My #TravellerRPG #Wargame – Using @IndependenceGa6 The Clement Sector setting in High Guard

Ever heard of Eurisko? If you played the (now Classic) Traveller RPG back in the early 1980’s, and especially if you played with capital ships or fleets in Book 5: High Guard or Adventure 5: Trillion Credit Squadron, then you probably heard of it. Eurisko is a representational language written in the Lisp Programming Language that learns through heuristics. Think of it as an early form of AI. Eurisko was used to design the 1981 winner of the Traveller Trillion Credit Squadron National Tournament at the Origins Game Fair that year. In 1982 Eurisko won again. Threatened with the end of the tournament if he entered again, Dr. Lenet withdrew Eurisko from further competition.

I bring up this history because the Eurisko incident often colors many peoples perceptions of High Guard. Since High Guard could be ‘gamed’ by a computer, many decry it as ‘broken’ and not a worthy version of a fleet battle game for the Traveller universe. I disagree. I enjoy High Guard and the companion Adventure 5: Trillion Credit Squadron. Sure, it’s a highly abstracted view of space combat in the Traveller universe, but that very abstraction is what makes it attractive.

The Traveller Itch

Having not picked up a Traveller book in a while, I recently had an itch to dive back into the rules. One awesome aspect of the Traveller series that I really enjoy is all the mini-games possible. From Character Generation (yes, I’ve died in CharGen), to world-building, to building ships, the rules of Traveller, and now the modern successor Cepheus Engine, allow you to create a wide diversity of elements in a system that ensures it all works together.

The Clement Sector: Core Setting Book from Independence Games

One setting for Traveller I really enjoy is The Clement Sector from Independence Games. The Clement Sector is a ‘small ship universe’ where the limits of the “Zimm Drive” keep ships, at least those that are jump capable, under 5,000 Tons. With the Wendy’s Guide series of sourcebooks that detail out entire fleets, I wondered if The Clement Sector and High Guard could mix. So I experimented.

Anderson & Felix, Meet High Guard

Ships in The Clement Sector are constructed using the Anderson & Felix Guide to Naval Architecture. If you are a Traveller RPG historian, you will know that A&F is basically the modern day version of Book 2: Starships updated for Cepheus Engine. This means that A&F is not closely coupled to High Guard like the original Book 2: Starships or Adventure 5: Trillion Credit Squadron were. For my experiment this meant that in some places a little “interpretation” is needed to convert ships from the A&F stats to High Guard which uses the original Universal Ship Profile (USP). The USP was a series of numbers that takes much the details of a ship design and renders it into a single line alpha-numeric characters.

Powerplants, Energy Points, and Agility

In the original High Guard, ships were built with Powerplants that in turn produced Energy Points. As Book 5 stated, “Energy points are used for four purposes: powering weapons, shields, for maneuver drives (for agility), and for computers.” The key factor for High Guard was that ‘Agility’ rating derived by taking energy points not used for computers or weapons or shields and plugging them into the formula A=E/0.01M (where E= Unused Energy Points and M= Mass of the Ship).

Agility is one of the most abstracted elements of the High Guard design in a design that is full of abstractions. Book 5 defines it as follows:

Agility is the ability of a ship to make violent maneuvers and take evasive action while engaging hostile targets. A ship’s agility rating may never exceed its maneuver drive rating.

Book 5: High Guard (2nd Edition 1980), p. 28

It’s clear that Agility is distinctly different that a ship’s maneuver rating. Seeing how it is based on “excess power” it (at least to me) symbolizes how much more you can throw your ship around beyond the usual M-Drive abilities.

Which is the heart of the problem. You see, in A&F the energy requirements in a ship design are actually more simplified than in High Guard. The concept of Energy Points is simply not used in A&F. Unlike High Guard, in A&F computers and turret weapons (presumably this includes barbettes too) are “Unlimited by Power” per the Capital Ship Armament Table on A&F p. 29. This same table specifies how many Bay Weapons per 1000 tons can be carried (based on the Power Plant Rating) as well as if a Spinal Weapon or how many Screens are allowed.

Without a direct translation between High Guard Energy Points and the Armament Power Table in A&F it is impossible to derive an Agility rating. So I asked myself, “How is Agility used in combat, and what would the difference be if it was not used?”

When resolving combat in High Guard, one nice part of the design is that there are actually very few modifiers to worry about (or remember). When making the initial To Hit roll, there really are only three modifiers:

  • + relative computer size
  • – target agility rating
  • + target size modifier

I was worried that, with this few modifiers to start with, simply removing the “- target agility rating” risked skewing the result. Wanting to preserve the intent of the design, I fell back on a lazy solution; change the modifier to “Minus Firers M-Drive Rating/Target M-Drive Rating (rounded down) IF RESULT IS POSITIVE – any NEGATIVE result becomes Target Agility= 0”.

For instance, say a Rattlesnake Attack Craft with M-Drive=5 from Ships of The Clement Sector 7 has jumped a Rucker-class Merchant from Ships of the Clement Sector 16 converted into the System Security/Escort Armament variant with M-Drive=2. When the Rattlesnake attacks the relative drive rating (5:2) computes to a factor of 2, giving the Rattlesnake a -2 DM on its To Hit rolls (better relative “agility”). On the other hand, when the Rucker shoots at the Rattlesnake the relative rating is 2:5 giving a result of -2 which becomes 0 DM modifier.

Armor

The second area that needed interpretation was armor. In Cepheus Engine ship combat, the armor rating directly reduces the number of hits. So when a ship is attacked with a salvo of three Basic Missiles (Damage = 1d6 each) launched by a Triple Turret, if the target ship has Armor = 8 then the first eight hits are offset. When designing a ship using A&F, the default armor for higher Tech Levels is Crystaliron which can be added to ships in increments of 5% of the ships tonnage. The maximum armor factor is the Tech Level of the design or 12, whichever is less.

In High Guard, the type of armor is unspecified. Given the rather large armor factors in A&F designs, I wondered it I was over-armoring the designs. A close look at the High Guard Hull Armor formula gave me my solution. The Hull Armor formula tells the designer the percentage of the ship required for that armor factor. At TL 11 (standard in The Clement Sector) the formula is 3+3a where a is the desired armor factor. Using a little backwards math I quickly discovered that the Armor Factor given in a A&F design was using too much space, but if I used the number of “layers”– those 5% elements- the number worked. So a Moltke-class cruiser (Ships of the Clement Sector 3) which is listed as “Crystaliron x2 / 8 points” when converted to High Guard has Armor=2. Unlike Cepheus Engine where armor directly reduces the number of hits, in High Guard armor is a +DM when rolling on the Ship Damage tables. Using this backwards derived formula, armor in The Clement Sector ranges from +1 to +4; a much more reasonable range of modifiers than the +4 to +16(!) using the A&F factors.

Torpedoes

Torpedoes are described in A&F as, “…true ship killers…heavy 2.5dT anti-ship missiles….” In A&F missiles inflict damage from 1d6 (Basic Missile) to 3d6 + Crew Hit (Nuclear Missiles). Comparatively, a Basic Torpedo will inflict 4d6 hits, a Nuclear Torpedo causes 6d6 hits, and the heaviest Bomb Pumped Torpedo scores 7d6 damage.

Assuming the High Guard missiles are nuclear, I was able to come up with approximated damage for each USP factor. I then reworked the table using the higher damage potential of the Torpedo. In the end it worked out that I could use the existing High Guard Turret Weapons table and, using the missile column, simply add +1 USP factor to get the Torpedo USP.

Rail Guns

Rail Guns were another weapon found in A&F but not in High Guard. Using the same approach as I did for Torpedoes, I basically figured out that the 50-ton Rail Gun Bay had nearly the same hitting power of a 50-ton Missile Bay, so I used the same USP factor. The primary difference is in combat; the Short range of the Rail Gun earned it a restriction of being unable to fire when at Long Range in High Guard. At Short Range, the Rail Gun earned a +2 DM To Hit but used the Attacking Meson Gun vs Configuration table. This generally means that, absent those other To Hit modifiers, a Rail Gun battery needs to roll an 8+ on 2d6 to hit a Needle/Wedge configuration, or a 6+ to hit a Standard configuration, or an 11+ to hit a Dispersed configuration ship. Sort makes sense, right?

Missile Stocks

In High Guard the number of missiles one had aboard a ship was not a consideration. I always found this interesting given that combat in High Guard usually depicted larger, longer fleet engagements. The ship descriptions in the Ships of the Clement Sector includes the number of missiles on hand. Usually it is a mix of Basic, Nuclear, and Smart Missiles. As any logistics planner will tell you, you can’t face the enemy with an empty quiver of bows! I toyed around with the idea of breaking the load out into the number of turns each missile type could be fired (assuming one round of firing in a turn) but ultimately decided that breaking it out by missile is just too granular for the High Guard system of abstractions. Instead I took the number of missiles available and divided it by how many can be fired in one ‘volley’. This is the number of ‘volleys’ the ship gets before the stores are depleted. Probably only useful in a campaign game or as a special rule like an SDB on patrol too long facing a pirate with a near-depleted stores of missile– make every shot count!

Into Battle?

So, now that I’ve done my homework, will I actually play a game of High Guard in The Clement Sector? Maybe. Like I said before, The Clement Sector is a ‘small ship universe’ meaning space battles are usually smaller affairs with few ships. High Guard is better at resolving larger fleet battles with larger combatants. In the The Hub Federation Ground Forces sourcebook, Appendix 1, some details of the “Battle of Beol” are provided. There may be enough there to make a fleet battle scenario.

Now that I think of it, the Battle of Beol also includes a ground campaign. Maybe I need to look at a Striker (GDW, 1980) campaign next?

Hmmm….


Feature image courtesy roleplayrescue.com

#Coronapocalypse #RPG – A different #TravellerRPG future with @IndependenceGa6 #TheClementSector Earth sourcebooks

IN THE PAST FEW WEEKS, I PLAYED SEVERAL Traveller RPG-related wargames. Invasion: Earth (GDW, 1982) and Squadron Strike: Traveller (Ad Astra Games, 2018) are based on the Third Imperium setting. However, my modern “preferred” setting for my Traveller RPG is The Clement Sector from Independence Games (formerly Gypsy Knights Games) using their modified version of the Cepheus Engine ruleset.

A major reason I like The Clement Sector is that it is in the future, but not so far in the future (like the 56th Century of the Third Imperium) that I cannot relate. Here is how Independence Games describes the core setting:

In 2210, scientists discovered a wormhole allowing travel to the opposite side of the Milky Way galaxy.  Once across, exploration teams discovered worlds far more suited to human habitation than those in star systems nearer to Earth.  Were they terraformed by some unknown race?  Are they just a coincidence in the vast diversity of the universe?

Over the ensuing years humans left Earth and began to colonize these worlds.  Nation-backed colonies.  Corporate colonies.  People who simply no longer felt compelled to remain on Earth.  The best and brightest.

In 2331, the unthinkable happened.  The wormhole collapsed leaving those in Clement Sector cut off from Earth.  Now these new worlds and new civilizations must stand on their own.

The year is 2342.  Adventure awaits!

Originally, The Clement Sector focused in ‘the other side’ of the wormhole and the regions that grew up around there. I really like the setting because it has everything one may prefer; a subsector that is very Space Opera, another that is Space Western. I also absolutely enjoy how Independence Games makes their sourcebooks; a combination of wide topics with ‘seeds’ of adventure thrown in. They paint the broad strokes of the setting but leave plenty of space for you, the GM or players, to fill in. In an era when so many folks play IP-derived settings then complain of being ‘constrained’ by canon, The Clement Sector is a refreshing dose of freedom. Which is why I approached a few of the most recent releases with a bit of trepidation.

Earth Sector: A Clement Sector Setting

Earth_Sector_Cover_540xI actually talked about this sourcebook back in February 2020 and was not so keen on it then. Truth be told it has grown on me in the short time since. Earth Sector: A Clement Sector Setting focuses on the Earth Sector but AFTER the Conduit Collapse. I was concerned about this ‘alternate-future’ look and although there is certainly a good deal of ‘history’ in the product I am very pleased on the post-Collapse focus. Indeed, that is what saves the entire product for me – it is as much more of a look forward into the ‘future’ than a tie to the ‘past.’

A major reason Earth Sector has grown on me is another one of those Traveller games-within-games. As the ad copy for Earth Sector states:

Using the relationship matrix developed in Balancing Act: Interstellar Relations in Clement Sector, Earth Sector contains detailed reports on which nation is doing well, how much they are raking in from their colonies, and upon which nation they may yet declare war.

CTadv5Long ago, Classic Traveller Adventure 5: Trillion Credit Squadron included rules for determining budgets for a world. The idea was players could design and build fleets and fight with them. Over the years, this world budget concept has often cropped up in the game. Independence Games added their take on the concept with Balancing Act: Interstellar Relations in the Clement Sector:

It also includes a game within a game called “The Balancing Act”. This game will allow you to take on the role of a head of state in Clement Sector and go up against other leaders as you attempt to push your world ahead of your competition. These rules can easily be used in other settings and games where one might wish to become a leader of a world.

What I really like about Balancing Act is that it is not solely focused on the military (although that certainly makes up a large part of the ‘balance’). Although most RPGs are inherently very personal and focused on a individuals in a small group, as a GM I can use Balancing Act to ‘world-build’ the setting.

Subsector Sourcebook: Earth

EarthSectorFrontPromoCover_1024x1024@2xComplementing Earth Sector is Subsector Sourcebook: Earth. This product looks beyond the Earth and to the whole subsector. Again, the post-Collapse focus is what makes this product; there is enough history to broadly explain how the various locales came to be and how they are dealing with the post-Collapse situation. In addition to all the ‘details’ about the planets, this subsector book also includes the Balancing Act data meaning it is ready-set for GMs and players to start their own world-building adventure game.

Which brings me to the last new product this week…

Tim’s Guide to the Ground Forces of the Hub Subsector

Tims_Hub_Cover_Final_1024x1024@2x.pngIndependence Games already publishes their Wendy’s Guides for space navies in The Clement Sector. Tim’s Guide to the Ground Forces of the Hub Sector takes that same concept an applies it to non-space forces (ground, aerospace, naval) and organizations. Unlike the other products I talked about above, this first Tim’s Guide goes back to ‘other side’ of The Clement Sector and focuses on the Hub Subsector.

Like the Wendy’s Guides before, each planet has their non-space forces laid out. Planetary factors related to The Balancing Act are also included. As I so often say about Independence Games’ products, the depth of detail is just right. For example, one entry may tell you that the planet has a Tank Company equipped with FA-40 tanks, but they don’t tell you the details on that tank. It might be in one of the vehicle guides or, better yet, you can use the Cepheus Engine Vehicle Design System to build your own. [I guess it is just a matter of time until Independence Games publishes their own The Clement Sector-tailored vehicle design system too.]

The other part of this book that I appreciate is the fully detailed “Hub Federation’s Yorck-class Battlecruiser, a seafaring vessel capable of engaging forces both on the oceans and in close orbit.” The Traveller grognard in me wants to take this ship and place in a Harpoon 4 (Admiralty Trilogy Games) naval miniatures wargame scenario and see how it goes.

So there you have it; three new The Clement Sector books for YOUR game. That’s probably the most under appreciated part of Independence Games. Unlike so many other settings, The Clement Sector empowers the players and GM. There is lots of material to chose from, and many adventures to be created.

#RPGThursday – Balancing Act: Interstellar Relations in the Clement Sector (@GKGames, 2019) #TravellerRPG #CepheusEngine

It has been a long while since I bought any new RPG material. In early May, John Watts of Gypsy Night Games held a sale and I took advantage of to pick up a couple The Clement Sector products I had missed out on.

Balancing Act: Interstellar Relations in the Clement Sector is a 135-page sourcebook and new game subsystem. As the publisher’s blurb puts it:

Can you relate?

This book concerns the relationships which have been established, broken, strained, and improved between the worlds of Clement Sector over the time between their establishment during the 2200s and the current situation in Clement Sector as of 2342. It will take each world, one at a time, and detail how well or how poorly each world government gets along with its neighbors.

It also includes a game within a game called “The Balancing Act”. This game will allow you to take on the role of a head of state in Clement Sector and go up against other leaders as you attempt to push your world ahead of your competition. These rules can easily be used in other settings and games where one might wish to become a leader of a world.

Now you can rule your own world!

The first 92 pages are the sourcebook. Here, John Watts really excels at doing what all his The Clement Sector books do best; provide hooks. There is lots of information here about all the different worlds and their relationships with one another, but at no point does it feel directive to the reader. Instead, what I find are many plot seeds ready to be explored by the players without a preset conclusion. As vast and expansive as The Clement Sector is, John Watts make sure it still if YOUR universe.

The second part of the book details the game, The Balancing Act. I have read the rules, created a few Leaders and Agents, and played with the mechanics so this is still a very preliminary reaction.

Each turn in The Balancing Act (hereafter BA) is one standard week long. Each turn is further divided into phases. Each Leader starts out with two Agents and each gets two tasks (actions) in each week.

My first reaction it that BA is…interesting. Leaders and Agents each have four Attributes but it is unclear if these are connected in a meaningful way to the Universal Personality Profile (UPP) of a character. Two of the four Attributes, Intelligence and Education, would seemingly be the same but I don’t see an explicit rules connection. If one is playing BA as a separate game it’s not needed, but if one is adding BA to a campaign the question arises. Worlds have Planetary Attributes and again the connection to the Universal World Profile (UWP) is unclear.

Projects are large-scale tasks taking multiple turns to complete. Some projects may take years (i.e hundreds of turns) to complete. This is where I feel the time scale of BA breaks down. Weekly turns is very tactical but Projects can be very strategic. Mixing the two of them together makes for some interesting (unrealistic?) situations. For instance, look a the project Upgrading a Starport from C to B (p. 111). This is a Difficult (-2) task that takes from 52-312 turns (1-6 YEARS). It costs 1bln HFCredits; spending 10 billion cuts the time in half. Let’s look at the Success/Failure spread:

  • Exceptional Success: The starport is upgraded to B-class in half of the time.
  • Success: The starport is upgraded to B-class.
  • Failure: The starport is not upgraded. The task can be attempted again in 52 turns.
  • Exceptional Failure: The starport is not upgraded. The task can be attempted again in 108 turns.

Does it seem right to “know” the result of a failure at the beginning? If I know the upgrade is an Exceptional Failure and I am going to have to wait two years to try again, I have 108 turns of different investment coming since I know it’s not worth investing in that new fleet or factories because the starport ain’t happening! Maybe the answer is to make this a hidden roll with the result only known to a GM who can then release the result when appropriate. However, the rules of BA are silent on a GM leading me to believe a GM is not used. Hmm….

Five scenarios are provided in the book with times ranging from 20 weeks to as many as the players want. Maybe BA is scaled best for scenarios of five years or less? Will have to try a scenario or two to see for myself.

As I read and experimented with BA, I found myself making inevitable comparisons to Classic Traveller Trillion Credit Squadron and Dynasty from the Mongoose Traveller collection. I’ll just say that in TCS the players are the head of the military whereas in BA they are leaders of worlds. Dynasty, being focused on generations, is a totally different timescale and approach to long-term changes. I can eventually see TCS integrating with BA (same timescale); Dynasty is best forgotten.

On balance (heh heh), The Balancing Act is a very useful sourcebook and inspiration for campaigns. I am going to reserve further opinion on BA until I experiment more with the game; I think it has potential but am unsure about parts.


Feature image Gypsy Knights Games via DriveThruRPG

Red Alert – or Dread Alert?

Richard Borg’s Red Alert: Space Fleet Warfare is up on Kickstarter at the moment. Offered by the Plastic Soldier Company (PSC) I can pledge to support for about 120 US dollars.

Bonding with Board Games posted this “digital preview:”

While the game topic (theme?) is interesting to me, as a longtime naval and space warfare gamer I have mixed feelings.

First, I am not sure that the Left-Center-Right concept of a battlefield makes sense for space combat. The core issue in any space combat game is how to show three-dimensional combat on a 2-D board. Who can forget the classic “two dimensional thinking” in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan?

Most space games simply ignore the three dimensional aspects. Other games, like Squadron Strike: Traveller (another Kickstarter I am – still – waiting for) make it part of the game, albeit at greater complexity.

Some space combat games take the other extreme. A favorite game of mine is the space combat system found in the (Classic) Traveller RPG Book 5 High Guard. This game system has its weaknesses, as defined by the famous Eurisko incident using the Trillion Credit Squadron (TCS) tournament rules:

Trillion Credit Squadron was used as a test case for artificial intelligence researcher Douglas Lenat’s machine learning system Eurisko. Lenat programmed the TCS tournament rules into Eurisko, and the system designed a fleet of large, stationary, defenseless, and heavily armed ships.

  • This fleet then won the 1981 TCS national championship tournament at the Origins ’81 convention. GDW changed the rules for the following tournament, but Eurisko adapted to the changes and its fleet won the championship again. GDW threatened to cancel the tournament if a Eurisko-designed fleet entered again, and Lenat declined to do so, accepting the title “Grand Admiral” as consolation.[1] Lenat’s 1981 fleet design (including 75 Eurisko class Gunships) was printed in JTAS issue #10. (http://wiki.travellerrpg.com/Trillion_Credit_Squadron)

So the question facing me is playability or realism? More directly, is this game worth $120 of fun with my family, or is it $120+ of personal frustration? As I look at the campaign this morning, the Carrier Escalation Pack has unlocked, for a mere £14.50 extra. PSC apparently hopes we all subscribe to the old saying. “in for a penny, in for a pound.”

Then there is my usual Kickstarter concerns. Giving $120 +shipping +expansion packs NOW for a game SCHEDULED to deliver in March 2019 (or 9 months from campaign end) is becoming harder to accept.

As appealing as the is campaign looks to the RockyMountainNavy Boys, I think I am going to pass. The money involved can get us lots more gaming products NOW rather than a riskier investment into the future.

Wargame Wednesday – Clement Sector Trillion Credit Squadron

Mongoose Traveller (MgT) Adventure 3: Trillion Credit Squadron is the naval campaign system for the MgT RPG. It provides rules for building entire navies.

Plugged in some Clement Sector, Hub Federation Universal World Profile (UWP) stats to see what one gets. For determining budget you take the planetary population times a “flat tax” and modify it by a “tax rate” that varies depending on times of Peace, Tension, or War. Population and Tech Level also determine naval shipyard capacity.

My initial analysis looks like the “flat tax” rate is too high. Hub would have a budget of over 4,000,000 MCr. and could build the equivalent of over 4,000 frigate-equivalents PER YEAR.

It becomes immediately apparent that these numbers are not in keeping with the “small-ship” setting of The Clement Sector. The Zimm drives limits starships to no larger than 5,000 tons. The setting documents also imply that the largest spacecraft being built in The Clement Sector is 20,000 tons.

Perhaps cut the “tax rate” by a factor of 100?

Wargame Wednesday – Fighter Squadrons in Classic Traveller High Guard

Black Prophesy Cockpit Detail (Courtesy rockpapershotgun.com)

Classic Traveller Book 5: High Guard (HG), has starship combat rules for fighting fleet actions. One part of the rules that has always bothered me is the Unit Scale for small craft and fighters. Unit scale is defined on p. 38:

Units represented are individual ships, small craft, and fighters. (HG p. 38)

This unit scale may work in a small ship universe or when using High Guard to play out an Adventure Class Ship battle, but it can quickly break down when playing large fleet actions with many small craft or fighters. Traveller’s Aide #9: Fighting Ships of the Solomani Confederation has the large Midway-class carrier that brings 1500 fighters to a battle. By a strict interpretation of HG, this means a Midway brings 1500 units to the battle. To call that unmanageable is an understatement!

In an effort to make fighters more manageable, I have experimented with Fighter Squadrons. A fighter squadron is a group of 10 fighters (or small craft) that fight as a single unit. Thus, a Midway-class carrier would bring 150 fighter squadrons to battle; still a large number but better than the 1500!

To create a fighter squadron you need to know:

  • Tech Level
  • Weapon and mounting (single/double/triple)
  • Computer
  • Agility
  • Armor
  • Reloads (Missiles and Sand)

For example, a Solomani Viper fighter (TA9, p. 44), is Tech Level 13, carries a single plasma weapon, has Computer 2, Agility 6, and 9 armor. It has no missile or sand and hence no reloads.

A fighter squadron can be represented by a group of 10 boxes (I use 2-rows of 5-boxes each). Using the Turret Weapons Table on  p. 25 of High Guard, determine the USP for 10 of the given weapons and put that in the left uppermost box. Using the Turret Weapons Table, continue filling in the boxes assigning a USP code to the boxes appropriate to number of weapons from the table.

Still using the Viper, 10 Plasma Guns on the Turret Weapons Table gives a USP of 3, with a TL Mod +2 if TL is 12 or greater. Thus, the Viper starts with a USP 5 in the left uppermost box. When there are four boxes/fighters left the USP drops to 4, and the last box/fighter has a USP of 3. The fighter name, a squadron identifier, the weapon, computer, agility, and armor are added around the hit boxes as fit.

Fighter Squadrons are considered a Unit as defined in High Guard Starship Combat, Scale (p. 38).

Fighter Squadron  in Combat. Fighter squadrons in combat use a slightly modified Combat Step procedure:

  • DMs Allowed to Hit (HG p. 45)
    • + relative computer size
    • RELATIVE target agility rating 
    • The Target Size DM for fighter squadrons is -1 when fired upon by ships and 0 when fired upon by other fighter squadrons (Dogfights)
    • If multiple fighter squadrons combine in an attack on a single ship, +1 is added to the Target Size DM (To Hit) for every two full-strength squadrons combining in the attack (maximum DM of +3)
  • DMs Allowed to Penetrate remain unchanged (HG p. 45)

Design Comment – Since we are dealing with groups of fighters the use of relative agility rating reflects the ability of fighters to cooperate to bring a target under their guns while the target size modifier is changed since an attack against a fighter squadron is against aspread-out group of fighters and not an individual craft. When attacking a ship, the more fighter squadrons used the more chances there are to “box the ship in” making it harder to evade fire.

Fighter Squadrons and Damage. When determining damage TO OR FROM a fighter squadron, all DMs for the Ship Damage Tables are used EXCEPT #2  (If the weapon inflicting the hit has a factor of 9 or less, apply a DM of +6) (HG p. 48).

The following alternate Explanation of Damage Results (HG, p. 49) is used for all damage to fighter squadrons:

  • Any Critical Hit or Interior Explosion destroys one fighter (completely mark one box off); a fighter destroyed in this manner is not subject to post-battle recovery
  • Any Hit-n destroys one fighter for each n; fighters destroyed in this manner are subject to post-battle recovery
  • The USP used for combat is the USP found in the highest UNDESTROYED box
    • For example, in the Viper squadron above, an undamaged squadron has a USP of 5; once a single fighter has been destroyed the attack USP drops to 4 and when the squadron is reduced to 3 fighters the USP drops to 3. 

Design Comment – To streamline fighter combat, I want to avoid tracking individual hit results; hence no Maneuver or Weapon hits or the like. As will be seen later, a “destroyed” fighter may actually have been able to limp off but, regardless of what happens post-battle, in combat it is effectively a Mission Kill.

Fighter Squadrons and Breaking Off. Fighter squadrons which Break Off by Acceleration (HG, p. 39) and are not pursued (HG p. 41) no longer participate in the battle. If using Adventure 5: Trillion Credit Squadron, fighter squadrons that break off by acceleration DO NOT flee to the Outer System (TCS p. 38). Fighter squadrons that flee by acceleration cannot land on a carrier/mothership or otherwise be recovered unless a suitable landing/recovery location is present in the inner system and not in the battle they just fled from.

Fighter Squadron End of Battle Procedure. Once all combat is complete, roll 1d6 for each destroyed fighter (unless destroyed by a Critical Hit or Internal Explosion). On a roll of 6 the fighter is actually recovered  – the destroyed fighter may have not been able to participate in combat but still managed to limp home – and more importantly the pilot is recovered too. The following modifiers can be applied:

  • +n per each level of Pilot/Small Craft Skill (if using RPG characters)
  • +1 if recovering force was “last in the battle space,” or otherwise controls the area of space the battle took place in
  • This step does NOT mean that if a fighter squadron is abandoned by its carrier/mothership it can miraculously be recovered. If the battle ended with the fighter squadron having no place to go, it can surrender or is destroyed.

Combat Example – Dogfight

During the Solomani Rim War, the Imperials launch a strike using fighters on a small listening station. The Imperial Fighter Strike Force is composed of a single squadron of Likuurka bombers (TL 13, Triple Missile USP 7 (100 shots), Computer 2, Agility 2, Armor 13) escorted by a single squadron of Grigot fighters (TL 14, Fusion Gun USP 7, Computer 6, Agility 6, Armor 14). The listening post is defended by two squadrons of Solomani Viper Fighters (TL 13, Plasma Gun USP 5, Computer 3, Agility 6, Armor 9).

The battle will be played in at least five rounds; rounds 1 and 2 represent the approach battle with the bombers unable to strike the listening post until round 3 at the earliest. The listening post is destroyed if 3 or more hits are scored. Once 2 withdraw rounds are fought the Imperial fighters will rendezvous with their carrier squadron.

Round 1 (Approach)

Given that the first round is always played at long range, the Imperials place the Grigot Fighter (GF) and Likuurka Bomber (LB) in the Line. The Solomani places both Viper squadrons (VF1/VF2) in the line. Initiative goes to the Solomani; range is Long (automatic).

LB vs VF1: Missile USP 7 -To Hit is 3. DMs to Hit -1 Computer, -4 Agility (Total -5). Die roll is 8 – HIT. There is no penetration roll. Nuclear missiles rolls on both the Surface Damage Explosion and Radiation Damage Tables; DMs for Ship Damage are +9 (Armor) and -6 on Surface Explosion Table. Surface Damage roll of 4 modified +3 for 9 results in Maneuver-1. Radiation Damage Table DM is +9, roll is 7 modified to 16 – Weapon-2. Total of 3 fighters destroyed in VF1 leaving an attack USP of 4.

Round 2 (Approach)

Though the Likuurka destroyed a few Solomani fighters in the first approach round, the Imperial Strike leader decides the bombers need to be protected and preserved for the strike on the listening post. The Imperial fighters go in the Line while the bombers move to Reserve. The Solomani place both VF1 and VF2 in the Line. Initiative goes to the Solomani; the range is Short. Both VF1 and VF2 attack the Grigot fighter squadron.

VF1 vs GF: Plasma Gun USP 4 – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit -3 Computer, +0 Agility (Total -3). Die roll is  8 – NO HIT.

VF2 vs GF:  Plasma Gun USP 5  – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit -3 Computer, +0 Agility (Total -3). Die roll is 12 – HIT. No penetration roll. DMs on Surface Explosion Damage Table is +14 (Armor). Die roll is 8 modified to 22 – No Effect.

GF vs VF1: Fusion Gun USP 7 – To Hit 5. DMs to Hit +3 Computer, +0 Agility (Total +3). Die roll  6 – HIT. Surface Damage DM +9 (Armor). Die roll 4 modified to 13 – Fuel-1. One fighter destroyed. VF1 is down to six fighters with and attack USP 4.

Round 3 (Target Area)

Having arrived in the Target Area, the Imperial player places both the Grigot fighters and his bombers in the Line. VF1 and VF2 also remain in the Line. Initiative is to Imperials, and the range is Short (Comment – It would actually have been best to make the range Long and allow the Imperials to use his missiles to attack the listening post without fear of fighter attack, but that would not have used the dogfight rules, so for the purposes of this example the Listening Post is “stealthed” and must be attacked st Short range.)

VF1 vs LB: Plasma Gun USP 4 – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit +1 Computer, +4 Agility (Total +5). Die roll is 6 – HIT. Surface Damage DM of +13 (Armor). Die roll is 6 modified to 19 – Fuel-1. One bomber is destroyed.

VF2 vs LB: Plasma Gun USP 5 – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit +1 Computer, +4 Agility (Total +5). Die roll 10 – HIT. Surface Damage DM of +13 (Armor). Die roll is 7 modified to 20 – Weapon-1. LB loses a second bomber.

GF vs VF1: Fusion Gun USP 7 – To Hit 5. DMs to Hit +3 Computer, +0 Agility (Total +3). Die roll 12 – HIT. Surface Damage DM +9 (Armor). Die roll 4 modified to 13 – Fuel-1. VF1 loses another fighter and has five remaining; attack USP remains at 4.

LB vs Listening Post: The bombers score enough hits to destroy the Listening Post; the Imperials can withdraw.

Round 4 (Withdraw)

VF1 and VF2 pursue the now withdrawing Imperials. VF1 and 2 are in the Line while while the Grigot fighters are placed in the Line while the bombers are placed in the Reserve. Imperials get the initiative and declare the range as Long. The Imperial fighters and bombers also declare break off by acceleration with the bombers declaring Emergency Agility. No combat is possible since the fighters all use Energy Weapons and the bombers cannot attack from the ReserveIn the Pursuit Step, the bombers break off (effective agility 8 using Emergency Agility 6 raised by 2 in reserve) while the Vipers pursue the Grigot fighters successfully.

Round 5 (Withdraw)

This will be the last round fought unless the Solomani wants to continue pursuit and come under the guns of a squadron of Imperial ships. Both sides place all their fighter squadrons in the Line.  The Imperials gain the Initiative and chose Long range. Seeing the futility of further pursuit, knowing they are outclassed by the Grigots, and unwilling to come under the guns of the approaching Imperial carrier squadron, the Solomani fighters declare Break Off by Acceleration using Emergency Agility. The Imperial fighters decline to pursue and let the Viper squadrons go as the bombers are protected and they need to make their rendezvous.

Post Battle Recovery

After post-battle recovery actions, individual squadron status is:

  • Grigot Fighters – All fighters return to their carrier. No recovery rolls necessary
  • Likuurka Bombers – The Imperial player rolls to determine the final fate of the two lost bombers; no DMs are used and the rolls are 3 and 4 meaning both bombers are permanently lost
  • Viper Squadron 1 – The fate of the five lost fighters are determined; there is a DM of +1 since the recovery takes place in Solomani space after the Imperials have left; die rolls are 1, 6, 4, 4, 3 meaning even after modifiers only a single fighter is recovered returning VF1 to an effective strength of six fighters with an attack USP of 4.

Combat Example – Fighter Squadrons vs Ship

Following a major battle during the Solomani Rim War, a group of four Imperial Drayd-class fighters (TA7, p. 46) ambush a lone Solomani Standard System Defense Boat (TA9, p. 41) as it flees the main world for the system gas giant. The SDB will reach the gas giant in one hour (three combat rounds) at which time the SDB can plunge into the gas giant where the fighters cannot pursue.

Standard SDB Key Factors: Size 3, Computer 5, Agility 6, Fusion Gun USP 5, Missile Battery USP 3, Armor 13. 

Drayd Fighter: TL12, Pulse Laser USP 5, Computer 1, Agility 6, Armor 0.

Round 1

DF1-4 and SDB in Line. Initiative to Solomani. Range is Long (Automatic). DF1-4 combine in attack.

DF1-4 vs SDB: Pulse Laser USP 5 – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit -4 computer, -1 lasers at long range, +1 size (four squadrons combining attack causes two shifts from -1 to +1) (Total -4). Die rolls are 7, 10, 6, 6 – 1 HIT. No penetration roll (SDB has no Sand). DMs for Surface Damage are +13 armor, -2 Pulse Laser for a total of +11. Die roll is 9 modified to 20 – Weapon-1. The firing player elects to reduce the Missile Battery USP to 2.

SDB vs DF1: Missile USP 3 – To Hit 5 (damage takes place after combat). DMs to Hit +4 computer, -1 size (Total +3). Die roll 7 – HIT. No penetration roll. Using nuclear missiles the DMs for Ship Damage are +6 armor, -6 on Surface Explosion Damage. Surface Damage die roll of 7 modified to 7 is Fuel-3. Radiation Damage roll is 5 modified to 11 – Computer-2. DF1 loses five fighters and is reduced to an attack USP of 3.

Round 2

All units in the Line. Initiative to Imperials. Range is Short. DF1-4 combine in attack.

DF2-4 vs SDB: Pulse Laser USP 5 – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit -4 computer, +0 size (three full-strength squadrons combining attack causes one shifts from -1 to o) (Total -4). Die rolls are 7, 2, 4 – ALL MISS.

DF1 vs SDB: Pulse Laser USP 3 – To Hit 7. DMs to Hit -4 computer, +0 size (DF 1 -understrength- is still combining in an attack with three full-strength squadrons causing one shift from -1 to 0) (Total -4). Die roll 4 – MISS.

SDB vs DF1: Missile USP 2 – To Hit 7. DMs to Hit +4 computer,-1 missiles at short range, -1 size (Total +2). Die roll 8 – HIT. No penetration roll. Using nuclear missiles the DMs for Ship Damage are +6 armor, -6 on Surface Explosion Damage. Surface Damage die roll of 5 modified to 5 is Interior Explosion. Radiation Damage roll is 6 modified to 12 – Weapon-3. DF1 loses four more fighters (one of which will be unrecoverable) and is reduced to a single fighter with an attack USP of 2.

SDB vs DF2: Fusion Gun USP 5 – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit +4 computer, -1 size (Total +3). Die roll 9 – HIT. No penetration roll. Surface Explosion Damage DMs +6 armor. Die roll 11 modified to 17 – Weapon-1. DF2 loses one fighter and attack USP is reduced to 4.

Round 3

DF2-3 are in the Line, DF1 goes to Reserve. The SDB is in the Line. Initiative goes to the Imperials. Range is Short.

DF3 & 4 vs SDB: Pulse Laser USP 5 – To Hit 6/USP 4 – to Hit 6. DMs to Hit -4 computer, +0 size (two squadrons combining attack causes one shift from -1 to 0) (Total -4). Die rolls are 12, 8, 11 – 2 HITS. No penetration roll (SDB has no Sand). DMs for Surface Damage are +13 armor, -2 Pulse Laser for a total of +11. Die roll is 4, 7 modified to 15, 17 – Weapon-1, Weapon-1. The firing player reduces the Fusion Gun USP to 4 and the Missile USP to 1.

SDB vs DF2: Missile USP 2 – To Hit 7 (damage effects are latter). DMs to Hit +4 computer,-1 missiles at short range, -1 size (Total +2). Die roll 11 – HIT. No penetration roll. Using nuclear missiles the DMs for Ship Damage are +6 armor, -6 on Surface Explosion Damage. Surface Damage die roll of 4 modified to 4 is Interior Explosion. Radiation Damage roll is 8 modified to 14 – Weapon-2. DF2 loses three more fighters (one of which will be unrecoverable) and is reduced to six fighters with an attack USP of 4.

SDB vs DF2: Fusion Gun USP 5 – To Hit 6. DMs to Hit +4 computer, -1 size (Total +3). Die roll 5 – HIT. No penetration roll. Surface Explosion Damage DMs +6 armor. Die roll 7 modified to 11 – Weapon-2. DF2 loses two more fighters leaving only 4 and an attack USP of 3.

Round 4

There is no combat in Round 4 – the SDB reaches the gas giant and plunges in where the fighters cannot pursue. However, the SDB is damaged with a Fusion Gun USP of 4 and a Missile Battery USP of 1. In the post-battle recovery actions:

  • DF1: 1x fighter unrecoverable; roll for remaining eight at +1DM (Imperial-controlled space); results is 3x fighters/pilots recovered restoring DF1 to four fighters
  • DF2: 1x fighter unrecoverable; roll for remaining five at +1DM (Imperial-controlled space)  resulting in 2x fighters/pilots recovered restoring DF2 to six fighters
  • DF1 and DF2 are disestablished and combined into a new full-strength DF5 with 10 fighters
  • Given enough time, the SDB could use jury-rig repairs (see Damage Control and Repair, HG p. 44) to restore the Fusion Gun and Missile battery to full function, though as pointed out in the HG rules “these emergency repairs are jury-rigged and may not survive long under hard usage.”

RPG Thursday – My Top Seven RPG Internet Meme

James over at Grognardia started it, and I am late to get on the bandwagon.

My top 7 played RPGs in 2012 (and a good marker for the past several years):

1 – Classic Traveller (Admittedly not so much the RPG but the setting. I especially have played the games of Classic Traveller such as Striker, Book 5: High Guard, Adventure 5: Trillion Credit Squadron, Imperium, Fifth Frontier War, and Power Projection: Fleet; as well as using adventures such as Adventure 7: Broadsword as inspiration for Tomorrow’s War.)

2- Mongoose Traveller (including Hammer’s Slammers, Outpost Mars and Orbital)

3 – Battlestar Galactica

4 – Serenity

5 – Prime Directive

6 – Mouse Guard

7 – Others I played around with in 2012 were Marvel Heroic Roleplaying and the new Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beginner’s Game. Also messed around with Space: 1889 and A Song of Ice and Fire: Game of Thrones Edition.