Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Ordnance Conundrum: Missiles

EDIT: It's been pointed out to me that in "range band" space combat, missiles are assumed to move at 6G, just like ships. That's generally fine by me... though differently statted missiles would from time to time make things entertaining.

One nice thing about adhering to LBB123 is that I don't feel beholden to any of the flawed missile rulesets that followed.

What Book 2 says is:
*That ship's missiles weight 50kg, and cost ct. 5,000 each.
*That the typical missile is the homing type "which constantly seeks the target ship, ultimately being destroyed by the target's defenses, or exploding and doing damage to it"
*That missiles can be converted to surface bombs, or surveillance drones.
*That missiles require the launch and target programs to launch
*That missiles do not move until the following movement phase
*That missiles (initially) have the same vector as the launching ship
*That when they contact an enemy ship during a movement phase, they are either destroyed during the subsequent intruder return fire phase, or explode during the subsequent ordnance launch phase.
*Missile countermeasures as stated in book 2 are anti-missile laser fire, and ECM.
*That when missiles explode they do 1-6 hits of damage "depending on the range at detonation" but nevertheless governed by a roll of the die, indicating a sort of proximity detonation.

This basically leaves out ONE important detail: How do missiles move? One might look for other details: what do missiles home on, how might different missiles be made, but basically that question is all one needs answered to make the Book 2 missile rules work.

Over the years, I've come up with a number of solutions.
One that stood for a while assumed that missiles are very, very fast, and in the 16 minutes or so of a space combat round can race to their target and explode. This favors the launching craft strongly: Missiles can only be defeated by laser fire and ECM, and the target has only one turn to react and reprogram in response. It's easy on recordkeeping: the missiles don't stay in play long. This method favored a map-less, free-form sort of space combat where range wasn't closely accounted for.

I thought this method resonated fairly well with High Guard when I got hold of it: High Guard operates on a different scale, but implies that missiles reach farther than lasers without detriment to accuracy, and are fast, reaching their targets rapidly.

I was dismayed to see that missiles, as envisioned by Mark Miller in the Special Supplement on Missiles in Traveller, gained a mass of complexity while losing a good deal of effectiveness. All but the highest tech missiles were sharply reduced in speed and range: many could be outmaneuvered by manned spacecraft with relative ease. SS3 missiles made no sense in terms of High Guard, and seemed needlessly complex for Book 2.

MAYDAY rules are similar to book 2 but simplified, but also unfortunately at a broader scale.

At the same time, the notion of missiles being added to Book 2 combat in a way that adds tactical twists to the system is attractive to me.

I'm going to be away a couple days, but I'm going to be thinking on this.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Service Mindsets IMTU

See more updated stuff here: http://festeria.blogspot.com/2006/06/more-on-services-in-festrian-space-and.html

So, based largely on the Book 1 CharGen requirements and common results, I'm gradually putting together a framework for what Traveller Services are like, and what they produce.

These are off the cuff, and I'll edit them more, but:

Navy: The best connected end up here if they're not tough enough for the marines. Can't fly for beans, but espirit up to here, and it's not like they need that many really good pilots except out on the frontier anyhow.
note: This is derived from my current effort to roll up Book 1 Navy pilots. Navvies usually get mustered out after two or three terms without a commission; if I get a pilot, more likely than not he's Pilot-1 and that's it. So really experienced pilots are very, very rare in the Navy, and one would expect them to get snapped up and sent to the frontier fleets. One result of my observations? Navy Patrols in the home subsectors of the Festrian Empire are virtually all under 30, and virtually all skill-1. They can get away with this because their ship's software is always top of the line: A patrol cruiser should always be shooting at +4 (predict 5, gunner interact) and evading at -5 (M/E 6).

Marines: The best connected end up here if they're not smart enough for the navy. Can't shoot for beans, but they're great in a boarding party. The cutlass comes out, run.
Army: If you can't get into the Marines or Navy, you might get drafted here. They train you up quick with the guns because they can't afford to keep you on salary more than a term or two.
Scouts: Anyone who wants to fly but isn't smart enough for the Merchants, or just plain suicidal, comes here. They can all fly, but they can't maintain their own ships. The live ones, anyhow.
Merchants: The smartest all end up here if they want to fly, and get rich.
Other: It's not that everyone who isn't in service is scum. It's just that the services are really the only way to get offworld, and if you're not in service, you need to bend a few rules.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

TAS Library Entry for the Most Popular Pet of the Imperium: The Canar

The ubiquitous, and popular Canar is a creature known throughout human society, and can be found in virtually all environments habitable by humans throughout the Festrian Reach, as well as explored regions of the Old Empire. As such, it is ranked among the “Cradle animals,” that rare group of creatures believed to have evolved on the theorized birth-world of humanity. What citizen of the Imperium has not heard of the Canar’s utility as a primitive early warning system in the mines of antiquity, alerting miners to deadly gas with their strident call? Who has not heard tales of their later utility, to similar purpose, on the earliest legendary "Seed" ships, alerting the heroic founders of our species to fouling air on their rudimentary craft? That the Canar was also prized as a songbird is a source of some puzzlement today, as the Canar does not so much sing as mutter, gabble, and perhaps honk, the Canar’s wide flat beak appearing to be better adapted for dredging than for production of song.

Canars are mostly aquatic birds, and may be found in both fresh water and sea water. From this, its connection to a mythical Canar Islands seems founded. Historically, the nature of its initial habitat is in dispute. Earliest records indicate the creatures preference to be areas such as orchards note that the Canar build their nests in bushes or trees. Since their body length is generally, from base of neck to base of tail, approximately 30 cm, this seems unlikely; their webbed feet, too are better adapted for use in acquatic environmnets rather than arboreal.

The role of the creature in human society, historically, is obscure, and made more so by the multiplicity of languages used by most pre-Old Empire human societies, and the intermingling of the same into the predecessors of Old Galactic. Flying, egg laying and feathered species are understood to have been widespread among human societies from the earliest days, and appear to have often been domesticated, although to what purpose is not widely agreed upon in historical sources. This species was often kept as a pet, as they are even today. Many are found on worlds and even on shipboard, throughout the Imperium. They are companionable creatures, bonding well to their owners, so it is understandable that this should have been the case in antiquity. Canar, in additional to their most common role in human society as pets, are in some few backward areas farmed for their meat, eggs, and feathers.

Spirit Versus Letter: Evasion Programs in CT

So one of my fun little bugaboos is the high level of clarity in the Traveller rules. Snerk.

There's stuff left out. There's stuff that's inconsistent. There's stuff that's vague, often in areas where clarity is dearly wanted. It leaves lots of room for interpretation, houserules, and the like.

Which is fine.

But in terms of MTU, when I'm trying to hew to the basic rules, it often leaves me grasping at straws.

Here's one example that I've tackled: The ship's computer programs Maneuver, Maneuver/Evade, and Auto/Evade.

In Book 2 (2nd ed) there is no statement regarding interoperability of these programs.

Maneuver allows the use of the M-Drive. It costs Mcr .1.

Maneuver/Evade allows a negative DM on the attacker's to hit based on a fraction of the Pilot's skill, AND allows use of the M-Drive "as required, in lieu of the normal maneuver program." The weakest of this series of program costs Mcr 1.

Auto/Evade allows a -2 DM on the attacker's to-hit, but there is NO statement regarding ability to maneuver. There is a statement that the program "operates at a lower level" than M/E. This program costs Mcr .5, (a bargain!)

Just going by the stated rules, then, M/E is the same as Maneuver except it allows evasion. A/E, though, is a puzzle: in terms of the evasion -DM, A/E is generally more than twice as effective for evasion than M/E 1, which costs twice as much and will only give a -DM of 1/4 the pilot's skill, rounded down: it takes a crack pilot skill of 4+ to get even a -1. If it's assumed that A/E and Maneuver can be used together, then even at Mcr.6, they're more effective than M/E 5 in the hands of a novice pilot, which costs Mcr 5.

Doesn't make sense.

So I'm looking for the First edition book 2 ruling on how these programs interact.

I have looked at the rules for these programs listed in MAYDAY. Mayday was an effort by the author of Traveller to move the Book 2 combat system into a board-game format. There are some differences in the rules, but enough is shared between the two to suggest the author's intentions in the rules. They were meant to be interchangeable to a degree.

What MAYDAY says is this:

Maneuver, Maneuver/Evade and Auto/Evade cannot be used together.

Maneuver allows use of the M-Drive.

Maneuver/Evade allows a negative DM on the attacker's to-hit, AND allows use of the M-Drive but at 1G LESS than the Drive's Rating

Auto/Evade allows a negative DM on the attacker's to-hit, but PROHIBITS use of the M-Drive in maneuvering.

And I say this is a clearer rule than the one stated awkwardly in Book 2, and fits the Traveller ethos better overall. It doesn't follow the LETTER of the Book 2 rules, but I argue it follows the SPIRIT better.

Book 2 combat, as stated, owes a lot to old-style miniatures combat: wargaming. So strategic choices make a difference. This interpretation of the rules his adds a lot in terms of meaningful strategic choices in book 2 combat:

If you're being fired on, you have to decide whether you want to lay on speed, or dodge, because especially with a merchantman, you can't do both.

It means that even if you can't actually hit your dodging opponent, you might be able to force him to dump some acceleration by peppering him with laser fire: possibly making him more vulnerable to your missile fire.

It means that if a target's in a gravity well, it's going to be harder to maneuver under fire.

Not being able to stack M/E and A/E programs makes targets a little easier to hit, makes combat deadlier, and that fits the general ethos of CT combat better (don't take it lightly because it's really easy to get killed doing it.)

SO IMTU, based on this and failing anything enlightening appearing from LBB2 ed1, I'd inclined to rule in favor of the Mayday rules here:

Maneuver, M/E and A/E are not interoperable.
A/E allows a negative dm to hit, but does not permit use of the M drive for maneuvering.

M/E allows a negative dm to hit, AND allows use of the M-Drive, but at-1G.

This last goes against the letter of the Book 2 rule: The "as required" is the clearest statement in the book 2 rules about the program.


The Mayday rule, which says that if you're jinking around avoiding laser fire you're NOT able to do as much straight-line acceleration, makes a lot of sense in terms of the LBB ethos: It's more hard-sciency, less free-lunchy, and more gritty.

And CT is gritty.

And that's the way we roll IMTU.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


I'm leaving that last post to show the thought process, but I just galvanized myself.

I've been GMing since I was 12.

I'm 36.

I don't need no steenking supplements. I don't need no steenking book 4,5,6,7,32,hike.

If it ain't in LBB123, and I need it to be there, I'll make it up. I'll draw terminology from classic SF, or from the world around me: where that terminology matches up with other books, so be it. But I'm coming up with my own mechanics based on what I see called for. If discrepancies in the rules plague me, I'll see what other folks have done for ideas - but mine are as good as anyone elses I've seen so far, Dammit.

As I thought out in the last post, for instance, all that heavy military hardware from book 4 is way deadlier than an adventure party is going to be able to survive head-on. So I don't need to worry too much about mechanics of it: when I do, then I can figure it out. I like the term Autocannon: So did H Beam Piper. So do present-day weapons manufacturers: So I don't feel bad about using that terminology, even though book 4 does too.

I thought up the term "Rotolaser" right on the spot. That's a pretty cool infantry support weapon, and I bet given the term you can figure out pretty much how it works.

I don't need anything else.

LBB123 all the way down, baby.

The Festrian Empire is MY TRAVELLER UNIVERSE.

Arg. Temptation.

So I'm trying to do this whole LBB 123 thing.

I'm good with Book 1 character generation: I think book 4+ overspecialize characters and imbalance play.

I'm good with the Small-Ship universe envisioned in book 2: I'm fine with leaving any "It's So BIG!" ships and HORRIFYING DEATH BLASTER tech to GM fiat. And I'm pretty okay with Book 2 trade now that I've got the legal/smuggling stuff kluged together. I'm curious about Book 7's treatment of trade, and I'll see if there's anything I can use there once I find a copy. But I'm not holding my breath, if book 6 was anything to go by.

I'm good with Book 3 star system generation: I just don't have the time to be bothered with Book 6 stuff.

I have barely even thought about robots.

I'm suffering mighty temptations regarding the book 4 arsenal, though, because that's a much smoother extention of the book 1-3 rules than any of the other books I've seen, both in terms of mechanics and in terms of flavor.

Book 4 weapons don't generally work differently than book 1 weapons, except where they're deadlier: the system basically remains the same. So I don't really have any argument with them in terms of game mechanics. And the flavor of the weapons fits: Hardsciency, for the most part: not airyfairy death beams, but huge amounts of kinetic and heat energy going on. Or just big chunks of metal thrown atcha. Or lots of little ones real fast.

If I were going to be making up something that fits my Festrian Empire, for lower space-tech I'd be looking towards Piper's Space Viking, which CT owes much to (the autocannon makes regular appearances in SV), and ALIEN. I'd maybe be looking at David Drake's stuff for higher tech forces. Elite Imperial Marines? Starship Troopers (The book, silly, not the movie.) And that's all very consonant with what's found in the Book 4 arsenal.

So it's very tempting to use ironmongery from book 4, at least as chrome.

Though if my notional players get in that kind of fight with the proper military, chances are they're all going to die. I want to run adventure games, not wargames. So as much as is practicable, I'm still going to go book 1 in terms of most elements impinging on the players, and expand upon it but totally in "GM-land"

In most cases, if there's a serious Infantry Support Weapon in use, the party's going to have to circumvent it if they want to live anyhow - looking at book 4 rules for Auto-cannon, LMGs, PGMPs and the like, I don't feel a need to really get too specific about what these guys do. If you're in the kill zone for these weapons and you're not kitted out in combat armor, minimum, you're basically dead. So rather than dwell on what book 4 weapons can do to the players, I'd as soon say:

"You spot raiders from that Type C you saw in orbit; looks like they've spotted you, too, and are waiting to see if you're a problem. They're in an air raft, looks like two of 'em with rifles. There's a guy on an autocannon to boot, though - Guys, if he shoots, you're all totally totally dead, and you know it, and so does he."


"It's good you stayed indoors, because the Trooper on the Rotolaser got jumpy and loosed a burst into the crowd. Swiss-cheese-o-rama. Looks like the riot's over, though."

No rolls necessary for that stuff, really. It can be handled with storytelling. If the odds are sufficiently bad, I don't need to roll dice to see if you're dead. You tell me how you think or sneak your way around the guy with the big gun, we'll see if you can do it. But if you blow it, get out Book 1, turn to page 14 and start rolling.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Aliens of the Festrian Froniter: The Squill



EDIT: I'll want to determine a homeworld for these guys: ideally, one of those odd worlds that somehow roll an 11 or 12 for HYD, which I generally take to mean "Exotic Oceans."


Physical Description: Evolved from an undersea predator on their homeworld, Adults range in size between 4-6’ tall as farmers or builders, 5-8’ tall as warriors, and 4-5 feet tall as pilots or planners. Their bodies are perhaps a third of their mass, and are tender and pulpy: the next two thirds are tentacles, of which three are heavy, leathery load-bearing pods allowing upright walking out of liquid, and the remaining are a mass of specialized feelers and holders. They have two side-placed eyes, and a mouth set amidst the tentacles. They are able to produce a carapace by means of natural secretion, which covers most of their body and can be modified to a large extent. This is multicolored and patterned, and is never the same twice, although members of the same school bear similar markings. They have roughly the same lifespan as humans. They have developed the ability to craft their shells into tools of remarkable complexity, ranging from simple cutting implements to hand and throwing weapons, on up to breathing tanks allowing the Squillish to leave their liquid home for extremely long periods. Builders, and all the high caste Squill have such breathing tanks as permanent additions to their shells. Warriors have particularly durable shells, and an array of weapons at their disposal.

Squillish cannot form human words, and vice versa, but Squillish with an education of 11+ can frequently read and write a few words of human language: space transmissions are generally text. “Surrender” or “We Surrender” is generally enough.

Squillish in general reach tech level 3-6; the major exception being their advance into space. It appears that the Squill have been able to develop rudimentary spacecraft, perhaps reverse-engineered from Old-Empire derelicts or trade ships. Humans were astonished when the first Squillish spacecraft was encountered: A hull made entirely of high-test Squill-shell, with rudimentary controls and primitive rocket drives, built around a jump drive scavenged from a human merchantman. Squill rely on scavenging for anything more advanced than tech 6. The Squillish do occasionally attempt trade, but they often can only obtain the high-tech items they desire through pilferage and piracy. And at this, they have been successful. Squillish homeworld has not been located but it is thought to be at least four parsecs out from the fringe. It is not known how many scattered Squillish colonies have been formed (these are nearly always size 5-7 with atmosphere A and liquid oceans, although some frontier outposts on planetoids have been found)

Statistics: Roll as normal, adding 2 to dexterity and subtracting 1 from strength.

Squillish society is highly deterministic: From hatching, it is known what caste and profession a Squill will be trained for. There is no process of enlistment. Type of Squill is determined by characteristic.

Any Squill of SOC less than 9 is either a farmer or a builder. Builders must have dexterity and education of 10+. All others are farmers.

Squillish of soc. 9+ are either warriors, pilots, planners or tenders.
Warriors must have strength and endurance 8+
Pilots must have dexterity and Education 10+
Planners must have intelligence and education of 10+
All others are tenders.

FARMERS remain under “water” their whole lives, and cannot leave it. In spite of being most numerous, they will seldom be encountered by humans except on Squillish worlds or colonies, unless they are being transported on a Squill colony craft. They harvest and process the plankton-like creatures on which the Squill feed. They will never fight, and always flee. They have no skills beyond farming and food production.

TENDERS, regardless of sex, maintain the Squill eggs until they hatch. Before and after hatching, they nurture the young to determine what their caste will be: those that will be suitable for important roles will be particularly cared for. Their skills are highly specialized in this regard, but all have the equivalent of Medical–2. They will not fight, but will be accompanied by warriors. Squill long-range vessels and pirates will typically have one tender aboard as a medic. Death or injury to the Tender is traumatic to the entire group – regardless of gender they fill a mother - role. They are typically the eldest of any group.

BUILDERS are less common than Farmers, but are more likely to be found by Travellers on Squillish outposts and spacecraft as engineers and technicians. They can manufacture shell-ware tools, generally up to tech level 2, without any assistance with the exception of some more sophisticated tools such as breathing tanks. They are able to manipulate human artifacts well, and can use them at a disadvantage of –3. Once they have modified the artifact to suit Squill physiognomy, they can use it at no disadvantage. Squill builders automatically have Shellcraft –1; Squill builders of Intelligence 8+ also have engineering –1. Roll twice on their specialty table per term: Each term has a survival roll of 5+; Squill maintain their profession lifelong but a roll of 5 – ends the character development process.

1 Shellcraft
2 Shellcraft
3 Mechanical
4 Electronics
5 Computer
6 Engineer

Shellcraft allows the construction or repair of any tool or weapon to tech 2 on an 8+, and specialized items (up to tech 5) on a 13+ Small items tech 2 and less can be made in a few hours: more advanced items take longer, even years.

WARRIORS Fight. They do little else. Their shells are hardened both by natural selection and Builder artifice. They are stronger than other Squill, and are trained in the use of many weapons. While Squill shell is generally as tough as cloth armor, warrior shells are as good as combat armor. Squill warriors are always armed with a customized sword most suitable to their strength: They always get a +2 strength benefit with it, and in other respects it matches the sword in regard to range and armor penetration. In addition, when in close combat, Warriors will attempt to ensnare their opponents with their tentacles, while striking with a dagger (also +2, like the sword) Roll to hit to ensnare: victims will be –2, minus the warrior’s strength mod for any attacks they may attempt, and must attempt to break away (rolling the warrior’s strength or better, +strength mods & brawling skill)

Warriors also use firearms. They prefer modified laser carbines and rifles when they can get them, or modified human firearms. Unmodified weapons can be used at –3. Squill can also produce simple firearms of their own at tech 6.
Warriors automatically have Blade – 1 skill, and get two rolls on their table per term.
Warrior skills: Each term has a survival roll of 7+; Squill maintain their profession lifelong but a roll of 7 - ends the character development process.

1 Brawling
2 Blade
3 Gun
4 Blade
5 Gun
6 Gunnery

PILOTS are the crew of the Squillish corsairs that pepper the Imperial frontier, and spearhead the Squillish drive to gain the technology they desire. They are among the most versatile of the Squillish- they can fight if they must, though they generally leave this to the Warriors.
Pilots automatically have Pilot – 1. They roll twice per term on their table. Warrior skills Each term has a survival roll of 6+; Squill maintain their profession lifelong but a roll of 5 - ends the character development process.

1 Gun
2 Ship’s Boat
3 Gunnery
4 Computer
5 Navigation
6 Pilot

PLANNERS are the brain trust, and any group of Squill will have one. They are always the leaders and the tacticians of the group, and are versatile and wily.
Pilots automatically have Tactics – 1. They roll twice per term on their table. Squill maintain their profession lifelong but a roll of 4 - ends the character development process.
1 Admin
2 Leader
3 Tactics
5 Leader
6 Admin


Squill spacecraft are idiosyncratic, either standard design human ships whose fittings have been modified to their own, and shell-ships; they do not have jump drives, though they have been known to kluge human drives and power plants into their ships. If the M and P plants are human, then all fuel requirements are as normal. The recent capture use of human jump drives has been a huge breakthrough for the Squill, and the few jump ships they have are proving well adapted to their preferred hit-and run tactics.

When a Squillish spacecraft uses native P plants, they are far less efficient than human equivalents, generally requiring twice the fuel of human spacecraft for Jump.

Squillish M drives are simple Hydrogen/oxygen rockets, and must burn large amounts of fuel to produce thrust. As a rule, Squill ships burn 1 ton of fuel for each G*.01M. A 200 ton corsair can then add 1G at a cost of 2 tons of fuel. Minor adjustments in attitude and course can be, and are achieved through venting gas through sub-1G bursts that are difficult to detect and effect no major vector change. Evasion requires full cost in fuel.

Squillish M-drives and power plants are ten times the mass of human drives.
Squillish computers are 4 times the mass of human computers.
Squillish require less space: each requires 2 tons living space, but no double occupancy allowed.

Typical Squillish Corsair Shellship, native design, human jump.

200 tons (varies widely, one-of-a kind ships) streamlined
M-drive A* (1) 10tons
J-drive A (1) 10 tons
P-plant A* (1) 40tons
Fuel for J1, 12 burns 64
Bridge 20 20
Computer Model/1 4
Fire control 2 tons
Hold 50 tons

Crew: 20
6 Warriors

two double turrets: 2 missile racks , 2 sandcasters. (max spread each, 6.)
Armaments: Squill have not perfected lasers, and native powerplants are unable to power them efficiently. They will employ them happily on commandeered vessels or those using human drives. On native ships, therefore, and in general, Squill prefer a blend of missiles and sandcasters.

Squillish missiles are continuous burn, proximity fuse radio sensor missiles, with one 6-g burn only. They impact as normal missiles. Like human missile racks, they carry three apiece. Unlike human missile racks, they can all be fired at once. Since they can only hit on the same turn their “burn” occurs they can be used either at point blank range, or can be set to coast, not initiating burn until close to the target.

Squillish sandcasters are notoriously effective. Like squillish missiles, they can all be released at once; unlike human sandcasters they offer a –4 to hit with lasers, and they also tend to obscure missile locks, often detonating missiles similar to ECM (on a 9+, +1 per additional canister of sand.

Squillish hulls are comparable to human ones, except their sensor signature is much lower. Detection ranges are half those stated in Book 2 across the board.
Squillish computer programming is roughly analogous to human. A typical set of programs for a Squill Corsair will be Maneuver, Generate, Jump, Navigate, Auto-evade (unless pilot’s skill is extraordinary, in which case M/E 2 will replace it), Target and Launch. Generally a ship will generate a jump prior to engaging a foe, so that escape can be achieved promptly (if jump is available)

Revised House Rule for Customs & Smuggling MTU

In practice, in retrospect, I mainly can't be bothered with this as a system. The basic idea is good for adventure seeds, but the day to day administration of this is too fiddly.

Cargos, leaving or arriving on a planet, must pass through customs. Cargos being shipped for fee are understood to have passed customs, and are not the responsibility of the ship. Brokers assisting in the purchase of cargos can assist with their export due to their familiarity with local law, customs, and officials.

Basic Procedure
1) roll law level +, with admin and/or broker dms, to pass customs unchallenged.
2) if law roll fails, tariffs = (2D-7 + law -admin) x Kcr100 per ton.

Government or Noble permissions and waivers may be available to permit easy passage through customs.

Documents may be forged allowing passage without tariff : these must be prepared in advance.

Bribes may be attempted to bypass tariffs (1% total fines for initial attempt.)

If difficulty with customs is expected or if a cargo has already been rejected for passage, attempts may be made to smuggle it: these should be played out depending on the world's ability to police itself.

A specific cargo refused entry or exit from a specific world may never be passed through that world's customs legally. Other examples ofthe same kind of cargo must be checked separately.

Cargos stuck on their world of purchase may be resold immediately for 50% of their purchase price, or the PC may roll resale normally the next week.


If caught at smuggling, if reported for bribery or forgery attempts, punishment is as follows:
All fines imposed x 10, (cargo and ship subject to seizure if fines exceed available funds)
(2D-7 + law -admin) = years imprisonment.
LAWYERS: The player can add a lawyer's skill to assist in his defense: Fee = 10% of total fines plus 1% per level of legal/admin above 1.


Imperial patrol cruisers perform additional customs spotchecks: If all cargos aboard a ship have passed through customs, they will have appropriate documentation and the boarding will likely be a formality. If there is cargo on board that did not pass through customs and is undocumented, the above process must be applied. IMTU, I assume a general Imperial law level of 9 for such encounters: Of course, brokers are not available on such occasions, although lawyers may be made available onworld should the PC be taken into custody.

Ships of the Festrian Empire

Couple notes, to be fleshed out later:

I'm clearly going to need to Jury-Rig a set of encounter tables: Neither a generic one (as book 2) nor a specific one for each world, but perhaps a different one for each cluster, and a separate one for isolated worlds: A cluster with a type A port will have Jump-1 ships plying its routes, but there are clusters that don't have type A ports within Jump-1, and there will not be short-jump ships found there for the most part. I'm assuming that deep-space jumps are possible, but uncommon: Few Jump-1,ships carry fuel for two successive jumps (the yacht comes to mind.) Since my understanding of Jump is that it generally calls for large masses at each end, though, I'd rule that a deep-space jump is a risky proposition, absolutely requiring a Navigator on the bridge, and a working Generate program (who's gonna sell you a jump tape in deep space?)

Using book 2 rules, fast ships over 1000 tons are actually only available at tech 15, and having ships of something like 3000 tons plus only becomes possible at all around tech 13 or so. In this context, the book 2 Patrol Cruiser is actually a pretty hopped-up ship for tech 11 or so, when its drives become available, and the Mercenary cruiser is actually quite capable at tech 12.

What does this mean for the PC?

Weeeell not much. The patrol cruiser would be the face of the Navy that the player would usually see, even were i envisioning a big ship, high guard universe, and that's still going to be the most common imperial vessel. In terms of ships of the line, pretty much all of those will be tech 15: A mix of 5000 ton carriers and bombardment craft with 3-4ooo ton battleships and a mess of 1-2000 ton fast destroyers. Leaven that with a whole mess of fighters for reconnaissance and fleet screening.

Both for fleet actions and police actions within the Imperium, I'm going to need a jump-3 ship that can carry and land three platoons of Imperial Marines, supported by Grav-tanks. Maybe 2000 tons will do it?

The ubiquitous T Patrol Cruiser can be made at tech 11; perhaps Imperial home/reserve fleets will also operate at this level: Mainly jump 2 for the larger craft, light carriers of 800-2000 tons or thereabouts. I'm also seeing a role for system defense boats not unlike those posited in the Traders and Gunboats supplement. I have no use for the close escort (that ship breaks the rules too much for me.)

Imperial Trade ships: The Subsidized Liner's going to be standard for the longer jumps, but for the official "Treasure Fleet" type ships we'll be looking at jump 3 ships as big as they can be made at tech 15: maybe 3-4000 tons, what? With maneuver 1, and a premium on cargo. They'll be armed, fairly heavily, but not on a par with their military sisters. They'll generally move in convoy, and will be escorted by destroyers.

The Scout Service doesn't really need a lot of tweaking: I can't think of scrapping the scout courier: it's too much at the heart of the game! I also like the X-Boat model for communication: it just makes sense for the setting.

Merchants: Most merchant craft will be jump-1 craft, simply for reasons of profitablilty. (More on this later) The Astrography of the Festrian Empire is such, however, that many routes require at least Jump-2, and many ships operating in the frontier will be hampered for not having Jump-3 capability. Both Imperial and local governments will, no doubt, offer subsidies to liners to ensure connection to the rest of the Empire, and higher-risk speculative traders may operate ships (the far trader comes to mind) with longer ranges.

Piracy: in many parts of the Imperium, Piracy is rampant: this is fallout from the Witch-Wars and the Reunification, and the return of the Navy to the frontier. Many clusters are under-policed by the Navy, and many have little defense of their own. Piracy takes many forms in the Imperium today.

1) Casual Piracy: Merchantmen occasionally go bad - perhaps scenting a big score and little patrol presence, perhaps desperate to make a payment, perhaps as part of a corporate trade war, merchants sometimes go pirate in the course of their broader trade. It happens. Hostile encounters with merchantmen can fall under this category, as well as the SPs.

2) Professional Piracy: Corsairs tend to be better armed, and use faster ships: Often these are Cruisers that went AWOL during the wars or since, or were late of the planetary/cluster navies that went rebel during the Witch Wars. Some of these enjoy the covert support of planetary or cluster governments or governments-in-hiding, and are actively attempting to damage Imperial trade. The TPs and CPs from the book 2 tables are likely to fall under this category.

3) Raiders: Many of the ill-defended worlds of the frontier clusters would be rich, or agricultural, had they larger populations; many of these are backwards, D or E starport worlds of low tech. These worlds are easy prey to Raiders (a la Space Viking) who at the most genteel will set up orbit over a capital city and hold it for ransom, but who are more likely just to send down ship's boats, and rob from outlying villages. Mercenary Cruisers are ideal for this sort of rapine.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Trade in the Festrian Empire

Meta: I'm going strict book 2 for Trade, and making the following assumptions:

1) Starports are established by the worlds they're on, or by the interstellar government under which they fall, and maintain extraterritoriality, monitored by the TAS.

2) The passenger & cargo tables in book 2 indicate the fares available for a given route, on a given week, for a particular ship. There may be more, or not: on major routes, it's assumed that these results are the drips and drabs of interstellar trade. On minor routes, it might represent the whole of the planet's commerce.

3) The prices for passages and cargo are as stated in Book 2. The result is that private trade is only really profitable at J-1, and that government subsidies or significant startup funds are necessary for J-2 and J-3 merchant runs. This does not rule out special negotiations, but by and large the market's matured so that cr10,000 is what the market'll bear, and that the TAS monitors pricing to keep it from fluctuating.

4) Speculative trade's legality is extremely variable from world to world. See my later post on the topic of customs/smuggling/punishments.

5) The trade rules hold true throughout human space, and not just within the Festrian Empire - trade is primed by the Scouts, smoothed by the TAS, executed by the Merchants, and regulated (and occasionally predated upon) by various Navies. Oh, and Pirates. Lots.

Working from Big to Little


I'm revisiting my early posts, and adding some new stuff here.
These are some pretty raw notes, but they're the assumptions I'm operating under for MTU's setting.

1) In the Good Old Days, there was a great, human, interstellar Empire. I'm calling it, brilliantly, the Old Empire. Haven't decided how big, but bigger than the current empire. Haven't decided how old, but older. Haven't decided what tech, but about the same, or lower.
It was by the efforts of the Old Empire that humans were spread amongst the stars: so, No Ancients.
2) The Old Empire fell. Haven't decided why, but it happened anywhere between 1000 and 500 years ago. Some worlds stayed strong, some regressed. Ever since, the collapse has been gradually rolled back - largely to the credit of the ubiquitous Scouts.

3) About 200 years ago, the Festrian Empire began its spread and eventually filled what is known as the Festrian Main. When Fester began to produce warships capable of long jumps, J2 and 3, her navy began to expand and project power into the eight subsectors around the Main (The Festrian Reach) and beyond this frontier into the Old Empire.

Check. At this early period, the house of Fester was known as the house of Miralbis, an Old Empire Ducal family, and retained that title. It is not until the end of this period that Fester Miralbis declared himself Emperor, naming both his capital and the empire after him.

4) About 100 years ago, the Emperor Fester II "The Mad" began a persecution of the Psionics within and without Festrian borders; this devolved into a bloodbath, and then to civil war. These "Witch Wars" continued throughout the Empire for perhaps 50 years, until the Mad Emperor's assassination.

Check. This is reflected in the condition of many of the worlds in the surrounding subsectors.

5) Succeeding to the throne, Fester III recalled the navy and put down the rebellion: His success owed not only to his willingness to orbitally bomb a number of the Imperium's worlds to the stone age, but to his effort to shift the focus of the war away from the Psionic witch-hunt and towards reunification. Nevertheless, due to Imperial propaganda and universal horror with the circus of atrocities that were the Witch-Wars, Psionics are almost universally seen as the ultimate cause of the conflict (hence the prejudice against same at the core of book 3)

Check, although rather than the Imperium's worlds, it was generally worlds of neighboring OE Duchies.

6) As a result of the Witch Wars and the Reunification, "The Troubles," much of the Festrian Reach and the Main has been depopulated and reduced to frontier conditions, even among the homeworlds.


7) The navy has been returned, largely, to its role of raiding and conquering among the worlds of the Old Empire beyond the Festrian frontiers. The remaining naval force is spread thinly throughout the homeworlds and the frontier itself, focusing energies on hotspots while letting the remainder of the empire fend for itself.

Over a third of the navy is concentrated on Fester itself; small tripwire fleets are peppered throughout the Fester subsector. Perhaps a third is, at this time, raiding in the OE.
But beyond this, the above holds true.
Now I gotta go back to work. More on Scouts and Trade in the Festrian Empire later.


Largely because I'm sick of constantly typing in my ID in responding to other Traveller Blogs, I'm setting up my own here.

I'm working up an old-school, Little Black Book 1-3 based Traveller universe.

Assumptions I'm going with:

Play will be governed by LBB123, 2nd edition. Fudges will be kept to a minimum: the goal is to find and use rationales that work within the structure of the LBB rules, rather than to make significant changes to those rules.

Where there are gaps in the rules (and oh yes, there are gaps!) I'll take ideas from the supplements and the other LBBs ; but again, the goal is to keep this all to a minimum.

On the other hand, where there's no ruling at all, that's an area where the Referee was always expected to extemporize: so extemporize I shall.

I will NOT be relying on the Official Traveller Universe. Since I'll be hewing to the LBB 123 rules, there are certain assumptions that will make the Festrian Empire somewhat familiar to those who know the Third Imperium, but there will be divergences.

So hey, Welcome. I think that Ken's the only guy likely to be reading this right off, Hi Ken, but maybe more will join in.