The Fantasy Traveller Part 9 – Experience Points

One of the big criticisms of Classic Traveller, is the lack of an experience points system. This was highlighted in the Grognard files podcast The Grognard RPG Files which succinctly confirmed my own view when I first got hold of my first copy of Classic Traveller back in the mid-eighties; there is no way to advance your character’s attributes or skills, in the same way that you can in D&D or T&T. What is the point of playing as one of the ‘rewards’ of completing an adventure is to learn from experience and transfer that into attribute and / or skills improvements? One way mentioned in the podcast was that a character could go ‘away’ to college or similar for four years and learn a skill advancement – and even some advances were only temporary! For example; I’ve been working in IT technical support for more than 25 years. My skills have advanced over time and though I don’t use some of my knowledge all of the time, it’s still there and refer to it now and again so I think this is a ‘flaw’ in the Classic Traveller game mechanic.

A big aspect of playing FRPG / SFRPGs is having some sort of incentive to play. Besides the desire for adventure and accumulation of wealth (in the game of course), its advancing your character in such a way they get harder to be killed and have some better chance to get through the next adventure less beaten-up than the previous time. So, to look at this from my fantasy conversion of Classic Traveller, I have two suggestions to address this issue.

The first is to allow the referee award points as a ‘whole’ for completing the adventure. I’ve tended to follow this format as it reduces the book-keeping of tracking how many points are awarded for defeating a monster, completing a saving roll etc. So at the end of the adventure I would make a general assessment on the players performance and award some experience points in one lump sum.

However, if you wish to track points as accurately as possible and don’t mind the book-keeping, here is my suggestion how to track points:

Experience points are given out at the end of an adventure. As a measurement, they can be given by defeating a creature by totalling its number of hits (eg. 3 / 6 = 9xp) needed to defeat it. If the players couldn’t defeat he creature, then experience points equivalent to the number of hits inflicted I think is fair.

Points are also awarded for every successful skills check roll that you needed to get a certain number. Eg. Base is 8, modified by -2 by difficulty, so you needed a base if 10 to roll. If you passed, you get 10 points. However, I do think there is some merit in awarding points even if you fail a roll, because you learn from the experience of failing. So I suggest that if you fail to get the roll of 10+, you are awarded with half the number of points of the roll needed in experience – in this case 5 points.

The downside to this is that it needs a lot of work tracking experience points accumulated during a game and in my eyes, this may slow down a game. However – each to their own, do whatever works best for you.

Example: Magroc and Tayllin have exited the Dungeon of the Black Star and have managed to defeat a giant snake (3 / 6), six underlings (2 / 5) and made ten skill roll checks for a total of 65 experience points each. In total then, they get each:

9 points for defeating the giant snake
42 points each for defeating the underlings
65 points for the skill rolls
…totalling 116 points in experience.

If you was to award points as a whole, I would suggest that enough points can be earned for an attribute or skill improvement, roughly every 1.5-2 adventures completed.

Making use of Experience Points
You can increase by one point any one attribute – but you can never increase that attribute by more than 50% its starting value. Eg STR is 6, therefore max is 9. Eg STR is 9, max is 13 (D). Halves round down. That would save players effectively achieving F ratings for all their attributes across the board.

Or you can increase the skill level of one skill by one point.

My suggestion for the number of experience points needed to achieve attribute / skills improvements:

Single Point Increase of Attributes: 200 xp / point
Single Point Increase of Skills: 150 xp / point

Using the example above of Magroc and Tayllin, 116 experience points each I think is a reasonable number to build upon so that after completing the next adventure, they will be able to advance an attribute and a skill.

To round off then – exactly the same system could be applied to the SF version of Classic Traveller so that you have a way to advance characters… if they live that long! (Evil referee’s grin!)

About AlegisDownport

Musings on the Traveller RPG world, technology, astronomy and digital art.
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4 Responses to The Fantasy Traveller Part 9 – Experience Points

  1. Matt says:

    Um, there are rules for advancement in Book 3. Did you skip them?

    • Hi Matt, I did wonder if I’d missed something when you posted your message, I’ve double-checked book 3 and for the life of me I can’t see any mention of experience / advancing skills, except for in Psionics, which isn’t what I based the article around.

      However I’m happy to stand corrected if you could point me to the right section?

      Best wishes, Steve

  2. Brent says:

    I realize this is an old topic, but adding this in case others stumble onto this series.

    There is a two page chapter on Experience in Book 2. The main section in that chapter is Self-Improvement.

    Personally, lack of significant advancement is one of the things I like about Traveller. You don’t have to have different challenges for different levels of characters. Of course, I do realize many people do like the whole character level trope to alternatives such as the one offered here do have a place in some peoples version of the game.

    • Thanks for the feedback; I’d added an article about how to gain experience points as its something that has come up in debate in Traveller over the years in its default sci-fi setting. Indeed it’s matter of preference, my take in the post was in part my personal ‘rules conversion’ in adding a set of rules for experience points based on a familiar method used in other RPGs. As you have said, ‘each to their own’ and use the system that you are most comfortable with. Thanks again for the comments!

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