Thursday, May 25, 2006

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.


Blogger KenHR said...

I just found this mentioned on the CotI boards.

It makes a lot more sense to have the evasion programs set up this way. The rules as written in second edition (I'll check my first ed. books when I get home) make Auto/Evade the most bang for your buck unless you've got a real hotshot pilot. That's why my Frigate design used Auto/Evade; at least you're assured of getting a -2 modifier!

I think I'm going to incorporate the Mayday rule into my game, too.

9:44 AM  
Blogger MTU: The Festrian Empire said...

The one thing that I'm less certain about right now is that in the general book 2 discussion on computers in combat, the example given shows maneuver and auto/evade being loaded up at the same time- implying that you can maneuver with maneuver, and then swap over to A/E during the incoming fire phase.

I'm ignoring this.

9:55 AM  
Blogger MTU: The Festrian Empire said...

Or maybe not.

For the merchantmen, -1G is as good as no maneuver, anyhow: and the basic mechanics of the computer in book 2 don't seem to conflict with having M and A/E fired up together, inherently.

Eh. I'm sticking to MAYDAY on this one, I think. You gotta lose something more than 1 computer slot for the Mcr .5 you save...

There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Consider this one.

Maneuver is still needed to operate the M-Drive, even when A/E is being used.

M/E does clearly indicate that it is MANEUVER and EVADE. AUTO EVADE makes no statement about running the M-Drive.

So, under that interpretation, you have to run Maneuver to keep the engines tuned and working right but A/E tells Maneuver what thrusters to turn on and when and for how long.

That might clear up the B2 example a bit. It also makes the A/E program a little more restrictive, it doesn't actually control the drive in all it's details, it just talks to the Maneuver program.

Plankowner (I'm not signed up yet, but I'm getting there)

9:16 AM  
Blogger MTU: The Festrian Empire said...


The thing that I'd be concerned with is that if you can load in Maneuver and Evade, and then follow the phases, there's nothing to stop you from running maneuver during the maneuver phase, and A/E during the fire phases... hence making it a more powerful program than M/E 2 which takes up the same space but (for most pilots) gives less of a DM than A/E's -2.

I'm fine with having both programs loaded up together, but I'd say that the pilot has to declare during the movement phase whether or not A/E was active.

12:12 PM  

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