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.


Blogger KenHR said...

I can't wait to see what sense you're able to make out of missile rules in Trav.

Right now, my only commentary has to do with the damage paragraph from the rules. I believe that the "depending on the range at detonation" bit is simply color text explaining the missile's variable damage. I.e. if you roll a 1 for damage, the missile exploded a bit further out from the ship than one that rolled a 6 (bullseye!).

Have you ever run across anything for range band system combat (not squares or hexes, but notebook paper)? Are missiles assumed to hit if they're in the same range band?

Maybe something akin to HG's Agility stat could be used to allow a ship to evade a close missile or mitigate the damage it causes. Perhaps use Pilot skill to modify it? Or does that step on the computer programs' functions too much?

7:02 AM  
Blogger MTU: The Festrian Empire said...

The Special Supplement has a bit on the range band system, depending on the kind of missile: but basically, yes, they intercept if they're on the same range band.

I experimented with a hexbased adaptation a little over the past couple days, using a movement model based on supplement 3, and it looks hard to hit with missiles as they're envisioned - but it might be that I simply haven't playtested it out enough. A missile of capable of 6G maximum, with enough fuel for one full burn at 5g or 5 1G burns, is described as typical- those 5 burns go pretty quick at any kind of range, and it's easy to outmaneuver if your ship's got any kind of juice at all. It may simply be that missiles are most effective against slower targets: use the lasers to whittle down an opponent at range, force it to slow down with evasion, and then use missiles as ship-killers?

Need more time fiddling with this one.

7:18 PM  
Blogger MTU: The Festrian Empire said...


Scrapping SS3.

Line of thinking 1: Book 2 movement missiles.

MAYDAY movement is interesting: most missiles there are described in terms of being, oh, 5G5. Which meant that it could accelerate 5 hexes in 1 round, or 1 hex each round for five rounds.

Sounds puny in terms of book 2 combat. Except that MAYDAY ranges are 300,000km per hex, and each turn in MAYDAY is about 6 times as long as a Book 2 turn.

So it seems reasonable to take the mayday missile construction rules, which are way simpler than SS3, and simply multiply the burns by 6, or divide the cost/mass per burn by six.
I'm going to experiment with this.

11:25 AM  
Blogger MTU: The Festrian Empire said...

Interesting. Just whipped off some quick smoke tests, assuming a missile that can go 6G for up to 6 turns, sort of a 6G36 missile. I had it correct its course each turn with a vector traced towards the present location of the target. Tried it twice at a range of about 530,000; it was able to intercept a target accelerating on a perpendicular course at 1G; a target accelerating at 2G was able to evade.

Tried it at shorter range, about 180,000. The missile overshot the slow target, going too fast, but was able to loop around and make contact.

So missiles can be evaded by clever navigation. Now, any of the slow targets I was modelling here could have been forced to accelerate 1G less by adding laser fire to the mix, getting them to evade.

1:54 PM  

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