Friday, March 28, 2008

You Might As Well JUMP

Hokay. Some notes here.

I saw a good die roll out there to determine actual jump time:
124 hrs + (2D x 6 hrs) for a range yielding a result of 136-196 hours (that is, 5.7 to 8.2 days) which seems to me to be a pretty good approximation of the "about a week" which book 2 gives us. I think that the die roll actually comes out of a MegaTraveller book, but I'm not sure - but I do like the simple mechanic.

I'd subtract half the navigator's skill level, rounding down, from the multiplier - a good navigator can plot a somewhat quicker course, and a narrower window of time for arrival.

A fleet jump, programmed with computers linked, takes the modifier of the navigator on the command ship; each ship still makes a separate roll: there's enough variables from ship to ship, even in the minuscule differences offered by the realspace separating the ships from their launchpoints, to create differences in travel times.

So, surprise attacks by fleets are going to be tricky.

Not impossible. Tricky.

Assume a fleet in possession of a world spots a newly arrived ship; by the time it arrives, depending on the distance the ship chooses, minutes to hours will have passed. When it does arrive, how will the fleet respond? It could as easily be a merchant as a carrier if it's out of scan range. Do you send a fighter to probe it? A cruiser? Certainly not a carrier. It'll be hours before your probe gets there, and the intruder will have moved - maybe deeper out from the system, maybe in towards an outer world, or maybe it just sits. Plenty of time for a carrier to deploy fighters or riders. Maybe even enough time for other ships to arrive.

If it's wartime, and an attack is expected, a more robust response to a single ship might be warranted, but even then, how many ships do you commit? Even boiling possible locations down to "Mainworld, Gas Giant and Outer System," an attacking fleet might plan to have its fleet hit any number of these locations. If ships start arriving in the outer system, committing the fleet to attack them will prove an error if ships then start arriving at the gas giant and the mainworld.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fleet Disposition of the Festerian Reach

First, some notes about my take on book 2 space travel:

Jump is imprecise, taking "about one week." I'm inclined to allow rolls on Nav skill to add precision, but it'll never be perfect. And this will vary from ship to ship, navigator to navigator. Fleets IMTU need marshalling time when they arrive in jump, which makes them vulnerable while their ships start straggling in. Carriers getting in early can launch their fighters and riders and begin the fight, but against major fleets they'll still be in trouble. Faster ships would flee away from the system center until the rest of the fleet arrived, hoping to draw some of the defenders with them. The defender might not take that opportunity immediately, knowing that other attackers might be on the way. One doesn't want to send the fleet out after a raider ship, only to arrive triumphantly back at the mainworld to find an enemy carrier fleet in possession of it.

There's no real "front" in naval combat, not at the strategic level. A well-tankered fleet can travel several jumps without seeing a star system, so key worlds - homeworlds - can be struck with virtually no warning. Hence, a planetary power MUST keep a home fleet on hand big enough to defeat any attack fleet its neighbors can muster.

The Festrian Navy has this arrangement as a baseline: other fleets will likely vary.
Jump Ships

Ships of the Line:
Fleet Carriers: The primary ships of the line. Any LBB2 ship between 3000 and 5000 tons will have significant space left for carried craft, even with significant fuel reserves, so fleet carriers tend to be the primary ships of the line, with weaponry balanced between lasers, sand and missiles. Their carried craft will be riderships and fighters.
Frigate: any warship configured primarily to fight in concert with fleet carriers; heavy on missiles, with minimal defensive weaponry. Not typically employed independently. Capable of extended planetary bombardment.

Independent Operations:
Cruisers: 400-800 tons, moderate performance; patrol, small force insertion
Corvette: 400-800 tons, high performance patrol and pursuit ship. Generally lacks the Cruiser's complement of ship's troops.
Raider: A warship configured for long-range, long distance operations independent of supply. Generally carries a significant complement of marines and retrieval craft.
Strike Carrier: A warship configured for the long-distance projection of naval power independent of a fleet. Generally smaller and faster than fleet carriers; essentially a raider with more space given over for fighters and riderships.

Carried Craft:
Ship's boats, pinnaces, cutters:
As appropriate to carrying ship's mission; generally not fighting craft except in emergency. Will usually be the retrieval craft for marine contingents.
Fighters: Self explanatory: used in patrol, target acquisition and screen roles; in fleet actions, squadrons employed in the attack role.
Riderships and System Defense Boats: It's not clear how effective these would be in LBB2 combat. Certainly, they're less expensive than jump ships of equal tonnage. They're more resilient than small craft. They can carry better computers. Riders will have missiles as their primary weapons, and will be able to carry troops for boarding parties; they will carry less fuel. SDBs will lack the troops but will likely be double-crewed for long duration missions without support or resupply; they will have missile magazines, but their primary weapon will be lasers.

Dreadnoughts created by GM fiat larger than the 5000 ton range or employing Bizarre New Weaponry may appear from time to time to mess everything up for everybody, but that's always going to be out of the ordinary.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Book 2 Ship Tactics - Fast or Slow? II

Did a little smoketesting, modeling two similar ships: One chooses the tactic of closing at high speed and attacking with lasers, the other responding with missiles. I'm not convinced either way, yet, mainly because I'm not finding it too easy to scale book 2 combat at the distances called for. With detection ranges as far as 2 light seconds (6 meters!) and with the fastest accelerations at 6G (adding what, 600mm per turn, 60,000 km?) being able to have ships maneuver at the fringes of detection in any kind of meaningful way is difficult in a NYC apartment.

I've tried scaling differently. I had hoped Mayday would be a straight 'port of Book 2 to a boardgame setting, but unfortunately it changes both the time and distance scales drastically: each hex is a light second, each turn about 100 minutes iirc, and detection ranges are ignored. There's a whole different approach to laser fire. (Heck, back in the day, i'd hoped that High Guard would just be an amplification of Book 2, and might have completed the Book 2 combat model to actually finish explaining how missiles worked. I was disappointed to find otherwise.)

I've tried scaling the mayday rules down to LBB2 sizes, with each hex representing 10,000k (what 1G acceleration can add. ) That's doable... but still, at about half an inch per square, the distances are terrible. Not bad at all for Merchant combat (tail chases and minimal jinking around) but two warships operating at range are hard to get a grip on.

It's almost, but not quite, enough to make me want to experiment with adding High Guard to Festeria. That's a slippery slope, though and I want MTU to have gallant fighter pilots and small warships.

I might see if I can get a satisfying result by trying to massage Book 2 and Mayday together some more at Mayday's scale.

What I am hoping to determine is this: is it possible for a ship armed with lasers and operating at speed to get within effective laser range against a military craft armed with missiles, and avoid harm.

If it goes straight in, I'd have to say no. Missiles seem to be good at tackling straight line maneuvers. But if the attacker were travelling obliquely, so that when it got within 250,000km it was travelling with a long vector, it seems it might be able to stay within laser range a few rounds and end up avoiding salvoes. But that's going to need considerably more space or a different model for me to show how it all works.

Jumping Into The Deep

You've got a two-parsec gap to jump over, and only a J-1 ship. Can you do it in two jumps, with an intervening layover in The Deep? Over my long and changeable history of creating small Traveller universi, my opinion on this topic has wavered. My first instinct as a teen was to say "if you can somehow carry the extra fuel, why not?" and wave it through, so my scrappy little Free Trader could get to richer pastures- just carry collapsible tanks. Right?

As I've returned to CT I've come to the conclusion that I don't really like that solution. It's too easy.

BUT in terms of being a broadly accepted solution amongst the early LBB123 players- including myself - it seems to be pretty well enshrined; and LBB2 certainly doesn't say it can't be done. Carrying extra fuel is expensive: it's an involved process -not by any means impossible but expensive- to set up a waystation in deep zones. But it's doable.

One of the reasons I'm seeing a problem that needs solving is this: Say you've got a one-parsec gap separating two jump-one mains, all of which has been traveled by human spacefarers for centuries, millenia. Everybody knows that there's this gap that prevents the most common class of merchant ships - Jump 1 vessels - from getting from one main to the other. If it's a trivial matter to jump into empty hexes, why hasn't anyone taken the initiative to set up some sort of deep-space installation there? A fusion plant, a habitat area, a fuel storage facility and a freetrader or two to keep it resupplied, and BAMMO, you've got a hub for interstellar commerce that would grow from a lousy D-port to an A or B facility in no time.

Perhaps by the time the region was largely settled, higher jump ships became more prevalent; trade companies capable of funding way stations were much better off building high-G ships. The outfits confined to J1 are all much lower-capital outfits.

But I don't think I've heard of anyone doing this in ANY Traveller Universe.

Wrong! A host of references abound in early Traveller universi.

IMTU, I'm sticking to the notion that you need some sort of mass to home in on to get out of jump.

An innovation! Not a general assumption - though some other similar innovators exist. It seems a product of the post-LBB123 handwave of "Gravitic Drives."

(Thanks, C.J. Cherryh!) It helps rationalize a lot of "worlds" that are popping up in WorldGen; no pop or low pop, but a decent port in place - there's nothing that's an inherent draw at all. Except - there's sufficient mass, a star, even a large enough rock, to focus on and come out of jump; maybe some iceballs out there to turn into fuel. So a port develops, just a little waystation in the dark, a place where ships meet. And when they get there, they trade, if they can. It's expensive to jump with nothing to show for it. There won't be enough cargo going around to ship in or out of a place like that, but a handful of Free Traders clustered around a barren rock will be ready to make deals. Some of these places will even be able to develop decent port facilities, in time.

This still totally works.

Now, I wouldn't go so far as to say that jumping into the dark is *impossible* - just that you've got either have an absolutely crackerjack navigator spending a huge amount of time scanning the dark trying to find a telltale occlusion that somehow hasn't got on the charts. (maybe roll 15+ per week of nonstop observation, + nav skill, + number of months spent looking - IF the Referee decides there's something to be found there)

EDIT: Thinking about this, I think even THIS is too easy: Maybe a one-time roll, 18+, +nav, +terms served in scouts, navy or merchants, to know about ONE "jump-point" in The Deep (Ref's choice,) this reflecting a nugget of information gleaned over the course of an entire career as a spacer. If these things were that easy to find, they'd be all over the charts...

EDITED EDIT: Keep it simple, stupid. Though it really is nice to find actual ways for Nav skill to be useful.

The other thought is that mis-jumps that end up in The Deep occur there, because the mass there precipitated the ship out of jumpspace.

Once found, you're going to need a generate program to run up a flight plan (nobody's going to sell you a chart to go there) and I'd make it an extremely risky thing to attempt, at least the first time: (12+ to avoid misjump, with mods for nav skill. You really want to try this? This is what happened to all those Scouts you killed in CharGen.)

Upon successful jumping, the ship will find an airless rock - (roll for planet size, atmosphere automatically zero, low possibility of frozen water.) But now you can jump elsewhere - if you have fuel.

And if you do, you've got a secret now - a jump point that nobody but you knows about.


This also leads to another possibility: the Aged Scout with a Story: "This one isn't on any of the charts, I found it, and I didn't tell a soul. And now I'm telling you." Version A, where he's telling you the truth. Version B, where he's selling you a lie.

Oh well. NEXT.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Book 2 Ship Tactics - Fast or Slow?

I wrote a bit a while back on the effect of book 2 sensors on ship tactics IMTU:

I have yet to smoke-test all this, but here goes.

I suspect that a fleet exercising due caution on arrival in a system should be able to detect and engage targets, with missiles and sensor drones in concert, outside sensor detection ranges. Hence, it's to be expected that fleets will be heavily missile-based, using ship-killing nuclear missiles in an attack role and retaining lasers for anti-missile duty. What isn't clear to me is how important velocity will be in this kind of combat.

It's clear that ships will have to maneuver to evade missiles somewhat, especially in the early stages of battle where the intruder hasn't necessarily even been identified on scan by the defender: The attacker will launch a flight of missiles, then change vector as drastically as possible so as to make it impossible for a counter-flight of missiles to trace back and target the intruder. But this doesn't seem to demand terribly long vectors, or require terribly fast ships. A 5000-ton, m-1 behemoth could play this game and win, it seems.

In fact, a long vector for a missile ship might be a positive detriment. If the launching ship's vector isn't close to parallel to the line of fire between it and the target, then a missile's got to spend a lot of its fuel correcting course, and may well miss. If a ship is closing with a target, and has a long vector, that might be a help - the missile's going to get there faster, and will be able to spend more fuel on targeting than being speedy - but then, the launching ship will likely make itself available as a target as it closes. It seems likely that if the vector's too long, even a high-maneuverability missile might miss its target. On the other hand, missiles will be unlikely to target such a fast-moving ship but still, why present the target when missiles can be launched from as far out as three light seconds?

Now, it seems that a ship could, having located a target at extreme range with sensor missiles, accelerate steadily at top speed while launching missiles - it would be able to launch two or three salvoes before ever being acquired as a target. By the time it reached detection range, a fast warship ship could have a vector half a light-second long or more- no impediment for lasers, but probably very difficult for a missile to target.

I'm thinking with a spreadsheet here, but assuming an intruder that can accelerate at 4G while evading and missiles that accelerate 6G. I assume a native that starts out with a short vector.
I reckon game turn one, the intruder begins acceleration and starts launching missiles.
by game turn three, the first of three missile salvoes have been scanned by the native, who will begin trying to get out of the missiles' track; perhaps the native will respond with a salvo of missiles along the incoming track as well.
Game turn five, both ships are in each other's detection range, and are at long range for lasers.
Game turn six, the intruder's missiles should start intercepting the native, if it hasn't been able to get outside the missile's turn. Laser range is still long.
Game turn seven, laser range is short. The intruders missiles are still intercepting. The intruder, still accelerating, has a vector of nearly a light second.
Game turn eight, the intruder has whipped past. Laser range is long. The intruder's missiles should all have either intercepted or overshot by now.
Game turn nine, the intruder will be out of effective laser range.
Game turn ten, the intruder should be out of tracking range.

I don't know how well missiles will be able to intercept targets moving that fast. If they can't, this kind of high-velocity attack might be ideal for a fast warship with lots of lasers against missile-heavy, slow craft.

Ships maneuvering that much won't be able to use sandcasters at all.
Ships moving to avoid missile tracks will probably not be able to run their evade programs.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Trade IMTU

SO. Just hashing this out, IMTU.

Who's going to loan money for a starship?
Sometimes, it really is a bank: high tech, high pop worlds with A ports will have more established financial structures for funding starship construction.

Sometimes, you've got a group of nobles, merchants and financiers on world who are either actively seeking to fund a trade venture, or who are themselves solicited by a prospective borrower. A group like this might:
choose a loan arrangement - like a bank would - or would
choose to subsidize the ship for regular percentages of the profits as a government might or
choose to purchase shares of the ship, as stockholders.

Who's are they going to loan it to?
It's really not enough to have a good business plan. When a prospective shipowner is soliciting banks, patrons et cetera for a multi-million-credit loan, the lender is going to need incredible assurance that they aren't just venting money into space.

Roll up a Merchant. Go ahead. Roll up twenty. Roll up thirty. How many end up with ships? What sort of people are they? First, they're captains: they've a track record as merchants already. They're successful, either on their own behalf or on behalf of a company. Which means, effectively, that they've been serious players in trade already, and they'll be known to investors, bankers and fellow merchants. These are individuals who have been involved in multi-million credit business ventures already.

When a ship is received mustering out, it's usually already pretty old: perhaps the new captain has taken over the loan from a retiring captain before him, or from his old company. Sometimes it's a brand new ship. But it's important to remember he's not a brand new captain. He'll be a celebrity, within certain circles - certainly on his homeworld, and perhaps throughout the neighborhood of the "main" he's been navigating his whole career.

What kind of ship will lenders be funding?

If a captain can pay cash, up front, and fund the adventure from soup to nuts, then maybe a long-jump trader might be doable. A company or planet might arrange a subsidy for a jump-3 ship, if the captain has a non-stop reputation. But for a loan arrangement? Never. It'll be jump-1 ships all the way, like the free or fat trader. Ships are simply too easy to steal (when their crews are doing the stealing, anyway) - and too difficult to pay for - if they can do better than a parsec.

Now, it's possible that a resourceful captain with a nonstop reputation and powerful connections could organize a joint venture between private investors in order to fund a more audacious ship venture, but that individual will have to do his homework, have a killer plan, and do some nonstop fast talking with all the right people. And all the right people will be well within their rights to insist that their interests on board are protected.

It's a good rule of thumb to say that if a ship is more expensive to run than a Free Trader, it had better be equally capable of filling its holds and paying its bills on carried cargo alone. Any ship that can do that will be able to do oodles better carrying spec cargo, which is where the money really is. A bank funding a loan will be concerned that this bottom line be easily met. A group of investors, on the other hand, will want to know the profitability of the route, the ability of the ship to navigate it, and the ability of the captain and crew (especially that of the purser!) to fill the ship's hold cheaply and empty it dearly.

How will a merchant or trade company make money?

A merchant might well attempt to live on the fringes - buying up cargo that happens to be available that week, taking passengers, accepting cargo paid by the ton - but that's chancy. And it's not where the real money is. Also, it takes a bit more freedom than most ship financiers will be willing to offer: IMTU, "The Bank " or whatever other group paid to have the ship built will want those loan payments regularly, on-world, or to a representative of "The Bank". A successful merchant might be able to go on extended ventures if he's set up the next few payments in advance, but chances are The Company's going to want those payments delivered in person to a Company Agent. With the IISS maintaining interstellar financial networks and all, it's perfectly feasible to have payments sent back via courier (though I'd stick at least a 1% surcharge on that, maybe even 5% - Western Union, for transferring $1000 bucks internationally, charged around 35 bucks...)

The Company will then either install, or recruit factors on each of the planets along the route, who will establish warehouses - factories - to be able to more advantageously purchase goods and store them against the arrival of their ship, or ships. The ship does its rounds, and fills its holds with cargo from its own factories at. No charge - it's the company's, after all. If the ship has any extra space, either the captain and crew will speculate on some of their own cargo, or they'll take on cargo for the cr. 1000 fee; likewise, they'll take passengers.

Occasionally, overflow stock at the factory or unsold goods from ship's cargo might be left over and available for purchase by other ships and these goods are what generally comes up in the "available cargo" rolls. These might have come from just about anywhere: they might not be sellable at all to the locals - but the ship might have needed cargo space badly enough to warehouse the goods and free up space for something worth selling down the line. (hence the computers available on low tech worlds!)

Just as company cargo travels free on company ships, so does company money - but more often, company financial information. What matter if the company has 6 million cr on planet A, 4 on planet B, 10 on planet C and so on - it's all the company money, and there's no need to shift it most of the time.

Of course, when a company gets this big, it starts needing support staff: A warehouse needs more than just the factor: it needs security, stevedores, and other staff. Depending on the world and political climate, security might fall to some sort of mercenary outfit. More ships, or bigger ones, might be called for.

How does LBB1/2/3 play for all this?

Also see

And there's competition to think of: there's going to be other merchants trying the same thing. They might want to join forces... or they might want to take over. You might want to really consider a stronger security force...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More on Services in Festrian Space... and BeYOND OND Ond ond...

Apropos the Proto-Traveller discussion in CotI: This is SO much a work in progress; feedback?

I've come to the conclusion that a single, great Interstellar Government isn't a necessary part of the game as written, and that has some effect on the way the Services are interpreted vis-a-vis polity. I'm not shelving the Festrian Empire, no - I've put too much work into it so far, and like it, but the Festrian Empire is just a part of human space, barely a sector of the expanses of the Old Empire, and pulling some of this together now will help create a better structure down the road if ever adventurers leave Festrian Space.

The Festrian Empire is, at core, the Festrian Main: about a subsector's worth of fairly dense settlement. Its neighboring subsectors become more and more frontierish, especially with the havoc wrought by the Witch Wars and the Reunification. Beyond (ond ond ond) that is the Old Empire, human space but broken up into independent isolated worlds and a few pocket empires - some of which identify with the Old Empire, some of which have practically forgotten it.

Fester has a Navy, and Marines. Most of the fleet is posted to protect the homeworld: a number of task forces are posted in naval bases as quick-response groups to respond to local threats. It's not yet clear to me how much will be left for raiding the frontier: this may be left to vassal fleets: there are several high tech, high pop worlds which might pose a threat to Fester who are instead directed to raid the Old Imperium rather than cause trouble at home. These, and neighboring kingdoms' navy/marines, will have their own structures.

Army: The Army IMTU is not Imperial; these are local forces, and in some cases mercenaries. Fester has an Imperial Army, which occasionally sees service on other worlds.

Scouts:The Scouts are found, and serve, in the Empire and the Beyond, throughout human space. But they aren't Imperial. They are a separate polity: they make treaty with individual worlds and empires, and to a greater or lesser extent are accepted as providing a vital service throughout human space. They provide communication via a network of couriers (long jump and short) and are renowned for their reliability and bravery. They explore frontiers of human space; they constantly re-survey known areas (that cr.10,000 jumpchart? A Scout probably made it.) Scout neutrality is a watchword; though in practice, it's a little difficult to maintain on the ground. Detached service scouts are a useful tool when actions that might be beneficial to interstellar humanity run afoul of the local polity. Or not? The trouble I'm having now - it's Summer 2010 - is that there's an advantage in having the players all be basically on the same side, and having the scouts be separate from the Imperium is awkward that way. Gah.

Merchants: I've got rid of the megacorps! Or made them smaller, anyhow - without a vast imperium providing their backing, their massive scale disappears. That leaves the official Festrian treasure ships - the black ships!- traveling far and wide destabilizing trade, but front and center for players, though, are the Free Traders and Subsidized Merchants - the class of trader gives the class of ship their name. Free Traders, aptly named, carry cargos on an independent basis, typically along the Jump-1 routes where such trade is profitable at a small scale. The expense of long-jump ships and drives makes governmental subsidy necessary for Jump-2 routes and larger, in effect making long-distance and bulk trade a tool in the hands of the government to influence planetary governments to stay in line, without necessarily exercizing military force. Hence to a large extent the Subsidized Merchant is a governmental employee: either of a planetary polity, or of the Festrian Empire itself.

The TAS: The ubiquitous TAS extends throughout human space and maintains offices in all A or B starports. (There's a degree to which their presence insures that the port maintains those standards.) Whether the standard originated with the TAS or no, the Society seems to play some role with setting and monitoring the expense of interstellar travel and shipping. Their High passage is close to a gold standard. The TAS is the Traveller's Aid society, not the Merchant's Aid Society... The TAS works to maintain good relations with the many governments it contacts - hence the occasional benefits given to Marine and Navy personnel military, as rewards to individuals for "Meritorious Action to the Benefit of Interstellar Humanity."

Starports and Extraterritoriality: "In nearly all cases" starports are considered extraterritorial; in fairly equal measure, they are often administered by the local government; Generally speaking, class A and B starports within the Empire are administered by the Empire itself.


Just spewing it out here:

I've been wanting to pare down the imperial side of MTU, keep things smaller all around. One way I'm doing this is maintaining the planetary sovereignty of those worlds not specifically classified as captive governments. This makes things a little more interesting. In the Fester subsector, the capital world - Fester - is your population A, Tech F world with the dominant hand - ships with the longest reach and highest capabilities. But there are several worlds within Fester's reach nearly as powerful: several tech E, one of which is a high pop world. These are worlds that can, and do, field their own navies. None of these worlds, then, can project too much of their power too far: it leaves them open to annexation by their powerful neighbors. They may have treaties with each other, but those treaties have to be backed by force. They may recognize the authority of the Emperor, but they won't willingly relinquish the power which allows them to influence him.

(I realize this'd be more clear with subsectors uploaded, but I can't really do that from work)

It's not a question of maintaining a front, or a blockade. There is no "front" in a spacewar: if your fleet is spread out enough to cover every approach, it will be destroyed piecemeal. Homefleets have to be powerful enough to withstand the assault of the full force of your strongest enemy: in almost every case, that means that if a world risks making a killing attack, it leaves the homeworld virtually undefended.

Now, the Naval bases that are scattered about the subsector and the neighboring subsectors: whose are they? In the Fester subsector, it's plain that one-on-one, Fester could take (and in the past, probably has taken) any of the other worlds in a fight. The Naval bases, at least here, are Imperial, and each probably has a fleet present for two purposes:

1) A waypoint for local patrols, particularly to keep tabs on the local threat/allies.
2) A support base for a strike fleet within range of those threat/allies.

Again, in Fester, all those bases can be assumed to be Festrian. In other subsectors, there will be local powers much more likely to maintain bases - though some may be Festrian as well. Fester is a pocket empire, but it's the biggest local one.

The strike fleet needn't be strong enough to take on a world's whole navy: but it needs to be powerful enough so that should that navy leave to cause mischief, it can ravage the undefended planet.

One way the Festrian empire is able to project power is through its vassal states: "It will please the Emperor that so-and-so will bring his fleet to such-and-such, and occupy it until such time as we see fit."

Now this model is shifting away from the "navy on the frontier" model I'd considered before: but for the players, the result is much the same: the Navy has bigger fish to fry than trade patrols, and it's not going to commit much more than a patrol cruiser to them. Worlds that can't afford their own navies might sometimes enjoy the protection of an imperial T ship, but more often than not they'll be dependent on the cooperation of armed merchanters for protection, and if they can't get that, then they're ripe for picking.

Patrol cruisers are actually pretty important IMTU, since the Imperium doesn't control the scout service: recon and "scouting" has to be done in-house. The T-ship's actually pretty good at that - though different navies might well use smaller ships for scout-courier duty.

What else of navies?

Fighters (and other small, fast craft) are the most efficient volume weapons platform: I'm going to have to kluge together some higher-tech fighter designs to make up for LBB2's lack of variety, but small craft in general (fighters, armed & up-computered ship's boats, pinnaces) will be very important to fleet operations. The high-tech navy will have a core of 1-2000 ton strike ships, each with a complement of carried craft: the need to have jump mobility will keep tonnage down.

The home fleet might have lower-jump carriers and battle wagons, but I suspect it actually doesn't really make sense in terms of gun-per-ton to do that: A 4000 ton ship doesn't have the range or speed of a pair of 2000 tonners, but carries the same armament; it might be less expensive in terms of drives, but expense isn't an issue. Perhaps some form of carrier/rider arrangement can be worthwhile - swarms of fighters can be very effective in LBB2 combat, and perhaps a 300 or 400 ton carried ship can be a useful compromise between the resilience of a starship and the speed of a fighter.

The thing that I really want to do with the Festrian Main is create more flexibility and variety in ship design and ship capabilities. Within most of human space a certain similarity of design will maintain - just how different is one sedan from another, one ship from another in a given culture?

Different ships of a similar class will be very different in design and layout, but the basic function will be the same. But different worlds should have different tactics, different strategies and different needs, and they'll need different classes of ship.

There should be more drastic differences when different cultures and alien species are involved. The Squillish, for instance: Their ships are slow (M1 or less) and only have jump when they are able to steal it from human ships. But they are able to launch considerably larger spreads of missiles than are compatible with traveller ships. The Pajarans have unusual jump capabilities in their ships, have mastered matter transference (they have transporters!) and they can disintegrate ships. (Though they generally don't.) As I go back through my subsector maps for the Festrian Main, I'll be looking for such opportunities.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Reflection on the Services

Just a sketch: What happens to the 6 basic Traveller career services if there's no vast, overall empire that the services are assumed to belong to?

The Navy: Lots of, even most, worlds have no way of funding an interstellar Navy. A world of a few millions won't be able to raise the funds, and the vast majority of my worlds so far are that size or smaller. In my poking away at rolling up a new subsector, I'm coming up with even fewer worlds capable of sustaining more than a billon credit annual naval budget. That makes for really small navies, of really small ships for the most part. Now, I know that before I'm through, I'll have a few standout worlds able to fund much more. These will be the worlds capable of maintaining pocket empires. I don't see that any of these will be likely to cede authority to any of the others, so their navies - far from being scattered hither and yon patrolling for pirates - will be concentrated in fleets on their homeworlds and in strategic points able to threaten their strong neighbors. There might not be constant hot war, but it'll likely be a state of pretty constant fencing between these little neighboring empires. Worlds along communication lines with the fleets and worlds crucial to trade with the homeworlds will be patrolled better than others, but there's going to be no great big navy spanning the whole sector.

Marines don't change much. They're still ship's troops, interstitial forces and first strikers; it's just that they belong to the same government their navies do.

The Army hardly changes at all - planetary forces, both governmental and mercenary, generally tied to the tech of their homeworld.

As I've hashed out before, the Scouts work as a sort of NGO, in the service of interstellar humanity* and fill much the same role as they do in most TUs. They provide a reliable, trusted courier service between the worlds, and therefore are the main conduit for interstellar banking. They often provide rescue services, both to ships in need and worlds in need: the presence of a scout base might indicate an administrative center (on a strong world) or might indicate a relief operation for a world at risk. The Scouts are almost universally respected and their reports almost universally trusted. "Red" and "Amber" classifications are generally made by the Scout service, and often mean much the same thing they do in the OTU.

Merchants are, I think, more fun and more challenging when you get rid of the Big Imperium. Along with the Imperium go the megacorporations, and when you get rid of them, trade falls on the independent merchants. Stick to book 2 and the haulers stay small. Get rid of universal banking systems, and you're thrown back on what are essentially 18th -19th century credit arrangements between banks on different worlds, and cash transactions. You may have twenty million credits in an account on Beckles, but that's five jumps away from where you and your broken M-drive are now, and the shipyard won't start work until they have confirmation that the funds are available with an onworld bank. SO! Ships have to carry a lot of cash. Pirates are going to be going straight for the ship's locker when they come calling, as they surely will. Arranging ship's payments will have to be done in advance, and a merchant's creditors will want to keep close tabs on where their ships are. And shipyards are going to be most reluctant to build anything faster than J-1; skipping's a lot easier with a J-3 vessel.

"Other" hardly changes at all. Except that simply by virtue of being "Travelers," even your scroungiest "Other" character is special - most people IMTU won't ever leave their homeworlds for more than a jump or two.

More later, working now.

*I haven't really decided how universal humanity is to be, although the LBB123 zeitgeist seems pretty darn human to me.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Oh, Hello There!

I've been away for a while. Seems it's a bad thing when games get in the way of work.

I've still got the Festrian Empire material saved up, but I'm not sure how much of it I'm keeping. In retrospect, even that grew to be too much of a "big empire" for me and I'm interested in seeing how I can re-assess those subsectors to be closer to what I want IMTU.

I don't want monolithic empires, I don't want big ships. I want the spacelanes to feel like the open sea, not a crowded subway platform.

I still do like the Black Ships; I like an Independent Scout Service.

I like Starports to be local: either directly run by the planetary governments where that makes sense, or by on-planet merchant exchanges where the planetary governments are too poor to fund them.

I don't like the assumption of pan-galactic standardism that so much of the OTU seems to depend on. When you can buy a starship on planet Hoopajoop, hop along to planet Joopahoop three sectors away, and swap out hardware and expect it all to work - or expect to buy Joopahoop ammunition that fits your Hoopajoop revolver? That doesn't really fly for me. It reminds me too much of our modern life, where you can be dropped in midtown manhattan and see the same Starbucks, Chase Bank, and J Crew that you'll see in any commercial district anywhere in the country. I don't game so that I can pretend to be walking around my own city, you know what I mean?