Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Expanded Rules for Military Skills from CT Book 4 Mercenary

You're in the Army now!
Your players want to run a military or mercenary campaign. Great, What do you do? The abstract battle system in book 4 works, but it is little more than rolling dice and consulting tables. This does not keep players engaged for long. And it's, well, abstract. A commando mission plays out exactly the same as a security contract.

The rules state that the Abstract system is “particularly valuable in resolving a mercenary mission involving large numbers of troops . . .in which player characters are not primary participants.” Even if the PCs are platoon or company leaders, there's not a lot for them to do that will affect the outcome of a battle.

Book 4, Mercenary, was a very popular rules expansion for Traveller. More guns! All those new weapons, though, were just more ways for the PCs to die. Large scale battles run very slowly when done at the PC level (no, Striker does not play quickly) and the chances are good the PCs will be taken out very quickly. This is not good roleplaying fun. What to do?

I recommend that you keep the PCs front and center of the action by diverting action from mass formation slug-outs to actions at the PC's level. Use the standard Traveller combat system while the PCs are performing their part, then resolve the rest with the abstract system.

What part do the PCs play? They're the mission specialists. In addition to all the fancy new guns introduced in book 4, there are several new skills that are directly applied to combat situations.

Specialist PCs can do lots of things to turn the tide of victory besides fight. To do so they must employ these new military skills. Let us consider the following skills:

  • Combat Engineering (CE)
  • Demolitions (DO)
  • Field Artillery (FA)
  • Reconnaissance (RA)
  • Forward Observer (FO) [from book 1]
which do not have much definition in the Bk4 rules. I thought about them for a while, and here are some expansions to the rules as stated, that can make this group of skills more valuable.

Combat Engineering (CE) is “practical experience and training in constructing field fortifications, mine placement and clearance, placing ground sensors”. Therefore, Referee; design some ground sensors!

Tasks for the Combat Engineer include

  • building defenses
  • camouflaging defenses
  • laying mines
  • clearing mines
  • placing sensors
  • disabling sensors
  • spotting static defenses
  • bomb-proofing

On a successful bomb-proofing task (8+) CE skill increases the defense of those inside the fortification versus direct or artillery (FA) fire. Standard DM for 'cover' is -4. The difference of the target and the throw adds to the defenders cover DM. A throw of 11 (3 over) means cover DM of -7. This is a significant bonus to defenders who must hold a position against assault!

A successful CE task to build a defensive position uses the skill level as a -DM for enemy attempts to use Demolitions (DA) against it.

A successful CE task to camouflage a position (6+, or more depending on terrain) adds the skill level as a -DM for enemy tasks to spot the position (a RA task).

To place ground-based sensors: 4+, DM+CE


The primary task of reconnaissance (RA) is to locate enemy positions. Throw 6+ to identify an enemy position (bunker, foxhole, trench, etc.) within visual range. DM +RA skill, - enemy CE skill. Additional DMs for terrain should apply. At Short Range +5, at Medium range +3, at Long range, +0, at V_Long range -2

PCs can use RA skill as a modifier on the Surprise throw, in addition to the DMs given in Book 1. A successful RA throw for 9+ reduces the effective size of a group by the RA skill level, for purposes of surprise. RA also influences the chance to avoid the encounter, by the Escape and Avoidance rule.

To determine the number of persons in a group, without direct visual contact: 8+, DM + RA

To detect the presence of ground-based sensors: 8+, DM +RA, -enemy CE.


Using DO skill to reduce protection (Cover DM) of fortifications: 9+ DM: [DO TL-building TL] 'Civilian' buildings offer cover at the usual DM of -4 only.

To demolish a building/structure: +DM DO skill

Small/light building: 6+ (shed, bungalow, cabin)

Small/standard building: 7+ (home, small shop)

Medium building: 8+ (mansion, single-story complex)

Large building: 9+ (multi-story structure, shopping mall)

Reinforced building: 11+ (HQ bunker, government building) cover DM by CE skill of building engineer.
Say Hello to the Boom!
Field Artillery

Field Artillery implies understanding of how to best employ artillery power - in attacks, area denial, screening, direct fire employment, etc.

To demolish a structure using artillery (FA):

The to-hit task is per normal, except target's CE is a -DM to hit. On a successful hit, throw 8+ for the hit to damage the structure. Light weapons: DM +0, Medium weapons: +2, Heavy weapons: +3

Light buildings have 1 DP

Standard buildings have 2 DP

Medium buildings have 3 DP

Large buildings have 4-6 DP

Reinforced buildings have 8+ DP

To lay smoke or deploy Gas rounds by artillery: 7+ DM+FA
FA skill also influences artillery correction at +1/skill level

Forward Observer

From Book 1: If artillery in any form (including communication with the firing battery) is available, the first shot will invariably miss the target. On each subsequent turn in which such fire is delivered, a basic throw of 11+ to hit is required. DMs: +4 per level of FO skill, -4 if no skill. An adjustment of fire takes two minutes (8 combat rounds). If the battle is resolved using the Abstract system, assume that a platoon/company battle gets 1 correction, and a battalion/brigade battle gets 2 corrections. A successful correction gives that side a DM of +1 in the battle resolution.

Land Mines

Each team or vehicle passing through/over a mined area throws 8+ to trigger a mine. DM – CE of any crew member, +CE of the mine layer. +/- difference in TL [mine-vehicle].

If a mine is triggered, the referee throws 2D; +2 if vehicle is Light armor, +4 if the vehicle is Soft-skinned, +/- TL difference [mine-vehicle]. If the result is 8+, the vehicle is disabled, if the result is 11+ the vehicle is destroyed. Occupants of the vehicle take 1D damage and escape with personal gear not to exceed STR in kg. Anti-personnel mines are treated as 4cm RAM grenades, doing 6D damage.

I was inspired by Andy Slack's White Dwarf article on Vehicle Combat (issue 43) for these rules.

Utilizing these skills, the PCs can perform a variety of missions - directing fire on a target or flushing out enemy foward observers, locating bunkers and fortifications for later attack by artillery or demolitions commandos; destroying bridges or building them under fire. Bridge on the River Kwai anyone?

What else could be done with these skills, to make them more significant?  Share your ideas and suggestions in the comments. 

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