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Old 05-26-2022, 09:46 AM   #1
Curmudgeon
 
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Default Comparison of Space Beam Weapons in GURPS Vehicles, 2 Ed.

Recently, I started doing some conversions of FGU’s Space Opera to GURPS, specifically Starships of War, Vol. 1. If you haven’t bought the book, there are some potential problems with using it as written. All star nations in the game (so far, volume one covers four of the star nations and there are at least nine other star nations that have been mentioned) use Nova guns (pulsars in GURPS Ultratech; antiparticle beams in GURPS Vehicles, 2nd Ed.) and MegaBolts and StarTorps (which have ratings that translate into Nova fire for damage). The only differences in armament is the calibre used (which affects damage and range) and the number of weapons mounted. The issue with that is that the author had some blatant bias towards the starnations. On any given class of ship, the Terran Union has more weapons and bigger caliber weapons than any of its opponents, followed by the Azuriarch Imperium, Merchantile League and finally, the Galactic Peoples’ Republic. Additionally, some classes of starship don’t appear in some of the star nations’ inventories.

Thus, I was left with a need to do a major revision of the starships. I don’t necessarily intend to eliminate bias in ship design, just substitute my biases for those of the author and, I hope, make my biases a bit more subtle. But before I can do a proper job of introducing my biases, I need to know the objective properties that I’m dealing with, hence this thread. I haven’t seen a thread that deals with the differences in beam weapons for GURPS. That doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist, just that I haven’t found it.

Basic Considerations

FGU’s Space Opera arranges the armament of warships into as many as four batteries (where a battery consists of all the guns in all the turrets that have the same calibre) named: Main; A; B; and C, in descending order of calibre size. The calibre of a NovaGun is identical to the damage it does, i.e. a N*1000 NovaGun does 1000 points of damage. Given the supposed destructiveness of Nova fire, and that the NovaGun calibre increase in steps of 25, I decided on a conversion of N*25 = 1 FP in GURPS. After playing around with various sizes of anti-particle beam weapons, I decided to use different types of beam weapons in the different batteries.

In choosing the armaments for the different batteries, I had to decide what the priorities for my choices would be. First, no weapon that couldn’t be used in vacuum would be chosen; screamers and stunners were gone and any weapon that was completely outclassed by another weapon went as well, so all paralysis beams mounted are military paralysis beams. With that out of the way, the first consideration had to be MAX Range. Damage doesn’t matter if I can hit you and you don’t have the range to hit back, you might just as well be unarmed. That said, damage was the next consideration. It’s always nice if I can hurt you worse than you can hurt me. Weight and cost were the final considerations in determining what weapons would be mounted. Ranges are after factoring in the “in vacuum” range modifiers, and are given as kilometers (they’re not really, they’re kiloyards, but it’s close enough [10% longer than real kilometers] and a bit easier to visualize), GURPS Firepower [FP] ratings are used as a measure of damage and empty weights of the weapons are expressed in short tons (2000 lbs.), again for easy visualization.

The following factors were constant across all weapons to keep the comparisons meaningful: cyclic rate (and Rate of Fire) is 1 for all weapons; all weapons have the extreme range option; no weapons have the compact option; all weapons are as they would appear at TL 16 (so FP, Cost, and Max range are fully comparable). This does mean that those weapons that can, are benefiting from being perfected at earlier TLs in terms of FP, Max range and Cost.

There is one other oddity of note in my comparison, weapons are not being compared on the basis of having equal Beam Outputs. Instead, they are based on all requiring the same amount of Power from the powerplant (or energy banks), on the basis that the ship designers don’t want to redesign the entire ship around the weapon. They might, but for comparison purposes, the weapon designers all have to use the assigned powerplant. The Powerplant has the very odd numbered rating of 23,136,140 kJ. Minor exceptions have been made for three weapons as trivial differences for the math involved: grasers and military paralysis beams draw 1 kJ more; and fusion beams draw 2 kJ less than the standard Powerplant rating. The Powerplant rating was chosen because it is the lowest rating that ekes out FP 1 for the weakest weapon in the lot.

The Comparisons

The UV laser is surprisingly good. At 1,061,100 km, it has the longest range of any beam weapon and its FP 31 is decent enough. The rainbow laser is marginally less effective with a range of 1,000,500 km and FP 29. Where the rainbow laser kills the UV laser is in cost and weight. At $22 million rainbow laser costs less than half as much as a $48 million UV laser and weighs only 650 tons instead of 950 tons. Most starship designers are willing to make the tradeoff and mount rainbow lasers instead of UV lasers, but their ships do need heavier armor to get within range of the odd ship that mounts UV lasers.

X-ray lasers and grasers are usually relegated to the A Battery, due to range issues. X-ray lasers have a range of 689,400 km with FP 54 and grasers have a range of 599,700 km with FP 105. The increased damage is usually enough to offset the reduction in range in the minds of most designers. X-ray lasers and grasers both cost $8 million and weigh 250 and 120 tons respectively. By maturity grasers are always chosen over X-ray lasers, but until maturity X-ray lasers are generally competitive.

Disruptors and neutral particle beams have identical ranges, 15,930 km, and identical FP, 101. Disruptors weigh as much as UV lasers, 950 tons, compared to neutral particle beams, which weigh the same as rainbow lasers at 650 tons. However disruptors, like UV lasers, only cost $48 million, while neutral particle beams cost $130 million. Additionally, disruptors and neutral particle beams have the same range in atmosphere (sort of, to operate in atmosphere, the neutral particle beam needs to have the option of operating as a charged particle beam, which it can, but it adds to the cost and weight). The disruptor is usually the superior choice between the two but will be a B battery weapon. The other potential B battery weapons are the antiparticle beam with a range of 14,250 km and FP 224 and the flamer with a range of 12,090 km and FP 79. The disruptor lords it over the flamer but the flamer is occasionally chosen for its reduced weight of 650 tons and cheap price $38 million, while the increased FP of the antiparticle beam is often considered a good tradeoff for the reduced range and it’s extremely light at 75 tons and inexpensive at $28 million.

The remaining beam weapons are all C battery candidates, having “short legs”. The gravity beam has a range of 3,800 km and FP 200; the disintegrator has a range of 1,900 km and FP 1400; the military paralysis beam has a range of 690 km and FP 82; the fusion beam has a range of 600 km and FP 119; and, finally, there is the displacer with a range of 16 km and FP 1. As for the other statistics: a gravity beam weighs 130 tons and costs $9 million; a disintegrator weighs 105 tons and costs $37 million; the military paralysis beam weighs 195 tons and costs $10 million; the fusion beam weighs 21.5 tons and costs $6 million; and the displacer weighs 3.5 tons and costs $2.9 million. In general, the gravity beam is a good buy and has the best range; disintegrators are preferred by nations with deep pockets who usually consider the vastly increased damage a more than fair trade-off for the increased damage; fusion beams appeal to designers looking for cheap weapons that don’t weigh much; military paralysis beams are generally chosen only by star nations with a philosophical bent for “humane” warfare; displacers are usually a “they stink for range and have pitiful damage, but they’re cheap and don’t take up much room, so we’ll throw in one or two, just for good measure” weapon choice.

Last edited by Curmudgeon; 05-26-2022 at 10:14 AM.
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Old 05-26-2022, 10:46 AM   #2
Fred Brackin
 
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Default Re: A [b][i]GURPS[/i] Vehicles, 2 Ed.[/b] Comparison for Arming Space Vehicles with B

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
Recently, I started doing some conversions of FGU’s Space Opera to GURPS, specifically Starships of War, Vol. 1. e.
Well, at least I am familiar with all the books in question. I ran Space Opera back in 1980 when it was new, including what you are calling "Starships of War". I think there was a "Seldon" in there

The main game is here at drivethrurpg

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product...also_purchased

....with links at the bottom to all the supplements I know of.

My first comment is that you obviously aren't trying for a very literal conversion. The ranges of the largest Nova Guns from Space Opera are over 1000 light-seconds or 2 AU. If you were trying to attack Earth you could be shot at by orbital fortresses around Mars.

You might want to add the fTL modifier to help represent the range scale advantages of Nova Guns.

My second comment is that you also seem to be using Gurps Space 1e. that has to be where the "FP" is coming from and I find this choice strange. There sems to be little point to starting with the nuts and bolts detail from Ve2 if you're going to end up with the abstract siimplicity of Space 1e.

My third comnet is a simple quetion. Are you multiplying weapon ranges for use out of atmosphere? Your numbers don't look like you are at a glance. I haven't tried to duplicate your work.

Maybe more later.
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Old 05-26-2022, 11:14 AM   #3
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Default Re: Comparison of Space Beam Weapons in GURPS Vehicles, 2 Ed.

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Old 05-26-2022, 12:22 PM   #4
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Default Re: Comparison of Space Beam Weapons in GURPS Vehicles, 2 Ed.

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Originally Posted by sjard View Post
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Thanks, the increased legibility is much appreciated.

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Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
Well, at least I am familiar with all the books in question. I ran Space Opera back in 1980 when it was new, including what you are calling "Starships of War". I think there was a "Seldon" in there.
There was indeed a Seldon's in the title, Seldon's Compendium of Starcraft
and I got the volume number wrong, it is Starships of War but that's Vol. 2, not Vol. 1, which dealt with commercial starships.

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<snip>
My first comment is that you obviously aren't trying for a very literal conversion. The ranges of the largest Nova Guns from Space Opera are over 1000 light-seconds or 2 AU. If you were trying to attack Earth you could be shot at by orbital fortresses around Mars.
These aren't the conversions as such, just comparisons based on having the same amount of power going in, as explained in Basic Considerations. I'm likely to up-gun some of the weapons to equate with N*1000 NovaGuns (that'll be the rainbow lasers, probably). However, I'm definitely not going for an exact conversion. Space Opera's space combat turns are IIRC 5 minutes long, and I find even 300 LS ranges implausible in my space combats. In general, I prefer second by second battles, and one of the tactical considerations will be how quickly your weapons can recharge. At the moment, I'm working on the idea of having individual rechargable power cells as a dedicated energy bank for each individual weapon, (maybe I'll change that to per turret) with the bank being able to power the beam for 60 seconds at full rate of fire before needing to recharge. The three operative questions will be: just how long will it take to recharge all the weapons? Do the weapons all recharge at once or do they recharge serially, so that you can get some weapons back into service while others are recharging? And just how high is the rate of fire, given that I'm going for a fixed FP per second and a higher rate of fire reduces the damage and range per shot?

Currently, I'm thinking RoF 8 for the Main battery and RoF 20 for C battery, which would likely put B and C batteries at RoF 12 and RoF 16 respectively.

Quote:
You might want to add the FTL modifier to help represent the range scale advantages of Nova Guns.
FTL modifier? I missed that one in Vehicles. Do you have a reference?

On the other hand, as indicated in Basic Considerations, the ranges given do incorporate the "in vacuum" modifiers from Vehicles (p. VE126).

Quote:
My second comment is that you also seem to be using Gurps Space 1e. that has to be where the "FP" is coming from and I find this choice strange. There seems to be little point to starting with the nuts and bolts detail from Ve2 if you're going to end up with the abstract simplicity of Space 1e.
Nope. It's a simplification to make the big dice numbers for damage a little more comprehensible. While FP originated with Space, 1 Ed., it appears in the sidebar on p. VE99 and that and the method of calculation on that page is where those numbers come from.

As a matter of interest, to the nearest whole number, here is the damage in dice for each weapon.

UV Laser 3,158;
Disruptor 10,106;
Neutral Particle Beam 10,106;
Rainbow Laser 2,978;
Flamer 7,990;
Military Paralysis Beam 8,252;
X-ray Laser 2,735;
Fusion Beam 11,910;
Gravity Beam 252;
Antiparticle Beam 11,299;
Graser 2,182;
Disintegrator 1,408;
and Displacer 100.

The Beam Output for each weapon is:
UV Laser 11,568,070 kJ;
Disruptor 11,568,070 kJ;
Neutral Particle Beam 11,568,070 kJ;
Rainbow Laser 10,282,729 kJ;
Flamer 4,627,228 kJ;
Military Paralysis Beam 7,712,047 kJ;
X-ray Laser 8,678,222 kJ;
Fusion Beam 2,570,682;
Gravity Beam 11,568,070 kJ;
Antiparticle Beam 9,254,456 kJ;
Graser 7,712,047 kJ;
Disintegrator 9,254,456 kJ;
and Displacer 2,313,614 kJ.

Quote:
My third comment is a simple question. Are you multiplying weapon ranges for use out of atmosphere? Your numbers don't look like you are at a glance. I haven't tried to duplicate your work.
I am indeed multiplying the ranges for use out of atmosphere.

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Old 05-26-2022, 12:40 PM   #5
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Default Re: Comparison of Space Beam Weapons in GURPS Vehicles, 2 Ed.

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FTL modifier? I missed that one in Vehicles. Do you have a reference?
.
Ve2 Sidebar p.122 "FTL Beams?"

4e does more with this concept and it's not as useful in 3e but as long as any version of Gurps uses the Speed/Range Table then ACC will represent a weapons _real_ practical range.
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Old 05-26-2022, 03:39 PM   #6
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Default Re: Comparison of Space Beam Weapons in GURPS Vehicles, 2 Ed.

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Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
Ve2 Sidebar p.122 "FTL Beams?"

4e does more with this concept and it's not as useful in 3e but as long as any version of Gurps uses the Speed/Range Table then ACC will represent a weapons _real_ practical range.
Thank you for the reference. I had seen it, but disregarded it as most SO space combat used their TISA maneuver drives, which were sub-light speed but still very fast, approaching .75 c for speed. The accelerations were insane in terms of the gravity compensators needed, ranging from 1,500,000 g to 15,000,000 g, which is another reason I'm not going for an exact conversion but more of a "gives the same feel" conversion.

I don't think I'll use the FTL option for Beams, but since it uniformly doubles power and weight without altering max range and uniformly increases all Acc by +4, I'm going to say that the FTL option is a difference which makes no difference for purposes of comparing relative effectiveness between the different types of beams, or to put it another way, it'll change what the exact numbers are, but not the mathematical relationships that exist between the numbers.
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Old 05-26-2022, 04:25 PM   #7
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Default Re: Comparison of Space Beam Weapons in GURPS Vehicles, 2 Ed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
Recently, I started doing some conversions of FGU’s Space Opera to GURPS, specifically Starships of War, Vol. 1. If you haven’t bought the book, there are some potential problems with using it as written. All star nations in the game (so far, volume one covers four of the star nations and there are at least nine other star nations that have been mentioned) use Nova guns (pulsars in GURPS Ultratech; antiparticle beams in GURPS Vehicles, 2nd Ed.) and MegaBolts and StarTorps (which have ratings that translate into Nova fire for damage). The only differences in armament is the calibre used (which affects damage and range) and the number of weapons mounted. The issue with that is that the author had some blatant bias towards the starnations. On any given class of ship, the Terran Union has more weapons and bigger caliber weapons than any of its opponents, followed by the Azuriarch Imperium, Merchantile League and finally, the Galactic Peoples’ Republic. Additionally, some classes of starship don’t appear in some of the star nations’ inventories.
Funnily enough I've been noddling around with this for some time, too. I have the old "Seldon's" series Fred mentions. And yes, the Terrans are simply richer and a bit more advanced than everyone else, so they make gold-plated ships, and match everyone else's ship types. I doubt they actually know shere some of their ship types actually fit into their naval doctrine.

Below that it's not quite so clear-cut - some Mechantile League ships are better than their Azuriach contemporaries in some areas. The GPR, being Space Soviets, build them cheap and cheerful (but some of their ships have some features that can surprise).

I was going to treat Nova Guns as some kind of laser and play with Gravitic Focussing options and exact type until I got the range and damage balance I wanted. StarTorps are just missiles. MegaBolts would need some special penetration rules. I was intending to use Spaceships - maybe. Or maybe VE2. Or maybe Fire, Fusion, and Steel (Traveller: The New Era's design rules).

For movement I was going to go with pseudo-velocity, with the surrounding techno-babble including the TISA drive being at least partly inertialess, thus allowing the massive accelerations without turning everything in the ship into paste.

Quote:
The UV laser is surprisingly good. At 1,061,100 km, it has the longest range of any beam weapon and its FP 31 is decent enough. The rainbow laser is marginally less effective with a range of 1,000,500 km and FP 29. Where the rainbow laser kills the UV laser is in cost and weight. At $22 million rainbow laser costs less than half as much as a $48 million UV laser and weighs only 650 tons instead of 950 tons. Most starship designers are willing to make the tradeoff and mount rainbow lasers instead of UV lasers, but their ships do need heavier armor to get within range of the odd ship that mounts UV lasers.
Rainbow lasers lose range and penetration in a vacuum (UT116) - x1/10th range and no penetration modifier. EDIT - only relevant if you're converting all the stats and behaviour to 4e, I suppose (and doing that involves having to make some choices about how to convert lasers).

Have you experimented with giving the types with high damage and low range one of the extended range options?
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Old 05-26-2022, 05:59 PM   #8
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Default Re: Comparison of Space Beam Weapons in GURPS Vehicles, 2 Ed.

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Funnily enough I've been noddling around with this for some time, too. I have the old "Seldon's" series Fred mentions. And yes, the Terrans are simply richer and a bit more advanced than everyone else, so they make gold-plated ships, and match everyone else's ship types. I doubt they actually know shere some of their ship types actually fit into their naval doctrine.

Below that it's not quite so clear-cut - some Mechantile League ships are better than their Azuriach contemporaries in some areas. The GPR, being Space Soviets, build them cheap and cheerful (but some of their ships have some features that can surprise).
All true, I was simplifying it a bit, but I may have slid into oversimplifying the relative positions.

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I was going to treat Nova Guns as some kind of laser and play with Gravitic Focussing options and exact type until I got the range and damage balance I wanted. StarTorps are just missiles. MegaBolts would need some special penetration rules. I was intending to use Spaceships - maybe. Or maybe VE2. Or maybe Fire, Fusion, and Steel (Traveller: The New Era's design rules).
It sounds like you're converting to 4e while I'm converting to 3e. I can't answer for Spaceships but I'm finding that Vehicles is workable but as I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm not going for an exact conversion, partly because even a FP 40 beam weapon is an energy hog. IIRC getting an antiparticle beam (which is what both games claim the Novagun/Sungun/Pulsars are), required a powerplant in the 10 Gj range and I have trouble justifying someone cramming a powerplant that's equivalent to two Niagara Falls generating stations into one starship to power just one weapon, and then do it repeatedly. Fire, Fusion and Steel [FFS] is a good call, though so far my tendency has been to use it as a reverse engineer system for GURPS firearms, i.e. I prefer to design the round being fired first and then build the weapon to fire it, which is FFS's process, and then dump those stats into GURPS to get my weapon.

Quote:
For movement I was going to go with pseudo-velocity, with the surrounding techno-babble including the TISA drive being at least partly inertialess, thus allowing the massive accelerations without turning everything in the ship into paste.
That seems like a workable choice, though I don't like the way pseudo-velocity drives mess with physics. So says the guy who blithely puts FTL stardrives in his starships. :)

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Rainbow lasers lose range and penetration in a vacuum (UT116) - x1/10th range and no penetration modifier. EDIT - only relevant if you're converting all the stats and behaviour to 4e, I suppose (and doing that involves having to make some choices about how to convert lasers).
That's a huge change from 3e where rainbow lasers gain x50 range in vacuum (compared to x10 range for regular ruby lasers) and there is no loss in penetrating power (armor divisor) in vacuum.

Quote:
Have you experimented with giving the types with high damage and low range one of the extended range options?
Not yet, but as all the weapons I was comparing took the extreme range option to maximize their ranges, I'm doubtful that it would change things by much.

The primary objective in the comparison was to see exactly how the beam weapons compared to each other and whether there were any clear winners in the superiority sweepstakes. Once that analysis was done, it got posted here since I hadn't seen a similar analysis and it might save others a bit of work setting up and running the numbers.

If I were flat out designing my own starships from scratch, I suspect that I might go Dreadnaught-style with nothing but big rainbow lasers, maybe with some smaller rainbow lasers to swat starfighters and provide point defense.

The only other nod to wet navy thinking might be to carry a small horde of starfighters, but there've been enough articles in gaming magazines to suggest that it's not really a feasible strategy unless you make your carrier vessel really sluggish, which isn't something most design rules force on you.

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Old 05-26-2022, 07:44 PM   #9
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Default Re: Comparison of Space Beam Weapons in GURPS Vehicles, 2 Ed.

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Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post
It sounds like you're converting to 4e while I'm converting to 3e. I can't answer for Spaceships but I'm finding that Vehicles is workable but as I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm not going for an exact conversion, partly because even a FP 40 beam weapon is an energy hog. IIRC getting an antiparticle beam (which is what both games claim the Novagun/Sungun/Pulsars are), required a powerplant in the 10 Gj range and I have trouble justifying someone cramming a powerplant that's equivalent to two Niagara Falls generating stations into one starship to power just one weapon, and then do it repeatedly. Fire, Fusion and Steel [FFS] is a good call, though so far my tendency has been to use it as a reverse engineer system for GURPS firearms, i.e. I prefer to design the round being fired first and then build the weapon to fire it, which is FFS's process, and then dump those stats into GURPS to get my weapon.
I've also considered using the gun rules for nova guns, because they use up ammunition (of a sort), etc. That does require making up their range and damage from near-scratch though.

Quote:
The only other nod to wet navy thinking might be to carry a small horde of starfighters, but there've been enough articles in gaming magazines to suggest that it's not really a feasible strategy unless you make your carrier vessel really sluggish, which isn't something most design rules force on you.
Space Opera does what a great deal of SF settings do, and tries to have it both ways - huge (lumbering) dreadnoughts that dominate the spaceways, and small fast (and nimble) starfighters (aircraft analogues) with their heroic pilots that can 'sink' capital ships. The problem being that these are mutually exclusive, and the only reason we saw both in WWII (which is what these settings are copying) is because it happened at a moment of transition and just after a series of treaties had forced an artificial 'building holiday'.

However, Space Opera and pretty much all those other settings don't seem to have any sort of political set up or sudden technological change that would explain the mixture - the two exist side-by-side, somehow, but either the big ships or the small ships and their carriers are a terrible waste of money and crews.
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Old 05-26-2022, 09:54 PM   #10
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Default Re: Comparison of Space Beam Weapons in GURPS Vehicles, 2 Ed.

Working with Seldon's stuff we see that some late Starfighters (and even those 375 ton scouts) are capable of exceeding 300ls/turn i.e. light speed without hyperjumping.

Exactly what this does is unexplained but going strictly by the SO rules they've run off the Attack Matrices and you can't shoot Nova Guns at them. I think I remebr combinations of speed and ranges where you couldn't target them even under lightspeed.

In a game that doesn't deal with distances less than 25 LS you have little need to get really close and there isn't even any reason to launch StarTorps at less than 300 LS.

Still in battles when we had them masses of StarFighters and their StarTorps made a good hammer to start knocking shields down with. Hangers full of StarFighters would multiply the number of StarTorps you could get into a battle. I remember mass firing their N25s into shields too.
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