RPG Thursday – Traveller Dynasty

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Traveller Supplement 12: Dynasty is very much unlike other Traveller publications. In the words of Mongoose themselves:

A complete guide on founding, growing and running your own world in Traveller, this book enables the creation of sociologically diverse solar systems or even empires. Covering a wide range of aspects involving governments, infrastructure, trade, military defences and even religion, it also allows the development of these unique polities over time; investments, conflicts and random events driving their growth – or indeed, possible collapse!

Whether you are a band of adventurers colonising or conquering their own planet, or seeking to play out a generational game of developing sector-wide dominions, Dynasty will add depth and colour to any Traveller campaign.

Dynasty is a cross between a “dynasty” chargen system and a metagame for fleshing out background. Say your favorite character is a spy. A spy for who? What does that agency want? Why does that Megacorporation oppose you at every turn? With Dynasty all those questions can be answered. Using Dynasty, a GM can create “a succession of rulers from the same family or line; also a family or group that maintains power for several generations” (p. 2).

Dynasty can be viewed as having two parts. The first part is Dynasty Generation. Dynasties are described using characteristics (Cleverness, Greed, Loyalty, Militarism, Popularity, Scheming, Tenacity and Tradition) as well as traits, aptitudes, values, boons and hindrances. Like Traveller chargen itself, a dynasty can be created using a mini-game (alternatively, a point-buy option is provided).

After creating the core characteristics, each dynasty much chose a power base which gives trait and attribute modifiers. At this point, a dynasty archtype is chosen which determines base traits and attributes. To get the dynasty started, the First Generation (actually the first 100 years) is covered, which is also where boons and hindrances are developed. The management (or leadership) of the dynasty is also created. Basic dynasty creation ends with the calculation of First Generation values as well as determining background and historic events in the first 100 years of a dynasty.

Now that the core dynasty is created, the layers or GM can work through the generations. Each generation is 30 years long. For each generation, a goal must be chosen. There are ten goals given and for each there is a checklist of aptitude checks or defined checks or end-of-generation factors that must be met. Every five years the dynasty must check for Threats and Obstacles, and every 10 years there can be decade events. Finally, at the end of every generation there is an accounting step to determine how the dynasty grows – or if it fails to survive.

The generations “game” is where Dynasty begins to fall apart. For each generation, the dynasty must complete Aptitude Checks to meet goals. The Aptitude Checks in the book are not all inclusive; indeed they represent only a very limited selection meaning a GM will have to be very creative. Some checks are opposed, meaning you have to have more than one dynasty being created. This is fine with multiple players but hard to solo – a past hallmark of Traveller games.

The second part of Dynasty focuses on when dynasties clash. Five mini-games are introduced, each replacing the regular generation process. Rules are also provided for dynastic influence on Traveller chargen. The book concludes with a GM guide to role-playing with dynasties and sample dynasties.

The process of creating a dynasty works fine through the creation of the core dynasty (the first 10 years). In the generation process, the Aptitude Checks provided are limited and the GM will have to create may of their own, but very guidance on how to do this is provided. When dynasties clash is also a bit confusing, because there are prerequisites to starting each mini-game and their relationship to the regular generational Aptitude Checks seems unclear.

I don’t really want to declare that the generational development game and the clashes mini-games are broken, but in the (few) dynasties I have tried creating it seems difficult to get the requisite accumulated effects (anywhere from 50-80 or so) each generation. Odds are if you spend an entire generation on Aptitude Checks you may meet your goal, but no clashes would be possible. Indeed, clashes early in the life of a dynasty appear deadly.

Since I am still working on creating dynasties I have not had the chance to play around with heroes and villains of dynasties. I worry that the changes to chargen may upset player character balance. Will have to keep an eye on that.

In conclusion, Dynasty is interesting but not without its issues. Rules could be clearer; the format Mongoose uses for books is difficult to follow. That said, Dynasty is interesting because it allows creation of background and backstory. It is integrated with chargen, but it is not very clearly interchangable with other Traveller mini-games such as Mercenary or High Guard; nor is it intuitively obvious how to relate to Classic Traveller games like Striker or Trillion-Credit Squadron (which just screams dynasty!).

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