think that… all the parts are here to make a really cool take on Traveller. But there’s not a lot done to make it easy to pick this up… and there seems to be a lot of work left for the referee when it comes to actually synthesizing this stuff into a real game. I like the overall resolution of this game; it’s mostly aiming for something slightly more fleshed out than Classic Traveller, but not nearly as detailed as something like GURPS. It looks like it is optimized for quick, freewheeling play, too. And I gotta say… I kind of like the implied universe of this ruleset: it is crazily full of all kinds of stuff.
Do I need all of this? Not especially. I mean, it’s just fun. The game that the brothers Keith loved so much and made so many adventures for still works just fine on its own and won’t be improved all that much with the addition of what is found here. I personally would have a hard time using it just because I would want to develop a working Car Wars game out of the components provided. Unlike Striker, say, I think that what is here is actually worth developing along those lines– and that’s saying something. But it is a bit disappointing that such a large book needs more development to become truly useful.