Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Damage ... Controlled

How fast can you get into a spacesuit? What if I told you it didn't matter? You might expect damage control parties on a ship to be suited and ready for explosive decompression. I have a suspicion that sort of thing is like lifeboats: good for piece of mind but not very practical.

You see part of getting into spacesuits at present involves decompressing. That's so you can wear a suit at a lower atmospheric pressure and thus of lighter construction so you can do what damage control specialists like to refer to as 'moving'.

Putting on a space suit in a compartment that is kept at a lower pressure for people on damage control is possible of course. But then you'd have to make sure the areas the damage control parties need to traverse and reach are at that lower pressure as well. Moving into a higher pressure area will cause the bends. Admittedly more advanced space suits may allow the wearer to experience a wide array of pressure in comfort and safety. But heck, we're still using cordite powered slug throwers well into the Stellar Age in some settings. Space suit pressurization concerns may be with us long after we've ceased using bullets to kill ourselves.

Decompressing takes as little as 15 minutes with proper exercise and breathing mix but you may not have 15 minutes to spare in a fight. Quite a few military ships (or any ships expecting trouble) will operate their ships at a lower atmospheric pressure or even depressurize completely. Most civilian ships, hauling passengers can't be bothered with this sort of inconvenience. What do damage control parties do?

1) Gradual depressurization: The ship lowers its pressure when it gets close to it's destination then after arrival and relative safety it re-pressurizes gradually so that the passengers are not inconvenienced or even aware of it. The problem is this could lead to several hours delay in deboarding your ship. Also some passengers may not be up to this due to health problems or evolution.

2) Depressurize nearly everything: Herd the passengers into the bio-well/vault. Depressurize the rest of the ship and stick everyone in spacesuits. That works Of course the crew does have to re-pressurize to let the passengers off and find their luggage. Delays may occur.

(The suit may be hard but it's the chewy center that concerns us.)

3) Hard suits: New! With twice the weight and bulk of battle dress and half the protection. Moving in these can be a witch. The bright spot is if you need to get into one of these humanoid tanks the gravity control is probably shot to hell like the rest of the ship. Hard suits often have the life support backpack on a hinge like a door. You swing the pack out of the way, jump into the suit and close the pack behind you. Extra points if you have time to connect the sanitary arrangements! The upside is you're protected from darned near anything leaving the compartment you are in intact. Downside is you get tired fast schlepping that suit around. Some people buy suits with battle dress style augmentation.

4) Screw it! Real men don't need space suits! In the event a compartment is holed your response is of two kinds: 1) you can slap a vacc patch on the hull or 2) you are dead along with everyone else in the compartment. Filter masks are another matter, as is firefighting suits. Electrical fires, chemical leaks and such will make life interesting without spelling instant death and should be prepared for.

5) Pain killers: put on your spacesuits in a low pressure area and if the worst happens head into a normal pressure area after swallowing some pain killers. How bad can the bends be? Just swallow the pills before you put on your helmet.

Actually the bends can be pretty bad. Reserve that last one for an emergency. It can kill you.

(Yes, a rescue ball may not prevent the bends. The good news is you're still breathing something! Also the bends will get your mind off the back pain from scrunching up for several hours.)

6) Robots: robots could care less about pressure changes that would kill or cripple a human. Use robots as needed. Note that if your robot uses fans to cool its processors or atmospheric oxygen to work its fuel cells you will need another plan for areas in vacuum. Also robots may not be as effective in coping with sudden emergencies as humans.

7) Hope you don't get hit: we all do this. The beauty is that it can be used with any of the other existing plans. The downside is that it rarely holds for an entire fight.

Rules (Oh yeah I used to post these)
2d6 Systems -
Hard Suits are double the cost of regular space suits. They can be donned and powered up in less than a minute (2d6  six second combat turns)
Zero-G-1 is required. It is similar to Battle Dress and any such skill will suffice. Unskilled usage is at -1 for strength related tasks and -2 for Dexterity related tasks. Both these penalties are doubled at the tech level of introduction (which is pretty much equivalent to early 21st century Earth.)

Starships and Spacemen and OGL
Hard Suits are used by the Technical Branch mostly and use that branch's skill. they are 1 equipment unit. they give a -1 skill to attackers using melee weapons and are nearly impervious to punches and kicks. Characters in other d20 style systems not familiar with them are at -2 to skill rolls.

Black Hack
Hard Suits are used by engineers and other technically oriented characters. Characters unfamiliar with their use roll all tasks at a disadvantage. They have 6 armor points (2 if you're using Additional Things with a usage die of 1d6).