The "Red Shirt" Rule

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
Tom Kalbfus
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The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby Tom Kalbfus » Sat Oct 18, 2014 4:46 am

What do you think of the "Red Shirt" Rule? Traveller, as you know can be very deadly, but suppose you wanted a more heroic style of play? In D&D you have hit points, which means the higher level you advance, the harder your character is to kill. One optional rule for Traveller, a house rule, would be to use "Red Shirts". Basically "Red Shirts" as in classic Star Trek and Prime Directive, are there to provide extra targets for the enemy to shoot at. When there is combat, the Red Shirts are usually the first to get hit, so if a bad guy shoots at one of the PCs and hits, the Referee may choose instead to substitute a Red Shirt getting hit and taking damage instead, that way if the combat becomes too intense, the players realize they better beat a hasty retreat if they are losing Red shirts left and right.

By the way, do you think the Prime Directive setting should have a "Red Shirt" rule? Since Prime Directive is based on the Original Series, one might think that "Red Shirts" should be a part of that. What do you think?
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Sat Oct 18, 2014 7:40 am

Minions are what some referees use. But even then, they are using the same stats as players basically. They might not have any skills. Just characteristics is all. There is no boss NPC in Traveller. That's what D&D is for.
Last edited by ShawnDriscoll on Sat Oct 18, 2014 8:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
Sigtrygg
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby Sigtrygg » Sat Oct 18, 2014 7:55 am

T5 has mook rules - I will never use those rules.

One of the things I have always liked about traveller are that NPCs and PCs are effectively equal
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby Reynard » Sat Oct 18, 2014 10:45 am

Unlike Star Trek, the players have to allot funds to care and feed Red Shirts and even then it doesn't guarantee the enemy will exclusively shoot them. Grow a spine and do your own fighting!

Or get a robot.
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby Rick » Sat Oct 18, 2014 1:50 pm

I don't see Traveller in the same light as the D&D games, and I don't think that rule would be good for the games I play. As to Prime Directive, it might have been based on Star Trek, but the setting has evolved since then; those red shirts you so casually sacrifice now wear camo, body armour, carry big guns and call themselves 'Star Fleet Marines', not quite the human ablative armour you were thinking about.
"Understanding is a 3-edged sword" bit like a toblerone, really.
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby Saladman » Sat Oct 18, 2014 3:03 pm

Maybe its just the group I play with, but we don't seem to need a rule. Give them generic hirelings, and they'll make them into ablative human armor all on their own. :)
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby Matt Wilson » Sat Oct 18, 2014 8:02 pm

If you want to drift Traveller to something a bit more swashbuckly, I think it's a clever (and kind of hilarious) idea.

"We're out of redshirts! Crap, back to the ship so we can get more!"
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby sideranautae » Sat Oct 18, 2014 8:09 pm

Matt Wilson wrote:
"We're out of redshirts! Crap, back to the ship so we can get more!"
This is why I always carry SuSAG brand dehydrated Red Shirts when I expect trouble!
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Tom Kalbfus
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby Tom Kalbfus » Sat Oct 18, 2014 9:50 pm

Reynard wrote:Unlike Star Trek, the players have to allot funds to care and feed Red Shirts and even then it doesn't guarantee the enemy will exclusively shoot them. Grow a spine and do your own fighting!

Or get a robot.
To get more detailed, a house rule would be set up, if a character kills 16 NPCs, or creatures with physical attribute scores 2-15 and no redshirts, then the PC advances a level and gets a red shirt.

Opponents defeated - Level - red shirts
16 - 2nd level - 1 red shirt
50 - 3rd level - 2 red shirts
100 - 4th level - 3 red shirts
150 - 5th level - 4 red shirts

How to use red shirts.
Red shirts follow you around where ever you go, usually their armor is the same or inferior. Your opponents can shoot at you or the red shirts, the red shirts can also fire back, or they (the opponents) can shoot at you, when shooting at you and a hit is scored, there is a 50% chance at second level that the damage will be inflicted on your 1 red shirt instead of your primary PC, at 3rd level there is a 66% chance (33% chance for each one) that the damage on the PC will be absorbed by one of two red shirts you receive at third level. Basically you are substituting a number of red shirts for the additional hit points you would otherwise receive in a game of D&D. the downside is these red shirts still take up space, eat food, breath oxygen, and so forth. A 1st level character can hire a red shirt, but the damage transference ability does not apply until 2nd level is reached. basically the level of the character equals the number or red shirts minus one, he can transfer damage to. This rule should make the primary PC more survivable, though it does get a bit crowded at higher levels.

What do you think?
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby Matt Wilson » Sun Oct 19, 2014 11:48 am

What you need is a rule where it gets harder and harder to get new people to join your crew.

"Dude, that's Tom Kalbfus' ship. You do not want to sign on, trust me."
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby sideranautae » Sun Oct 19, 2014 8:25 pm

Matt Wilson wrote:What you need is a rule where it gets harder and harder to get new people to join your crew.

"Dude, that's Tom Kalbfus' ship. You do not want to sign on, trust me."
:lol: True that would make more sense. If my rusty memory is right there was something along those lines in the 1st Ed AD&D DMG. Something about word getting around if the PC's hirelings kept getting killed during adventures...
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby Matt Wilson » Mon Oct 20, 2014 1:45 am

Your ship just has to be able to travel faster than your reputation.
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby Reynard » Mon Oct 20, 2014 2:16 am

The infamous ship that takes on crew and security regularly but none ever return to port.
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby AdrianH » Mon Oct 20, 2014 8:43 am

The thing about redshirts is that they don't stay expendable. It is true that in TOS, redshirts were the expendable minions who lived in security and engineering, and died to show the current threat. And goldshirts were the command staff.

But from TNG onwards it was the other way round. Evidently the redshirts staged a revolution. The same could happen on the players' ship...
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby Lord High Munchkin » Sat Oct 25, 2014 10:03 am

Surveillance swarms or flying robot drones are the equivalent. One could even teleoperate them for the vicarious thrill of getting "ablated".
The desire for a "definitive, ultimate answer" is, in fact, classified by modern psychiatric medicine as a mental illness.
Tom Kalbfus
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby Tom Kalbfus » Sat Oct 25, 2014 12:40 pm

AdrianH wrote:The thing about redshirts is that they don't stay expendable. It is true that in TOS, redshirts were the expendable minions who lived in security and engineering, and died to show the current threat. And goldshirts were the command staff.

But from TNG onwards it was the other way round. Evidently the redshirts staged a revolution. The same could happen on the players' ship...
In Next Generation, the Red shirts wore gold shirts, remember Worf wore a yellow shirt, Picard wore a red shirt. Of course security wasn't as expendable as it was before. You can still tell a red shirt however, if you see a new face, for instance, he could be a "red shirt" depending on what the story needs to be sacrificed. Perhaps a better story makes the audience care about the person who is sacrifice, I think that reflects better writing. In the old days, the red shirt was suddenly introduced and then sacrificed a short time later.
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby Rick » Sat Oct 25, 2014 1:59 pm

Tom Kalbfus wrote:
AdrianH wrote:The thing about redshirts is that they don't stay expendable. It is true that in TOS, redshirts were the expendable minions who lived in security and engineering, and died to show the current threat. And goldshirts were the command staff.

But from TNG onwards it was the other way round. Evidently the redshirts staged a revolution. The same could happen on the players' ship...
In Next Generation, the Red shirts wore gold shirts, remember Worf wore a yellow shirt, Picard wore a red shirt. Of course security wasn't as expendable as it was before. You can still tell a red shirt however, if you see a new face, for instance, he could be a "red shirt" depending on what the story needs to be sacrificed. Perhaps a better story makes the audience care about the person who is sacrifice, I think that reflects better writing. In the old days, the red shirt was suddenly introduced and then sacrificed a short time later.
These are 2 different things you are talking about - you've already discussed the 'red shirt' rule, but this is different from that. A GM or referee will often introduce NPC's whose only job will be to die later in the story arc; a good one will make the players care about them, so they have an emotional impact on the campaign. No NPC should really be considered as "ablative armour", as this can have a negative impact on the roleplaying (unless of course you are running a campaign where the PC's are sociopaths with no consideration of anybody else). My opinion is that NPC's should be used with some careful planning, and that players should attempt to think of them as other PC's.
"Understanding is a 3-edged sword" bit like a toblerone, really.
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby TrippyHippy » Sat Oct 25, 2014 8:13 pm

Different groups have their own styles of play, but one thing I like in my Traveller games is a sense of physical realism (wherever possible).

I do have games that include celebrated Mook rules (Feng Shui is where the RPG term originated I think), and would see it as appropriate in a Judge Dredd game say, but for settings like The Third Imperium and 2300AD I prefer not.
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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby Egil Skallagrimsson » Mon Oct 27, 2014 7:52 am

Tom Kalbfus wrote:
Reynard wrote:Unlike Star Trek, the players have to allot funds to care and feed Red Shirts and even then it doesn't guarantee the enemy will exclusively shoot them. Grow a spine and do your own fighting!

Or get a robot.
To get more detailed, a house rule would be set up, if a character kills 16 NPCs, or creatures with physical attribute scores 2-15 and no redshirts, then the PC advances a level and gets a red shirt.

Opponents defeated - Level - red shirts
16 - 2nd level - 1 red shirt
50 - 3rd level - 2 red shirts
100 - 4th level - 3 red shirts
150 - 5th level - 4 red shirts

How to use red shirts.
Red shirts follow you around where ever you go, usually their armor is the same or inferior. Your opponents can shoot at you or the red shirts, the red shirts can also fire back, or they (the opponents) can shoot at you, when shooting at you and a hit is scored, there is a 50% chance at second level that the damage will be inflicted on your 1 red shirt instead of your primary PC, at 3rd level there is a 66% chance (33% chance for each one) that the damage on the PC will be absorbed by one of two red shirts you receive at third level. Basically you are substituting a number of red shirts for the additional hit points you would otherwise receive in a game of D&D. the downside is these red shirts still take up space, eat food, breath oxygen, and so forth. A 1st level character can hire a red shirt, but the damage transference ability does not apply until 2nd level is reached. basically the level of the character equals the number or red shirts minus one, he can transfer damage to. This rule should make the primary PC more survivable, though it does get a bit crowded at higher levels.

What do you think?
Never keen on attempts to introduce XP into Trav, and this one seems particularly forced device to "power up" the characters. As other posters have pointed out, just hire extra support, or, if possible in the campaign, use combat robots, though the proviso remains that it may become more expensive to hire human shields if many of them don't come back.

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Re: The "Red Shirt" Rule

Postby Reynard » Mon Oct 27, 2014 12:14 pm

Quite frankly, the whole red shirt concept we see here is really very cowardly on the players' part if they need to line up human shields in front of them! Are you that unsure of your abilities in combat that you walk around with a wall of flesh? Are people that afraid of their Ref or a spontaneous TPK scenario?

The only time you should (unfortunately) see such masses of targetable life forms is military events featuring large formations of soldiers. Can't help it, part of the career description and you volunteered. There should not be a rule solely to kill NPCs for player's benefit. Hell, even Star Trek got tired of the joke.

Red shirting should be a plot device for a ref using an unfortunate NPC hireling or innocent (or not so innocent?) bystander NPCs targeted either by accident for being in the wrong place at the wrong time or making a particular point in the story. The players should feel a loss when a hired NPC is injured or dies because they were brought on board for some other value than to die for their masters.

As an example, my party has a crew of hirelings that is half the ship's crew and we do NOT want anything to happen to them even during boarding actions which is a good portion of their duties. They are too valuable and we don't plan to routinely follow them in.

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