Solo Traveller: Turning Misjump Straw into Shipping Gold

This isn’t Captain Doose ‘s first trip to the misjump rodeo, and recent events have taught Chad Solo a thing or two about why the Doose is always loose.

In the last post, we talked about how fuel-poor the Penfold sector of Traveller space is.  Of the now 25 systems generated, only 6 have starports capable of supplying cargo ships with the refined fuel necessary to eliminate the risk of jumping between systems.  That’s about half what you would expect given the odds.  This makes the Captain’s continued success in the region so much more impressive.  Only time will tell if taking on the potential Jonah of a PC run by yours truly will prove to be his final fatal mistake.

For now, it worked to his benefit.  With April 1st payroll due, he saved 3,000 credits on his intern Chad, which limited his losses for that month.  The Corvinus-Tobor run is a moneymaker, with a nearly full cargo hold and plenty of passengers looking for both high and middle passage.  His regular route, from Tobor to the lightly populated Cyarrick runs heavy on the passengers and light on cargo, presenting him with a typical loss-leader of a milk-run.  It’s a risky one as well, as the second without using unrefined fuel makes getting to the jump point a white-nuckle ride and the jump a tense affair.

In proto-Traveller, you check for breakdowns every time you jet out beyond the gravity well of a planet.  That’s 100-diameters, which doesn’t take much fuel given the equations of Laplace, Newton, and Lagrange. But unrefined fuel is hard on engines and requires a breakdown check.  On the first check, a breakdown occurs on an 11+ on 2d6, with that target number going down by one for each subsequent trip.  You can repair these breakdowns with a successful Engineering check, but each such attempt adds a day to the journey.

Even if you don’t break down on the way to the jump point you’re still not out of the woods just yet.  Every time you jump, there is a risk of a mis-jump sending your ship 1d6 hexes in a random direction.  This occurs on a 12 or higher on 2d6, but you have a -1 modifier when using refined fuel, which makes a misjump impossible if you’ve got the good stuff running through the engines.  With unrefined fuel, it’s a +3 to the roll, giving you a 28% chance of running off-course.  Unlike the cruising breakdown check, the odds of a misjump don’t get worse with subsquent jumps, but at nearly one in three, they don’t really have to.  You’ve only got a 43% chance of making it through two jumps and a 28% chance of surviving three in a row.

Sort of.

Remember that, given the frequency of planets, with any given misjump you have about a fifty-fifty chance of landing in a hex that has a planetary system in it. That helps tilt the odds back in your favor a little bit.  You still need to factor in the odds of that system having fuel in the form of a skimmable gas giant or a friendly starport, and now things get too complicated to calculate typical odds.  What you can calculate are the odds of adventure in an occupied system, and those odds are 100%.

You may find yourself in a mining colony where you’ve got to work a claim, hoping to make enough money to refule your ship.  Or you may find yourself falling in with a pirate fleet who recognizes that your cannon-fodder ship would be worth fuelling up if you accompany them on a raid.  Or you might find yourself exploring a derelict ship that also mis-jumped and has the fuel you need, if you can determine what killed the crew and avoid sharing their fate long enough to siphon off enough fuel to get out before you get got.

This game is an adventure engine, and it works as wonderful framing device that allows you to run any sort of adventure you can think of.  And if you’re the GM, it delivers these adventures to you on a silver platter.  The courses of the meal may surprise you, but you’ve been watching and reading sci-fi media long enough to hold a library in your head sufficient to meet any demands the random tables give you.

In the case of the Moneycrater, its mis-jump landed in smack dab in the middle ofthe Tardmart system.  That system proved to be one with a large Earth-type planet housing fifty BILLION religious fanatics. Remember Hank Hillsong and the zealots whose fight with water polo hooligans almost cost Chad his trip off of Corvinus.  The dice dictating this new (to us) system as ruled by a Religious Dictator flow naturally from that event, and now we see why the Dag’gonians are so expansionist.  They’ve got the people for it, anyway.

To most people landing in such a system might be a cause for alarm, but for Captain Doose, it was a cause for quiet celebration.  Big planets are moneymaker planets, with orbital ports filled to the outrim with cargo waiting for shipment.  And mail languishing in dusty bins.  And people, in this case missionaries spreading the word of Dag’gone, looking to get out-system.  The system even has a gas giant in position to allow a quick skim.  With a one-day delay, a ship’s captain can save 18,000 credits on fuel.

Which leads a player to wonder…how missed was that jump?

The Captain is his own Navigator after all.  Does he have a way of altering the jump coordinates after the pilot double-checks his work?  Is his pilot, the physical beast Hans, in on the grift?  Or was it just a happy accident?  We won’t know until we play out the string.

Stateroom cleaning services set the Doose back by 60,000 credits, but with seven more high passengerss and a handful of low passengers, that pays for itself.  The mail run and cargo turn into all profit, baby!

Some discussion was had around the comment section and social media in general that the Doose might have just sold the cargo he had slated for Cyarrick to fences on Tardmart.  Which would mean either packing the passengers into Dag’gonian convents or chucking them out the airlock.  As a well respected and very subsidized Captain, these were not options for Munder Doose.  What he needed was to get to Cyarrick as quickly and profitably as possible.

In the end, he wound up with a ten-day delay that nearly doubled his gross receipts.  As a subsidized freighter half of the quarter million credits earned went straight to Corvinus bank accounts, and expenses – including a full tank of refined fuel – ate up all but 75,000 of the remaining credits.  That still left him running far enough in the black to continue his usual circuit.  He’ll even save a fortune on antacids.

And what of our hero, Chad Solo?


He saved the day in his own way, but got into a little trouble as he did so.  The Captain didn’t have the ready cash reserves to pay that 60,000 credit stateroom bill up front.  He was 10 kilo-credits short and facing the prospect of taking a out a loan from the Temple Bank of Dag’gone.  He’d have to repay a total of 11,000 credits next time he landed on Tardmart.

As a brief aside, I’m not about to start calculating compound interest on loans.  This game already has enough bookkeeping in it.  Flat rate loans paid on arrival keep that to a minimum while still providing some negative consequences for running in the red.

Or perhaps there was another way…Chad could spot him the same amount for just 500 credits and a promotion from intern to paid Junior Engineer.


The deal was struck, and celebrated around a table at an off-starport lounge where once again Chad found himself stepping on the cultural rake of drinking the wrong beverage in front of the water-slurping Dag’gonians.

Dang ol’ heretics man, I tell you what, dang ol gonna call me an Inquisition or something do a little hot poker action you know what I mean? Dang ol amen.

To provide a little more variety to random encounters, when a roll on the standard list results in a 60 or higher – blank on the written chart – I kick over to the patron chart and roll to see which bigwig is in the vicinity.  In this case, the roll came up “Governor”, which on Tardmart means a Bishop or higher.

With a very negative reaction on the part of Cardinal Boomhorus and his entourage of Derp Ones, who must have already gotten word about Chad’s role in the street fight at Innsmouth Station.  Chad explained that the Cardinal should be grateful, that under Chad’s expert arbitration the Chruch came out smelling like a three-day old fish on the beach.  This smoothed a few ruffled scales on the part of the fishy headed brethren, for the moment.  But Chad still carries with him a negative reputation among the Dag’gonians, and will suffer a constant -1 reaction modifier whenever he meets them out there among the stars.

Hastening back the ship, Chad fulfilled his duties as Engineer, the ship made a safe jump to a class B starport and a very satisfied ship’s captain.  That extra time means that our campaign has pushed out well beyond the comfortable two-week window and the Moneycrater will not be available for more fun until late April.  With Jeremy the scout tied up until the 15th of that same month, we now have plenty of time to investigate and populate the central chunk of the subsector map.