Archive for November, 2013

Tactics in Intercept

Posted in Intercept on November 29, 2013 by Mr Backman

Space tactics

“You understand that there is no case in military history where an Enclosure has been completed that the attacking forces have not eventually won, except where an outside Navy exists in sufficient force to break the Enclosure.” – Bel Riose

Ship tactics “The individual has been trained in the operation of a starship or space ship in battle”. Ship tactics can control a group of ships with the same position, vector and facing as the Tacticians ship, all commanded ships must still have Pilots but on ships smaller than 500 m3 (100 dTon)?the Pilot and Ship tactician can be the same person, roll once with the lowest of the two skills in that case instead of the lowest degree of success of the Tactician and Pilot on the commanded ship.

Fleet tactics “The individual has been trained in the use of formations and maneuvers in naval operations”. Fleet tactics extend the range of ships the Tactician can command, they must still have the same vector and facing.

Ship tactics and Fleet tactics has been part of Traveller ever since High Guard was published by GDW way back.

So, what then does the two space combat tactics skills do? In ships where the Pilot and Tactician is the same person, which is only allowed with ships less than 500 m3 (100 dTon), roll the Pilot task with the lowest skill of Pilot or Tactics. If the Pilot and Tactician is not the same person you roll one Pilot task and one Tactics task and use the lowest result. The result then applies to all ship under the Tacticians command, for both turning and Initiative purposes. The task or tasks are always rolled vs the largest modified Size ship under command, modified by Hull and Crew damage as usual.

There is one more advantage for a group of ships under Tactician command; they may group identical weapons as a single battery even when coming from different ships. A hundred single gunned fighters may fire as a single 100 weapon battery giving it a whopping +6 DM to hit, and the same goes for missile volleys. However, commanded ships can NOT group weapons or screens from different ships together for defense, except for firing at missile as if they were ships.

So, in short, Tacticians allow ships under his command to turn and move, and most importantly; fight, as one and have Initiative as one. Tacticians turn groups of ships into single units, allowing them to fight as one, which, incidentally, also immensely speed up large engagements. Fleet tacticians extend the allowed separation for ships under the Ship tacticians command which help immensely when attacked by nuclear missiles, more on that in another post.

“Great empires are not maintained by timidity” – Tacitus

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Fighters in Intercept

Posted in Intercept, Rules, Science fiction on November 23, 2013 by Mr Backman

Vulnerable? Nah, sitting strapped atop a fusion rocket with only three centimeters of glassteel for canopy, taking on huge warships at fist-fighting range, no, that does not make me feel vulnerable, why? I just trim my moustache, whistle a few bars of the Imperial march and tell my buddies to ‘smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast’.

So, young lovely, what are you doing after this dreadful yawn of a ball? Meet me at the Areobrake salute and I’ll buy you a drink.

Single crew fighters have been a standard troupe in Science Fiction but their usefulness have been questioned on Atomic Rocket and other hard SF sites. This article will argue for their existence from an Intercept perspective; why would one build small fighters in Intercept except for coolness and Traveller canon?

Fighters have one thing going for them; their Size. Small ships are hard to hit and tend to win the Initiative. Fighters are small enough to allow the Pilot and Ship tactician being the same person so grouping them together under the command of an ace Pilot / Tactician makes perfect sense, remember that guns of the same kind can be grouped into batteries even if they sit on different ships as long as they are all under the same commander. Capital ships can easily kill a fighter with a single shot but only if they can hit them. Grouping together lots of low powered weapons will steal precious surface area from larger weapons and the fighters will probably maneuver themselves into the cracks between firing arcs or even the blind aft centerline were they can attack with impunity. Large fighter groups can also work as a mobile anti missile system defending their motherships.

What then can the capital ship do in defense? They can build really thick hulls and rely on internal sensors alone (neutrino and mass) but a more viable solution is to have their own fighters engaging the enemy and protecting their aft centerline.

So, we have dashing and brave squadron leaders with excellent pilot and ship tactics skills dogfighting around the capital ships and that one, ex farm boy, young pilot can happen to score a cascading damage hit through the radiators of that huge, space station like, enemy ship, a hit that might eventually, through cascading damage, blow up the entire ship, with huge amounts of sheer luck (or is it Luke?). You can download an example fighter design (among other ships) at the downloads page.

Yes, the single-seater fighter ship is very much alive and well in Intercept!

Custom crew

Posted in Design system, Intercept on November 17, 2013 by Mr Backman
Nostromo Crew courtesy of http://alienseries.wordpress.com

Nostromo Crew courtesy of http://alienseries.wordpress.com

Crew? I pilot the ship, I astrogate for hyperspace, I scan with my sensors and if I see something I don’t like, I shoot it with my lasers. Repairs? Hah, my ship is too scared of me to ever break down.

Sir Charles Pancroft, Baron of Centry, on the merits of a one man ship crew.

Centry/Glisten/Spinward marches 023-1013

Custom crew example

Intercept make various assumptions regarding crew size which may not fit your concept of how the ship should be crewed. As an example, Intercept assumes that Gunners and Sensor ops hold dual roles (the lower number of the two is in parenthesis to indicate this). Write your own value, including 0, to override whatever Intercept has calculated. I have added some smarts to the design sheet to help you see what effects your crew numbers will have:

  • Tactician (Pilot) The ship is small enough that the Pilot and Tactician can be the same person without penalty. Instead of using the lowest result of the Pilot roll and the Tactician roll he simply roll once using the lowest skill of Pilot and whatever flavor of Tactician skill he uses (Ship tactics or Fleet tactics).
  • Sensor ops (2) Sensor ops or Gunners crew number in parenthesis indicate that Intercept assumes the two positions are dual-role. If you intend to Scan after combat your attacks and defenses are modified by -2 and your scans are also modified by -2. If you want dedicated Gunners and Sensor Ops to avoid penalties from dual role simply write the number in the light yellow edit column to the right.
  • Gunners (-2) A negative value in parenthesis after the crew type is your Undermanning modifier, ‘(No)’ means you cannot perform tasks by that crew category  because you have less than 10% of the required crew.
  • Technicians (No FW) A ‘(No FW)’ means your Repair Crew must be repaired instead of revived by Frozen Watch because it has more than 50% robots.
  • Low passage? A ‘?’ indicate that you don’t have enough freezers for the numbers you have chosen.
  • Total crew? A ‘?’ indicate that you don’t have enough life support units for the numbers you have chosen.
  • Frozen watch (x2) A ‘(x1)’ or ‘(x2)’ after Frozen watch indicate how many levels of damage you can restore from Frozen watch. You can never have more damage level restores than 2 no matter how large frozen watch you specify.

The design system and ready-made designs have been updated as has the rule book (look at the top row for Ship.xls version and Data.xls version. Ship.xls version should be 2013-11-17 or newer). You can download them all from the Downloads page.

Q: What do you call a timepiece that stops whenever the temperature goes below zero?

A: The frozen watch.

Intercept 3.3 update

Posted in Design system, Intercept, Rules, Traveller on November 10, 2013 by Mr Backman

Laser with mirror

Yeah, it is true, I finally managed to put it together and get it ready to download. there are lots of changes, rearrangements and tweaks, too many to mention all so I will just give you the major points. I have scattered some illustrations here and there in the rules to liven things up a bit and to exercise my limited artistic abilities.

Download the latest version of Intercept and designs from the Downloads page.

Design system

The design system has gotten some changes here and there but now for the first time there is actual documentation on how to design ships in the rulebook. This part is placed at the end, right before the tables and charts, so you can print out the Design rules in a separate booklet if you like.

Mapsheets

There are many changes to how ships interact with planets and these changes are reflected in the new mapsheets. There is one sheet with a small planet in the middle, one with a large planet and also one where a large and small planet are placed far apart to play out scenarios in the Earth – Moon neighbourhood. The mapsheets are now included in the Intercept bundle.

Missile customization

Various missile customization options are tabulated in the rules but maybe not too deeply explained. Read about missile customization here.

Planets

Planets have their own section now with rules on planetary line of sight, gravity etc in one place instead of scattered throughout the rules. The rules for stable orbits now cover polar orbits as well.  The planetary line of sight rules and sun shadow rules have changed considerably so make sure you read up on planets if you use them in the game.

Consolidated Pilot task

A fancy name for the section where various Pilot related stuff is located. You will find rules for docking, ramming, landing on planets, crashing into planets, voluntary and mandatory areobrakes etc. This section is a good place for a Traveller referee to get less ad-hoc and more believable rules for ship to ship and ship to planet interaction with more choices and participation by the players while still taking the characters skill into consideration.

Traveller integration

A page on how to integrate Intercept with Traveller has been added, to be filled with rules and tips whenever someone actually bothers to give me feedback. For me, Intercept is Traveller so I see no real point in writing conversions for various Traveller versions, the most likely one to get this treatment will be the Mongoose version of Traveller which I like in many ways, mostly for its adherence to the original LBB version. Just subtract 1 from your Mongoose or Classic Traveller skill level to get the D to use in Intercept, GURPS players should use (skill – 10) / 2.

Custom missiles

Posted in Design system, Intercept, Rules on November 1, 2013 by Mr Backman

Missile schematic

Isn’t it a drag that regular 50 kg missiles endurance is only 15 minutes? One measly turn of full thrust. Wouldn’t it be nice to have missiles that start drifting and can be turned on when they are close to their foe. What about decoy missiles that mimic your ships signature? Frag missiles, missiles with sensors, longer range controllers, higher thrust missiles, the list goes on and on.  What if you could custom build missiles to your own specifications?

I am in the process of rewriting Intercept for its 3.4 release with some major changes in the pipe I though I should give you its custom missile rules as an appetizer. These rules will work with the old as well as the new, upcoming rules. So, without further ado, here comes the custom missile rules. Updated Design system, Rules and Maptemplates are available here.

Missiles

Misslles in Intercept are operator guided from the launcher and comes in three sizes;

  • Small missile. 50 kg with 15 minutes endurance. They are sometimes called rockets and are all fission powered, they the only legal missile size for private ships.
  • Medium missile. 500 kg with 30 minutes endurance. They are sometimes called torpedos, fission powered at TL 9- and Fusion powered at TL 10+.
  • Large missile. 5000 kg with 1 hour endurance. They are sometimes called heavy torpedos, fission powered at TL 9- and Fusion powered at TL 10+.

The standard capabilities of missiles can be seen in the following tables (which are also in the rulebook and will shown on your ship designs as well.

Missile tables

Modifications

The above basic missile parameters can be modified to achieve certain goals. Most modifications alter the Thrust Gs of the missile and can be seen as modifications of the final dry mass of the missile. Modifications cannot modify the Thrust Gs to less than 0 and if modified down to 0 the missile will drift only, useful for decoys and sensors missiles but not much else. 0G missiles cannnot attack ships, even if they land on the same square as a target, a 10 000 km square is pretty huge after all.

Endurance

  • Half endurance (+1G, x1/2 endurance)
  • Double endurance (-1G, x2 endurance, x2controller range)
  • Triple endurance (-2G, x3 endurance, x3controller range)
  • Quad endurance (-3G, x4 endurance, x4controller range)

Endurance modifications affect how long the missile can thrust, smaller engine leaves room for more remass and vice versa. Missiles endurance will start ticking as soon as they launch regardless of endurance. If you want to launch them drifting you must add the Cold start option below. Double, triple or quadruple endurance also affects Controller range with the same multipliers, half endurance does not reduce controller range.

Cold start

  • Cold start (-2G, double price)

Normally it is the launcher that starts the engine for the missile but if you want to launch your missiles driftig you should add the Cold start option. Cold start does not allow you to turn on or off the missile at a whim, once started the engines cannot then be turned off and they will continue to burn until their endurance limit is reached. Cold start option doubles the price of the missile.

Frag

Frag missile (PEN-6, DAM-6, +3 DM)

If you want your missile to fragment before hitting thus increasing the hit chance at the expense of penetration and damage you should consider the Frag option. Giving a missile the frag option does not modify Thrust and does not affect price, it merely changes how the missile deals damage. Frag missiles are favorites among pirates as they can easily take out weapons and sensors of a ship (making them blind and defenseless) without unduly damage the ship and its cargo.

Decoy

  • Vis & Radar decoy (-1G per +2 Vis & Radar)
  • IR decoy (-1G per +2 IR x4 drift endurance)
  • Neutrino decoy (-1G per +2 Neutrino x4 drift endurance, double price)

Decoy mods come in three varietys Visual & Radar, Infrared and Neutrino. There is no way to alter a missiles Mass signature, not at the Tech Levels Intercept deals with (6-16). Visual & Radar decoys are metal foil balloons, IR decoys are burning magnesium or thermite charges with the appropriate oxidizers, Neutrino decoys are short halflife radioactive compunds that mimic regular powerplants or thrusters. Decoy modifications really does nothing more than increase the signatures of the missile. IR and Neutrino decoy modifications run 4x as long as the missiles endurance and but they go online at launch like all decoy mods, even if the missile has the Cold start option. After the IR and Neutrino decoy mods have lasted their endurance the missile goes back to its regular, pre modified, signatures. Visual & Radar modifications are always on and have unlimited endurance.

Sensors

  • Sensor(-2G, double price, Vis/IR rating from table below, double controller range)

Missiles can be equipped with low powered Visual/IR sensors so you can do your sensing from the missile instead of your own ship, this may help you scanning near planets or avoid performing Scans with Sun blinding. Missiles with sensors must be within Launcher range and arc at all times as does all missiles. THere is no endurance limit to sensors, they may start sensing as soon as they are launched regardless if the missile has Cold start or not. The acual sensors Sensitivity value comes from the table below:

Missile sensors

Launcher range

All missiles are operator guided and have a maximum range that depends on the missile type and TL of the launcher. Missiles beyond this range are auto­matically lost. Launcher range is based on missile size and TL but is also multiplied by Endurance modifications and the Sensors option. Note that half endurance missiles does not reduce launcher range.

Launcher ranges

Missile price

  • Cold start (price x2)
  • Neutrino decoy (price x2)
  • Sensor (price x2)

Small missiles cost 10 000 Cr, Medium missiles cost 100 000 Cr and Large missiles cost 1 000 000 Cr.

These prices are modified for some of the options above which should be all multiplied together to get the final price of the missile. Note that the Neutrino decoy option will only double the price once, regardless of how many levels of Neutrino decoy you give the missile.

Well, that is all for now folks, and remember; it is not the missile that kills you, it is the sudden stop of the missile.