Saturday, September 12, 2020

Turrets, Gunners, and Fire Control

The players are crewing a Far Trader at the coreward end of the Spinward Marches. As they head for the 100D limit, a Corsair jumps in. The grizzled veteran gunner goes to the turret, and straps himself into one of the turrets, trying to buy you time to get to the limit. His control is local, and primary weapons systems are in his hands.

The players are crewing a Patrol Cruiser at the coreward end of the Spinward Marches. As they are on patrol around a world, a Corsair jumps in. As they man battle stations, the gunners reach their stations. While they have back-up control, primary direction is coming from the bridge.

The players are the officers of a Frontier Cruiser at the coreward end of the Spinward Marches. As they are on patrol, a Corsair jumps in. As the watch section maneuvers the ship as battle stations are manned, the gunnery officer on the bridge engages the corsair with the secondary battery. The gun crews exist 

These three examples show how weapons control can work on starships. First, there is local control, as shown the vast majority civilian ships of any type. Then, there are turret mounts with central fire control, as would occur on Adventure class military and paramilitary ships. Finally, there is the central fire control of Battle class ships, capable of turning smaller ones inside out with a single barrage.

On smaller ships, with individual mounts, I think the default image many of us have for starship weapons mounts are the turrets from the Millenium Falcon  in Star Wars. A gunner, sitting behind a console, moves the weapons across his field of fire, assisted by the computer, to fire at other craft. While this is contemporary to the original versions of Traveller, it is hardly realistic. Even in the cinematic visions you may have, ships will seldom be close enough for optical manual to fire control to hit, and they will have velocities where the Force is the only way to have a prayer of hitting the target! The velocity problem has been known since the 1940's when manually operated 20 mm auto cannon were found to be ineffective for anti-aircraft firepower. However, the the local fire control may exist, especially if the ship does not have  quality sensors. Generally, Scout ships, Free Traders, Far Traders, and Fat Traders will not have centralized fire control.

Next, we can move on to centralized fire control for Adventure class ships. Generally, the Type T and Type C ships are among the smallest to have this kind of fire control arrangement. Basically, the local gunner has been reduced to a secondary purpose here, ensuring sand canisters and missiles load properly, and the lasers are functioning correctly. Their operations on the mount are more ensuring the system works properly, and follows the right cues from the main director. The best parallel I can find is the operation of older 5" mounts, where there is the ability to fire from the mount controls, but the primary location is from fire control.

On the largest ships, weapons fire is essentially automatic from the central fire control post on the bridge or combat information center. Examining Supplement 5, it comes across the bridges on a Lightning-class cruiser have a control location for weapons control, alongside local stations on the various gunnery decks, allowing for the main locations to be incapacitated. while continuing to fight the ship. Some of the limitations may be from the era when the deck plans were written, because I see individual (or area) targets getting manually designated, and then automatically engaged when the computers work out the math. Those heavy duty computers on starships running Fire Control/5 should be blowing up targets with out much help from the gunners. An individual with a good skill will help make the shot, but compared to the systems inputs, won't be of much help. If there are manually triggered weapons, I would expect for there to be a physical interconnection, perhaps in the shape of a pistol grip, physically connected to the overall fire control system.

Well, there's some more crunch for gunnery and fire control on starships. Players can discuss if they want local or central control of weapons, and which fits best with your particular campaign style. Space opera Travellers will opt for local control, so heroes can have their moment of triumph over the forces of evil. Harder Traveller campaigns will have a combat information center, or central fire control direction for their turrets. Of course, the key is to ensure the players are the center of the action. 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Across the Bright Face, or Gustav’s No-good Very Bad Day

I actually got to play in a Traveller game tonight. Put on by the local Saturday Night Space Opera crew, we played the classic adventure "Across the Bright Face", ably refereed by Matt. Our cast of characters included a senior scout, a medic, a faceman/engineer, and a demolition expert/astrogator with a checkered past. I played the senior scout. Here's my diary format of the whole scenario.

I’ve been working for the past few months as a mercenary. It’s taken me to Dinom/Lanth this time, where I’m bodyguarding a rich guy inspecting holdings. His name’s Arlent Streen. An unpleasant world, with only mines, but I’ve seen worse. So far, we’ve seen the ‘capital’ of Rhylan, and the city of Medianne, where at least he put us up in really nice quarters. I picked up a nice little multifunction radio, while our other guys, Franto and Corben, got a camera and a tarp. Odd choices.

While he’s inspecting a model ore processor, and the boss gets shot, as does his aide and the Major. They demand we surrender and turn over his briefcase, but we don’t want that. Stealing a tracked ATV, we head out of town. Blowing by some cops who don't notice us, we get to an open area outside of the city without a problem.

We get out of town, and find some tracks. We follow the tracks into the mountains. I get beaten up by a landslide, and Delfi, our medic who was a scientist, patches me up. A few hours later, we get ambushed by a group of ATVs. I fumble getting my helmet on, but the other gunner managed to get a shot off. Our ace driver managed to get us away from them really quick. Then there’s a small earthquake. I get injured again. This is not the ticket I thought it would be! Then we head to the hot zone.

After the debacle in the mountain pass, moving into the hot zone. We pass some shacks, an iridescent area. Franto and Corben get the brilliant idea to rig the tarp as temporary shade as we roll across the hot zone. Then find a mineshaft. Out there? I figured it was nuts to head in there. The mineshaft, despite my misgivings, gets us closer to the starport. We keep moving through the hotzone. I get woken up to help fix the stolen ATV, then it’s back, and mountains again. They find another mineshaft, and then find a nice valley that gets us closer to the starport. Once we got to some clear terrain again, we get intercepted by a rebel ATV. One guy pops off a rocket, the wrong way, and they hit our turret. With me in it! Then we got a near miss with a rocket. After that, I went up with the machine gun, and opened fire. Took me a couple of shots, but I managed to get a good hit and depressurized them, allowing us to get to the starport. It turns out the briefcase the boss had was full of bearer shares. Now we can get our own ship, once we get off this rock and somewhere nice.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

More Solo Play? When I Get the Time

I've been pretty quiet on the gaming front, and not had the time to write up adventure results at this point. I was running the crew of the Boxing Kangaroo through "Death Station" when I last had a chance, with one team about to meet one of the survivors...

However, I did see a couple of very interesting gaming blog posts this week. Omer Golan-Joel published library data for his Dark Nebula variant today. I did get to play Dark Nebula once, and it has it's charms. If I ever get a finish the Rim, I may go for his stuff. It's got a lot of space to play with the system, and Traveller is nothing but flexible. The Kangaroo is very much a techno-thriller in space, while there could be a lot more gonzo stuff in the Nebula.

The other is Real-life Hexcrawl Manual over at Alesmiter. There's long been an element to fantasy games to use real statistics as a beginning for things, like long distance travel, but even for science fiction, it's useful. Considering the Schizo Tech nature of the setting, having some player characters take a journey to an area on horseback, or the equivalent,  isn't out of expectation. That could even be a complication for a mercenary ticket. A religious dictatorship has a holy pilgrimage that requires nothing powered by wind or muscle be carried or used by the faithful, but offworld mercs toting high tech weapons are unlikely to care about damnation...

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Mediocre Movies as Adventure Fodder

A few weeks ago, after getting hit by the ad blitz for it on other social media, I watched the rather forgettable "thriller" The Last Thing He Wanted while out of town on business. The plot, once you make sense of it, is a major power runs illicit arms shipments into a politically controversial brushfire war, with a sympathetic bystander drawn in. Except she's not really a bystander, in having previously covered, ostensibly from the side of the rebels, a neighboring civil war.

After I finished the movie, my opinion is that it was something to watch while waiting on the Friday Night pizza delivery to get to me and then eat the pizza. Also, it could have used another draft or better editing.

However, many of the set pieces would be good for Traveller adventures. Having a dying friend or family member offer a big payday they'll split with you is an reward pull. Dirty secrets of the government works a well, even if you're running a Traveller Universe where Norris is as great as the propaganda makes him out to be, and Strephon is the Good King. Powerful governments often make cruel decisions and work with unscrupulous people, and good men will accept doing them as the alternatives are far worse. Or maybe the crew gets hired to take some cargo to an unmarked starport on a backwater, along with a representative or two, and the crew is their ride back, but they don't make it. Do the characters make their scheduled departure, or go after them? People those with sources, like organized crime bosses, spymasters, and successful smugglers, who can easily track down an obvious outsider doing shady things. Just keep the travel times in mind here. Perhaps the new friend is really the agent of a government official you are on the wrong side of. Don't be afraid to steal ideas from forgettable movies and books.

Monday, October 28, 2019

T5 Character Generation

Nigel the Cat "Helps"
Having gotten my copy of the T5.10 books last week, I decided to take try out the process of character generation for myself. At one point, I had quite a few Classic Traveller characters generated, and it's always been a minigame I've enjoyed in many systems. Here's my first attempt at generating a Traveller: 5 character.

Meet Coronel Sir Elden Cox, IM (ret), SEH, XSx4, WBx2, BA (Hons). Born on 195-1063, he is a native of Preslin/Gulf (Dene 0633). One of the few non-Jonkeereen natives of the world, he ended up dropping out of high school, and finding some work around the Navy Base. Seeing how unpleasant life was during that period, he completed his basic education at the Downport Education Company, to apply for college at the Imperial College of Preselin, where he obtained a honors degree in electronics, and joined NOTC, where his massive physique got the attention of the Marine Sergeant-Instructor. With his humble background, and previous lack of academic success, he opted to join the Marines instead. After completing the Deneb Marine Officer's School, he was assigned to Protected Forces, meaning Meteoric Entry and Ship's Troops his entire career. On his first tour, on mission against the Kforzeung corsairs, he was decorated with the Starburst for Extreme Heroism, with the following citation: "While in action against hostile Kforzeung Corsiars, he entered with a few enlisted men the mouth of a cave occupied by a desperate enemy, this act having been ordered after he had volunteered several times. In this action 1st Lieutenant Cox was wounded. An inspiring and courageous leader, 1st Lieutenant Cox's extraordinary heroism and supreme dedication to his comrades were commensurate with the his rank and reflects the highest credit upon himself and upon the Imperial Marines." Other than schools, his career showed a typical alternation of units, moving between command of Marine Detachments aboard ships to that of Meteoric Entry companies.

UPP: D69AAB, Skills: Driver-1, Electronics-5, Fighter-4 (Battle Dress-2, Blade-3, Slug Weapons-2), Flyer-2(Grav-1), Forward Observer-2, Hostile Environment-1, Leader-4, Liasion-1, Medic-1, Philosophy-2, Robotics-2, Survey-1, Stealth-1, Steward-1, Survival-2, Tactics-2, Vacc Suit-1.
Languages: Anglic-9, Battle-8, Gvegh-7
Equipment: BVIGR-13, SEH, WBx2, XSx4, TAS Membership,1 Ship Share, Cr 50,000 cash, Life Insurance, Cr 36,000 pension

My general conclusion is that it's kind of clunky to use for generation, and a little opaque, especially with respect to the Knowledge/Skill for Fighter and the like. I do like the Risk and Reward mechanic, and the flux for damage. The E5 course listed is a godsend, and makes sense in the setting, and may find it's way into future Mongoose or Classic Traveller games I have.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Traveller 5.10 Kickstarter Arrival and Unboxing

This spring, against possibly my better judgement, I backed the Traveller 5.10 Kickstarter. Despite the delay, the packages were shipped on October 16th, and arrived on the 19th, a delivery day in advance of what was stated. The Courier route to me was a bit more direct than most, it seems. The box arrived with out an issue, and largely damaged from when it was on the pile at Mr. Miller's residence in his last update.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Shooting Up Professional Pirates

Classic William H. Keith Corsair Drawing from Traveller Wiki
            “Challenge sent sir, once they were a blip on the sensors. We should have had a response when you came in.” BM3 Zabiayh’s explanation began.
            “Send it again, and man battle stations.” Lieutenant Brickley ordered, as he started prepping his gear for strapping in. “The captain has the deck and the conn.”
            “Aye-aye,” the Boatswain then gave the announcement, getting the entire crew to their stations.
            “Helm, get us to an interception. Sensors, what can you tell about the bogie?” was the next set of orders.
            “Laying in course, sir.” Zabiayh responded.
            “Working on resolution, sir,” responded Sublieutenant Hassan as he strapped into his chair. “I’ve got some basic information from passives, but nothing yet. It’s going to be a long time to close enough for details.”
            “Understood. Keep signaling, though.” Brickley responded.
            The two ships spent much of an hour slowly closing. Every signal from the Kangaroo was ignored, but the rules of engagement forbade shots. Finally, Hassan announced, “Got him! Looks like about 400 tons.”
            “Keep on him. Let’s get a good lock,” was the Captain’s reply.
            “Get a lock, aye,” was Hassan’s fully voiced reply, followed by a thought. Lighting this SOB up with a missile ping just tells him he ain’t trusted! “Can’t quite get it!” as time passed.
            “He’s trying to break our lock. Still got a good hold on his position.”
            “Keep going. We’ll get one soon enough.” The range continued to close
            “Lock is good. We’ve got him where he’s wanted, Cap’n.” was Hassan’s tired announcement. Looking at the readouts for the crew, he could see that many were snoozing at their posts, with Chishan’s section III completely asleep.
            “Good. At this point, he’s responded to my hails with an ancient song about professional pirates. Prepare to open fire. He’s a confirmed hostile now.” Brickley reviewed reports from the Orbital Complex showed the ‘ready flight’ was nowhere near ready, the customs cutters out of position for this fight, and the Adzel in an extended refit. Also, the Naval Station was said they were recording it, with them giving him subtle approval and back up. Evade selected for the system.
            When the ships closed slightly more, he gave the order to open fire with the triple laser turrets. The dorsal turret hits, and the ventral narrowly missing. The corsair’s return fire was more accurate than expected given the range, with two of them hitting the Boxing Kangaroo. “Brand! Get on that!” Brickley ordered. He directed the computer to load the Fire Control software; his ship’s best advantage.
            Closing, he had Chishan join in with his missiles. Conventional warheads only, as there was too much in the area to use the nukes. The first flights and the lasers impacted on the corsair, destroying hull, and damaging the drives, the return fire ineffective. He noted Brand’s continued efforts on the repairs, ensuring this ship would not fall. The fighters were now forming up, but not ready to go. The next round of fire, the indications were the corsair had repaired its drive, and was getting ready to run. Where in the system though? The Oort cloud for a frozen slushball the crew could refine and then jump out with? It would be hard to outrun the couriers eventually. The Kangaroo’s fire at short range gutted it quickly, with the corsair breaking up in orbit from a final missile volley.
            “Boat away! Inspect the wreckage, and check for survivors!” Brickley ordered. The routine task of launching the ship’s boat was easily accomplished. Afari skillfully matched the orbit the debris field had taken. A light blinked a few minutes later, indicating an incoming message from the Joey.
            “Boxing Kangaroo, this is Joey. I have some good news.” Valdez’s Banadsani accent came through.
            “Joey, this is Kangaroo actual. Go ahead.”
            “Kangaroo, Joey, we have found ten crew here, with one survivor. We’ll send him over to be questioned, and the rest for the morgue. And we got an ID. Sollies out of Smade’s Planet.”
            “Rodger, Joey. Come on back, and we can get refilled on ammo.” After surrendering the prisoner to the authorities, the rest of the week was quiet when they jumped out on 072-1120, bound for Loki.