Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I've just read through Mongoose Traveller, and as I understand it the lack of conventional character development (perceived as the increased value of numeral signifiers) isn't a bug but a feature - yet how is character development realised? I assume it's done by gaining contacts/allies, equipment and money. Are there any other means to mirror the advancement of a character that is regularly used not only in Traveller but generally in systems with a similar premise?

This question doesn't refer to one-shots, of course, only to long-term campaigns. Additionally, I consciously chose "development" and "advancement" and avoided "improvement". My question doesn't aim at an alleged Traveller-equivalent of "levelling up".

share|improve this question
Incidentally, there is a brief note on how skills can be improved in Mongoose Traveller - at the end of the skills chapter, I believe. Skills are increased by spending weeks devoted to training, rather than as a reward for achieving goals (as in many other games), with the number of weeks required to increase a skill being increased based on how skilled the character is already. The rate of improvement is quite slow in typical play, however, and so SevenSidedDie's answer (below) is still quite valid. – GMJoe Apr 15 '13 at 5:19
up vote 16 down vote accepted

Character development in Traveller has never really existed. You play, and the playing is the thing to enjoy whether it's a one-shot or a long-term campaign. You might develop contacts and resources, but you equally might not – character development simply isn't the point of playing. Your character is your means of exploring (or exploiting) the universe. Whether by the end there has been any development is merely a matter of personal opinion of the observer – the game takes no position on it and provides no rules for it.

Improvement of your character's lot is something you can aim for, but it's not built into the game at all. It's only one thing you can do, just like in real life some people can have ambitions to improve themselves and their lot in life, and some people might just want to explore, or to hold onto what they have. Improvement is built into a lot of games as the objective every rule revolves around, but it's not so in Traveller. Traveller is a sim game in the very original sense, where the game makes no assumptions about what your character aims to do, and does not build any such goal-assumptions into the rules.

Change can be upward, or it can be sideways (or downwards!), just like in real life. There is no built-in rules for development in any direction – it's merely a matter of the stuff that happens during play in the fiction, which you can post facto interpret as development if that's what you want to do. A ship captain might merely have the motive to keep flying, and at the end of a campaign they may have had many adventures, accomplished many things, and they may have deeper or changed views on life, but they're still just as poor as they used to be and still flying the same, trusty ship they always have. You can get better stuff and connections, but an upward trajectory is not the aim of the game and not embedded in its design, and assuming it is will just be confusing. The tradition of improvement isn't built into Traveller.

A character that is numerically static is alien to the sensibilities of gamers brought up on most current RPGs, but some games simply don't have the character-advancement subgame and that's not a flaw. An assumption that development must be somewhere built into the game will lead you astray looking for it, so try to let it go and understand the game on its own terms. Character development is outside the rules, in the minds of the people who play the game.

share|improve this answer
@aramis Do you recall that we've had this conversation already and it was deleted by Brian with a "quit arguing" directive? No? Let me remind you. – SevenSidedDie Feb 15 at 4:00

Characters improve by training in a particular skill.

Mongoose Traveller Core Rulebook, Page 59:


The more skills a character possesses, the longer it takes him to learn a new skill. A character’s Skill Total is calculated by summing the levels of each skill (level zero skills count as zero). A character with Mechanic 1 and Gun Combat (slug pistols) 2 would have a Skill Total of 3.

To increase a skill, a character must train for a number of weeks equal to his current Skill Total plus the desired level of the skill. So, to advance from Pilot 2 to Pilot 3 with a current Skill Total of 3 would take (three, plus three) six weeks. A character may only train one skill in a given week.

So, to restate:

To raise a skill (Total Skill levels)+(Skill level being learned) is training (in weeks) to gain a +1 to skill.


Joe Youngman, 866747, Citizen 1 Term, Age 22, Drive (Wheeled) 2, Flyer (grav) 1, Streetwise (0), Melee 0, Steward 0, Trade (Brewing) 0, Computer 0, and Trade (Glassblower) 0, has a total of 3 levels. Gaining a level 0 in a new skill would be 3 weeks. Raising drive Wheeled to 3 would be 3+3=6 weeks.

Benny Beenthere, Gun Combat (Slug Rifle) 4, Engineering 1, Leadership 1, Athletics (Dodge) 1, Battle Dress 1, Tactics (ground) 2, Heavy Weapons (Launchers) 2, Gun Combat (Energy Pistol) 3, Pilot (Grav) 1, Stealth 2, Computer 1. Total 19 skill levels. It takes him 19 weeks to add a new skill at level 0; he wants to learn to Astrogate. 19 weeks of training later, he's a level 0 astrogator. 20 weeks after that of training, he's added Astrogation 1.


The GM controls the rate of advancement by how he/she defines what constitutes a "week" of training. Some require it to be a week of instruction by a competent teacher. Others allow full time employment to count as some fraction of a week in that skill. Others allow a week to be 40 hours of dedicated skill tapes study and/or practice.

The Rules are intentionally unclear on exactly what constitutes that "week of training."

There are no mechanics for adding contacts in play, no mechanics for adding cash in play - both fall equally into the realm of "GM Fiat" - every bit as much as what constitutes a week of training.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.