Give them a ship
Back in the early 80’s, when I first started to run Traveller games with the LBBs, I quickly discovered that I didn’t like the merchant campaign as presented. Not that I didn’t like the tramp freighter idea, I just didn’t care for the way the entire game revolved around bartering your way from one mortgage payment to the next.
Alex, who inspired my Five Traveller Rules, recently smacked up against the same problem. I thought he put it rather succinctly:
Unlike D&D 3+ where players can spend a lot of time away from the table thinking about their character and tweaking it, Traveller seems to be the game where players can spend a lot of time away from the table thinking about their ship’s finances.
This is the same problem I struggled with for years in my early games. In fact, it eventually caused me to walk away from Traveller. When I did return, I wound up having a player who rolled a retired scout and acquired a ship through the service. It would be the perfect “fix” to the problem I’d struggled with. The ship didn’t require the mortgage payment that created the financial monotony before:
It is the policy of the scout service to make available such surplus scout ships to selected individuals on a reserve basis. The vessels are (hopefully) put to good use while they’re not required in service, and both the ship and its pilot are available for recall to duty when needed…Fuel is free at scout bases. Maintenance is free at the scout bases at class B starports. The character is responsible for both upkeep and crew costs. (p.25 LBB 1)
The original Traveller made allowances for gaining a Free Trader without a mortgage as well but it required that the player roll the same ship benefit five times. Mongoose’s version of Traveller keeps a similar pattern by awarding shares; if you roll enough shares you would have a free ship.
For me, the trick to disengaging the mortgage-heavy trader campaign is to simply award a ship in place of shares. If you stick with the convention of giving the party an older ship – a 40 year old Trader for instance – you can avoid the hassle of so much paperwork and put the players into a quirky “rust bucket.”