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?

1 comment:

  1. Correction: I mistakingly calculated the cargo capacity of a cubic meter, not a cubic map square. The correct cargo capacity a single square is 1200 kg, making the cargo capacity of a shuttle ship sixty tons, and a light freighter 60 (120) tons. The most famous of light freighters, Star Wars' YT-1300, cas a capacity of 100 tons, so that's good enough for me.


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