A ‘G.I. Bill’ for Marc Miller’s Traveller
This article was originally posted to the pre-magazine Freelance Traveller website in 1996 and reprinted in the October 2015 issue.
The military pension is much more than the thanks of a grateful nation for difficult and honorable service; it is also a very important tool of national military policy. A pension program encourages talented young troopers to re-enlist, thus preserving the soldier’s expensive training and hard-won experience for the nation’s benefit. Further, a pension provides an incentive for older troops to leave the service, opening the way for younger people to advance their careers. The most important (and cynical) reason for pensions is to protect the government from insurrection led by military veterans. By paying pensions, a nation provides an incentive for military veterans to not take up arms against the government. This is not a trivial concern when one remembers just what military people spend their careers doing or training to do: Killing people and breaking things. Since no government tolerates insurrection, fearful governments gladly pay pensions. However, when veterans deem their pensions insufficient, history teaches that violence is probable. American veterans of World War I once rioted in Washington, DC in protest over pension issues. The threat of a repeat of the World War I riots—with 14 million returning G.I.s, not a million or so ‘doughboys’—may have motivated the US government to inaugurate the generous postwar “G.I. Bill”, a pension program in the sense of “give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime” rather than mere cash.
When the Sylean Federation created a professional military system, it also created a system to encourage men to spend their youth in the ranks and move on when no longer of military age. Under the scheme, veterans of the Imperial forces receive a retirement pay of Cr4,000 per annum for 5 terms service with an extra Cr2,000 per term after the 5th, for the life of the character.
After twenty years under arms, what standard of living can a veteran attain on a pension?
The first task is to define “standard of living” in Traveller terms; i.e. how many credits of income are required to live at a given level of comfort. The Core Rules for Marc Miller’s Traveller (T4, henceforth) pg 64, gives the costs for long-term subsistence at four standard-of-living levels: Starvation (Cr120 per month), Subsistence (Cr300 per month), Ordinary (Cr400 per month) and High Living (Cr900 per month).
The precise meaning of these levels is not made clear in T4, but a little imagination and common sense will fill in the gaps. In terms of the US social idiom: Starvation-level comforts equate to those of a “starving student” or a homeless person; Subsistence to those of a low-wage worker; mid-wage workers live at Ordinary comfort; and a high-salaried professional or business person could sustain a standard of High Living.
Assuming the Traveller-canonical Imperial calendar of 12 months of 30 days plus five Holiday-period days uncounted in a month (365 days), each level of comfort requires the (average) per-day expenditure detailed in the table below:
|Average Expenditures to Maintain Standard-of-Living|
|Level||Credits Per Month||Credits per Day|
The next question is: “How many days can I live at a given standard of living on a given pension?” The values in the table below are derived by dividing the annual pension amount by the per-day rate.
|Days of Living Supported by One Year’s Pension|
|Terms||Annual Pension||Starvation||Subsistence||Ordinary||High Living|
The critical value is 365, the number of days in an Imperial year. At a duration of 400 days, the minimum Imperial pension of Cr4,000 per annum will pay for a subsistence-level standard of living with a few credits left over for Holiday gifts. By staying on for an additional four years, a pensioner can live at the ordinary standard of comfort with a much more substantial margin. Of course, it is improbable that any pension will support an entire year’s High Living—or traveling.
For playability’s sake, Imperial military pensions are based strictly on longevity without regard to final rank at retirement and longevity is strictly by terms, not years. This can lead to the anomaly of an Ensign—or a Petty Officer—with 5 terms of service earning the same pension as a Commander who served 5 terms. Referees may assume the pension amounts mentioned in T4 are average annual sums based upon an arcane formula used by the Imperial Bureau of Veteran’s Affairs to take all the individual retiree’s variables into account.
An alternate military pension system would take years of service and rank into account without breaking the Imperial treasury:
- Start with Cr3,200 per year as a baseline pension for 20 years of service. This amount will almost support a Subsistence standard of living.
- Add Cr375 per year (Cr1,500 per term) for each year above 20 years.
- Add Cr200 per O-number or Cr100 per E-number rank attained. Use the amount for the highest rank.
- Rank O-1, 20 years (5 terms): Cr3,400
Cr3,200 baseline pension, + Cr200 for achieving rank O-1.
- Rank E-7, 20 years (5 terms): Cr3,900
Cr3,200 baseline pension, + Cr700 for achieving rank E-7
- Rank O-6, 20 years (5 terms): Cr4,400
Cr3,200 baseline pension, + 1,200 for achieving rank O-6
- Rank E-7, 28 years (7 terms): Cr6,900
Cr3,200 baseline pension, + Cr3,000 for 2 additional terms,+ Cr700 for achieving rank E-7.
- Rank O-6, 28 years (7 terms): Cr7,400
Cr3,200 baseline pension, + Cr3,000 for 2 additional terms, + Cr1,200 for achieving rank O-6
The alternate retirement system has several implications for character generation:
- It is intended for military or civilian characters in “ranked” professions. Characters not in a ranked profession would get their pensions from the Imperial Economic Security Administration per the T4 pension rules.
- Officer promotions become much more important for pension purposes, which is consistent with the competitive nature of T4’s officer-advancement program.
- The alternate pension system features a deliberate disincentive for senior enlisted men to try for commissions after the third or fourth term (remember, only one promotion per term, and mandatory retirement [subject to service exigencies] after 28 years); at a certain point, a senior NCO loses pension money if he accepts a commission. After all, no self-respecting senior NCO really wants a commission: why should a CPO or top-kick trade those hard-earned and well-respected chevrons for a butter-bar when nobody really respects an O-1?
While pensions may be a form of danegeld for governments, they are a resource and a spur to adventure for characters. After all, no pension ever stretches quite far enough.