Monday, July 27, 2015

More Starships and Spacemen Art

"A rare image of the independent pirate craft The Wanton Cortesan, a modified Zangid lander.  The pirate craft had apparantly been hiding under cloud cover prior to attacking the light freighter Solar Franchise above Dane's World in the Kentaurus Freehold. The freighter's sensor data and these images (Transmitted by a sensor probe prior to its destruction) are the first confirmation that The Wanton Cortesan is equipped with a Vidani Shielding Mechanism."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Starships & Spacemen: On Freighters and Tugs

Continuing on a theme...

My partner in crime Rob Garrita and I have been, as we said, working on a set of new supplements for the OSR clone Starships & Spacemen which lets you dungeon crawl in the Final Frontier.  Part of what were trying to do is introduce a thing we're calling "chewy" SF:  It certainly isn't hard, but its not exactly soft either.  Pornell's and Nivin's masterpiece The Mote in God's Eye could be considered chewy- it has plainly impossible elements, but they are internally consistent and the plot of the work is dependent of the established facts of the fake tech - the ships, for example, do not travel at the speed of Plot, for example, but have their travel times well established and unbend able.

(Incidentally, the thing I absolutely hated about star Trek: Into Darkness was the ship's ability to not only warp from Earth to Q'NoS in a matter of minutes, but to transport people across that distance. This flies in the face of all established cannon fannon in the Star Trek universe.  I call BS:  If your story won't work without such fast travel times, for the love of Heinlein write another story.)

So obviously, we're tying to avoid such outright nonsense.  For one thing, You'll notice that our starships have large heat radiators.  As Rob put it: " I think we'd find away around Newton and Einstein before we find a way around Old Man Entropy." Our spacecraft also use actual reaction drives, albeit enhanced by gravity control.  Sure there are "accelerator coils" to push the theoretical maximum into sfnal territory, but at it's heart, the K-Drive is a VASMIR with aspirations.
See, nothin' special...
But sometimes the source material makes it hard.  I'm not criticizing the Starships & Spacemen core book by any means.  I love that book; it's inspired my to take all the Star Trek fan-boy goodness I've been brewing since sixth grade and make games with it.  That being said, there are places that a designer like me might want more information.

As the title suggests, I'm referring to the stats for freighters presented in the Core book.  Their fine as far as they go - indeed, I've read that book a hundred times and only last night noticed something odd.  There is not stat for cargo capacity for any of the freighters available in the game.  No passenger capacity either, despite having two sickbays listed in the stats.  Funny, huh?

So, what's a game designer to do?  Design something, obviously.  What would the likely cargo capacity of a light freighter in Starships & Spacemen be?

First of all, this is a small-ship universe.  Really small.   The largest ships in the rulebook, dreadnoughts, have a crew of 150, which is the compliment of a Corellian Corvette in Star Wars.   To put that into perspective, the original USS Enterprise had a crew of 430, and was classified as a cruiser.  One of the main design challenges for spacecraft in Starships & Spacemen  is that the ships have such small crews, but the shuttles are so large.  An S&S frigate, for example, has a crew of ten and carries a shuttle that can seat fifty. This isn't as ridiculous as it sounds; the shuttles carry cargo, and therefore are large enough to carry a lot of passengers when not full of Standardized containers.

Still, that's a challenge when you're tying to fit a greyhound bus into a speedboat.  This is why the frigates in our last post have spherical hulls.  In addition to having the smallest surface area per given volume, the sphere is the only hull large enough to hold that big 'ole shuttle and still be small enough to run with a crew of ten.
There is, in fact, enough room on the central deck for the shuttle and a few cargo spaces, about equal to the shuttle's volume.  I know this because I design all my ship on graph paper first.
GCS Telsa Deck One. OLD SKOOL.

So, what does this have to do with anything, you may ask?  the Light freighter in the S&S corebook has a crew of ten and carries one shuttle ship, just like the frigate.  And while we don't know how much cargo a freighter is supposed to carry, we in fact to have an idea of how much a shuttle carries.

In the S&S  rulebook, there is  a species of measure called the Equipment Unit.   All the stuff a character can carry or use has a certain number of units, and the amount of units you get is dependent on class and level blah blah blah.  The important part about all that is that the largest items on the equipment list (robot tanks) are five units and the listing for Shuttle Ships states that it may carry up to two robot tanks.
Of course this implies that that shuttles can carry ten units of cargo.  Ten handguns are ten units of cargo.  So much for units...

There is, however, the old gaming standby: Map Squares.  Basically (if somewhat arbitrarily), all medium creatures occupy a five-foot square, known as a map square.  Therefore, a shuttle carries fifty squares of cargo.  It just so happens that my maps are done in the five-foot square scale.  the decks on a ship are two squares apart, so you can have a five-by-five-by-two square block of cargo in a shuttle.  looking at our shuttle deckplan, taking into account the cockpit, airlock, powerplant and propellant tanks, that is just about right.   Now a five foot square is equal to 1.5 meters.  One cubic meter is equal to a ton of water, or say, 195 kilograms of pressurized spacecraft.  subtract to get about 800 kilos/square, and the cargo capacity of a frigate roughly forty tons, the same as a shuttle ship.

It's 10x6x2.5:  That's 150 squares
Why this obsession with Frigates?  In the collective S&S universe Rob and I are writing in, the little "tadpole" frigates are to the Zangid War what Destroyer Escorts were to WWII.  DEs, if you recall, are pretty much my favorite naval ship for the simple reason that they are small cheap, and made in large numbers, but in certain missions, unbeatable. The DE, by virtue of it's tuning radius, was the best anti-submarine platform of the war, for example.  In S&S, the Frigate is a small cheap, low-crew platform for a Ion Torpedo launcher.  Those are the equalizer - one good hit from a torpedo will destroy a Zangid Battle Cruiser quicker than you can say "Taffy 3".  The point is, there would have been a lot of them built during the war, far more than you need to afterword for combat or patrol in a peacetime Confederation.

Therefore, I propose the decommissioned tadpoles were converted into the light freighters mentioned in the book.  Their gun decks were removed, giving them room for another crew deck and allowing ten passengers to be carried They carry forty tons of cargo, and the same again in their shuttles for a total of eighty.  Their military grade teleporters and sensors are replaced with cheaper civilian models with the stats given in the book.

Now, I can toss out numbers like ten "passengers" with confidence because I already have a basic deckplan worked out for the frigate.  It is the starter-ship for 1st level characters, so everyone who plays will need one at the beginning, right?

The reason for wanting to know the stats for a light freighter is even simpler:  Every GM needs victims for their heroes to rescue.

I had intended to get to the section on Tugs in this post, but alas, we've run pretty long already.  Lets save the tugs for the next post, shall we?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Frigate Division, DESCON 15

Pictured: The second Frigate Division of Destroyer Constellation 15, comprised of Jovian-class Frigates  GCS Ananke (FG-612), GCS Metis (FG-6 16), GCS Almathea (FG-605), and GCS Callisto (FG-604), escorting Copernicus-class Cruiser GCS Nikola Tesla (CS-1856) to Spacebase Rho during the Zangid War.  Cruisers of the Copernicus-class often served as flagships - and de facto tenders - to Destroyer Constellations and flotillas of Frigates like the Jovians.  A division of four Frigates has more beam banks,  as many torpedoes, and more shuttle ships than a Cruiser, all while needing less crew and generally costing less to build and maintain.  These "tadpole schools" of Frigates and their magazines of Ion Torpedoes are credited with giving the Galactic Confederation a strategic advantage in the latter years of the war.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

New Book in the Works!

That's right, RocketFans, Blue Max Studios' first actual published offering in nearly three years getting ready for post-production.  The initial draft has been written, and the project is set to be available in the next month or two. Ta-da!

The up-coming book has several firsts for a Blue Max Studios offering.  For one thing, it's the first book produced for another company's game.  As I mentioned a while ago, I  aquired a licence to publish materials for the second edition of Starships & Spacemen.  This book is the first product to be produced under that licence:  The ABCs of Space Opera Vol. 1: A-L.

The next first for us is that this is an OSR product.  I'm excited to become part of the movement to keep older games alive by providing, quality products for the Old-School Revolution.  This style of gaming, particularly resource management and the delayed gratification inherent in the XP and leveling rules  is something that just seems to naturally pair well with the mythos of Original Trek that is one of the main sources of inspiration for S&S.

The most significant first for Blue Max Studios on this project is that I'm not the author.  You may recall that I mentioned in my praise of nano-fic on different blogs the work of Rob Garrita on his website Twilight of the DM.  I was, in fact, so impressed with his work that when Rob suggested we work on a book together, I jumped at the opportunity.  It's been a fun process.  There's something almost magical about the creative interplay between two people who feed off one another's ideas to come up with material that neither would come up on their own.  It's also been nice to just concentrate on artwork and the layout and editing processes, rather than doing so after hours and days writing.  Haveing two sets of eyes on the project can only improve the production values, so expect good things...

Here is just a sample of some of art I've been producing for the book. Hope you enjoy!

Well of course they have heat radiators -
this is me  we're talking about...

Monday, July 6, 2015

Hard Star: Progress Update

I have been floored by all the positive response!  I'm glad you're all as excited about this project as I am.

Before my update, allow me to apologize.  There have been a lot of well thought-out and complimentary comments languishing on my dashboard since the last post, and I've only today published them.  Thanks to all of you who commented, and I'm sorry it took so long to get to them.  Your comments do mean a lot to me, though my recent behavior suggests otherwise.

Moving forward, the next installment of Hard Star is taking longer than I had intended.  Fist of all, designing a spacecraft is a job of work no matter what.  Designing a spacecraft that could actually work even mores.  Designing a realistic spacecraft that looks like one out space opera...Rocketfans, it's not as easy as it looks..

But it's not impossible.  Presenting the Titan IV, interplanetary blockade runner and diplomatic courier:

This is actually not the final version
I'm sure you'll notice that the front end of the thing is much more reminiscent of the Radiant VII than the classic Corellian Corvette.  Honest, I just couldn't justify the hammer-head, cool as it is, on a ship built for speed.  I mean, it could be a centrifuge, but the mass penalty...

This is what I mean about designing realistic spacecraft that look like space opera ships.
Speaking of "design" the Titan IV is statted out - in real-world figures:
DRY MASS: 699.5 tons
     STRUCTURE: 308.5 tons
     TANKAGE: 261.5 tons
     ENGINE MASS: 30 tons
     PAYLOAD: 100 tons
PROPELLANT MASS: 3087.63 tons
WET MASS: 3787.13 tons
PROPULSION: 3x Tri-modal NTR rockets
EXHAUST VELOCITY (Triton x3): 16000 m/s
DELTA V: 25,751 m/s

That's enough change in velocity to send the Titan IV from Earth to Mars in a little under two months.  If you're willing to take a slow Hohmann orbit instead, then once you get close you can hit the gas and positively cook any local yokels trying to intercept you.  I mean that literally also- three NTRs make for a formidable spinal mount facing aft.

As always, thanks to Winchell Chung​ for the Atomic Rockets website - particularly the Basic and Advanced Design pages, the Engine List, and the Mission Table.  Thanks also to Isaak Kuo for pointing out that Titan IV is only good for short ranges.

For all of you Diaspora fans out there that have joined us, welcome.  I'm still fairly new to FATE based systems in general and Diaspora in particular, so bear with me as I learn the ropes.

Fortunately, Nat Sheppard is a much better hand with the Diaspora system than I and he has taken an interest in this project.  He has even made stats for all the Hard Star spacecraft I've designed so far, including the Titan IV :

Titan IV T1 Blockade Runner 11 bp
V-shift 2
Trade 2
EW 1
Hull [ ] [ ] [ ]
Data [ ] [ ] [ ]
Heat [ ] [ ] [ ]
 + Interface vehicle
 + Civilian (A military version exists with beam 2)
 + Blockade Runner
 + This is a consular ship, Were on a diplomatic mission!
 + If this is a consular ship, where is the Ambassador?
 + That's funny, the damage doesn't look as bad fro out here.
 + Are you sure this things safe?

If you like that, you should check out his blog...

That's all for now.  I still have to design TIE (Tactical Interceptor, Energy weapon) drones and the B-class capital ship Nebula for the next episode.  Back to work...