Friday, September 17, 2010

Play By Play: How to take a planet.

Hey, guys: help me poke holes in this:

You've got a multimillion credit Patrol Cruiser, and you've decided to put it to piracy. Huzzah! You're a pariah. Civilized worlds will send warships to destroy you. No world capable of defending itself will allow you to land, refuel, or resupply. You are a little bird, in a storm, without a nest! Where will you put your feet?

Since you're packed to the gills with beam lasers and missiles, you actually might be able to make a few demands in this regard.

If you envision a Traveller universe where starports are like airports and the skies are thick with ships, well, this might not work. But IMTU, there's not a whole lot of traffic where there isn't a highport. A C-class or D-class port on a small world might only have a few ships in orbit. There might not even be a patrol present.

IN fact, there might be more pirates in a given location than patrols: and if the eating looks good, then they'll team up. Supposing you've a patrol cruiser, or maybe some other variety of corsair. You've probably got more firepower than the port itself does, lots of these hinterlands. Maybe you've got a ship's boat, too, and it'll be armed.

So you jump insystem. What's next?

So you head in slow, at 1G like a merchantman, and keep your eyes open. You've got to get fairly close to see what's in orbit. Let's say there are maybe six or so ships in orbit, some few stuck onworld. That's what I envisage for a lot of the outworlds. Maybe there's a patrol ship: if there is, it'll probably be in orbit over the port, that being the single best bottleneck of the system. If there there's a T in port; it'll fight, and that'll be bad: they're going to engage as closely as possible to protect the merchantmen, They've the best programming available, and they may well be packing nukes. Now would be a good time to break off... But this time, maybe you're lucky: the patrol isn't in port.

So what's there are going to be merchant ships. Most of these, if they take any serious damage at all, can be financially ruined, so them that can are going to run for jump as soon as the shooting starts. Those on the ground may stay there, or try to lift, then run. So you pick your targets, and open fire. Some may fight back, but chances are, they'll scatter. If there's one you've deadlined in the first salvo or two, send a boat over with a prize crew; the ship can chase the next prey. Unless a crew is particularly desperate, it's likely they'll surrender the ship or abandon it for their lives.

Scouts, if armed and present, may move to assist the defense, but they're more likely to be running for jump themselves. They'll not jump instantly, but observe the fight from 100d. If it goes sour, they'll jump to report it. They'll likely run interference for the merchants as they leave; if there's more than one scout, one will leave while the other stays on hand to assist with survivors, and help divert incoming traffic as long as possible.

So likely, the pirates take orbit, and one or two ships as prey. There's likely some small damage. The remaining scout has already hightailed it towards the gas giant; annoying. It's broad-beaming an alert that there's an active pirate threat, and setting beacons doing the same thing. The port's got an alert going, too: that won't do. The pirate's landing vehicle - either the T's g-carrier, or the Ship's Boat head down to the port, covered by fire from the ship in orbit. Any land defenses that the port might have won't last too long. (If this were an A or B port, it'd have some sort of Big Guns for planetary defense. This is a low-pop, low-tech world and I suspect they wouldn't have much more than a beam laser emplacement.) The port now may be convinced to stay quiet and docile, lest it be bombarded. Never underestimate the power of orbital batteries.

Once that's taken care of, it's time to deal with that pesky scout and its distress beacons. Leave the Boat on post, as well as whatever ship you've managed to capture: then head off to engage the scout and force it to jump, or capture it if possible. That won't take long, either way. If you don't, then any incoming traffic will be alerted to your presence, and will divert to the gas giant.

Either way, you've got the mainworld. In one week, reports will reach the planet's neighbors; so you can count on nearly two weeks of incoming shipping that's unaware that anything's wrong. The only thing you really need to worry about is if one of those happens to be a patrol cruiser, and that *could* happen any day. So you've got to keep a ship on watch, all the time. Anyone on approach to the mainworld should be easy meat: You sit tight until it's close enough to hit, and then 'sic em, preferably with the ship's boat. Some will surrender immediately: some will fight: few will have fuel enough to run for jump.

By now, your prize crews should be spread thin, so the focus is going to be on cargo, supplies, arms, repair parts and cash. Some ships will be left spaceworthy: some will be stripped for parts, especially if there's time enough. Between what you've taken, you should be able to have at least one spaceworthy ship to send out to sell off loot.

As the twelve-to-fourteen day limit approaches, you should be getting ready to leave: you should assume that reports of your attack will bring at least one and possibly more Navy ships down on you. Before that happens, you should be gone.


So where's a PC likely to be during a pirate encounter?

The PCs might be in orbit: in which case they're one of a handful of ships trying not to be the slow buffalo in the herd.
They might be trapped onworld, in which case they might wait until their scans tell them the pirate's engaged, and then make a break for it.

Or the PCs hit the system, to hear a Pirate Activity alert beamed from a scout near the gas giant.

Or, the PCs hit the system to no alert at all, and get caught by the pirates once they're approaching orbit.

An encounter at 100D seems very unlikely to me.

Your tuppence, gentlemen?


Blogger Craig A. Glesner said...

Seems about right to me, though depending on the world's TL they might have a sizable missile battery too. And if they do have missiles, perhaps they left some lurkers just waiting for the alert to be sounded and an ID squawk for the "enemy" to be either uploaded or just broadcast. That might keep them a bit safer, though I am not sure if they would advertise this or keep it a secret. Possibly they might declare they have them, though remain vague or outright lie about how many might be lurking.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Festeria said...

That's very true, and I imagine that'd play into a pirate's strategy in contending with a world... although the raider has a much larger and softer target at his disposal: he can lob missiles at the civilian population, or threaten to, to keep a battery quiet.

7:01 AM  
Blogger Craig A. Glesner said...

Well, then, I suppose given your point, I would wait and spring the missile surprise on them when they were to close to avoid them.

Also if they have a laser batter they use that for missile defense and their own missiles for offense.

Hell perhaps might even fake a surrender and sucker them in then launch the lurkers.

5:19 PM  

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