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Old 05-19-2024, 11:52 PM   #1
David L Pulver
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Default Starships as Giant Armored Air/Rafts

In various Traveller adventures, starting with early GDW ones like Mission on Mithril but continuing the present day, there is often the assumption that their ship lands on an exotic world, and the crew exit to explore, map, hunt, or otherwise travel via ATV, open air/raft, or afoot across dangerous terrain, across the GM's detailed planetary hex maps while experiencing the perils of random alien animal encounters, local malcontents, and/or planetological events.

However, with spaceships generally being defined as vehicles possessed of reactionless/gravitic drives with thrusts usually in excess of the average planets (size 5 or so) gravity (especially if you have a scout ship, fast trader, pinnace, etc. with 2G+), the cunning player may well ask why they can't (when visiting X-class starport worlds or those of a low TL) just do their exploring or mapping or hunting by having their antigrav drive ship cruise along at walking to airship-like speeds just above the treetop, in perfect safety (as most ships are armored to resist 250-megawatt laser cannons) as a mobile base in comfort. Sure, they'll need to get out when they get close to interesting wild life or alien ruins or whatever, but that's far less dangerous and faster..

In many low-tech "mercenary" type adventures (e.g., classic ones like FASA's Seven Pillars) there seems to be an implicit idea that the PCs will land their ship at a fixed point, get out, and never use it as for planetary mobility. Of course, in worlds with some form of planetary defense, the local traffic control regulations will prevent or at least regulate this sort of thing. but I'm talking about low tech or strange new worlds here.

So, which of the rule sets, if any, address this sort of thing, either by explicitly allowing it, or by setting specific limits on the safety, maneuverability or capabilities of standard M-drives in a planetary setting. I've seen some rules sets that seem to require landing rolls, at least in bad weather, but not much that takes into account the fact that the ship's power plant is usually good for 2 weeks to a month and the ship is seemingly a giant VTOL grav sled covered in pretty thick armor....
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Last edited by David L Pulver; 05-19-2024 at 11:54 PM. Reason: fix typo
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Old 05-20-2024, 05:34 AM   #2
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Default Re: Starships as Giant Armored Air/Rafts

Starships in CT don't have contragravity, as such. Maneuver drives produce acceleration; there is (so far as I know) no mention of hovering without thrust. Gravitic units neutralize gravity within their field of action (Supp. 12, pp. 16-17), but are otherwise also described as "lifting" or producing thrust (e.g., Striker 3, p. 8.)

Operationally, there is a very large difference between passive lift (e.g., a dirigible) and active lift (e.g., a helicopter or Harrier). If you have to actually fly the thing all the time to use it, it makes sense to ground the big, unwieldy starship and use auxiliary craft.

Last edited by thrash; 05-20-2024 at 05:38 AM.
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Old 05-20-2024, 08:40 AM   #3
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Default Re: Starships as Giant Armored Air/Rafts

This seems to be one of the things that was 'hand waved' away in Traveller. Pretty much all the art work and descriptions of ships imply some kind of horizontal landing ability without really providing a game rule mechanic for how it happened. If all a maneuver drive can provide is forward thrust, all ships that land into a gravity well would land on their tail and would have their cargo holds and crew areas setup that way.

Maybe one way to deal with it is to rule that the grav units that allow ships to land horizontal instead of vertical need a flat surface to function. Would account for starports being almost universally described as flat. Hard tarmac for Type A and flat patch of grass for Type X.

So no slowly drifting placidly over the rough terrain in your Type S while looking for that valuable mineral deposit. The size/mass of the ship keeps the grav units from reacting fast enough while the much smaller air raft has no problems.
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Old 05-20-2024, 01:50 PM   #4
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Default Re: Starships as Giant Armored Air/Rafts

Sorry, I'm mostly in th camp witht he peopel who think that the possessors of a fucntioning starship have little need to hike through the wilderness.

To that effect one of the few scenarios that I've come up with that might require such a thign was the result of my "Stocking your Life Pod" thread

https://forums.sjgames.com/showthread.php?t=158442

....and it requeires a whole carefully concieved TL9 universe where you have a significant chance of ending up in a life pod a relatively short distance from an Earth-like planet.

After you're down you need to not only survive until your rescuers can get to you, you need to hike to some place their HEDM powered tailsitter can land _and_ access enough local water to refuel from.

So, not very Traveller-like.

Working from a Spaceships defined setting where a reasonable "Scout Ship" can be a (probaly "Hot")reactionless thruster tailsitter without needing a Contragravity system. From there you can get into a situation where such a ship is in a "rescue" situation where another such ship is down in mountainous terrain.

The rescue ship can't land next to the downed ship and without specialized euipment they don't have aboard (and/or specially trained personnel) they can't get medical personnel off their ship while it hovers overhead.

So they have to land however close they can get and then hike/climb through this mountainous terrain to get medical personnel to the downed ship.

Won't that be even ahrder than geting off the ship somehow? No, you pretty much can't avoid technological cheating on this problem. You take the Aerial Scout robot from UT which is only slightly superior to the late TL 8 "Drone" in thaty it has little arms. So you give it one end of a length of rope and a bottle of Molecular Glue (also from UT) and it goes and puts your line in the place it already scouted. Your players probably wouldn't believe you if ou told them their ship couldn't 3-D print rope.

This one's pretty contrived too. I'd be kind of likely to pack a Backpack Dragonfly on my scout ship. Or at least a parachute even if I couldn't have a Contragravity Harness or a Grav Cycle.. Because of price reasosn those are much more attractive than UT's Air Cars.

If contragravity is available a dedicated "Rescue/Repair Ship" will have it and will hover where ever it needs to.
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Old 05-21-2024, 07:45 AM   #5
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Default Re: Starships as Giant Armored Air/Rafts

I actually used something like that in creating counterinsurgency vehicles from starships to old to jump and or variant models built without jump drive in the first place. Among their equipment was ventral pressors for clearing hostile drones.
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Old 05-21-2024, 09:37 AM   #6
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Default Re: Starships as Giant Armored Air/Rafts

Well, landing on paved concrete berth guided by the ports systems is something other than bringing the old bird down in jungle-covered swamp, but wouldn't legal stuff and (more important) money be more important?

Starships cost a lot of money, repairs also.

A ship can land without much (legal) problems on a star port, where the Imperial Law applies and the crew can do not much wrong - usually.

When the ship leaves the port and lands somewhere else on the planet, it leaves Imperial Terrain and enters the planets jurisdiction (correct terms?). So, if anything goes wrong, the star port authority can just shook its head. "Sorry, not our problem."

Do they get a landing permit to land somewhere else on the planet? ("Wait, you did not even put in a flight plan?")

When the ship is somehow damaged, will the insurance cover the repair?

Will you really risk your ship (often your home, your whole existence) just because you want to avoid a few hours in a ground car or on horse back?

Yes, in the end, it is your Traveller Universe.
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Old 05-21-2024, 11:16 AM   #7
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Default Re: Starships as Giant Armored Air/Rafts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Beckenstein View Post
Will you really risk your ship (often your home, your whole existence) just because you want to avoid a few hours in a ground car or on horse back?
That Imperial Extraterritoriality is the backbone of the 3I's trade system is an often underlooked thing. It enables traders from far away to land at the "port" and trade with locals who have access to the port without the trader ever having to worry about whether or not they could trust the local government.

Yoiu might have a pretty hard time getting my character to cross that Extraterritoriality Line with or without a starship. If I did have my starship with me I might be able to run.
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Old 05-21-2024, 11:21 AM   #8
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Default Re: Starships as Giant Armored Air/Rafts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
That Imperial Extraterritoriality is the backbone of the 3I's trade system is an often underlooked thing.
The problem is that the sort of planet where you're likely to need to go tooling across the outback in an air/raft is also the sort of planet where that extraterritoriality is irrelevant.
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Old 05-21-2024, 12:33 PM   #9
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Default Re: Starships as Giant Armored Air/Rafts

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Originally Posted by David L Pulver View Post
So, which of the rule sets, if any, address this sort of thing, either by explicitly allowing it, or by setting specific limits on the safety, maneuverability or capabilities of standard M-drives in a planetary setting.
So, to return to this question:

MegaTraveller (Ref's Manual, p.58) uses the same maneuver drives as classic Traveller, but explicitly distinguishes these (by size, configuration, and energy levels) from grav modules for vehicular use. Still no mention of contragravity: both maneuver drives and grav modules produce thrust to counteract gravity.

Traveller: The New Era (FF&S, p. 75) introduces contragravity "lifters" that "neutralize most of the gravitational attraction of a world (approximately 99% of gravitational force, beyond which power use becomes prohibitive)." The apparent impetus was to allow vessels with 1g of acceleration (e.g., a standard free trader) to visit larger (size 8+) worlds. Since TNE returned to a plasma-exhaust maneuver drive (HEPlaR, ibid., pp. 69-70) not seen since first (1979) edition High Guard, there may also have been a realization that full-thrust takeoffs and landings with them are distinctly unfriendly. CG lifters allowed ships to drift lightly to and from the surface, saving most of the plasma torch action for a safe distance away.
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Old 05-21-2024, 02:49 PM   #10
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Default Re: Starships as Giant Armored Air/Rafts

After a bit more thought, it seems almost a certainty that a Type S Scout ship and most variants will have the ability to land almost anywhere. After all, a ship designed to scout out new planets can't expect a prepared space port.

Things like a subsidized merchant, probably not so much. Think of a pure merchant ship much like today's container ships which are pretty much a specialized port to specialized port ship. A container ship that shows up at a port without the specialized container cranes is going to take a lot longer to get unloaded and reloaded.

The buyer of a pure merchant ship might not want to pay the extra cost for the heavy duty landing system that allows off port operations. More weight/volume = less cargo capacity + higher maintenance costs.

How a ship lands at the star port still seems like 'magic' that wasn't solved in the black book versions and later publishers left well enough alone. "If it isn't broke, don't fix it."

For those that worry about it, add an extra box to your ship description form labeled "Capable of Off Port Operations" and assign a cost per 100T of ship.
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