“As long as we’re making up the numbers anyway, we might as well make up nice ones.”
For a Savage Traveller mashup, I can use Traveller stats, deckplans etc. for most things, but I do need conversion guidelines for space combat.
This means I need the same stats for Traveller ships as SWADE vehicles have; Size, Handling, Top Speed, Toughness, Crew and Cost. Weapons need Range, Damage, AP, ROF, Blast, Weight and Cost, but there’s a cheat for it – we’ll get to that shortly.
Now, Crew and Cost are already provided as part of the Traveller statblock; Top Speed is irrelevant for spacecraft but we can put in 25,000 mph as they are all capable of reaching Earth’s escape velocity. That leaves us with Size, Handling and Toughness to worry about.
SWADE has a handy table on page 179 for figuring out Size based on length and/or mass. If there is a deckplan available, which there usually is for the kind of ship adventurers would operate or assault, it’s best to get the length from that; especially at the lower end of displacement, using tonnage gives you a ship several Size points too small.
Examples: A Type S Scout/Courier is 120′ to 130′ long, depending on which version of the game you’re using, and therefore Size 13-14; if you go by dtons, 100 tons is Size 10. A Type A Free Trader is 170′ long (Size 15) and 200 tons (Size 11). Remember the bonuses to hit things that Size and the extra Wounds they get for sheer mass.
Most ship-to-ship dogfights occur in space, where the controlling factor on handling is the ship’s acceleration, which we know from its statblock. I’ll ignore delta-V for this purpose as that is more about fuel management than handling, and is therefore Not Fun.
I’m looking for something quick and easy here, so Handling is ship’s manoeuvre drive rating minus three, which puts it in the right range.
Examples: The scout has a 2G drive, which gives it Handling -1. The free trader has 1G, thus Handling -2.
Toughness is simply Size plus Armour Value.
I did quite a bit of research on armour value so you wouldn’t have to, and I can summarise it by saying ship armour is +4, or the armour value given by Mongoose Traveller/Cepheus Engine, whichever is higher.
The longer version involved finding out the thickness of armour on historical warships, converting that to SWADE armour values using the rules on page 81, and then comparing those values to various ratings in other games. As space combat and ship classes in most SF games, movies and literature are based on World War II vessels and tactics, I biased my research towards that era. The hull on a 1940s destroyer was about 6mm thick (Armour +4), that being the thinnest plate it was practical to work or weld; surprisingly, even battleship belt armour didn’t go much above 300mm (Armour 26), and submarine hulls were typically below 50mm (Armour 4-6). I expected them to be thicker, frankly.
There’s a certain amount of guesswork going on here, not least because “armour value” is as much about cunning structural design as it is about materials science.
Although contemporary aircraft and spacecraft don’t usually have Heavy Armour in SWADE, I wanted my spaceships to have it, which sets the minimum armour value at +4. (This is so a PC can’t take out a starship with a lucky kick, which could happen otherwise due to aces on damage rolls. Although I admit it would be hilarious if it did.)
Example: Classic Traveller scouts and free traders have armour 0, which gets bumped up to armour 4; the Mongoose Traveller free trader has armour 2, again bumped up to 4; the Mongoose scout has armour 4, which stays at 4. So the Types S and A are respectively Toughness 17 (4) and 19 (4).
Here’s the cheat; missiles are Sidewinders (page 79) and lasers are Heavy Lasers (page 80); that’s based on the work I did last year on the 1977 edition of Classic Traveller, which showed a Sidewinder was the best fit to a basic ship missile. Single, double or triple turrets can be represented by single, twin or quadruple mounts respectively, so long as the turret has a homogeneous weapons fit. That covers most things one might meet except the Gazelle class, whose particle barbettes can be considered a trapping on a quad laser mount.
If it becomes necessary, I can steal bigger guns from the Science Fiction Companion, but to be honest by that stage you’re edging into Mass Battle territory.
Oh yes, I almost forgot sandcasters. They basically work like the deflection power against laser beams, so I’ll use it like that. Actually I might apply it to missiles as well, even though Traveller doesn’t, because ramming 100 lbs of sand and crystals at 25,000 mph ought to ruin your whole day. Maybe it should count as the armour power instead? I’ll experiment and see what happens.
Chases and Mass Battles
The typical Classic Traveller RPG ship combat is a one-on-one ship duel between vessels in the 100-200 ton range, slugging it out with lasers and missiles, and the Chase rules are perfectly adequate for that.
Once combatants edge over a few hundred tons, the number of dice you’re rolling starts to become tiresome, so at that point I’d switch over to the Mass Battle rules, using total combatant hardpoints/fixed mounts to work out numbers of tokens. For example, a Type S Scout/Courier (one hardpoint) versus a Type C Cruiser (8 hardpoints and two small craft each with a fixed mount) would be using one Mass Battle token to face off against 10, and hoping to survive long enough to jump out before it turns into a rapidly expanding cloud of gas fluorescing in the far ultraviolet.
Here’s the Dolphin, a typical Type S Scout/Courier converted using those guidelines… The laser and five missiles are listed in the 1977 edition of Classic Traveller Book 2 as “typical weaponry” for a Type S, the ship’s cost varies between MCr 28 and 37 depending on which rules you use, and armour ranges from none to 4, again depending on the rules in use.
Size: 13, Handling: -1, Top Speed: 25,000 mph, Toughness: 17 (4), Crew: 1+7, Cost: 28-37M.
Notes: Heavy Armour. Double turret with one Heavy Laser and one missile rack, five missiles on board.
The Purple Twilight
The Purple Twilight, Captain Locksley commanding, is a Type A Free Trader which has been rattling around inside my head for a number of years, and may yet make it into the blog at some point.
Size: 15, Handling: -2, Top Speed: 25,000 mph, Toughness: 19 (4), Crew: 4 + 16, Cost: 37-45M.