27 May 2015

Hacking Cortex+ - Traveller's Third Imperium

I'm still working on a couple of hacks of the Margaret Weis Productions game, Firefly, including one for Reboot that I've mentioned before.  The other hack is for Traveller's Third Imperium, focusing on the Spinward Marches.  Most of the work will focus on adapting* the existing distinctions for the Third Imperium setting.  After all, Firefly does look like someone's Traveller campaign, centred on the lives of the crew of a Free Trader.

To see what sort of work I need to do, I want to try converting a character over from a flavour of Traveller to the Cortex+ system, ideally without too many unusual characteristics.  Right away, I've eliminated a number of potential characters, mostly Zhodani, Aslan, and Vargr.  The Zhodani are a variant of Humaniti** known for their psionic abilities, far more than what is available in the core Firefly rules.  The Aslan are a race that resemble lions and have a culture that segregates what sort of skills men and women are allowed to use.  The Vargr are a race of uplifted wolves that uses personal charisma to determine who gets to be leader, resulting in a number of very chaotic societies.

For this test, I will use a character created using Mongoose's Traveller rules, specifically the core rules and The Sword Worlds supplement.  That does mean that the character isn't from the Imperium, which adds an extra complexity, more so when taking into account that the Sword Worlds have historically*** sided with the Zhodani in the Frontier Wars against the Imperium.  I have a solution in mind, which I'll mention below.  In the meantime, here is Maera, my guinea pig, with just the significant skills listed to save space.

Name: Maera Viggodottir Lander
Age: 34
Species: Human
Homeworld: Sacnoth/Sworld Worlds (B775956-C Hi ht In)

  Str 4/-1
  Dex 7/+0
  End A/+1
  Int D/+2
  Edu 6/+0
  Soc 7/+0
  Psi 4/-1

 Athletics 0
  Endurance 3
 Clairvoyance 0
 Deception 1
 Jack of All Trades 1
 Melee 0
  Blade 1
 Persuade 1
 Pilot 0
  Spacecraft 1
 Recon 1
 Streetwise 2
 Survival 1

Career - Citzen(Corporate); 2nd-Drifter(Wanderer); 5th-Merchant(Free Trader)
Term 1: (8) Learned something I shouldn't have; profited; promoted
Term 2: (7,36) Metal Worlds Debate; promoted
Term 3: (6) Encounted somthing unusual - psionics; promoted
Term 4: (5) Scavenged something of use; promoted
Term 5: (9) Given specialist training; promoted
Summing her up, Maera's smart, weak, and psionically trained.  Her career began in an office performing secretarial work.  She overheard something she shouldn't have, possibly about her lack of future at the company, so she took matters into her own hands and went on a twelve year walkabout, or as the Swordies call it, fjerntörn.  A Sword Worlder who survives a decade on fjerntörn may call him- or herself svaerdvulf, or "swordwolf", and receives a tattoo of canine jaws on the head or neck.  Maera has such a tattoo.  Done her fjerntörn, Maera tried to return to regular Swordie society, but having had the freedom from the inherent sexism of Sword World society, re-integrating rubbed her the wrong way.

Time to bring her over to the Cortex+ system.  I have her concept and an idea of her abilities.  Going by the numbers again, as before.

Step 0: (Not mentioned in the book) Concept
See above.  Maera stepped away from her expected role in Swordie society.

Step 1: Choose Attributes
I need to work out Maera's Physical, Mental, and Social attributes.  Her high Int score suggests putting a d10 in Mental, lowering Physical to d6, leaving Social at d8.  The catch is her Endurance, both stat and specialty in Athletics.  I'll need to find a distinction to cover that.  I'll also have to decide about her Clairvoyance.  How important is it to the character to keep her psionic abilities?  Consider that she was trained as part of a random event; I didn't expect her to get the ability, but she does have it.

Step 2: Choose Distinctions
After a quick look through the available distinctions in both the core Firefly rules and Things Don't Go Smooth, I have a good selection but can only take three.  The obvious one, Drifter from Things Don't Go Smooth, fits Maera's wanderings.  Fiercely Independent, also from Things Don't Go Smooth, works well to represent why Maera left her white-collar job to go on her fjerntörn.  For the last distinction, I take Reader, reflecting her training but low ability in Clairvoyance.

Step 3: Choose Distinction Triggers
With the distinctions chosen, I now must decide on which two triggers to take.  Reader doesn't have any that fit Maera's Clairvoyance.  Drifter and Fiercely Independent are rich, though.  I take the Drifter trigger Everywhere is the Same and the Fiercely Independent trigger Bullheaded.

Step 4: Step Up Skills
I step up the highlighted skills for each distinction, with no one skill shared amongst them all.  I then spend nine more points.  Survive should be higher, as should Influence.  Know would be good to have highter as well.  The character sheet below shows the results.

Step 5: Choose Specialties or Signature Assets
After Step 4, Maera has a Know of d8, giving her a free specialty there.  Seeing that she was involved in a debate about the Metal Worlds****, that seems to be a good specialty to have.  I have five points to spend on specialties and signature assets.  The obvious asset for Maera to have is her svaerwulf tattoo.  I spend two points to create the asset at d8.  Another point gets spent to pick up Knives as a specialty of Fight.  The fourth point is spent on the Survive specialty Streets.  The last point goes to get the Move specialty Long-Distance Running.

Step 6: Biographical Info
Mostly done already, above.  Maera is from Sacnoth, in the Sword Worlds.  She's smaller than the average Swordie woman, but is also less willing to fall into the roles of mother and daughter.  On her walkabout, she toured not just the Sword Worlds but nearby worlds, unless they were Darrian.  Can't trust those pampered gits at all, really.

Character Sheet
Name: Maera Viggodottir Lander, svaerdwulf
Background: Sword Worlder wanderer

Mental: d10        Physical: d6        Social: d8

 Craft        d4
 Drive        d4
 Fight        d8    Knives
 Fix        d6
 Fly        d4
 Focus        d8
 Influence    d8
 Know        d8    Metal Worlds
 Labour        d4
 Move        d6    Long-distance Running
 Notice        d8
 Operate    d6
 Perform    d4
 Shoot        d4
 Sneak        d4
 Survive        d8    Streets
 Throw        d4
 Treat        d4
 Trick        d4

Drifter: d8
   Gain 1 Plot Point when you roll a d4 instead of a d8.
   Everywhere is the Same: When taught a new job or trade, spend 1PP to step up
      one skill associated with that profession until the end of the Episode.

Fiercely Independent: d8
   Gain 1 Plot Point when you roll a d4 instead of a d8
   Bullheaded: The first time in an argument that I spend a PP to avoid being Taken
      Out, step back the resulting Complication.

Reader: d8
   Gain 1 Plot Point when you roll a d4 instead of a d8

Signature Assets:
   Svaerdwulf Tattoo: d8
      A reminder of what I went through for twelve years and a warning to others of what I can do.
The Firefly Maera feels right in translation to Cortex+.  What I'm wondering, though, is the effect of adding a fourth distinction, a background specific to the Third Imperium.  Thus, distinctions for Imperials, Swordies, Zhodani, Vargr, Aslan separated to male and female, Non-Aligned, Solomani, Hiver, K'Kree, and on and on.  Maera could use a Sword Worlder background, but not having one doesn't quite hinder her.  Mind, part of the use of the backgrounds would be for generating Plot Points when the background doesn't help, such as when Maera has to deal with Darrian customs officers.

Comments?  Feel free to share ideas below.

* And I know adapting.
** The Third Imperium uses this spelling over "Humanity", following in the footsteps of the Terran Solomani (men of Sol), Zhodani (humans from Zhdant) and Vilani (humans from Vland).
*** Fictional history is still history.  Pbbt!
**** Iron, Steel, Mithril, and Bronze, all in the Sword Worlds subsector, all undeveloped.

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