Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mongoose Traveller, Space Combat, Part II

On The Traveller Mailing List (, subscribe by going Here if you are not a member. Go on, do it. If you are reading this you need to be on the list. I'll wait) the viability of small combat craft got brought up as a reply to my statement about not liking masses of massive ships, with the Classic Traveller High Guard rules about size of ship vs power of weapons as an example of why you want big ships.

This is not about Classic Traveller, so it's rules are only slightly important here, and only where they differ from Mongoose Traveller do they get brought up.  I haven't gotten to High Guard yet, so the difference between it and CT High Guard combat hasn't been a subject, yet.

Yes, I know Fighters in Traveller is flame bait subject, but I'm going to look at it any way.

I agree, 10 dTon fighters are damn close to useless, other than against smaller (say sub 400 dTon or so) and lightly armored space ships.  No arguments there. On the other hand, I think a 50 dTon Honor Harrington style LAC can be made that will as difficult to damage with non "capital" weapons (read a bay weapons or bigger) and that will be a threat, if only for a single volley or so, against major ships (i.e. not another small craft),  A 50 dTon LAC style craft could carry, for example 1 Torpedo and one laser (for use as point defense or vs smaller targets), which would make it a threat, if only for a single volley, against most ships.  A basic non-nuke torpedo does 4d6 damage, which, is going to penetrate most armor on an average roll, and all armor on a just slightly over average roll, just using rules as written.

Page 99 of High Guard has a 40 dTon, armor 10, 10G torpedo boat that carries 2 torpedoes. It's fairly close to the HH style LAC as it stands, but isn't self escorting and can be hurt by a laser or a missile. Maybe.  If they roll real high on damage.

Armor is very important in space combat in Mongoose Traveller and is fairly cheap, both in tonnage and credits.   With Rules As Written, 6 points of armor makes you invulnerable to a pulse lasers (or beam lasers if you apply the High Guard changes) and 12 points makes you beam laser (or a pulse laser with HG changes)1 lasers proof. Not going to stop a Particle Beam or a Meson weapon, but you are using turret sized lasers and non-nuke missile? I laugh at you and call you a silly person.
In MTU, I use the personal level combat rule that the effect of the to hit roll (the amount over 8 rolled, after modifiers) is applied as damage on that attack. Any effect over 6 means that 1 point of damage gets through, regardless of armor. This makes good and lucky (defined as skill level 4 and rolling a to hit of 12) gunner gets +8 damage, which against an armor 6 craft is going to do at least 3 points of damage and could do 8, assuming it's only a 1d6 weapon, which translate to either 1 single hit, or 2 single hits, which, could, in theory, blow a fighter out of space. On the other hand, if you roll a 7 on location both times, all you did was reduce the armor by a total of 2 points.  Of course that will make the next hit do more damage. You want 6's or 8's if you want to kill it. Other non 7 results will result in possible "mission kills" I'll grant, but not that expanding ball of plasma.

As my project for the day, during breaks from "Project Clean the House" I am going to design a 50 dTon LAC that is "self escorting", an 30 dTon torpedo boat (which might no be as easy, despite 30 dTon being a sweet spot in small craft design and a 2,000 dTon 4G Jump 3 ship. The 2K ton ship would be a "Light Cruiser" in a Large Ship Traveller game, but would be a "Battle Ship" in a Small Ship Traveller game.
My Traveller Universe is a "Small Ship" game. Capital (i.e. ships over 2Ktons) are very, very rare, even in the Imperial Navy. Mongoose Traveller's "Barrage" based combat doesn't make this a bad as it could be. Granted it does eliminate spinal weapons, but a "large bay" comes damn close for a smaller ship. Not having capital ships also cuts down on the 9 to 37 (!) pages of tiny type ship's maps.

Rant. Mongoose needs to stop doing that. The maps, for large ships, are too small to read and damn near useless for a 'dungeon' map, and in some books, just plain ugly due to the software used to draw them. Waste of book pages, In My Arrogant Opinion

1They reversed which one does 1d6 vs 2d6 in High Guard, but made pulse lasers have a -2 DM to hit. Why? I don't freaking know.


  1. In at least some Traveller versions, pulse lasers have had a bonus to hit but reduced damage (the idea being that you have more chances to correct your fire; this doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's a tradeoff that's interesting to the game.)

    Naval doctrine will depend to some extent on the willingness of the naval power to spend lives: a small ship tends to be all or nothing, and is likely to die fast in a serious fight, which is one of the reasons the USN never got enthusiastic about missile boats. (Another, and to be fair a stronger one, is the preference of senior officers for huge impressive ships when there's a limited amount of money to be spread around. But that could happen in the Imperium too.)

  2. Getting ready to start a Traveller campaign. My buddies and I haven't played in a couple decades. We are all reading up on the Mongoose rules and like what we've seen so far. The system is much cleaner, even more simple, except for all the gizmos, and that's ok since sci-fi games are all about gizmos.

    I haven't gotten enough into the ship design rules to comment on your fighter ideas, but the problem with them always was that they could only shoot once and had to return for more ammo. Missiles have taken the place of the small attack craft.

    I think I can answer your question about the lasers, though. It might not make much sense, given targeting computers of advanced design, but the beam laser is easier to aim because you can walk the beam onto your target. Since it's a continuous beam, though, it has less power. The pulse laser gives its energy in a burst, and is therefore more powerful. Why the beam laser isn't aimed with a low-power targeting beam laser first I can't answer. Still, it does provide an interesting choice, and games are all about interesting choices.

    Armor was a huge problem with CT. Canon designs were pretty stupid. The best commerce raiders were about 1200-1500 tons, carried a single meson bay, enough armor to stop anything less than an opposing meson, plenty of emergency low births for prize crews, and any space left over was for secondary armaments, which were never lasers since they were useless against armored targets.

    Destroyers followed a similar design, but were slightly larger and carried more secondary armament in lieu of the prize crews.

    The best capital ships were in the 10k-20k range. Yeah, I know, they didn't design them that way in canon, but I don't think they played the big battles often. Their TCS would not have stood up to ours. We designed unarmored cruisers (what good is armor against mesons?) that were built around a Class J spinal meson. Repulsors and screens made up the rest of the ship. For the price of one of those 100k-200k ton dreadnoughts with a single Class T meson, you could show up on the tabletop with 12-26 Class J mesons and make short work of the battle.

    Of course that meant these heavily-gunned light cruisers could be taken out by fighters, and that's where our last ship class came in...carriers, and that's where we differed. Carriers were dispersed superstructure vessels and vulnerable to just about anything, so some people designed small 6k ton escort carriers, while others tended to larger 30k fleet carriers. Smaller carriers were more expensive per fighter they could deploy but larger carriers put more eggs into a single basket. It was a trade-off.

    Fighters consumed a good amount of our design efforts. The best ones were heavily armored, relied on small but powerful drives, and used capacitors to power fusion guns for a few rounds before heading back for recharge.

    So enough about the good old days. I'm looking forward to the new rules, but I'm seeing much of the same problems. Armor is cheap, as you mentioned, in terms of space. Why not go tanked? That makes the meson a near-requirement, though not as much as it was in the old days. There are weapons that can overcome the heaviest armor, but they are pretty much limited to bay weapons and torpedos.

    So that means that my first ship design will have to be the smallest ship ship that can possibly carry a meson bay and plenty of emergency low births for prize crews. Yes, it's time to design the new wave of commerce raiders. Then I'll have to make something that hunts down and destroys commerce raiders. The cycle starts again...