Friday, January 22, 2016

Send in the Scouts!

Hell of a response to my battle dress post. This column is both very simple and very hard to write. All you have to do is look at a rule or aspect of a setting with fresh eyes so to speak. In a discussion I had the other day with Ray McVay he mentioned how some folks are rules oriented and have to keep making up new rules and systems. I think that I am more setting oriented. I like making up stuff about a world or campaign and any new rules I do are pretty incidental.

But if you're reading my stuff for the rules please continue and pass the word.

The Sulieman Type S Scout Courier. Everyone knows it and probably has a love hate relationship with it. It's about as dinky assed as a starship can be. This is from a guy who'd consider getting a "Small Ships Universe FTW" tattoo on his chest.

But it's free. You just need to enlist in the Scouts which is easy and live which ... requires planning and quick action. Or put another way play Russian roulette with a revolver loaded with three bullets. Survive three rounds and congrats you're a captain!

Let's take a look under the hood.

The type S pulls two gees and can make jump 2. This means she can land easily on the largest terrestrial planets and even hover in all but the largest gas giants to refuel. She isn't tied to the jump 1 mains like the Trader series. That is to say it can go nearly anywhere. You're screwed if we're talking the Islands subsectors. This is perfect for adventurers. More importantly she carries enough fuel for TWO jumps before refueling meaning you can make a quick getaway (the Scouts who make a quick getaway are the ones rolling 7+ on survival obviously) when things start going Rimward.

Defensive features are a double turret. In Scouts in active service these turrets usually mount twin beam lasers. The Scouts released to retired personnel don't have twin lasers for obvious reasons. Most player characters raise holy Hell with ACRs and snub pistols. Most refs want a little breathing room before they get ship weapons.

I referred to Scouts as dinky and that is a little misleading. Yes for a starship they're small. But take a look at this:

(Image from Winchell Chung)

The Scout is on the lower right next to the space shuttle and the Serenity (no you can't have the Serenity ... because ... reasons!) Note the comparison to the jetliner. I think it is fair to say even if the Scout is obviously a belly lander she probably can't land just anywhere. If you want to argue with that tell me why she'd need a frigging air/raft?

Unstable terrain, boulders, jungle ... these are all things you do not want to land in. Having characters return to see their ship sinking under a sand dune is a great cautionary tale. The bottom line is that there is always a reason to travel in a smaller vehicle or hoof it yourself.

The air/raft by the way is held in a berth meaning no room for repairs or regular servicing. You need to take the jalopy out for most maintenance or repairs.

I'm not going to address the interior layout directly except to say: be inventive! Who says there's only one type of vessel loaned to retired Scouts? Who says there's one internal layout even within a single class? Many people for that matter have expressed a lot of misgivings with the 'official' layout in Traders and Gunboats for various reasons. So maybe your own Scout has all its cabins and common room combined into one suite? Maybe another Scout has an air/raft bay in the belly for fast drop off. there are a lot of ways to lay out a 100 ton ships.

Also note these ships are technically pretty close to decommissioned and pushing it off with a very short wrench. Some of them might be in fine shape and moved to loaner status to allow funding for newer ships. Most will have a few things wrong with them and might need a bit of a scavenger hunt to get the parts necessary to be space worthy. Getting your loaner Scout in decent shape might be the first adventure your party takes on. The good news is there are no berthing costs at the Scout base while you work on your hulk.

On average you're going to get a ship with some ... quirks. The kind of quirks that make your referee practice his evil laugh.

If you're lucky, well, some final crews might gift the retiree receiving their death trap  former vessel navigation tapes, a few pieces of cool gear in the locker, a kit bashed hydroponics section or a souped up air/raft are all possible.

A ship might also have a reputation for good or bad.
"Hey I Know that Ship!" Table
1) It's haunted!
2) One of my parents captained it. Let me expedite your paperwork.
3) It was involved in over 100 space rescues.
4) Did they ever get that smell out?
5) They never did find out what happened to the last crew
6) You know you're never going to get that mascot out of there, right?

There's one other thing you should know before you sign the receipt for your Scout, in exchange for free unrefined fuel (all you really need anyway), free berthing at Scout bases and the continued  good will of the Service you might be asked for an occasional favor (like when the referee needs you to be somewhere. Think of it as an automatic reenlistment roll.

What happens to these aging ships? Eventually the Service sells them at discount. They fall into all sorts of hands. The best known result is to have a ship sold to belters who modify it into a Seeker class mining vessel. In many cases the family or families of Scouts who served on the ships buy them to form a mining operation. You see old Scouts never die ...