Some Classic Randomness

by Robert M. Brown

GURPS and Traveller have vastly different character generation systems, which makes translating the feel of Classic Traveller over to GURPS an interesting challenge. The Template system in GURPS: Traveller provides a quick way of generating characters who fit the background, but some players, whether old time Traveller players, or people who've never played Traveller but want to try something different, will want to do things the old fashioned way, with randomly generated characters.

The system outlined in this article tries to simulate the Character Generation system of Classic Traveller as closely as possible within the GURPS framework. People familiar with Classic Traveller will note some changes. Most notably, there is no separate Mustering Out table, since GURPS handles starting money separately, and the Survival Roll is also gone. (No one wants their GURPS character dying before he even gets into play!). The vast number of Skills available in GURPS, compared to Classic Traveller, also required some tweaking of the skill assignment process, to keep the process simple while still allowing a full range of skills.

Characters created with this system may exceed 100 Character Points, especially if they serve several terms of enlistment, and will almost certainly not all be equal. For this reason, GMs may chose to limit how many terms a character can serve, and will also have to consider the nature of their gaming groups to determine if the two character generation systems should be mixed. Some players will be resentful if they make their characters by the standard rules and are limited to 100 Character Points, but someone else comes up with a 125 point character through these rules. Depending on your group, it may be best to have everyone use the same character generation method, whichever one that may be.

Character Generation

The GURPS Basic, Compendium I and Traveller books are all recommended.

There are 5 steps to creating a character by this system.
1. Make a 'base' character.
2. Enter a service.
3. Make a success roll, and determine Advantages or Disadvantages acquired.
4. Make a reenlistment roll.
5. Determine Skills acquired.
Repeat these steps until the character leaves the service and enters play.

Step 1. The Character

Make a 50 point character with the normal GURPS rules. It is suggested that this character have no more than -10 points in Disadvantages. Certain Disadvantages (such as Primitive, and most physical Disadvantages) should not be allowed. Quirks may be assigned at this time, or just before the character enters play. This is your young recruit, about to join the service.

Step 2. Enlisting

Next, refer to the Enlistment Table, and try to join one of the six branches of service. To enlist in a service, the player must make the roll indicated in the column for that service. (All rolls on this table except the Draft roll are on 3d6). A Die Roll Modifier of +1, +2, or both (+3) may apply, if the character has a particular attribute at a given level or higher. If he fails the Enlistment roll, he may put the character through the Draft. Roll 1d6 to see which service he ends up in (Note that it is possible to end up being drafted into the same service which just rejected you).

Step 3. Success (and Failure)

After Enlisting, the player then tries to make the Success roll. Making this roll entitles the player to one roll on the Bonus Table, plus one additional roll for every 2 that the roll was made by. If this roll is failed by more than 3, the player must roll on the Disadvantage Table. (For example, the Marines has a Success roll of 10+. A character rolling a 14 would be entitled to 3 rolls on the Bonus Table. A roll of 6 or less would require a roll on the Disadvantage Table.) In addition, certain results on the Bonus Table may require a roll on the Disadvantage table as well (these are marked on the table). Note that it is possible to gain both a positive and negative Reputation in the same term.

There are four different Skill Roll results available; one each for the Personal Development, Service Skills, and Advanced Education Tables, and one that can be applied to any table the player chooses. Unlike the skill rolls that the player gets for each term, or promotions, these rolls apply only to that particular table. Example: A Scout character rolls a 6 for his Bonus Table roll, giving him a roll on any skill table. He picks the Personal Development Table, and rolls a 6, Personal Weapons. He picks Beam Weapon (Laser) and records 1 point in the new skill.

Some of the Advantages and Disadvantages gained in this step may have variable point costs, such as Reputation. These are considered to be at the lowest point cost when first acquired. (A 1 Character Point Reputation, for example.) If the same Advantage or Disadvantage is rolled again, the points are added to raise the value of that Advantage or Disadvantage (a 1 CP Reputation, for example, becomes a 2 CP one). The details of Reputations, Enemies, etc., should be worked out by the player and GM.

Some of the duplicate results rolled will not be variable cost Advantages or Disadvantages. These can be handled a few different ways. Some, such as Cool have higher cost related Advantages (and Disadvantages). A second result of Cool can be taken as replacing Cool with Collected or Composed. A second Bloodlust result could turn Bloodlust into Sadism or Berserk. Or the GM may assign a different result, let the player roll again, or give the character the points (or some of the points) to spend himself. Some flexibility and GM discretion in this process may be needed. The important thing, as always, is to use these tables as a tool to create interesting characters, not a straitjacket to force a player into playing a character he doesn't want to.

Step 4. Reenlisting

The Reenlist roll must be rolled, even if the player does not want his character to serve another term; on a roll of 18 the character is required to serve another term of enlistment. If the roll is made with any result other than an 18, the player may decide to continue for another term, or leave the service. If the roll is failed, the character leaves the service.

When a character leaves the service, his point total is tallied up. If it is below 100 points (or whatever level the GM is using for that particular campaign), the player may spend points to bring the character up to that level. The details of this first post-service career should be included in the character story. The character's age is 18 plus 4 years for each term of enlistment, plus any years in a post-service career.

After the Reenlistment roll has been made (whether passed or failed), the skills gained in that term are determined. Certain skills and advantages are gained automatically, just for being in a certain service, or achieving a certain Rank (The Bonus Table lists Rank as Courtesy Rank because the character enters actual play as a civilian, but still entitled to a certain respect due to his past rank). See the Automatic Skills and Advantages table.

Lastly, the player rolls for any other skills gained in that term of enlistment. The number of rolls is as follows; 4 (1 for each year) plus 1 for the character's first term, plus one for each level of rank gained that term.

There are four Skill tables, each reflecting a slightly different focus. The fourth table, Officer, is only available to characters holding at least 3 levels of Courtesy Rank. Roll 1d6. Find that result in the column for the character's service for each of the skill tables that that character is eligible for, and record 1 character point in the new skills. Example: A Navy character with no Courtesy Rank rolls a 2 for his skill roll. He gains 1 point in Fast Talk from the Personal Development Table, 1 point in Forward Observer from the Service Skills Table, and 1 point in one skill from the Intelligence group from the Advanced Education Table. If he had had 3 or more levels of Courtesy Rank he would have gained 1 point in Strategy from the Officer Table as well.

Repeat until all of the character's skill rolls for that term have been made.

One possible result on the Personal Development Skill Table is +1 Attribute. The GM should monitor this carefully. Given the low number of Character Points available for creating the base character, and the random nature of the table, it is unlikely that players will be able to abuse this by raising Attributes to unreasonable levels, but some will try. For this reason it is suggested that no Attribute may be raised above 15.

Note that some of the entries on the Skill table are not individual skills, but skill groups. If a skill group is rolled, select one skill from that group. In addition, some of the skills require specialization; in some cases the required specialization is noted, on others it is left up to the player. If the same skill is rolled or selected more than once, 1 additional Character Point is added each time.

Optionally, at this point the GM may allow players to select one additional skill, not necessarily on the Skill Tables, to spend a character point on. This represents interests that the character has been pursuing on his own time in that four year period.

After skills have been determined, the character either proceeds to his next term of enlistment, or leaves the service and enters play.


These rules are optimized to produce characters in the 100 point range in 3-4 terms of service. Good or bad rolls will vary this, of course. Some players and GMs will want characters who are younger, more powerful, or both. These GMs are encouraged to customize these rules to suit their individual campaign. Some suggestions are: Increase the number of skill rolls per term of enlistment, allow more rolls on the Bonus Table (one additional roll for each point the Success roll is made by, rather than one for every 2 points, for example), assigning variable point Advantages (and Disadvantages) a higher than minimum value, and starting with higher value 'core' characters. The GM should, of course, also feel free to customize the Bonus, Disadvantage, and Skill tables to suit his campaign.

Lastly, it is worth pointing out that this system will work, with minor modification, for generating military veteran characters in virtually any setting. Change a few Skills and Advantages and you can turn out veterans of the Megalan Legions as easily as veterans of the Imperial Marines.

Skill Groups

Personal Weapons:
Armory (Small Arms), Battlesuit, Beam Weapons, Brawling, Broadsword, Fast Draw, Fencing, Guns, Knife, Knife Throwing, Spear, Speed Load, Staff.

Cryptanalysis, Cryptography, Intelligence Analysis, Language, SIGINT, Traffic Analysis.

Diagnosis, First Aid, Language, Physician, Surgery.

Acting, Bribery, Carousing, Gambling, Language, Teaching.

Charts and Tables

Enlistment Table

Navy Marines Army Scouts Merchant Other
Enlistment 12+ 13+ 8+ 10+ 10+ 6+
+1 Enlistment IQ 11+ HT 11+ DX 10+ IQ 10+ ST 10+
+2 Enlistment IQ 13+ ST 11+ HT 11+ ST 11+ IQ 11+
Draft 1 2 3 4 5 6
Success 10+ 10+ 9+ 10+ 8+ 11+
Reenlist 9+ 9+ 10+ 6+ 7+ 8+

Success Bonus Table

Navy Marines Army Scouts Merchant Other
3 Favor Very Fit Hard to Kill Favor Patron Cool
4 Combat Reflexes Toughness Favor Luck Intuition Common Sense
5 * Alertness Fit Toughness Strong Will Contact Contact
6 G Experience Skill Roll (Personal Development) Fearless Skill Roll (Any) Favor Skill Roll (Any)
7 * Contact Fearless Courtesy Rank Contact Reputation Wealth
8 Skill Roll (Personal Development) G Experience Cool Skill Roll (Personal Development) Courtesy Rank Skill Roll (Personal Development)
9 Acceleration Tolerance Skill Roll (Service Skills) Skill Roll (Personal Development) 3D Spacial Sense Skill Roll (Personal Development) Alertness
10 Courtesy Rank Courtesy Rank Courtesy Rank Skill Roll (Service Skills) Courtesy Rank Skill Roll (Service Skills)
11 * Skill Roll (Service Skills) Alertness Skill Roll (Service Skills) Danger Sense Contact Favor
12 Courtesy Rank Skill Roll (Advanced Education) Courtesy Rank Alertness Skill Roll (Service Skills) Contact
13 * 3D Spacial Sense Combat Reflexes Alertness Skill Roll (Advanced Education) Wealth Acute Sense
14 Reputation High Pain Threshold Skill Roll (Advanced Education) G Experience Courtesy Rank Skill Roll (Advanced Education)
15 * Patron Reputation High Pain Threshold Reputation Claim to Hospitality Wealth
16 Skill Roll (Advanced Education) Contact Combat Reflexes Versatile Ally Group Strong Will
17 Improved G Tolerance Patron Reputation Intuition Cultural Adaptability Reputation
18 Security Clearance Hard to Kill Patron Ship Ship Patron

* Roll on Disadvantage Table.
The player may chose to apply a Die Roll Modifier of +1 for each previous term of enlistment, and an additional +1 if the character has accumulated at least 3 levels of Courtesy Rank. The player should declare before rolling if he will be taking this modifier. Example: A character in his second term with 2 levels of Courtesy Rank would get a +1 on this table. If he were promoted again, on his next (third) term he would be entitled to a +3.

Disadvantage Table

Disadvantage Notes
3-4 Phobia
5 Appearance Unattractive Appearance, probably scarring as a result of injuries.
6 Callous
7 Post-Combat Shakes
8 Stubbornness
9-11 Reputation A bad reputation worth -1 points. Cumulative.
12 Enemy A minor Enemy worth -3 points. Successive Enemy results on this table may be either additional Enemies, or add to the point value of the initial Enemy, at the player and GM's discretion.
13 Flashback
14 Overconfidence
15 Sense of Duty At the -5 point level. Cumulative.
16 Secret A minor Secret worth -5 points. Successive Secret results on this table may be either additional Secrets or add to the point value of the initial Secret.
17-18 Bloodlust

Automatic Skills and Advantages

Condition Navy Marines Army Scouts Merchant Other
Automatic on Enlistment Savoir Faire (Military) Savoir Faire (Military) Shortsword Savoir Faire (Military) Guns (Rifle) Pilot (Starship) Merchant Streetwise
Rank 3 Status +1 Status +1
Guns (Pistol)
Status +1
Guns (Pistol)
Rank 5 Pilot (Starship)
Rank 6 Status +1
Rank 8 Status +1 Status +1 Status +1

Skill Tables

Navy Marines Army Scouts Merchant Other
Personal Development
1 +1 Attribute +1 Attribute +1 Attribute +1 Attribute +1 Attribute +1 Attribute
2 +1 Attribute Fast Talk Fast Talk Free Fall Fast Talk Scrounging
3 Fast Talk Area Knowledge Area Knowledge Scrounging Area Knowledge Fast Talk
4 Area Knowledge Leadership Leadership Area Knowledge Merchant Area Knowledge
5 Personal Weapons Personal Weapons Personal Weapons Survival Personal Weapons Streetwise
6 Free Fall Social Social Personal Weapons Social Personal Weapons
Service Skills Navy Marines Army Scouts Merchant Other
1 Electronic Operations Vacc Suit Driving Pilot (Grav Vehicles) Vacc Suit Cooking
2 Forward Observer Driving Pilot (Grav Vehicles) Vacc Suit Personal Weapons Social
3 Mechanic Personal Weapons Gunner Mechanic Electronics Social
4 Pilot Personal Weapons Personal Weapons Astrogation Administration Personal Weapons
5 Gunner Personal Weapons Personal Weapons Electronics Streetwise Demolitions
6 Vacc Suit Personal Weapons Electronic Operations Gunner Electronic Operations Forgery
Advanced Education Navy Marines Army Scouts Merchant Other
1 Astrogation Driving Mechanic Pilot Mechanic Medical
2 Intelligence Mechanic Engineer (Combat) Astrogation Electronics Electronics
3 Electronics Tactics Forward Observer Astrogation Medical Social
4 Medical Tactics Personal Weapons Engineer Social Forgery
5 Demolition Demolition Tactics Electronic Operations Gunner Electronic Operations
6 Engineering Medical Medical Pilot Pilot Mechanic
Officer Navy Marines Army Merchant
1 Administration Administration Administration Administration
2 Strategy Intelligence Intelligence Intelligence
3 Intelligence Electronics Engineering (Combat) Merchant
4 Electronics Strategy Strategy Area Knowledge
5 Tactics Leadership Leadership Diplomacy
6 Leadership Tactics Tactics Accounting

Italics indicates a Skill Group.

Article publication date: December 18, 1998

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