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In My Traveller Universe Detail what parts of Traveller you do (or don't) use in your campaign.

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Old October 28th, 2012, 07:16 AM
Amber Chancer Amber Chancer is offline
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Hi guys.

I'm new to the forum ... but not new to Traveller. Well, not to Classic LBB Traveller, anyway. I'm happy with that as a set of rules providing a framework for my Sci Fi RP gaming, so I have never felt the need to move on to other variants.

I'm sure this has probably been discussed many times before, but I thought I'd share a few of the ideas that have given me inspiration for the design of my Traveller universe.

I have always been impressed by the point that communication being limited to the speed of travel replicates the conditions of the "age of sail" -and so when in Book 0 it says "Many times, it will be useful to think of a situation in present day terms, scaled down a little. For starport, think of airport or seaport" I scratch out "airport" and think seaport only ... and not a major international port, either, with many ships coming and going, either ... but a small working port with perhaps one or two regular shipping movements a day if that. I'm British, so I'll use British analogies. Basically, I think that for the majorities of starports, Holyhead is a better analogy than Dover; Mallaig a better analogy than Aberdeen. (Indeed, I think Mallaig is perhaps the classic Class B starport on a world with a population digit up to about 6.) The airport analogy just doesn't cut it for me. Even a class A starport on a population A world is going to handle nothing like the number of flights as Heathrow, or even Leeds Bradford airport. Maybe now we're talking Dover seaport ... but that's all.

When trying to envisage the nature of the communities served by interstellar trade carried by Free Traders and the like, especially those population 6 and under worlds, I try to envisage the Western Isles in the 19th and earlier 20th Centuries, when the "puffers" were in their heyday. The worlds of Para Handy and the Vital Spark, that is. And I really would recommend anyone embarking upon Traveller for the first time to read the "Tales of Para Handy"!

I also recall the Star Trek description of space as "The Final Frontier". And yes, of course this was part of the marketing that Gene Roddenberry had to adopt to get the show aired in the first place (explaining to network executives that it was like "a wagon train to the stars" - but the point remains essentially a good one. Worlds in far flung regions like the Spinward Marches SHOULD be like frontier communities, with all that entails. I recently enjoyed re-watching "Centennial" on DVD, and I think this gives a wonderful flavour of what frontiers life can be like. BUT the American frontier was not the only kind of frontier - and I find that stories like the African Queen and Rudyard Kipling's "Kim" give plenty of other ideas for what "frontier" life might be like in a universe of limited communication speeds. Indeed, the "Great Game" from "Kim" is the inspiration for a campaign scenario I am building up on the eve of the 5th Frontier War - pitching the characters into the murky world of interstellar intelligence gathering (there will probably be a certain amount of the Thirty Nine Steps pitched in as well ... but NOT James Bond!!!)

So far as the great battle fleets of the Imperium and the Zhodani Consulate is concerned, I have found that High Guard Rules really are consistent (at least if you're fighting at TL 14 and 15) with the "age of sail" analogy. It is a mistake to try to think in terms of mid to late 20th century naval warfare, with the killer blows being delivered by small, nimble "fighters" flying off "carriers" ... and fast, nimble MTBs (PT boats to the Americans) being able to deliver crippling attacks on much larger ships. They can't. Think age of sail ... think of battles like Trafalgar and even (going back much further) Lepanto. Big ships killed small ships ... and victory generally went to the fleet which put the greater firepower into the line.

Of course, armoured hulls and the single spinal mount restriction mean that we are much more akin to the later 19th century ... to the age of the ironclad. And, interestingly, to an era in which there were no great naval conflicts other than the Battle of Hampton Roads.

So those are some of my inspirations. They work for me ...
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Old October 28th, 2012, 04:10 PM
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Welcome onboard, Amber.

I’m more or less with you on starports, through some of mine tend to be larger. A lot of freight is carried by large corporate carriers, the stuff PCs get involved with are the sundry lots and shipments off the beaten track. Passenger traffic in starports is a cross between ferry foot traffic and airports pre-9/11 ... depending on volume this could be more Luton Airport than Heathrow.

For PC scale ships I draw inspiration from freight cruises in BC’c coastal region. You can get a glimpse from this cheesy promotional video, which I guess could be described as Firefly but more routine.

For the Imperial Navy I blend Star Wars, the Star Trek classic films, and the days of the British Empire and the Raj (and not from the Wild West) as described in Sharpe (TV), Zulu (film), Conduct Unbecoming (film), Hornblower (TV) and other shows of that ilk. Even the IN uniforms IMTU are red (though there are many on this forum who disagree with that colour choice).

For starships I liked the MegaTravellers contruction rules, but I’m much more attached to the classic HG ships (including Supplement 9). The 50 dton modular cutter just screams Space:1999 Eagle to me. So the 50 dton heavy fighter would be the Hawk from the Space:1999 episode War Games. (Since we don’t have canon rules for torpedoes, the analogy of MTBs doesn’t work so well for me.)

As for espionage in the 5FW, I think it starts with covert spotter teams blending into the civilian population for a year or more before the war starts ... then uplinking their observations by tight beam as the assault starts on ground targets. Of course, after all that time blending in, many of these spotters will feel conflicted when the time comes.

Last edited by Hemdian; October 28th, 2012 at 04:14 PM..
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Old October 28th, 2012, 07:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Amber Chancer View Post
So far as the great battle fleets of the Imperium and the Zhodani Consulate is concerned, I have found that High Guard Rules really are consistent (at least if you're fighting at TL 14 and 15) with the "age of sail" analogy. It is a mistake to try to think in terms of mid to late 20th century naval warfare, with the killer blows being delivered by small, nimble "fighters" flying off "carriers" ... and fast, nimble MTBs (PT boats to the Americans) being able to deliver crippling attacks on much larger ships. They can't. Think age of sail ... think of battles like Trafalgar and even (going back much further) Lepanto. Big ships killed small ships ... and victory generally went to the fleet which put the greater firepower into the line.
Trafalgar would be a better analogy than Lepanto, which was much more of a boarding action than a gunnery duel. At Lepanto, the smaller ships were used to feed reinforcements/replacements to the larger ships. Against that, the individual Christian/Western galleys were larger than the Turkish ones.

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Of course, armoured hulls and the single spinal mount restriction mean that we are much more akin to the later 19th century ... to the age of the ironclad. And, interestingly, to an era in which there were no great naval conflicts other than the Battle of Hampton Roads.

So those are some of my inspirations. They work for me ...
You did have the Battle of Lissa between the Italians and the Austrians in 1866, the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War (which did result in the Tennessee being captured), and the Battle of the Yalu during the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War. The Battle of the Yalu would come close to your idea of big ships with armor withstanding other ships without armor. The two Chinese battleships took a tremendous pounding but stayed in action, while inflicting some damage on the Japanese ships despite have their limited supply of armor-piercing ammunition filled mainly with cement rather than explosive. The single large gun, a 12.6 inch French weapon carried by two of the Japanese ships had a very hard time hitting the Chinese vessels.

A reasonable account of the action can be found in Wilson's Ironclads in Action and also his Battleships in Action. The Spanish-American War naval actions might be useful as well to look at.

As for your ideas of using the Great Game and the British experience on the Northwest Frontier for inspiration, I would say that is a very good starting place. I am looking at the early explorers of the New World for ideas as well. They also give a different view of a frontier than that of the US. Although the US concept of the Frontier changed over time as well. The Eastern Frontier of the Appalachians was considerably different from the Western Frontier of the cowboy that most people think of when they think of Frontier.
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Old October 28th, 2012, 09:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Amber Chancer View Post
Indeed, the "Great Game" from "Kim" is the inspiration for a campaign scenario I am building up on the eve of the 5th Frontier War - pitching the characters into the murky world of interstellar intelligence gathering (there will probably be a certain amount of the Thirty Nine Steps pitched in as well ... but NOT James Bond!!!)
Bond is a govnerment-employed assassin, not a spy. Instead, look up "Riley, Ace of Spies" for inspiration. Almost the right period, too. Played by Sam Neill of Jurassic Park.
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Old October 29th, 2012, 07:16 PM
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You did have the Battle of Lissa between the Italians and the Austrians in 1866, the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War (which did result in the Tennessee being captured), and the Battle of the Yalu during the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War.
And don't forget the several battles in the Sino-Russian war of 1904-05 plus the late 19th century battles between Argentina vs Brazil, and Chile vs Peru.
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Old October 29th, 2012, 07:41 PM
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Ha ha ... I'll have to learn them before I can forget them.

I should have mentioned Grainge White in British Guiana, too. You'll probably not have come across his writings, but he was a missionary in the South American interior when the first world war broke out. He really DID receive a letter from a correspondent saying "Dear Mr White ... all Europe is at war with Germany ... it will be over by Christmas". And it took two weeks of travel by boat to get from Georgetown to his mission. It's quite useful for getting a feel for what it MEANS to be living with that sort of a communication lag ...
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Old October 30th, 2012, 01:27 AM
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And don't forget the several battles in the Sino-Russian war of 1904-05 plus the late 19th century battles between Argentina vs Brazil, and Chile vs Peru.
That is the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, climaxed at sea by the Battle of Tsushima. The War of the Pacific with Chile taking on Peru and Bolivia was marked by the capture of the Peruvian ironclad Huascar by the Chilean ironclads Cochrane and Blanco Encalada. The various revolutions in Brazil that involved the Brazilian navy are of some interest, there being one successful torpedo attack on an anchored ship.

For additional inspiration, you might also want to look at Exploration Fawcett, about the travels of Lt.-Col. Percival Fawcett in South America prior to and following World War 1. Exactly what happened to him is still unknown.
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Old October 30th, 2012, 03:30 AM
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I guess it could probably be debated whether there is a difference between ships and battles of the "Ironclad" era and those that might be considered the "Pre-Dreadnaught" era.

Unfortunately though to me I'm not all that sure how either of these periods might compare to Traveller era stuff, mostly because of the medium of operating in space and the effects of acceleration on the ship's motion. Because of these things its always been hard for me to visualize what a space battle in Traveller might look like (especially those involving multiple ships and/or large fleets)

PF
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Old October 30th, 2012, 04:02 AM
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Unfortunately though to me I'm not all that sure how either of these periods might compare to Traveller era stuff, mostly because of the medium of operating in space and the effects of acceleration on the ship's motion. Because of these things its always been hard for me to visualize what a space battle in Traveller might look like (especially those involving multiple ships and/or large fleets)

PF
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Old October 30th, 2012, 04:55 AM
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Originally Posted by PFVA63 View Post
Unfortunately though to me I'm not all that sure how either of these periods might compare to Traveller era stuff, mostly because of the medium of operating in space and the effects of acceleration on the ship's motion. Because of these things its always been hard for me to visualize what a space battle in Traveller might look like (especially those involving multiple ships and/or large fleets)

PF
This is why I like the abstract High Guard combat system which saves the need to try to visualise it

Also, it has marked similarities to the fleet combat systems in naval kreigspiel that I am familiar with such as Flat Top, so doing it this way comes naturally to me ...

However, as you say, constant acceleration leads to certain inevitable conclusions. IMTU space combat can only occur at or near a travel destination ... the idea of an enemy "hiding behind a moon and dashing out to attack you as you pass" just doesn't cut it for me ... the velocity mis-match would be too great if you are mid-journey. Even if you're 1G and he's 6G, it's going to take him a LONG time to match your velocity to engage you, and you'll be far, far away by then. So, for me, most combats take place close to a planet, or close to a gas giant, that one side is already at and the other is going to. This, incidentally, is not so very different from the age of sail. Engagements way out on the high seas, far away from anyone or anything, were rare. So, just as you are safe from interception in jump space, so I think you're pretty safe from interception mid-way through an interplanetary journey. It's when you're at or close to zero velocity that you're vulnerable.

I'm still pondering what to do about some of the counter-intuitive effects which the game system creates. A ship has its M-drive destroyed. Its side wins the initiative, and opens the range from short to long. What about the ship with no M drive? If it had no offensive weapons left, the rules say the other side can attempt to board it. But if it has ... then the rules seem to allow it to remain in the line of battle. This strikes me as bizarre. So I house-rule it as follows:

1. It remains at short range for one turn and may fire and be fired on as such, despite the rest fo the battle having moved to long range.

2. The following turn it drifts out to long range, even if the rest of the battle has closed back to short range (because the other ships are manoeuvring, and the epicentre of the battle is constantly moving)

3. The turn after that, it drifts out of the battle zone in the same way as a ship breaking off by acceleration. Any friendly ships breaking off by acceleration that turn my join it, and it may be pursued. Thereafter it forms a different battle in the same way as any break-off ship (or drifts out of the battle altogether if not pursued).

If the owning side does not want to lose it to drifting, they may choose to keep the rest of their fleet with the drifter. In that case, they automatically surrender the initiative to the other side (because they must stay with the drifter, which is now at a known and constant velocity). If they have more than one drifter, they may only concentrate the fleet round one or another, for obvious reasons.

At the end of the battle, or any breakaway battle, victorious ships of the other side MAY return and re-engage the drifter and any ships with it. This is because, unlike true acceleration breakaways, they are actually at a constant velocity which is known to the other side. There will be a time lage, however (My rule of thumb is that the time taken at teh end of a battle to catch and re-engage with drifters is twice the number of turns of combat which were fought after the drifters drifted off) and during this time, crew may be rescued from the drifter, or replacement crew put aboard, and repairs attempted, frozen watch revived etc.

It makes sense to me, whilst retaining the overall abstract nature of HG starship combat.
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