Sunday, August 31, 2014

Story Vehicles or Vehicles for Stories?

I whipped up some rules for vehicle trashing in Classic Traveller fashion (or Mercenary style if you prefer.) First there are three ways to deal with vehicle  combat. Decide which you prefer.

Story Mode
You can just leave things as they are. Don't have people with tac missiles take on PCs in an ATV. Vehicles are to take you from point A to point C (point B is where you stick in things like a rockslide or an amorous encounter between a dinosauroid and your ATV.)

Give the group a roll to avoid destruction of their ride similar to avoiding mishaps with a DM based on the threat level. A Scout with a body pistol isn't going to bother an AFV much and not for long if you have a gunner or a don't mind a dent on the front bumper. So, an ATV that has to throw +4 to avoid mishap might take a -1 for each 3D the attacking weapon does or -1 per die if you like blowing ATVs up.

Extended Rules
The CT system is one where armor affects hit probability. I'm going to assume a plain vanilla civilian vehicle has a skin equal to mesh. It has some value against bullets but isn't designed for defense. Penetrating the armor is not the whole story because you have to hit something important to affect the vehicle. That sounds like cover to me. That affords a -4 to be hit for humans and we can assume most vehicles have a volume of important stuff equal to a human in size. So the mesh is further modified by -4 max. Smaller or more exposed vehicles will have a smaller modifier. Helicopters and airplanes are pretty fragile, they might rate mesh -1, hovercraft -2, air rafts, ground cars -3 and the huge ATV types the full -4. Note that while hitting a 5 meter ATV is easier than hitting a sportscar the ATV is way less likely to notice you and your body pistol (except for the bump. Did you feel that?) Automatic weapons roll for additional hits normally.

People in the vehicle that are partially exposed would get -1 to be hit at Medium, -2 at long and -4 at very long. Like evading. People in an open topped vehicle like an air raft only receive a -1 to be hit at long and -2 at very long range. A vehicle passenger or crewman just hanging out a hatch or a ride on the deck doesn't get this bonus. Keep your head down. Passengers using gun ports to attack are -4 to be hit. That's serious cover.

Ruggedized vehicles like the ATV would have a base armor class of cloth. Paramilitary vehicles like the AFV or GCarrier might have combat environment or combat armor equivalent. If you want to talk heavier armor get Striker. Mr. Chadwick does a way better job than I do.

A hit to a vehicle can use the small craft damage table from Book 2. Generally a hit disables a system. A drive hit means your ride is over. High performance vehicles like the speeder or ground car could take two or three drive hits with speed being reduced by 25%, 50%, 75%. Computer hits would destroy or damage electronics.

Small arms that hit a vehicle have a 1 in 6 chance of damaging a system for each die of damage they cause, so 3 in 6 for most firearms. Optionally just give the vehicle a hit whenever the damage inflicted adds to six. So if you manage to hit the AFV with you body pistol you have a 2 in 6 chance for it to notice. Hitting with both shots from an automatic rifle will get you an automatic hit of damage.

Ship lasers will do 1D of hits to  a vehicle. Missiles (ship mounted or tac) will do 2D. Optionally apply the hits all to one system. A vehicle can take hull hits equal to its tonnage before catching fire, exploding or just being blown into confetti. Throw +10 to bail out of a vehicle, +appropriate skill, +1 if Dex is 9+. Success means you get out mildly singed or bruised and manage to grab your gear. If the roll is '7' or less you take 1-6D of damage and get out with just the armor on your back . An '8' or '9' means you take 1-3D and grab a sidearm or other small item.

Weapons on a vehicle can be fired at speed bumps errr people. The human targets get a -1 to be hit, -2 from turreted weapons. Evading is a good idea.

Vehicles can evade like characters. This only works vs. vehicular and similar weapons.

Let me know what you think, especially if you playtest them.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gearing Up

I would love to get a Traveller game going again. I'm trying to get one going face to face or on hangouts. I'm gearing up for it mentally and I often do that by writing gear for my players (Okay make that weapons.)

I've gone over Book1 combat in Classic Traveller. In my earlier posts I tried to fill a few holes I noticed in the combat tables. I had fun. In doing it I came to learn a bit about ClassicTraveller and where it stands in current game theory.

First I have no idea how the combat system mirrors reality. It is a game system based on reality. Many fiddly bits of ballistics are streamlined. For example most bullets do 3D of damage. I think it gives a good (and fun) game simulation of a fight. In filling in some gaps weapon wise I wanted to make sure they fit in the RAW well. I think I did.

The other thing I did was introduce a bunch of smaller end weapons to give my players options. Now instead of reaching for your carbine or automatic rifle, you might want to consider the machine pistol for some quiet work. It's much easier to hide than that rifle and has a lot more kick than an automatic pistol. One thing a referee has to know is the players will use the options you give them. If you want to emphasize stealth missions, give them some stealthy weapons. If you want o create a gonzo fight give them a gatling laser etc. I think I'm going to work up more stealth angles since throwing a mess of bullets at your problems seems to be covered already.

The militarization of Traveller started with Mercenary. It's neither a good or bad thing. It's a direction the game went in and we don't have to use all or any part of it. You have to wonder how Traveller would look today if instead of Mercenary GDW decided to produce something like Book 4: Espionage. Truthfully a lot of player character antics involve sneaking around.

Is there a chance of Far Future Enterprises putting out a OGL for Classic Traveller?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I'm Not Crazy, I Passed My Morale Throw

As I've been discovering the Classic Traveller rules have a little to say on everything. So with a little tweaking they can simulate anything. One of my favorite game mechanics was Chaosium's Sanity Check, prevalent in Call of Cthulhu. Even in a hard SF setting there may be aliens that are just to darn alien for us to abide or maybe H.P. Lovecraft was right and we'll run into Mi-Gos or their friends out there.

I think the Morale rules from LBB 1 stand in quite well for Sanity checks. Deep Ones, Werewolves and humanoid monsters might invite a standard throw for Morale and maybe not till they revealed their true nature. Most Vargr and Irklan don't eat people they have just met. The more exotic races like the Mi-Go or Flying Polyps would warrant a -1 or -2 when first encountered. The more mind blasting cosmic horrors would start at -3.

Failing a Morale throw not only means the character runs but would temporarily reduce their Int, Edu or Soc by one or more dice. The first throw applies the entire reduction to one characteristic (sound familiar?) The dice of damage would equal the minus to moral throws give or take a die.

You could impose some positive modifiers to give the poor characters more of a chance than Call of Cthulhu character (you thought dying in character generation was rough, hah!) Combat drug (or liquor) could give a +1 or +2 to Morale throws. Being in a large group could add +1. It's the ref's call on what a large group is but I'd put it at five times the negative modifier the creature imposes. Being under cover or concealment would give +1 at Short range, +2 at Medium etc. Scouts should get a +1 because they get paid to deal with weird stuff.

If your character blows the morale throw and their characteristics are reduced you might want to give them the following penalties:

Int 3 or less: you are unaware of anything beyond your immediate surroundings and will run into a wall or obstacle or attack a friend on +9.

Edu 3 or less: Your responses are instinctual. You will use a gun as a club or try to batter down a door with your head.

Soc 3 or less: You disgrace yourself with your show of fear. Your Social Standing is reduced by 3 until you find a way to redeem yourself (usually by facing a similar threat and not needing to dry clean your reflec afterwards.)

Note that if a character starts with a three or less in any of these stats they do not suffer any negative effects until it is reduced by one or two.

A character who has one characteristic reduced to zero has a breakdown and will be good for nothing for at least a day. A character with two characteristics is not only unstable but dangerous to themselves and others. A character with all three characteristics reduced to zero is either catatonic or in need of restraints.

The characteristics return to normal at a rate of one point a day per characteristic if one characteristic is reduced to zero, at a rate of one point a week per characteristic if two characteristics are reduced to zero and at one point a month per characteristic if all three are reduced to zero. In addition characters with all three characteristics reduced to zero need 1-6 months of therapy at Cr. 5000 per month.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tech Level Make Overs

I've seen a lot of discussions about equipment in Traveller over the years (and started some.) Something I noticed was the Tech Level chart continues pretty unchanged since the LBB set. Some rules refine it by setting different tech levels for different areas (computers, medicine etc.)

You might think people tend to go with the RAW out of expedience, peer pressure or lack of energy. But these are gamers we're talking about. Believe me there is no game we won't rip apart. Give us ten minutes and Spartacus will be flying in a Piper Cub over your ancients battle. So I'm forced to conclude the TL table is usually unmodified because it works!

Okay the computers sizes for ships are fore the rooms and terminals they take up in the ship. You don't want your Model 6 jammed in a glove box when you need to change a memory module while dodging laser blasts. I'm not hear to modify tech levels today. I'm pondering changing their feel for settings. What if we wanted to use Traveller (in Particular CT) to run a game with a Buck Rogers feel to it? I'm talking about the newspaper comics from the '30's. Not the '70's show. That was a fun romp but it wasn't Buck Rogers.

Surprisingly little work needs to be done. You can get away with murder jst by renaming things. I'll start by assuming TL up to level 5 is unchanged since it was stuff they already had around. I'm going to peg the 'Twenty-Fifth Century' TL at 12 since they seemed to have commercially available robots and of course grav-belts (just call them rocket belts.)

Air rafts become flying cars of course. Laser weapons become heat rays or blasters (use the stats I put up for laser pistols for blaster pistols.) Fusion reactors become atom chambers. Assume the hydrogen is for cooling purposes if you must. Many writers in the 30's assumed atomic energy was a sort of partial (or total in Heinlein's stories) conversion that was remarkably clean and well behaved (like traveller's fusion generators!) Everyone will be wearing shiny silver suits (and look good in them) meaning reflec armor! Ordinary firearms become needlers!

Computers become the volume of the actual system. Double this for access room and two meter view screens. Tubes made from Lunar quartzite might be unbreakable but they still eat up the space.

Instead of jump drives the ship's jump number becomes the speed in AUs per week. The maneuver drive becomes downgraded to a chemical or fission rocket with and its endurance reduced to hours instead of weeks. The short range drives are good for hops to the moon or between moons but not much else.

Tech level 13 or higher is the domain of the eccentric or plain crazy scientist. The friendlier eccentric scientist is the one who works within society and usually is limited to 2-3 weird inventions. They are pretty dependable. The mad scientist, well, he's mad. Use his services at your own risk. You may get him to clone a bunch of Einsteins for your plan but they might wind up deciding to be tap dancers.

You might allow a scientist to reduce his social standing by one r more points to increase their education or intelligence. This represents the scientist thinking outside of the box and being shunned by more reputable scholars as he goes off the deep end. You could rule that he swaps a point or more for each invention. Lower your Soc below 7 say, and congratulations, you're a whack-a-doodle who was laughed out of the University. The fools!

I'm one of those referees who enjoys the heavy lifting of setting design but we all should be aware that a lot of setting a tone can be done by renaming things. Look at how far speaking with a crappy English accent will get you at a Renaissance Faire.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Combat in a Matrix Pt. 2

In Book 4: Mercenary, Frank Chadwick and GDW introduced many of the features we have come to associate with Traveller. You had the powerful and remote government that gave zero f*cks, the mercenary unit for campaigning and many items of equipment near and dear to our hearts.

It's also the book where the combat system comes the closest to breaking in my opinion. The Gauss Rifle and various energy weapons are a little too good. Players going up against a plasma or fusion gun are in trouble, even in battledress (or an armored car.) The hit mods were just too good (especially on automatic fire.)

As I went through the book again I thought that problem was I was thinking of it in the wrong terms. Combat in Book 1 was a bit more cinematic. You could make a break for it and live if you were lucky (and had cloth armor.) Book 4 was war. You shot it out at great ranges at high tech levels. You made full use of the best armor, concealment, cover, evasion and obscurement devices or you died.

More than a hash of different systems and being rules light in various departments we know are VITAL now this was the heart of Old School: your actions had consequences. You had to learn how to bite the bear and sometimes the bear bit you.

I wrote up the following weapons I'd discussed in my previous post. With the exception of the Coil Gun none of them are as deadly as half the stuff in Mercenary. You should still use cover, concealment and obscuration wherever you can. It doesn't matter whether you take a shot from a body pistol to the head or get hit with a plasma burst. Dead is dead.

Heavy Body Pistol (900 grams loaded; Cr 520; TL 6): A semi-automatic pistol designed to be worn concealed. It fires 8 gram projectiles at a velocity of 350 to 400 meters per second. A magazine containing 15 cartridges is located in the pistol handle.

Heavy body pistol ammunition is interchangeable with the ammunition for submachineguns. A heavy body pistol can be fitted with a silencer.

Length: 200mm. Weight, unloaded: 850 grams (a loaded magazine weighs 50 grams). Base price: Cr500 (one loaded magazine: Cr10).

Heavy Body Pistol 3D
Characteristics - Length: 200 mm. Weight: 850 grams. Base Price: Cr 500.
Req. Dex 7 RDM -2 Adv. Dex 10 ADM +1
Nothing Jack Mesh Cloth Reflec Ablat. Battle
+1         +1     -2     -3       +1       -1       -6
Close     Short    Medium   Long Very Long 

+1          +2          -4            -6      no

Machine Pistol (1800 grams loaded; Cr520; TL 6): A small automatic weapon designed to fire heavy body pistol ammunition. It fires 8 gram bullets at a velocity of 350 to 400 meters per second. Magazines holding 30 cartridges are inserted into the weapon in the pistol grip. The gun fires four rounds per pull of the trigger. Machine pistol ammunition is interchangeable with body pistol ammunition. Most machine pistols are equipped with slings or holsters to allow ease of carrying. Several machine pistols are collapsible and easily carried in a pocket until unfolded and loaded with a magazine. This takes one round (two if the user is evading.) 

Length: 270mm. Weight, unloaded:1300 grams (loaded
magazine: 500 grams). Base price: Cr400 (loaded magazine: Cr20).

Machine Pistol 3D
Characteristics - Length: 270 mm. Weight: 1800 grams. Base Price: Cr 520.
Req. Dex 6 RDM -2 Adv. Dex 9 ADM +1
Nothing Jack Mesh Cloth Reflec Ablat. Battle
+4         +4     +1     -4      0         -1         -6
Close     Short    Medium   Long Very Long 

-4          +3         +1            -5       no

Heavy Submachinegun (2000 grams loaded; Cr520; TL 6): A small automatic weapon designed to fire assault rifle ammunition. It fires  6mm 5 gram bullets at velocities of 900 meters per second. Magazines holding 30 cartridges are inserted into the weapon behind the pistol grip. The gun fires four rounds per pull of the trigger. Heavy submachinegun ammunition is interchangeable with carbine or assault rifle ammunition. Most heavy submachineguns are equipped with slings to allow ease of carrying.

Length: 500mm. Weight, unloaded:1670 grams (loaded magazine: 330 grams). Base price: Cr600 (loaded magazine: Cr20).

Heavy Submachinegun 3D
Characteristics - Length: 500 mm. Weight: 2000 grams. Base Price: Cr 520.
Req. Dex 7 RDM -2 Adv. Dex 10 ADM +2
Nothing Jack Mesh Cloth Reflec Ablat. Battle
+6         +6     0       -3      +6         +2       -4
Close     Short    Medium   Long Very Long 
-4          +1         0             -4        -5

Laser Pistol (750 grams, excluding power belt; Cr 2000; TL 9): The standard high energy sidearm, firing high energy bolts in the same manner as the laser carbine. Lighter than the laser carbine, the laser pistol is capable of sustained action. A power belt  can provide 30 shots before recharging and includes a holster. The laser pistol is connected to the power pack by a heavy duty cable. Power belts are not interchangeable between the other laser weapons.

Length: 350mm. Weight of pistol: 750 grams. Weight of power belt: 1500 grams. Base price: Cr2000 (extra power packs: Cr 750). Cost of recharge, at commercial rates: Cr180. 

Accessories: the following accessory is available for laser pistols.

Power Stocks (2000 grams; Cr 1000; TL 9): It is possible to produce a shoulder stock which may be attached temporarily to a laser pistol, resulting in a crude carbine arrangement and some greater accuracy at longer ranges as well as holding power for several shots. The overall length of the pistol is increased by the length of the stock, and the pistol cannot be holstered. Attaching the stock (or detaching it) requires one combat rounds or two if the user is evading. The stock powers 20 shots and adds 350 mm to the pistols length. The stock can’t be used with standard laser carbines or rifles.

Laser Pistol 4D
Characteristics - Length: 350 mm. Weight: 750 grams. Base Price: Cr 2000.
Req. Dex 7 RDM -2 Adv. Dex 9 ADM +1
Nothing Jack Mesh Cloth Reflec Ablat. Battle
+2         +2     +1     +1       -8       -7       -6
Close     Short    Medium     Long Very Long
-2          +2          0               -1        no

Smoke grenades
Mercenary mentions smoke grenades but doesn't give rules for their use. I suggest they count as partial darkness at TL 5-7 and total darkness for TL 8-9. Electronic sights have these penalties at TL 8 or 9.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Combat in a Matrix

I have posted before that the Classic Traveller personal combat system is quite sophisticated for all its apparent simplicity. I like the idea of weapon penetration being factored into hit probability as opposed to armor reducing damage. No system is perfect. The true test of any system is how well it hangs together and plays. It's game oriented. While it isn't a strict simulation you are given options that generate tactics and moves as you try to optimize your fighting under the game system. The tactics you use are similar to reality I suppose. My experience with guns is shooting a carbine and a automatic pistol at perfectly passive targets (unless you count Gun Building 3.)

Where the system is kludgy is in introducing new or variant weapons as there is little inkling of the underlying system. How exactly does armor penetration relate to hit mods for armor? I started out using 'Guns, Guns, Guns by Greg Porter (BTRC.) I stopped that right away because Traveller is not a faithful simulation of reality but game oriented as I mentioned. I snipped out a section of the combat matrix as follows:

N    J   M   C    R   A   B
0     0   -2   -4   -4   -2   -7    Body Pistol
+1 +1  -1    -3  +1   -1   -5   Auto Pistol
+1 +1  -1    -3  +1   -1   -5    Revolver
+2 +2   0    -3  +2   -1   -5    Carbine
+3 +3   0    -3  +2  +1   -5    Rifle
+5 +5   0    -3  +5  +2   -4    SMG
+6 +6 +2    -1  +6  +3   -3    Auto Rifle

I looked at the matrix for any significant gaps to fill in. What I saw was the huge performance gap between the body pistol and revolvers and auto pistols. No surprise since the former use .32 caliber rounds and the latter use .357 or similar rounds. What happened to the 9 mil and .45 caliber guns that are pretty common? 

The submachine gun does fire 9mm rounds from its description but in a burst of four which affects hit probability. Mercenary is obliging enough to give you modifiers for weapons fired on semi and automatic modes. Book 1 isn't. It does say that firing an automatic rifle on semi uses the rifle modifiers for armor. Subtracting the rifle mods from the automatic rifle mods I got the following:

+3 +3   0    -3  +2  +1   -5    Rifle
+5 +5   0    -3  +5  +2   -4    SMG
+6 +6 +2    -1  +6  +3   -3    Auto R.

+3 +3 +2   +2  +4  +2   +2   Auto Bonus 

Okay it's not as simple as one mod. I subtracted these modifiers from the SMG's armor mods to get an idea what a single 9mm could do in the game

N    J   M    C   R   A    B
+5 +5   0    -3  +5  +2   -4    SMG

+3 +3 +2   +2  +4  +2   +2   Auto Bonus (Automatic Rifle)
+2 +2 -2    -3  +1    0    -2    9 mm pistol

I then constrained the results. the 9mm round could not be worse than a body pistol or better than the .357 figuring the longer barrel of the SMG and its optimizing as a full automatic weapon must have counted for a higher auto fire bonus than the rifle.

N    J   M   C    R    A    B

0     0   -2   -4   -4   -2   -7    Body Pistol
+2 +2  -2    -4    0    0   -2    9 mm pistol version one

+1 +1  -2    -3    0   -2   -6    Heavy Body Pistol (constrained results)

+1 +1  -1    -3  +1   -1   -5    Auto Pistol

There, a 9mm or .45 pistol for you.Not as powerful as the standard auto pistol or revolver but a bit easier to hide and maybe quicker to draw. I'd set the damage at 3d since most firearms do that.

While we're at it what about a small machine pistol fire .32 caliber bullets? the automatic fire bonus for the SMG actually worked out to :

N    J   M   C    R    A    B

+4 +4  +1    0  +4   +3  +1   SMG Bonus

 Add those to the Body Pistol's armor mods and you get:

N    J   M   C    R    A    B

0     0   -2   -4   -4   -2   -7   Body Pistol
+4 +4  +1    0  +4   +3  +1   SMG Bonus
+4 +4   -1   -4   0   +1   -6   Machine Pistol

There's something a little more concealable than an SMG but with a bit more kick than an Auto Pistol or revolver.

In going over the weapons matrix I noted the following when I looked at the carbine and then the
assault rifle in Mercenary:

N    J   M   C    R   A   B
+2 +2   0   -3   +2   -1   -5   Carbine
+2 +2  -1   -3   +2    0   -5   Assault rifle

It seems weird to me that the matrix by and large gives better modifiers across the board to account for better penetration but the Carbine and Assault Rifles differ and have the same caliber. Worse they are better at punching through different armor types. The Carbine cuts through Ablative and the Assault Rifle through Mesh. I suggest that both weapons use these modifiers:

N    J   M   C    R   A   B
+2 +2  -1   -3   +2    0   -5   Carbine/Assault Rifle

I'd also like to note that reflec is way better than your bare skin or even jack against Body Pistols. If you're doing undercover work wearing a reflec suit under your tuxedo (or robes of nobility) might be the way to go. 

The real world equivalents for the Revolver and Auto Pistol are described as the S&W M66 .357 Magnum and S&W Model 59 9mm or Auto-Mag .44 Magnum at the end of the combat section of Book 1. In the description for each weapon they are both described as firing 9mm bullets. In fact SMG rounds are described as interchangeable with Auto Pistol rounds. But there's a difference from all that I read and heard between a 9mm round and a .44 Magnum round.

So if you want to use my little jottings just assume the SMG uses Heavy Body Pistol ammunition instead of Auto Pistol ammunition.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Terran Cruiser Variants and Notes

The Leif Ericson provides a model for the Solar Strategic Command Cruiser Mk 1. There are others being introduced. Starship design is relatively new and there is a lot for humans to learn.

Solar Strategic Command Cruiser Mk 2 (Marco Polo)- The Mark 2 cruiser expands on the nose mounted laser emitter. Two wings on either side of the 'sail' each mount a similar emitter which works on the rules given in the Showing the Flag At the Icy Shores (8/15/14.) These emitters increase the chance of damaging the power plant to 11+. Power plant damage may shut down any or all of the three emitters (roll 10+ for each to check.)

The Mk 2 has more extensive wings and has a +1 to rolls made for wilderness refueling.

Solar Strategic Command Cruiser Mk 3 (Omar Bradley)- The Mark 3 replaces the complex arrangement of the triple emitter system with regular triple turrets. The fusion rockets are replaced with 645 tons of additional cargo or additional frozen watch and troops. These ships are often assigned support roles, landing troops, moving cargo or tending smaller scout craft.

Battlecruiser Mk X (No designation made public)- The Mk X is similar to the Mk 2 but has a larger displacement. Most of this is in a sixth deck over and around the shuttle bay/engineering section. No hard data has been released on this vessel.

Rumor- The Mk X is an attempt to address several critical design flaws in the SSC Cruiser. It has no linked emitters like earlier ships. The fusion rocket is removed in favor of more dependable thrusters and the shuttle bay enlarged to operate a squadron of boats.

Rumor- The Mk X has new particle beam cannons in place of the nose and wing lasers.

Rumor- The Mk X has a new extremely fuel efficient jump drive.

Rumor- The Mk X has components back engineered from alien technology found by archaeologists.

Rumor- The 'fuel tanks under the wings are actually probes or jump capable message torpedoes.

Custom drop tanks on the Mk X allow it to perform wilderness refueling while the tanks are in place. The tanks may not be for fuel but liquid cargo or bombs.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hand Polished Handwavium

I have compiled a few rules about using Handwavium in my settings.

1) Use handwavium only in the interests of expediting stories.

2) Use only as much handwavium as you need for the story. You pay for handwavium with your players' disbelief.

3) Figure out the fallout from your handwavium.

4) Put limits on your handwavium. Just because you're playing merry Hell with the laws of physics doesn't mean you should get cocky. It also keeps the handwavium from becoming the answer to all problems.

5) Be on the lookout for unobtainium that can replace the handwavium (more unobtainium is being dug up every day.)

Disclaimer. I am not a scientist or engineer. I have often gm'd scientists and engineers.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

M-Drives, J-Drives and the Rule of Cool

I know it's only Saturday but I wanted to get this down now and polish it later.

Regarding Traveller's M-Drives and J-Drives I came up with the following. Note NONE of this is canon. But I like it.

Both drives are related. The forces an M-Drive generates are used in the J-Drive to turn a micro wormhole into a macro wormhole.

The M-drive also generates matter as it operates, WIMP particles, which balance the momentum generated by the drive (The New Law is the conservation of Matter/Momentum.) Around a planet (within the hundred diameter limit these particles annihilate themselves continuously and produce the light and heat associated with thruster plates. In empty space running the M-drive causes them to build up. The longer you're under accelerations the more energy you throw into the field. The particles travel with the ship and reach a sort of stability in zero-g. Entering a gravity well screws this up and fast so ships spend a few extra hours moving tangent to their destination world to bleed this energy off. Otherwise, they can cause an explosion and damage the ship. A ship moving at relativistic speeds will burn up before it gets near a world.

Another side effect of the M-drive is that computers do not like them. Some of the early STL ships were built with their computers next to the engineering deck and suffered repeated malfunctions. Some were lost due to this effect. Ships today are built with their control centers are far from the M-drives as possible. Therefore you have ships with the bridge fore and the engines aft.

Another side effect of this is that small ships with high powered engines can't be operated solely by computer. They need a human operator so starfighters and launches need human pilots. Missiles use exotic rockets to allow their guidance to function.

Jump drives have a similar effect. After breaking out of jump space the ship's computers are reset. In fact exiting jump space also disorients organic minds. You can overcome the effect with experience and some drugs minimize the effect. In general you want your command crew away from the jump drive when you break out to minimize their disorientation (especially since your main computer is shut down or rebooting.) So we have the bridge and computers as far from the drives as possible.

A jump drive uses most of its hydrogen fuel to hold the wormhole open and create a safe bubble for the ship. The higher the jump number the more pressure exerted on the wormhole and safety bubble and the more hydrogen you need. Early drives can also require more hydrogen. Super refined fuel uses nano materials to maintain greater stability in the bubble.

Letting materials heavier than hydrogen contact jump space is a bad thing. They break down almost immediately into hydrogen and release a lot of energy, possibly destroying your ship. If a ship's safety bubble collapses it disintegrates into superheated plasma.

M-Drives and grav plates also generate wimps that are flushed out of the ship and stabilized using hydrogen. A ship with its artificial gravity and thrusters turned off could operate indefinitely as most of the hydrogen 'fuel ' never even sees the ship's fusion  reactor.

Hydrogen from the safety bubble escapes when a ship breaks out . The relatively heated gas creates the jump flash

Friday, August 15, 2014

Showing the Flag At the Icy Shores

So, Terra is making a grab for all colony worlds in the Icy Shores. Terra obviously needs warships. For the basic design of the Terran cruiser I can do no better than pay homage to the Leif Ericson! Designed by Matt Jefferies, the Leif Ericson began as an Aurora plastic model kit in 1969. It didn't terribly well (people have no taste.) It was then reissued in '76 as an 'Interplanetary UFO Mystery Ship.' Winchell Chung does his usual excellent job telling you about it here.

The ship turns out to have an incredible pedigree for Traveller fans and most others. When Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle wrote 'The Mote in God's Eye' they used the starship for the basic design of the INS MacArthur and rationalized some of the features to indicate that ship could enter the atmospheres of gas giants for refueling. Well Marc W. Miller himself used the book for inspiration and decided gas giant refueling was pretty neat. So the reason we have fuel scoops in Traveller is the Leif Ericson.

I mean if I'm going to use a ship in my campaign can I find a better one?

Some variants can be found here.

Mr. Chung was also obliging enough to calculate the internal volume of the ship from which I got a displacement around 3000 tons, which is pretty nifty to TL 9 (yes you can do 4000 tons but we'll reserve that for battleships and such.)

Component/ Mass/ MCr
3000 ton hull/ 0/ 330/ Streamlined
WX Jump Drive/ 120/ 360/ J-1 3000 ton Hull*
 Z M-Drive/ 47/ 96/ 2 gees
Z Power Plant/ 73/ 192
Jump Fuel/ 900/ 0/ /Jump 1 
Power/ 120/ 0 /4 weeks of operations.
Bridge/ 60/ 15
Staterooms/ 208/ 1 52/ staterooms
Computer 3/fib/ 6/ 27
Computer 3/fib/ 6/ 27 Back up
Cargo /377/ 0
2 Ship’s Boats/ 60/ 32
Hangar/ 12/ 2.4/ Fuel and stores for boats
2 ATVs/ 20/ 1.2
Garage/ 5/ 0 Fuel and spares
Hard Point/ 0/ 30
30 triple turrets/ 30/ 30
30 beam lasers/ 0/ 30
30 missile launchers/ 0/ 22.5
Missile magazine/ 45/ 4.5/ 900 missiles
30 Sandcasters/  0/ 7.5
Sand box/ 45/ 0.36/ 900 cannisters
Emergency Low/ 100/ 10
Fusion rocket/ 45/ 46
Propellant/ 600/ 0/ 8 gee hours of thrust
Armoury/ 24/ 6/ 100 marines and 100 crew
Briefing rooms (3)/ 12/ 1.5
Docking Clamp/ 10/ 2/ 300 ton capacity
Supplies/ 75/ 0/ Food and spare water, O2 etc. for 6 months

Tonnage 3000 Cost 1218.46 Mcr.

*The jump drive is a new model TL 9+ (triple fuel use as opposed to the usual quadruple fuel consumption.)

The ship is a very clean design. It has honking huge scoops on the sides. This is because refueling from a gas giant can be very dangerous! The military wants their fine flagship to do it quickly and get the hell out. Bring conservative/paranoid types the military uses not only M-drives but a rarity, fusion rockets that can fire out the back of the scoops and use ambient atmosphere to provide extra thrust. With the rockets and thrusters firing ship can make 6 gees. By itself the auxiliary rocket can accelerate the cruiser at 2 gees, enough for most gas giants. Note that most commanders will avoid refueling at a beast like Jupiter on principle. 

Note the fusion rocket is a beast and commanders are prohibited from using it in the atmosphere of any nearly habitable world unless under combat or emergency conditions. Also note it's a great threat to anyone trying to rush the ship. 

The hull is very clean and that's good for refueling. Laser emitters are on the hull, the rest of the turret working are internal. This means upgrading the weapons, repairing or replacing them are a witch (-1 dm.) The plates covering the lasers are engineered to be no impediment to the beams, they will blast right through any jammed ports. 

Three of the beam lasers are actually a single massive weapon powered by a lasing tube running the length of the boom and starting from the vessel's fusion generator. The lasing apparatus is used to start up the generator. The other end of the tube ends in a single triple size emitter firing out the nose of the ship. This turret rolls once for all three beams to hit and can hit anything in a 120 degree arc to the front. Any power planet damage will disrupt the lasing tube and shut down the nose mount on a 10+. Likewise hitting the nose mount will deliver a hit to the power plant (this requires a called shot at -4 dm or a hit with a natural 12.) Some critics have pointed this out as a design flaw.

The fusion rector is rigged to be jettisoned in an emergency. New emergency doctrine is for crew to stay with the ship unless it is completely uninhabitable.

The large hatch at the stern is the exit for the ship's ATVs. It also contains a docking clamp allowing the cruiser to lock onto a captured ship to board it easily. The clamp can hold up to a 300 ton ship. It also places the boarded ship in close proximity to the fusion rocket which is somewhat useful for intimidation.

The briefing rooms give the ship's crew or Troops +1 to Tactics for missions they have time to plan for. The watch has collapsible shelters and tent to use on planet. Typically they are not thawed in space unless they are needed.

Crew Listing
Captain (pilot)
Exec (pilot)
Helmsman (pilot)
Navigators (2)
Computer Officer
Communications Officer
Engineers (15)
Medic (2)
Gunner (30)
Flight Officer
Flight Crew (2)
ATV Crew (4)
Service Crew (6)
7 Midshipmen
68 Total
10 single staterooms
29 double occupancy
1o Passengers for mission specific roles (20 with double occupancy)

Note that Cozmo Heavy Industries has a lot of variants and size comparisons for this ship on his website

I used figures for supplies from the Atomic Rocket website. The extra compartments, fusion rocket and docking clamps are from MgT. I added some extra crew so there would always be a pilot on post and there would be a couple extra engineers to nurse the special jump drive and rocket. If a fusion rocket or jump drive acts up, no one is happy.

Rumor: The nose laser of this ship is a huge vulnerability which the designers downplayed. A laser strike there can destroy the fusion power plant (modify the hit effects if true.)

Rumor: The fusion rocket was added to the ship as a weapon to intimidate rebellious populations.

Rumor: The maneuver drive had has repeated failures due to lightning strikes and the rocket is needed as a back up when refueling.

The sensors are first rate (equal to the Scout Service requirements.) The huge cargo capacity allows the ship to easily be fitted for scientific (or spying) missions.

The military is upset the ship doesn't carry lifeboats.

Starport administrators hate these cruisers. Residual radiation around the rockets necessitate special safety procedures.

The ship boats are a pain to launch and tend to surge forward before rising to clear the shuttle deck. A sure and experienced hand is needed to avoid dings and minor damage.

Special thanks to Winchell Chung and Cozmo Heavy Industries for inspiration.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Going Gonzo

When I went to college I got a job writing schedules for freshmen. The hours were long but the pay was low. On the bright side it was easy work once you got the hang off it and during registration my friends and I had down time usually before quitting, when no one wanted to show up. So we played Traveller.

One of my friends gm'ed and he threw together a huge mash-up. A time rift had struck the universe and the timelines of Space: 1999, Battlestar Galactica and Trek existed simultaneously some how. We were trying to stop the Empire led by Darth Vader from invading Earth. Moonbase Alpha tried to hold off the TIE fighters with Eagles but didn't have a chance till Hawk fighter from Earth Defense showed up. It was looking bad until Gary Seven allied with Colonel Green to try to take down Khan's operation to create an Empire fifth column on Earth. Then the Galactica and Pegasus showed up.

It was glorious. Screw who could beat who. this was years before or Atomic Rockets for that matter. It was only a few years ago that I found out this style of storytelling is called gonzo roleplaying. We just referred to it as 'insane' or 'the Armageddon style.'

It might have had something to do with 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' being published.

I can't really define gonzo storytelling though I know it when I see it. Basically everything in it is epic. You characters are repelling a Martian invasion and need some D-cells or a pack of gum and on the way to the convenience store you fall into a wormhole and wind up in the Mirror Universe  (which is also being invaded by beardless good guys.) There are minor characters. They are called foes and they die. The villains are epic bad, usually amped up several notches: Darkseid after drinking a few gallons of energy drinks and eating some dilithium crystals comes to mind.

I have not mastered gonzo storytelling. My chief influence is Traveller and while it could be used for gonzo it just seemed to elude me despite my friend's Armageddon game. Some games, like Risus just seem to lend itself to the style. I think the Blackmoor setting was a sort of gonzo, especially as I'm reading about how Dave Arneson ran it (sorcery and science, deadly frogs and a crashed star ship and whatever the hell the Egg was.)

Part of my problem is I'm very organized when I ref stuff (and in nothing else to hear the wife tell it.) Gonzo is too much for me to process at times. However I have reffed a lot of games and I feel like I have a little gonzo in me wanted to get out.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Pulp Notion

This project started as an attempt to write up a whole slew of pulp style locations for any game that you wanted.  The problem was you never got a map with all the mysteries labeled and all the islands charted in a pulp game. There was always an uncharted rock nearby or a tribe cut off from the world. I made this map using Greg Christopher's Fantasy World Map Kit (available on RPGNow from Chubby Funster Games.)

So I redid it without most of the labels, just a few suggestions and odd features for you to zoom in on and embellish. I included a torn/burnt/missing chunk for any really strange stuff you want to make upThen I did charts of stuff to roll up for whatever unexplored/uncharted island you wanted and ... A few other things.

As I did this I realized that in many ways Traveller lends itself to pulp (especially CT.) The characters are essentially static. The settings are different all the time. The trappings of space opera are extremely light in the core books. In CT you are limited to a little ship universe. Though planetary societies all have features in common (starport extra-legalitiy, Travellers' Aid, the military branches) there's no mention of any humongous government until Adventure 1: The Kinunir (even then the ship was only about a thousand tons!)

As many have said Traveller works quite well for low tech adventures. Most of the weapons are available at TL 5-6, and laser weapons make dandy death rays!

Anyway enjoy!

d6 2d6 Plot Element
1 2-3 Treasure
2 4-5 Landmark
3 6-7 Tribe
4 8 Recluse
5 9-10 Ecosystem
6 11-12 Anomaly

d6 2d6 Treasure
1 2-3 Gold and jewels (curse optional)
2 4-5 Pearls, semi-precious stones, silver
3 6-7 Commodity- liquor, tobacco, weapons, fuel etc.
4 8 Important documents
5 9-10 Currency (counterfeits optional)
6 11-12 Antique- gold jewel encrusted cross etc.

d6 2d6 Landmark
1 2-3 Place shaped like a skull!
2 4-5 Plateau
3 6-7 Hidden cove
4 8 Dangerous shoals
5 9-10 Volcano
6 11-12 Caves or tunnels (route to center of the earth optional)

d6 2d6 Tribe
1 2-3 Friendly tribe living an idyllic existence until you show up
2 4-5 Friendly tribe (but no one’s fools)
3 6-7 Neutral to strangers 
4 8 Hostile tribe obsessed with blonde women (pretty captive(s) optional)
5 9-10 Hostile tribe guarding a treasure (gangsters dressed as natives optional)
6 11-12 Hostile tribe living in ruins of an earlier culture

d6 2d6 Recluse
1 2-3 Teacher of esoteric knowledge or martial arts
2 4-5 Deposed dictator or political exile
3 6-7 Wealthy recluse
4 8 Scientist (sanity optional)
5 9-10 Historical person who shouldn’t be there (Tesla?)
6 11-12 Historical person long thought dead

d6 2d6 Ecosystem
1 2-3 Dinosaurs (giant mammals optional)
2 4-5 Animals thought extinct in recent times (dodos etc.)
3 6-7 Local species of common animals with a twist (small elephants, giant birds etc.)
4 8 Dangerous plant like (man-eating trees, hallucinogenic pollen, poison thorns)
5 9-10 Unusual primates (apes with tails, semi-sentient apes who use fire etc)
6 11-12 Giant octopus or other sea monster (wrecked ships optional)

d6 2d6 Anomaly
1 2-3 Time or space warp
2 4-5 Maelstrom
3 6-7 Sudden fog
4 8 Elmo’s fire interfering with compass and radio
5 9-10 Waterspouts (rain of sharks and other sea life optional)
6 11-12 Island forming or sinking

d6 2d6 Agent Causing Plot Element
1 2-3 Ancient alien astronauts
2 4-5 Deranged PhD. (sanity not an option)
3 6-7 Fascist wannabes testing something they 'acquired'
4 8 Mysterious cult
5 9-10 Warlock
6 11-12 Elder god

d6 2d6 Pirates
1 2-3 Retro pirates in a sailing ship (chart to time portal optional)
2 4-5 Submarine pirates
3 6-7 Tramp freighter 
4 8 Airship pirates!
5 9-10 Pirates pretending to be ghosts or monsters (pull off the mask!)
6 11-12 RIPirates are ghosts or other undead (put the mask BACK ON!)

d6 2d6 Who’s In the Tiki Bar?
1 2-3 Wonder animal (monkey, dog, parrot etc.) and possibly owner
2 4-5 Smuggler (roll under Pirate table for method of operations)
3 6-7 Brash seaplane pilot
4 8 Nosy Reporter (roll under Bad Guys for who they're investigating)
5 9-10 Wanted criminal (optionally criminal NO ONE wants)
6 11-12 Explorer (truthfulness optional)

d6 2d6 Guys and Dolls (musical numbers not supplied!)
1 2-3 Ship captain
2 4-5 On the run from family
3 6-7 Missing person’s daughter seeking help
4 8 Entertainer or ‘hostess’
5 9-10 Aviatrix
6 11-12 Mercenary

d6 2d6 Bad Guys (Traitorous Attractive Offspring Optional)
1 2-3 Actual Europeans (Nazi, fascist, commie or plain despot)
2 4-5 Foreign fascist who staged a coup locally
3 6-7 Local fascist imitators 
4 8 Criminal empire
5 9-10 Evil cult (may be in denial about the success of their rites)
6 11-12 Mad scientist (may just be disgruntled)

d6 2d6 Secret Project
1 2-3 Genetic engineering 
2 4-5 Giant robot
3 6-7 Missile
4 8 New and dangerous energy source
5 9-10 Weather control (optionally earthquake generator)
6 11-12 Revivification

d6 2d6 What Does the Collateral Damage Hit? 
1 2-3 Orphanage (optoonally orphans all at work in sweatshop at the time
2 4-5 Den of iniquity (brothel, bar, opium den, politician’s office etc.)
3 6-7 Small business (grocery, laundry etc.)
4 8 Restaurant (hash house 
5 9-10 Something explosive (fuel dump, ammo dump, airship station
6 11-12 Someone who deserves it (near miss optional, pissing them off!)

Roll a d6 for evenly distributed weirdness, or 2d6 if you want weirdness distributed on a bell curve. Note that some charts may suggest elements on other charts. For example rolling up dinosaurs might make you want to add a deranged PhD. or time warp to the setting. Similarly that dame on the run from her family might have relatives who run a criminal empire. Roll as often as you like and adapt to your setting as you please. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Universal Language

Let's talk about violence.

I'm not getting into firefights or space combat go read Books 4 & 5 if you're into that stuff. Similarly I'm not getting into conventional firefights. There've been enough of those since Book 1. I want to talk about citizens of the known worlds and associated moons. What do they do when forced to rely on their own fortitude and fists? How are their responses shaped by their cultures?

The most obvious code for Traveller referees is the Law Level. Quick review:
LL Restricted Weapons
0- Nukes (Starport law level)
1- Body pistols, explosives, poison gas
2- Portable energy weapons
3- Automatic weapons (machineguns)
4- Light assault weapons (assault rifles, SMGs)
5- Personal concealable firearms
6- All firearms except shotguns
7- Shotguns
8- Blade weapons controlled
9- No weapons outside the home
A- No weapons

First of all starports take a very dim view of people torching their facilities and bystanders with fusion guns. Also having a weapon does not mean you have carte blanch to use it. Common sense applies here: do you want someone using a firearm around a refueling station? Though people can be walking arsenals disagreements in a port may often be handled with fists or blades just to avoid entanglement with the authorities. Tip: if you're carrying a nuke hit that mugger over the head with it.

Body pistols have an extreme restriction attached to them. What's the difference between carrying a revolver under your jacket and a body pistol? The body pistol is mostly plastic and ceramic construction designed to pass most sensor scans and is regarded as a terrorism or assassination tool. Small pistols in the same style but made of metal would not be restricted until LL 5. A society allowing Body pistols must be extremely libertarian, in disarray or aware they can't find the darn things anyway.

Body pistols might even be preferred over other weapons to settle disputes since they require you to be brave enough to get fairly close to your target to have a good chance of smoking them. Note this restriction may be extended to other hard to find weapons: ceramic blades, super spy gadgets etc.

Laser weapons are near and dear to me. They are restricted at a fairly low law level as well. The reason is that they make a hash of most common forensic techniques. Shoot a guy with a rifle and the bullet may be retrieved given precious information. A beam just burns or blasts its target. While I'm sure science will find ways to derive details from a laser crater I'll wager a bullet is far more tangible. Also that's without discussing micro-tags inserted into the propellant and bullet itself. By TL 9 or 10 a box of rounds might be imprinted with the time and place of purchase and your credit card number. Lasers may also suffer from the same stigma as body pistols resulting in banning at much lower levels.

Automatic weapons refer to machineguns and other squad support weapons. We can probably include VRF gauss guns and such in here. The weapons can inflict huge amounts of collateral damage and imperil innocents. Again, toting around a machinegun doesn't mean people are going to react well to you hosing a mugger. See my tip regarding nukes.

At the higher law levels people are denied firearms and must rely on blades or their fists. LL 8 indicates blade weapons are controlled. This could mean restrictions on concealment or length. It can indicate that types of weapons are restricted by social standing and other factors. Polearms for soldiers of police, swords and such for nobles, short bladed weapons for peons etc (why am I hitting on you? You are bearing a rapier my good man! Hey, put the body pistol away! I'm leaving.)

Some planets may allow dueling. The requirements may be calling a person out and going to a safe area. It may require going to a mandated arena to avoid harming others (Machineguns at forty paces!)

High law levels may also result in the locals learning martial arts and fighting with improvised weapons. Extreme weapons restrictions had exactly this effect in Japan. Taking a poke at a local might result in a mixed martial arts battle. Locals could also rely on ordinary items for defense. Screwdrivers, hammers, saws and other tools can easily be applied to bloodletting and provide an alibi if you're clever (an electrician can be expected to carry a screwdriver, a CPA can't. The CPA could hit you with his briefcase.)

Snub pistols deserve mention. This is the one weapon in Classic Traveller that does non-lethal damage. A case could be made for easing restrictions on it except it not only fires tranquilizer rounds; it fires high explosive or armor piercing rounds. I'd allow a tranq. only variant to be restricted at LL 6 or even LL 7. The major concern is can the tranq rounds be modified to fire lethal toxins or the other explosive rounds? That would determine to restriction. In crowded environments the snub pistol might even replace the Shotgun at LL 6.

Finally for your consideration: the local culture may frown upon violence. People living at high law levels especially may be conditioned to call upon the police when wronged (this is great if they show up.) In this case they may also have contests to settle arguments that are dangerous in and of themselves: playing chicken with air rafts, attempting re-entry with vacc suits or prying your fingernails off until one of you cries 'mercy'! So chose when and where you start a fight carefully.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Midichlorian Flu

George Lucas gave us the midichlorians, which no one wanted. Blame the Atomic Rockets website and Winchell Chung for making me think about these things. Allow me to  hang a lampshade on the dreadnought in the room.

Maneuver drives: give them some electricity and they let you go anywhere. No messy rockets or delta-v or limits except light speed. Here's the rub: if you get your ship up to great speed,. It becomes an angel of death. Anything in its way dies. When a 20 ton launch can destroy a planet almost as fast as you can detect and track it what good is a navy or a government that can't protect you?

(The blogger notes: fusion rockets are no picnic either.)

Obviously that isn't the case. We had navies since Book 1. We had governments, no less than three Imperiums last time I checked, since Book 4.

The M-drive and the J-drive are both indispensable to Traveller and both shoot the game's hard science rep to hell. The J-drive lets you effectively travel faster than light giving Einstein the finger. The M-drive lets you go anywhere slower than light without using nasty rockets and dragging massive fuel tanks around and gives Newton the finger. It would be somewhat logical to say they are related in some way. The devices that shoot our understanding of physics operate according to some similar principles.

The J-drive only works properly 100 diameters away from a planet or other massive object. Never mind why.

What if an M-drive has an exhaust in a fashion? As the M-drive runs it creates an energy field like static electricity. This field increases in strength the longer you run the drives. Fly around within the 100 diameter limit and this energy dissipates continuously and you'd never know it was there.

But if you cruise around outside the 100D limit then that energy builds up. When you reach the 100D limit it is discharged. If you hit the 100D limit too fast a'o with too high a charge not only is your energy build up high you discharge it even faster. Therefore ships try to reach the 100 diameter limit at low speeds. Note that flying inside the limit doesn't build up a charge. Ships going between planets in a system better make sure they arrive at their destination world at a low speed.

If ships don't watch their speed and hit the limit at a few kilometers a second some part may burn out. At tens of kilometers a part may blow out. At hundreds of kilometers a part will blow out and probably take several walls with it. You get the idea. Hit it at any higher speeds and you are going to vaporize your ship. Any matter exiting the field takes some of the energy with it proportionate to its mass. No fair making a run at the Throne Planet, dropping a load of ball bearings then jumping away. They'll disintegrate too.

So we can have a navy and an Imperium! Any space stations are going to be near planets and dwarf planets. Colonies and stations beyond that limit are flat out. You can't defend them against terrorists or extortion. Ships arriving at a planet will take several hours to move a few kilometers inside the 100D limit to discharge their energies safely.

What about things like missiles or micro-meteors striking the ship? A ship that is not a sphere would probably have its 100 diameter limit around 50 times its longest dimension. So a Scout's limit is about 1500 meters. An object smaller than a ship would probably trigger the effect when it reached that limit at bear the brunt of some of the energy being released and affecting it. This makes M-drives very handy for interstellar travel. At high speeds the field will disintegrate or deflect anything you'd find the hard way at relativistic speeds. No need to lug a small moon for shielding!

Pre-gravitic STL ships might be viewed as very scary, especially those that can get to relativistic speeds. they don't have to deal with the technobabble and can hit a target at incredible speed. If I was a nutcase and found a Bussard ramship I'd sell it to a collector and use the funds to bankroll my evil plans but that's just me.

This does mean that missiles are all proximity fused. They fire a spread of very durable projectiles that survive the field effect long enough to reach the target. Or the damage effect is still relatively low at tens or hundreds of KPS to let the missile reach its target though damaged. I'm not redoing the combat systems.

But let's take a look at a long time staple of the Traveller 'Verse: spinal mounts. Now I like many built my Trillion Credit Squadron (tm). Hell I participated in the first TSC tournament at GenCon. How did I do? Unimportant. Off topic. Meson guns were recently taken apart as not working on the Atomic Rockets website (and maybe other places.) What if instead of a particle accelerator they used M-drive tech to accelerate tiny projectiles to near light speeds? The projectiles would take along their own field of double talk energy and explode when they hit the enemy ship. Even better if you had a long needle ships with parts sticking out of its sphere of energy. Instead of meson screens you'd have some sort of grav shield that replicates the 100D effect far away from the ship. Or one of these monsters could be used to accelerate ships. Just build a THICK thruster plate on the back (like the Orion project.) Aim the projectiles very carefully and off you go. You get sped up to high speed without using your own fuel and presumably decelerated if you head for a civilized star system. Note you still couldn't use one of these beasts to bombard a vacuum world unlike the original meson guns.

I admit it's more double talk. In my defense:
1) it gives some kind of limits to the M-drive
2) it adds a layer of color to my Traveller setting
3) better to know your double talk before that suicidal 8-term Scout with all 2's in their stats tries to turn the sector capital starport into a s'more.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Six Degrees of Exploration

This is the first write up for a world I've done that I do not despise. It's a major step in improving my presentations. Whether everyone else despises it remains to be seen. It uses the Six Hook system of 

Jeffro Johnson ( Check his blog out, he does good stuff. Thanks also to Roger Burgess, Ronald Stepp, and David Billinghurst for comments.

Initial Approach and Landing
Tyche is a rogue gas giant located about a light year from Sol. It has one major moon Tyche-A (usually just referred to as Tyche by it’s natives.) Tyche-A orbits at 6 million km outside the jump limit for the gas giant. The system has minimal piracy and is well patrolled. It does have a wealth of space junk (usually) in out of the way orbits from decades of traffic and trade.

Tyche-A is a hub of traffic and the main office of theSpaceport Central Authority: the corporation administering space ports everywhere (except in the Sol System.) Administration is quick and thorough. troublemakers will find themselves their ship blacklisted throughout space and experience red tape, delays, fines, and minor mishaps.

Tyche-A is the first moon colonized by humans using slower than light ships. The initial settlers diverted from Alpha Centauri for ‘easier pickings.’ They were joined by settlers from the Oort Cloud. It became a necessary stop for FTL ships to refuel because of its position and atmosphere. Tycheans are looked down on by Alpha Centaurians for giving up on the primary mission. The dislike is mutual.

Most of the human population lives on floating cities. Ships berthing actually dock and leave their engines on unless being serviced. Couplings provide fuel to the ships and the fee is included in the berthing charges.

Tyche-A orbits beyond the jump limit for its primary. There are other moons but most are covered by miles of ice and lack any valuable minerals. Some have abandoned mine bases or fueling stations. 

Tugs are used to allow ships with less than 2g’s of acceleration to land and leave. These ships are fully berthed and charged double rates. Orbital stations with shuttles are also available for such ships. 

Six Points of Interest
Geology: Tyche-A is a young active world that is warmed by its own internal heat as well as tidal heating of its primary. It has a wealth of heavy metals, fissionables, and crystals for those hardy enough to explore the surface. Quakes and eruptions take their toll on men, androids and machines. 

Atmosphere/Hydrosphere: The atmosphere contains a high percentage of hydrogen (which works its way in anywhere, hence the insidious rating.) Poor maintenance or carelessness can lead to a leak resulting in an explosion. The high pressure requires explorers to breathe an oxygen/helium mixture and take several hours to adapt or depressurize for surface visits. The atmosphere is wracked with storms that make sensor scans and communications difficult with the surface.

Population: Six million humans live on several floating cities that scoop hydrogen to stay in powered flight indefinitely.

Androids enjoy some rights but are not citizens and are 'born' contracted to work for their creator. Many work as miners and purchase their own contracts after several years. Most of the android population live on mining bases or on huge mining crawlers. An android liberation movement has been responsible for several attacks on crawlers owned by humans.

Government is by the technocrats who keep the cities floating and safe. Failure or incompetence in either of these cases can lead to a 'Crat being voted out of office. The government has a strong neutral stance in Earth and Colonial conflicts.

The atmosphere of Tyche-A allows very safe wilderness refueling. Winds and pressure are far less than for a gas giant. Ships have to file flight plans for atmospheric refueling and may have to wait hours or even a few days due to traffic.