As I'm gearing up for a new Traveller campaign, I've become intrigued by the "Proto-Traveller" concept and the more I think about it, the more I like it.
This works well for me since I usually prefer my own background (the New Anglian Commonwealth, a constitutional monarchy much like the British Empire in the 18th-19th centuries) to the Third Imperium. Even better, such a campaign can reflect Traveller the way it was when I first started to play in 1979. (I didn't get Books 2+ until 1981 and later, so I ran Classic Traveller for a couple of years).
And while I will use CT as unmodified as possible, I will have to revise the CT rules to fit my universe. Given the huge amount of creativity and experience here, I thought I'd post my revisions for comment and consideration. Any help is appreciated.
The first topic is starships. Consistent with the Proto-Traveller concept, I've decided to use the Book 2 starship design system. It's always been elegant and I spent many hours designing starships in my youth (most of which are still in my files 26 years later). Like most folks I suspect, I abandoned it for the far flashier High Guard (which I think is an excellent design system in its own right, once the armor flaws are fixed). So it was something of a novelty going back to Book 2. Interestingly, I find it even more elegant than I thought it was in 1979.
This, by the way, is a recurring theme with me and CT. As I have gotten older and designed a number of games, I've come to admire Classic Traveller more and more. Of course, there are flaws -- and I seem to be more able to spot them now -- but its strengths far outweigh its flaws IMHO. And the flaws are usually pretty easy to fix.
On to the starships. One obvious difference between Book 2 and High Guard is the limit on hull size – 5000 tons. And given the drive tables, 3000 tons is an effective maximum for military starships, since it’s the largest hull that can achieve Jump, Power and Maneuver-4. Since even a 3000 ton starship is so bog that the players can’t possibly defeat it in battle, I have no problem with the size limits.
The second obvious difference is the weaponry and (lack of) armor. Civilian and military craft use the same systems and weaponry. And there’s no armor. This means that the players’ ship might be able to handle a small military ship, which is a good thing. Book 2 also makes fighters the most efficient weapon system. A stock Book 2 fighter takes up 10 tons and can deploy 3 missile racks (9 missiles total) or 1 laser. Even allowing for the space consumed by its pilot and mechanic (1 stateroom), and a couple of tons for ordinance, spares and fuel, a ship can deploy at least 6 fighters per 100 tons. That’s 18 missile racks, plus (say) 3 more in the triple turret that the ship gets with that 100 tons. So on a per-ton basis, a carrier can pack far more firepower than a non-carrier. This means that Book 2 navies will be built around carriers, much like modern navies, which I like. The situation will be much like naval warfare from 1942 through the early 1960s, which I like. It also means that the players will often face fighters rather than starships. I like this as well, since fighters can be coped with in small numbers by a ship the players might have.
Unfortunately, there’s a major problem with Book 2 when it comes to military starships. The problem is that a Book 2 starship cannot dedicate *any* tonnage to weaponry other than fighters. And since non-fighter weaponry is limited to 1 turret/100 tons, a starship will be utterly overmatched by fighters. A 1000 ton cruiser, for instance, will have 10 triple turrets. 200 tons worth of fighters (12) will have up to 36 missile racks by comparison. This means that there’s really very little reason not to put fighters on *every* military ship. Lack of pilots might be a tempting excuse to limit fighters, but it doesn’t satisfy me. The USA, with a population of 300 million and a modest military budget has several thousand Navy and Marine combat pilots (and the Air Force has thousands more). Given that a 3000 ton carrier can carry about 60 fighters, it’s clear to me that a pilot shortage won’t be much of a problem. An exception might be a massive wartime expansion ala the US Navy in WWII. But even there, the US turned out many thousands of trained combat pilots.
So while I want carriers to be the major combatants, I also want there to be a reason for non-carrier military starships.
The next post will discuss my rules modifications to achieve this goal.