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The TRAVELLER space combat experience

The Oz

SOC-14 1K
No, this isn't a suggestion for a new amusement park ride in Las Vegas or DisneyWorld.

I woke up wondering what it would actually be like to live through a space battle in TRAVELLER. What would you see? How would it sound, smell, and feel? I wrote up what I thought and it turned out to be so long that instead of putting it here I put on on my own web page, so you can go here:

Traveller Space Combat Experience

to see what I wrote.

Let me know what you think and let's discuss it.
Well done and very useful essay. I think you've got if right on as far as I can tell.
One suggestion: stewards frantically trying to appear calm as they hustle passengers into rescue balls. Accepting for arguments sake that most liners would surrender on demand, there might still be a need for passenger protection from accidental hull breaches. Also, passengers in balls are less likely to get in the way of the stewards.

Any ideas what fuel tank hits might do? Might there be enough impurities in unrefined fuel or incidental water to plume? And what happens when a laser hits hydrogen gas?
I like the idea of stewards frantically shoving passengers into rescue balls. Imagine some young first-term steward trying to get a 100-year old dowager Duchess into a rescue ball while she protests about wrinkling her jabberwock-skin gown.

I forgot about what fuel hits might look like.... Hmmmm. I doubt there'd be much of a flame, unless there was also oxygen leaking out from a life support hit (an oxygen-hydrogen flame is almost invisible anyway) but I think you're right and there would be a plume of vaporized fuel spurting out from ruptured tanks, and a trail of leaking hydrogen vapor slowly dispersing from the hole until the tank was empty. I don't think the trail would last very long; the energy from the hit would probably blow most of the fuel out of the tank.

I also think that fuel tanks are compartmentalized to limit fuel loss from any one hit or accident. Military ships would have more extensive compartmentalization and so tend to lose less fuel per hit, unless you were hit at a junction between two tanks.

Lasers (and particle beams) passing through escaping fuel would leave a visible trail and produce some scattering of light along the beam track. It probably wouldn't be enough to reduce the power of the beam on target, but it might look cool. The hydrogen would glow, but I'm not sure what color.
Well, I like it, but OffWorld Passengers get mighty hysterical when they hear about or see a missle heading their way. I'm not sure the Combat View or the Ship's Talker would go over too well. Neat idea for the crew, tho - but I don't think that would work for passengers.

Great visuals!

Originally posted by Sir Dameon Toth:
Well, I like it, but OffWorld Passengers get mighty hysterical when they hear about or see a missle heading their way. I'm not sure the Combat View or the Ship's Talker would go over too well. Neat idea for the crew, tho - but I don't think that would work for passengers.

Great visuals!

I admit to not being sure of this myself. I know I would want to know what was going on, but I might not be typical.

It's a tough question: would people be more terrified sitting around not knowing why the floor is quivering and not knowing if they may die in the next second, or would they be more terrified to know that an enemy missile is coming but the defenses are trying to stop it? Since people are so varied it would probably depend on the individual, so perhaps the "Ship's Talker" and "Combat View" would be optional? Something you can tune in if you want, but don't have to listen to/watch if it scares you?
I think a running commentary would be frightening to passengers and distracting to crew. You might get edited highlights - "This is your captain speaking. We've crippled one pirate ship and are trying to outrun the other. Please stay in your seats, things might get bumpy..." - but that's about all.

Passengers may be given mild sedatives to stop them panicking and help them handle vac suits/emergency balls.

Larger ships (esp military) would need an armoured citadel within the ship, containing at least the bridge and sick bay, that can remain pressurised. Vac suits are clumsy and uncomfortable to wear for long periods, and you can't treat injuries in a vacuum.
I think people would prefer the idea of edited highlights, although I'd hate to imagine the musak piped over the link between announcements. I don't think I'd want to be listening to a merry little Hava Cola theme song (purely instrumental) as the ship around me shakes and the artificial gravity suddenly cuts out, lights flicker and the steward freaks.

"This is a vacc suit drill. There is no cause for alarm..."
Imperial shipping regulations state that all passenger carriers must conduct at least one normal space vacc suit/lifeboat/hold your breath and hope drill per trip.
With accceleration compensators removing the effect of hard maneuvering then the passengers may not even be aware of anything out of the ordinary.

IMTU though the acceleration compensators can't disguise the sudden vector changes, hence crew and passengers should be safely in acceleration couches or low berths by the time the fun begins.
Originally posted by Sigg Oddra:
Hmm, an armoured citadel...

neat idea
It has been used in Wet Naval Vessels for quite some time. The A-10 has the one man aircraft version. Combat command and control hasn't been in an exposed part of the ship since Radar and Sonar became truly practical.
As far as a running comentary. I feel it would tend to be more of Southern Drawl, Chuck Yeager, type of coments from the Bridge. "Well it looks like the locals might not be as friendly as the last time we were here." (Translation, there are about 20 missiles inbound) So you might want to find your way to your seats and strap yourselves in as it is likely to get a might interesting." (Translation, well I think point defense might get one or two of those 20 inbounds but the follow on salvo is likely to hurt even worse than the first one.)
I am working up a Book 2 combat system that would, among other things, allow ship designers to put in armored citadels. I have allowed this IMTU for some time.

I like the idea of a calm Southern drawl announcing the imminent death of everyone aboard,

"Well, their meyson fire control has locked us up, I'h 'spect we're gonna be toast in a couple sec'nds...."
Armored citadels aboard warships have been around since the Crimean War. They barely exist these days, unless you somehow count putting a few unarmored compartments between your unamrmored CIC and the outside as 'armor' that is.

Andrew Moffat-Vallance (of HGS fame) had a website with rules for citadels. His site had an interesting take on the Interstellar Wars and a wholly new Traveller setting that involved a wormhole and one of the Magellenic Clouds.

As for combat experiences aboard OTU vessels, I'd ditch the 'Yeager Drawl' bullsh*t. Yeager himself would be the first to tell you that particular affectation is little more than b.s. put on by fighter jock wannabes. Combat comms rely on clear, precise, and quickly understandable speaking and not bad Jethro Bodine imitations(1). The Right Stuff is good for the most part, but Tom Wolfe has a lot to answer for.

Phone talkers or battle narrators are anyone's call. USN vessels in the Pacific War had no set practice as it was left up to the captain. Some COs used it, some didn't, and others used it only during certain operations. Those that used it cited the need to keep the crew below decks informed. Those that didn't citied the need to keep comm channels clear for battle and damage control reports. It shows up in the movies alot because it looks good and not because it was a normal practice. GMs hould use it for the same reason Hollywood does.

Space combat in the OTU is like all combat. It's wholly Hobbesian(2); i.e. nasty, brutish and short. It also follows that other military dictum; hurry up and wait. Because you can see the fellow whose going to clobber you well before he gets into the range he can clobber you at, OTU ship combat will be very stressful. A weak analogy can be made with Age of Sail ship combat. Vessels then could watch each other for hours before any weapons could be brought to bare.

Much has been written about purposeful decompression in the OTU. While many opinions exist, the majority seem to draw a military/civilian line with regards to the practice. Military and paramilitary vessels will decompress or partially decompress as part of their battle readiness procedures. Merchies and PCs will decompress only rarely. Furthermore, merchies and PC vessels may not have the equipment/design to decompress and recompress readily.

The amount of 'shake, rattle, and roll' IYTU should depend on how inertial compensators work IYTU. IMTU, inertial dampening does not work instantaneously. It just seems that way because the compensators normally get a 'heads up' from the maneuver drive before any thrust vector changes. Unanticipated thrust (i.e. nearby explosions, collisions, etc.) will effect the crew so everyone is usually strapped in.

Also IMTU, unlike the various 'Star Dreck' series, vessels have fuses and circuit breakers so weapon hits do not ALWAYS cause showers of sparks from various panels. Vessels IMTU have seat/shoulder belts too, unlike the usual 'Star Dreck' nonsense.

Seeing as vessels spend relatively little of their trip time in normal space, I'd expect most crews to be standing at least 'Condition III' watches between the port and the jump limit. Engineering and bridge would be fully manned along with half of the weapons.

As always, YMMV.

Have fun,

1 - I know of two individuals who, while at nuc school prototype, were assigned additional practice on the sound powered phone system because their usual method of speaking proved nearly incomprehensible over that system. One was 'southern', the other was from an 'inner' city.

2 - Just to make things clear, that's the philosopher and not the comic strip tiger, okay?
Good points, all, Bill! I have heard some folks give running commentary over the 1MC during General Quarters drills when an "attack" is going on. Of course, my question would be, "Will they make goofy sounds to simulate the impact of the missile/beam during exercises?" like they do now?
I honestly don't think passengers would be able to see the battle on their monitors. Mainly because lawyers could use it to hammer the ship operators.

"Why did he turn that way?" "He lased the rescue ball!" "It looked like none of the missiles did any damage!" "I had a severe anxiety attack from watching it, because he took his time destroying the pirate, instead of running away."

I think pax would be escorted somewhere with absolutely no input, told to sit down and be quiet, then given free drinks in the main lounge afterwards.
Mild tranquilizers in the passengers' emergency vacc suit's air supply?

Or perhaps that's what the snub pistol tranq round's been for all along ;)
Originally posted by Fritz88:
I think pax would be escorted somewhere with absolutely no input, told to sit down and be quiet, then given free drinks in the main lounge afterwards.

It may be like the star Wars IV where everyone is told to strap themselves in before ship to ship combat.

I would rather sit in the lounge and have a drink (make it a double barkeep!)