Serenity Rules converted to Traveller

Serenity Primer
Revision History
*version 1f

What makes Serenity different than other science fiction intellectual properties? The most fundamental thing that’s different is how low-tech the game world is. There are many things that other science fiction properties have that are absent in Serenity, which shapes why the world is how it is. Basic assumptions that must be checked at the door when entering Serenity:

  • There is no FTL, anywhere. Travel is sublight and slow. Some ships have faster engines but most vessels are plodding beasts, relative to the distances being covered. It can take hours or days to traverse the length of a single system, much less the entire ’Verse.
  • Because there is no FTL, communications are done tight beam through communications relays, which are in turn owned and monitored by the Alliance. It can take hours for a message to travel from one end of the ’Verse to the other, and just as long for the reply, so interactive communication is limited to relatively short ranges, such as in-system.
  • There are no light sabers, phasers, blasters, or other fantastic weapons, and what energy weapons that do exist are extremely rare, very hard to maintain, not particularly reliable, and considered contraband in the hands of anyone but the Alliance. Projectile weapons are the norm, even in space, ranging from simple slug throwers to gauss rail guns and missile barrages. Elite Alliance SWAT/Commando units have energy hand guns and rifles, but even they carry slug throwers of some sort for when the energy weapons fail.
  • There are no shields: barrier, force, personal, etc. Ships and personnel alike have to wear armor to avoid damage. There is very little ship-to-ship combat, because building anything with weapons is illegal, especially after the War of Unification. Any vessel found bearing unlicensed arms is impounded immediately. When ship to ship combat does break out, it usually consists of long periods of nothing where the enemies maneuver for advantage, then a fierce exchange that ultimately results in both vessels being seriously damaged and lots of people being dead. The best answer is to run, but sadly the fastest engines in the ’Verse are only manufactured for Alliance vessels, and being in possession of such a ship or component is considered contraband, so running from the Alliance is virtually impossible if they decide to pursue.
  • Things require fuel, and not every planet has the fuel it needs, much less the ability to refine it, so the further from the Core you go, the more primitive the transportation becomes. Even in the mid-range worlds, planes are rare and solar-powered trains and lifts are the norm. Out on the Rim, animal power is the primary source of transportation, because any fuel that can be found or made is appropriated by the Alliance under imminent domain in order to better “protect the citizenry”.
  • Because ships require fuel (relatively often), they have to dock, and because fuel is so scarce there are only so many places to dock for fuel, and the Alliance has a presence at most of them. This means that having contraband equipment, weapons, etc on your ship, or having your ship paperwork out of compliance will catch up with you quickly. There are places to get fuel that are not Alliance, but because they’re not they’re EXTREMELY expensive, and even though the Alliance is not present, there are always those willing to sell info about you to the Alliance for the right price.
  • There are no replicators. This means that ammunition, medicine, and food are manufactured and transported. Some planets have the resources, manpower, and funding to make these things themselves, some do not and are forced to barter/trade with other planets. Those that lack both the resources and the export capability simply do without or are at the mercy of the Alliance’s “humanitarian aid” programs.
  • There are no interstellar scanners or sensor nets that can detect an asteroid 50 light years away. Most sensors are accurate to a few 1,000 km, heavier systems (VLA/Very Large Array or capital ships) can see a few 10,000 km out, but nothing is seeing AU’s away. Out in “the black” there’s a vast nothingness, where it is possible to float in the middle of a system occupied by billions of people and die unrescued and unnoticed. There are no “roads” or lanes, because all of the points of origin and destination move as the planets orbit the many suns. The ‘Verse is 99.999% empty, and as much as the Alliance dislikes it, they know what’s happening in approximately .5% of it at any given time.
  • Mankind has not learned its lessons. Londinium was terraformed in 2220, the current year is 2519, in 300 years the planet is almost out of resources and importing 60% of the resources it needs to support itself. Rim worlds are often terrified of finding resources that the Core worlds value because it means the Alliance often appropriates them with minimal return, stripping the planet of its value without giving any wealth in return, “for the good of the Alliance”.
  • The Alliance is not “evil”, it’s a govt, just like any other, trying to manage billions of people with limited resources. The US govt does all manner of atrocities, visible and noticed only by those they’re being done to, while the rest of the citizenry plods along, grazing, happily ignorant, and the Alliance does everything within its power to maintain that. For those that follow the rules, live within the boundaries the govt supports, life is happy and safe. The problem is, the Alliance does not have the resources or manpower to support 50 billion people spread out over 213 occupied systems. It is barely able to support 30 billion, which is why it’s presence is so sparse out on the Rim. But what it cannot and will not allow is the formation of another government in the same system, so while it will not provide even subsistence levels of aid to some of the Rim planets, they are forbidden from seceding from the Alliance because that would put the core worlds in jeopardy of being unable to support themselves and finding the resource worlds denied them due to another government. The Alliance MUST be able to take what it needs from resource rich worlds to support the Core.

Creating Characters

This is my initial pass at modifying Serenity into Traveller. It’s 90% Traveller, 10% Serenity. The ships will likely be 99% Traveller, as that’s easier. This is taken from the Mongoose Traveller books, which are also referenced extensively in this process.

The stats map directly across, with 2 new stats added to support the Serenity game world.

Making a Serenity Character for Traveller

  1. Write down your starting stats (table 1)
  2. Spend your 26 character points to:
    1. Increase your stats (table 2)
    2. Buy Assets (table 3), at least 1, no more than 5
    3. Buy Complications (table 4) , at least 1, no more than 5
  3. Determine how many background skills you get (table 5) by cross-referencing the higher of Education or Intelligence with the Tech Level of your homeworld.
  4. Choose your background skills (at lvl 0, so basic training) from your Homeworld skills (based upon the attributes of your homeworld, table 6) or the basic Education Skills (table 7). You may only pick each skill once (no doubling up) and combined between the 2 tables you can only pick up to the total number of background skills you get (based upon #3 above). For an idea on what each skill does, see table 9.

At this point, you have an 18 year old person who will then embark on their background. This can start at a University or go straight into action at entry level in a career track (table 8).

University

If you choose to go to University (and potentially Grad school), follow these steps:

  1. Qualify for entry (Education roll at 6+, automatic if your Education is 8+)
  2. Choose an Assignment (Science, Arts, Engineering).
  3. Decide if you wish to include Officer Training Courses in your University experience. If you do:
    1. All Graduation and Honors checks are +1 higher, making it more difficult
    2. You start any military career track at Officer 0 (instead of enlisted 0)
    3. You are +2 to the first advancement roll as an officer
    4. All of your education debt is erased at the end of your first completed military tour
  4. You receive the following skills at 0: Admin, Art (choose one), Carouse, Language, Deception, and a Science (choose Life, Physical, etc and choose a speciality)
  5. Pick one of the Skills and Training tables that apply to you and your Assignment, roll 1d6 on that table, and apply the result to your character (increase stats, get a new skill at lvl 1, or increase an existing skill by 1)
  6. Add 2 to the character’s age to represent 2 years in college.
  7. Roll to see if you graduate: Art and Science are Edu 5+, Engineering is Edu 6+ (each +1 if OTC). If you fail to graduate, roll on the drop out table and you’re done with University, though you can reapply and do it again.
  8. If you graduated, roll on the event table and apply the results to your character.
  9. If you graduated, roll on the education debt table (adding the character’s Education DM), this represents the amount of student loans amassed.
  10. If you graduated, roll for honours: Int 8+ (9+ if OTC). If you succeed, you graduated with Honors.
  11. If you graduated without honours:
    1. Roll once on the Mustering Out Benefits table
      1. If your Education is 9 or more, +1 Edu
      2. If your Education is 8 or less, it becomes 9.
    2. You have a Bachelors degree in your field
  12. If you graduated with honours
    1. Roll twice on the Mustering Out Benefits table
      1. If your Education is 11 or more, +1 Edu
      2. If your Education is 10 or less, it becomes 10
    2. You have a Masters degree in your field

Graduate School

  1. Qualify for entry (Education roll at 10+, automatic with Honors university degree)
  2. Choose an Assignment: Doctorate/Phd, Law, Medicine
  3. Students may either roll 1d6 on the Personal Development table, OR take one of the following:
    1. Doctorate/Phd – Gain one level of any Science or Engineer skill
    2. Law – Gain one level of Advocate or Persuade
    3. Medicine – Gain one level of Medic or any Life Science
  4. Add 2 to the character’s age to represent 2 years in Graduate School
  5. Roll to see if you graduate: Education 6+. If you fail to graduate, roll on the drop out table and you’re done with Graduate School, though you can reapply and do it again.
  6. If you graduated, roll on the event table and apply the results to your character.
  7. If you graduated, roll on the education debt table (adding the character’s Education DM), this represents the amount of student loans amassed.
  8. If you graduated, roll for honors: Int 9+. If you succeed, you graduated with Honors.
  9. If you graduated without honors:
    1. Roll once on the Mustering Out Benefits table
      1. If your Education is 11 or more, then +1 Edu
      2. If your Education is 10 or less, then it is raised to 11
    2. You gain a PhD, an MD, or a Law Degree, depending upon the degree program.
    3. You gain +1 to qualify in the Scholar career track
  10. If you graduated with honors:
    1. Roll twice on the Mustering Out Benefits table
      1. If your Education is 11 or more, then +1 Edu
      2. If your Education is 10 or less, then it is raised to 11
    2. You gain a PhD, an MD, or a Law Degree, depending upon the degree program.
    3. You gain +1 to qualify in the Scholar career track
    4. Choose one of the following benefits:
      1. Roll once on the Honors Skills and Training Table
      2. Gain one skill for your profession as listed in #3 above

Beginning Your Real Career

There is no fixed path, you can choose one career path for one term, then a different one for another (for example, you can choose to start as an Adventurer, then enlist in the Navy, or start as a Merchant and end up as a Prisoner). Regardless of the path(s) you choose, the process is the same:

  1. You must qualify for the path. There are 3 types of qualifications, though not all career tracks have all 3:
    1. Skill qualification – You must have the skill listed at the level listed or you do not qualify. If none is listed, it’s open.
    2. Previous Service – You must have at least one tour in the listed previous service to qualify for this career track. If none is listed, it’s open. If any are listed, they do not count towards the -1 for each prior career track.
    3. Most paths have an entrance requirement roll. Roll 2d6 + the DM for the listed stat, -1 for each prior career track you’ve had.
      1. If the number rolled equals or exceeds the listed requirement, this becomes your current career path, and you are at Rank 1 (enlisted Rank 1 if military).
      2. If you fail, you can try another path once, and if you fail twice you get a tour as a Drifter. (For example, the Belter path requires that you make an Endurance roll, 2d6 + your Endurance DM, from table 2, -1 for every prior career path you’ve had, and get 5+ on the result to qualify for entrance).
    4. Additionally you choose an Assignment (table 8), a sub-category in your career, to represent your specialty. This defines the rolls and skills offered during the tour.
  2. Gain your Service Skills:
    1. If this is your first career track (this does not include University), on your first tour, you gain all of the skills listed in the “Service Skills” table at lvl 0 (skip any you already have).
    2. If this is not your first career track, but is your first tour in a career, you may choose one skill from the “Service Skills” table that you do not already have and take it at lvl 0.
  3. Pick one of the tables under Skills and Training (note some tables have pre-requisites, such as “Minimum Education 8”, you must meet these requirements to choose from these tables), roll 1 d6 on that table, and you gain training in that skill or gain that benefit from this tour. If you have these skills already, they increment the skill you already have, otherwise you gain it at lvl 1.
  4. Determine the length of the tour by rolling 1d6, dividing by 2 (round down), and adding 1 (1d6/2+1, gives a range of 2-4 years).
  5. Every career path has a Survival roll. Roll 2d6 + the DM for the listed stat. If you meet or exceed the number then you survive the tour without issue. If you fail the roll, roll on the mishap table for the career (these can be severe, but we are not playing Ironman rules, so you can not die). You are mustered out of the career at this point. The length of the tour is cut in half (round up). If you are injured and in the military, you may get an award.
  6. If you survived, roll on the events table for the career (1d6 or d66, varies with career) and make note of the event, it can and will affect your character and career. If you’re prompted to roll a Life Event, use the expanded table 2 in the Career Book. If they’re in the military, remember to check for a medal if the Event requires a roll.
  7. Military Only: If you survived and are not an officer yet, *make a Commission roll by rolling 2d6 + the DM for the listed stat. If you meet or exceed the number listed, you become a Rank 1 officer, making you eligible for new Skills and Training tables in subsequent tours. Make another roll on the Skills and Training Tables to reflect this advancement. Once you are an officer in a service, you remain an officer, even if you change service, unless you change “scope”. For example, being an officer in the Alliance Navy does not mean you’re no officer in the Mercenary group you join subsequently, or if you retire from the Alliance Navy and become local planetary Law Enforcement. GM Discretion on how these types of situations are handled.
  8. If you survived and weren’t Commissioned this tour, you need to see if you advanced in your career. Roll 2d6 + the DM for the listed stat.
    1. If you meet or exceed the number listed for Advancement, you are promoted one rank in your career track. Make another roll on the Skills and Training Tables to reflect this advancement. Additionally, many career tracks of Ranks and Benefits for given ranks, apply the benefits based upon your rank and chosen path at this time.
    2. If the total of your roll was less than the total number of tours you have in this career, you are mustered out, ending your career on this track. This represents the service no longer needing you are you being bored with it.
  9. If you survived and wish to continue on this career track, return to step 2 (you already qualify) above and repeat this process for each tour you wish to pursue in this career. You may change Assignment (within the same career track) at this time.
  10. If you wish to leave this career (either to finish making your character or move to another career track), you need to Muster out. Mustering out consists of making rolls on the Mustering-Out Benefits table for the career track.
    1. You may not roll on the Cash table more than three times
    2. You get 1 roll for each full tour you served in the career (if you did not survive a tour, do not count it for this)
    3. If your final rank was 1 or 2 (if you were Commissioned, add your 2 ranks together for this purpose), you gain 1 more roll.
    4. If your final rank was 3 or 4 (if you were Commissioned, add your 2 ranks together for this purpose), you gain 2 more rolls.
    5. If your final rank was 5 or 6 (if you were Commissioned, add your 2 ranks together for this purpose), you gain 3 more rolls and gain a +1 bonus to all Mustering Out rolls for this career.
  11. At this point you are either completed with your character or ready to move to another career track. If you wish to move to another career, return to step 1 above because you must qualify for that career (keeping in mind the -1 for every prior career track to the qualification roll), and Drifter counts as a career path for this purpose.
  12. As the last step, before you begin place, check the below list. If you do not have the following skills at least the below levels, add them to your character sheet. Skip the ones you already have higher the listed value:
    1. Comms 0
    2. Computer 0
    3. Animal (Riding) 0
    4. Gun Combat (Pistol) 0

Statistics (table 1)

Stat Brief Desc Starting Value
Strength Physical strength, used for hand to hand combat power and athletics 5
Dexterity Hand eye coordination, used for ranged and agility skills 5
Endurance Overall health and stamina 5
Intelligence Comprehension and understanding, analysis and deduction, used for analysis skills 5
Education How much and how well you’ve learned, data and information, used for knowledge skills 5
Social Standing Your presence, attractiveness, social standing, used for interaction skills 5
Psi (GM’s discretion) Psionics, the force of your mind, must be above 8 to be of any value 0
Alertness Awareness, perception, adds to initiative, mental reaction time 5
Willlpower The strength of your will, helps resist coercion/persuasion 5

A character with all 5’s is a below average, typical, low tech public educated citizen.

Instead of rolling the attributes, use the alternative point-buy system on page 40 of the Core Rules, but only for the stats and Traits, the character will do normal tours of duty for their career track(s).

  • The character has 26 points to spend on Stats and Traits. (Why 26? It’s a good number to use to cover stats and traits and still allow growth through tours)
  • The character must have at least 1 Asset, but no more than 5.
  • The character must have at least 1 Complication, but no more than 5.
  • Tours of Duty will be rolled as per normal character generation, after Stats and Traits are purchased. Instead of Tours being 4 years static, they are 1+d3 (d6/2 round up) years to allow for some variety and allow for a bit more growth without the characters having to be ancient.
  • For non-military professions, the player can use University and Grad School from CB2, each 2 years long, and the player starts at 22.

Purchase Costs (table 2)

Stat Value Purchase Cost Approx Capability DM (Dice Modifier)
2 -3 Crippled/non-functional -2
3 -2 -1
4 -1 Well Below Average -1
5 0 -1
6 1 Below Average 0
7 2 0
8 3 Average 0
9 5 +1
10 6 Above Average +1
11 8 +1
12 10 Human Theoretical Max +2
13 12 Heroic +2
14 15 +2
15 18 Super Heroic +3

Note: To purchase Psionic, use the values listed above for Purchase Cost + 5

Alertness, Psionic and Willpower do not change significantly during the character’s career, because they’re base personality stats. Some exceptions may exist, but generally these stats will remain the same as their initial purchased value. Feel free to add mods to either during tours if the events of the tour warrant.

Most of the other stats will change during your tours based upon the type of career track you’re following. Physical will change physical, educated will change mental, combat will change those.

The goal here is to make your character at 18, then shape them in their career track vs making the finished product with point buy.

Traits

The character purchases Traits, Assets and Complications. Assets are generally positive, and Complications are generally negative.

The point costs are the same (if it’s in bold, it’s 2x the cost):

  • Asset, Minor cost 2 points, Major costs 4
  • Complication, Minor gives you 2 points, Major gives you 4
  • If the field has N/A, that level doesn’t exist (some only have minors or majors)
  • The text and numbers below are a high-level outline of how the skill plays out in game and not intended as detailed specific situations

Assets (table 3)

Complications (table 4)

Background Skill Number (table 5)

Education or Intelligence *(higher of the two)* Low Tech Homeworld Mid Tech Homeworld High Tech Homeworld
0 0 0 1
1-2 0 1 2
3-5 1 2 3
6-8 2 3 4
9-11 3 4 5
12-14 4 5 6
15 5 6 6

Homeworld Skills (table 6)

Trade Code for the Homeworld *Homeworld** Skills*
Agricultural Animals 0 Athletics 0
Asteroid Zero-G 0 Vacc Suit 0
Desert Survival 0 Navigation 0
Fluid Oceans Seafarer 0 Vacc Suit 0
Garden Animals 0 Art 0
High Technology Computers 0 Flyer 0
High Population Streetwise 0 Drive 0
Ice-Capped Vacc Suit 0 Zero-G
Industrial Trade 0 Streetwise 0
Low Technology Survival 0 Animals 0
Non-Agricultural Streetwise 0 Vacc Suit 0
Non-Industrial Trade 0 Survival 0
Poor Animals 0 Survival 0
Rich Carouse 0 Animals 0
Water World Seafarer 0 Navigation 0
Vacuum Vacc Suit 0 Drive 0

Education Skills (table 7)

Admin 0 Advocate 0 Art 0
Athletics 0 Carouse 0 Comms 0
Computers 0 Drive 0 Engineer 0
Flyer 0 Gambler 0 Gun Combat 0
Language 0 Mechanic 0 Medic 0
Melee 0 Life Science 0 Physical Science 0
Social Science 0 Space Science 0 Trade 0
Vacc Suit 0

Classes and Career Tracks (table 8)

Skills

Most normal/routine activities do not require rolls to perform. The only time the GM would call for a roll is if the character is in danger or the situation is abnormally complex or stressful. When making a roll, here is how you determine success:

  1. Everyone starts with a base bonus of 0.
  2. The required skill is identified, add the skill level to the bonus. If the player does not at least have a lvl of 0 in the skill, there is a -3 non-proficiency penalty (reduced by 1 for every lvl of Jack of All Trades) added to the bonus.
  3. The necessary stat(s) are identified, which can vary based upon the situation. Typically actions with Gun Combat (Pistol) require Dexterity, but repairing your gun in the field when it’s jammed would require an Education roll. If more than one stat is identified as useful, they are averaged and the resulting number is used. Find the DM of this stat (or combination) on the DM table (table 2 above) to find the DM. This is how much your stat(s) affect the roll, add this value to the bonus.
  4. Look for any Assets or Complications that apply, modify the bonus accordingly.
  5. Add any situational modifiers that are relevant (target is behind cover, you are on fire, ship is crashing, etc). Modify the bonus accordingly.
  6. Add the Dice Modifier the GM assigns for the difficulty of the task, given the conditions (see table 8a)
  7. Roll 2d6 and add the current bonus. If the resulting value is 8 or higher, the skill check was a success. 2 is not an automatic failure, 12 not an automatic success. However, how far from 8 the resultant check is, above or below, defines the degree of success or failure.
    1. Dead on 8 is a Marginal success, while 6 over is an Exceptional success, done with grace and flair, and may have additional positive consequences.
    2. 7 is a Marginal failure, almost a success, while 6 under is an Exceptional failure is something catastrophic and drama-inducing and will very likely make the situation significantly worse.

So, in summary, succeeding in a skill check requires:

  • 2d6 + skill level + stat DM + Asset bonuses + Complication bonuses + situational mods + the Difficulty DM >= 8

Task Difficulty Dice Modifiers (table 8a)

Difficulty DM
Simple +6
Easy +4
Routine +2
Average 0
Difficult -2
Very Difficult -4
Formidable -6
Impossible -8

Skill List (table 9)

Serenity Rules converted to Traveller

Serenity RPG MacAllen