Wednesday, September 30, 2015

An Alternative Jump Drive Idea - "Instant" Jump Drives

A while back (some time ago, on another blog, now gone), I posted some ideas regarding alternative versions of the ubiquitous Traveller Jump Drive. Several ideas have been posted over the years, and some are now listed as options in current versions of the rules (notably Mongoose Traveller).

Now that real life has settled down somewhat, I have some time to post a few other ideas and comments. Rather than make one large post, I'll make several as the ideas (and time) come to me...

This idea derived from a recent Facebook discussion regarding Jump Drives.

With this variant, travel in Jump Space is instantaneous for ship occupants, while regular space plods on as usual... in essence, ship occupants 'gain' (lose?) a week from travelling in Jump Space. While this could appear to be an advantage for them, it may instead cause a lot of problems.

First, the accumulated time disparity between Travellers and 'everyone else' could create a  sort of 'generation gap' (Traveller or Spacer gap?) Family and friends back home will continue to age normally, while Travellers (military, Nobility, merchants, etc) will age at a slower rate. For a five year term (assuming around 50 jumps per year average) a Traveller will amount to around a ten year difference. However most space travelers will not undertake nearly this many jumps (Merchants and Scouts - especially the Communications Branch would likely travel the most). This may not seem like much, at first. But when your kid sister is now as old (or older...) than you are, the girl you dated is now a decade older (with her own kids nearing college age), and when your kids (or nieces and nephews, et al) seem to grow up 'much faster' than you anticipate... This disparity will cause social tension, as well as create a 'disconnect' amongst Travellers.

Second, Economics will be impacted. If a merchant travels to a nearby system for a perceived economic need (based on current economic trends, of course), those trends and needs could change greatly (or worsen) while the merchant loses two weeks-plus during the now-instantaneous [in Jump space] travel time. Someone who knows economics better than myself will be needed to determine potential economics changes, at least as far as the Traveller rules are concerned, but I'm sure they could be extensive changes.

Third, military matters will be greatly affected. Imagine the time changes (and time lost) when chasing down a rival raiding fleet. Or those pesky pirates... These time changes will greatly affect/change a military campaign - at least when compared to regular Traveller. The headaches created for strategists could be on the order of nightmarish, though the characters in the affected universe/setting would be used to them.

Next- Spacer Pay. You spend a week less in 'real time' than others. According to the Company, you get one week's less pay. No, they don't care what the calendar says, you spent less time working than those who weren't in Jump space.

Imagine the union battles - especially in the Traveller universe, where rules and laws are sometimes ignored, when convenient...

And finally there is NO TIME AVAILABLE in Jump space for routine maintenance, repair of battle damage, etc. A battle-damaged fleet which Jumps to escape a dangerous situation will have no time in Jump space for repairs, such as exists in the original setting rules. Dangerous when in a long-term conflict and enemy fleets in the region...

There are some advantages, however. First is the aforementioned time lag. This could be considered a form of 'time travel' - at least for ship crew, Travellers, etc. I could see stories of 'that grizzled old scout' who's been travelling in his old, much-repaired scout/courier. Sure, he may be 80 years old physically. But he's been travelling constantly, exploring, running small cargoes, performing odd jobs, etc. He could easily be over 110 years old chronologically. Or more, if that's his actual age. Imagine the stories he could tell, the things he's seen.

Next, ship maintenance could be 'stretched' a bit, allowing a ship to be in service for a few more weeks, perhaps, before requiring annual maintenance. This may also increase the usable lifespan of a ship - something accountants (and board members) will find appealing.

I had one other idea, but it has escaped the brain cage for the moment. If/when I remember it, I will update this blog later...

And I'm sure there are many other factors that I have not yet considered, which will greatly impact the history, military, economics, and many, many other factors in a Traveller setting.

Thanks for reading, and Keep On Travelling!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ship Design Changes: Life Support Update

I went back over the numbers for standard Traveller life support earlier, while putting together some numbers for an economics comparison between design styles. I soon realized that, somewhere in my calculations, I seriously screwed up the life support numbers and costs (see my post on changes in my campaign's ship design process; Ship Design Changes #4.) I'm not sure how I managed to bollux that up, but I was probably tired.

Well, I had to change these numbers because, of course, I would go slowly nuts looking at incorrect data. When I worked out these numbers originally, my goals were to ease bookkeeping a bit for player groups (and myself), as well as make it easier to calculate life support costs and needs for long-term space endeavors.

So this time I CAREFULLY went over the numbers. I left the size and costs of the units themselves unchanged from what I developed earlier. I also used certain specific ship sizes for my initial calculations. I still used the Free Trader as the basis for the 'standard size' life support module. For the small sized module, I used the 4-stateroom Scout/Courier for the basis. And for the two larger modules, I merely increased from there, with some bonus support for volume efficiency. These newly-calculated numbers appear to work much better than the ones I had previously posted.

What I did this time is calculate the cost and 'man-days' of life support for a stateroom at double occupancy for a full 28-day period. Two people in one stateroom for 28 days, then divided into C3000 gives around Cr 53.5 per 'man-day'.

So here are the numbers I am using for this campaign setting. (And yes, this IS the final version!)

                  MODULES                                     REFILLS
Size                 Tons   MCr    Support        Cost (Cr)    Tons
Small                   5      2.5        200              12,500      0.25
Standard            10     5           500              30,000      0.5
Large                 20    10         1000             55,000       1
Huge                  50    20         2500            150,000      2

- Support listed in 'man-days'; each day a human (or equivalent) spends on the ship takes up one 'man-day' of support.
- Refill tonnage listed represents the volume of space required to carry extra supplies elsewhere in the ship. This is very useful when calculating life support for long exploration (or other) voyages.
- These calculations only work for Classic Traveller, The Traveller Book, and Mongoose Traveller-designed ships (as well as my house rules); they do not apply to High Guard-style military ships. For those I use the standard rules. After all, it's traditional, and we all know how the Vilani-inspired Imperial Navy follows tradition...

Saturday, March 28, 2015


How does the Third Imperium honor its Emperors? Or at least, how does it do so in a permanent form?

Could the Third Imperium have its own version of Mount Rushmore?

I could see a valley on Capital where the faces of the Emperors and Empresses are carved into permanent displays for the citizenry, complete with walking tours, grav-bus tours, shops, and the like.

Of course, finding room for such an endeavor on the highly-populated Imperial Capital may be an impossibility. This could result in such a memorial being constructed on another world, say some well-known vacation world, or an Imperial preserve world.

One other variation could be a location similar to various other shrines, such as the US of A's Lincoln Memorial. Memorials to commemorate specific battles, events, etc, would be scattered across the Imperium as well, and would be popular tourist stops, similar to Paris' Arch de Triomphe, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the US, and various other well-known memorials and locations around this one small planet.

These would make great tourist sights, and could also serve as the backdrop for an interesting encounter or two for player character parties.

The Third Imperium, with its long history, would likely have numerous such shrines and memorials scattered around its worlds. A collection of such locations would provide locations for the encounters mentioned above, and would complement the setting's rich history.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

One Problem with The Kursis Charter Campaign (Traveller)

The Kursis Charter is a T20 campaign, and was included in the T20 Referee's Screen. The campaign is good and, in general, complete and well thought-out.

However, there are some issues with it. Not with the campaign itself, per se, but with one of the planets it takes place on...


The planet Miip in Ley Sector (0819 E999546-3) is the setting of an important series of scenes in this campaign. I won't go over them here for a very specific reason (at least one of my players reads this blog), but I will discuss that taint...

Miip itself is a very, very, VERY wet world. On the world's only inhabited island (essentially a small continent), it rains almost every day, sometimes for days on end. Sunshine seems to be a 'fleeting' occurence.

Here are the relevant sections from the setting regarding the taint and atmosphere/weather (paraphrased):

"radioactive dust taint in the atmosphere; only filters, breath masks required."
"The atmospheric taint may be the result of nuclear bombardment in the distant past, but this is unproven."
"storms can rage for whole days at a time."

What?? Let's cover that radiation angle first.

On a world this wet, how can any radioactive dust remain in the air? All that rain would remove it from the atmosphere, unless it were being replenished. Normal weather patterns and events would not be enough (as far as I know) to bring the radioactive dust back up into the atmosphere, not when it is this wet. If the world were covered with deserts, that'd be suitable, but not on this wet world.

Next, if the atmosphere were entirely filled with radioactive dust, as the campaign guide implies, more than a single city, or even a dozen, would have to be obliterated to produce that much dust, and keep it in the atmosphere for several thousand years. And that level of bombardment would certainly be detectable by the inhabitants, the Imperial Survey, and even the odd space traveller or two.
   These numbers aren't exact, of course, as we do not have any real comparison in our real-life experience. However, we did heavily damage two cities with atom bombs at the end of World War 2. To my knowledge (I could easily be wrong about this!) there is currently no lingering dust in our atmosphere from this event, 70 years later, nor even a decade later.


It is certainly possible for lifeforms to develop which can effectively deal with this type of atmosphere (or so I'm told; I'm no xeno-biologist). However, such lifeforms will be completely inedible for human consumption, or should be.
   The campaign sourcebook states the 'native' Ursa on Miip generally lead a hunter-gatherer existence, eating local lifeforms for survival and sustenance. One can also assume that some Terran/human-compatible lifeforms from other environments have been introduced, and that these are also consumed.

There are two problems with this. First, I doubt that human or Ursa biologies would be capable of consuming meat from sources which can endure radioactive environments. Don't quote me on that for certain, as I'm no scientist, but it does make sense. Second, Terran life would have an extremely difficult time surviving this environment, with 'dust-borne' radiation, which would accumulate on surfaces, be blown by harsh winds into the eyes, etc. (See below.)

Add in the long-term issues involved with general radioactivity exposure (genetic damage, mutations, et al), and you have a seriously uninhabitable planet. At least for Terran lifeforms, which is the point here.

"In between storms, powerful winds howl across the surface, uprooting trees and demolishing weak structures."

There are two things implied in this statement. First, during periods of 'relative calm' between the storms, the 'entire planet', or at least the entire area inhabited by the locals, is constantly swept by high speed winds.
   I could see some trees or weaker/damaged structures being felled by winds after they'd taken significant water damage, or had their roots loosened from the soil by water saturation. That makes sense. But constantly? That is what this statement implies.
   My interpretation: the winds can get that rough, but this occurs only 'infrequently'.

And if these periods of 'calm' are so bad, just how dangerous are the frequent storms?

I'm certain there are points I am missing about these topics, and this particular planetary write-up. C'est la vie. Feel free to post comments if you'd like.

The main point I'm (slowly) trying to make: as written, this is not a viable planet for human habitation.

How is this issue (as I see it) fixed?

Solution 1: Change the taint. Perhaps the taint is the high levels of humidity, created by the 90% or so surface water, along with the extensive rains. Or maybe it is actually some biological taint - hallucinogenic plant pollen (overdone in Traveller), or pollen which causes cancer in humans (also overdone in Traveller).

Solution 2: Change the atmosphere. This is the solution I will use in my setting, changing it from 9 (Dense, Tainted) to 8 (Dense, Standard), keeping the weather patterns (and that unrelenting rain) unchanged. All that rain, wind, and storms are more than enough challenge for a PC party.

There are, undoubtedly, many other ways to 'fix' this issue. One could be to ignore it, running the setting 'as is'. Most players won't care. Another could be to discern some natural function causing the issue. Or perhaps some other, unnatural solution will present itself. (Ancients, anyone?)

Whatever a referee chooses to do with this issue, be sure to give your players a great gaming experience!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Project Longbow - Reflections on an impossible project

The first time I read a reference to this secret Imperial project (in Gurps: Traveller), I thought nothing of it. Another secret project for background with potential for adventure and intrigue. Cool.

And then it percolated in the back of my mind, and I realized it was, essentially, an impossibility, at least in regards to the supposed data being collected and analyzed by the Third Imperium.

First, some background.

Officially, the project, if acknowledged at all, is brushed off as a communications research project by Imperial officials. But it is listed in the sources as a gravitics scanning project, designed and built specifically to trace Zhodani ship movements during their [Galactic] Core Expeditions. The source states there are two locations where the scanning arrays are set up, both being Imperial Navy Depots. One location I can't remember [I don't have access to the actual source book currently], the other is the Imperial Depot in Deneb Sector. It also references collected data being transferred to these Depots for processing.

So let us consider the distances involved. We'll start from Regina, in the aptly named Regina Subsector, Spinward Marches Sector. Practically on the border with the hated Zhodani. From this location it is around 12 full subsectors (120 or so parsecs) to the closest edge of the Zhodani Consulate facing the Galactic Core, at least according to the Traveller Map website. (For this example, we don't really need exact distances).

120 Parsecs at 3.26 Light Years per parsec is equal to around 400 Light Years.


Now consider that the Zhodani's Core Expeditions have travelled several THOUSAND PARSECS towards the core.

Add a mere 1000 parsecs to our example above. That is another 3260 Light Years, for a total of at least 3660 Light Years.

Think about this.

That distance, as measured in Light Years, or just Years, IS LONGER THAN THE THIRD IMPERIUM HAS BEEN IN EXISTENCE! And this is only from one end of the Imperium. Add another 50 parsecs or so to for that gravity wave data to reach the Deneb Depot; that's another 168 Light Years.

This makes it IMPOSSIBLE for this project to work! There is no way the gravity waves generated by the Core Expeditions' ships' engines (gravitic maneuver drives, of course) can REACH the Imperium's sensors. Unless the gravity waves from these ships can travel faster than light. If they can, I think the Imperium has much bigger problems than those Core Expeditions...

This brings up a few possibilities.
  First, the Imperium is lying, and Project Longbow is... something else. What? Well, that would be up to the referee now, wouldn't it? ;)
  Second, the Imperium is using this project as a cover, for some purpose. Perhaps they really do have a secret communications research project in the works. Or perhaps it's a complicate trap, a lure to draw out Zhodani agents. That would be one expensive trap, given the supposed size of this project. As an Imperial ruler, I would put all that money into military development instead. Or better yet, the regional economies...

  Lastly, and this is probably the correct reason, they inserted this project as background, something for a referee to build upon, a mystery for players to figure out...

Whatever the original reason, this silly background device is not present in my campaigns.

[Note: Post edited to remove statements which could be interpreted as insulting to the original designers/creators of this background data. Not my intent at all. I claim lack of sleep as the excuse for my lapse, and apologize for it.]