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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Collection Objection

In my article about Tech Levels last week, J. Michael Looney brought up two notions which completely break the Traveller universe. I'll address the first one today.
Actually, the thing that T5 and MgT2 both have that changes the most of "Traveller Canon" is at TL 14.
Collectors. Changes jump fuel from 10% of the ship's dTonage per jump number to 1% of the ships dTonage per jump number, plus 5 dTons.
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
I had missed collectors during my first skim of the 2e High Guard playtest, and so I went to take a look. Lo and behold, JML is correct:
Collectors (TL14)

These are accumulators, sweeping up exotic particles captured by a canopy. This charge is released in a single spike to power a jump drive; collectors cannot be used for normal ship operations.

Collectors consume 1% of the ship’s tonnage multiplied by the maximum jump number its drive is capable of, plus 5 tons. They cost MCr0.5 per ton.

It takes a week of normal space travel to fully charge an accumulator, and accumulators will not work at all in jump space.
My immediate first thought was "Does this mean Jump-6 Xboats are now possible?" And the answer is that they're not only possible, they're efficient.

Compare and Contrast:
Look at that. For what is basically double the price of a J-4 Xboat, you get more cargo room, 6G thrust, and the ability to perform frontier refueling (Why? The powerplant still needs fuel, and the processor only costs a single dton.)  In other words, Xboats no longer need tenders. They are now independent ships that only need resupply, and possibly a crew change, after every jump.* 

Now perhaps some of you are balking at the words "merely double the price."  This is fair reaction until you realize that 83.1 MCr for a J-6 ship is a steal when compared to the 198 MCr Mustang Express Packet utilized by the Scout Service and is downright ridiculously cheap when compared to the 297 MCr Imperial Navy Fleet Courier

* For added fun, consider the possibility of a retired Scout getting a detached duty ship as a mustering-out benefit, and choosing a J-6 Xboat! You can easily fit four PCs into it at double occupancy -- more if they're willing to lose cargo space.

Still not convinced that Collectors are broken yet?
My second thought was  "What's stopping the IISS or the Navy from setting up Collector stations to serve as fuel depots?" There's nothing in the (tiny) flavor text to indicate these stored exotic particles can't be transferred to other ships. That nicely mitigates the week-long downtime.

But here's the hugely-broken pièce de résistance: Capital ships no longer need to devote massive amounts of volume to jump fuel! Give them a collector for their Jump-4 drive (maybe even Jump-6 with the volume savings) and then have them carry just enough fuel for a Jump-1 or 2.
  • Met your military objective? Great, spend time recharging in the newly pacified system. 
  • Need to get out in a hurry? Jump to the next system over, or into empty space, and then recharge. 
  • For maximum brokenness, consider collectors and drop tanks! This allows either two back-to-back jumps, or (for military ships) the ability to jump in, do your  business, and then jump out again.
  • Finally, rifts become a thing of the past. Just load the cargo bay with plenty of food, make sure you have enough fuel to keep the power plant running for the months it will take you, and then make like Thor Heyerdahl aboard the Kon-Tiki. 
I'm pretty sure that Collector technology is going to revolutionize/ horribly break Navy ship design.

How To Fix This?
People have suggested that since collectors come from Marc Miller's Traveller5 (and honestly, a lot of changes to 2e can be traced to T5), we ought to abide by T5's rules about them which state that a TL14 collector can only fuel a Jump-1, and TL15 collector a Jump-2. That's certainly an idea, and it's one which is so obvious that I have to wonder why Mongoose didn't state as much in the first place! It's almost as if they deliberately chose not to limit them in that way. If that's the case, then I'm not sure how to prevent this from breaking the Navy and the Xboat service.

The easiest way to prevent logistical abuse, though, is to explicitly state that the exotic particles can only be found in quantity in a solar system (likely emanating from the stellar body), and that if done in deep space it increases the recharge time by X weeks -- or simply isn't possible at all. 

Of course, all of this assumes Mongoose doesn't change how collectors work between now and when 2e High Guard is published. The mechanics might be changed, or  the concept dropped entirely. 

Then again, seeing how "Mongoose" has become an epithet for poor organization, layout, and editing within my circle of players, you can understand why I have my doubts. 

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