The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
allanimal
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The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby allanimal » Thu Oct 06, 2016 5:13 am

I've seen mentions in the forums here about players not wanting to roll on the aging table and mustering out before they have to. My players are the same way. I think I am too...
I find this interesting - character generation is so random - the dice can do crazy things and it all gives our character part of their personality. Nobody moans (much) about rolling on a mishap table, but that aging table... Why is it so scary?
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby Condottiere » Thu Oct 06, 2016 5:49 am

You're dealing with human psychology, reaching down to an instinctive fear of an almost certain loss of capability, compared to a random one.

Characters tend to be treated as players' avatars in varying degrees, and despite developments to the contrary, most people don't believe in their guts that fifty is the new forty.

Good news, scientists think that all things being equal, the maximum lifespan for most humans is one hundred and fifteen, then our cells are worn out.
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby Epicenter » Thu Oct 06, 2016 9:01 am

People, particularly Americans, love youth. Young = good is all around us. Biology itself tells us youth is good.

The first roll on the aging table means you're old. You're actually suffering a penalty for age. You're old.

Nobody wants to be old.
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby Condottiere » Thu Oct 06, 2016 10:10 am

It's a youth culture, since the dawn of Rock and Roll, possibly post war bobbysoxers.
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby Rikki Tikki Traveller » Thu Oct 06, 2016 2:21 pm

I have personally failed a few of my Aging Rolls, and let me tell you it is not fun. :)
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby -Daniel- » Thu Oct 06, 2016 5:07 pm

Here is my opinions:

The obsession with youth is not just American. I have seen it all over the world. And yes, youth is fun and all, but I think the whole youth thing is a minor part of the issue. We need to be honest about another important part to the dislike of the age table.

As gamers we have been trained by every RPG that higher stats are better. So when something happens to reduce our stats it must be a bad thing. I remember the fear of Monsters that could drain your stats with no chance to recover them. Or the dislike of some spells as they drained your stats. But at least these things happened in play. You had a chance to play the character before it happened.

The hard part for some with the Traveller ageing table is that you are given a stat (say a 9) and it is not bad. Then before you even get to play the game you have lost 3 stat points (now you are down to a 6). You didn't even get to play the game before you had stats removed. And I can tell you that around my table the ageing table and the injury table have the same dislike. But the injury table can be countered with enough cash. The aging table can't. The dice giveth and the dice taketh away, before I even had a chance to play the character. Understood and disliked.

Now before you try and explain that character gen is a mini-game, I get it. Some folks love the whole random character generation, it just does not apply to everyone. Some folks do not see the game starting until they have completed character gen and began to play the adventure.
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby hivemindx » Thu Oct 06, 2016 10:53 pm

The ageing table is actually quite brutal. I don't really think it has anything to do with youth fixation or anything like that.

Characteristic DMs are very important. Possibly too important. If you have a +2 DEX DM that will likely have an extremely large impact on your character. Your DM only increases with every three points so you might be tempted to equate a characteristic point with one third of a skill point but but because they are more widely applied, and because we know that they are on the training tables alongside skills I think it is fair to equate a single characteristic point with a single skill point.

I don't know what the average point gain per term is but I am pretty sure it is somewhere between 1 and 2. Let's be generous and say that on average a term gives you two points, as well as a benefit roll generally.

A -1 on the ageing table will wipe this out. On term four when you first need to roll for it you have a 8% chance of completely wiping out what you gained on your last term, or worse. That increases quickly. When you finish term six, at the age of 42 you have a 20% chance of losing 2 or more points, and if you are unlucky enough to roll a double one then you will lose 5, that is probably three terms worth of gains. I can see why people don't want to take those odds.

On the point of how important characteristics are, another player told me recently that they liked their character's skills, it looked like they were good at all sorts of interpersonal and social things that they had built up over their entire career. However having a SOC DM of -1 basically cancelled all of these out. This made me wonder how things would work if the characteristic DMs were a bit flatter. Basically from -2 to +2, with almost all results being between +1 and -1. This would emphasise skills over characteristics and would likely also have the side effect of making the ageing table less scary since you would be less likely to hit a breakpoint.
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby Condottiere » Thu Oct 06, 2016 11:48 pm

My estimate is five terms is enough; you should have a fair bag of skills and most of your characteristics in tact, plus a pension.

Unless you're after something specific, like rank.

This is the reason I describe Traveller as Mid Life Crisis Roleplaying.
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby -Daniel- » Fri Oct 07, 2016 4:00 am

Condottiere wrote: This is the reason I describe Traveller as Mid Life Crisis Roleplaying.
I have never heard it called that before but it is quite funny. :lol:
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby haveahappy » Fri Oct 07, 2016 6:25 am

-Daniel- wrote:
Condottiere wrote: This is the reason I describe Traveller as Mid Life Crisis Roleplaying.
I have never heard it called that before but it is quite funny. :lol:
It's my favourite thing about it too.

A team of bitter, middle-aged wash-outs with nothing to show for their long careers other than a trail of people they trampled along their way.

Now they have to hide contraband in the air vents to make ship payment while desperately trying to avoid having to deal with their pasts.
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby Condottiere » Fri Oct 07, 2016 7:31 am

Or the empty nest syndrome, possibly divorced.

She said she wanted space.
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby haveahappy » Fri Oct 07, 2016 7:40 am

ex-spouses make great adventure fodder.

Hell, even CURRENT spouses make great adventure fodder.

"He went WHERE with WHO now??"
or
"Fancy seeing you here.... hows work?"
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby Condottiere » Fri Oct 07, 2016 7:44 am

Even when it was parked in the garage, you rubbed down the Millennium Falcon more than you did me.
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby vargr1 » Sun Oct 09, 2016 12:51 am

3000 years in the future, and medical technology can't stop the human body from aging like it always has.

Yeah, I don't buy it. I certainly didn't when I first started playing Traveller in 79, and I still don't.

There should be - at least - a modification for coming from a high tech society, as well as a mod for coming from a very low tech society.

Something like this:

Homeworld TL / Ageing Roll Mod
0 / -3
1-2 / -2
3-5 / -1
6-8 / +0
9-11 / +1
12-14 / +2
15+ / +3
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby Condottiere » Sun Oct 09, 2016 6:58 am

I think we're supposed to be dead through misadventure or genetic weaknesses by thirty five anyway.

At that point, the Romans trusted you enough to let you apply for the office of Consul; or wanted to cut down competition.
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby alex_greene » Sun Oct 09, 2016 9:38 am

I commit heresy - I allow my players to ignore aging rolls, as long as they keep Travelling. Rather, I accept as a given that they do make aging rolls, but they somehow manage to succeed in retaining all their characteristics brilliantly. The day they retire from Travelling and settle down somewhere, with the thrills of applying for mortgages and changing nappies, that's when their hair turns white.

Until then, I allow a few strands of grey to appear in their hair, maybe crows' feet around the eyes, but nothing like characteristic loss. They have more to worry about industrial accidents such as gun combat, and when they catch one bullet too many they all leave behind great looking corpses.

Think Sir Patrick Stewart, looking great at seventy eight, rather than Clint Eastwood, face like a spent match.

I do let them know that age is something that happens. An old flame turns up and she looks radiant, but she is no longer the hot young beauty who charmed the Traveller so many years ago with her body; the Scholar's Professor leaves behind a final message to his promising young protege saying that he is so proud of the young spacefarer that he let go, and that if he'd not secured tenure the Prof would have gone a-wandering among the stars too.

Or the Traveller might receive news from home - his father has died, and his sister's niece's daughter has just entered the same college that the Traveller attended when he was eighteen.

Otherwise, I allow the Travellers to trigger the Uncanny Valley effect when they pop back to say hi to the family. Everyone he ever knew from school is white-haired and baggy, and he looks like someone in his early forties. Until he tells them he's the same age and generation as the octogenarians huddled in the Old People's Corner of the room.

I reserve that frisson of horror for the players when they realise that You Can Never Go Home Again.
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby -Daniel- » Sun Oct 09, 2016 3:02 pm

alex_greene; I imagine some of those moments are just golden. :D

I know how I felt in real life seeing my best friend's "baby girl" in her collage graduation photos. Then the same week I realized my "baby girl" was graduating from High School. For some reason it really hit me then that I was aging in real life. LOL

:mrgreen:
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby hivemindx » Sun Oct 09, 2016 4:18 pm

vargr1 wrote:3000 years in the future, and medical technology can't stop the human body from aging like it always has.
Are you unaware of anagathics? Given enough money you can live forever. This is generally unavailable of course, and for good reason.

The idea of different backgrounds giving different aging results is interesting but, for me, it fails the test of how much benefit does it give versus the effort required to implement it. There's a big question mark over the basis as well. Does a heart transplant not work on someone just because they were born in a hut in the jungle? If someone was living in a primitive society until they were 18 but then lived for another 60 years in a high tech one, should they really be more likely to suffer the effects of aging than someone who spent their whole life with that medical technology available?

Sure I might have died when I was 10 because of a ruptured appendix but that doesn't affect anyone who made it to 18 with no medical issues.

I did a little bit of calculation to find the average loss per term as a result of aging.

Code: Select all

Age  Cumulative Loss   
34   0.28
38   0.83
42   1.81
46   3.36
50   5.61
54   8.61
58  12.36
62  16.81
66  21.83
70  27.28
With the average characteristic being 7 then this means the average person will start suffering aging crises around age 65. This is assuming that they lose stats evenly of course. That does seem a bit low to me, but a lot of people in their 60s do have to get surgery for things which are essentially age related, perhaps this is what the aging crisis represents. I don't think that most people in their 60s have physical characteristics of 1 though, that seems unrealistic.

Of course certain individuals can buck the odds and lose far less than that. Also, as someone said earlier, Traveller might be mid-life-crisis roleplaying but it isn't old folks in space. I am not too concerned that the system is unrealistically harsh on 70 year olds.

At the age of 46 (term 7) the per term loss works out at just over 1.5 so I suggest that's the point where it is probably no longer effective to remain in your career. I'm fine with this really.
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby -Daniel- » Sun Oct 09, 2016 4:38 pm

hivemindx wrote: At the age of 46 (term 7) the per term loss works out at just over 1.5 so I suggest that's the point where it is probably no longer effective to remain in your career. I'm fine with this really.
So if I understand your point, you feel the fear exceeds the reality of the rolls?


If I got your point right then I agree with your point of view.
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Re: The Aging Table: Why are We Scared of It?

Postby hivemindx » Sun Oct 09, 2016 6:42 pm

I mean that people's attitude to the aging table depends on their appetite for risk. I don't think this risk aversion is related to the fact that it is age based at all. Some people don't want to take a 50% chance of being worse off than if they had quit a term earlier, some people don't want to take a 10% chance of that. When faced with the decision to enlist in a fifth term a player who has a combat effective character more or less where they want them might be weighing the chance of getting a peripheral skill they don't particularly care about against the chance of losing a +1 DM to multiple combat skills.

For me I think 6 terms is probably the peak and after that things start to go down hill. Of course if you mostly only care about mental based skills and aren't too concerned about being injured on a regular basis perhaps losing physical characteristics is not important to you. The loss of mental characteristics is far less severe and doesn't even start until term 8 at age 50.

I haven't generated a lot of characters so far but in all cases I've actually limited people to four terms at most, so they get at worst one aging roll. That seems like plenty of time to develop your character and have interesting stuff happen to them. Perhaps I should increase that to five to at least give the possibility of someone putting in 20 years and drawing their pension. So far no player has asked to continue character generation when I tell them that's it.

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