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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Datacasters

Unlike last week's offerings, datacasters are perfectly legal for player characters to own and operate. This is mainly because they're a specialty weapon that takes up valuable turret space.

The original concept of the datacaster comes from Marc Miller's Traveller5 (credit where due). It was initially Mongoose-ized by Dragoner, but I wasn't 100% happy with that version.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Put simply, a datacaster is a means of weaponizing a ship's computer, comms, and sensors.

In the Rules as Written (core rules 1e, p. 150), it is already possible to perform electronic warfare to disable smart missiles, jam communications and break sensor locks. However, this is limited to one action per combat round; the assumption is that the SensComms officer is using the ship's avionics to perform these actions, which prevents them from being used in their traditional manner. 

Datacasters simply make this procedure more efficient by giving SensComm a dedicated, positionable targeting system, allowing them to engage multiple targets at once. While multiple datacasters may be mounted in a turret, this is of limited utility given the distances involved in space combat. It is generally more useful to mount datacasters on separate turrets; those used offensively pair well with long-range weapons, and those used to spoof missiles should be placed in point-defense turrets. 

Datacasters mounted alongside weapons may only target ships that those weapons are engaging. Those mounted in single turrets have no such restrictions.

Each datacaster requires a separate operator. Datacasters may be operated remotely, even those mounted alongside weapons that are controlled by a turret gunner. 

TL:  10
Optimum Range:  Medium
Damage:  Special (see below)
Cost:  1MCr
Note:  Datacasters require Basic Military electronics (or greater) to function.

The options available to datacaster operators are as follows:
  • Sensor Lock. A datacaster mounted alongside weapons may only lock upon those targets that the turret is able to engage; an independent datacaster may paint any available targets.
  • Break Sensor Locks. As above. 
  • Jamming. One target may be jammed per datacaster. The above restrictions about targets apply. 
  • Attack Smart Missiles.  Per core rules. A turret that is attacking a target cannot use the datacaster to disable incoming smart missiles; however, a point defense turret (sandcaster and/or lasers for shooting missiles) may do so. 
  • Sensor Overload. The datacaster operator makes a Comms roll to hit. If successful, damage is rolled as (1d6 + Electronics DM + Effect)-target ship's Electronics TL and applied to the ship's sensors. Sensors cannot be destroyed in this way, only disabled. 
    • Example: Karr Tsonka, SensComm aboard the Big Macintosh, is trying to disable a Zhodani SDB's sensors. The Big Mac has a TL 13 Countermeasure suite which gives it a +4 DM; the Zhodani SDB has similar TL13 electronics. 
    • Karr's total is a 9; the attack hits with an Effect value of 1. 
    • 1d6 is rolled; a 5 results.  
    • 5+4+1=10. 
    • The SDB's TL is 13; no damage results. 
    • The SDB retaliates. The Zhodani SensComm's total is a 12; an Effect value of 4. 
    • 1d6 is rolled; a 6 results. 
    • 6+4+4=14
    • The Big Mac's electronics TL is 13. It suffers one hit to its sensors. 
  • Damage to sensors is not permanent and may be easily repaired out of combat (the equivalent of replacing some fuses), but during combat still requires a damage control roll to repair. 
  • Computer Warfare. A datacaster operator may attempt to hijack or disable a ship's computer by making a Computer roll vs a difficulty of 12 to hit. If successful, roll (1d6 + attacking ship's Computer TL + Effect + Intrusion software rating) - (target ship's Computer TL + Security software rating). The effect of this roll indicates whether or not the hacking attempt succeeded. If successful, the operator now has access to the ship's computer* and may perform the following actions:
    1. Override systems as per Spacecraft Security (core rules 1e, p. 107-108). This will likely be countered by the targeted ship's computer officer or an Intrusion Countermeasure program, which can attempt to kick out the intruder; the difficulty for this is the effect number of the roll. 
      • Example: Doc CJ attempts computer warfare upon the Zhodani SDB. His total is a 15.
      • A 6 is rolled. 
      • 6 + Big Mac's computer TL of 12 + Intrusion/3 software gives a total of  21. 
      • 21 - (SDB's computer TL of 14 + Security/3 software (-6 DM) = 21 - 20 = 1. 
      • The hacking attempt succeeded, but with an effect of 1. The Zhodani computer officer can automatically kick Doc CJ out next turn, so Doc had best be quick about his business.
    2. Insert a computer virus. If the virus has already been created, it is a simple action to upload it; programming one on the fly in the space of one Space Combat Turn is a Formidable action. 
  • Note that Computer Warfare is only possible if the ship's sensors are still functional. Turning off a ship's sensors is therefore an absolute defense against this tactic. 

Making a Virus
A virus must be engineered for a specific tech level of computer, and can only be built on a computer of that TL or higher. 

A virus may be made ahead of time by rolling Education + Computer vs. a difficulty of 10 and an increment of 4 hours. (Viruses designed to perform multiple actions increase their Difficulty one category for each additional task.) The Effect of this roll is known as the virus' Strength. 

Viruses may do any number of things, such as turning off systems, stealing information and transmitting it, or destroying information or equipment (by altering the code running the equipment and causing catastrophic failure).  The success of a virus doing this is measured by having it roll 2d6 + Strength + TL vs. the target computer's Security rating + TL. If successful, the program executes. 

A virus set to damage a ship in combat does damage each turn until the targeted component is destroyed, the virus is removed, or the computer system is shut down. 
  • Damage to a component is rolled as above, then using the Effect on the starship damage table. (Location is not rolled unless the virus is designed to affect multiple systems.) Subsequent hits do NOT count as Hull or Structure hits. 
  • The virus may be removed if the computer operator or ICE beats the effect of its to-hit roll. 
  • A computer may be shut down during the Ship Action phase. However, it remains shut down until the next Ship Action phase. A computer that reboots in such a manner gets a +6 DM to remove viruses. 

Expanded Intrusion, Security and ICE Programs
(extrapolating from Software, p.179, Central Supply Catalog)

Security/1 - TL 10, Cr. 200, Difficulty 8 to hack 
Security/2 - TL 11, Cr. 1,000, Difficulty 12 to hack 
Security/3 - TL 12, Cr. 20,000, Difficulty 14 to hack 
Security/4 - TL 13, Cr. 200,000, Difficulty 16 to hack 
Security/5 - TL 14, Cr. 1,000,000, Difficulty 18 to hack
Security/6 - TL 15, Cr. 20,000,000, Difficulty 20 to hack

Intrusion/1 - TL 10, Cr. 1,000, +1 DM to hack 
Intrusion/2 - TL 11, Cr. 10,000, +2 DM to hack 
Intrusion/3 - TL 12, Cr. 100,000, +3 DM to hack 
Intrusion/4 - TL 13, Cr. 1,000,000, +4 DM to hack 
Intrusion/5 - TL 14, Cr. 10,000,000, +5 DM to hack 
Intrusion/6 - TL 15, Cr. 100,000,000, +6 DM to hack 

Intrusion Counter Measures/1 - TL 11, Cr. 75,000, same as Security/1 but automated response
Intrusion Counter Measures/2 - TL 12, Cr. 150,000, same as Security/2 but automated response
Intrusion Counter Measures/3 - TL 13, Cr. 300,000, same as Security/3 but automated response
Intrusion Counter Measures/4 - TL 14, Cr. 600,000, same as Security/4 but automated response
Intrusion Counter Measures/5 - TL 15, Cr. 1,20,000, same as Security/5 but automated response

ICE programs may make Computer skill rolls at their rating against an intruder. They are essentially specialized Agent programs. 

*  Referees with an interest in computer science may insert additional layers of protection; perhaps the computer running sensors and comms is isolated by a firewall from the rest of the ship, and requires another Computer roll to circumvent. Alas, 57th century computer architecture** is beyond the scope of this article.

**   It is assumed, for purposes of fun, that datacasters can affect alien technology due to familiarity either through trade or warfare along their borders. A custom-built computer with an unknown operating system, or one from an hitherto un-encountered alien race, may present an increased difficulty to hijacking. 

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