Tuesday, March 18, 2008

RETOOLING THE FESTRIAN MAIN

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.

5 Comments:

Blogger Omer Golan said...

Concerning the Empire's vassals: most European feudal systems had an arrangement between the vassal and the liege-lord determining how many troops the vassal had to place at the disposal of the liege-lord in exchange for the fief and for how long (usually only part of the year). Does the Festerian empire have similar arrangements?

Also, I think that if a vassal leaves his world vulnerable to attack due to performing a mission for the Emperor, the Empire would guarantee the world against surprise attacks - that is, if an enemy uses the opportunity to launch such an attack on the now defenseless world, the Empire would have to take revenge on that enemy.

2:35 AM  
Blogger Omer Golan said...

Another note: I'd recommend that you add a few heavy weapons for the bigger naval craft (1,000-dton and more) to use for the following reasons:

1) It allows more variety, as in "vanilla" LBB2 the ultimate warship is a 5,000-dton carrier carrying a huge number of fighters (highest firepower per ton). If you add heavy weapons you'll have something as useful as fighters to cram into all that warship tonnage so you'll have battleships as common and as deadly as carriers.

2) It reduces the amount of to-hit rolls in actual combat play. A "vanilla" 5,000-ton dreadnought with "full" triple turrets would have 150 to-hit rolls per combat round, more if you have fighters! So if you have a big gun taking up, say, 5 or 10 hardpoints, you'd have less to-hit rolls per combat round.

What I suggest is to expand on the existing LBB2 weapons, creating heavier milspec versions of the lasers and missiles. My rough ideas are:

1) Heavy Laser: takes 5 hardpoints, displaces 50 tons, costs MCr75. Installing Heavy lasers - regardless of their number - requires your power-plant to be one letter higher than normal (two letters if you intend to use double-fire). Hits with a +2 DM; a hit causes 5 normal damage rolls plus one critical-table roll.

2) Bay Missile: the launcher takes 5 hardpoints, displaces 25 tons and costs MCr50. The launcher holds one missile; each additional missile displaces 1 ton of cargo space and costs Cr100,000. The missile has unlimited burns of G6, is capable of homing and does 3D6 hits. It is also equipped with an integral sand canister to help against anti-missile laser fire. A nuclear version exists, costing MCr1 per missile, doing 3D6 hits, one roll on the radiation table for SS3 and one critical hit.

I'd also suggest using armor for larger ships. My idea is to have two types of armor:

1) Armor-A, taking 10% of the ship's tonnage and costing MCr1 per ton; it allows a ship to roll two dice per hit and pick the less damaging one; it also ignores the first hit of any attack (i.e. Beam Lasers don't do any damage, Pulse Lasers do only 1 hit, Missiles do 1D6-1, Heavy Lasers to 4 hits plus a crit, Heavy Missiles do 3D6-1.

2) Armor-B, taking 30% of the ship's tonnage and costing MCr5 per ton; it allows a ship to roll two dice per hit and pick the less damaging one; it ignores all turret-laser fire; it halves the number of hits from missiles; heavy lasers cause only 3 hits; and automatic criticals caused by heavy weapons are ignored.

3:37 AM  
Blogger Festeria said...

Omer,

These are great points. The feudal arrangement you describe is just what I had in mind - indeed, Fester's most threatening nearby enem- er, vassals will be expected to have their fleets out beyond the frontier raiding the Old Empire worlds, expressly to keep them out away from the capital. Fester's own grand fleet stays at home, and maintains task forces at key points around the Festrian Main.

I certainly agree that a few heavy weapons and larger ships add good spice - and the Festrian grand fleet will have a few. But I want those to be out-of-the-ordinary GM fiat elements: in terms of a baseline for the fleet as a whole, and its structure, I'd prefer to stick to vanilla. It makes the chocolate syrup with cherries of the behemoth Fester-class dreadnoughts stand out so much more when they jump in and start erasing enemy carriers with single shots.

One thing, though: I'm assuming vastly smaller budgets than the OTU does - perhaps one credit per citizen on the homeworld per year as a rule of thumb, more for wartime and for particularly warlike worlds.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Omer Golan said...

What is the largest and meanest ship you envision your PCs commanding? If the largest thing they'll ever have at your disposal would be a subbie or at most a Type-T, then you shouldn't even bother with designing ship stats for anything above 1,000 dtons or so or statting heavy weapons; leave them for GM fiat. But if your PCs would be the command crew of, say, a 1,000-dton cruiser, then you'd want to have stats for big ships (the cruiser might find itself fighting a 2,000-dton battlecruiser) and heavy weapons (the cruiser would probably have one installed, plus this saves A LOT of die-rolls during combat). If you don't need combat stats for a 5,000-dton dreadnought, then you don't really need stats for a 5,000-ton carrier anyway. Time is precious; use your limited time to design ships the players are likely to fight against and stand a chance against in combat (however slim this chance would be). Instant-kill ships don't need stats - GM fiat would be enough.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Festeria said...

I think that in terms of my notional PCs you're quite right: They aren't likely to run into a fighting ship much bigger than a Mercenary Cruiser; the face of the Navy will generally be a fighter patrol, or a ship's boat coming calling.

I think that having a firm grasp on how the Festrian Empire works is good for background, though, and part of that is how the Navy works.

On the other hand, this whole universe-building exercise is the main way I play Traveller nowadays...

I think with those mass hit-rolls, I might be well advised to use the statistical method of resolving combat that shows up in TCS... That wouldn't break my LBB123 rule, really, since it's just housekeeping and saving myself from carpal tunnel.

11:34 AM  

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