Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why I Like Jump Tapes, plus Another Reason For Navigators To Be Alive

So you, a brand new starship captain, want to go fly. You've fueled up. You have a line on cargo and passengers. And you'd better have cr. 10,000+ handy if you want to buy a jump tape to go anywhere at all.

WHY? Well, because you don't have .85 MCr to spend on a Generate program, yet. But why do you need them?

I don't really think of them as tapes. They're charts.

Mariners have always needed charts, if they ever wanted to travel safely. And the more up-to-date, the better: coastal features would change, navigational hazards would be discovered, and new charts would be drawn up. Sure, some navigational atlases (The English Pilot comes to mind) remained in use for nearly a century, but by the later years of that run the book was considered a positive threat to navigation.

I make these assumptions:

*Jump navigation is incredibly, incredibly complex, having to take into account the gravitational influences and motions of objects in both the starting location and the end location (plus handwavium science of the far future.) Jump calculation and execution is the biggest reason starships need massive, resilient computers IMTU.

*Since all those factors are in constant flux, jump charts need to be up to date. Outside a few days +/-, they're worse than useless. Navigation programs won't even process them. If they could be overridden, the result would be a misjump, as sure as jumping within 10 diameters. This is why Jump Tapes are single-use, self erasing flight plans: not copy protection, but safe astrogation.

*Book 2 says that the tapes can be bought at any Starport. I can't reconcile that with D or E starports, though: neither have any other facilities at all to speak of: why should they have an astrogation department on duty? IMTU, Jump tapes can be got at A, B and C class starports, and D ports with a Scout base. Scouts on detached duty ought to be able to wheedle free/cheap charts at a scout base, as well. They're worth the cr.10,000 per jump number, because they're basically foolproof. They're produced with the benefit of weeks and months of regular analysis of a system and its potential jump routes, so if you don't do something stupid (like failing to maintain your drives, or jumping within 100 diameters, or using unrefined fuel) you should never have to worry about misjumping.

*So: what of the starship that by chance or by grim necessity finds itself in a system without a chart and without a generation program? Are they just stuck? I'm inclined to come up with a task for a Navigator being able to use his skill to draw up his own chart. It's a desperate measure! How does this run for you:

Drawing up a jump chart requires:
* Nav-1 or better
* a working ship's computer capable of running the relevant Jump and Navigation programs
* a minimum of 1D6 days astronomical observations and preparation

Die roll (to be rolled on ACTIVATION of Jump program) 11+
Mods: + Nav skill
+ 1 per additional day (week?) of uninterrupted astronomical study
+ 3 if already familiar with route
+ computer model #-1

A successful roll means a successful jump. A failed roll means a misjump. A roll of 5 or less, and the ship explodes, or disappears forever in jump space, or turns into a frog and dies of explosive decompression.

So, a navigator with a skill of 2 working a ship with a computer model/3 would get a +4 to his roll, and better if he spent more time checking his work.

How much time do you think is reasonable? Not being an astrogator myself, I really don't know how long these things should take. ^_^

And maybe 11+ isn't high enough. 15+?


Blogger Craig A. Glesner said...

That looks good to me.

I may be using T5, but I still love Jump Tapes.

Good timing too, since my players' one copy of the local charts where they are headed is half a millennium or older so they will have to generate their own Charts and Tapes and at TL-B too, none of that fancy TL-F stuff here.

Again nice work.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Festeria said...

Have your players got the generate program, or are they going to have to come up with a chart from scratch? What sort of success roll are you considering? 11+? 15+

How long do you think you'd want them to work at their astrogation: days? weeks? Since there's an old chart they can start with, maybe updating it will make it speedier?


I just rolled a scout for giggles, with the plan
A) As long as my boy keeps his endurance up 9+, I'm going to keep him in service as long as they'll have him and
B)Stay on table 1 until his education goes from 7 to 8, then lean on tables 2 and 4.

He made it through, got the ship:

45A785, Scout, 7 terms
Pilot-3 Nav-5 Air/raft-1 JOT-2 Medic-1
Scoutship, Cr100,000 Low psg, Carbine, Dagger.

The Vehicle and JOT I got from trying to get him Vacc suit; I leaned on table 4 hoping he'd get at least some computer and engineering skill.

This guy could probably draw up a jump chart on a bar napkin.

7:03 AM  
Blogger Craig A. Glesner said...


Oh and he's hired! I can find him a Teacher/Instructor to get him VaccSuit certified. He's got beloved JOT-1. That is pretty useful. Plus a good Pilot and superb Nav. I can hire an Engineer for my ship and another for his just to be salty about it.

Yep. I would have done the same thing. It is funny I am on CotI in the T5 board's and Aramis is bitching about Skill v. Characteristics and how people will go for the stat every time. I keep thinking, first off don't you have to pick table to and then roll, and don't his players ever have Aging. God, my players and I all stay in as long as possible. Hell, I had one time where in LBB style he kept rolling 12 on Reenlistment, to they kept him for 7+ Terms! He was finally retired at like 72 and had sick Muster Out rolls. Oh and those required Reenlistments came the Term he decided to get out. But the Ref had read his Rules and made him roll. Because of that, everyone I knows suffers a bit in skills (even in T5) because of those Personal Development rolls to stave off the Effects of Aging. And then get lots of Soc. *sigh* I need Dex, dukam.

I try and live by the Advanced Education Table. So much good stuff in that one.

My players have just Jumped in to the first Unknown system. They have the old map (I wonder if the Noble is going to be dumb enough to flaunt it?) and they have the necessary T5 Programs to do it, I just don't think they have thought of that. They could make the first Jump because Ice Station Zebra did all the hard work for them. >:) I haven't really sat down and generated a Task for it yet, but I think days for sure, they are only at TL-B. At TL-F I could see days what with the advanced sensors and computers, but at TL-B (cresting to TL-C) we are talking Piper tech here. Days, maybe a full week or more.

I think having the old chart and their eventual meeting with the "Old Ones' will either help them flesh out their Charts for the New Horizons Subsector or start a war. Which Rufus Augustus will not be pleased with.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Craig A. Glesner said...

Yak. Blogger barfed when I posted, and well, I guess it took...

*shrugs* It gave me kooky error message and code.

Fixed sorta now.

6:56 PM  
Blogger Festeria said...

Hee. Happens...

7:35 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

I have not used tapes per se, but IMTU, I have the IISS doing regular patrols that, among other things, update the navigational data. These will be by every 3-8 weeks or so, hitting the close gas giant (or the more frequently used, if the inner one is problematic) on every three trips or so. The information that is gained will then be collated at the nearest A or B starport, or node of an X-boat route.

I hand-wave the actual software on the computer, but getting the updates from A or B ports can be crucial.

2:25 PM  

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