Willpower in Traveller

Advancement as happens in most other RPGs is very limited in classic Traveller. Improving abilities and skills happens during downtime in much the same way as during character creation: in blocks of 4 years. From Book 2, pages 42 and 43:

Limited personal development and experience is possible in the sense of increasing abilities and skills. Such potential for increases is possible in four specific areas, only one of which may be attempted at one time: education, weapon expertise, other skills, and physical fitness.

In each field, the character selects a four-year program of self-improvement, dedicating his or her endeavors in something like obsession, with the general goal of self-improvement. Because individuals do not always have the will to continue with such a program, there is the chance that the program will be planned, but never actually carried out. After the general field has been chosen, the character must make a dedication die roll.

A low intelligence actually aids characters seeking physical fitness improvement:

Physical Fitness: Because many individuals find a regimen of physical conditioning unrewarding intellectually, a dedication throw of 8+ is required (DMs of +2 if intelligence is 8-, and 4 if intelligence is 5-). If the throw is achieved, the character increases his three physical characteristics (strength, endurance, and dexterity) each by 1.

8+ is a 41.67 percent chance of success. I find this particularly amusing given my recently mentioned desire to start a fitness blog. (For the Traveller-uninitiated, DM stands for dice modifier.)

7 thoughts on “Willpower in Traveller

  1. Ed Dove

    It’s clearly based on the false assumption common among unathletic intellectuals that, just because they, personally, don’t enjoy athleticism, the reason why other people do enjoy athleticism must be because those people aren’t as smart as they are.

    And you’re right that it does imply that willpower is inversely proportional to intelligence. Which is a pretty interesting idea that I’m sure they didn’t intend.

    1. Brendan

      Yeah, Ed. The funny thing is how obvious the fallacy is. There is a trade-off regarding time use, as time you spend lifting can’t be used reading (for example). But generally, I think the competition for resources between the two activities is actually minimal, as they require engaging different parts of yourself, and those parts can only do so much decent work per day in any case (at least in my experience).

    2. Ed Dove

      That’s been my experience, too.

      And it also overlooks the fact that, with technology that was already available when Traveller was created, it’s not only possible, but actually easy, to do some sorts of athletic activities while also engaging in intellectual activity at the same time. For example, I use my recumbent exercise bike while learning stuff by watching recorded documentar​ies.

  2. blake

    Believe it or not but there are some OSR members out there with <10%bodyfat, who squat over 450lb, bench over 300lb & deadlift over 500lb.
    We used to be professional athletes (or close).
    We have PHD’s.
    We roll d20’s.
    We are not alone.

    1. Peter D

      Yeah, no kidding. My best deadlift isn’t nearly 500.

      And yes, I’m a personal trainer for a living, and I’ve got a few of amatuer MMA and grappling matches under my best. I had Starter Traveller, which omitted anything so useful as rules for advancement. So luckily I never realized I was supposed to be pretty damn stupid to succeed at getting stronger. I guess thanks to Book 2 now I know better, I’ll put the barbell down and get back to my books. 😉

  3. Ed Dove

    I wish I had a healthy body and a PhD. But I know the reason why I don’t have a healthy body isn’t because I’m smart any more than the reason why I don’t have a PhD is because I’m stupid. They’re both because I’m lazy.


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