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Mongoose Traveller Character Generation

Even young gamers remember the original Traveller character generations system — the one where your character could die before the game even started. I personally didn’t mind the death result, it gave character generation a real push-your-luck mechanic.

The new Mongoose system has softened this mechanic — the chance of pre-game death is gone, but your character can get seriously maimed.

We did character generation for the Traveller game I’m planning on running, and I’m almost overwhelmed with tidbits of character back story.


How Char Gen Works

For those who haven’t played the game, here’s how MGT chargen works:

  • Roll 2d6 six times and assign these numbers to your six stats.
  • Determine which career you want and attempt to qualify.
  • Once you’re in a career you roll ever term (4 years) to gain skills, etc.
  • You also roll every term for an “event.” These can provide you with allies, contacts, etc.
  • While it’s still called a “survival roll,” you roll to see if you suffer a mishap and must leave that career. These mishaps can injure you, give you enemies, rivals, etc.
  • Once your character reaches 34 years of age, you begin making aging roll, which will become an increasing deterrent to continue with character generation.
As a home brewed rule, one of the players, Tappy, suggested everyone roll a final mishap from their last career. This final mishap was the reason they left their chosen career and decided to go off adventuring among the stars.
You have to be a certain type of RPGer to like this sort of character generation, as it is almost entirely random. You can set career goals for your character, but it’s the luck of the dice where things work out that way.
I can understand why some folks don’t like this kind of chargen system. After all, you can end up with a character type that you would never normally play (or want to play) if given the choice. But for me, that is EXACTLY why I like this kind of chargen system.
Apart from the randomness of the system, the Mongoose has added some wonderful things to it.

Events, Life Events and Mishaps

As mentioned before, events are randomly rolled, and they give your character a few “life changing moments.” These events are stated in the most general way possible, allowing you (or the GM) to flesh out the event.
Events can give you contacts, extra beginning wealth, more skills, etc.
Life events are generally things that happen in your personal life: someone you know died, you become romantically involved with someone, you become ill, etc.
Mishaps (which replaced the Classic Traveller “your dead” mechanic) are terrible things that happened to you during your career: injury, scandal, disaster, etc. Some of these can earn you enemies or rivals.

Probably my favorite mechanic is connections. Using your event, you choose another PC who shared that event with you. You determine what happened, how each of you contributed to it, and you each gain a skill from it.

It encourages players to make characters with intertwined back stories by rewarding them with extra skills.

Putting it all together

After our character generation system, I had a full letter-sized sheet of notes on the five player characters: contacts, enemies, allies, rivals, things they stole, things they discovered, things they found.

It’s a skeleton of a back story, ready to have names and places added.

I’m keeping the final mishap for each character to flesh out myself, as I’m going to use them to put the party together in the same place.

The rest of their back story items are their’s to flesh out as they like.

Once they’ve done that, I’ll start taking all those disparate factoids and start working on ways they could be weaved together.

Putting the cart before the horse

I intentionally kept game prep to a minimum, though I did come up with one initial adventure for them. I made that initial adventure as generic as I could, as I had no idea what the characters would be.

It turns out I didn’t need to use that adventure, as we ran out of time.

By the time chargen was finished, I ended up with the following: a duke on the lamb, a psionic drifter, a grave robber with a limp, a corporate agent and a transvestite able-bodied spacehand,

Luckily, we have enough information to figure out why all these folks would end up on the same ship — I hope.


Written by

Stu Venable is the producer of Happy Jacks RPG Podcast and writer and editor of He is founder and director of the Poxy Boggards and a member of Celtic Squall. He holds a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from California State University, Long Beach. He is a husband and a father. He hates puppies.

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8 Responses to "Mongoose Traveller Character Generation"

  1. wrathofzombieNo Gravatar says:

    Very cool! I finally bit the bullet and purchased the Mongoose Traveller yesterday. I’ve never played Traveller but I always hear amazing things about it. I’m hoping to use it well since I’ve really been getting back into sandbox approach to my games.

  2. BradNo Gravatar says:

    I love Traveller. I played it when it was released with GURPS. I bought a bunch of the books for fluff and adventure ideas. I have never played the Traveller system, but would like to give it a try at a Con.

  3. JonMcNallyNo Gravatar says:

    You know, I still haven’t played TRAVELLER. However, I’ve always admired the game’s implicit acknowledgment that a game begins at character generation (if not earlier). If character generation, as part of the game, isn’t fun (or, if not much fun, is at least quick) then the game has fallen short of greatness. On the topic of lifepaths, I enjoyed using Paul Jaquays’ (out of print) CENTRAL CASTING series of books in conjunction with various games. Ever seen ’em?

  4. Kevin RNo Gravatar says:

    I was making savage world characters last night with the savage world fantasy character generator toolkit . And all I could think about was Traveller character gen. It is quite fun . You are loving how your character is coming along when you suddenly roll spawn of evil.

  5. MattNo Gravatar says:

    Just made my first Traveller character. (First in a loooong time anyways.) It was fun. I’ll probably make a few more just to see what happens. I’m going to try Tappy’s rules next.

  6. Chris KellyNo Gravatar says:

    The Central Casting books were awesome! I wonder where mine are?

  7. Frizzyhaired ChemistNo Gravatar says:

    It’s “duke on the lam” by the way. (on the lam: hiding out from the law or from arrest)

  8. Mark SurberNo Gravatar says:

    The newer stuff is ok…I am from the original Traveler era and rather like those earlier books so much better than the newer stuff. Although I really enjoyed when the original added the various sub books (High Guard – Navy, Merchant Prince – Merchants, etc.), the newer stuff comes across a bit weird with some strange hybrid processes. Also, as I was looking at the same “upgraded” books from the original Core Rules, I noticed that you would find stuff missing not realizing you needed to go back to the core rules for the tables and such. I figured if you were adding the stuff, might as well have a page or two added that you would not have to use both books together – although it is a supplement. Overall its ok revision, but to me it starts to come off similarily like AD&D did as it progressed into the various versions and did not stay true to the original game later on. Hopefully Traveler will not go down the same path – I really miss the old stuff and have to go dig up my old books again rather than using these newer revisions – I want to see exactly how much they have changed as it really looked very different from what I remembered when I was playing with those older supplements/core rules.

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