Introduction and a question. Traveller crunchy?

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
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Introduction and a question. Traveller crunchy?

Postby kevbeck47 » Mon Mar 05, 2018 4:38 pm

Good day all!

My name is Kevin Beck and I am a long time gamer. I have not had a chance to play in to many campaigns but I have always enjoyed the hobby and have dabbled in creating source material for a number of games. I remember working with Traveller back in the day and loved the system for creating interplanetary settings. My goal is to create my own Traveller campaign. I was wondering why people I have asked consider the game crunchy. To me a game is only crunchy if you have to use all the rules to play the game. If you play Traveller with just the core rules presented its almost RPGlite in my mind. What are your opinions? Looking forward to sharing thoughts on the forum. :)

P.S. Thank you to Mongoose for letting me have the sale price on the Traveller core rules after the sale had run out. That was great customer service and very much appreciated.
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Re: Introduction and a question. Traveller crunchy?

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:03 pm

Some people look at all the "military" aspects of the rules, and think crunch.

Some people look at all the "math" aspects of the rules, and think crunch.

Some people look at the skill "bloat" aspects of the rules, and think crunch.

Some people look at a two-sided character sheet, and think crunch.

Some people see the Psionics chapter, and think crunch.

Some people see the Starship Construction chapter missing, and still think crunch.

Traveller, before T20, HT, GT, and T5, is about as crunchy as Vampire: The Masquerade. A little bit below medium crunch rules. The heavy reading is mostly in the setting books.
Last edited by ShawnDriscoll on Tue Mar 06, 2018 2:00 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Introduction and a question. Traveller crunchy?

Postby paltrysum » Mon Mar 05, 2018 8:04 pm

Really it's as crunchy as you and the players want it to be. I've read the latest incarnations of both Mongoose Traveller (obviously, or I wouldn't be here) and Dungeons & Dragons and I found the D&D rules much more complex and daunting. If you want sci-fi with at least a modicum of hard science involved, Traveller is great. If not, I suppose there's StarFinder.
"Spacers lead a sedentary life. They live at home, and their home is always with them—their starship, and so is their country—the depths of space."
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Re: Introduction and a question. Traveller crunchy?

Postby Sigtrygg » Mon Mar 05, 2018 9:10 pm

It's not crunchy during play if you don't want it to be.

"You want to do stuff? Roll 2D6 target number is 8"

"Ok you have shot the mook with your smg, roll 3D for damage and subtract his armour"


The crunch comes from boon/bane, changing target numbers for tasks. considering multiple DMs that may affect task attempts etc.

Then there is the out of game crunch. world/system design, vehicle and starship building, generating NPCs etc.
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Re: Introduction and a question. Traveller crunchy?

Postby NOLATrav » Tue Mar 06, 2018 3:47 am

I've always understood crunch to refer a certain "realism" in the game; some say "hard science" in reference to sci-fi RPGs. Perhaps I've been mixing apples and oranges all this time but I take crunch to mean detailed rules that strive for realism.

Fire, Fusion and Steel may be a good example from Traveller - complex and ultra-detailed rules for designing ships, weapons, armor, vehicles, etc. The supplement attempts to make a coherent whole out of all the magic tech in the Traveller universe and allow you to create usable in-game items with it.

Detailed jousting or complex sword-fighting rules that cross-index attacks vs defenses could be an example for fantasy RPGs.

But Mongoose Trav 2e can be lite or crunchy as you like. As written the core rules are relatively lite as simplicity was a primary design factor. However it's pretty easy to add in a few house rules to provide extra detail and realism to almost any aspect of the game. For instance, I give all energy weapons bonuses to hit inside effective range and penalties beyond that to reflect energy beam attenuation and dispersal.
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Re: Introduction and a question. Traveller crunchy?

Postby TrippyHippy » Wed Mar 07, 2018 12:26 pm

The basic system is as simple as it gets. The ship design and various random generation charts add complexity. It's as crunchy as D&D in it's own way.
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Re: Introduction and a question. Traveller crunchy?

Postby arcador » Wed Mar 07, 2018 4:34 pm

I agree.

Only ship combat gets more complex, but it is still bound to a specific framework of rules, which once familiar, are no longer tough.

Also, in ship combat all players are the SHIP - one operates the computer; one operates the engines; few operate the guns - so they can divide the computational load between them.

Unlike the intersection of feats, class powers, and spells in DnD (my experience is with 3 and 3.5), which can make tracking all the sh*t a nightmare.
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Re: Introduction and a question. Traveller crunchy?

Postby steve98052 » Fri Mar 09, 2018 6:07 pm

Compared to games like D&D or GURPS or (oh my) Hero, I'd say that Traveller is fairly rules-light. But compared to rules sets like PDQ# or Risus, I'd say that Traveller is pretty crunchy. The character creation rules fall into the crunchy column too.

I pick and choose between rules sets. I like the crunchy -- and highly self-consistent -- ship design rules of GURPS. I like the crunchy character creation rules, but they pretty much demand a dedicated session, or pregenerated characters for short-run games. And my story gamer friends sold me on rules-light, so I'll probably use PDQ# for actual play.

I'm also a fan of troupe play, so there's a handy pool of extra characters ready for when some of the party is out of action, whether that's because they are dead, wounded, isolated, or just not a skills and interests fit for an adventure scene.
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Re: Introduction and a question. Traveller crunchy?

Postby Hakkonen » Fri Mar 09, 2018 7:20 pm

NOLATrav wrote:
Tue Mar 06, 2018 3:47 am
I've always understood crunch to refer a certain "realism" in the game
Not necessarily realism, IMO, but more of a simulationist (as opposed to a narrativist) bent. Crunchy games try to simulate the game world as closely as is practical, like Shadowrun, rolling dice for nearly every action. Less crunchy games involve fewer rolls and more narration; somebody mentioned PDQ#, which is a great example.
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Re: Introduction and a question. Traveller crunchy?

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Fri Mar 09, 2018 7:38 pm

Best practice for role-play is to emulate, not simulate. Humans at a table cannot simulate anywhere near as quickly as computer games can. Those that try only bring their tabletop game sessions to a halt, preventing any role-play or real-time play from happening.
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Re: Introduction and a question. Traveller crunchy?

Postby Epicenter » Sat Mar 10, 2018 10:11 am

Traveller is definitely "crunchy."

With the creation of game systems like FATE or the older Theatrix and other systems, basically all RPGs that aren't those types are all going to be seen as "crunchy" as they have systems that are simulationist in nature. Traveller is less crunchy than many other systems, but it still is; there are a variety of step-by-step rules to handle different situations as opposed to a kind of "philosophy" or "framework" that is used to handle every situation in games like FATE.

Now, if that's a bad thing or not is entirely up to the person.

Personally, while I find systems like FATE to be fairly fun, the systems have their own drawbacks. If you want to tell a coherent story instead of a "stream-of-consciousness" session, it requires that the players and ref be on the same page, much more so than other RPGs since essentially every player at the table is a kind of GM. They also have very limited single-player options.

Wait, single-player you ask?

Games like Traveller, as simulations, have single-player games you can play. In fact, Traveller has a lot more single-player gaming options than a lot of other RPGs: Designing starships, worlds, subsectors, and even generating characters are all single-player games. You follow the rules, making choices and rolling dice the rules tell you what happens. From the other end, starships, worlds, and characters come out.
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Re: Introduction and a question. Traveller crunchy?

Postby steve98052 » Sat Mar 10, 2018 7:26 pm

I see a couple of axes of crunchiness.
1. Abstraction or simulation
2. Simple or complex

All story games -- Fate, Risus, PDQ#, etc. -- are abstract, and they're all on the simple end of the complexity scale; the complete Risus "book" is about one sheet of printer paper in a normal font size. But they're not necessarily all that simple; the full Fate rules are comparable to Savage Worlds, which is a fairly simple conventional rule set.

But where do conventional games fall in comparison with each other? First, the abstraction scale:
  • D&D, in the sense that hit points increase with level, which has been rationalized in all sorts of ways, all pretty abstract.
  • Shadowrun is abstract all around; the rules seem designed mostly to balance the various ways to do mayhem, rather than to make anything correspond to the real world.
  • Savage Worlds uses the abstraction that some characters are important (player characters, NPC leaders), and count hit points, while others are extras, and are out of action with a single solid success against them.
  • Ars Magica physical combat is fairly abstract.
  • D&D in some editions hints at recognition of real world matters like effectiveness of different weapon types against different armor types.
  • Traveller (just Mongoose and classic, for purposes of this message) personal combat is mostly abstract, but reducing combat effectiveness due to wounds is slightly simulated.
  • Hero is abstract in many ways, to balance the value of character points, but specific in saying that five strength points doubles the amount of weight one can lift.
  • Savage Worlds is fairly abstract in a lot of ways, but it has a lot of real world items in its weapon and equipment tables, and tries to scale the relative hit point damage of weapons to actual damage potential.
  • D&D spells are pretty arbitrary in their relative power, but often simulationist in terms of specific effects.
  • Hero is very simulationist in terms of sequence of events in combat.
  • Traveller ship combat is mostly simulationist, though damage effects are still fairly abstract.
  • Ars Magica magical research is very detailed and simulationist.
  • GURPS may not be the most simulationist rule set ever published, but it's certainly the most simulationist game that's widely played.
Then the complexity scale (where I'll include a few story games):
  • Risus and PDQ# are very simple.
  • Fate is simple.
  • Savage Worlds is pretty simple.
  • Traveller personal combat is fairly simple.
  • D&D is fairly simple until things like feats and magic come into play.
  • Ars Magica starts to get complicated -- unnecessarily in the case of non-magical combat, but entertainingly in the case of magic.
  • GURPS is complicated even without piling on the optional rules.
  • Traveller space combat is usually complicated.
  • D&D is complicated when feats and magic come into play, which is pretty standard in most games.
  • Hero is complicated unless combat is completely avoided, which is atypical in the default superhero setting.
  • Shadowrun is always complicated, unless someone has house rules to simplify it, or if they've simplified it in versions I haven't seen.
  • GURPS with lots of optional rules in play is very complicated, and nearly unusable if all of the optional rules are in play.
Those two lists could be made into a pretty cool scatter plot, couldn't they?

In my opinion, gaming works best when the level of abstraction or simulationism are roughly in line with the degree of simplicity or complexity. Story games are abstract and simple, which is good. GURPS is simulationist and complicated, which is good, in the sense that the feeling of realism that comes from the simulationist mood makes the complexity worth the effort.

On the other hand, I find Shadowrun tedious, because all the effort spent fighting with complicated rules doesn't pay off in with a corresponding feeling of realism. If I want complicated rules and a Shadowrun setting, I might as well run the setting with GURPS rules, or save all the effort and use Fate rules.

I can't think of any games that are both simple and simulationist -- unless there's a computer doing the dirty work. Can we say "Kerbal Space Program"?

All of the above refers to play time. Character generation is another story. Things fall into three main groups on the complexity scale:
  • Low: story games and non-magical D&D characters.
  • Medium: magical D&D characters and points based systems.
  • High: Traveller and Ars Magica (plus GURPS weapon design and most Traveller editions' ship design).
So what do we mean by "crunchy"? I'd say it's mostly a case of being simulationist (which also means complex). One could call games that are abstract and complicated crunchy too, but I tend to call them annoying instead.
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Re: Introduction and a question. Traveller crunchy?

Postby Condottiere » Sat Mar 10, 2018 11:12 pm

White Wolf is narrative driven, whereas ShadowRun just requires throwing enough dice at a problem, rather like Warhammer.

It also depends on your starting point, where ShadowRun like GURPS can scale up or down, whereas Traveller you're dealing with midlife crisises.

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