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!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Real Life Sets In, and other considerations...

What is that saying? "The best laid plans of mice and men...", or something like that.

I have intended to make regular posts (and still intend to do so), but it seems 'real life' had other plans for the last couple months. First, I was sick for an entire month (summer colds are NOT fun, as many of us know), then the allergies hit immediately afterward; great timing, eh? And of course my wife caught a cold - a worse one - soon after.


Anyway, the last thing anyone wants to do is read about my real life issues, such as they are. I'm alive and well, and still able to play Traveller (and other games), so Life Is Good!

I've had a fair bit of time to contemplate a number of Traveller subjects recently. A discussion regarding time spent in Jump Space triggered a series of thoughts in my head, and now I'm considering a major re-write of human history in my version of the Traveller Universe. I want to keep much of the original, but 'make it my own'. Sound familiar?

Here are my thoughts, what I am considering. None of these ideas are set in stone (I am open to ideas, comments, etc; hint, hint!)

* People in Jump Space experience NO TRAVEL TIME; Jumps are 'instantaneous' for ship occupants. However, time still passes for those not in Jump Space. People who Travel regularly would have two ages: their chronological age, and their reduced age (reflecting the weeks - or even years - they have 'lost' due to Jump travel. This brings to mind a fairly significant number of social changes. Sounds like another blog topic...

* Warning! Sacrilege Ahead! I have always HATED the Aslan as a species. Too stereotypical for me, though the various authors have done an excellent job detailing their culture, language, and so forth. Of course, if I remove them from my campaigns, I have to replace them with another species (or fill in their area with other, current, species). A lot of work replacing that large of an area, but that's half the fun...

* I considered removing the Vargr as well, but soon came to the conclusion that Traveller is just not Traveller without the Vargr. Or the Ancients, for that matter.

* Speaking of Ancients... My Ancients weren't the first serious interstellar travelers. At least two other, major, 'precursor' species existed, though the time period between them and the Ancients is on the order of a million years or so.

* Ships and Rules. In my previous blog posts I detailed some of the ship rules I was planning to use. I still hope to use them, but probably with a few more minor changes. Rather than limiting High Guard-designed ships to 2000-tons or greater, any ship can be designed using those rules. However, Basic (CT) ship designs will be much less expensive (I plan to cut the CT drive costs in half, at least, while increasing military-constructed drives by a factor of at least two).

* Rather than having the Solomani Confederation be a rebelling/breakaway portion of the Third Imperium, I may have it start as a completely separate government/culture. However, as the Third Imperium expanded early in its new life, conflict between it and the Solomani would be inevitable, given the Solomani outlook. This may be more historical rewrite than I'm willing to tackle at this time. We'll see what my brain comes up with...

Ah, I see I'm almost starting to ramble a bit. That is more than enough for the moment from me. Anyway, feel free to make comments, or send me an email at the link below.

Keep On Travelling!
Dwayne Walstrom

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...

Sunday, March 29, 2015


I wrote an article for a free electronic magazine a couple years or so ago (Freelance Traveller), detailing how I changed tracking of life support in my campaigns. I like to think some people liked it, while some Traveller purists probably thought it was... not so hot. To each their own, of course. While I like to run a technical game, my gaming group doesn't have that much time, so I streamlined the rules a bit for them.

Under the method I developed, I used the Free Trader as a guide. Reducing each stateroom's size by 1-ton, I combined the ten saved tons into a Life Support Module (LSM). I then made this a 'Standard Size' module, setting it at MCr 2.5 cost, while reducing the cost of standard staterooms to MC 0.25. My reasoning was much of the stateroom cost would be for life support needs. Adding a bit for efficiency, and still using the ten-stateroom size as a guide, I set the Standard LSM at 500 man-days of support: each passenger utilizes one 'man-day' of support per day on the vessel (of course). I then developed other sizes of LS Modules (Small, Standard, Large, Huge), along with the costs needed to replenish or 'refill' the modules.
   Using this system, ships can now track individual life support usage, rather than tracking 'staterooms' used, as under the original CT system. This system also has the added benefit of making it possible to track LS usage for long duration cruises, such as exploration, when restocking the supplies could be a problem...

Some other changes I've made for this setting.
   - Low Berths: I don't, personally, see low berths as taking up an entire half-ton of space in a starship. True, there will be some needed space for power, support, etc, but these should not actually take up THAT much space, should they? In addition, unlike normal CT rules, low berths require NO upkeep each month, i.e., no monthly life support upkeep costs. The way I see it, if a low berth (emergency or otherwise) can remain operational in space for decades, or even centuries, and (usually) keep the occupant alive, then there should be no monthly support costs for them. Such maintenance requirements are met during a ship's Annual Maintenance.
   Low Berths take up a mere quarter-ton of space each, and cost MCr 0.05 each, so 20 of them take up a mere 5-tons, costing MCr 1.
   - Standard Staterooms: As mentioned above, I reduced the volume of standard staterooms, making them 3-tons each. The cost for each is also reduced to MCr 0.25 per unit. These are treated in all other respects as standard CT staterooms.
   - Full Staterooms (Suites): These are full 4-ton staterooms, usually reserved for important crewmembers (say, the Captain), or for High Passengers. Such individuals are either more important, or pay more money for passage, and thus require more room... Cost is MCr 0.5 each.
   - Crew Stateroom: These are cramped, 2-ton rooms, holding only a single crewmember (or desperate mid-passenger). Cost is MCr 0.15 each.
   - Suites: As the name implies, larger suites for High Passengers, taking up 8-tons of ship space, and costing at least MCr 1 each. Some fancier, higher-class units may cost more...
   - Bunk: As the name implies, a bunk plus a little storage space for the crewmember. These are usually reserved for troops, mercenaries, and so forth. These take up a single ton of space, and cost MCr 0.1 each.

Size            Days   Tons  MCr    
Small           200         5       2.5
Standard     500        10      5
Large         1000       20     10
Huge          2000       50     20

Size            Tons   Cr_______
Small           0.25     10,000
Standard     0.5       25,000
Large            1         50,000
Huge             2       100,000

UNIT                              Tons     MCr
Low Berth                        0.25     0.05
Emergency Low Berth     0.5       0.1
Bunk                                 1          0.1
Crew Quarters                 2          0.15
Stateroom                        3          0.25
Full Stateroom                 4          0.5
Luxury Stateroom            8          1+

Anyone who's actually read that Freelance Traveller article may notice that the numbers I first posted there are different than those I list here. Further research and thought forced me to change the numbers, though now I don't remember the exact reasons why. Whatever the reasoning, these are the numbers I'm using for this setting. And that original article was more of a 'this is how I did it' style article, than a detailed critique of Traveller's life support mechanism. Hopefully someone out there thought it was ok, and maybe found some use for it. If so, I'll feel like I've actually contributed (a little) to the game's legacy.

This will probably be my last post regarding significant changes for my campaign's ship design rules. I am, essentially, borrowing the Mongoose Traveller charts for ship fittings (armories, labs, and the like), as well as versions of how they incorporate stealth systems, ECM, and the like.

I still haven't decided how I'm running ship combats yet...

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!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ship Design Changes - Part Three

Bridge, Computers, Electronics.

More ship design rule changes for my current Traveller setting.

There are few changes to Bridges in this setting. Unlike CT, however, I use the Mongoose Traveller ruling for ships 200-tons and smaller. These ships require only 10-ton bridges. Costs remain unchanged.
   Mongoose rules include a number of available options for bridges, including such items as ejectable bridges, holographic displays, cramped/roomy bridges, etc. I consider most as purely military options. I also decided that ships are constructed to the basic tech available at their Tech Level of construction. In other words, any ship designed at TL 12+ automatically has a holographic-capable bridge, and so forth.

Here is an area of bigger changes. In actuality, these rules are very similar, if not identical, to the Mongoose rules. (I don't have them in front of me as I type this, so I can't verify this either way.)
   I have removed the Fib and Bin options for this setting. A computer will be constructed to the current standards of the tech level. In addition I have increased the CPU ratings for all models, though I have also kept the original Traveller ruling for computer model vs jump number (obviously).
   While I didn't wish to remove that 'hard space opera' feel of old Classic Traveller, I wished to reduce the ridiculous (to modern eyes) computer sizes and low CPU capacities.
   Computer Models 1 though 3 do NOT take up any ship volume, and are 'relatively' cheap. After this, they begin to take up more ship volume, and the costs rise sharply.

It makes no sense for any computer in any science fiction setting to NOT have a backup. After all, people's lives are dependent upon computers when engaged in interstellar travel. To reflect this, computer models 1 to 3 have a single available backup computer, at no extra cost. Models 4 and greater have two backups.
   Ship designers are free to include more backups if desired. Each extra backup requires one ton, and the full cost of the base computer must be paid in full. This provides one additional backup, and the added volume reflects consoles, storage, wiring, etc.

          Computer Tables
Model#  TL   Volume   Cost (MCr)
   1           5           -             1
   2           7           -             2
   3           8           -             3
   4           9           1            5
   5          10          2            8
   6          11          3           11
   7          12          4           15

A ship is assumed to have basic sensors, of course (inter-system and interstellar travel would be impossible without them). However, I decided that most ship sensor capabilities would be reflected in ship designs (and sensor/combat rules) based off the ship's installed computer model. This reflects processing power available to the sensor operator, which may be a far more important factor than the actual sensor arrays, when one considers the amount of background noise and interference encountered in space.
   The single exception to this is Survey Sensors. These are sensors used to conduct interstellar and planetary surveys, of course. A survey Sensor Suite requires 10 tons, and costs MCr 10.

As with Sensors, these options are based off the ship's installed Computer Model. (I didn't feel like adding a higher number of die rolls to the games I run.)
   Jamming signals and sensors is basically a military action, Civilian ships conduct these actions, but their efforts will be useless when facing a military ship. And you can bet that any military ship will have no problems countering efforts from a civilian vessel.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ship Design Changes - Part Two

More on my ship design changes for my Traveller setting.

One change I've made in this setting when comparing Civilian (CT) and Military (HG) ship designs is in comparative damage levels.

Military ships with weaponry equivalent to a cilivian ship will inflict FIVE TIMES the damage as compared to a civilian model. This reflects a number of changes for the military design: better, more detailed engineering, more power, etc.

Conversely, Military ships are able to take FIVE TIMES as much punishment compared to Cilivian ships.

What this means: players who encounter a military ship, for whatever reason, had better be on their best behavior. If that ship is hostile, they better run, or surrender and hope for mercy...

I've read posts in other forums, detailing more 'logical' or better methods to 'accurately' depict weapons mounts/hardpoints on Traveller ship designs. Usually, this type of change is desired by people wanting their ships to have the numbers of weapons found in various science fiction designs. I personally have NO problem with this concept. However, since I am no mathematician, nor a structural scientist/engineer, I have to rely on others for their input/ideas.

With the limitations I have in place in my Traveller setting (Civilian versus Military designs), and the fact that players will NOT be receiving any military ships or hardware what-so-ever (I'd be crazy to allow this; my players are all engineers and programmers - they know a few things!), I don't really need to worry about this issue. Any military ship the players encounter will have MORE than enough firepower to deal with a pesky civilian ship...

In effect, there are no changes to a ship's available hardpoints in this setting.


Modular Hulls
The Mongoose Traveller rules (which these rules borrow heavily from) allow a ship hull to designate up to 75% of its volume allocated as MODULAR. This gives ship designers great flexibility, and I incorporated this concept into these setting rules.

Ships may be designed to use heavy-duty grapples to carry other components, such as external cargo pods, or even entire starships. This is entirely legal, as long as the ship can still move (1-G+, or Jump-1 for interstellar travel) with the added volume.
   A grapple takes up 3% the volume of tonnage it is designed to hold (round up to the nearest half-ton), and costs MCr 1 per ton of grapple.

Increased Structure
This Mongoose option is available for ship designers in this setting. However, it makes little sense for a Civilian (CT) ship to utilize it, as most CT designs are not capable of withstanding large amounts of combat damage - especially if they may be facing actual Military-design ships. Therefore while available, it makes little sense for most ship designs to utilize this feature. Save the cost, and use the volume for armor or, more importantly for cilivians, cargo space.

Increased Hull Rating
See Increased Structure, above. Same availability, same reasons not to use it.

Armor is important for surviving combat. It also takes up valuable ship volume, a no-no for traders who wish to turn a profit. And it costs credits.
   Civilian (CT) ships designers may purchase armor as in the Mongoose rules. Military-grade (HG) ships use formulas derived from the old High Guard rules.

Stealth Coatings
Stealth coatings are available for CT/Civilian ship designs. A number of factors limit this feature's use, however.
   One, it is expensive. MCr 0.1 per ton of ship.
   Two, Imperial (and other) authorities have a tendency to 'disapprove' of civilian ships utilizing this option. For some reason, they tend to believe ships designed with stealth will be used for smuggling, piracy, and/or blockade-running. And they are usually correct.

Electromagnetic Masking (EMM)
While this option is available, its use tends to be restricted by the Imperium (and other) interstellar governments. See Stealth Coatings, above. Also, this option requires actual ship volume, which is better used for cargo capacity with most civilian designs.

Reflec Armor
This type of armor is used to reflect laser attacks. This is a good, relatively inexpensive option for many captains, and it can easily be included without the added inconvenience of a refit or overhaul.
   However, this option is USELESS against missile attacks, which are a favorite of commerce raiders and pirates everywhere.
   It is also nearly useless against the more powerful military ship energy weapon attacks (plasma, fusion, etc).

LCD Hull
Ships may be designed with LCD, or liquid crystal display, hulls. For most commercial ships this is a useless extravagance, and the ship is given a specific paint job. For a small trader, selling wares out of his open cargo bay, or a young noble, however, this may be a relatively-inexpensive advantage.
   With proper programming, and/or a good graphic designer, the ship can change its outward appearance to reflect its products, services, etc. Or it can be used to change one section of the hull, with changeable messages.
   Note that a designer MAY designate only a small portion of the hull as having this option. Minimum cost is MCr 0.25, even if a smaller area is desired.
   This option costs MCr 0.05 per ton of hull.
   Note that combat damage will affect the appearance of the design.

This ends (for now?) the setting changes for CT ship design in my campaign.
Feel free to ask questions, make comments, etc.

Next up - Bridges, Computers, and other electronics options.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Ship Design Changes - Part One

Like many Traveller referees, I just can't leave the ship rules alone.

Some portions I just don't like (ship weapons limits, for example). Others do not make sense scientifically (Power Plant fuel usage). And missiles are supposed to be dangerous. They weren't, really, in the original CT rules, but some supplements and updates modified this.

I'll go over some of the changes I've made for my campaign in this post.

Aka, CT Rules versus High Guard.
I have expanded the CT ship engine chart, adding more higher-end engines, allowing for more engines and larger CT ship designs. Adding these larger drives and expanding out the tonnage tables allows for CT designs of up to 10,000-ton vessels. This gives regional transport/cargo hauling companies more designs to choose from, without having to design a large freighter with the (much more expensive) High Guard-type ships.

In the original CT rules, there was no variation between power plants of differing tech levels (TLs). A TL-15 power plant used the same quantity of fuel per month as a TL-9 version. This is, needless to say, highly unrealistic. Indeed, this may be one of the most-modified portions of the CT rules ever, with ship weaponry being the only one with more changes.

Mongoose Traveller (MgT) made a significant change in their version of Traveller. Starting at TL-9 when fusion power plants are first introduced, they follow a fairly steady rate of increase. I've followed their example, and what follows is my version (very close to theirs, if not actually the same). As TL increases, the duration of that fuel in the plant increases. This allows a ship designer to leave it be, creating a ship with great in-system endurance, or reducing the tankage, allowing more room in the ship for components or cargo.

   TL                                  9    10   11   12   13   14   15
   Endurance (in Weeks)   2      4     8   12   24   36   72

CT had NO built-in function for ships to purify unrefined fuel. This made it rather dangerous for a ship captain to perform field refueling, risking a mis-jump. Sometimes you have to take that risk, however.

Supplement 5, High Guard, introduced Fuel Purification Plants, and many referees allowed their use in basic (CT) ship designs, giving greater flexibility and reliability to civilian (and player) ships. But my 'beef' with this component is the same as with power plant fuel usage: no TL improvements.

So I did this: I have TWO versions of the purifier plants, Civilian and Military. Each has an increasing hourly tonnage of fuel purification.
And I allow non-military (CT) ships to use military purifiers, if they can get/afford them. Incidentally, this is the ONLY military ship component I allow civilian ships to install and use. I also allow purifiers of differing TLs to be installed on the same ship, again, the ONLY time I allow this.

  Purification plants always displace 1-ton. Civilian models cost MCr 1, and Miltiary models always cost MCr 3, regardless of TL of construction.
  The following chart lists the hourly rate of purification per installed unit. If ships have multiple types or TLs of purifiers, they merely add the purification rates before computing how long it takes to clean the tanks.

  TL                     9    10     11     12     13     14     15
  Civilian (CT)     0.5    1      1      1.5    1.5     2      2.5
  Military (HG)    1      1.5    2      3       4        5      7.5

Well, that should do it for this round. I should have another post about ship design completed within a couple of days.
Don't hesitate to leave a comment or question below, and thanks for reading!

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.]

I'm back. Woo-hoo...

Well, it's been a LONG time since I've done anything on here. I'd like to say I was busy, but really, I blame Facebook.

I had begun to post here about a Far Horizons campaign I was to be involved with [Far Horizons is a ***very*** obscure play-by-email campaign. Maybe a couple thousand people world-wide know about it. It's effectively dead, but it was fun], but I had issues at the time, and quit that. And I haven't been back at it since. There just aren't enough players interested in Far Horizons, and it is a slightly tough nut to run if you don't have server space and Unix/Linux skills (none of which I possess). Ah, well.

I've been 'pestering' my gaming group for a Traveller campaign for several years now (we've been heavily into a good Gurps:Banestorm campaign), and it appears we may actually give it a run soon. It is difficult to run a consistent campaign when we meet perhaps once a month. Ah, that's Real Life for you, right? Anyway, I'll quit rambling about the past, and post some details about the campaign.

I kept switching between wanting to run different versions of the available Traveller rules sets. First I'd want to use the Classic Traveller (CT) rules. Then I would want to run the newer Mongoose version (MgT). Then I'd wish I still had my old MegaTraveller (MT) stuff.

Well, some time ago, I found a group of rules called Traveller-Plus (T+). These are expanded CT rules, with more skills and a more consistent task system. Essentially, it IS Classic Traveller, with improvements which don't bog the game down. It also changes the personal combat system to one-second rounds, rather than CT's 15-second rounds, which never really made any sense to me. And using the T+ rules, I don't need a small pile of older, fragile books along for reference, nor PDF files (or not as many). A mere half-dozen or so sheets of paper is all that's needed. Much better.

My only problem with T+, and CT for that matter, is the space combat system. 20 minute combat rounds. Bleah! Mongoose has a better time-scale; six-minute combat rounds. But using this system for space combat requires a different map scale, or some conversions to make everything work together. I'm still not sure exactly what I'll do with that mess yet, but I'm open to suggestions. And it should be some time before the players get into that much trouble. I hope...

I've made some modifications to how the players will generate their player characters.

Rather than going through the normal Traveller career process, I've made some slight changes to the T+ 'buy your character' method. I'm having the players roll their stats, with one extra roll. They drop the lowest roll, then apply them how they wish to the stats. Yes, this may create some powerful characters, but I like higher power campaigns in general. And they may need the extra skills anyway; knowing my group, they tend to get into some trouble... ;) They will then receive a number of Character Points (CP) to purchase such things as Psionic Talents, improve or modify their Stats, and purchase skills. They get to choose their general age, and (with some referee input) create their backgrounds. And finally they will start with some basic gear (clothes, ID, etc) and a set amount of cash - basically a value based of how old their character is modified by some skills (Carousing, Gambling).

While I'm allowing the players to essentially write their own characters and backgrounds (who wants to play a character they don't like?), I will be working with them to ensure enough background for me to work with. For instance, one character will be receiving an inheritance at campaign start - a starship. However, it has problems (it is very old, typical in many Traveller campaigns). Also, his family (cousins) had been arguing over the inheritance for years. Why was he suddenly the recipient? Another player will receive the key to a starport locker on another world. A third player will have a 'hanger-on', an NPC doctor with a troubled past who is helping the player, since he helped her. And so on.

Any Traveller referee or player who has access to the old T20 materials will know what this campaign is. The players are hired to complete a contract for a regional company, and along the way find a mystery. While trying to solve it, they run into a series of incidents and adventures. All for the chance to make some real money. Of course, I can't leave any background alone, and I've changed a few things. But not enough to make a significant difference. I won't mention them here, as my group has access to this blog. :)

That's enough for this post. I'll be back in the near future to espouse on other Traveller-related topics. Perhaps my next post will be about the idiocy of the Longbow project in the Official Traveller Universe (OTU).