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.