Thursday, April 10, 2008

Scan ops on the Bridge

EDIT: I want to review this in the light of my embrace of the likelihood that ships won't ever be *invisible* in space, at interplanetary distances... ships will see each other long before they're in targeting range.

I think that the system outlined below might well work, somewhat expanded, for determining who spots whom first and identifies them as a threat/target. That could happen well beyond three lightseconds - Spotting a ship, judging its mass and power output, its vector. Of course, really identifying a threat - noting that object A has been correcting course to intercept - is dependent on object A having noticed your ship already.

I've often been a little nonplussed with LBB2's highly deterministic detection rules. So have lots of folks... and I've wanted to work a version of them that kept the spirit of LBB2 (and the key ranges) while giving a little more flesh to them.

Also, I've thought that having the navigator show up, sit at the keyboard a few minutes, run up a jump program, and return to his berth didn't rate the pay a navigator gets. Put that man to work! When the ship's insystem, the navigator is the Scan Op.

It's also struck me that in the ship design sequence, both for LBB2 and High Guard, there's no mechanic for differentiating military from civilian sensors. So I'm saying that the difference is up to two things: Computer size and eyeballs. Military and active duty scouts are able to extend their scan range because they have bigger computers and more dedicated staff on duty to stand watch than most commercial vessels.

So, when an encounter is occurring:

Each ship/fleet rolls 2D:
+ combined nav skill on duty
-2 if no dedicated navigator on duty
+/- relative computer size
Ships in communication can combine their modifiers.

Modified roll
Target ship attitude standard 4 6 8 10 12 15
silent 6 8 10 12 15 18
silent/orbit 8 10 12 15 18 21
Range of encounter range km 18750 75000 150000 300000 600000 900000
range mm 187.5 750 1500 3000 6000 9000
range bands 2 8 15 30 60 90

Low number determines minimum range of encounter; high number determines maximum range; higher roll begins the encounter as intruder and may choose any starting range between the maximum and minimum. If difference between rolls is greater than 3 then surprise is achieved, and native may not reprogram computer before combat begins.

Alternatively, the ship achieving surprise may elect to avoid the encounter entirely by breaking off or jumping; If there is no surprise, the intruder may not avoid the encounter but will have the advantage in attempting to break off or jump.

So: ship A with a solo pilot on duty with Nav 1 and a Model 1/bis rolls 7, +1 for nav, but -2 for no dedicated navigator = 6

Ship B with a pilot w/ no nav skill, but a navigator on duty and a model/1 computer with nav 1 rolls 7, but +1 for a dedicated navigator:= 8

(Both ships have the same computer rating, so that doesn't signify here.)

Assuming both ships to be running standard, Ship B may choose to begin the encounter as intruder between 75000 and 150000 km.

If B were running silent, A would only be able to detect her at a range of 18750km, and so ship B would be able to start the encounter as intruder between 18750 km and 150000 km.

So: ship A with a pilot w/ no nav skill, but a navigator on duty with nav 1 and a Model/1 rolls 7, but +1 for a dedicated navigator:= 8

Ship B with a pilot and no nav skill, but a navigator on duty with nav 2 rolls 7, but +2 for the navigator:= 9

But! Ship B also packs a Model /3 computer. So Ship A's roll goes down to 6, and ship B's goes to 11.

Assuming both ships to be running standard, Ship B may choose to begin the encounter as intruder between 75000 and 300000 km, and achieves surprise. Chances are, Ship A is toast.

Note that if the navigator is on the ship, but not on the bridge and on duty, no modifier is allowed.

Ships in close communication can combine their scan information: Fleet scan is effective a LONG way past laser range... two ships with nav-2 on board and computer model 3 get a +6 when attempting to detect a ship with a mod/4 computer.

An Aside:
Ships running silent may have difficulty starting their drives quickly. In the movement phase, Roll 8+ separately to engage the power plant and maneuver drive; one roll per engineer on duty, +engineering skill. Note that most merchant ships will not have the staff on hand to go from cold to hot in one combat round. If the maneuver drive is successfully engaged but the power plant is not, the maneuver drive will fail.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Here's an idea I just flashed on - someone [I]must[/I] have done this before that I can't recall or haven't read: A highly intelligent sophont developed from lamprey or leech-like forbears. It is virtually helpless on its own, lacking any but the most limited mobility. However, it is an extremely accomplished parasite.

The species calls itself Riders. Their ancestors simply latched onto larger animals for food. In time, Riders developed the ability to exercise considerable neural control over its hosts, allowing them to guide their "mounts" freely. Riders, when they find a good mount, will stay attached to the side of their host's head as long as possible and to that end will see that their mount stays well fed and as happy as can be arranged. On the Riders' homeworld, this has resulted in a symbiotic relationship with several different species in a variety of environments.

The introduction of a human population during the (MTU's) Old Empire period led to the development of symbioses between Riders and human hosts. While the transition to this state of affairs can not have been smooth, the resulting society has (apparently) long since come to embrace the arrangement - to the point that human riders expressed horror at learning that the scout surveyors that found them were "all alone."

The degree of host autonomy is not known, though there have been reports of polite arguments between Riders and their Mounts. Riders communicate with each other only by touch (their tails are long and supple.) They communicate with their hosts by something close to telepathy. They communicate with other sophonts through their hosts. "I am l'Edan's Gerain. l'Edan asks, are you hungry? Do you require drink? We can prepare it for you."

Riders effectively possess the physical attributes of their host. Their Int is +3; their Ed and Soc are -2 each.

You really, really don't want to know how Riders reproduce.