Monday, December 4, 2017

Borsten's Folly

The Battle later called Borsten's Folly unfolded as follows:

Borsten's Leap was a going concern. It was a sole point of refueling on a longish route linking two pockets of civilization and ergo trade and money.

It also had a piracy problem. Actually its piracy was causing a problem for nearby worlds. The pirates running a refueling operation at Borsten's Leap practiced a strict code of not shitting where they slept. the few surrounding worlds, just beginning to industrialize and still sort of hung over after their Long Night bore the brunt of the pirates, harassing the traders trying to just trade.

It took little knowledge of interstellar relations and recent history to know Borsten's Leap had a history of pirates. It even had a Sargasso in orbit, ships that were looted there and left when the frontier began moving on.

So the surrounding worlds pooled their lunch money and began financing a Patrol. The Patrol Commander -Abednego Fisque was a clever sort and quite proficient in in situ resource utilization. Unfortunately he regarded the contents of other people's wallets as a resource.

Fisque quickly took station and began harassing the pirates who used used several asteroid bases for refueling. The harassment consisted of demanding a cut of their profits. He also began intercepting traders coming to the Leap and assessing various fines, demanding payoffs to avoid lengthy systems inspections. His ship was the biggest warship for a few systems around and everyone had to pay up. Worse he wasn't doing the job he was paid to, because it no longer paid enough for him to bother with it.

The pirates were not happy.

The Leap's government was not happy.

The local cluster leaders got together and decided Borsten had to go. He was a worse nuisance than the pirates. Pirates after all had to reign in their activities lest they destroy the people they were preying upon and draw the attention of the Fleet. Fisque was the Fleet locally at least and he could ruin everyone and move on to another cluster or retire with what he already had.

Then Fisque began bothering the Belters and government and pirate alike held their breath and got out the popcorn.

Belters to quote the cabevison  series, "Don't bother." They gather. In this case they had gathered a lot from that star system and even had a Sargasso of their own. It orbited the largest failed planetoid in the Belt called the Lodestone. Belters with ships too worn out or shot up to bother with stuck them in orbit to be scavenged at leisure or melted down. In the absence of a recognizable seat of government Fisque went to the Stone to begin his shakedown. He had entered weapons range when the Belters told him pointblank to leave their locality. Fisque was making for a fat ore processor ship that was moving to keep the Stone between Fisque and themselves.

Suddenly there was a jerk on Fisque's cruiser, Acquisition (the name should have been a red flag but cultural references vary even when everyone speaks Basic.) Then the cruiser began accelerating towards the Stone. Fisque ordered full reverse and the pull slowed but remained. So He ordered full lateral on a heading that would establish an orbit. Simultaneously he ordered the gunners to begin laser bombardment of the Stone.

He knew he was snared in a tractor beam. He also knew tractor beams didn't work at any level of technology he'd ever encountered. The reason was simple: if you exerted a force on say, a ship, that ship exerted an equal force on your beam projector. Either your tractor beam was ripped from your hull or you spent so much mass and expose on reinforcement that your ship was a dog slow heap and vulnerable to other guys who ignored tractor beams in favor of launchers and other conventional weapons. No one ever made it work otherwise.  He knew his ship would be able to break any such beam. Moreover at a few thousand kilometers no missile would be moving fast enough to hit him. the tractor beam would drag it back down to fall on Lodestone.

The Stone, however, had many, many such projectors, reinforced and spread out. The force ot the Acquisition on any one of them was easily countered. They normally used the projectors for simulating gravity. In terms of maneuverability being reduced: hello, asteroid!

The Belters moved to shelters and scoffed at the laser barrage. It mostly melted surface ice and once it melted enough ice the barrage itself was dissipated. A wave of missiles came next and the Stone fired up all manner of transmitters and jammers to mess the missile's electronics up. As for the few that got through, damaging a spaceship hull is far easier than damaging 'surface installations that still had a meter of crushed rock above them.

The Acquisition continued accelerating from its forced orbit and was slowly moving away from the Stone. The force on them was weakening as well. In space combat the inverse square law was your big brother.

That was when the asteroid opened up with its mass drivers.

Fisque wasn't terribly worried. Mass drivers were poor weapons and easily dodged by any ship with a working maneuver drive.

A stream of steel buckets each bearing 50 kilos of crushed rock  was streaking through space at 20 kilometers per second. The wide and diffuse network of gravity beams would hardly slow them down and the assault waited till the Acquisition was in the middle of a network of beams meaning the projectiles would avoid most of the effect.

Oh wait.

Fisque was one of those rare commanders who actually ordered 'Abandon ship!' In some accounts he didn't order it so much as the crew got the idea when they saw him running and most managed to keep up. It was also a rare case of a ship being depressurized by weapons fire. Until it no longer resembled a ship.

Traders, Belters, and pirates all complained about the bits of half me;ted debris that fouled Stone's near space for a few weeks before drifting further away or being vaporized by Belters who were civic minded or bored and had a laser. Fisque made it to Borsten's Leap and was promptly jailed and charged with every piracy related offense under the stars. He exited jail decades later a broken man.

Long before that Borsten's Leap took up a collection to have the melted hulk that was the Acquisition towed to into orbit as a warning. The Belters did it free of charge for once.

Even your ultra efficient Belters do some things for the soul.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Spin Doctors and Damage Control on the Luna

Damage control. No one likes to think about it. But everyone wants to be very good at it. The Luna had a board on the bridge for damage control. Tornado, the ship's master at arms had brought me on the bridge after we were a few days underway to Mars. It was the late night shift. There was a skeleton crew who looked bored. Professor Ormsby was in the cabin we shared sleeping.

"So what would happen if I started pushing buttons?" I joked. Tornado shook his head and gestured to his hip. I hadn't noticed he was packing a sidearm. "Button then. I wouldn't push a second button. I take it the joke was in poor taste?" Tornado agreed it was. it was the pithiest affirmation I had ever heard.

"What you got here is two types of damage we brace for, heat and impact. Now impact can refer to anything hitting the ship from outside, missiles, rays, old shoes. Heat ... is any energy build up inside the ship we don't want, like from pushing the drives or the shields."

He explained that R-Rays and the fields they generated where prone to losing energy to different effects. In normal situations you kept that nonsense to a minimum. Combat was not a normal situation though. Engines and generators were driven to extremes. Some smart Earth man figured out a way to turn an advantage out of that. Earth ships could generate enormous amounts of electricity in the R-Rays and that formed a barrier to destroy incoming missiles or dampen the effects of R-beams.

The downside was it put a strain on your R-Ray and that caused heat build up. A lot and from what Tornado said more ships were destroyed by R-Ray malfunction than impacts. So people devised different ways to lose that heat and fast.

The problem was compounded by accumulator storage (Tornado told me not to call them batteries.) The accumulators stored energy in these rings of some unobtainium that required a strong magnetic field moving through them to remain superconductors. If these flywheels slowed down or the power to the magnetic field was interrupted, or air got into the vacuum the wheels spun in, the super conductor became a so-so conductor and within a millisecond you had to a lot of energy on your hands looking for a new home.

DamCon involved picking out where energy from the various accumulators and excess heat would go, in advance. In practice it was choosing the least evil of several systems that were still better than having a couple gigawatts explode in your face.

First there were the radiators. Luna had three on her hull and four supplemental radiators that opened up like pamphlets. The supplemental radiators did heat up other areas of the ship a little like gun barrels and the rocket engines. But they were sections that took heat better than other areas like the bridge.

The three radiator sections on the hull were also resistors. If you pumped a certain amount of energy through they they were radiators. Pump more and a resistor would blow with a minimum of fuss taking that energy away in a happy little cloud of plasma. Obviously you didn't want a resistor to blown when your ship was accelerating through the debris it created. That could damage your sensors, flow gun barrels and was just not a ticket to a long and fruitful life. So the radiator use changed as the ship maneuvered.

You also tried very hard to shunt that energy between the radiators so none in fact exploded.

The next back up system was the water vents. Salt water could be sprayed from these vents and then carry away electrical energy before it became way more noisy. There was limited water for this purpose though. You got one free screw up per ship in general, and like the resistors they were very careful about venting the salt water in the least objectionable direction. Not to mention flying through the cloud as it was electrified was a bad idea. In fact the ship usually didn't fire ordnance when it vented water due to fear the electrical discharge would detonate missiles right outside the hull.

Of course the best place for this extra energy was in an opponent's R-Ray, overloading and damaging their engines, or an atmosphere, overloading and damaging a planet (hopefully an unfriendly one). It was a dirty trick to pull on the local real estate if you were near the ground.

Impact damage was usually minor given the R-Field repelling or disintegrating incoming matter and R-Beams. Most punctures would take minutes or up to an hour to evacuate a compartment, or kill you outright if your R-Field failed. Thus crew did not wear space suits for battle stations. It made sense to me, submarine crews didn't put on scuba gear at battle stations. They did wear goggles or helmets with visors because a hole could whip up a mean wind and blow debris in your eyes. That could lead to you hitting the wrong buttons in a pinch. There were also filter masks to deal with smoke and dedicated DamCon masks with ten minute air supplies and connectors for air hoses to allow crew to work in compartments where the air became unbreathable.

This ship could run if the bridge was knocked out but not terribly well. Docking was right out for example, but consoles on the engineering deck could handle straight line movement or simple dodging. The gunnery deck could work navigation. Ships had survived serious damage to the bridge and in some cases, evacuated the deck, repaired the worst of it and then manned the control stations again.

"What about the computer? What kind of protection does the computer have?" I asked. All this seemed very ... modern by my standards. One thing I got used to in this century was that every miracle of science was paid for with some kludge. I was curious how they would protect the computer as I imagined it was incredibly bulky by my standards.

Tornado looked a little confused. Then he said, "There's really no special precautions for the computer," he said considering.

"Seriously? No special precautions?"

"No. Dr. Wu, she takes the same chances as the rest of us," Tornado said.

I suddenly had a shit ton more questions. I obviously knew nothing of computers.

CT Considerations

Some games (CT in particular) suffer from very little differentiation between warships and civilian ships with a shit ton of launchers and lasers.this system gives options to warships that can be purchased with relatively little change to systems (ship systems and rule systems).

Radiators: radiators deploy to allow a damaged engine or power plant to function normally. They cost  50% of the most expensive system installed (power plant, j-drive or m-drive) and take up no volume (they're mounted outside the hull. A radiator set can negate up to three levels of damage to engines. So a ship with two hits to its power plant and one hit to its m-drive wild perform normally.

The downside is that the next hull hit has a 3 in 6 chance of destroying the radiators and inflicting an additional point of damage to a drive or power plant (determined randomly). In addition every turn the radiator is operating the engineer must make a save or another hit to a random engine is inflicted. The roll is +8 with DMs + Engineering skill and - Number of gees the ship is pulling. A ship can reduce its acceleration to reduce this penalty. An engineer can also perform damage control to restore the engines (hopefully before the radiators get hit.)

Resistors: A resistor system can be installed for 5% of a hull's cost and volume. The system costs .1 Mcr per hundred tons of hull to replace. A resistor system lets a ship convert an engine hit into a hull hit.

Plasma Venting: this is more a tactic than a system. Military and Scout crews are trained for this. Merchants must roll 10+ to perform it correctly. Venting plasma will use most of a ship's store of water or 10 tons of fuel per hundred tons of hull. In addition the ship must hold all fire the next turn as sensors and weapons are powered down to avoid damage. Military crews perform the maneuver on a +7 with Engineering skill modifying the throw. Merchant crew perform the maneuver correctly on a +10.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Dieselpunk Manifesto Part Ten: Niagara

Hello folks it's been a while since I looked in on our man out of time: Buck Rogers! This review deals with strips Buck Rogers strips 90-99 found  here.

Things were looking up for Buck and Wilma, offered clemency by Andrew MacGregor, who were on their way to Niagara to officially become officers in the Org! Suddenly a bomb explodes off their rocket's beam. After being thrown for a loop MacGregor explains this was a warning shot from Niagara.

Niagara air defense does not screw around. A radiogram would certainly serve as well.

It turns out the air scout Buck and Wilma are flying can be operated like a ground vehicle. A rocketcyce patrolman (flying motorcycle!) makes them pull over to a landing platform. Wilma frets about getting a ticket which is an odd concern for a woman who grew up in a rural Org without ground vehicles (or you know streets). In any case Buck shows him his badge and they get off light.

Apparently Niagara doesn't allow flying traffic in a certain radius other than official business which makes sense I suppose. Even a few thousand vehicles in close quarters like that could be a nightmare. I'm used to New York traffic and I feel faint at the thought

In the novel Buck Rogers Adventure game the background for Niagara indicates that hydro electric plants were set up (or repaired) to provide power from the falls for industry. The main industry seemed to be anti-air artillery because as soon as they built enough the Niagarans set them up to control space around their city. They then built the city itself above ground.

You wonder what the American Emperor was doing when this all happened but remember the man is a drunken lout. In any case either Niagara was too far North for the air patrols or not considered worth bothering with until they were a going concern. MacGregor shows them the defenses and Niagara is credited as the sole place in America safe from Han shenanigans.

Wilma and Buck are now in the Airguard. Wilma gets a job handling communications (a switchboard operator) while Buck goes to school to become a rocket engine mechanic. It hardly sounds heroic I know, but they have to do something between adventures. t's also interesting that warriors are expected to learn a trade and everyone works even though automation makes most labor unnecessary.

Buck and Wilma step out quite a lot right now, dancing, clubbing, fine dining and sure they deserve a rest. The one sour note comes from Mac Gregor who informs them they can't get married during their enlistment (apparently canoodling is cool though). Buck wishes they'd stayed with the outlaws.

Seriously. The man was Boss of an up and coming outfit. Apparently a steady paycheck and shopping carries a lot of weight with our heroes. Buck meets Tommy Johnson of the artillery (on a moving sidewalk!) and it's then we are introduced to the latest threat a mysterious growling roar in the skies overhead!

They rush to an air defense outpost that is oddly enough unmanned. It could be automated, after all everyone is transferring calls and doing rocket maintenance. A sound detector there will give an inaction of what made the sound. The detector indicates no physical object was scanned which gives them minor convulsions.) Just then the noise cuts in even louder than before. Rogers has his helmet for protection but by golly Tommy must be regretting his poor choice of head gear! Artillery and lookouts through out the area report the odd sound.

They finally trace the origin to the Buffalo sector of the metropolis and MacGregor lets Rogers off school to take Tommy and Wilma and do some sleuthing. What the heck, Rogers already passed for a Han and worked undercover. They soon encounter a suspicious figure and give chase on foot. For some reason they haven't taken their jumping belts and I can only think that they didn't want to draw attention to themselves and the belts would mark them as military. The catch the man with the aid of a rocketcycle patrolman who runs him down, coshes the blackguard and then kicks a knife out of his hand while writing him a citation for GHU knows what.

Rocketcycle patrolmen do not screw around. When they say stop you better stop. The man turns out to be a Han and is thrown into the local jail. Given the wide ranging powers of the patrolman the police force seems to be a paramilitary organization. I kind of wish we saw more of the patrolman.

The Airguard subjects the Han to electrohypnosis and he spits like a dribble glass. It is a weird tale of two Han scientists, massive ray projectors and a plot to destroy Niagara.

But that's for the post on Strip #100!

The city of Niagara was introduced in gratitude to the newspapers of the area that were early strong supporters of the strip. that bit of meta-commercialism aside Niagara is a very pleasant place. Everyone works, but everyone seems to have time for themselves. Work and play seems to balance out way better than in this lousy century. Buck and Wilma are having the time of their lives and in love with plenty of PDAs. The city seems to be wonderful for lovers.

For all that Niagara is a city under the threat of constant attack. That Emperor has to sober up sometime. Rocket patrolmen are a nightmare to anyone who looks suspicious and able to assault and detain such people if they resist being stopped in a way we would call misuse of power. then there are all those ginormous artillery pieces (several stories tall in some cases) and the sensors posts that are as common as cell phone towers. A great many people are also in military service.

I'd live there.

Monday, November 27, 2017


Earth was unprepared for a war with Mars. Her R-Ray technology lagged behind the Area forces. Mars had an larger and more experienced fleet and years of Arean subterfuge had greatly impeded Earth's involvement in the Solar System.

Building more ships would take time but could be done. Earth had the edge in population and resources. Likewise, building more ships would lead to advances in R-Ray propulsion and weapons. To deal with Arean influence Earth turned to the Special Forces. Highly trained teams would land to gather intelligence, train allies, and damage Arean interests and property. 

SpecFor in turn had two problems: lack of vehicles and lack of firepower. Most of the teams were transported via Luna class ships repurposed for covert operations. They were ostensibly merchants or explorers and did not mount ship vehicles. In many case SpecFor had vehicles provided by locals or they stole them. The SpecFor of course had lifter belts but these were not always sufficient. 

SpecFor were issued rocket pistols but felt they needed a weapon to answer the Martian disintegrator. The earth's answer was the blaster but this weapon had problems as detailed in an earlier post. As for the vehicle problem, the answer was the One Man Aerial Platform or Jitter

Jitters were small platforms with lifter technology and small powerful engines burning metallic hydrogen. Using lifters stretched fuel duration. They could manage 100-200 kph. Higher speeds could result in the engines melting. A jitter could ascend to 100 meters and operate for 2-3 hours between recharging and refueling. 

They also made good targets as the wearer stood up in them with their feet in braces similar to ski boots. The jitter was controlled by leaning in various directions, toe, and heel pedals and quite responsive. 

The initial reaction of the SpecFor was skepticism (or outright laughter). Still they trained and began to learn to use the jitter's speed and maneuverability to present poor targets to sniper fire. They also learned to fly closer to the ground. 

The jitter had the advantage of being discardable. In the event of an engine failure the wearer could eject and still use their lifter belt and have a chance of escape. In addition the SpecFor were happy to be as far from the metallic hydrogen as possible and strongly objected to mounting rocket engines on their lifter belts for this reason. The jitter also could hold a lot of fuel and multiple engines. That much mass in a lifter belt would make the user clumsy despite the belt reducing his weight. 

Lt. Salazar is equipped with a Mk. 1 blaster, Mk. 3 lifter belt and a  Earth Dynamics Jitter (One Man Air Platform or OMAP). Her helmet is non standard issue but a design adapted by many SpecFor in the field. Apparently the wings also contain sensor and radio antenna.

Some SpecFor loved them and some hated them resulting in mediocre performance reviews. 

Then some genius decided to give the jitter another try while using his blaster. Blasters, you may recall had a serious recoil problem. Wrist guards were a muss. Underweight troopers just didn't use them. However, anyone could use a blaster on a jitter. You flew at the target and fired and the recoil was countered safely and gradually by the lifter. You'd move back a meter, maybe less for skilled users. Earth began working on blaster rifles.

It was a rare case of two mediocre devices making an excellent hybrid. SpecFor operatives grew adept at using jitters for pop up maneuvers, hopping up several meters from a place of concealment, firing several shots quickly and then descending quickly to reload. The Arean troops faced with this tactic often drained their disintegrator charges with little significant damage while concealed snipers whittled them down. 

Jitters saw extensive service on Venus where they could dip under the tree canopy to avoid enemy fire  and even maneuver between tree trunks quicker than other vehicles. eventually several were designed as stretcher bearers and cargo pallets to extend SpecFor range and capabilities. 

In the Uplands Camapign on Venus a SpecFor company used jitters to move and set up a number of pack guns within range of the main Arean airbase. When the Earth and native forces began their counter attack these guns began a lethal shelling of the base and paralyzed operations for over an hour. The slow response allowed the earth attack to succeed and Earth fighters took command of the skies decisively for the entire campaign.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Come for the Piracy, Stay for the Sargasso!

As a young man I was introduced to the economics of grand theft auto by a person of the world.

A stolen vehicle (in Brooklyn at least) never made it to a new owner in one piece. It turned out it was far more lucrative to disassemble it and sell the parts piecemeal. Mind you were talking about the fairly common mass produced cars here: Fords, Hondas, and such. Stealing a Lamborghini might be different, if you could find a Lamborghini in Brooklyn. So the stolen cars get the filleted and the unsalable parts get dumped in a scrap yard somewhere.

It must be much the same with starships, captured by pirates. Every ship in a pirate fleet (if you even wanted such an organization) needs maintenance, supplies and fuel. The theft possible in a given area will only support so many ships. So unless a pirate has an immediate need for a ship, they will unload it and usually in pieces. The most valuable parts of a ship are, of course, its engines and generators allowed by computers and electronics. Low berths are low cost but can be dismounted easily and moved quickly.

Dismounting an engine is best done in zero gravity, ideally a pressurized orbital dock that provides a shirt sleeve environment. Usually that's not possible and you rough it in orbit and use remotes or crew in spacesuits. Such out of the way places usually have a base set u to hold specialized equipment, craft and extra mechanics. In fact a few become thriving businesses, buying ships outright and breaking them down,

Right behind the pirates come the real reavers who intend on separating the pirates from their money. Camp followers, gamblers, merchants, dwellers in houses of ill repute. Any pirate base will attract these alpha predators. They will grow and attract more merchants as the frontier gets closer. When the frontier officially passes the planet by the pirates will usually have departed. What happens then?

1) You have a new colony asking to join the Polity and thanking them for chasing those nasty (and probably broke) pirates away

2) The camp followers, gamblers, merchants, dwellers in houses of ill repute ,as well as the craftsmen and merchants pull out and go somewhere else, a civilized world or another pirate haven.

Case #1 happens way more than the government types admit. The locals clean it up for the history books. I'm not judgmental but pointing out the local ruler's ancestor was a sex slave to a pirate king sounds a little dangerous to me.

Case #2 is less common. The planet is abandoned. The hulk in various states of salvage and repair litter close orbit. Note in many cases the money changers following the pirates will live on some, if there's no better alternative.

In case #2 you will have a sargasso in space. You'd have a sargasso in case #1 unless the people on planet got to worrying about their image and started cleaning up the empties but a sargasso orbiting a deserted planet or moon has more atmosphere.

Random Table ("What am I doing in this forsaken Sargasso?!")
1- You have a salvage operation!
2- You need a part you could get cheap here!
3- This is where the 'X' is on the treasure map! the treasure must be onboard one of those hulks!
4- Misjump. Perhaps you can scrounge enough fuel from these wrecks to keep going?
5- You're patrol posted. This is a good place to hide. Provided no one needs to salvage something on your ship.
6- Historical research.

Wreck Condition
1- No engines or power plants. Fuel drained. Secondary systems (4 in 6 chance) are mostly in ruins. Most of the ship is in vacuum.

2- No engines or power plants. Batteries or solar cells are working providing light, heat and some gravity. Secondary systems (3 in 6 chance) are present and working. Life systems hold atmosphere.

3- Engines and power plant may be present (2 in 6 chance) and all secondary systems are working at nominal levels but there is a hazard associated with salvage:
   3-1) The ship is spinning on 1-3 axes
   3-2) Radiation hazard because someone removed the shielding!
   3-3) Fuel leak. A stray spark could make the air in a compartment go up like a torch.
   3-4) Sociopathic computer (a classic)
   3-5) Deranged inhabitants (possibly worshipping or serving 3-4).
   3-6) Castaways (not deranged but eager for rescue and none of this 'We'll send a rescue ship, honest!')

4- Plague ship! On the bright side all systems are present and intact.

5- Patrol involved. The ship was involved in skullduggery and chicanery. The Patrol has alarmed it, bugged it and will flag and observe and flag any ships docking there. Some wise guys sell 'treasure maps' to these ships!

6- The ship seems intact apart from personal effects. However, virtually every system (5 in 6 chance) will have one or more vital components removed from it making the repair and salvage a lengthy and costly process. Optionally some vital parts have failed but look all right until the system is turned on.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The First Sign of Resistance

One of the quaint ideas of the Twentieth Century futurists was a sort of Solar Federation. Perhaps we'll have one someday. For now not a single Inner World has a world government. Even the United Earth Government has plenty of rogue states, isolationists and petty war lords. It is much the same with Mars and both planets have allies or at least snitches and agents on the other.

Space Ship Thera was lifting from the Martian city state of Hellas when the Arctic Polar Lords decided to rattle their swords and they sent an attack saucer to intercept Thera and force her down.

The saucer had powerful R-Ray propulsion and could out accelerate the Thera at least when it had a whole planet to use for reaction mass. Thera could have resorted to her thrusters and might have gotten away but the saucer gained altitude and charged her weapons and then the sword rattling turned into a gunfight.

Martan Interdiction Saucer froma scan by ESS Thera.

The saucer started it, that's clear, trying to overpower the Thera's R-Ray and possibly overload it. The Martians are still better at R-Ray hijinks than Earth Men. This was an interdiction saucer, designed to focus a powerful R-Ray from a ground installation. As the Thera was putting out energy into its R-field to raise the ship, this saucer manipulated the field and short circuited it. That power had to go somewhere.

On board Thera alarms were going off as the R-Ray was abruptly blocked and the generator was getting power shunted into it and hence into the ship's accumulator banks. The Captain probably should have ordered the generator shut down immediately. Then the Thera would simply drop as her R-field slowly lost energy (assuming the saucer was agreeable). He might have fired rockets and done a launch the hard way, despite the saucer being directly above and played  chicken. But he delayed a second too long.

The generator was about to blow. The Chief Engineer dumped power into the emergency system, which had never been tested in the field. The emergency system was a number of resistors placed next to or near power cells between the inner and outer hulls in armored boxes. Dumping power into one would indeed make the resistor explode but it was in an armored box and covered by a thin panel designed to explode outward with minimal damage to the ship's systems.

As it was three resistors exploded with a huge amount of noise, smoke, plasma discharge, and lightning flashes. Many crew members thought the Thera had taken a direct hit. The saucer moved laterally and began a downward spiral to let its captain watch the Earth ship unravel from a safe distance.

As the saucer came into the starboard turret's field of fire the Thera unloaded three missiles into, it  all direct hits, and the saucer became more of an atmospheric anomaly than an airworthy craft.

Thera had one casualty, an engineer who was killed by a short circuit while attempting repairs. The saucer was a complete loss as reported by the City of Hellas in glowing terms. The Martians touted this as a triumph of their superior technology and said their saucer was lost to Earth treachery, opening fire on their vessel after surrendering. Privately they were amazed at Space Fleet damage control procedures, which saved a 'mortally stricken' vessel.

The Thera on returning to Earth for repairs. 
The Hellans were happy to see their hated foes, the Polar Lords, get their ears pinned back by the upstart Earth men.

The Thera's crew all received commendations, the slain crew member was buried with high honors, and the Captain was awarded the Gold Star; which he insisted be awarded to 'the egghead who came up with that gadget'.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Gravity is a Blast

Diesel tech is equal to real world technology in many regards and behind it in several (user interfaces, programming, electronics and information storage). The area it really shines in is its generation, insulation and direction of gravity (or at least a force like gravity but let us not quibble).

As Winchell Chung has said one of his peeves is gravity manipulation that is merely used to keep everyone on a spaceship agreeing on which way is up. In the dieselpunk setting gravity generators attract or repel the good old sun to travel great distances at appreciable acceleration (usually several meters.)

In orbit around a planet the engines are capable of several gees of acceleration. On a moon or small body generators are purposely built to raise gravity to Mars levels at least two prevent muscle and bone degeneration. Some have touted gravity control as being able to create pressure curtains of air to replace airlocks but sadly these have a knack for pulverizing organic tissue (and soft metals) passing through. They also present safety issues in combat or when a ship takes damage and most of the ways around this involve using a regular mechanical airlock. the irony is not lost on the engineers.

In the case of spacecraft gravity control could be used for docking in a pinch (the control was there but the gravity effects persisted a bit after being shut down) though thrusters worked better. It could create a gravity field on the hull of a ship making space walks safer and repairs a little easier. It could also be used to tractor in personnel and other small objects adrift in space.

The Mercurians were the first to use gravity control for communications. Holding a gravity beam focused across astronomical units was already done for ship drives. Modifying a weak beam to register on a mass detector was a simple modification. True beams could only be modulated fast enough for morse or crude audio, but nothing could stop them. Radio transmitters on Mercury were frequently blacked out by solar activity. The Mercurians implemented a massive upgrade to a gravity wave system.

It was the Earth that used gravity control to invent the blaster.

Blasters were the mythical big wallop pistols so beloved of media. Any physicist will tell you a man firing a pistol at another and knocking them flying is ridiculous. Bullets didn't have that much impact and the laws of momentum would say that the pistol applying such force to a projectile would be thrown violently back. Then someone decided a gun firing a repulser beam was doable and controllable.

A two handed grip was recommended. If you were much below average size you just didn't fire one of the things. This reduced the blaster's appeal. Other problems were the waste heat and radiation that resembled small thunderclaps in an atmosphere. But most embarrassing was the darned thing's tendency to melt and take a few fingers with it. Energy technology just didn't scale down that small.

The problem was partly solved by using resistors in a cylinder. If the energy dump didn't proceed properly, a resistor would blow before it got too bad. It was an improvement as it usually only took one finger (and sometimes only the first joint). Nevertheless some officer somewhere wanted it to work so development continued.

Special Forces issued blasters made an extraordinary effort to lose or break them.They did admit in the hands of a (large) skilled user they were spectacular for sparking confusion. If it fired. It it didn't cremate the user's hands. If it did the confusion was on the wrong side.

Then a bright boy decided the exploding resistors worked better as a design feature than a flaw. Power was dumped into a repulser generator. Some of it went into a resistor (usually a tungsten composite)  that vaporized. The small stream of melted metal was 'blasted' away from the weapon and down a column of vacuum created by the repulsion beam a micro second before. The blast had the advantage of carrying waste heat away from the weapon and putting it to some good use. It was hoped the forces of entropy wouldn't notice.

The repulsion beam would hit the target with the force of a sledgehammer, knocking most people flat.  The stream of molten metal (somewhat solid after a few meters would add injury to injury actually inflicting a burn and a possible electrical shock from plasma carried along with it.

Blaster pistols held six shots. That was the number of shots judged to be safe for a firer's wrists. In practice users learned to reload the things quickly in a firefight. Rifle versions were soon produced. They didn't have anymore fire power but the recoil was easier to control. Some users added a hook under the barrel to brace the weapon on a wall oral and spare their shoulders somewhat.

The Martian foe is more advanced in energy weaponry than Earth people and has a number of smaller and more powerful weapons including a 'disintegrator'. A disintegrator was capable of turning a human being into a problem for forensic specialists (with microscopes). The exact way waste heat was eliminated is still unknown.

Disintegrators in media are portrayed as scrupulously neat weapons. They hit you, you glow and are gone. In the real world disintegration means breaking a target down into smidgens. Matter is not destroyed but strewn all over the place. Disintegrators would be far more potent if their range was not so limited. They remain the modern equivalent of the Old Earth flamethrower: extremely potent within their range and scary as hell.

Some manufacturers tweaked the plasma created when the resistor blew to create pulses or beams of 'light', actually relatively slow moving pulses of plasma. SpecFor never went in for these features. True you could follow them to see where your beam impacted, but the salient point was your opponents could follow them back to your position which led not end well for you. Some action hero types were portrayed in media as being quick enough to dodge blaster bolts or even deflate them with various contrivances.

In reality the repulsive bolt traveled at light speed hitting targets long before a 'pulse' would reach it and the spray of tungsten was even twice the speed of the 'light'. Attempts by wags to block blasters in the field did not end well. SpecFor denied that it had gotten the entertainment industry to purposely stage such deflection events in their action movies to goad their enemies into suicidal heroics.

Monday, November 13, 2017

EF Sticks

The equipment was officially designated Electro Magnetic Frequency Scanner/Jammer. Predictably SpecFor agents short it to EF Sticks. Then they were ef-sticks. Then F--- Sticks with good reason.

The EMFS/J was a small compact and hellaciously powerful radio frequency scanner. It could pinpoint transmissions and jam them. Power was provided by a customized solium fuel cell and later paired conductite superconductor rings. The 'stick' had a protective cover that was closed when not in use. Pushing the button on the side opened the cover and extended a small antenna. Pressing the square red button under the cover initiated jamming. Up to four signals could be jammed at once.

The incredibly compact power source was a problem. If damaged badly sticks could explode with the force of several sticks of dynamite. Ruggedized construction made that unlikely for any damage that would leave the operator alive (those are really tough covers.)

SpecFor agents used them to disrupt communications of ground forces to delay response or confuse pursuit. In many cases they would have to leave the stick behind as it would draw fire. Eventually someone realized the power sources had another function and wired their stick to explode if tampered with. The new practice was to turn the jammer on, rig it to explode and leave it for the enemy to find. They had the choice of leaving it on or disarming it and risking an explosion (which they were  unaware of the first few times they encountered the sticks).

Eventually the Brass got wind of this highly unorthodox and effective procedure, issued orders to the engineers and the explosive feature was upgraded fro flaw to design feature. The new explosive mode was activated by hitting both red buttons then giving the handle a half twist. The manual recommended leaving at a brisk pace. Most SpecFor agents opted to run like hell.

The aggressor forces grew tired of being blown up while doing their job and their new protocol was to disintegrate sticks when they encountered them. The sticks were small targets and an off center hit was likely to flip it around and set it off. In addition disintegrators were short ranged and increasing the explosion radius  beyond the disintegrator radius was doable. Some agents opted for slipping a non-metallic fragmentation cover over a stick before dropping it to increase lethality. SpecFor agents are notorious for dirty tricks in the field.

A number of copies and knock-offs have found their way into the black market. The explosive trait may be more of a flaw in these than a design feature. The 'civilian' models also may have a flaw when're counter jamming can activate the explosive mode.

(thanks to Luke Campbell for superconductor warheads in his Vergeworld series, Raymond McVay for development,and Winchell Chung for ubiquitous posts and help developing this shiny)

Friday, November 10, 2017

Second Life for the Luna Class

The Luna class began a a lie. Earth was getting ready to throw her weight around in the Solar System and needed intelligence of every sort. The class could function as a lab ship doing research or be modified to serve as a warship in a week or less. Furthermore, the research facilities, two labs and a library could quickly be converted to quarters to hold a squad of special forces.

The Martians and Outer Moons looked suspiciously at the class' four triple fire launchers. "Pirates," Earth explained. Likewise the 40 tons of armor was purely a defensive measure.

When hostilities began it was with the Venusians and another problem came up: the ships were not great at providing ground support. This was regarded as inaccurate targeting systems. It was later discovered the ordinance was flawed and special ground bombardment rounds were developed.

In the meantime Earth's solution to ground support for troops in the Venusian jungle were a variety of heavily armed aerospace scouts. Several Luna Class were hurriedly converted to carriers. The library and a lab were converted to quarters and a flight room. Three of the four airlocks were converted grapple throwers. Instead of firing a high powered magnetic grapples they were now docking collars for three interceptors. The eco armor lock was retained because the suits were deemed useful to make repairs underway. The ship's armor was stripped to avoid mass issues. Deemed a new class it was named the Binary.

In the process the Earth military discovered that the Luna was an excellent starting point for other related classes. The central section of the ship was laid out in seven forty ton decks. The ship design bureau got to work and began building a variety of standardized decks they could stack to create different capabilities for different missions.

The Binary class allowed rapid transport of the fighters and was much more likely to survive than freighters. In addition the fighters could and did launch from orbit to conduct raids and land at field bases. The real vetting of the class came when Earth mounted an expedition against the pirates troubling Ceres and its allies. The ship could bring 7 turrets to bear  counting the fighters and was a very effective force multiplier. The ship's fuel refinery allowed it to mine for water and refine fuel for the fighters.

Some people argued that 'Binary' was incorrect as this was a constellation of four ships (not counting the EVA suits). Quaternary didn't have the right ring to it and Primary was considered too ostentatious.

There were mishaps with the class that only space operations showed. The carried craft were difficult to board under anything but a gee or less. There were still accidents boarding them, climbing through a tube and swinging into a forward seat some pilots kicked the wrong buttons. Another problem was with the interceptors' wings. The Luna and Binary were tractor rockets, the engines mounted on top and blasting just far enough from the hull to keep from scorching it. The original interceptors had a greater wingspan and higher tail assembly and pilots complained the tips of their wings were bing burnt off. the tail assembly was redesigned int a canard style and the wingspan reduced. The wings were more or less a Plan B incase the lifter engines failed. New design theory holds that wings are superfluous except to mount more equipment but the military are traditionalists. Besides, wings are great to draw fire away from the fuselage where the important stuff (like pilots) is stored. Pilot maintain that the cooler the wings look the faster the ship is.

Two seat Interceptor (the joke among the ground troops is: Why does it need two crew? One pilot reads and one writes!)

A few flight crew also complained of sickness due to proximity to the R-ray. Present doctrine is to kill all engines briefly for a launch.

Forty tons of auxiliary craft makes for a potent multipurpose vessel. Instead of military craft Primary carriers can operate cargo shuttle or search and rescue vessels. the class' future in the Earth military looks bright.

IRL the Luna has gotten completely revised and will be the subject of my next project. Here's a sneak peek.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Diesel Powered Fighters

Okay first of all this started out as a project titled Scout Rocket. I began this because I felt I was hitting a wall with several other endeavors and needed a change of pace. Now you know how I work.

I originally envisioned something akin to this:

If you don't recognize the source material you're obviously a new reader. I liked this design but 1) I wanted something more original my own style 2) I wasn't happy with the lines on it in general and felt I needed to work on my curves and such. After several tries I got this which I was comfortable with i.e. it needed a lot of tweaks. I tried to make it look similar to the Luna in some regards (note the Luna has undergone some big changes that I will be showcasing soon. The red rods are engine exhausts the yellow rods are where the dacha for the guns go.

Still not happy I was looking over the fighter and had an 'Enterprise Incident'. When they were developing the the original Star Trek supposedly someone flipped the Enterprise model upside down and Roddenberry decided it looked better that way (I'm not putting up photographs of both views, the Pre Crime Unit of Paramount just called to tell me not to. ;))

Anyway I reversed it (which mainly involved changing the dakka dakka and the engine exhaust colors and making the former tie assembly smaller and more akin to a speeder bike's probes or whatever they are.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to go with both. I'm not sure which one I like better. As to their use, well the product that is based n the Luna just got a lot bigger.

See a major part of Luna is composed of 40 dTon circular decks. It occurs to me that makes modifying the Luna class fairly easy, Just choose what decks you want to go into the latest model. So you can have a lab ship, a cargo ship etc. all built on the same hulls essentially. Since all the hulls are laid out with fuel tankage and auxiliary systems in place creating new ships should be comparatively easy. I just need to create a flight deck now and I'll have a carrier version.

Oh yeah, both are two seaters because in dieselpunk you need two people to handle all the number crunching and engine monitoring. Automation is for sissies.

That's it for now. More dieselpunked vehicles for gaming coming soon.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Bright Shinies

Like anyone else I love it when my characters have bright shines to play with. I also love dieselpunk and drawing gear for it is not as easy for me as rendering gear that looks like 'modern' futuristic equipment.

In many ways it is similar to the quandary the the developers of Enterprise faced. they couldn't have gear that looked more advanced than the original series and yet cellular phones were quite common and making the previously cool communicators with the flip grill look dated already.

With dieselpunk you need to make something that looks vaguely 1940's vintage but also has futuristic elements to it. I worked up some principles to follow, at least for my stuff.

1) It's clunkier than 'mainstream' SF gear. A communicator that can reach orbit will be the size of an old style phone receiver. But it will have some cool striping to let you know its futuristic and be capable of video calls.

2) Angles. Lots of angles. Streamlined gear is too modern looking. You want a comm that you could beat someone to death with? You came to the right place.

3) Gear is usually single purpose or has a few related purposes. The comm-corder for example is to make and store video and logs. It also has a night vision setting and that's abut it. If you want to transfer recordings to your computer you either remove the internal drive or hook up a cable. Wifi is not dieselpunk. It's a Martian conspiracy!

4) Some of the gear is fragile. Yes you can still kill a person with it but you might break a lens. The comm-corder has a shield that flips over the lens when not in use or keeps buttons from being broken if you drop it when the friendly fauna you're recording goes demogorgon on you.

5) Equipment requires additional time and perhaps some skill to operate. Take the very rare multi-scanner (TM). The toggles on the left are verbs such as measure, map, track, compare. The toggles on the right are quantities the device could measure: ionizing radiation, EM, gravity waves etc. There are switches for modifiers, conditions etc there as well. While in actual play the device could perform most of the functions of a tricorder (real TM) it would require some programming knowledge and perhaps a round or two, not the instantaneous scans of say that ghost detector app for you smartphone.

As a final note most of this stuff is not pocket sized. They can be outfitted with straps or carried in cases when not in use. Small packs may be necessary.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Cost of Business

All traders know there will come a time when you are hailed, intercepted and boarded and you'd damned well better make the right decisions or risk getting your freighter shot to pieces, see your crew get shot to pieces and lose everything.

The enemy has the weapons, has the troops, and the skill. They are the Patrol!


The Fleet is the creation of a number of advanced and populated worlds. It exists to preserve the status quo, the fat freighter plying their way between major centers of commerce. They have the tax base to let them by the big ships, pay their crews the premium salaries and get the best and brightest. Any pirates operating in the core worlds better have a masterful plan, make their score and then go into cold sleep for a few hundred years.

Out on the Frontier ... there is still commerce and trade (much of it legal). There are also pirates as always. The Frontier has the Patrol, armed well enough to raise merry Hell with one or more pirate ships. It's a smaller, leaner operation and it is chronically underfunded. The worlds that support it have less money, less of s pool of skilled crew. They need as many ships as possible to cover as many hot spots as possible. How do they pay for this?

Asset forfeiture!

The business model is simplicity itself. Most traders smuggle at least part of the time. Nearly everyone's smuggled at least once. Make a trader pull over and you have a decent chance of finding some swag. What then? The Patrol does not maintain extensive correctional facilities and most planetary governments don't want the refuse of space crowding out their native felons. The easiest ways to punish for nonviolent crimes is fining, suspending licenses, and exile.

Under fines read confiscating your cargo (all of it) and maybe your ship for a serious enough smuggling offense. Knowing what goods are contraband or may be regarded as such on your port of cal is a big job. It's where your deckmasters pay for themselves several times over.

For a big enough offense the entire ship may be forfeit. This rarely happens because one case of this can scare the free traders away for years. It is a great tool for starting up your own shipping line and keeping outsiders from competing with you. But then your trade efforts might still be hampered for some time. Other free traders may not want to support an organization that started out screwing their own.

The Banks have a handy solution to the immense power of asset forfeiture the Patrol wields. In the case of a mortgaged ship being seized, only part of that ship belongs to the offending party. The rest belongs to the Bank and in such cases the Patrol gladly hands over the ship in exchange for a fraction of the principal already paid to the Bank. The Bank gets a ship back that it can mortgage again, the Patrol gets a fat check, and evildoers are punished. Sometimes Banks even let these ships go cheap since they are often used. there might be problems with former owners seeking to steal the ship for various reasons (hidden compartments, vital information encoded on the computer etc.)

Please note in many cases the Bank turns right around and remortgages the ship to the same poor slob that it was confiscated from. Hey, crews don't grow on trees, every day that ship is sitting in a port it could be earning money for the shareholders. Besides, the so called lawbreakers already passed a background check once! So they broke a local law! It happens.

Note that the Patrol could sell these confiscated ships and pay the rest of the principle in the mortgage, but seldom has the interest or networking to get a good price. Also the Banks pay taxes and wield a lot of clout in many local governments. You don't want to tick them off.

Less extreme than asset forfeiture is the phenomenon of spot inspections. A bunch of Patrol inspectors boards you and finds your vessel to be a flying deathtrap. Stiff fines ensue! Or someone 'notes/ a leak of a vital commodity (fuel, propellant, air) just as it is vented explosively (did someone nudge a switch?). What a pity. The nice Patrol Captain is willing to sell your some more fuel or whatever at triple cost.

All these dirty trick can be done by space port inspectors. They aren't done commonly because the Patrol usually gets to traders first and getting gouged by a Patrol ship is avoidable in theory, if they can't intercept. The way you avoid gouging on planet is avoiding that planet. Not good for business.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Care and Feeding of Space Fleet Crew in the Diesel Age

Let's talk about uniforms. Uniforms have several functions beyond keeping your backside from sticking to the furniture (though that may be the most important!)

Uniforms allow you to recognize a member of the service.

Uniforms provide some measure of protection.

Uniforms provide pockets.

Space Fleet uniforms are made of nonflammable material. The basic uniform onboard ship consists of a light blue coverall with green piping down the legs and boots (either high boots or ankle height). Sleeveless and legless green overalls are often worn over this.

The Space Fleet is fairly easy going regarding uniforms onboard ships and in transit. Small personal touches are allowed. In addition while the uniforms are designated male or fem crew are welcome to wear whichever version is more comfortable to them.

The basic uniform consists of a blue coverall and boots. The boots have ankle and shin reinforcements. The protection is not only good for  using a lifter belt, it is helpful in low gravity maneuvering. Crew sometimes try 'stunts' to traverse several decks under low gravity levels and forget that while their weight is reduced their mass is the same and they can build up a good head of steam. Already ankle and leg injuries are down 40% in the Fleet with the use of this foot wear.

Unfortunately wrist and arm injuries are up 40%. The fleet is looking into wrist and elbow guards.

As you can see the uniforms *have* pockets. The pockets seal closed for zero gravity situations.

Branch is indicated by the collar and cuffs. The Space Fleet generally does not bother with rank insignia aboard ships. Rank badges are reserved for dress uniforms. Anyone transferring ships is advised to learn the hierarchy quickly.

The blue collars and cuffs mark these crew as Engineering. The Engineer on the left is further differentiated by the yellow tag on her collar and yellow striping in her hairband as dealing with airlocks and extravehicular activity.

The crew have hair at the maximum length allowed by regulations. This is for ease in donning spacesuits. Hair bands and scrunchies are required. If gravity goes out or a ship moves suddenly a crew might get hair whipping in their eyes during a crucial moment.

Engineers almost always wear specialized boots with reinforced steel toes just in case someone drops something heavy.

As a further note, most crew are allowed jewelry such as rings and chokers. Engineers are not due to safety concerns. electrocution and getting your necklace caught in machinery is never fashionable.

Officers have a white collar and cuffs. these officers have added over tunics to their basic uniform. this is pretty common. Engineering does not usually do this because the tunic gets in the way when crawling through machinery. The officer on the right is outfitted for a landing party with a compressor mask and eyescreen used for missions on Mars or a desert area. He's also wearing lifter breaches, similar to riding breaches with extra leg room for making jumps. The fem version of the tunic opens in the back and the make version on the side. Both tunics have straps running under the legs and arms that a lifter belt attaches to. They also have supplemental pockets. The officer on the left is wearing jewelry to give an idea of acceptable ornaments.

Some crew wear lifter belts onboard their ship to transit decks fairly quickly. Other just prefer wearing the tunics because the basic uniform feels like pajamas.

Billed cps are not used in the Fleet in general. Crew using billed caps have to turn the bills around to ascend ladders for safety reasons, the crew all carry goggles for eye protection and it's too easy to catch the bill on machinery in the engineering sections. Also if anything a space helmet can go over a sift cap in an emergency. You don't need to take it off.

Deckhands are designated with red collars and cuffs. They are usually relatively new to the Fleet and low ranking, Deckhands are extra crew carried in case personnel are incapacitated. Their major function is to handle damage control and first aid. When they aren't doing that they could be performing maintenance, swabbing decks or assisting personnel in almost any task. They also double as ship's troops. In some cases personnel remain deckhands after several years or for their whole career because they prefer the constantly changing duties. Highly experienced hands of this sort are prized.

This deckhand is wearing goggles with light enhancing lenses (like the engineers). Not everyone puts up with the added weight of the light enhancement gear and most goggles are not equipped.Almost everyone wears goggles onboard ship or has them handy. For one thing, low gravity plays hell with vision over long term exposure engorging and warping eyes. The goggles have an electro massage feature that alleviates this. Crew operating in the machine shop or laboratory may be exposed to metal filings or other contaminants and the goggles provide protection as well. Finally in the event of a micr meteor strike or combat it is possible for the inner hull to be breeched. Most breaches are a few centimeters across and will take several minutes (at least) for pressure to drop dangerously but winds from these hull can whip debris into eyes and blind unprotected crew at crucial moments.

Medical branch is designated by green collars and cuffs. This doctor replaced the over tunic with a smock and the lifter foot wear with comfortable ship shoes. She is clearly happy with a more sedentary set of duties.

Gunners are designated with yellow collars and cuffs. They also will wear their over tunics and lifter belts on duty. This is because reloads for the big guns can weigh over 100 kilos and lifter belts help enormously with reloading. Gunners are often the most adept crew at changing the lift settings on their belts to let them tote heavy loads. Sometimes they even use the winches set up for that purpose.

Warships seldom carry troops. They are simply not designed to move people in large numbers and the Fleet usually commandeers civilian liners or sleeper freighters for large troop movements. Special Forces are the exception to this. Special forces operate in small teams of two to five operatives. They are part of the Fleet by necessity, troops have to pitch in with the regular crew on a flight. In general they operate as deckhands, performing maintenance and aiding more skilled crew. Some Spectfor members wear mission badges on their caps. Others believe mission badges are bad luck or tempting fate. Badges record numbers in the same fashion as Roman numerals (| = X, / = V and o =I). Those officer has completed 16 missions (|/o = XVI). The uniform's tunic contains some armor, not enough to matter against modern weapons but able to stop clubs or a knife thrust.

In general uniforms are simply ignored unless you need a character sketch. You might consider using the gear worn when assessing saves. Perhaps using your lift belt to drop down the length of the ship is a dicey idea but you rightfully point out that you're wearing those lovely boots and deserve a +1. perhaps later you're trying to be stealthy and you hard soled reinforced boots give you a -1. In general things should even out and again the uniform pictures I posted are just for color, to develop a look for my world. though you might get into an argument with your CO over those mission badges you clipped to your cap.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Smallest Spacecraft on Luna

Spacers know the very nature of their job requires exposure to hostile if not deadly environments. Exposure can be planned or unplanned. Unplanned exposure can be very bad indeed: a hull breach, gas leak, fire and other emergency situations requiring damage control. Planned exposure includes mining, repairs in space and exploration.

Damage control teams use combination filter and compressor masks. The Damcon version of these masks includes a five minute air tank and a socket for an air hose. These are usually left off the masks used for exploration. The mask is actually a hood or straps onto the wearer's helmet providing full face coverage. Individual preferences are accommodated because you want your damcon people happy with their gear.

Popular media makes people think damage control and combat involves people donning space suits en mass. That is seldom done. A compartment struck by weapons fire or a micrometeor either has a leak or a breach. A breach means the compartment looses its air in under a minute. Anything causing a breach is unlikely to leave anyone alive in that compartment and damage control will seal it damned fast and then begin repairs after the emergency is under control (that WILL probably involve spacesuits on the outside of the hull.)

In case of a leak or fire the masks will keep a body breathing long enough to either control the situation or get to safety. Spacesuits are fatiguing to wear, will degrade performance and might not even protect you from weapons fire or anything else damaging a hull (they can get hit too and are a lot easier to damage than a hull).

Filter/compressor masks designed for exploration are lighter and meant to be worn long term and dispense with the tanked air and heavier hose fittings.

Another trick in a spacer's kit is a survival bubble. Carrying spacesuits for everyone would take up several tons and is regarded as unnecessary. Survival bubbles are issued to everyone and are usually disregarded by the older crew. Any disaster bad enough to make you bubble up will probably have killed you outright. Of course they still carry theirs in emergency situations or combat.

Usually one person stands watch in a skin suit. This is as uncomfortable as it sounds and usually it's the lowest rank or the guy who last screwed up. This person is the one who responds to radiation leaks, fires, serious hull damage and the like. A skin suit uses tension to keep you comfortable in a vacuum. It doesn't slow you down but it fits like a second skin and takes a good half hour to wiggle into. It's not the kind of thing you can just throw on.

General Purpose suits can be thrown on in a minute or less with others assisting. If you skip safety checks, checking the consumables, and sanitary arrangements you can throw one on very quickly indeed 30 seconds or less. They are used in a wide variety of jobs and not particularly suited to any of them. GP suits can be used at one atmosphere of pressure. It is customary to use them at far less than that to conserve air and keep the suit more flexible. In general a user needs about fifteen minutes of preparation to adapt to .3 atmospheres of pressure safely. However, most warships will reduce pressure in an airlock to allow a crewman to suit up for a shift.

It is actually not recommended to use space armor near Jupiter  without extensive modifications to shield against radiation and magnetic effects. This pilot wanted a photo op, took a bunch of anti-rads when he docked and was written up.. 
Planned exposure allows you to take all manner of precautions. The number one precaution is to use Rigid Extra Vehicular Armor. The Luna carries a pair of REVAs (some call them the ship's boats). A user enters a REVA (you don't wear these, you drive them) through a hatch on the back. The armor is usually stored in lockers mounted outside a ship with the back hatch connected to a mini airlock.

Since the armor is rigid it can be worn at any internal pressure. Climbing into one is an intricate and uncomfortable process. Small females are preferred for this sort of thing. A very small person can climb in wearing a skin suit for added protection. Mounting the suits on the outside allows them to be used in a variety of toxic environments without transporting contaminants into the ship. this can be more of a problem than people realize. Lunar dust for example, is an abrasive material that is very bad for your lungs and gets caught in machinery. Having that stuff float around is an invitation to problems with crew and ship in the long run. In such cases the space armor is preferred to regular space suits.

The suits are propelled in space and on a planet by cold gas micro thrusters. Air intakes extend their range on worlds with an atmosphere. A greatly modified lifter belt negates gravity allowing it to fly (upright!) on most worlds using thrusters. The suits have a range on Earth or Venus of about 100 kilometers and move about 30 kph. This s doubled for Mars or the Moon. A REVA can cary about 200 kilos of cargo and there are slings to allow this. Some special forces teams have been inserted using REVA's. Each suit can fly two or three operatives down from an orbiting ship.

Air recycling and batteries operate about eight hours and there is a small water and food syrup reservoir. The food syrup can charitably be described as 'filling' and you have your choice of flavors: green or red. Many crew dose it with caffeine and other drink mixtures for flavor or an energy boost against regulations.

The operator's arms can be extended through metal tubing from the main 'hull of the armor. The arms are far longer than the operators but the last 20 centimeters or so are servo controls for the three mechanical fingers at the end of each tube. The servos are very comfortable to use, compared to regular spacesuit gloves that gradually wear down fingernails and stress fingers. They are very clumsy to use unless you're experienced with them.

Despite the name the armor is not well suited for combat. The arms are two short to easily use two handed weapons or long arms. Pistols need special modifications. In the Venus Uprising the suits did see combat. Dropped into the dense jungles to clear landing fields for aircraft, the insurgents quickly targeted them and discovered most hand weapons were useless. The Venus suits were modified with wrist mounted flamers and angering the pilots (calling them 'operators' was viewed as derogatory) usually resulted in a wall of flame in front of you or on you. The insurgents learned to ignore the armor and wait for aircraft to use the clearing since they were easier to damage.

REVAs excel at mining operations and most mining gear is designed to be modified for their use. Any well stocked ship has a bunch of converter kits aboard just in case.

CT and CE- REVAs are equivalent to battledress. They do not increase strength but double endurance for most tasks. The user's dexterity is halved for fine motor tasks (such as shooting). Battledress skill will restore 2 points of dexterity (up to the character's normal level), vacc suit skill restores 1 point per level. Rifles are at a further -1 to hit unless they've been modified for the armor.

Treat the arms and claws as cudgels when making hand to hand attacks. REVA armor is immune to punches and kicks in most cases (unless the attacker is a forklift bot).

 White Star- REVA gives the wearer armor class 3 [16]. The armor gives a +4 to saves versus explosions, flame and electrical attacks. The pilot does 1d6-1 in hand to hand combat. Their movement is double.

REVAs cost 10,000 cr.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Skulls, Crossbones and Status Quo

Any merchant trader will tell you pirates are lazy @#$%! The exact translation of @#$% will vary by world but you get the idea.

The media presentations of pirates as charging in with lasers blasting are ... exaggerations to say the least. Lasers don't blast any more than a searchlight in vacuum for one thing. For another most merchants will stop resisting after a few well placed and low power shots tag them, or a missile or two is launched. A professional pirate simply demonstrates the means and will to end you and then the ball is in your court.

The problem all pirates must face is ... economics!

A pirate ship is a warship, whether converted or out of the dock. Warships have a number of features merchant ships do not, large magazines, oversized thrusters, barracks for troops, a large reserve of propellant and fuel... Merchants don't have these things because they eat up room that goes for cargo. Cargo, speculation and freighting is the merchant's life blood.

The merchants have an important edge on the pirates: fuel (or propellant if your setting uses rockets). Ships guzzle the shizzle. Your fat merchant could use up a lot of this running away and then hopefully top their tanks at the nearest port. A pirate finds a rather warm reception if he tries that. Now there are installations that will refuel and service pirate vessels. Usually they are not frequented by merchants so you need fuel and time to reach them. If a merchant gets in a lucky shot with a laser and the pirate ship loses fuel they may be stuck pending a quick patch job and some tense negotiations.

Other pirates also laugh at you a great deal upon hearing this.

So pirates like merchants try desperately to maximize their profits and minimize their risks. Yes there are head cases, terrorists and sociopaths out to maim, murder, and loot. They don't last long. In fact many are exterminated by pirates who realize the nutcase are going to bring the Navy down on their necks.

So smart pirates try to hit ships with known and valuable cargos. Insured or freighted cargos are preferred because no one is going to push their luck defending another person's booty or booty they get compensated for.

They also run the extortion game. A lot. That cuts down on risks but nothing helps the dependency on liquid hydrogen.

Borsten's Leap was situated in a less developed area between two civilized pockets. Trade began between the pockets and a guy named Borsten decided to set up a colony and a starport in position to cut a few weeks off travel times and refuel merchants. The star system had gas giants but they were very far out past a couple of asteroid belts. Borsten's High Port grew wealthy on ships passing through and began gouging on fuel prices  and various services knowing the merchants wanted to move on to trade elsewhere and wouldn't schlep out to the gas giants to refuel. They did want all manner of legal and illegal services the Borstenites provided. Borsten's economy grew around a system of services provided and the local currency was backed by coupons for back massages and the like, not gold or other precious metals. It worked.

A sizable community of belters had spread in the belts. Borsten's Leap welcomed them, and gouged them as well. In particular the Borstenites  established a search and rescue operation and demanded the belters pay their share. The Belters insisted they did not need such a service as they looked after their own or let them be examples of Darwinian evolution. But the Borstenites followed up with a huge SAR tax for many services and goods. Never piss off a Belter.

Belters are licensed to use nukes. They use these nukes to dig out fabulous riches. They have no problems with dumping these riches on your planet to derail your economy. Whatever you base your exchange rate on, they'll find it and drop it on you, possibly for free. Of course this did them little good with the Borstenites. They could drop a gold asteroid (gently, they weren't monsters) on them but it would do little harm to their economy which was based on services and work credits for same and there was no way for them to drop a bunch of masseuses or concierges or factors or call girls on the Landing.

The nukes remained and the belters could use them on the pirates. Thus pirates did not bother belters by and large.

After the belters had enough of the ground pounders double charging them they used a couple of nukes on a few of the dirty snowball asteroids and nudged them into more sunward orbits. Dirty snowballs contain water which can be processed into liquid hydrogen and a merchant ship could usually make a run to an asteroid in 12 hours or less. They could get refined fuel there from a belter running a small station. They could get it under cost.

The Borstenites were somewhat put out by this to say the least.

The economic status quo was in danger!

But piracy saved the day. As I said pirates hate having to actually work for their booty. Running over to a small station on an advertised asteroid was pretty easy. Shooting at tanker shuttles and grabbing their cash, then stealing their fuel and leaving was pretty low risk. The shuttles had to have a regular schedule to be available for the merchants after all. The belters did nuke a pirate ship or two but it cost them a kamikaze shuttle and a fuel depot. Those were uneconomical losses.

The belters were stuck. The local government couldn't be blamed for the pirate attacks and didn't have the resources to create an in system patrol. The belters could have to help pay to form such a patrol, guard their own stations or get out of the fuel depot business. The belters decided they'd had their fun and pulled out of the operation. They sold the sites. To the pirates.n

The pirates had their fuel. They mostly left the traders in this system alone and hit them in the surrounding systems earlier or later on their route. The belters had made a profit from their fuel stations, could use them themselves, and even rent shuttles to them or sell excess fuel. The traders had reasonable losses to the pirates who were very careful not to harm crew or ships given their cooperation they also wanted the merchants to buy their fuel.

Like I said there were always places a pirate could get fuel and repairs. There will always be pirates.

Swords and Thompsons

Our new man carried a Thompson and spoke fluent English with an accent I couldn't place. Luxembourg? Swiss? Belgique. Fitzy said he was from the Orkneys. His dog tags read Frank Fitzroy.

Our first Dark Mission we were meeting Maquis who had vital intelligence and vampires ... freaking vampires. I didn't know what else to call them. Only they weren't like Bela Lugosi. They had big bald heads and long talons and they could make you freeze while they opened you up like a fish. I know because one of them nearly did it to me.

But before its talons could fall on me a sword came out of nowhere and took its head clean off. It was Fitzy swinging a blade with one hand and blasting away with his Tommy gun with the other. He dropped the Thompson when he blew through the clip and went to town on them swinging the sword two handed. One of them ripped his tunic open to show a white shirt with a red cross across his shirt.

The fear left me. Suddenly these were just deformed monstrosities, they had no power over me. The rest of the unit must have felt it too. We were soldiers again, not targets.

"Aim for the heads, and don't be afraid! God is with us!" Fitzy called over his shoulder as he jumped into the fray.

The Templars were one of many orders thought extinguished by time and gunpowder. When the Second World War began some few devotees, who kept to the old ways, stepped forward to fight the growing darkness with the light of faith.

Taking the Templar background gives the following benefits:

In The Front and Operation Whitebox Templar is considered what you did before the war. Any job you held to pay the bills was provided by the Order as a cover while you trained for your real calling. Templar background gives you knowledge of theology, occultism and chivalry.

Templars may reroll any failed Saving Throws vs. Supernatural fear. Anyone in their group receives a  +1 bonus to such saving throws.

The Order has trained their knights as dedicated monster hunters. A Templar is never without stakes, holy water, silver bullets and at least one silver dagger. They also have a blessed symbol (usually a medallion or cross.) With it displayed undead and evil creatures must make a save vs. fear or flee for 1-6 rounds if possible.

Each Templar has a special blade crafted with the banes of most known supernatural creatures and blessed. This blade give the Templar a +1 to hit and damage. In addition it will strike non-corporeal creatures for half damage. Only the Templar gets this last benefit.

The Templar's drawbacks are serious. As knights they must exhibit chivalrous behavior (no lip service either). Fallen enemies must be shown mercy. More extreme interrogation techniques will not be tolerated. The innocent must be protected or avenged. Supernatural creatures will attack them first, recognizing them as a superior foe. Finally a Templar will not enter battle without showing the mark of his order: a Red Cross on a white field. Though sneaking around in disguise is allowable to complete a mission once the bullets start flying they will announce their affiliation and open their shirts to display their raiment.