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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Starship Weapons Revisited

In a Traveller group I frequent, Ian Stead said "MGT missiles are weak, 2d6 is far better damage."  This got me to thinking, and as my players know, bad things happen whenever I think.

My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.

My thought was, quite simply, "How game-breaking it would be for Mongoose if all missile damage increased +1d6?"  This is a question I have to approach carefully, because I'm already experiencing some arms inflation within my game.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, I like having triple particle beams, and don't see the need to fix errors that Mongoose introduced into the system. However, this did have an unforeseen side effect: If a single particle beam does 3d6 damage, then a triple turret does 9d6... and so why would anyone install a 50 ton particle bay that only does 6d6 damage?  

My initial inclination was simply to increase damage, but it was pointed out to me that, due to math, this would result in bays that were ridiculously powerful. The other simple option was to invoke Rules as Written and say "OK, only one particle beam per turret."  I didn't like this option, either, as it resulted in too may ship refits.

I eventually worked out a compromise which came about as a result of me hashing it out with my players. This was fun, because while they benefit immensely from 3 particle beams in a turret, they also know they lose if they make things too powerful. This is because their GM plays by the rule of "If it works for you, then it works for everyone else in the game," and I've already proven I am far more evil than they are.

So here are the rule adjustments we came up with:

Turret Weapons
  • Separate weapons within the same turret may be fired independently, or linked to fire at once. 
  • Linked weapons must be of the same type and have the same upgrades.
  • Linked weapons require only one roll to hit.
    • If that roll succeeds, all linked weapons hit, and in the same location, meaning all damage is delivered at once. 
    • If that roll fails, all linked weapons miss. 
  • Unlinked weapons may fire individually. 
    • Individually fired weapons roll for damage separate from each other. 
    • One unlinked weapon missing still allows other weapons to roll to hit. 

Bay Weapons
  • Due to the focusing components, power supply, and other apparatus within a bay, each 50 tons of bay gives a free upgrade. 
  • This upgrade stacks with others due to technology. 
    • Therefore a 50 ton bay could have Mega High Yield (all 1s, 2s and 3s on damage dice are counted as 4s), and a 100 ton bay could have Ultra High Yield (1234s become 5s). 
    • Or you could stack 2 double upgrades where you normally couldn't, like Accurate and Variable Range. 
  • Bays become more versatile, and while scary hopefully aren't game-breakingly powerful. 

Hero class Trader fires! by Drell-7

So now that I've told you what we've worked out, let me muse out loud about Missiles.

My biggest complaint regarding missiles is that a lot of combat -- or at least the combat I've run -- takes place at such distances that missiles can be quite leisurely intercepted before they reach their targets. Zero time-to-target energy weapons are preferable to me, both for dramatic pacing and because they require less bookkeeping.

But missiles are a part of Traveller, and I can't just stop using them. And since I've already written two different posts about them, it seems a waste not to use them.

The problem here is that missiles are both slow and weak -- a nuke does as much damage as a beam laser (plus some radiation damage) and basic & smart missiles are the same as pulse lasers. It seems like they ought to have a damage boost, but I don't know what the repercussions would be. Torpedoes, aka "heavy missiles", are currently 4d6 damage... with nukes being 3d6, would they require an upgrade? Or are they fine as they are?  I don't know.

Finally, I think that missiles are just too damn easy to shoot down. I have a notion that Smart missiles ought to be able to "evade" point defense via a roll... perhaps rolling 2d6 vs. the point defense gunner, with the higher roll winning? It  would certainly make Smart missiles smarter, and would counteract their vulnerability to ECM spoofing (which is a weakness their Basic brethren lack), but does it make them too smart?  I don't yet know.

I think these notions are worth investigating. But what do YOU think? Leave a comment below. Let's hash this out!

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