Thursday, March 31, 2011


I've been pretty interested in siege tactics lately. See, I sell antique maps for a living, and the shop I work for just got this: 

The siege didn't go well for the besieging Ottomans; they gave up after four months. (But I bet it wouldn't have turned out that way if those galleys cannonading the harbor had meson guns.)

In the 16th century, towns in northern Italy bankrupted themselves putting up modern fortifications. Huge amounts of money were spent on state-of-the-art defenses.

Thinking of starships as defensive weapons - the modern means of defeating other starships - then the fleet surrounding a planet is Traveller's walled city. It's silly to place your defensive fleet anywhere but where you want defended - because anything you put "forward" of that can be bypassed by fleets with good logistic chains. You place patrols and forward fleets at key locations, but your main fleet has to stay home. It's your moat. So the vast bulk of a world's shipbuilding budget must go to getting the most, best, biggest ships you can buy and putting them in orbit.

On the face of it, this seems to call for the building of big gun carrying system ships, not starships - though I dislike the notion of a fleet having no opportunity to either retreat, or to attempt pursuit of a retreating foe. An outclassed system defense boat is a dead system defense boat. A jump-capable fleet, outclassed, can still be saved for another day.

Also: I'm assuming a large Imperium Festerium: any planetary fleet is going to be, at least notionally, subject to the empire. The world may have a responsibility to provide a significant portion of its ship-build as auxiliary, or even as part of the main battle fleet. So at least half of the naval budget ought to go to jumpships,  I'm guessing. Assuming the relative scarcity of pilots, keep ship sizes up and fleet numbers down.

IN other words, the role of a fleet as an anti-siege device concentrates it on one world, and keeps it from being all over the subsector inconveniencing free traders.

 So a high pop, high tech world fleet: 45% main battle fleet:

EDIT: Owing to a fascinating discussion with TCS veterans on the CT-Starships Yahoo Group, the following revisions to the below:

BBs should be few and huge: flagships.
BE: Their escorts should be in the 20kt range and have the largest spinals possible for the size.
BCs should be as stated - but they're not strictly line of battle ships. Keep for pursuit or independent ops.
The screening ships should be smaller, harder to hit and plentiful: 2000 tons or less. Note that a larger fleet can make up for a lack of agility.

BBs: spinal mount ships supplemented with multiple bays & turrets high armor and screens, highly redundant systems, minimal carried craft, J-3 standard (or best if lower)  High escape agility is ideal, but extreme combat agility less so. The "stand and fight" ships. 70kton +, size no object.

BCs: spinal mount ships, multiple bays & turrets; less armor and redundancy, minimal carried craft, J3 or 4, high combat agility preferable for pursuit. For escort of BBs, pursuit, and independent operations. Should be in the 10-60 kton range.

BE - escorts for the battleships: their performance should match that of the BBs they escort; should be heavily armored to provide screening. 10-60 ktons, lighter spinal mounts, more granular weaponry.

Destoyers and frigates, running from 1000 to 9000 tons, should be added to a) improve strategic fleet numbers for purposes of initiative and b) provide granularity in weapons systems. The main fleet will be very meson heavy; these ships should be built around bay "spinal" weapons with a variety of turrets.

NOT a carrier navy.

50% home defense fleet:
A similar breakdown of heavily armored, highly resilient monitor craft built around the biggest mesons possible, and an array of system defense craft for pursuit and system patrol.

5% Patrol element: some variant of the T or C, upgunned, in whatever numbers available, for subsector patrol duties.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Blah Blah High Guard Blah Blah

So I'm pretty much settled: I'm bringing in High Guard, definitely for combat. For most of what I do, which is solitaire, and most of which is most likely for me to do, which is via email, HG combat is superior to LBB2. I think that I'll be dispensing with LBB2's computer programming rules, as well. I might just hand-wave that the standard design streamlined types (S, A, R, T) all automatically have purification systems whereas the unstreamlined craft (C, M, Y) don't.

In terms of ship building, I'm either going to

A) retain LBB2's shipbuilding (and power plant fuel performance) as an option for off-the-shelf ships, as suggested in LBB5
B) dispense with LBB2 ship designs and go with HG builds altogether. (Actually, may try this my next round of solitaire)

I'm leaning towards A; if only because a high-guard built Scout or Free Trader is so much more expensive to buy, and so much cheaper to run.

I'm not decided whether I want to allow LBB2 designed ships pack a full complement of LBB2 weaponry, or whether they'll stay restricted to LBB5 energy point constraints. Can a Free Trader with an A power plant pack two triple pulse laser turrets, while the comparable LBB5- built ship can only use a pair of lasers? Can your scout pack a triple turret full of lasers?

And HG sucks up a wonderful amount of whatever defense budget you imagine your planets have. LBB2 ships are cheap, lending themselves to vast, sky-darkening hordes. HG absorbs that into five huge battlecruisers. I've been away from HG long enough that I don't really remember how the cost/benefit thing works with ship sizes, and whether, for example, a small fleet of colossal meson ships built around the biggest weapons is at an advantage or disadvantage to a fleet of ships built around less huge spinal mounts.

When the planet a jump away can afford fifty thousand patrol cruisers, you can't sneeze without running into one. Having the big bullies concentrated in one place seems a good idea to me.

I do think that in terms of regular patrolling, a small ship like a type T still makes sense: they're relatively cheap, they pack punch, and - far better than a SDB -  they can get word to The Fleet that something's coming. Even so, your spacefaring world with tens of billions funding a navy - even at cr50 a head - can buy an awful lot of those, so a higher-performance ship (a 2000 ton picket ship, built around a 100 ton bay) might well be suitable, if overkill.

Most ships of the Adventurer's league are still going to be small ships, just in terms of budget.

Most self-sufficient worlds with a population 7 or more within a jump of another will have major commercial linkages, and those will sometimes involve much larger ships than the Free Traders and Subbies. They'll be on routes. They'll virtually never go anywhere without a high port, so commercially C and D ports remain small-ship, almost exclusively.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More thoughts on bigger-scale trade

So, about trade: found this nugget from MWM on CotI:


"Marc (if I may), was the CT LBB2 trade system with it's per jump rates and the rest supposed to apply for any and all trade in the game, or was it really meant to be just for player characters operating a jump-1 Free Trader?"
- far-trader

Although I want the systems to define how the whole world works, I also understand that they can’t. The trade system was intended to define what a typical Free Trader could expect to make, and skewed slightly hard, to encourage supplemental activity to make up for the losses that Trade seemed to generate.


Which is pretty much how I work it - this is the trade available to a Free Trader, using the term to refer to the class of independent merchant as opposed to the ship type. It means that a different kind of trade is needed in order to support bigger ships, or rather, that bigger ships aren't needed or appropriate for this class of trade. Build yourself a thousand ton freighter, and try to run it like a free trader... you'll have empty holds an awful lot.

Subsidies provide for the next rung up, mainly by allowing a ship to get by on empty holds, providing service on otherwise unprofitable routes.

It seems that there ought to be competition for service on the really profitable routes, no? I don't know quite how I want to organize that. It may be that your Free Trader types are tolerable competition - unless they set up a regular route, in which case they might run up against the big shots.

Perhaps a shipping line receives a privilege, or a license to serve a given route - and absent that, cargo and passengers won't be assigned? 

Or rather, a privilege to serve a given port?

The usual interpretation of starports as being Imperial territory would tend to argue against this, though: so, any ship has access to a port (unless there's a restriction); there's an implication that cargo and passengers will come and go as freely. But the big fish - with access to planetside manufactures, for instance - will have other deals arranged. 

For example, factories:

If a merchant or cartel intends to keep a factory onworld, it needs to have the permission of the local government, OR needs to be sufficiently powerful that the government can't.remove the factory. If there's no government, then the factory needs to be sufficiently powerful to provide its own protection.

NOTES from wiki:
Factors in Europe: " the Factor(s) and his officers rented the housing and warehouses, arbitrated trade and even managed insurance funds, working both as an association and an embassy, even administering justice within the merchant community"

Monday, March 21, 2011

More Solitaire Fun, More Selling Fun

So, I've been cobbling together a few subsectors following my new directives; and since I'm doing the world generation by hand, I figure I might as well get a little adventuring going on. Planned on running a scout & merchant operation, but then lucked out with a ship-owning merchant captain and decided to do the trading game while rolling worlds. So far so good; there's a few little clusters of safe-ish, moderately prosperous worlds to serve as a "cradle" until I can get the ship upgunned.

Now, I've been selling a lot of my ancillary books: my supplements, books 6-8, my adventures and so on. And I figured I really can't get away with selling my copies of books 4 and 5; they're a little too raggedy for it to be worth it, since there are better copies on the market - and when I think back, as a kid, I never had much beef with either book in the way that I did with the later ones.

So when I DO up-gun this here free trader, I'm thinking I migh follow High Guard rules, and I'll use High Guard combat. It makes a difference: Poor little thing only has 2 EP: in LBB2, you can pack six beam lasers in those two turrets. Book 2 only allows for a pair. I'm thinking in terms of a double beam turret and a triple sandcaster.

On the other hand, one doesn't have to spend so much on computer programs...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Starting Again

I never really had much beef with the Spinward Marches, on the whole. It's a neat setting. The Vargr and Aslan always sorta bugged me, though - and while I thought the other aliens were done better, the only one I really seriously liked and wanted to include in one way or another were the Zhodani.

SO classic. Mindreading, turban-wearing mystics in space.

So I wonder how I want to cherrypick 'em.

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's a nice day for a white wedding. It's a nice day to start again.

So, as I gradually attempt to sell off the books I don't use, I've been thinking a bit more about those that I do intend to use, and what with.

Having been through the whole Festrian setting a fair bit, I'm interested in maybe going small focus again: not so broad and sweeping, but more adventure level.

The setting: Again, nine subsectors: worlds of the Old Empire.

This time, the Old Empire hasn't disappeared; it's just very overspread, remote, and its direct influence is minimal. Local worlds owe fealty to the Emperor, but are more or less left to their own devices as long as taxes are paid.

Local elements of the Imperial navy will be relatively small-ship based: the big ship Imperial navy is reserved for Deus Ex Machina maneuvers.

Scouts are Imperial, rather than independent.

The object is, somewhat counter-intuitively, to keep things small. If there's a big Imperium, then there aren't big pocket empires waging major campaigns for the PCs to get swept up in: if the biggest local polity is a world,  with the Imperial nobility hanging above, then there's more room for small-scale cloak and dagger stuff.

In all, closer to the 3I, but less hands-on than the OTU generally got to be - with the exception that while worlds will have some independence, there won't really be pocket empires: there'll be some captive governments to be sure, but anything on a grand scale is the sort of thing the Imperium won't like.

The focus should be initially on the subsector the adventurers will start out in, and in particular, on the cluster of worlds they'll be likely to explore first.

SO: first order of business: build me a subsector.
Next, sketch out political relationships between worlds, and local trade patterns.
Third, pick a good world for the adventurers to start from - one equally ripe for spacer or groundhog adventures, and one where there's enough potential for political intrigue for that sort of adventure.
Then? Maybe start work on adventure threads to cover possibilities:
  1. Traditional impoverished guns-for hire?
  2. Traditional impoverished starship captain & crew?
  3. Something vaguely mercenary-ish?
  4. High corporate skulduggery?
  5. High political skulduggery?
  6. High society - any nobs in the party?
  7. Imperial Entanglements?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

And Now A Commercial Break!

You'll have noticed I haven't been posting so much: My focus lately's been more on music and such, and work, and things of that ilk. So this is on hold.

Part of my project - studying the MASS of Classic Traveller rules to interpret obvious gaps in the core rules - is basically done. So if and when I come back to actively playing the game, I have my rationale sewn up tight. And all I'll need are Little Black Books 1-3. 

SO! I have the rest of the books, and many of the supplements and adventures, and I'm gradually selling them, mainly on eBay:

My Current eBay Auctions:

Not up yet, but soon to be:
Adventures 1, 2, and 7;
Double Adventures 1, 3, 4, and 6;
and an absolutely gorgeous copy of The Traveller Book - nice enough to tempt me to keep it, really.

Let me know if you want dibs on them before I post 'em.