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Old February 10th, 2008, 01:57 PM
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Default Starship Design System Evaluation

Just finished going through the starship design system and combat system.

Amazingly (given numerous other flaws in MGT), the starship design system is pretty good. Perhaps not coincidentally, it's a refined version of Book 2 and bears a greater resemblance to its predecessor than the task system, the combat system and the character generation system.

(An interesting observation--the crappiest systems in MGT so far are the ones that represent the greatest change from CT).

MGT starship design works much like Book 2. MGT's designer is to be commended for avoiding the gearhead fetish that makes starship design in T4 and GURPS Traveller about as engaging as an actuarial analysis. Components are rated in displacement (tons) and cost. Mass is not handled and I say "bravo for that". Equating mass and volume is an abstraction I've always been able to live with. Anyhow, here are my specific comments. Unless otherwise stated, my complaints are quibbles.

1. Hull sizes only run through 2000 tons. On the plus side, there are 300 ton hulls, 500 ton hulls, 700 ton hulls, etc., that are missing from Book 2. I also wish they'd include larger hulls, at least 3000, 4000 and 5000 ton hulls. However, that's a pretty simple fix. I'll post my suggestions later.

2. Configuration is handled simply and even elegantly. Hulls are unstreamlined (-10% cost); standard (which is streamlined, but "ungainly"); or streamlined (+10% cost). I was happy to be relieved of the numerous High Guard configurations.

3. Armour is handled simplistically but rather poorly. Armor protection is simply a percentage of hull volume, which perpetuates a serious problem that started with High Guard. In the real world, surface area does not increase proportionally with volume. Thus, large craft are able to be better armored than small craft. That's a pretty simple fix. I'll post my suggestions later. Also, there are 3 classes of armor; several more could be added from Striker/Megatraveller/FF&S.

EDIT: I'd suggest that each "level" of armor take up tonnage per this formula: .5 x (Hull Tonnage ^ (.666667)). This means that a level of armor consumes 5% of a 1000 ton hull. If the 5% delta moves to a different sized hull, change the .5 to something else. For instance, if you wanted 1 level of armor to consume 5% of a 2000 ton hull, the .5 would change to .63. If the delta is 10,000 tons, .5 is changed to 1.07. If the delta moves to 50,000 tons, .5 is changed to 1.84.

Here's my calculations (rounded off for simplicity):

Hull Tonnage of 1 level of armor
100 11
200 17
300 22
400 27
500 31
600 36
700 39
800 43
900 47
1000 50
1200 56
1400 63
1600 68
1800 74
2000 79


4. Hull Options. Nice touch and cleanly implemented. Hulls can have reflec,stealth or self-sealing characteristics. This raises the cost of the hull. I think that the rules need to provide that reflec and stealth characteristics are mutally exclusive. Indeed, reflec coatings should make a ship even more visible to lidar.

5. Drives. A Book-2 like table gives drive ratings, volume and cost. These are identical to Book 2, but for some reason, M-drive A is 2 tons, rather than 1 ton. Nice touch--Power Plants are rated for output, but designers are also told that power plants generally need to match the larger of Jump or Maneuver Drive size. Jump fuel is calculated like CT. Maneuver fuel is handled very well -- each power plant size has fuel consumption listed. This fixes a major flaw in CT starships -- maneuver fuel requirements could be smaller for the same drive in a larger ship. It makes small, fast ships feasible.

6. Bridges -- smaller ships (200t-) get 10 ton bridges and larger ships (2000t+) get 60 ton bridges. Computers are part of bridge tonnage now. Given the relatively low price of Model 1 (Cr30K) and Model 2 (Cr160K) computers, I think I'd just include them in the bridge cost (Cr500K per 100 tons of ship).

7. Electronics. Very well done--4 packages are available from Basic Civilian to Very Advanced. No fiddling with control panels or any of that crap.

8. Staterooms and low passage. No surprises or complaints.

9. Crew Requirements. 1 crew per 50 tons of ship, with a list of typical positions. It's a fast and elegant rule, but I'd require that this include a minimum of 1 engineer per 35 tons of drives or somesuch. Maybe.

10. I like the Luxuries rule. Each ton of "luxuries" (Mcr0.1) adds +1 to Steward checks. I'd add that each ton of luxuries can service a maximum of X passengers (10?), otherwise larger ships will be able to provide great luxury at minimal cost.

11. I like the Ship's Locker rule. Basically, it contains any normal gear that costs cr5,000 or less and its contents are defined on an "as needed" basis. Nice.

12. Ships vehicles list is decent, though I'd like more detail ala Book 2 on the various craft (presumable this will be added). Need to add fighters.

13. Weaponry rules are fine and work like Book 2 for the most part. Most weapons are available in 2-3 tech levels. 50 ton weapon bays look fine. However, weapon damage is completely fouled up. For instance, pulse lasers do half the damage of beam lasers (x1+1 vs x2+2 at TL 10). Missiles are worthless; they do less damage than the weakest laser. Nuclear missiles seem way too cheap--cr3750 each--and rather unimpressive in damage. Nuclear dampers are effective against Fusion Guns...hmmn.

14. The Starship Operations section is adequate. I especially like the Airlocks section, which tells you that ships have 1 airlock per 100 tons. Presumably additional ones could be added; rules for that would be nice.

15. The Starship economics section is, of course, utterly worthless.

All in all, a fine update for CT. This section should have been the model for all of MGT. A thorough cleaning and tweaking of the CT systems, rather than an ill-considered series of haphazard house rules.

I may well adapt the MGT starship system for my own CT campaign (especially if someone would design a nice program to run out ships ala the superb CT Utility).

Last edited by tbeard1999; February 10th, 2008 at 02:19 PM..
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Old February 10th, 2008, 02:06 PM
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How about the energy point issues?
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Old February 10th, 2008, 02:39 PM
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How about the energy point issues?
I was gonna address that in my review of starship combat. But, yes, the designer appears to have thrown the ball over the fence on this one.

Basically, his energy requirements for weapons and drives make no sense. There's also a hamfisted attempt to creat a Star Fleet Battles like power allocation system...ugh.

So I'd just ignore the power system (or work out a replacement system). I note that this is an example of the phenomenon that I observed earlier -- systems that are close to CT work pretty well; new stuff invariably seems to suck. And this one sucks badly.

For instance, a B class power plant produces 2 power per round and can hold a maximum of 18 power points "in reserve". Each pulse laser uses 3 power points and each beam laser uses 5 points. The B maneuver drive uses 3 points of power per turn. The B Jump drive uses 15 points per turn.

So my 400 ton starship is in trouble in combat. It will burn 3 energy points every turn it uses its 1G drives. And its 4 triple beam laser turrets will require 60 energy points per turn if fired. This means on the first turn of combat, it will have an energy deficit of 46 points (assuming maximum reserve power).

Indeed, the largest power plant, size Z, will produce only 12 points per turn (reserve power of 144 or 150 depending on which text you believe). So after reserve power is used up (2-3 turns), the ship can only fire 2 lasers per turn with the largest power plant available.

This system is so FUBARed that I am embarassed for the designer.

The editing is also abysmal. For instance, we're told to ...determine the amount of power available to the ship at the start of battle by rolling a number of d6 equal to the amount of power it generates each round.
Later we're assured that ...the maximum power stored is always a multiple of six, so a ship's power reserves can be tracked using dice). Except that this is clearly not true. Also, the example text contradicts the table.

Anyhow, this hamfisted attempt to cobble a Star Fleet Battles energy allocation system is pathetic.
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Old February 10th, 2008, 02:59 PM
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Then I do not like the starship system at all.
I'm sure its very good, but just not my taste.

Ignoring mass and using volume as an abstraction ( constant density for all ships regardless of armor and equipment ) blows it for me. That makes heavily armored chuncks of superdense just as nimble as a lightly armored speedster. That breaks my suspension of disbelief.

Table based design stifles things, imho, as it means working hard to fit non-standard ships in. I prefer having equations so I can use any mnumber I like in a design...I'm not adverse to using calculators or spreadsheets. After all, building ships is a meta-game and not played during an rpg session.

I would prefer a FFS style starship building 'scaffold' be available for making those items a simple system would list in a table.While combat play MUST be simple and fast, the design away from the coffee table should as as simple or as complex as the builder desires or can stomach. Ships, like worlds, are sets and props for the game and and the ref/director shuold be able to make them as detailed as possible if he likes...the rules merely exist to make it all consistant.

B2 is a good thing for that game and players, but its something I've had,played and discarded as not my style.

Is it me?..or is mongoose trav really quite simple but with 'chrome' pasted on to it for chrome's sake which makes it seem detailed and new.
Isn't this what made 'The Fantasy Trip' crash and burn as it "evolved" into GURPS?
Fast cars don't have much chrome.....
'Hot Rod Trav' might be better.
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Old February 10th, 2008, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Ishmael View Post
Then I do not like the starship system at all.
I'm sure its very good, but just not my taste.

Ignoring mass and using volume as an abstraction ( constant density for all ships regardless of armor and equipment ) blows it for me. That makes heavily armored chuncks of superdense just as nimble as a lightly armored speedster. That breaks my suspension of disbelief.
That's not exactly true. By having armor absorb tonnage, you can approximate the *effects* of packing a lot of armor on a hull, without the hassle of fiddling with another major variable.

For some reason -- and I admit this is a matter of taste -- having two major variables (tonnage and cost) works well for me. I have an abiding dislike of the more complex (though doubtlessly more "realistic") systems in MT, TNE, T4 and GURPS Traveller. I can sit down and run out a 400 ton ship in a couple of minutes with Book 2 or MGT. Yet the exercise is engaging and does force hard decisions -- range vs. cargo, protection vs cost, etc. Adding a third variable just increases the workload by 50% (or more) and gives me no more enjoyment. YMMV of course.

Quote:
Is it me?..or is mongoose trav really quite simple but with 'chrome' pasted on to it for chrome's sake which makes it seem detailed and new.
I'd characterize it as "schizophrenic". The systems that were more or less lifted from CT are simple and elegant (no shock there). An example would be the starship design system and probably the world and animal generators.

The CT systems that were heavily modified, but still recognizable work okay, but are nothing to write home about. An example of this is character generation. It's flawed, but the flaws can be easily fixed without having to revise the entire sequence.

The mostly new systems suck wind. This includes the awful T/E system, the fiddly and pretentious initiative system, the utterly predictable damage system, the hamfisted Star Fleet Battles knockoff system, and as far as I can tell, the starship combat system.

I'm thinking of a new law...

MGT Law--"The quality of a revised RPG mechanic is proportional to the similarity it bears to the original mechanic."

Quote:
Isn't this what made 'The Fantasy Trip' crash and burn as it "evolved" into GURPS?
TFT has some fundamental flaws that cannot be fixed within the framework of a 3d6 task system. GURPS was a flawed attempt to do so anyhow, with a copy of the tedious HERO character generation system thrown in for laughs.
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Old February 10th, 2008, 03:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tbeard1999 View Post
...

3. Armour is handled simplistically but rather poorly. Armor protection is simply a percentage of hull volume, which perpetuates a serious problem that started with High Guard. In the real world, surface area does not increase proportionally with volume...
You can't have it both ways You laud the simple hull and volume choices above and then slam the simple armor choice necessitated by it. Any system built on the first can't address the second in the realistic way you demand.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tbeard1999 View Post
...

11. I like the Ship's Locker rule. Basically, it contains any normal gear that costs cr5,000 or less and its contents are defined on an "as needed" basis. Nice.
Hate it (and all of similar ilk I've seen in other games)

Just what every game needs, a bag of holding of endless items for free. It promotes laziness and is ripe for abuse.

"Hey, nice laser rifle for sale at the port pawn shop, only Cr6000. Too bad I'm broke. Oh wait a minute, I'll raid the ship's locker for a few items, let's see... Electronics Tool Set (Cr2000), Artificial Gill (Cr4000), a Hand Computer (Cr1000), and a Continental Range Communicator (Cr5000). That should do since the pawn shop will only give me half value on them."

And the next time said items are "needed" they are magically back in the locker, along with the laser rifle.

Unless the rule means Cr5000 total in which case it's a useless locker. Of course if it replenishes too you just take out what you "need", shut the door, say the magic chant "I also need" and voila open the door and there it is.

Why not at least make it an added feature to the design choices for a "fabber" of x tons and y Cr that can create items of 1/2x tons and z value before needing to be resupplied of source materials worth 2z value. TL of "fabber" is the limit of the items it can make and sets how it long it takes.


But thanks for the review
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Old February 10th, 2008, 03:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tbeard1999 View Post
Just finished going through the starship design system and combat system.

Amazingly (given numerous other flaws in MGT), the starship design system is pretty good. Perhaps not coincidentally, it's a refined version of Book 2 and bears a greater resemblance to its predecessor than the task system, the combat system and the character generation system.

(An interesting observation--the crappiest systems in MGT so far are the ones that represent the greatest change from CT).

MGT starship design works much like Book 2. MGT's designer is to be commended for avoiding the gearhead fetish that makes starship design in T4 and GURPS Traveller about as engaging as an actuarial analysis.
With the exceptions of the bits you didn't like (coincidentally), that designer is none other than Marc Miller. I.E. Gareth took T5's "Adventure-Class Starships" design system and tacked on his own power, armor, and weapons rules.

Quote:
1. Hull sizes only run through 2000 tons. On the plus side, there are 300 ton hulls, 500 ton hulls, 700 ton hulls, etc., that are missing from Book 2. I also wish they'd include larger hulls, at least 3000, 4000 and 5000 ton hulls. However, that's a pretty simple fix. I'll post my suggestions later.
This is Marc's intentional decision that player ships will almost always be small. T5's draft has ships up to around 2,400 tons. Larger ships will use a formula-based system. How he's going to mesh these two systems is continually on my mind.

Quote:
Armor protection is simply a percentage of hull volume [...]

EDIT: I'd suggest that each "level" of armor take up tonnage per this formula: .5 x (Hull Tonnage ^ (.666667)).
Marc uses an approximation of a formula similar to that for T5.

Quote:
5. Drives. A Book-2 like table gives drive ratings, volume and cost. These are identical to Book 2, but for some reason, M-drive A is 2 tons, rather than 1 ton.
It avoids the potential problem of "stacking" M-drives, i.e. two A's perform like one B.

T5 defines power plants, M-drives, and J-drives in power in/out, but again all you have to do it match a plant with the greater drive letter. P-plant fuel usage derives from the power plant table -- 1 ton per week per drive letter basically.

This gives the MGT sample starships (just clones from CT) an extremely long duration in-system. Too long in my opinion. However, it's nice to see that small CT starships can be used as-is in MGT and T5.

This fuel rule makes 100t traders possible:

Pocket Trader

Using a 100-ton hull, the pocket trader is intended for trade along safe routes. It mounts jump drive-A, maneuver drive-A, and power plant-A, giving performance of jump-2 and 2-G acceleration. A 22-ton fuel tank provides fuel for the power plant and provides sufficient fuel for one jump-2. Adjacent to its bridge is a computer Model/3. There are six staterooms and six low berths. One hybrid LMS turret with its fire control is installed on the ship's hardpoint. There are no vehicles. Cargo capacity amounts to 25 tons. The hull is a floatation hull with a lift body configuration, equipped with landing gear legs with pads.

The pocket trader requires a crew of one, assuming the duties of pilot, astrogator, and engineer. The ship costs MCr 29.6 and takes 9 months to build.

Code:
Volume  Component                   Price
(100)   Hull-A LDK                   2
  10    Half Bridge
        -  Computer model/3
  10    Jump drive-A (J2)           10
   1    Maneuver drive-A (2G)        4
   4    Power plant-A                8
  22    Fuel
  24    Staterooms (6)               3
   3    Low berths (6)               0.6
   1    Hybrid LMS turret            1
  25    Cargo
------- ----------------------- --------
                                MCr 28.6
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Old February 10th, 2008, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by far-trader View Post
You can't have it both ways You laud the simple hull and volume choices above and then slam the simple armor choice necessitated by it. Any system built on the first can't address the second in the realistic way you demand.
Well, I think he's not really asking for realistic. He's worried about an emergent problem with High Guard where Rampart fighters can have the same "thickness" of armor as Tigress dreadnoughts.

And you can still have it simple. I can't recall T5's system offhand, but I know it's something like:

hulls 10 to 99? tons : 6 tons per AV
hulls 100 to 600? tons : 5 tons per AV
hulls 601? to 1600? tons : 4 tons per AV
hulls 1700? tons and up : 3 ton per AV

It's not that, but it's along those lines. It approximates an exponential surfacey thing, suggested by the Highly Esteemed Scott Martin.
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Old February 10th, 2008, 03:49 PM
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You can't have it both ways You laud the simple hull and volume choices above and then slam the simple armor choice necessitated by it. Any system built on the first can't address the second in the realistic way you demand.
Sure it can. All you have to do is add a column to the hull size chart which tells the tonnage of one armor level. That's no more trouble than multiplying it out. Easy as pie and solves a very serious problem.

Quote:
Just what every game needs, a bag of holding of endless items for free. It promotes laziness and is ripe for abuse.

"Hey, nice laser rifle for sale at the port pawn shop, only Cr6000. Too bad I'm broke. Oh wait a minute, I'll raid the ship's locker for a few items, let's see... Electronics Tool Set (Cr2000), Artificial Gill (Cr4000), a Hand Computer (Cr1000), and a Continental Range Communicator (Cr5000). That should do since the pawn shop will only give me half value on them."
Yeah, it can be abused. If your players won't act in good faith, simply require them to keep a running inventory.

Quote:
Unless the rule means Cr5000 total in which case it's a useless locker.
Since the locker costs cr100,000, I'd assume that there's probably cr95,000 worth of gear in there.

I like the idea, but you're right...it can easily be abused. Plus, my players love outfitting the ship's locker...
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Old February 10th, 2008, 04:00 PM
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With the exceptions of the bits you didn't like (coincidentally), that designer is none other than Marc Miller. I.E. Gareth took T5's "Adventure-Class Starships" design system and tacked on his own power, armor, and weapons rules.
More like he taped them on with cheap cellophane tape. Well, glad to hear that The Man still has some swing in him...

You know, if I were gonna "improve" a system designed by a legend, I'd spend a lot of time ensuring that my improvements were at least as good as the underlying system. But then professional pride is like that.

Quote:
This <the 2000 ton limit> is Marc's intentional decision that player ships will almost always be small. T5's draft has ships up to around 2,400 tons. Larger ships will use a formula-based system. How he's going to mesh these two systems is continually on my mind.
The problem with this (besides trying to distill the table based system into formulae) is that the referee may want to design ships that are not PC craft. In any case, the problem is pretty easy to solve. Simply extrapolate from the drive/hull table and you can go up to any reasonable size

Quote:
Marc uses an approximation of a formula similar to that for T5.
Which the designer of MGT couldn't be bothered with, apparently. Jeez.

Quote:
<Making drive A 2 tons> It avoids the potential problem of "stacking" M-drives, i.e. two A's perform like one B.
I think you meant to say that 1 ton A drives could be "stacked" and would be more efficient than a B drive (or C drive). Works for me.

Quote:
T5 defines power plants, M-drives, and J-drives in power in/out, but again all you have to do it match a plant with the greater drive letter. P-plant fuel usage derives from the power plant table -- 1 ton per week per drive letter basically.
So where might one obtain this legendary T5?
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