Tuesday, May 23, 2006

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.


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