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The RCES Rating System

This article was orignally posted to the Freelance Traveller website in 2003, and reprinted in the May 2014 issue.

With the future success of the Reformation Coalition based on a successful return to the stars, the RCES (Reformation Coalition Exploratory Service) devised a standard testing process for the crucial positions of a starship crew. The system was initially designed to aid a prospective captain in hiring a crew without requiring extensive individual testing.

The original rating system was designed during the Dawn League’s final years. Based on systems used by the starports of several member worlds, the ratings covered the broad categories of piloting, engineering, and communications. To augment the testing process for use in the newly established RC Navy, a combat category was added to the ratings.

By early 1201, the RCES and RCN had both adopted a modified version of the plan that divided the ratings into six distinct categories containing 2 to 6 specialties each, as outlined in the table below. All current and future members of these agencies were tested in their areas of expertise and offered free testing in other areas.

Each of the categories included five skill levels (E to A) that would indicate the relative ability of the individual being tested. With each level the tests were more difficult and more hands on. Also, the higher level tests required experience in order to be administered and took longer to complete.


Space Navigation Combat Communications Engineering Interpersonal
Environment Suit Astrogation Gunnery Communications Computer Leadership
Zero-G Environment Pilot Screens Sensors Gravitics Marketing
        Electronics Service
        Ship’s Engineering Medical


Rating Description Test Fee Task Difficulty Required Skill
E The applicant has limited understanding in the skill area.
The applicant can perform basic functions with supervision.
Cr10 Automatic 0+
D The applicant has a basic understanding in the skill area.
The applicant can perform very basic functions with no supervision.
Cr50 Easy 1+
C The applicant has a good understanding and basic experience in the skill area.
The applicant can perform routine functions with no supervision.
Cr100 Average 1+
B The applicant has a detailed understanding and extended experience in the skill area.
The applicant can perform routine tasks automatically and difficult tasks without supervision.
Cr250 Difficult 2+
A The applicant has extensive understanding and widely varied experience in the skill area.
The applicant can perform difficult tasks automatically.
Cr500 Formidable 3+

In order to help integrate the system into common use, an RCES sponsored testing facility was established at all class A, B and C starports throughout the Reformation Coalition. Any individual could simply make an appointment with the testing staff to be tested. After several months of skepticism, the testing centers were overwhelmed by requests. Many of the tested individuals had no real qualifications and failed even the most basic tests. By mid 1201, the testing facilities, now run by the RC government, began charging for the tests given. (Despite the changes made in the civilian program, the RCES and RCN maintained the free tests as a benefit of service.) In addition to the fee, the RC began insisting on a recommendation by a certified individual before the initial tests could be given.

Application requests dropped off to a trickle. While alleviating the pressures of abuse, the fees involved in the new process defeated the purpose of the system.

After a short month of miniscule requests for testing, the RC modified the policy. One test for each skill at each level would be administered for free. After the first test, the applicant would be charged only for failed tests. Payments were required before the second and subsequent tests, and would be refunded if the test was passed. In addition, applicants could only reapply for a test they failed 72 hours after their original application.

As with all thing bureaucratic, the rating system soon became more than an information exchange. Investors and banks began requiring certain minimums in the crew before they would provide the loan or investment into the ship. Eventually, even the RC began requiring certain minimums before ships were allowed to fly. Most RC controlled starports require a minimum of a B rating in Pilot and Engineer before a ship is allowed to lift.


Most players are reluctant to reveal their skill and/or stat level to another player. However, it is often vital for a Commanding PC to know how well his crew is trained. This information is also important to PCs interested in hiring NPCs into crew positions on their ship. Rather than simply dictate to PCs the stats and skills of NPCs and other PCs, the rating system can be used. Additionally, since numeric skill valuations are unrealistic (i.e., they don’t really occur in real life), providing rating information instead allows for more immersive role-play.

The tests are simply a group of task level checks at a certain level. Because Traveller characters enter the game with skills and experience, skill levels are used to simulate the experience needed to apply for a certain test. The table above shows the definition of each rating level, the test fee, the test task difficulty level, and the minimum skill level required for eligibility to take the test.

Characters with a skill level of 0+ will automatically receive a Level E rating. All other ratings are by test; the character must have the minimum skill indicated above to be permitted to take the test for the indicated rating.

Each of the tests consists of ten task rolls against the appropriate skill at the indicated difficulty level. Seven or more successful rolls indicate the character passed the test. At the referee’s discretion, the test can be five task rolls with three successful rolls indicating the character passed the test.

Special Considerations

Characters with admin/legal, bribery, computer, persuasion, etc. may, at the referee’s discretion, attempt to “fix” the results of the test in their favor. These should be dealt with as standard tasks with the difficulty and results defined by the referee.
Test Results

Outstanding Success: At the referee’s discretion, a roll of outstanding success on any individual test roll can allow a +2 DM to be applied to any prior or future roll for the same test (the same skill and same rating level). This signifies that the character being tested did so well the tester can overlook a few errors in a prior portion of the test.

Catastrophic Failure: At the referee’s discretion, a roll of catastrophic failure on any individual test roll may result in the character being accused of cheating and future tests refused without further experience. In extreme circumstances this act may be punishable by other laws. This is an additional method to prevent PCs from taking all the tests whether they have the skills or not.

Other Versions of Traveller

While the ‘in-game’ background may be different, there is no reason that the game mechanics could not be transferred into other versions of Traveller, allowing for differences in available skill levels and task systems. Again, doing so would allow for the more immersive role-playing experience while allowing players to not reveal exact skill levels to other players.