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The “Sappers”, Redux: An Update to the Deep Space Rescue Corps (DSRC) Careers CHARGEN for Classic Traveller

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2020 issue.

Author’s Note: This is an update/continuation of my article “Doing It My Way - Deep Space Rescue Corps: A Career for Classic and MegaTraveller” that appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of Freelance Traveller (#095)

Part Three – The “Sappers” Today

Following the successful rescue and recovery of the 1,800-ton Vargr Merchant Cruiser Aetheghaeoell (which rapidly got “Imperialized” to “Ether Gale”, but really means How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) on 273-1108, the Sappers are once again the toast of the Third Imperium. Given the grave irreparable harm that would have occurred should the Sappers have failed to save the “Ether Gale” from impacting the planet Junidy, the Emperor was so pleased by their success that he reinstated his Imperial Charter. Gone now are the furtive glances and cheek-burning shame members of the DSRC felt too often and of late. Rumors abound about the details of the rescue operation, and also of packets of credits changing hands to suppress further rumors about alleged Sternmetal involvement in what appears to be a Vargr Corsair hijacking gone dreadfully wrong.

But before the stationery could be updated, an obscure but ambitious Moot backbencher proffered legislation that would radically change the relationship between the Sappers and those they rescue in the name of the Emperor. During its first century of existence the DSRC was viewed and operated almost as a charity; but with a unanimous vote by all members of the Moot the Imperial Rescue & Recovery Corps has become a valuable revenue stream for the Third Imperium, rescuing whomever they could while salvaging whatever ships were in distress. Previously, recovered ships had been returned to their lawful owners, or to the local systems if those owners were deceased or could not be found.

Now, however, salvaged ships become the property of the Emperor, and the Sappers involved share in the profits. The once-noble calling has become a booming business. With its revised Imperial Charter come Imperial Warrants making Warrant Officers of the Sappers. Those brave sophonts who once did this job solely “So Others May Live” now do it for both money and glory. The Old Breed is gone. Salaries are up, but recruiting is down. The Sappers have regained their popularity – their money remains worthless in virtually all starport bars – but the Corps is now a big business, and viewed as such across Charted Space.

Part Four – Character Generation: Imperial Rescue & Recovery Corps (IRRC) “Sappers”

Section 1 – UPP & Terms of Service

  1. Roll 2D6 seven times, note the results, remove the lowest number, and assign results to UPP at player’s discretion.
  2. Roll 1D6 to determine number of terms served by the PC with the IRRC: If the result is 2+, then the PC has at least two terms of service in the Sappers; skip to Section 3 below. If the result is 1, then the PC has only one term of service in the Sappers, and has enjoyed a prior service career. The Player should then roll 1D6-3 to determine the number of Prior Service terms the PC has experienced (any roll modified to less than 1 becomes a 1), and then proceed to Section 2.

Section 2 – Prior Service

  1. Roll 1D6 to determine the PC’s prior career:
    1D6 Prior career Automatic Skill
    1 Scout Pilot-1
    2,3,4 Navy Zero G-1
    5,6 Marines Cutlass-1
  2. Determine Prior Service Skills. Do not roll Survival, Commission/Promotion or Re-Enlistment rolls; it is assumed that the PC survived and re-enlisted for the pre-determined number of terms. It is also assumed the PC did not achieve Commission or Promotion; had they, they likely would have not left their Prior Service for the Sappers. The circumstances of their PCs’ departures from Prior Service is left to the players’ imaginations.
  3. Scouts receive 2 skills per term:
    1D6 Personal Development Service Skills Advanced Training Advanced Education (EDU 8+)
    1 +1 STR Air/Raft Vehicle Medical
    2 +1 DEX Vacc Suit Mechanical Navigation
    3 +1 END Mechanical Electronic Engineering
    4 +1 INT Navigation Jack-o-Trades Computer
    5 +1 EDU Electronics Gunnery Pilot
    6 Gambling Jack-o-Trades Medical Pistol
    Navy character receive 2 skill rolls during their 1st term, then 1 skill roll per term thereafter:
    1D6 Personal Development Service Skills Advanced Training Advanced Education (EDU 8+)
    1 +1 STR Ship’s Boat Vacc Suit Medical
    2 +1 DEX Vacc Suit Mechanical Navigation
    3 +1 END Zero G Electronic Engineering
    4 +1 INT Gunnery Engineering Computer
    5 +1 EDU Blade Combat Gunnery Pilot
    6 +1 SOC Gun Combat Jack-o-Trades Admin
    Marines receive 2 skill rolls during their 1st term, then 1 skill roll per term thereafter:
    1D6 Personal Development Service Skills Advanced Training Advanced Education (EDU 8+)
    1 +1 STR ATV Vehicle Medical
    2 +1 DEX Vacc Suit Mechanical Gunnery
    3 +1 END Blade Combat Electronic Demolitions
    4 Gambling Gun Combat Gunnery Computer
    5 Brawling Gunnery Blade Combat Leader
    6 Blade Combat Zero G Gun Combat Admin
  4. Prior Service Mustering-out benefits – PC earns 1D6 roll per term served in Prior Service. At least one roll must be against the Cash column.
    One 1D6 roll per term served. DM+1 on Cash column if character has Gambling skill.
    1D6 Navy Marines Scouts
      Benefits Cash Benefits Cash Benefits Cash
    1 Lo Passage 1000 Lo Passage 2500 Lo Passage 10000
    2 +1 INT 2500 +2 INT 5000 +2 INT 20000
    3 +2 EDU 5000 +1 EDU 7500 +2 EDU 30000
    4 Blade 10000 Blade 10000 Blade 40000
    5 Mid Passage 25000 Mid Passage 20000 Gun 50000
    6 Hi Passage 50000 Hi Passage 30000 Mid Passage 60000
    7   70000   40000   70000

Section 3 – IRRC Service

  1. Roll 1D6+1 to determine the number of terms of service the Sapper PC has served. PCs are automatically awarded Rank 0 (Junior Warrant Officer) and accompanying Auto Skills during their 1st term of service in the IRRC. Roll 2D6 during each term of IRRC service (including 1st term) to determine if the PC promoted during that term. Promotion occurs on a 2D6 roll of 8+, modified by +1 if INT is 8+. Skill levels are cumulative so a PC with rank Level 3 who elects Medic-1 and who then rolls Medic on the Service Skills table below results in Medic-2.
    Rank Title Auto Skill(s)
    0 Junior Warrant Officer Vacc Suit-1 & Zero G-1
    1 Warrant Officer Blade* & Damage Control**-1
    2 Warrant Officer 2nd Class Medic-1 or Demolitions-1
    3 Warrant Officer 1st Class Leader-1 & Liaison-1
    4 Chief Warrant Officer Demolitions-1 or Ship’s Boat-1
    5 Senior Chief Warrant Officer Instruction-1
    6 Master Chief Warrant Officer Admin-1
    * Sappers are equipped with a custom tool – a Sapper’s Axe – that includes an electromagnetically attached blade head (front), pike (top) and hammer (rear), and a telescopic shaft, that allows this tool to also be used also as a crowbar (cudgel) or a hatchet. To master the Sapper’s Axe, PCs acquire the Blade skill.
    ** Damage Control (DC) is a new skill that allows characters to mitigate the effects of ship-to-ship combat; it can be considered a mix of firefighting, mechanical, electronic, computers and engineering. Characters present in shipboard spaces (bridge, drive room, etc.) when damage occurs use their DC skill level to modify GM’s damage rolls in the player’s favor. If a PC is not present when the damage occurs, their DC skill can also be used to perform rudimentary repairs on shipboard systems after they are damaged to make them operable, but with limited functionality. Greater functionality may be achieved by more skilled personnel using skills other than DC (e.g., engineering, mechanical, computer, etc.).
  2. Roll 1D6 against the table below twice per term starting with the 2nd term of IRRC service (note: total # of skill levels cannot exceed INT+END). The player may choose which column they are rolling against but can only choose Advanced Education if their PC has an EDU of 8+. Only roll once per term may be against Advanced Education (if permitted by EDU 8+); the second roll may only be against Personnel Development or Service Skills.
    1D6 Personal Development Service Skills Advanced Training Advanced Education
    (EDU 8+)
    1 +1 STR Blade Ship’s Boat Naval Architect
    2 +1 DEX Vacc Suit Medic Legal
    3 +1 END Zero G Demolitions Gravitics
    4 +1 EDU Damage Ctrl Computer Engineering
    5 Blade Cbt Liaison Survival Navigation
    6 Gambling Air/Raft Gun Cbt Pilot
  3. At the end of each term, Sappers roll to determine their Survival. On a 2D6 roll of 12 the Sapper has been injured and must retire; on a roll of 2 the Sapper has been grounded and must retire; Flight Surgeons have determined that further low-berthing has become too risky, leaving the Sapper vulnerable to traditional low-berth survival rates. All other rolls (3 to 11) have no effect and the Sapper is assumed to have survived.

    Note: These Survival rolls supersede the number of terms of service in the Sappers determined by step 3a above.

    Sappers do not roll for Reenlistment. After the rolled number of terms, or age 58 (whichever comes first), Sappers must retire.

  4. Roll 2D6 to determine effects of aging during 6th through 10th term of service. Note that due to extended periods in Frozen Watch, Sappers suffer the effects of aging at a slower rate than other PCs. Adjust the character’s stats if the aging roll fails. In the table below, apply the aging effect only if the roll in [brackets] is made (that is, -1 STR in term 6 only on a roll of 11+).
    Term (Age) 6 (42) 7 (46) 8 (50) 9 (54) 10 (58)
    STR -1 [11+] -1 [11+] -1 [10+] -1 [10+] -1 [9+]
    DEX -1 [11+] -1 [10+] -1 [9+] -1 [8+] -2 [8+]
    END -1 [12+] -1 [11+] -1 [10+] -1 [9+] -1 [8+]
  5. Roll 1D6 on the Mustering Out table below for each term served in the Sappers. At least one roll must be against the Cash column.
    1D6 Material Benefits Cash
    1 Gold multifunctional personal timepiece 25000
    2 +1 INT 50000
    3 +1 EDU 75000
    4 Sapper’s Axe 100000
    5 Middle Passage 125000
    6 High Passage 150000
    7 +1 SOC 170000
    DM +1 on Cash if character has Gambling skill
    DM +1 on Material Benefits if character has INT 8+ or EDU 8+
  6. IRRC Terms Annual Pension
    4 2000 Cr.
    5 3500 Cr.
    6 5000 Cr.
    7 6500 Cr.
    8 8000 Cr.
    9 10500 Cr.
    10 12000 Cr.

    Sappers successfully completing four or more terms with IRRC (not including Prior Service terms) receive an annual pension per the table, right:

Conclude CHARGEN by confirming character’s current age, number of terms of current and prior service, and total number of skills and skill levels.

Final Thoughts

Sappers are hardened, hearty, almost foolhardy spacers sworn to their devotion to save sophonts from near certain death amidst the hard vacuum of deep space. They approach this duty serenely, without gallows humor, secure in the knowledge that they will either survive, or die a hero’s death. They rush into starship spaces intelligence sophonts are trying to escape. They do not give up their lives cheaply or easily, only when doing so means others will live. They are the perfect people to have beside you in a crisis, and should be played accordingly.

Author’s note: The Sappers will return at North Texas RPG Con during June 2020 in Dallas, Texas. Players wishing to create Sapper characters for use at the game run there are encouraged to do so. Please remember to keep your PCs as active members of the IRRC by ending CHARGEN prior to their mustering out.