Friday, May 30, 2008


Somebody on CoTI recalled a Keith Brothers reference regarding life support tonnage: they'd figured that it comes to about 10kg per person per week.

that 25 person/months per ton.
figure on crew size, do a little dance, and you've got a warship's logistical tonnage figured.

So a ship with a crew of 25 should have at least 1 ton set aside for life support per month of operations.


Does that seem a little low to you?

I'd been leaning towards something along the lines of 1% of a ship's tonnage per month for logistical supply (and perhaps recreational/sanity space?)
So a 400 ton warship should have at least 4 tons given over to such concerns per month of extended duty; a 1000 ton warship should have 10 tons per month.

Going by the Keiths' assessment, a patrol cruiser should have about a ton. As it is, there's what, fifty tons cargo space there? So that's plenty.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Domo Arigato...

Mister Roboto.

In spite of my dismay over Scouts & Merchant Prince, I am still curious (read: a pathetic addicted collector) enough to have laid hands on Book 8: Robots. It just arrived. I haven't really looked at it yet, on account of I'm at work. And I will, not so much to use it for this project, but just to see what it plays like. At first glance, there's a lot of attention to the OTU paid there: same business as Scouts & Merchant Prince. I'll be interested to see how the actual mechanics work.

I remember being struck by the relative absence of robots in Traveller back when I'd started with it all. I don't think I ever really gave it the kind of serious attention that I have done with this ProTU.

I don't have book 3 in front of me now, but I recall the TL for artificial intelligence is pretty high. So that's one limiting factor for the presence of robots in a Traveller universe. Many, if not most of the worlds in a rolled-by-hand TU are of insufficient tech to support robots in a significant way. But also, there's a lot of worlds with low pop and high tech that seem to scream for fairly advanced robots to bolster the meager human population. I'll futz around with it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Oh Me Oh My.

So, there's this thing where while I enjoy the Proto-Traveller model, I am also curious about the rest of the CT Oeuvre, and also I am a horribly addictable collector type. So I've laid hands on Scouts and Merchant Prince and am awaiting my copy of Robots. Oh please don't ask what I paid, it's ever so embarrassing.

I didn't like them.

I didn't like Scouts because the whole system is really very tied to the OTU, more so even than High Guard is in some ways. Beyond that, I think I could make it work IMTU but there's no huge need to. The only reason I can see to add it is if I were going to use Mercenary or High Guard. And while that's tempting, Especially for High Guard, it's not yet been tempting enough to make me abandon the ProTU...

But Merchant Prince really took the cake for me. I ran a bunch of characters using the Book 7 system, and each of them - regardless of how long they stayed in - were entirely over-skilled. Six skills after one term. Four and five term character hitting the Int+Edu limit (which was, apparently, instituted for the first time with Merchant Prince, which means they knew there was a problem when they wrote it). That, PLUS a heavy reliance on the OTU, and a trade system not remarkably better than the original book 2 setup.

This-all is one reason I've spent so much time hashing around with adapting Book 2 combat for larger fleet engagements: If I adopted High Guard, I feel like I'd need to take the book 5 CharGen too (no other way to include Fleet&Ship tactics, for one) and then I'd feel obliged to introduce the other advanced CharGen. Which ruins the already weak "Other" category, and also takes the mickey out of Supplement 4. Which, itself, relies on High Guard and Mercenary for balance, since it doesn't make any sense that pirates would have Ship Tactics skill where Navvies do not.


Here's an EDITED idea.

Range = 1 light second per hex.
Detection: ships can loosely detect one another at interplanetary distances, but this is entirely insufficient for laser targeting, due to time lag. Missiles can be employed at ranges of 6 light seconds; lasers are -2 at 2 hexes, and -5 at 3 hexes. Laser fire is not possible at 3 light-seconds or more.
Time, approximately 1000 seconds per turn.
Since computers are assumed to be loaded, there will be no computer programming: instead, the difference between each side's computer power will serve as a positive/negative modifier to fire and ECM.

What about this:
Intruder movement as per MAYDAY.
followed by Native movement as per MAYDAY.
After each side moves, fire is resolved in three consecutive rounds, each consisting of:
Intruder laser fire
Native return fire
Intruder ordnance launch

Laser fire resolved as per BOOK 2 with the following adjustments:
Computers use the simplified form, with Computer number as a positive attack and negative defensive modifier.
laser fire to adjacent hexes=no modifiers,
1 hex intervening = -2,
2 hexes intervening =-5
-3 per sand (sand stacks)
Laser targeting not possible at greater ranges than 3 light seconds.
Missile movement "instananeous" within a range of 6 hexes, or 6 light seconds
Lasers destroy incoming missiles on 8+
ECM destroys incoming missiles on 7+, +/- difference between computers
Missile damage as per book 2, except that nuclear missiles do D6*d6 hits.

Whaddayathink? I gotta try this.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Here's an IDEA.


Mayday's scale is 1 hex per light second, and the time scale of the game is about 5 times that of book 2.

I don't like that Mayday gets rid of the Book 2 range/detection limits.

But I like the idea of being able to have maneuver in combat, and have it on a tabletop instead of a basketball court.

What about this:
Intruder movement as per MAYDAY.
Native movement as per MAYDAY.
Missile movement as per MAYDAY, except that instead of single missiles, each counter represents a salvo of missiles; also, missiles maneuver at 6gs maximum, with 6 possible 1Gburns.
Laser fire resolved as per BOOK 2 with the following adjustments:
laser fire to adjacent hexes=no modifiers,
1 hex intervening = -2,
2 hexes intervening =-5
Laser targeting not possible at greater ranges than 3 light seconds
Missile damage as per book 2, except that nuclear missiles do D6*d6 hits.

Whaddayathink? I gotta try this.

ALSO I've been figuring hits using TCS' statistical method, and it's interesting. 
Book 2 military craft should always have their computer maxxed out; they should (according to assumptions in book 5, which work for me) be typically staffed with skill level 2 personnel if they're combat craft. 
What this means is that any military craft should be -5 to hit (Maneuver/Evade 6) and should have a +5 to hit (Predict 3 and gunner interact, skill 2)
Book 2 fighters are awfully limited, but there's that extra ton of space, so swap in a 2/bis and you actually have a fighter that's -5 to hit and, with a laser, +3.  That's still not good enough, so forget the laser and pack missiles. 

SO. Ships of the line hit each other with lasers on 8+ at short range, 10+ at a lightsecond, and  cannot hit with lasers at two light-seconds. Fighters hit with lasers at 10+ at short range, and cannot hit beyond that. 
At 8+, 15 out of 36 shots can be expected to hit on average.

Missiles have an outside range of well beyond book 2 detection ranges in Mayday; for the purposes of this blend, they might just have a 6 light second range which is still well beyond laser range. So any ship getting close to laser range will have to weather missile fire. Not as hard as all that: 7+, and ecm gets all the missiles on a given turn. Laser fire will hit, again, 15 out of 36 shots. So if ECM doesn't work, missiles are SUCH A BITCH.

Note to smoketest: Laser frigates approaching at a superhigh vector, 7+ light seconds a turn. Makes contact and a laser exchange; the next turn, it's away at 12+ light seconds, well out of missile range. Workable?

This all depends on how detection is understood to work. If each side is really blind to each other outside 2 light seconds, then the line between these effective ranges is really very slight. 

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What? More?

Okay: setting aside the Book 5 issue for now, it seems to me that:

A)The fleet with the faster ships can choose whether or not to fight.
B) Battles are won by bringing the most guns to the fight.
C)That being said, after winning the fight, you have to be able to defend what you've taken.
D)Also, unless you're set on fighting entirely defensive battles, you have to be able to get to where you want to fight without being stopped midway.
E)Also, you need to be able to locate the enemy and deliver that knowledge to your main fleet.

Fighters are fast, and are one of the cheapest ways to bring the most guns to the fight, with the disadvantages that 1) they require retrieval, which is time consuming and 2) they lack resilience, and 3) they lack endurance. They are also limited in computer power: they're easier to hit than one might like, and they're pretty much limited to missiles in order to be effective. They're good at A, and B but of limited use for C, and no help at all for D or E.

So big carriers, alone, don't win the day. Or, they might win the day, but I don't think they can win a war.

The biggest warships are rather sluggish: if both sides are set on fighting, they can go at it hammer & tongs, but if the other side decides to withdraw in-system and fight a nuisance war, they can. 4-5000 ton ships are good at B, but they're slow (no A.) Also, they suffer almost as badly from drive hits as do merchant craft: they're fragile. Their jump range is short, too; so they're not so good for reconnaissance, and UNLESS they carry enough fuel for multiple jumps, they can be harassed on the way to their targets.

Smaller warships, of 1-3000 tons, with long ranges and high speeds, are more versatile. They can engage or disengage more readily than bigger vessels; if they carry extra fuel they have greater jump freedom. They are more resilient, in some ways, than their larger sisters (they can maintain better performance after receiving drive hits.) A ship with more than one jump's worth of fuel can hop in-system, make contact and jump out if need be. Less effective, then, at B, but A, C, D, and E speak well for task forces of mid-range frigates.

There's the additional issue of ships designed to take advantage of the Double-Fire program: ships with a power plant one number more effective than the maneuver drive: with a bigger warship, this makes for a pretty slow vessel, but puts a lot more lasers in play. The fastest of these would be 5g; Laser frigates of this kind might be even slower- meant to accompany carriers.

THAT SAID, a single ship engaging a combined fleet will be obliterated no matter what it is. So while individual cruisers might succeed at reconnaissance missions, any engagements will be done with battle fleets, and they'll move in concert. "The Fleet That Preys Together, Stays Together"

(Which means I might want to convert the "Statistical Method" of combat resolution from TCS over to Book 2 combat rules. I don't want carpal tunnel from dice rolling.)

Here's a guideline for what I want to put together for a TL 15 book 2 fleet:
Fleet jump capability of 6 parsecs, either at once or in two Jump-3s without refueling
Significant elements of the fleet should have an in-system speed of 6gs.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More Mulling Space Combat

So here's the thing. I like book 2 combat for individual, commercial ships. For groups it's tricky. For groups operating at military ranges it's really unwieldy.

In fact, I really like how Book 5 combat works, and I think it matches how I think combat between large fleets in space might happen.

They'll use missile-probes to identify their targets, so there's not much reason for probing with ships - fighters or otherwise. The fleet's will then close to engage with missiles, then lasers.

This being the case, there's plenty of good reason for a fleet to stick together. Individual ships are meat for small groups; small groups can be defeated piecemeal by the main body of a fleet.

Not necessarily that the fleet stays in formation, but that it engages the enemy simultaneously: the easiest way to do this is to stay in a group, but no matter how scattered or 3-d it might be, those ships that are in striking distance of the enemy are in the line, and those that are not can be considered to be in the reserve.

Fighters are good at delivering large numbers of missiles to a battle, possibly for a very short period of time. They're not good laser platforms, because warships will have more powerful computers than fighters can contend with (using the book 2 computer rules, no military ship should have anything less than Maneuver/Evade 6, giving a -5 to hit. Any fighter's going to need a dedicated gunner and a computer that can provide at least a +1 to be able to hit at all. A 1/bis might work...). And because they can't survive long in a fight, they're not really good at maintaining contact with an enemy fleet and leading its own fleet to the target.
This is book 2 I'm talking, here...

The really interesting thing will be to see whether a carrier, using fighters as a striking force, can defeat cruisers of the same value and remain an effective force without having to go for replacements. IN any case, fighters might be usable in a strike capacity but might not be actually all that good at scouting. Which, itself, is better done with missiles.

I think I have an experiment ahead of me. If I stick to a small TU universe, and keep the budgets small; if I keep to a "Dark Room full of Daggers" sensibility about governments and the need to concentrate fleets at home, can I use High Guard without breaking the Festerian Empire?

It might be possible. Those big ships that make things no-fun-at-all for PC size ships might all be concentrated in bases and on the homeworlds - the ships afforded for patrols might still be the small, cheap T ships built for the purpose. It might not really change life all that much.

My difficulty is more with the changes wrought by Mercenary, High Guard, Scouts and Merchant Prince character design than anything else.

Oh, and I don't really like that Scouts and Merchant Prince are so specifically tied to the Official Traveller Universe. If they'd stayed just that more generic, I'd have little problem with it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fleet dispositions

Just mulling, again: ship detection, ship speeds and fleet tactics.

I've always thought that jump flash happened IMTU. Now, whereas when individual ships are concerned, detection distances are 2 light seconds and tracking distances are 3, a reasonably hightech world should be able to spot the flashes of an incoming fleet, and so the intrusion of a fleet should be a noticed thing. The fleet sent out to intercept will know where the flashes were, and should be able to get there quickly enough to contact the attacking fleet, should this be desirable.

Or, the defending fleet can wait for the intruder to come in.

Now, whether they do, or not, is another thing entirely.

Contact, as I think I've put elsewhere, would probably happen with each side's fighter patrols. I imagine these would all be very high velocity encounters, with opposing fighters approaching each other having built extremely long vectors: two or three turns of contact at the most! In any case, the goal with these encounters would to circumvent the the other side's patrols and acquire the main enemy fleet on scan, transmitting that information to a central command.

Setting aside this stage of the engagement, assuming that at least one side has acquired the other, I'm wondering (as I think I have done before) how speed might affect fleet tactics, and hence starship design.

One aside: I'm leaning a little towards a melange of Book 2 and Mayday combat. I haven't smoketested it out, but I think that using Mayday's scale and damage rules might be the best thing I can do here. Also, I'm thinking I'd be using Mayday's simplified computer rules rather than the Book 2 style of programming: there's no reason that military computers wouldn't be completely maxed out, so the differences in computer power would be more important than programming minutiae. In terms of missiles, Assuming military fleets, there is no reason why they would be anything less than the best: so all missiles would be discretionary intelligently guided missiles with nuclear warheads. Rather than using Mayday's limitations on missiles, I'd assume each counter to represent a flight of missiles, and allow as many as the ship can chunk out. Generally speaking, missiles launched should be fast enough at 6G6 to make contact no matter how fast the ships are - UNLESS the ships are turning tail and moving away at 6Gs themselves.

One thought - I need to see how Mayday works when used for ships mounting 20-50 turrets! I think it may have the effect of extending laser range to a possibly absurd degree. Mayday's rules already break the Book 2 range rules into tiny pieces...

So, speed can be relevant in terms of evading missiles, IF a the target ship is willing to essentially withdraw from the field of combat.

If both fleets wish to engage, then speed is also relevant in being able to choose a favorable range from which to fight.

If both fleets are located, but fleet wishes to engage and the other does not, the faster fleet should always be able to make this choice.

The question, then, is whether the firepower of a ship of 3-5000 tons is worth the sacrifice in speed.

If a fast fleet contacts a slow fleet, then both can exchange fire while they're in range of each other. Using Mayday, the slow fleet using large numbers of lasers will have a huge range advantage over fast ships using fewer lasers: that alone might make the bigger ships worthwhile.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Just a quick note on a dark room full of knives

I may be repeating myself here, but just a few thoughts.

It strikes me that one's oldest enemies are the ones closest to home.

The Festrian Empire will no doubt have enemies on its borders, and it does - for instance, the Autocratic Duchy (it was a duchy, wasn't it?) of Berlings, and any number of Old Empire powers beyond the frontier. But when the Festrian Empire was smaller (oh, a couple hundred years ago) its reach was shorter, and its rivals were much closer.

Those planets didn't go away.

They're at least nominally vassal states now, some of them. But I don't picture anything too cozy - and I'm starting to gravitate towards these planetary governments retaining much more of their autonomy. There's a bunch of worlds all close enough to strike each other given a jump or two, and none of them are going to have much incentive to let their guard down. Relations may be cordial - in fact they had better be - but with all these major powers within two weeks of each other's homeworld, the vast bulk of each world's fleets will be concentrated right there, at the homeworld. Nothing less than an armada, which nothing less than an armada will be able to unseat.

All those backwater worlds under your wing? Just how many ships will you spare for them, Emperor? Certainly, not a ship of the line - not unless there's an immediate need. Perhaps you'll have small patrol fleets posted here and there to keep an eye on the neighbors, as they'll be keeping an eye on you.

I've been reading about how the Spanish expanded their frontiers in the 15th and 16th centuries, with Adelantados - nobles who risked their own fortunes (and those of their patrons) to conquer, er, convert territory in the New World in the name of the Crown and the Church. The idea was that none of it was to rely on Royal coffers. It didn't always work out that way: Florida and New Mexico turned out to be awfully expensive for the Castillans. But I do like the idea of using a sort of Adelantado system on the frontiers to spare Fester from having to commit elements of the Armada away from the home systems - not just because of the expense, but because Fester's supremacy at home only lasts as long as it maintains both a defensive armada capable of taking all comers, and an offensive force which can be reasonably expected to do the same. Which means that about sixty percent of the Festrian Navy has to be focused on home defense, and thirtyfive percent or so needs to be focused on its close neighbors.