Monday, January 27, 2020

Potential Starship Engineers

“The engineer is essential for the proper operation of any starships. Expertise qualifies the individual for such jobs, and can be used to get working passage on a ship in need of help. Greater levels of expertise enable the individual to handle problems of greater complexity and jobs with higher levels of responsibility” —The Traveller Book, p. 23.

After reviewing expected salaries for starship engineers as well as the prices of indentured clones and robots, I generated several interesting candidates for my Mongoose Traveller game:

Vladan Merritt
UWP 47B888
Species human
Gender male
Age 34
Homeworld Hrongding (Magyar 2817 B621511-C)
Service Scouts, 1 term; Navy, 3 terms
Rank Sublieutenant
Skills Admin 0, Astrogation 0, Electronics (computers) 1, Engineer (J-drive) 1, Engineer (M-drive) 1, Engineer (power) 2, Gun Combat 0, Gunner 0, Leadership 1, Mechanic 1, Medic 0, Melee (blade) 1, Pilot 0, Survival 0, Vacc Suit 1
Possessions submachine gun, wafer jack
Money Cr55,000
Comments Vladen is a square-jawed perfectionist of medium height with a short, military-style haircut. He joined the Scout Service but his courier ship was destroyed during a pirate attack in the Dexter (Magyar 2416 B587510-B) system. Forced out of the IISS, he was drafted into the Navy and assigned to Engineering Branch. His superiors noted his mechanical aptitude and he was quickly promoted, gaining a commission in his second term. During his third term, Vladan’s patrol cruiser Uniti was attacked by Solomani pirates. Although the engineering section was holed during the battle, Vladen stayed at his post long enough to get the maneuver drive back online, saving the entire ship. Although he received a citation for his actions, the event spurred Vladen to leave the Navy to see more of Charted Space. He will request a monthly salary of Cr5,600.
Zeke Dimitar
UWP 8656A3
Species human
Gender male
Age 26
Homeworld Clarmoment (Magyar 2415 B543426-B)
Service Merchant, 2 terms
Rank 4th Officer
Skills Drive 0, Electronics (Computers) 1, Engineer (J-drive) 2, Engineer (Power) 1, Gun Combat 0, Medic 2, Vacc Suit 1
Possessions body pistol
Money Cr10,000
Comments Zeke is a large, heavy-set man. He is friendly and talkative, though rough around the edges. Despite his crudeness, he is surprisingly knowledgeable about Jump drive theory. Zeke was recruited by Ling-Standard Products and given advanced engineering training at the LSP Merchant Academy on Dexter (Magyar 2416 B587510-B). Following graduation he was assigned to the LSP merchant fleet, where he served on various freighters carrying LSP goods into the Solomani worlds of Magyar and Dark Nebula. Although a competent engineer, Zeke was a loafer and bellyacher, and quit LSP after only two terms. Zeke is conflicted about his hasty exit: he likes to brag about having worked for a megacorporation, but he is quick to enumerate LSP’s numerous real and perceived faults. Zeke will request a monthly salary of Cr4,800.
Dr. Yan Golt
UWP 476BF7
Species human
Gender male
Age 30
Homeworld Fornorb (Magyar 2616 C997A85-A)
Service University, Citizen 2 terms
Rank Manager
Skills Admin 2, Astrogation 1, Deception 1, Drive 0, Electronics 0, Engineer (power) 2, Flyer 0, Language 0, Leadership 1, Mechanic 0, Melee 0, Profession 0, Science 0, Steward 0, Streetwise 0
Possessions none
Money Cr20,000
Comments Dr. Golt is a slender man of medium height with a thin face and an affable but slightly distracted demeanor. He studied engineering at the Imperial University of Seloo. Graduating with honors, he was recruited by the University’ Advanced Power Plant Research Institute, where he was quickly pulled into administration and promoted to assistant director. He soon discovered that the Institute was conducting secret military research for the Imperial Navy in contravention of its charter, but he helped cover up this information. Bored with administration, he resigned. Although he has never worked onboard a starship, Dr. Golt imagines an invigorating opportunity to pursue his passion for “true’ engineering. Although extremely knowledgeable, he has limited real world experience and occasionally becomes consumed with interesting but impractical ideas. Dr. Golt will request a monthly salary of Cr4,000.
Aleg Anatol
UWP 8CAC55
Species human
Gender male
Age 21
Homeworld Kline (Magyar 3012 A541987-E)
Service Drifter, 1 term
Rank N/A
Skills Admin 0, Athletics 0, Carouse 0, Jack-of-All-Trades 1, Melee 0, Recon 0, Stealth 0, Streetwise 1, Survival 0
Possessions wafer jack
Money Cr100
Comments Aleg is a strapping, clean-cut figure with a winning smile and a friendly, confident demeanor. A remarkably quick study, he is inquisitive and highly observant. Aleg is also an extraordinarily successful con man and imposter. Aleg’s mother had been a successful executive with Allied Prefabricated Ships & Vessels until she was arrested for embezzlement when Aleg was still a teenager. He has spent the last five years wandering the sector, successfully running a series of fraudulent schemes. He has unfortunately drawn the attention of the Imperial Ministry of Justice and is being actively pursued by at least two dedicated agents. Aleg is currently claiming to be a starship engineer and is seeking working passage to the next three starports. An expert forger, he can produce documentation showing he is a veteran of the Klinean Naval Reserves, rated as class 1 jump drive engineer.
Robertina Nine
UWP 78A987
Species human clone
Gender female
Age 19
Homeworld Coglan (Magyar 2214 AA9A8A6-E)
Service N/A
Rank N/A
Skills Electronics (computers) 1, Engineer (M-drive) 1, Engineer (J-drive) 1, Engineer (power plant) 1, Mechanic 1, Profession (construction) 1, Science 0, Survival 0, Vacc Suit 0
Possessions none
Money Cr0
Comments Robertina Nine is a guest clone produced by Totaliti Workforce, well suited for construction and engineering tasks. She is a small, slender woman with short dark hair and a prominent red facial tattoo of the Totaliti corporate logo, a status identifier. Tough and clever, her pattern spent four terms building and rehabbing starport facilities. Robertina was sold to the free trader Logan, but when the ship’s captain attempted to assault her she fled at the next starport. After seven months on the run she was caught by a Totaliti bounty hunter. The company will tell prospective buyers that she was repossessed because her former employer fell into arrears. Her 5-year indenture can be bought for a down payment of Cr36,000 and monthly payments of Cr2,912.
Spr0cket
Starport Mechanic Toolbot
Manufacturer Popov Robotics
Model Tinker 5600
Cost KCr100
TL12
Hits 56
Speed 6m
Traits Armor (+2), Large (+1)
Programming Basic (mechanic)
Skills Engineer 0, Electronics 0, Mechanic 0
Comments The Tinker 5600 is a common toolbot found in starports throughout Magyar, designed for delicate repair work on electronics and control systems. It has a large cylindrical body that rides atop a set of motorized tracks. Its two light tentacles and two light arms allow it to access restricted work spaces inside a starship. The Tinker, a blatant copy of Tukera’s 232-BHR-7, is notorious for its tendency to fail at inopportune moments. Spr0cket can be financed for a 10-year term with a down payment of Cr20,000 and monthly payments of Cr800. However, Spr0cket requires monthly repairs of Cr170 in order to continue to function.

Copyright Information

The Traveller game in all forms is owned by Far Future Enterprises. Copyright © 1977 – 2020 Far Future Enterprises. Traveller is a registered trademark of Far Future Enterprises. Far Future permits web sites and fanzines for this game, provided it contains this notice, that Far Future is notified, and subject to a withdrawal of permission on 90 days notice. The contents of this site are for personal, non-commercial use only. Any use of Far Future Enterprises’s copyrighted material or trademarks anywhere on this web site and its files should not be viewed as a challenge to those copyrights or trademarks. In addition, any program/articles/file on this site cannot be republished or distributed without the consent of the author who contributed it.

Materials produced by Digest Group Publications (DGP) are copyright © Roger Sanger. Any use of Digest Group Publications' copyrighted material or trademarks anywhere on this Web site and its files should not be viewed as a challenge to those copyrights. Usage is intended to follow the guidelines announced by Roger Sanger on the Traveller Mailing List for preserving the overall Traveller milieu.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Man or Makhidkarun? The Costs of Artificial Persons

Now that we have looked into salary costs for a human starship Engineer across editions, let’s consider the artificial person options: robots, clones, and synthetics.

Calibration

First, given the disparity between Engineer salaries across editions, I wanted to double check costs in general. Here are some common commodities:

Purchase Prices Across Editions (Cr)
ItemCTMTMGTT5
Shotgun150150200300
Reflec Armor1,5001,5001,500100
Vacc Suit10,0007,00011,00010,000
Air/Raft600,000389,000250,00060,000
Free Trader37,080,00036,915,00045,342,00061,100,000
SourceThe Traveller BookImperial EncyclopediaCore Rulebookv5.10

There is a reasonable correspondence across editions, with a couple of anomalies in Traveller5. (I really wonder if the air/raft cost is potentially a typo.) Each of the editions also have some baseline cost of living figures that we can compare to the expected salaries of regular ship engineers. In MT, MGT, and Traveller5 these costs are associated with the SOC characteristic:

Monthly Living Costs Across Editions (Cr)
CategoryCTMTMGTT5
Regular Engineer4,4001,2004,000500
Poor Lifestyle300500400200
Average Lifestyle4001,7501,200700
Rich Lifestyle9003,0005,0001,200
SourceTraveller Book 109Player’s Handbook 30Core Rulebook 92Traveller5 Book 1, 44

While the monthly cost of living values are consistent within the editions, they vary greatly across editions, particularly at the higher end of the scale. And what’s more, the relationships between an engineer’s salary and standards of living vary widely. In MT and Traveller5, the monthly salary of the engineer is below the average cost of living. In MGT, the salary nearly supports a rich standard of living. But in CT, the lucky engineer’s salary supports a lifestyle almost 5x that of a rich citizen!

I think an engineer’s salary should be better than average but less than rich: a starship engineer is a critical position that requires technical training and involves long hours in occasionally dangerous conditions. To me, the CT costs of living seem much too low compared to an engineer’s salary; in MT and Traveller5, the salary seems much too low.

The MGT number falls in the right place, but still looks a bit high—until you consider that few engineers are probably spending 52 weeks a year in space. A long term megacorp contract probably provides at least a month a year unpaid leave, and maybe closer to two. And most independent engineers might spend a few months in space, take a month living high on the hog, and then wait months before landing their next assignment.

Here I am influenced by John McPhee’s great nonfiction book about merchant marines, Looking for a Ship. There the pay was good but the opportunities limited: sailors might spend months every year stuck in port, waiting for their next chance to go to sea. A typical starship engineer only employed 6–9 months a year at the MGT salary can still afford a better than average standard of living, but not exorbitant.

I think the takeaway is that costs are generally within an order of magnitude across these four editions, with a few weird exceptions. You could use a T5 number in MT or a MGT number in CT and generally be in the zone. Just don’t expect a perfect correspondence.

Robots

A TL14 synthetic meets a TL13 heavy construction robot.

As I have already noted, while robots have always been in Traveller in one form or another, there’s no single benchmark model that spans all editions. The closest we can get is the TL12 Tukera 232-BHR-7 model starport mechanic, which first appeared in the DGP 101 Robots supplement (18), written for CT. As it happens, this model can substitute for the Engineer position so it’s the perfect place to start. The 232-BHR-7 was converted to MT as the “Starship Maintenance Robot” in MegaTraveller Robots (5). Both versions are fairly similar in capabilities and costs: Cr101,000 in CT and Cr103,972 in MT.

The 232-BHR-7 reappears in the TNE supplement Vampire Fleets (81), but the cost jumps an order of magnitude to a whopping Cr1,839,130! I am much less familiar with TNE than other editions of Traveller, so I am not sure if this cost reflects the new design system, the post-Virus setting, or some combination of the two.

The very same price is cited for the Tukera SM-232 mechanic robot in Traveller Hero Book 2 (52). But that said, the costs of the robots in the Traveller Hero Special Supplement 1: Robots of Charted Space appear to be generally lower than the costs for CT robots of similar capabilities. For example, the Sharurshid Astrotech IV, “a fine example of a mechanic/technician robot encountered in shipyards and garages across the 11,000 Worlds of the Imperium,” is only priced at Cr73,750. Given this, I’m strongly inclined to just set aside the TNE pricing.

As far as I know, the 232-BHR-7 has not yet been converted to either Mongoose Traveller (1e or 2e) or Traveller5. MGT 2e uses a fairly abstract system for detailing robots that most closely resembles the system used for animals. I find this approach works very well as a game mechanic, but when combined with the relative lack of examples it’s hard to cost out a MGT 2e version of the 232-BHR-7. Traveller5 also lacks for example robots—but in contrast to MGT, has a design system so detailed and complex I honestly can’t be bothered to puzzle it out.

My gut feel, based on looking at the examples in MGT’s 2e Central Supply Catalog and the first two issues of the T5 Xboat zine, is that robots generally seem to be more expensive than in CT or MT: perhaps something like 2 to 3 times more expensive. Since neither system has a very close comp for the 232-BHR-7, I’ll simply analyze two different robot price points for our comparison: Cr100,000 and Cr300,000.

Both CT and MT have required annual maintenance for robots equal to 1% of the purchase price. There is no similar cost in either MGT or Traveller5. This is a little surprising for T5 since there is an entire section on robot “disease and illness.” While I think adding maintenance costs makes sense, the overall effect is pretty negligible, so I haven’t included this in the analysis.

Both CT and MT allow robots to be financed, just like starships, to make them more affordable to the average Traveller. The MT book assumes that robots can be financed for a term of up to one half the robot lifespan, which varies by TL. A TL12 robot has an expected lifespan of 40 years, so can be financed for a term of up to 20 years. To calculate finance costs, assume 20% down payment. Then take 80% of the purchase price and divide by six times the term in years to get the monthly payment price.

So let’s see how 5 and 10 cumulative years of human Engineer salary compares to the purchase price of a KCr100 and KCr300 robot:

Robot v. Human Costs over Time (KCr)
Category5 Years10 Years
Robot Purchase Price100–300100–300
CT Human Salary264528
MT Human Salary72144
MGT Human Salary240480
T5 Human Salary3060

Over a 5 year period, the KCr100 robot is cheaper than a human Engineer in CT and MGT, and more expensive in MT and Traveller5. Meanwhile the KCr300 robot is more expensive than a human in all systems. Over a 10 period, the KCr100 robot is cheaper in CT, MGT, and MT but the KCr300 robot is only cheaper in CT and MGT. So over a 5 and 10 year period, robots are usually cheaper than humans in CT and MT, always more expensive in T5, and a toss-up in MT.

Beyond cost, there are other considerations when comparing humans to robots. Below TL16, robots might be intelligent but they are not sentient and lack true initiative. So in the Imperium circa 1105, robots are considered property and not citizens because they are “non-living.”

Robots can be bought, sold, or scrapped with impunity. Robots are reliable, untiring, and never lose focus, but are relatively inflexible and limited in scope. A robot will not complain about its berth, duties, or having to take a dog watch. A robot will not demand higher wages, pick fights with other robots, or run off with a starport vending machine. But a robot will also not take it upon itself to tune the maneuver drive, or question the passenger who keeps skulking around the cargo bay. A robot will be hard-pressed to work on the electronics system if it has not been programmed with that skill. And many worlds in the Imperium have strong cultural prohibitions and prejudices against robots.

Robots, at least at the lower end of the price scale, are a reasonable alternative to humans for small, independent ships in CT, MT, and MGT—but much less so in Traveller5. With nearly unlimited cash and an ability to plan long-term, megacorporations probably make extensive use of robots on their starships due to their longevity and reliability.

Clones

While clones are described in virtually all editions of Traveller, Traveller5 is the first to provide detailed game mechanics. And here we are talking specifically about guest clones, which are clones “produced to provide cheap labor” (Traveller5 Book 1, 116). In terms of role, they resemble the “fabricants” from Cloud Atlas.

“A guest is a skilled duplicate of the pattern, lacking only the memories of the original… Guests have force-grown organic bodies, cloned brains, and edited implanted personalities (an edited recording of the original personality). Guests are typically sterilized when created.” (Traveller5 Book 1, 116).

These rules are complemented by Marc Miller’s novel Agent of the Imperium, which provides useful color:

The best [astrogator] candidate was Legend’s strange woman with a strange name that told me more: Florine Ten. A clone by the name, and now I understood the tattoos: status identifiers applied by her creator.

* * * * *

I told Legend’s captain I needed his astrogator for Xyneid. He objected; she was his property; he could not let her go without compensation… She was indeed property; technically not a slave, but certainly not free. And yet, the record showed her factory-option skillset made her a capable astrogator and a tolerable pilot; I suppose her owner saved money using her instead of paid crew.

* * * * *

[Her] clone batch owed a joint debt to the factory that created her and her sisters. If she defaulted, her sibs would bear its burden.

(178-179)

A guest clone takes 19 weeks to create at a cost of Cr182,000. There is no price difference between cloning a raw recruit or an experienced veteran, so presumably most guest clones are created from highly experienced and skilled patterns.

Clone v. Human Costs over Time (KCr)
Category5 Years10 Years
Guest Purchase Price182182
CT Human Salary264528
MT Human Salary72144
MGT Human Salary240480
T5 Human Salary3060

A look at the long term costs of a guest contract compared to engineer salary shows that, contrary to Traveller5’s claim, guests are clearly not a cheaper option in that system, even over 10 years. In contrast, in CT and MGT guest clones are significantly cheaper than naturally born humans, even over just 5 years.

A guest clone is a sophont and subject to all the rights and privileges afforded any other citizen. That said, as shown in Agent of the Imperium, guests are considered property by their owners and are clearly subject to exploitation. I assume that guest clones avoid the Imperium’s strict prohibition against chattel slavery by being treated as indentured servants with contracts of limited term, perhaps no more than 4 or 8 years in length. (A guest clone of a human is force-grown to age 18, and begins aging at 26, so a maximum 8 year contract seems appropriate.) Agent implies that runaway clones might be subject to capture and return by bounty hunters.

There is some natural variability in the physical characteristics of guest clones, but their mental characteristics and skill levels are consistent. A guest clone’s personality is edited in order to encourage a contented and happy worker. So all of these factors, plus the strength of the factory contract, make a guest clone a more reliable option than a “natural” human.

Synthetics

Synthetics are biologically based artificial creatures: essentially, Blade Runner replicants or the hosts of the rebooted Westworld TV series. “Synthetic” is a generic term for any such creature, while “android” is specifically used to describe a synthetic human. Synthetics fall somewhere between clones and robots in terms of capabilities, and in some ways are superior to both. A synthetic has the consistency of a robot, as all iterations have the same characteristics. They also have behavioral control codes that keep them more reliable than clones, but synthetics also have more flexibility than robots.

Synthetics are described in Marc Miller’s “Ref’s Notes: Robots” from the Journal of the Traveller’s Aid Society 2 (1979):

Android: A biologically-based being created to a set of specifications for some purpose or duty. Androids exhibit life, in that they are biologically living; their distinction is that they were created, rather than having evolved. Androids generally are incapable of reproduction, and can be identified by close inspection. Some suggestions concerning androids in science fiction include permanent identifying marks such as tattoos or a blue dyed skin

(10).

Roger Moore took up this idea and created a nice set of mechanics in “Androids in Traveller” from White Dwarf 30 (Apr/May 1982). Unfortunately, the whole concept drops out of the game until Traveller5. (Although several “vatgrown” NPCs in the Mongoose Traveller adventure Pirates of Drinax might qualify as synthetics.)

Synthetics are detailed in Traveller5 Book 1, which even provides an example synthetic engineer, but this “premium” model has extra skills and a monstrous cost of Cr8,600,000! A batch synthetic engineer, in contrast, with SDEI 6666 comes with 9 skill points and “only” costs Cr1,296,000. Let’s say it has the following T5 skills: Engineer-6, Jump-1, Small-Craft-1, Pilot-1.

But at this price point, the synthetic engineer is far more expensive than any of the options we have considered:

Synthetic v. Human Costs over Time (KCr)
Category5 Years10 Years40 Years100 Years
Synthetic Purchase Price1,2961,2961,2961,296
CT Human Salary2645282,1125,280
MT Human Salary721445761,440
MGT Human Salary2404801,9204,800
T5 Human Salary3060240600

A synthetic is only more economical than humans over a 40 year period in CT and MGT and is still not cheaper at 100 years in Traveller5. There is no discussion of synthetic aging, but considering that clones have only an 8 year window before they begin aging checks, synthetics probably don’t have extraordinarily long lifespans and so long term financing is probably not available. This suggests androids would only be viable to high nobility, governments, and megacorporations.

But if economics are not a motivator, why create synthetics? As Roger Moore suggested,

Android populations are typically created and maintained by human societies requiring their services in occupations involving much physical labour, repetitive tasks, and considerable to extreme hazard. The tasks do not usually require above-average intelligence or planning to carry out, as well. The human population in charge of the androids is generally unwilling to perform these tasks themselves and cannot or will not use robotic assistance. Problems often arise due to the androids’ similarities to humanity; androids may be equated with slaves and suppression of their rights to proper care may occur, or well-intentioned humans may believe them equal to humanity and develop expectations of them that the androids cannot meet. Androids are often seen as expendable and given little control over their fates.

“Androids in Traveller,” White Dwarf 30, 10.

It’s not clear to me whether synthetics would be afforded the same protections given to sophonts in the Third Imperium. I am inclined to think that they probably are not, which has rather dark implications: synthetics are probably vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous entities, much as in Blade Runner or Westworld.

Conclusions

After reviewing the costs of different options for filling a starship engineer position, humans, low-end robots, and guest clones are all reasonable choices for even smaller ships in every edition except Traveller5, where humans are always the lowest cost solution. On a cost basis, synthetics are never a better option than humans in all editions.

Copyright Information

The Traveller game in all forms is owned by Far Future Enterprises. Copyright © 1977 – 2020 Far Future Enterprises. Traveller is a registered trademark of Far Future Enterprises. Far Future permits web sites and fanzines for this game, provided it contains this notice, that Far Future is notified, and subject to a withdrawal of permission on 90 days notice. The contents of this site are for personal, non-commercial use only. Any use of Far Future Enterprises’s copyrighted material or trademarks anywhere on this web site and its files should not be viewed as a challenge to those copyrights or trademarks. In addition, any program/articles/file on this site cannot be republished or distributed without the consent of the author who contributed it.

Materials produced by Digest Group Publications (DGP) are copyright © Roger Sanger. Any use of Digest Group Publications' copyrighted material or trademarks anywhere on this Web site and its files should not be viewed as a challenge to those copyrights. Usage is intended to follow the guidelines announced by Roger Sanger on the Traveller Mailing List for preserving the overall Traveller milieu.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A Credit to the Service: Crew Salaries Across Editions

I was recently preparing for an upcoming session of Traveller when I fell down a rather interesting rabbit hole. The PC’s ship, the Starjammer, has a minimum crew of 4 in Mongoose Traveller 2e: Pilot, Astrogator, and 2 Engineers. Although multiple PCs have the Pilot and Astrogator skill, only one PC has the Engineer skill.

I thought this gap would make for an interesting scenario: the starport impounds their ship until the PCs can demonstrate they meet the minimum crew requirements. As most of my players are fairly unfamiliar with Traveller, this setup provides a nice opportunity to introduce the dreaded Imperial bureaucracy, explain the various crew positions of a starship, and to give them a reason to explore the starport and try their hands at recruiting.

I ultimately wanted to give the PCs some interesting choices to fill the missing Engineer position. They could try to find an Engineer willing to work for passage, or hire one. They could contract a guest clone. Or perhaps they might buy a robot or android with the Engineer skill. Or upload a new computer program. (I quickly ruled out this last option.)

This immediately led to some questions: just what are the minimum qualifications needed? Which choices would be available to the PCs based upon the star system, and how easy would these choices be to track down? What are the trade-offs between the different choices? I assumed that the options would vary by cost, quality, and length of commitment and that each choice would offer pros and cons. Human labor might be cheap but unreliable and short-term; robots might be expensive up-front but better long-term investments.

To start, I looked at the human option.

Recruiting

There are at least two different systems for recruiting starship crewmembers. Assignment Vigilante has a detailed system based on the troop recruitment system in Mercenary. Both systems differentiate potential recruits into four categories determined by career history: recruits have served 0-1 terms, regulars 2-3 terms, veterans 4-6 terms; elite NPCs have 4 or more terms using the enhanced generation system, which provides more skills. The Vigilante system calculates the number of respondents by category to a recruiting posting based on the local Starport, Population, Government, Law, TL, and so on.

This approach is useful for the recruiting of a large crew for a capital ship or similar. For Adventure-class starships, I much prefer the role-playing approach of The Traveller Book, in which the PCs advertise and then interview applicants: “Of course, applicants will be limited (perhaps 1D; one to six applicants per week), and the adventurers cannot be too choosy” (98).

I generated a handful of crewmembers with either naval or merchant backgrounds and levels in Engineer. What would each of these NPCs cost to hire on? In Mongoose Traveller 2e, monthly salaries for crew are detailed in the “Running Cost Summary” table on page 145 of the core rulebook. But as I didn’t see any details on minimum qualifications for each position, I started looking at other editions. And then I realized just how different the different editions are when it comes to starship crews.

Crew Requirements

All of the various editions establish minimum numbers of crew for starships based on the size of the ship, number of passengers, mission, and so on. These minimum crew numbers are divided into different required positions. These positions are fairly consistent across editions, which masks some of the underlying differences.

In almost all editions, the Starjammer should have a minimum crew of 1 Pilot, 1 Navigator (Astrogator), 2 Engineers, and 1 Medic. (Only MGT doesn’t have the ship’s doctor requirement, but one PC happens to be an Ex-Army soldier with Medic 3 who could serve in the role.) It’s only when you dig down into the details do you see the crew differences between editions.

So what are the qualifications for occupying one of these positions, and how much would it pay? In some editions, it depends upon the crewmember’s experience and rating with the associated skill. So let’s look at the expected skill levels for engineers of different experience levels across editions. The associated skill levels by term vary based on system:

Engineer Skill Levels by Terms Across Editions
ClassificationTermsExpected Max Skill Level
CT/MTMGTT5
Recruit1101
Regular2212
Veteran4324
Elite5436

Note that these assumed skill levels are a fairly coarse estimate, and there is a LOT of variability due the vagaries of character generation.

Further, it’s important to point out how the Engineer skill differs across editions. In CT and MT, there is only one Engineering skill, which covers “the operation and maintenance of starship maneuver drives, jump drives, and power plants.” In MGT and Traveller5, there are various subskill specializations under the Engineer skill: J-drive, M-drive, life support, and power.

Calculating Salaries

Now that we have established the different types of engineers that might be recruited, we can calculate their expected salaries by system.

Classic Traveller

Referring to The Traveller Book, “Crew members must be paid monthly. Non-player characters must be paid using the standard crew salary schedule (with suitable modifications for expertise or seniority, generally +10% for each level of expertise above level 1)” (52). Standard crew salaries—and the minimum skill level required by position—are detailed on page 55. All CT positions require a minimum level of 1, except for Steward, which can be level 0. An engineer recruit, then, would command the minimum Cr4,000 per month while an elite engineer would draw Cr5,200 per month. 

MegaTraveller

Crew salaries are described in the Imperial Encyclopedia on page 89, which mirrors the language from The Traveller Book. That said, the formula on page 93 is a bit more complicated and far less generous than CT: “Engineering Crew: Cr500 times [Basic Rank Number] plus 10% for each level of Engineering skill.” For simplification purposes, assume terms and rank are equal, even though terms generally outpace rank.

An engineer recruit, then would command only 14% of what they would in CT: Cr550 per month. An elite engineer gets Cr3,500, which is only 67% of what they would in CT. While I didn’t see a minimum skill level for crew positions, the Imperial Encyclopedia notes “In order to be hired for working passage, the individual must have some expertise in the position for which he or she is hired” (87).

Mongoose Traveller

As noted previously, in Mongoose Traveller, crew salaries by position are detailed on page 145 of the core rulebook. All engineer positions are paid Cr4,000 per month, consistent with CT. But there is no differentiation for prior rank or skill levels, so our elite engineer draws no more salary than the recruit.

In some ways this makes sense: MGT characters have many level 0 skills, but relatively fewer higher rank skills than CT or MT. This is offset by the fact that MGT skill checks are modified by characteristics, allowing MGT characters to be comparable to CT characters with higher skill levels. This also means that an NPC with low skill level but a high characteristic score might be better at some applications of their skill than an NPC with a higher skill level but a low characteristic score. Why should the veteran with shaky hands and blurry vision get paid substantially more than the young whippersnapper with the steady hands and sharp eyes, if they both have similar levels of competence?

There doesn’t seem to be a minimum skill level to qualify for a crew position, which also makes sense given the dearth of skills above level 0 in MGT. If you set the bar for crew qualification at level 1 you might have a hard time crewing even a small starship in MGT.

Traveller5

This edition takes a very different approach to crew salaries. In MegaTraveller, you are paying for the person based on their experience and expertise. In Traveller5, you pay for the position based on the needs on the ship. The base salary is Cr100, multiplied by the minimum skill level needed for the position. As with MGT, an overqualified veteran, therefore, gets paid the same as the qualified engineer with much less experience.

The minimum skill level for the Engineer is equal to ship’s power plant (Book 1, page 44). I’ve got to admit, I have a very hard time following the Traveller5 design sequence here, but I think this should read the “ship’s power plant potential,” which I think should be 5 for the Starjammer.

Traveller5 further distinguishes between a standard engineer and the chief engineer, which should be rated at the power plant +1. So I think the salary should range from Cr500 to Cr600. At the recruit level, this is only 13% of the salary of a CT or MGT engineer, but roughly comparable to MT. But pity the poor elite engineer in T5: he’s only getting 12% of the CT salary! Even if I am wrong about the power plant, a potential 8 plant requires a Engineer-8 crewmember, whose pay is only Cr800 per month: 16% of the MGT salary.

Ship Engineer Salaries Across Editions
ClassificationMonthly Salary (Cr)
CTMTMGTT5
Recruit4,0005504,000500
Regular4,4001,2004,000500
Veteran4,8002,6004,000500
Elite5,2003,5004,000600

Given that prices for common items are generally consistent across the different editions, the disparity in crew salaries was a bit surprising to me. Although almost certainly unintentional, “In CT/MT you pay for the person, and in MGT/T5 you pay for the position” reflects a fundamental change in the nature of professional work between the late 1970s/early 1980s and the early 2020s. Where once experience and time in service could have been expected to be reflected in salary, not so much today—even with record low employment. Interestingly, no system I looked at considered adjusting salary schedules based on EDU scores! Evidently in space, there are no MBAs.

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