Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What's In Your CPU, Captain?

The starships one encounters will virtually always be armed if encountered outside an A or B port. Just because the PCs start out penniless doesn't mean everyone does. Corporations won't ever have their ships unprotected; subbies will at least have a turret active so they can get mail contracts.

But the most basic arming of a merchantman is an expensive prospect! A free trader wishing to mount a simple pulse laser must invest:
mcr .25 for the single turret
mcr .5 for the laser
mcr 1 for the target program alone. mcr1.75!!!

Mounting a single sandcaster is actually more expensive still: although the defensive weapon is mcr .25, the launch program adds another mcr2. A whole 3.5! And that's not counting defensive programs.

(Yet another reason for most ships to stay on well-defended routes.)

After all, the Navy craft protecting the A and B ports will virtually always be found armed to the teeth, with top of the line programming. Such ships should always be running the best defensive and targeting programs money can buy, and be -5 to hit and should never be less than +3 to hit (Predict 3 and GI can add up!) (One might argue for the presence of programming BEYOND what's available for purchase, but that's REALLY imbalancing.) Navy ships - Type T for the most part - can afford to be aggressive: they're not paying for repairs, and they don't have to capture aggressive foes. Sticking close to friends like these, straight merchants won't need much unless they're handling mail contracts, in which case they'll probably stick to a pulse laser or two.
EVERYTHING in the book: M/E-6, Pre-3, GI, Multitarget, select, the whole nine.

Type Cs, in proper service, will generally have a mixed array of weaponry: Heavy on missiles for ground support, with some sand capability; beam and pulse lasers for a mix of accuracy and punch.

Any merchant heading into the rough can be assumed to be armed unless they're really dumb or really desperate (that is, PCs). Merchant craft should always have at auto/evade available, and should never bother with Maneuver/ Evade unless they have a PC-skilled pilot (A recap: for Maneuver, M/E and A/E interpretation, I follow Mayday:

Maneuver allows the unrestricted use of the ship’s maneuver drive.

Maneuver/Evade allows use of the maneuver drive while inserting evasive maneuvers to defeat laser fire. In order to do so, the ship must sacrifice forward acceleration: A ship running M/E operates at 1G less than the ship’s potential acceleration. A 4G ship can maneuver at 3G while evading: a 1G ship cannot maneuver while evading.

Auto/Evade allows evasive action, but does NOT allow maneuvering.

A/E cannot be operated simultaneously with maneuver.

So, if you're a Free Trader, Even ME/5 won't help you any better than A/E unless you're pilot-3 or better.)

So the rest of a merchantman's spread is likely to be a combination of sand and lasers, and will almost certainly have an antimissile program. Predict programs are likely, since gunnery skills are probably low. The object of the merchant is to prevent damage to the craft and its contents, and either jump to safety or await the cavalry. Missiles on such craft are likely to be rare: they're expensive, take up space, and in small numbers they're relatively easily defended against. (A/E=1, Launch=1, Target=1, Return fire=1, Antimissile=2 OR Pre 1, 3 or GI.)

Pirates should be as heavily armed as possible, of course: committed pirates, as opposed to opportunistic and aggressive merchantmen, are likely to be as upgunned as the Navy is (after all, they do have multimillion credit ships at their disposal). Ship's programming may be similar to that of merchantmen, though: if they weren't on a budget to begin with, they probably wouldn't need to be pirating; also, anyone selling such software will likely be alert for non-military buyers, and the skill levels needed to program them are very rare. (It may be plausible to limit such ships to those programs their own crew could believably write!) Their posture should actually not be far different from merchants, though, because they can't afford to absorb damage the way the Navy can. Beam lasers, employed as accurately as possible (select should be running) are desirable, as the goal is to disable a ship quickly and board it. There should be a mix of Sandcasters and Missiles should things turn hairy.
(A/E=1, Launch=1, Target=1, Return fire=1, Antimissile=2 , GI=1; Select=1 or some other m

Scouts are tricky. Bigger scout craft should be armed as heavily as the Navy; but the ubiquitous S has computer limitations.
If a scout's going to make use of missiles or sand, it'll need half of its programming taken up by
target and launch. The best M/E program generally available (6) requires 3 spaces of CPU, so the next best - M/E5 is the best option if the scout's a scoutishly-good pilot. But even that's a limitation if the scout's trying to jump-2 out of system, so likely many scouts will sport A/E as a backup while they're trying to make tracks. An MM, SM or SS combination gives no missile defense unless ECM is available.

all laser configurations require no more than target, leaving room for m/e 6, but that's not very versatile, and if any accuracy in fire is desired ME 5 and pre-3 are the best bets. A more defensive array of ME5 target and return fire makes more sense for a good pilot; AE, target, returnfire and pre-3 are probably best compromises overall. Antimissile software has to be swapped in. Mixes of Lasers and ordinance get a little hairy:

AE, Target, Launch, pre3, OR AE, Target, Launch, Return fire seem to be the best bets.


Blogger Craig A. Glesner said...

I rather like the phrase "scoutishly-good pilot". May have to use that one.

"He's not a 'good' pilot, he's Scoutishly-good!"


6:45 PM  
Blogger Festeria said...

It's a good catchphrase.

In heaven's free trader, the pilot is a scout, the engineer's a navvy, the steward's a merchant.

In hell's free trader, the pilot's a navvy, the engineer's a scout, the steward is "Other", the rest of the crew are army, and the marines are boarding.

7:07 AM  

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