The three adventurers slowly paced the streets of the misty startown knowing that their hunters might be around the next corner. They were. Laser blasts and plasma beams broke the silence and made the dim area into a daylike atmosphere.
In response, the first of the hunted reached for his PGMP-12 barrel and then switched on the power an ominous hum, and then a stream of matter poured forth and jerked his body as the pure energy gushed from the power plant.
The second dangerous defender pulled his submachine gun from his sling and launched a hundred rounds into the city streets, making a wall of death to stop any and all in its path. The last mercenary drew a huge laser blaster from a cloth. A grin spread from one cheek to the other as he released a handle from an incendiary grenade, then entered the killing zone
What you've just read is a very real, yet unfortunate, example of some Traveller adventures. It is exciting to become part of a deadly firefight in a scenario or adventure, but the referee must learn to know when giving to much firepower to the characters is enough.
So how does a referee avoid creating these 'walking arsenals'? Why is giving the characters all the weapons the can possibly carry a bad idea? In response, a simple answer: when the referee gives the party all the weaponry they want (and not necessarily what they need), a game will become more and more dependent on combat that on the characters' brains and skills (which is one of the reasons that people play Traveller to exercise their minds!) The old saying "Peace through superior firepower" is not what is needed in a typical Traveller scenario. Posessing a PGMP-12 can come in rather handy at times that is if you happen to be stuck behind Zhodani lines! It is not often that you will see a character walk through a startown with a nuclear accelerator strapped to their back; but if you do, your referee probably is not doing a very good job with the game.
The discretion of the referee is of ultimate importance, for it is he that keeps some semblance of law and order in the adventure, and it is also he that makes all the game's final decisions. It is that same person, then, that must ultimately device what is good, and what is overkill.
So what is an acceptable amount of firepower that a character should have at any given time? That depends on the circumstances under which the character acts. If a group of players is stuck behind enemy lines (say in a mercenary action) during a conflict, there will surely be hints from the players to let their characters find any weapon which will injure or disable an opponent. It is up to the referee what they will be able to find if anything. If the band is in the middle of a startown, giving them over-abundant firepower is not at all good practice (unless they seek the harassment of the local authorities!) It is the environment that is the factor determining a character's final firepower.
However, it still must be decided what specific weaponry that the referee should allow. To do this, it is helpful to rate weaponry by technological level (grouping all TL 7 weapons together and so on). After creating these groups the referee must determine which level fits the adventure. If the characters are on a TL 10 world, it is acceptable to arm them with TL 10 weapons. This solves a big overkill obstacle. Naturally, if a party is on a TL 2 world, they will not have any problems surviving with a few pistols; however, the referee must see this obvious overkill (which can easily make the adventure very, very dull. If there is no challenge, there is no excitement.)
The referee must determine how hard the adventure will be for the players. Truly, no referee should make the game too simple, nor should it be made too hard. Even if the referee has a cruel streak and likes to make his players suffer for their reward (which is, at times not such a bad tactic), he should never give the characters a toothbrush when the enemy's weapon is a gauss gun! A referee should make every adventure a challenge, and nor formidable (unless those were a previously agreed part of the game). The players should be given the equivalent firepower of the enemy. Call it the "Pistol for a pistol" rule.
It's proven dozens of times daily in actual games that evening the odds will make for a better game. Try it! When a referee gives each of his characters a pistol for each pistol the enemy has, the idea of "superior firepower" is no longer valid. Now the Stone-Age man will not longer hold the toothbrush while your group of characters is out marauding the wastelands with laser rifles and plasma guns. The odds will be "even up".
However, when the odds are "even", chance comes into play. Then, a simple practice unused by many role-gamers can be used tactics. (Tactics should be an integral part of any Traveller game.) However, the most used thing if the odds are even must be the minds of the players. Weapons are only helpful when the user knows how to put them to an effective use. So the next time you and your group sit down for a session of Traveller, be sure to take these ideas into consideration. You'll be amazed at the results.
So a final word of wisdom to the referee: the next time you let your characters find a secret cache of weapons, ammunition, or other assorted goodies, think again. Do they really need it? Because if they don't, you'll just be creating several more walking arsenals and wasting yet another evening!