Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Travellers' Aid

Travellers' Aid Society. A private interstellar organization which maintains hostels and facilities at various starports throughout our Traveller universe.

Travellers far and wide find a sanctuary in the Traveller's Aid Society. If you get membership as a mustering out benefit that's a High Passage every two months. Buying membership is a pricey 1,000,000 cr. But again that is a free first class ticket every 60 days. Not to mention the great food you can get at a cut rate. All this promotes the image of a benevolent organization out to do good
and promote interstellar travel.

Bah. But wait certainly I'm not going to impugn the TAS? That bastion of decency and first rate coffee and donuts?

Do you even read this damn blog?

The Travellers' Aid Society is a private organization which maintains hostels and facilities at all class A and B starports in human space. Such facilities are available (at reasonable cost) to members and their guests.

An organization reaching the length and breadth of settled space has power first of all. We all know what power does. If you're going with LBB 81 or later then the TAS can classify worlds as Amber which ... has many ramifications. It's more than a kindly mom and pop serving coffee and breakfast to weary spacefarers.

Let's look at its finances. You pay your 1Mcr. and get 1 High Passage every two months or six a year. Your membership is costing the TAS 60,000 cr a year. Now if the TAS invested that 1Mcr through normal means they'd get what, 4-5% or 40,000 or 50,000 cr a year? they'd need at least 6% return on that membership fee to break even. Except there are memberships given away pro bono as mustering out benefits. So they'd have to charge even more to cover the freebies. Then they'd have to charge more to cover the hostels and other services. Okay maybe the banks in this enlightened future are super generous and give them higher interest rates? These super generous enlightened banking institutions?

I will wait while the people who have played merchants characters with ship loans stop laughing, wipe their eyes and get oxygen. Breathe fellows.

What I am getting at is Travellers' Aid is a large financial institution able to 1) get a large return from the membership fees and or 2) has many sources of revenue besides the membership fees. Neither has to mean they're a front or criminal in nature. Just that there's a lot more to the TAS than that hostel. they could own banks to operate a money exchange, arrange letters of credit and handle financial matters for travellers of every stripe. They already have a ton of publicity. 

When I started writing this I thought "Maybe they're the ones who arrange ship loans?" First they sell you the ship and then they insure passengers through high passage tickets. They make far more than six points on the memberships fees by investing them in ship loans. But the math didn't seem to add up. It takes @ 37 memberships to purchase a Free Trader. That A2 will bring in 1/240 of this in payments per month or 152,000 cr. In two months you get about 300,000 credits but have to pay out 370,000 cr in high passages. You lose about 70,000 cr. on a membership every two months!

So whatever the TAS is investing their fees in is more lucrative than ship loans. Speculation, stock, terraforming projects, belt mining. The mind boggles.

Another pause to let the merchants begin breathing again.

But wait there's more!

The Amber Zone system is regarded as part of the Third Imperium setting by some but it's too good an idea to abandon. Consider it for what it is a travel advisory system. The TAS must write up a lot of those, be a sort of Zagat of the stars. How much is it worth to you to have your planet get a god review. True most planets are already green zones by definition but there are different shades of green. How green do you want to be? TAS can put a few words in the right ears and send the tourists and merchants your way.

TAS facilities are located near the starport, not in it. This may seem strange for a multi-sector organization, but it indicates the Society must have a relationship with the local government. The exact relationship of the TAS to the planetary government is up to the referee. In other words the ref decides who pays who to keep business running as normal. If the planet needs offworld trade badly you might have special forces descend on your for pinching a donut from the buffet without paying. Or the TAS might not be the place to hide out when you can't reach your embassy as it is already being watched. The TAS might also do a profitable sideline in snitching on captains who are skipping out on payments for rewards or running their own repo service?

Maybe the TAS is selling refined fuel to the starports? After all 500 credits a ton for what is essentially filtered hydrogen is pretty lucrative. Yes a ship to scoop the stuff involves crew, salary, maintenance etc. But on planets with a hydrosphere you'd just have to run lines from the beach to your refinery and cryo tanks (I know still some overhead but way less than a ship's.)

My last post delved into buying flight plans if you couldn't afford a Generate program yet. I think generating flight plans (or jump tapes as my gang called them) is an appropriate side line for the TAS. In fact perhaps a ship's captain with a TAS membership could exchange his high passage dividend for a single use flight plan. 

As a final note on the power of the TAS, it's at every A and B starport. It operates hostels with the auspices of the locals. It hears from all sorts of travellers and hears all manner of stuff. Do you really think those patrons find adventuring groups through blind stinking luck? Nope. the last stream of revenue: finding adventurers to order for 10% of their pay (paid by the patron of course). 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Jump Tape Parade!

A cursory reading of the LBB 77 rules will show that buying a ship's computer entitles the buyer to 1 Mcr per model number towards software. The venerable Scout for example comes ready for detached duty with 1 Mcr. of software (1bis counts as model 1). So we might pick out this software package:

Maneuver  0.1 Mcr
Jump 1      0.1 Mcr.
Jump 2      0.3 Mcr
Navigate   0.4 Mcr
Generate   0.8 Mcr.
Total         1.7 Mcr.

Just to get basic use out of our Scout. We start 700,000 cr over budget. But wait till we get to the Free Trader type A. It has a model 1 and would require at least the following:

Maneuver  0.1 Mcr
Jump 1      0.1 Mcr.
Navigate   0.4 Mcr
Generate   0.8 Mcr.
Total         1.4 Mcr.

As you can see we're way over budget and most of the credits are eaten by the Generate program which generates flight plans for the jump you input. So basically you have a ship but can't fly it out of a star system until you can afford Generate. But you also have a mortgage to meet which you can't if the ship can't go places so you go go broke and the bank seizes your ship. Which is easy because you can't jump. everyone goes broke and private interstellar trade is extinct! That can't be right.

Except for ... the jump tape!

A a flight plan, popularly known as a jump tape, (the name persists even in these days of memory crystal tech) can be generated in a starport for any planet within J-6. More professional ships use generate to create such a flight plan. This has to be done for every jump. To keep cheapskates from reusing jump tapes (probably increasing the chance of misjump each time) the cassettes are self erasing and single use. They cost 10,000 cr per jump number. On the other hand they replace a navigator on routine voyages so you could save on that crew's salary. On the other hand if your ship misjumps you are doubly screwed which is why people buying these single use flight plans have to sign lengthy waivers. You want to travel cheap, you aren't suing the starport authorities when your ship gets found a century later and they thaw your cheapskate butt out of low passage.

It could all end here of course. Use the rules as written or overlook this in the interest of a good story. Except merchants (and most other people) like to save a buck where they can. Merchants (and most other people) also like to make a buck when they can. This results in a large underground market in flight plans generated by anonymous navigators on their off time. The navigator spends a couple of hours on shore leave running a flight plan on his ship's computer and then simply carries it over to the buyers two berths down. He leaves a few thousand credits richer for a couple of hours works and goes to enjoy his week off exploring mysterious ruins or whatever.

The authorities hate this.

For one thing they'll tell you these navigators do not have the skill to safely implement these flight plans. For another the plans are on permanent media and can be reused long after they are outdated and dangerous. Jump calculations need to be made for each jump and used fairly promptly. For a third thing they will tell you people have gotten killed using flight plans that are very outdated and sold by unscrupulous criminals.

What they don't tell you is the authorities are selling the tapes to make a buck and they like their little monopoly. A navigator has to be certified before he starts navigating things after all. Shrewd buyers will watch the guy while he runs the programs and does the math. There's no more danger in that than having him prgram the jump on your own ship. That avoids the possibilities of outdated tapes and buying them from a moron at the same time.

Life is not always perfect though. Some ship's captains are desperate or foolish or fall for the old flight plan switcheroo. Flight plan scams do occur and the wise merchant is on the look out for these.

The other thing the authorities don't tell you is the flight plans they sell can have spyware loaded onto them to infect your computer and turn it into a mole for them to track your comings and goings. When the comings and going match up with the shootings and bombings they will be waiting for you when you land to ask some pointed questions and look at the video recordings your computer has made for them. This has derailed more than one would be pirate or ship captain skipping payment. It works pretty well too. Sell the marks a jump tape, infect their computer and when you want to complete your sting their computer shuts down on a preprogrammed signal.

Pirates also install such spyware on the illegal tapes they'll sell you. It's very handy for removing any meaningful resistance. Boarding actions are hard enough without having the engage in a shoot out and run down your prey. Pirates are business men too in a way. They want to minimize their losses.

But hey, there's probably nothing wrong with buying that jump tape the nice navigator is offering for 2500 credits. You save. He makes money. Everyone is happy, right?

Maybe you should just buy a Generate program out of the back of that guy's air/raft? He looks reputable!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Rocket In Your Pocket

Rocket packs.

Because no one else seems to want to do the statting.

The default space combat system of Traveller assumes missiles that can thrust for the better part of an hour (or several hours) on a moderate load of fuel and carry a warhead massing several kilograms at least. It isn't shocking that someone somewhere is going to strap a jury rigged (hopefully disarmed) missile to his back and try flying the damned thing. FTL and maneuver drives do not cure the human animal of the death wish gene.

Let's build a rocket pack using Special Supplement 3 Missiles in Traveller. Let's assume a human weighs 80 kg. with gear. We need an engine that can make 3 gees. Anymore will be too hard on the flyer and we need at least 1 gee to offset gravity. A discretionary burn system will cost 2900 cr. and weigh 13 kg.

Item            Cost         Mass
Person        Free!         80
Engine       2900 cr     13
Controls       300 cr      3
Fuel (10)    1600 cr     
Totals         4800 cr   100

First of all even though we bought a 3 gee propulsion system it was designed for a 50 kg. missile and when strapped to a heavy human the total is 100 kg. It will thrust at 1.5 gees. The fuel will last for three combat turns or 3000 seconds or 50 minutes. On anEarth sized planet (1 gee) it will thrust at 5 meters per second (.5 gees). The Striker Design charts give it a speed of 600 kph. I'd assume less since a human is not as streamlined as most spacecraft. Let's call it 200 kph. That gives it a one way range of 170 kilometers.

I'd peg the TL for this at 9. Discretionary burn missiles are normally TL 10 but I figure a human in direct control can be introduced a TL earlier. You could allow Vacc skill to be used with a rocket pack as vacc suits have a similar thruster arrangement. You could also allow a player to choose it for his character in lieu of +1 Str on personnel development if their branch is Navy, Scout, Marine, Army or Flyer or for vehicle skills. The cost at TL 9 is about 5000 cr (merchants round up).  The price drops to 4500 cr at TL 10. Fuel for the packs is available on worlds of TL 9 or higher or at D or better starports.

Flying a rocket pack requires a helmet and a specialized flight suit to protect the flier's legs from the heat of the exhaust. The whole rig costs 500 cr and is equivalent to Jack armor. Weight is 3 kg but negligible when worn. Without the helmet breathing becomes difficult. Combat armor or a vacc suit can replace the flight suit.

In high speed flight (over 120 kph) the user flies with the arms held at the side and controls direction by arching or twisting the torso. At lower speeds the rocket pack can be controlled by a lever mounted on the side.

Unusual movement or maneuvers (landing on a moving ground car, crashing through a window) requires the user to roll under Dex + skill on 2d6 with modifiers by the referee for the situation. At TL 11 a Interactive Flight suit (with helmet) appears that uses tactile sensors and heads up displays as well as voice and eye motion detectors to control the rocket pack, This rig costs 2000 cr and is otherwise the same as the plain vanilla rig.

Rocket packs are often used by unarmored troops (mainly because battledress and grav belts appear about the same time). Some particularly daring Marines use them with vacc suits or combat armor to drop from orbit before drop capsules come into use. This gives a -4 to the maneuver roll and should be considered hazardous duty. Failure is usually fatal. The user has exhausted his fuel too soon or burned up in re-entry and either way takes d6 damage. Success means the user has not only landed but retains 5 minutes fuel for each point he made the roll by.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fear, Luck and Hit Points

I admit I cut my teeth on Traveller (Classic thank you) and AD&D and in that long ago time there were two systems for representing damage: hit points and stat reduction. Hit points were for those high fantasy games where you could get struck by dragon breath and live if you had enough experience.

Traveller was more grounded in reality (we knew this because it had math formulas for space travel that required a square root calculator!) You got hit and it hurt. Period. You were injured and impaired and you never got much better at taking damage (usually you got worse as age took its toll.)

In the games wth elves you got better at taking damage and it never slowed you down at all! this seemed counter intuitive to me (at least after I started playing Traveller). A ht with a battle axe would do more than shave a few hit points. Those suckers must hurt.

It was years later I heard Ernie Gygax explain what hit points represented: luck, skill, destiny if you will in avoided severe injury. When your hitpoints ran out so did your luck; roll up a new meat shield.

Now at first the world's most popular roleplaying game did not differentiate weapons damage. Everything did a d6. Okay a really good backstab could do 2d6. But most of the time a swipe was good for 3.5 points of damage. This also seemed counter intuitive to me. A battle axe did as much damage as a broadsword as a dagger as a sharpened stick (or nearly so, there were some pluses that crept in). But if you are talking about hit points being luck, skill, destiny and such then it makes sense. You're about as lucky avoiding a dagger thrust as a battle axe swing. Either can do for you. In Traveller terms this would be like firearms doing 1d6 or 2d6 (body pistol territory) and I guess you'd get 1d6 hit points per term in the military or whatever if you want to create a form of Traveller that used hit points (which I do not).

So yes in White Star a stick does 1d6 and an energy blade does 1d6+2. Avoiding getting your head smashed by a club is the same kind of luck as avoiding being decapitated by an energy blade. Dead is dead.

I do like some variation in weapons besides the story related ones. Obviously a dagger is not the same as a battle axe. You could jam a door open with a dagger, wedging it between the threshold and the door. It's be hard with a battle axe. You could use a spear to poke further into a dark hole than a sword etc. It just when you're laying out a fight for your players they might like some options and tactics.

Variable damage was done to death already. I'd like to suggest a critical hit system. Weapons could belong to a family according to their effects. Light weapons: pistols, one-handed melee weapons etc would score a hit on a natural 20, heavier weapons on a 19 or 20. If you use autohits on 20 I would say this supersedes the critical hits. In other words if the only way you could get a hit would be through rolling a natural 20 then you would not in addition get a critical hit as well. Another option would be to roll again with another successful hit indicating you've earned a critical hit. So for example if you hit on a 15 or better and rolled a 20 you would hit and roll again. On a 15 or higher you would get your critical hit. On a 14 or less you would earn a normal hit.

If you want to take the target's level into account instead of the double roll system you could allow them a saving throw to avoid a critical hit. You could also do all of this in Traveller style games, just replace saving throws with rolling under the appropriate stat on 2d6 or 3d6 depending on how lethal your referee is.

Some possible effects of critical hits follow:
1. Target is blinded for 1-3 turns (-4 on all attacks, maximum of close range ST may apply)
2. Target takes double damage (roll damage twice and add)
3. Target takes maximum damage (don't roll at all)
4. Target takes best of two damage rolls (roll twice and keep the highest roll)
5. Target's AC is made worse by 2 points (or they take double damage if unarmored), space suits are breached!
6. Target is stunned for  1-3 turns (may not attack, is +2 to be hit
7. Target is bleeding 1-6 hits per turn until first aid is rendered
8. Target is on fire and must make a saving throw to put it out or roll 1-3 damage for 1-6 turns
9. Target is knocked down and must get back up next turn
10. Target must make a saving throw or have a limb amputated. Double maximum damage and knocked out of the fight.

So you might have weapons families like Blunt, Edged, Slug, Laser and Blaster.
The GM rules that Blunt weapons have effect 9 unless the target makes a saving throw. Slugs (revolvers, rifles, SMGs) have effect 3 (maxed damage) if they succeed on a second hit roll.  Lasers have effect 1 unless the target makes a saving throw. Blaster weapons have effect 5 unless the target makes a saving throw. He also creates a mono edged blade for a rare weapon type that has effect 10 but rules that not only must the user roll to hit again on getting a 20, the target gets a saving throw to avoid the effect.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Going Dark for a Bit.

Root canal for me today. Don't feel up to posting and am using pronouns only intermittently. Going away Friday and Saturday. May be back with you on Monday. See you then.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Fields of the Mind (in OSR Games)

Traveller and many other OSR games treat psionics as a finite resource. You have a certain number of points to spend and they come back slowly. This is by and large a good thing as character running around torching people's minds, reading pin numbers and glomming state secrets and plot points at will is not a good thing.

Only it ignores a central tenet of psionics. You can't just turn them off. My solution is simple. When you pay the points you control the psionics. The referee (me!) has an equal number of these points however and he (me again!) can use them to trigger your psionics when he chooses.

So you maybe buying some gear (all right, call it what it is, -ammunition) when it suits the story for you to have a sudden vision of your patron Baron Sademi performing a human sacrifice ritual. You gotta love post-cognition. Or you're boarding the express train from the capital to the starport and your ship when the great rush of commuters causes the equivalent of a mental assault. Limiting the referee to the same number of points as the player character makes things seem a little more fair to me. The referee should not get to mind blast you every time you ride a lift with three or more people or throw psychic flashes at you willy nilly.

As an alternative the referee might increase or decrease his share of points based on local factors. A high population world might make for more feedback reducing the number of incidents of rogue psionic events or whatever else the referee decides. Jump space might increase the points because FTL always does weird things. Finally the referee might reduce his share of points after the player receives formal training from an institute or teacher above and beyond the initial procedure. If you want a wild psionic who just manifests with no formal training you can work out just how many extra points the referee will get if you want to start with an active psionic (beware agreements signed in blood as always.)

A good rule of thumb would be an unawakened psionic would need to be in the upper 10% power wise before they start experiencing poltergeist events and waking nightmares.

Now taking psionic medications becomes a little more interesting too. As the psi drugs increase your psionic points they increase the points available to the referee (me yet again!!).

This system can cause some problems if the psionic is capable of teleporting. The referee is encouraged to be a good sport. Porting a character out of his battledress, for example, may lead to ugly (real life) scenes. It also probably isn't funny after the first time. Porting a pc out of the shower into a public area likewise is probably done sparingly. However a kindly referee might allow a 'porter to make a jump when he is out of energy in a life or death situation. Again you might not take your armor with you, or your undergarments.

So you can have your resource allocation. The referee can have his fun too, set up foreshadowing, and remind the players psionics is not just something they can turn on and off like in the comic books. he can even throw them a freebie sometimes ("That Baron Sademi is bad news!") or give them a red herring ("Baron Sademi ... was in community theater you idiot!" "... Before or after he sacrificed that person?")

Friday, March 11, 2016

Mind Over Antimatter

It is estimated that a gram of antimatter costs about 62.5 trillion dollars (or credits?) to produce. That's at tech level 7. In perusing a few Traveller products (okay I caved and looked at the fuel costs in T4: Fire Fusion Steel) we see one cubic meter of antimatter costs 200,000 credits. That's 70 kilograms of antimatter. I'll save you the trouble of looking it up: that's three gigatons worth of boom once you combine it with 70 kilos of antimatter (the mass of a slow moving crew member perhaps).

Three gigabooms for 200,000 credits. What does that mean?

Traveller says that antimatter power systems are in use by TL 17 (about the tech level where we build robots smart enough to stop us from playing with dangerous crap like antimatter ironically). So I assume that 200,000 credit figure is for TL 17 where you can basically buy your antimatter from your local price club (if the robots let you).

I made the following table for the cost of a gram of antimatter at various tech levels. I took the log of 62.5 trillion and subtracted the log of 200,000 then divided the difference by ten for the ten tech levels between 7 and 17. It looks scientific but I'm an humanities major. Here's what I got

Tech Level Cost of 1 gram A-M (dollars/credits)
7  62.5 Trillion
8     3.7 Trillion
9  212 Billion
10  12 Billion
11 725 Million
12   42 Million
13     2.5 Million
14  144 Thousand
15  8396
16    500

17    30

Okay at TL 17 that stuff is cheaper than crystal meth. This sorely pushes the sufficiently advanced technology trope for me. For 30 credits you get a puff of something that will go off with 43 kilotons of force. 

Currently antimatter production is solely for research purposes and not very economical. Higher tech levels are more consumer friendly. TL 8 however removes the biggest hurdle to using antimatter: containment. At TL 8 we have both fusion power for economical generation of energy and gravitics to contain the antimatter in an evacuated vessel. The idea of a TL 8 society with A-M at 30 bucks a gram is pretty scary to me so I will go with my progression thank you. 

My friend Ray McVay also rightly points out antimatter is technically an energy transport medium. You expend a shit ton of energy to make it and you get it back by opening the vessel. 

In fact we are researching A-M propulsion now. despite the high price tag it has uses that will be economical soon like augmenting chemical rockets to put payloads in orbit. So saying A-M power systems are only practical at TL 17 seems a little far fetched. 

What the TL 17 systems are is SAFE. In Traveller terms you might have a A-M power pod that you can run your TL 12 ship off for a year. Swell. No more wilderness refueling. You can make it to the Old Islands cluster without worrying about those pesky drop tanks dropping at the wrong moment and blowing your ship to bits. 

The problem is if that antimatter containment fails for even a moment you become a local astronomical event. Your liquid hydrogen tank gets a hole and you can enjoy the pretty cloud of gas while that pirate comes around for another pass. 

Mass might be another factor. Below TL 17 the amount of A-M required to equal a ton of liquid hydrogen in energy might take more space for its container than a ton of liquid hydrogen. If antimatter required five times it's displacement in containment systems then twenty tons of vessel would give a ship four tons of antimatter.

A kilogram of hydrogen will at max produce 6.4 * 10^14 joules. A ton of the stuff 6.4 * 10^17 joules. A ton of antimatter will produce 1.8 * 10^20 (add regular matter and stir.) So for your twenty displacement tons you'd get the equivalent of 241 tons of hydrogen. That can take a Scout ship a ways. It can also take a Scout a ways in all directions at once. That's 215 gigatons. I'm pretty sure most star systems wouldn't let something like that anywhere near their main world or any inhabited, or soon to be inhabited or remotely valuable real estate. But some governments or other interested parties might operate such ships to cross rifts and explore or operate secret communications relays. I dunno what information would be that valuable to the Third Imperium or whoever your big government is but you could think of something. Or at the very least such ships might be prototypes to design better antimatter vessels. Perhaps some ships will use antimatter merely to supplement their power systems.

I salute any characters trying to salvage such a ship, let alone use one for travel. I'm old fashioned. Fusion power was always good enough before.

At the very least as the cost of antimatter comes down it will be used for various industrial applications. If you're terraforming and a mountain is in an inopportune spot remove it. Ditto for glaciers. Turn that inland sea into a giant hot tub!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Generating Ideas

Note that none of this is canon. None of this is required reading for running Traveller. I am not an engineer or scientist though I do roleplay them at times. I'm just throwing out some ideas for power consumption in Traveller ships.

Chris Vermeers started this by pointing out that in Traveller LBB '77 the maneuver drive is not unlimited but that:

"A fully fueled power plant will enable a starship an effectively unlimited number of accelerations (at least 288) if necessary to use the maneuver drive during the trip…" (emphasis by Chris)


Then I was perusing the Boom Table at Atomic Rockets where I unearthed this nugget of knowledge:

3.4 * 10^14 joules is the energy from fusing one kg Deuterium and Tritium.

That sounds like a lot of power to me! I began to wonder if maneuver drives might be analogous to a photon rocket. Direct enough energy out the back of your ship and you will move but it will take 3 * 10^8 joules to generate a lousy newton of thrust but still that's a lot of zeros for that kilo of frozen hydrogen. To continue the table of thrust vs. power for a photon rocket:
1 newton of thrust (1 kilo at one meter per second or .1 kg at one gee) ~3 * 10^8 joules
1 kg thrust ~ 3 * 10^9 j. (yes that's gigawatts squire)
1000 kg thrust ~ 3 * 10^12
1 ton of thrust ~ 3 * 10^15
A Scout masses about 1000 tons and thrusts at 2 gees for 2000 tons of thrust (I'm not talking displacement tons (volume) here, I'm talking metric tons (mass))

Therefore with a photon drive propelling a Scout generates 2 * 10^3 * 3 * 10^12 = 6 * 10^15 j.

Therefore full thrust with a Scout's engines requires 6 * 10^15/ 3.4 * 10^14 = 17 kgs of fuel per second. If you go with LBB 2 a Scout's in system drive had 20 tons of fuel. So it can thrust for 1176 seconds or just about one combat turn. Woof. That sucks.

Let's work it another way. The original LBB 2 said a load of fuel powered a ship for unlimited (at least 288 thrusts.)
288 * 10^3 seconds (a combat turn, I guess that's what they meant by maneuvers) yields 2.88 * 10^5 seconds.
20000 kg of fuel / 2.88 * 10 ^5 = .069 kg per second.

.069 * 3.4 * 10^14 = 2.4 * 10^13 j or 24 terawatts per second

If we go with the High Guard values the ship only needs 2 tons of fuel to do all this and produces 2 terawatts per second.

This is the equivalent of 500 tons of tnt. Don't get close to a Scout with a malfunctioning fusion plant. It can go off with the force of half a kiloton. Good to know

A 100 displacement ton ship(1000 tons mass) requires one terawatt to accelerate at 1 gee. That's a kilowatt per ton.

There's more fiddly science bits here for you. If the maneuver drive is 50% efficient then one half  terawatt per second has to be radiated as heat. That's a quarter kiloton or the annihilation of 5 milligrams of matter and antimatter. There is no stealth in space. I will leave that alone for the moment.

Compared to the costs of maneuvering and artificial gravity life support is really trivial. You can have ships running low berths for years and decades adrift in space or limping along at a few hundred kilometers per second. As an adventure hook a planet around TL 5-6 desperate for power might hire a couple of tramp freighters to stay a few weeks and help them by generating power while they take their generators offline and modernize their power grid. Earth in 2004 at TL 7 uses 15 terawatts per second. So 2 terawatts added to a backwater colony is a lot! Starships arriving after a disaster might make a killing selling power as well as blankets, first aid kits, and food. Or pirates seizing a ship (you thought I'd forget my pirates?) might discard everything but the fusion plant to sell to planets for energy generation.

Say a maneuver drive is similar to the gravitics powering the air/raft. A 6 ton air/raft takes up 13.5 x 6 = 81 cubic meters. If it is about the density of a modern commercial aircraft then it masses about 20 tons. That means its batteries supply about 20 kilowatts per second. If its batteries let it fly for a week solid then the batteries hold about 12 gigawatt seconds! That's the equivalent of 3 tons of tnt (don't go near malfunctioning air/rafts either.) To put an adventure hook spin on it the characters are stuck on a backwater wilderness when a malfunction drains their air/raft's batteries and they rig a lightning rod as a storm approaches to draw a lightning bolt and recharge the air/raft's batteries! Really go look at the Boom Table. Winchell Chung did us all a great service with that.

Let's look at the famed antimatter battery that those messy Ancients left lying around. Say a battery has a kg of antimatter held in stasis by immortal pixies or whatever. One milligram of matter and antimatter combined generates 1.8 * 10^11 j. A Scout draws 3 * 10^12 j so it will need 8 milligrams of antimatter per second (and also matter which it can get from dust particles the pixies round up.) A kilo of antimatter will power that Scout about 40 maneuver turns or 11 hours which isn't that great. More importantly that magical battery will not have anything near the power needed to make a jump and firing the lasers might be dicey as well.

This of course leads to many other questions like how much power does a turreted laser draw? What is the conversion between High Guard energy points and megawatts? I leave that to the engineer types. I'm sure some one could do a better job with this topic than me. I just got to it first.

As with all my pondering you may have a different idea how your tech works and what kind of power fusion generators put out. But if you take your assumptions and start extrapolating from there you may be amazed where they take you.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Collateral Damage pt. 2

Captain: I appreciate your seeing me so soon Admiral Saltornus.

Saltornus: I am giving this matter my full attention; I assure you.

Captain: You have my transcripts, the after action report by Sergeant Major Rademacher, Commander Lovecraft …

Saltornus: Indeed. This is all I require.


Commodore: Good morning. Hello Dan.

Captain: Hello Chloe.

Commodore: Shall we get this over with?

Saltornus: In a moment.


Mukh: Hey look! It’s the Captain! I love the Captain!

Tivk: Admiral Saltornus. Captain. Commodore.

Saltornus: Engineer Tivk.

GAIA: Captain!

Ensign: … sir.

Captain: What are you saluting for ... citizen?

Saltornus: I have persuaded the Ensign to return to active duty and reinstated his rank. We need more officers like him.

Tivk: … not many more Elder Saltornus.

Captain: He’s not serving under me?

Saltornus: Not at all. Captain Maddock, you are relieved of your command and under arrest. Commodore you will take Captain Maddock aboard the Dreadnought Concordance immediately. Concordance and her destroyer flotilla will return him to Starbase Liberty for trial.

GAIA: Excuse me? Admiral Saltornus, the Captain was acting under the AI Security Protocols. He did what he should have done with all due respect.

Ensign: Even I admit that. We only hitched a ride to Hykot Beta to get a breather and have the Polity Directive on AI Affairs to look at GAIA’s case. I … I didn’t say anything damaging to you … sir!

Saltornus: Yes. The Directive will be examining GAIA. But right now she falls under the First Contact Protocols. She was ‘rebuilt’ …

Mukh: And how!

Saltornus: Is he always like this?

Tivk: Yes?

Saltornus: … and reprogrammed by a Rockapongalie artifact. She may have information on them. She may have become an avatar of them, a last interactive if not living message in effect. We are treating this as a first contact situation. Other than her wifi being disabled for the time being she is not to be otherwise compromised. You, Captain, greatly overstepped your authority with a member of an unknown species and may be charged with assault, attempted murder, and creating a diplomatic incident.

Captain: I see.  I’m glad you’re back Skippy, for what it’s worth. I guess you were right.

Commodore: Dan, I had no idea I was coming over to this.

Ensign: Me either Captain.

Captain: Admiral Saltornus is doing what he has to. GAIA …

GAIA: Captain.

Captain: You’re a good ‘bot. You’re … good people. All right Chloe, let’s go.

Commodore: Don’t think you’re getting special treatment just because we were married, Captain.

Captain: This will be about what our marriage was like anyway …


Ensign: Sir, we can go back to the Tesla now?

Saltornus: Indeed … you and GAIA may go. Mr. Tivk is going to remain here for a while.

Ensign: There are four of us here.

Saltornus: Mr. Tivk did contact a cloaked ship to make good your escape. We have a protocol for this as well. Tivk, you agree?

Tivk: I must be interned. My actions may indicate I am a Videni.

Ensign: That’s not right …

Saltornus: Then provide me with evidence of what ship you escaped on.

Ensign: It was Xamilcar salle-Korsa’s privateer, the Wanton Courtesan.

Mukh: Actually it’s Won Ton Courtesan. He really likes Terran cuisine from Asia and had a bum translator system.

Saltornus: … The Zangid. The Videni and Zangid had an alliance. Tivk will remain. Professor Mukh will remain as well to provide testimony on Tivk’s actions. You should stop speaking now, Ensign.

Ensign: Sir! Mmmph!

GAIA: Schaeffer … listen to him. I will remove my hand if you will shut your mouth.

Tivk: Listen to the lady.

Mukh: … yes. I will gladly remain here and help my friend answer these charges. The answer will be ‘bullshit’! You spratlings … go now.

Tivk: Take care of Dog. Give him the scratches of belly and ear.

Ensign: Aye sir. I look forward to serving with you soon.


Mukh: Ahhh. He likes you.

Tivk: I know … humans make no sense.

Saltornus: Indeed.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Environmental Prevention Agency

Nok: That was an acceptable landing Skipper.

Ensign: Thanks Mr. Nok. That’s high praise coming from you.

Tivk: Wouldn’t high praise be something like ‘stupendous’?

Mukh: Stupendous, colossal, epic, awesome, incredible ...

Ensign: I choose to interpret it as high praise.

Nok: As you wish. I meant acceptable. This is your first flight on a Shaker Class shuttle?

Ensign: Aye. She has a mind of her own.

Nok: ‘She’? You know many 50 ton females?

Ensign: … I have this auntie …

Mukh: I think I have the same auntie!!

Tivk: I thought your race was gender fluid?

Mukh: You try telling my Aunt Flloxxa that. I dare you.

Ensign: I begin to understand what the Doc is talking about. Okay I’m going to the supply warehouse and getting the stuff Cook ordered. I hope you like mac and cheese.

Nok: I’ll get the berthing ticket validated.

Ensign: Right.

Tivk: Better you should disarm an Ion torpedo with your feet than deal with the Procurement Branch.

Mukh: Better to swim in a hydrogen sulphide font.

Nok: Better to go six rounds with my Ex.

Tivk: …

Mukh: …

Nok: When she enters a room the Slugs jump on chairs.

Mall Cop: Good morning. Excuse me?

Nok: What am I excusing you for?

Tivk: … hmmph.

Mukh: You always get to say it. Give him this one. Bad divorce and all …

Mall Cop: Huhhrumph. Right … You’re going to have to move this overgrown thing.

Mukh: I have every right to be here! I’m a Polity citizen!

Mall Cop: …

Tivk: The /shuttle/.

Mukh: That is no way to speak of the Flloxxa Mukh!

Nok: Why?

Mall Cop: Are you the pilot?

Nok: I’m a pilot. What?

Mall Cop: You have to move it. These berths are for emission friendly vehicles.

Tivk: I assure you, the … Flloxxa has passed Fleet Safety Regulations. I tested her myself.

Mall Cop: Not the point. See that emblem on the tarmac?

Tivk: It is a green convex icon.

Mukh: It’s a pupil.

Nok: I don’t see it.

Mall Cop: You’rea  vole. You guys are all color blind.

Nok: And you dolphin-monkeys are heat blind but I don’t go rubbing your snouts in it.

Mall Cop: That symbol is for environmentally friendly vehicles! This war surplus boat of yours emits high levels of depleted ionite, coolant, and quark juice.

Mukh: This thing sounds more like Aunt Flloxxa every minute. Just missing a bottle of Vacc Jack in her flipper.

Tivk: The shuttle’s emissions are well within regulations.

Mall Cop: Well the shuttle don’t make ‘friendly’ emission regulations.This bus of yours put out more crap than half the shuttles in this lot put together.

Tivk: It is bigger than the shuttles in this lot put together. Now if you should compute her emissions on a microgram per ton rate we’d probably be cleaner than these …

Nok: ‘Belly up hangar queens’.

Tivk: … what he said. I don’t speak ‘Pilot’.

Mukh: It wasn’t nice.

Tivk: I gathered that. He is rarely complimentary.

Mall Cop: Look you characters … move that ship by the time I get back here or I’m throwing you out of the lot!

Nok: Doubtful. Go away or I will land the Flloxxa on your cadre of odd little two wheel vehicles you must drive standing up.

Mall Cop: Let’s not start rough talking. This is a mall regulation. The vehicles with higher emission rates don’t get prefered parking.

Tivk: So you show preference to the people driving less polluting shuttles by making the more polluting shuttles drive around increasing their emissions?

Mall Cop: It’s an incentive to operate less polluting vehicles!

Mukh: What do you do when every drives less polluting vehicles?

Mall Cop: Besides … flying around waiting for a berth … what does it generate? A few hundred picograms of emissions. What’s the big deal?

Tivk: But if it makes no real difference … nnnnngh.

Nokk: Thanks. You broke the beanpole.

Mukh: Tivk has the look Doc gets … when he has to deal with us for too long.

Mall Cop: Move the shuttle! Now!

Nok: Can’t. Skipper went to get supplies. He has the key card. Here he comes. We’re going shopping.

Tivk: Those little two wheeled things move pretty fast.

Mukh: Poor Ensign. There they go. Humans fighting … they don’t sound like dolphins. Hope Ensign is okay.

Nok: He’ll be fine. They let me off with a warning first time I did this.

Tivk: True the angry mob didn’t chase us until your third or fourth berthing infraction.

Mukh: Good thing they didn’t have them two wheeled things!

Tivk: Let’s rent a couple. They look like fun.

Nok: … sure. we can cruise for chicks.

Mukh: Yum!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Poll Please

Several people have told me to go on Patreon (Me: "People will pay me? For this stuff?") So I'd like to ask you guys informally, what would you like me to produce?


Worlds and world building?

Ship designs/hacks?


More nano-fic?


My Ghost Drive Setting?

Don't bother you're getting it for free now? ;)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Ship Hits the Fan

My earlier post dealt with classifying ships as belly landers and tail landers. On reflection and discussion with my posse (well Ray McVay) I decided that there was a place for ships designed to not land on planets at all: the modular hull.

The advantage is cheaper construction. This only works if operating costs are cheap as well. The major cost for any ship is fuel. However we're talking civilian ships here and only the military, Scouts or crazy pilots use unrefined fuel. The benefit of a belly lander or tail lander is that on e a planet without orbital ports you can still land to refuel. A modular hull will be forced to either hunt down ice-steroids or use ship's boats to scoop fuel.

A modular hull is built on a very long central boom. The engines are placed at one end and the cabins and living areas placed at the other end. This results in a lot less radiation shielding. A small shadow shield screens the rest of the ship, made even less bulky by distance. The inverse square law is your friend this time. It also makes pirates very reluctant to board your ship via EVA.

Various parts are bolted onto the boom at different places. the stuff you don't need to to worry about being irradiated is closer to the fusion plant.

Modular hulls are not designed to ever land on a planet bigger than size 1-2 or with an atmosphere greater than 1. This is due to the large ungainly heat radiators that replace the teeny standard radiators you can take into an atmosphere. Their acceleration compensators only work in the direction they thrust. Lateral accelerations or landing a ship on a decent sized planet will cause the boom to warp. Finally the fusion generator is only shielded at one of its six faces so an atmosphere will cause radiation scatter you definitely don't want

Modular hulls are HALF the cost of a regular hull. In addition they will accept modules that come in 10, 20, 50 and 100 ton sizes. Each module requires a hardpoint equal to .1 times its tonnage for structural support. In addition a modular hull may only count its non-modular tonnage for turret hardpoints. In other words if your 500 ton modular merchant has 300 tons of modules it will mount at most two turrets. A hardpoint costs 1,000 credits per ton of module it can support.

They are also fragile. On any hull hit roll a die. On a '6' a module (chosen randomly) is severed from the ship.

On the other hand they are really easy to unload. Just detach the cargo mod you came with and dock with the cargo mod you're picking up.

Docking and maneuvering modules takes a number of turns equal to their tonnage divided by 10. That's if you're taking it easy, moving in at centimeters per second and under no stress. At the referee's discretion docking can be a lot faster and hilarity and die rolls may ensue.

If you're going with modular designs you might want to put together some 'standard' modules. For example a 20 ton mod could be a high passage module: four staterooms and cargo space for the standard one ton of baggage per high passenger. If you are using the Book 2 drives making the drive a part of the main ship is an excellent sanity saving measure.

With their fragile structure, lower capacity for damage and limited refueling options you might think a modular ship would have little military use. You would also probably change your mind when you saw a 1000 ton hull swap its 500 tons of cargo modules for a hangar holding fifty ten tone starfighters. Modular ships make fine carriers or even battle tenders and may be switched from civilian to military roles in a matter of hours. This also lets your space navy help pay for itself to a degree. If your borders are secure put your ships to work hauling freight or for speculation. It also cuts down on attacks on your merchant fleet. Most pirates won't attack a ship that might unload a wave of fighters.

Modular ships can  also make things easier for pirates. At the first sign of trouble disconnect your cargo modules and go on your way. The pirates go over the loot at their leisure. You leave without being boarded. Just make sure you have something good in the modules left behind (like a black market nuke).