Monday, June 30, 2008

And I Thought I'd Studied HISTORY. Feh.

Fella over on CotI made reference to Commodore Perry's forceful and surprising visit to Japan, and so I (recognizing a gap in my knowledge) hopped over to Wikipedia to freshen up. I'd remembered the import of the visit, the effects and all. What I hadn't known, or if I had known, what I hadn't recalled, was what the Japanese called foreign vessels arriving at its ports.

Kurofune. The Black Ships.

Embarrassing, what?

All separate from that, this is what I'd been naming the great, slow, and imposing official Festrian trade ships, slowly moving out into the frontier and back again, bringing wealth to the capital and swaying markets in every world they visit.

But I'm certainly keeping it. It's perfect.

The Black Ships are, along with the Navy itself, the spearhead for Festrian growth and influence in the frontier. The arrival of the Black Ships is a challenge:

Trick or Treat!

Trade favorably with us, now. Right now. Or face the consequences. The Navy is right behind us, and how they treat with you is dependent on how you treat with us.

It's all chrome, but it's good chrome.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More on the Festrian Frontier

In the broad expanses of the Old Empire, there are some few pockets of interstellar civilization. The nine subsectors, of which Festeria is the center, is the largest known - to Fester, anyway. Beyond that is the Frontier.

You can't entirely count on the Scouts to inform you about the Frontier. It is understood that the Scouts range far, far beyond this and that they do have a general understanding of areas distant from the vicinity, but individual Scouts seldom themselves have more than a general idea about this: while their field of operations is inconceivably broad, their modus operandi is necessarily very local: it is not unusual for DD Scouts to be sent to reforge contacts with other Scout bases that have fallen out of touch. So discovery of "what's in the frontier" isn't a matter of going to your local Scout base and tugging on coats, although that helps.

The Navy knows a thing or two about the Frontier, but since that's an Active Field of Military Operations, they won't tell you a thing. And local Navvies won't necessarily know much: the Frontier Fleet goes out and stays out, with only occasional contact coming back: Festrian Fast Cruisers keeping to the deep and only stopping at military bases. And the Black Ships...

Merchants won't help you either. As I've noted, Merchanting in the frontier is risky business on a par with anything the Scouts do, and the only thing that makes it worthwhile is the fact that there's less competition, and fewer holds barred when there is competition.


There are fewer big governments out there, in the Frontier. The little pocket empires that buffer Festeria on several flanks developed along with her, like siblings, and though they don't always get along there's seldom outright war (a recent dust-up between the duchies of Wisbeck and Berlings notwithstanding.) But out beyond, there's very little in the way of large interstellar government.

It can be taken as understood that the action of the Navies of the Festrian Empire and her neighbors may have something to do with this state of affairs, although Scout accusations of deliberate destabilization on the part of the Navy are always vehemently denied.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Envisioning Interstellar War

The relations of Berlings and the Imperial Duchy of Wisbeck have been steadily deteriorating, mainly centering around an argument over their respective spheres of influence in the spread of worlds directly coreward of the so-called Festrian Empire. The whole subsector had been a major battleground during the Witch Wars, and much of it is still recovering from that cataclysm. Wisbeck and Berlings both claim authority over the twenty-odd worlds, Wisbeck doing so in the name of Fester III. Patrols of both powers have been dogging each other throughout the subsector, though they have not yet actively come to blows. The establishment of a Wisbeck naval base on Doula brought about an ultimatum stating that any Wisbeck naval elements located in the Doula system after a certain date would be fired upon. The date has come and gone, and Wisbeck's navy is still there.

Both before and after the date, the outer system has been active: fast Berlingi corvettes and have kept the system under constant scan, always staying far enough away to avoid interception by Wisbeck's cruisers and fighters. It is impossible to prevent their coming and going. To reduce the effectiveness of these spies, Wisbeck keeps the bulk of its fleet elements in the system mobile; nevertheless it is constrained to leave a large contingent near the mainworld defending its highport.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fighter Theory IMTU

The benefit of fighters is well known: they provide a lot of hardpoints, ton for ton. However, if each fleet follows this theory, it suggests that the initial clash will be between fighters, which means that only the side that can withstand the onslaught of the other will be able to carry the fight to the enemy's carriers, and possibly win the day.

Ton for ton, fighters need better than basics if they're to be survivable: either superior computers, or superior crews; preferably both. One doubles the expense of the craft; the other is nearly priceless, and impacts the number of effective fighters seriously. It does seem clear that in order to have a winning fighter wing among comparable fleets, one needs to have absolutely stellar Ship's Boat pilots and crack gunners, which are nearly as rare as stellar pilots in the Navy.

A fighter wing needs a strong missile element to be able to strike at the opposing fleet's capital ships. Missiles can also be used on the opposing screen, but an element of capable interceptors with crack pilots and gunners might be able to attack fighters without wasting missiles.

A basic missile fighter will usually be -2 to hit, -4 at 250,000-500,000km, and -7 beyond that. A single seat basic laser fighter with predict-3 will only get a +1, and can't expect to hit at missile range at all. If the pilot is an exceptional gunner (3) he'll get a +2. If it's a two seat fighter and the gunner is decent (2) he'll get +2. Since the basic fighter can only rely on its laser for missile defense, this isn't a good proposition.

A 10 ton fighter with a computer/2 can employ ECM for defense, and can do a little better with the gunnery but not by an order of magnitude: the bigger computer precludes the separate gunner's seat.

A Ship's Boat, armed with a laser and a pair of missile racks and supported with a powerful computer, might be the best fighter killer. It's just as fast. It has a dedicated gunner. A computer/2 would allow it to fire at +3 as a minimum, evade at -5, and employ ECM: a more powerful machine might shift the offensive side even further. And its expense with a big computer is not significantly greater than a fighter with a similar upgrade. And it can deliver missiles against distant targets and capital ships.

The big difference is tonnage. Can a militarized SB defeat its tonnage in upgraded fighters?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Frontier Trade Patterns

I'm still hashing out the details, but I'm working a few things with "Zones." Red zones are pretty self-explanatory, and indicate an interdiction of a world by somebody. In the Festrian Empire, Fester does the interdicting; also, to a lesser extent, Fester interdicts worlds on its frontier... there's a couple of recent conquests that the Navy keeps a tight lid on... Some worlds interdict themselves. And other Duchies interdict, as well.

Amber zones are a little more flexible. When they show up on a map, it's because either the Scouts or the TAS classed it as such. But I'm thinking that frontiers in the Old Empire are not safe for strangers: For a Festrian ship travelling the frontier, every world should be an Amber zone, both in terms of passengers & cargo, and overall risk; Same for members of any interstellar polity outside of their domain, unless there were well-established treaties... and sometimes even then.

I think it makes merchanting a little riskier, and a little more exciting - both when actually in the frontier and when near it. Just because it's 200 tons and sailing at 1G doesn't make it a friendly...

Frontier trade - that is, foreign trade - will be different than when at home. Fewer passengers by a long shot, and much less in the way of paid cargo. Virtually all speculation. There is more need as well for long-jump ships because there are fewer J-1 links. Because of the difficulty of securing financing for such vessels, and because no lender will be happy to make loans to ships doing frontier trading, such craft tend to be owned by larger companies, by groups of investors, or by very successful merchants able to pay off a ship or buy it up front. Surplus or DD scouts will be found; and the occasional yacht. Some stolen craft, as well - it's harder to chase down skippers in the frontiers.

This is another time I wish I had an easy way on the MAC to put up my subsectors. I'd be able to show you where things are...

Festrian Trade Patterns

The Festrian Empire, not counting the frontier and subordinate duchies, consists of 43 worlds and appears to have about 1200-1500 ships in commercial use. Commercial shipping is limited to tech 12; a high proportion of it will be produced at tech 9. Hence, ship tonnage will tend to be low, and the majority of ships will be jump-1 vessels.

Most trade is local: J-1 milk runs between two worlds. Ship financiers will generally insist on its shipowners keeping to safe routes between A and B class ports, as well as insisting on payments being due on time at their homeworld. Most sensible shipowners will remain on such routes. C-class ports and worse are chancy: a merchant is putting his ship, crew, passengers and his own life on the line going such places. The result is that merchant ships will generally stay close to home.

Particularly profitable routes between major worlds up to the J-2/3 level will see liner traffic, generally owned outright by larger companies and corporations, rather than financed through banks.

Subsidies exist: the Empire offers subsidies for jump 2 and 3 connections it deems necessary, as well as jump 1 connections to under served worlds within its borders. Winning a subsidy not only requires the funds for the down-payment on the ship, but some very serious politicking. Noble connections help.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Detection, Targeting, Tactics.

The actual science cited kinda has me.


Ships are detected very easily, unless they are in orbit or occluded behind a planetary body. Anything in motion from point a to b, anything jumping in, is going to be spotted.

For detection, the 1.5 light second, 2 light second and 3 light second ranges of LBB2 don't really make sense. The much shorter detection ranges for ships in orbit running silent should apply, however.

That's for detection.

For targeting, I'm sticking to LBB2 ranges. Because you still have to deal with time lag when you're firing at range, and the chance that your predictions of your target's location are wrong increase more and more the farther away the target is.

I'm ruling that military/scout sensors are those which are produced at tech 13 plus. So any military ships produced by lower tech worlds are going to have targeting range of half a light second.

If you jump in, you've been spotted by anyone already there. EVENTUALLY. If you jump in close to 100d of the mainworld, you'll appear on scan more or less immediately.
If they're lying doggo in orbit, you won't see them until you are well, well within missile range and the first evidence you will see of this is their first missile salvo.
However, anything that isn't running silent is going to be visible, and that's going to be most ships unless they're prepared for trouble.
If recon ships jump in to the outer system they'll have the advantage: they'll see the native ships where they were two hours ago, but they won't be seen until they've been in system, scanning, for those two hours. That's enough time to jump in, scan, and jump out. It's also far enough that they'll spot ships coming after them long before they'll arrive. If the recon ships are fast enough, they'll be able to stay in the outer system for as long as they have fuel and supply.
Defensive fleets of whatever speed will need to have an element of fast pursuit ships - fighters at minimum, System Defense craft or fast cruisers - for the purpose of harrying spy ships or small fleet elements in the outer system.
Since ships can always be spotted, engagement is a matter of choice - if you are the faster ship. A fast fleet can always avoid a slow one, unless there is some reason to pin it down: Generally, a planet to defend, or a convoy. Invading ships with speed at least equal to their opponents can hang around the outer system indefinitely, and essentially remain a permanent threat as long as they have supply. If they are steadily pursued and harassed by defense forces, however, they can be prevented from receiving resupply.
Lasers, for military craft, are primarily defensive. It takes too long to get within effective laser range for them to be primary attack weapons. Ships will definitely need them, though, unless they are fast enough to consistently evade incoming salvos. In a pitched battle, should missile supply become an issue, lasers become more important. Also, any ship geared for long term anti-commerce operations will prefer the laser to the missile: no ammo worries. Lower tech fleets whose detection range is well within laser range might prefer more lasers over missiles.

Chemically-fueled missiles at extremely long range - beyond LBB2 detection range - have to spend long enough coasting that at beyond a couple light-seconds it might be a trivial matter for most ships to stay out of their range, and outrun them. Long distance missile salvos might force movement, however, and sufficiently-spread salvos might force a fleet to weather the attack or withdraw to a less advantageous position. (Missiles that have unlimited fuel are much more of a problem: they'll stand a good chance of hitting at any range)

System Defense Theory: Should have task forces of heavy carriers (the largest possible, 4-5ooo tons for Fester's fleet) situated in close orbit of the main world and/or the gas giant; the fighters can be employed to force the issue of engagement or withdrawal, and possibly reduce the invader somewhat. Should be supplemented by fast warships at least capable of keeping station with an unwilling fleet: Fast system defense boats, or possibly even riderships, stiffening a great number of fighters.
Raiding Theory: Should have the ability to jump in, and out again; should have sufficient cargo tonnage for extended operational supply; should be as fast as possible to be able to keep ahead of a defender's fighters and chasers in the outer system. Fighters are less useful here: the object is to remain independent while maintaining punch. Depending on tech, these will be ships between 400 and 2000 tons, of the highest possible speed, armed with a balance of missiles and lasers, with enough fuel for 2 jumps and reasonable cargo/magazine space. May be organized around a tender-fleet geared for deep-space, empty-hex operations.
Invasion Theory: If you're coming in to stay, and don't plan on retreat to the outer system but want to slug it out, you don't need to go fast. You should know what you're getting into already. You should already have raiders in the outer system. You'll already know the size of the defending force. No attack should ever be done with less than twice your opponent's force: so here's where we can see big carriers again: possibly big, slow carriers with an even spread of missiles and lasers, supplemented by sand should fleets close to laser range. Fighters to deploy, fire missiles, and then evade to the outer system once they've emptied their magazines. Another class of fast carrier might be employed specifically to retrieve and resupply these fighters in the outer system. There will need to be significant supply chain, troop carrier, and other support elements to any major invasion fleet.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Starports, Drive Tech, Fuel, And Stuff


A starport can build to its world's native tech; If that tech level is below that which is capable for building starships or spaceships - for instance, an A-port on a tech 7 world - the port is limited to the minimum tech possible for that class of ship: A-ports build to tech 9, B-ports build to tech 7. Moreover, such ships are produced using imported drives and are confined to standardized designs.

I'm ruling that IMTU, no A-port, no starships produced locally. A tech 15 world without an A-port might have a fleet in orbit, but it probably won't be theirs. There are a number of B-worlds in Festrian space which supply the empire with excellent riderships, fighters, and small craft.

Within the bounds of the Festrian Empire, tech 13+ construction is reserved for military vessels. Commercially classed vessels are to be produced between tech 9 and 12, except in cases where official dispensation has been given.

The Independent Interstellar Scout Service has all of its ships produced at tech 13+ worlds; within the bounds of the Empire, they hold official dispensation allowing this.

Ships built to tech 13+ Military/Scout spec enjoy the benefits of extended detection range (2 light seconds, as opposed to half a light second) and can use unrefined fuel safely. The same is for any ship built outside the Festrian Empire at tech 13 and up.

Ships built to Festrian Commercial Specs at any tech level, or built at tech 9-12 worlds elsewhere, have the short detection range and cannot use unrefined fuel without risk of misjump.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Planetary Relative Speeds With Regard to Jump

I recall there was some good discussion on CoTI of this in a thread which I can't find at all.

Someone had pointed out that because
A) stars move in relation to each other and
B) planet certainly move as well,
therefore C), a ship with no vector relative to planet Y jumping into the vicinity of planet Z will arrive with a vector equal to the relative speed of those two planets in relation to one another.

On a day to day basis, this is not really something that PCs and Referees really need to be worrying their little heads about. But from time to time, it might be relevant. SO:


(Gentlemen, please check my numbers and assumptions)

Thought about this a bit, and did some googling. Near as I can tell, stars move anywhere from a few KPS to 500+kps; planets in our system move from a few kps to somewhere near 50.

Now, taking this to Book 2 combat speeds, where each turn is 1000 seconds and a vector produced over a turn's worth of 1G acceleration is 10,000kilometers long (a ship traveling on such a vector is then moving 10kps.)

The really fast stars seem to be in the very core of the galaxy; slow ones are in globular clusters. So on average, they ought to be between, on the low side. Right?

for system Y, (6D6)*10 speed in kps. (60-360kps.)
Roll D6; make Y's speed a negative number if 1-3
for system Z, (6D6)*10 speed in kps. (60-360kps.)
Roll D6; make Z's speed a negative number if 1-3
Add the speeds of systems Y and Z; the resulting number is the relative speed of the two systems. It will vary from This should be recorded, as it will not change over the course of the game.

For a given jump, do the same process with 1D6, and add that result to the stellar relative speed to take planetary movement into account.

So say that system Y has a speed of 300 (moving away from Z at 300kps)
and system Z has a speed of -250 (moving towards from Y at 250kps)
they'll have a relative speed of 50kps.
Figure planetary speeds for y and z at 30 and 50 kps; add that for a total of 130kps.

A free trader jumping from one planet to the other from a relative standstill will arrive moving at 130kps, or in book 2 game terms, will have a vector 130,000km per turn. It will take that free trader about 13 turns to decelerate and match speeds with the planet in order to achieve orbit.

On the other hand, the free trader might have decided instead to match speeds with her destination at launch, and spent 13 turns accelerating prior to jump. A scout could do this in half the time, either way.

This would have interesting tactical repercussions, if a fleet's navigator chose to come out of jump moving towards the target at half a light-second per turn. No?

It also means that ships coming in and out of system can be expected to be moving at absolutely hellacious speed about half the time.