Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Traveller Tuesday: The Rum Runner

The Rum Runner is a Type A3 merchant, also known as a Fast Trader, which features Jump-2 capability, 4 Gs of thrust and a cargo capacity of 50 dtons.

This amazing art is courtesy of Ian Stead, whom I commissioned to draw this piece.
His blog, The Work of Ian Stead, is essential viewing for all fans of Traveller.

The first Type A3, named the Blockade Runner, was a retrofitted Empress Marava class A2 Far Trader that was pressed into service during the early months of the Fourth Frontier War as an ad-hoc military transport and, on more than one occasion, privateer/merchant raider. Rumors that the crew of the Blockade Runner were previously smugglers and/or pirates are unknown as their records are currently sealed by the Imperial Navy.

Despite the short duration of the war (only 16 months by Imperial reckoning), there were many merchant ships who took advantage of the Imperial Navy's offer of a retrofit in exchange for wartime service. The nature of these ships - fast, with long legs and decent cargo capacity - made them appealing to many merchant crews whose ambitions were greater than mere speculative trading. Consequently, in the 21 years since the cessation of formal hostilities between the Imperium and the Zhodani Consulate, the Runner class has been a popular choice for risk-takers and adventure-seekers.

Ships of this line include, but are not restricted to, the following named craft:
  • Blockade Runner 
  • Star Runner 
  • Home Runner 
  • Base Runner 
  • Blade Runner 
  • Logan's Runner 
  • Rum Runner 

Passenger Deck
The Rum Runner has several features which distinguish it from an Empress Marava. Perhaps most notable is the low berth bay is immediately adjacent to the passenger lounge. While only carrying 6 low berths, there are in fact 7 beds -- one of these is used for medical examination and first aid purposes, turning the entire bay into an infirmary of sorts. In more affluent vessels, this bed is replaced by an Autodoc.

An iris valve connects the infirmary to the relocated air/raft bay. This enables wounded crew members to disembark (or be carried from the back of the air/raft via stretcher) and receive immediate attention. The air/raft enters and leaves through a retractable door in the ceiling.

The fore-most passenger suites are configured expressly for High Passage. If there are no high passengers to be found, these are preferentially given to couples or family members. Due to their exterior windows, iris valves between the staterooms and common areas have been installed.

In the aft starboard corner of the common room is a Steward's Closet. This contains spare linens, a compact washer/dryer unit, and other supplies that passengers might need (such as toothpaste and other hygiene items). Fore of the passenger lift is a small food preparation area with a dumbwaiter that leads to the ship's galley, below. There is also a hidden and unmarked manual hatch in the floor.

Crew Deck
Most distinctive about this deck is the large loading ramp. Six displacement tons in volume, it is ideal for express cargo which needs a fast turnaround. If such is not carried, this is where passenger cargo is often placed.

You will note that unlike the Marava, this class of ship is not troubled by the lack of security between passenger compartments and the bridge. Passengers may board through either air lock or the loading ramp, taking the elevator up to the common area. The iris valve to the crew deck is then locked for the duration of the trip.

Directly aft and to port of the bridge are a spare toilet, the ship's locker, and the galley. To starboard is computer access and a stateroom which is usually assigned to the pilot. Due to its cramped nature the pilot is usually given the privilege of bunking alone, though this stateroom can support double occupancy.

The port side of the ship features the captain's cabin with adjacent ship's office and more staterooms. The empty area to port of the staterooms is a small common area, where breaks are taken and meals eaten by the crew.

Directly aft of both sections are small access airlocks followed by cargo locks, capable of processing 4 dtons of cargo at a time. These 8 dtons are not counted in the ship's cargo capacity as Imperial regulations expressly forbid the blocking of any airlock which would be used by passengers to evacuate the ship in case of emergency.

Attack and Defense
Perhaps the worst thing which can be said about the Runner class is that it has no armor at all. This is a deliberate design choice rather than an oversight, as it was felt that 4 Gs of speed and an innocent appearance were sufficient passive defenses. However, retrofitting armor at the cost of cargo space is a popular choice with many crews. A less radical option is the addition of a reflective hull coating to protect against lasers.

In regards to active defense, however, the ship is not lacking. All Runner class ships come standard with two dual turrets. The port turret is for defense and is armed with a pulse laser and sandcaster, the starboard turret is offensive and carries a beam laser and missile launcher. The magazines for the ship's turrets may be accessed from the cargo locks for loading or changing of munitions.

Game Stats
Stats for the Rum Runner (using Mongoose Traveller rules) may be found here.

Author's Note:  While I love the Mongoose Traveller rules, their ship designs leave something to be desired. I wanted something that looked like a "proper" Far Trader of classic design, rather than the squat monstrosity of MongTrav. Brook West helped lay out the hull and proportions, and Ian Stead prettied it up and helped decorate what I called my "space dollhouse". Both of these gentlemen are phenomenal people and if you are a fan of Traveller you would do well to get to know them both. 


  1. Oooh nice history. It
    has a very Firefly feel to it, and with the history does seem about right for
    pressganged murder hobos

    That floor hatch in the food prep area is good to know

    "The iris valve to the crew deck is them locked for the
    duration of the trip."

    Then locked.
    Hmmm so that floor hatch is something
    that can be hidden/locked.

    But the passenger deck is a nice way to "secure"

    Hmmm armor can be
    retrofitted, but costly on cargo.

    It looks good. I like
    how the shop has a "character" in that the various spaces of it have
    a different feel. (crew vs passenger vs engineering vs cargo)

  2. The floor hatch is there because I realized if the ship lost power, there would be no way to get between decks. That could mean the difference between life and death.

    And on passenger-carrying tramp steamers, I would posit that it is DEFINITELY in the best interests of the crew to keep passengers (and potential hijackers) confined to one area.

    Of course, this also means that it's easy to turn this into a slave/prisoner ship. Oh gosh, oh golly...

  3. MongTrav is Book 2 style designs? I tried making this ship with the old Book 5 and it isn't viable. Just 21 tons of cargo space would be left because a Man4 drive is MUCH larger.

  4. For whatever reason, maneuver drives in MongTrav are pretty small.

  5. I like. Except the turrets.....
    1. Isn't a Pulse laser a better offensive weapon?
    2. Wouldn't triples make more sense in a paramilitary/auxiliary?
    3. I hate the positioning of the turrets on the Maravas anyway.
    Anyway, an excellent design that my players my encounter in their travels. Thanks.

  6. 1. While pulse lasers do more damage, they have shorter range. They can also be used for point defense. I felt that beam lasers and missiles were better for long range "stay away" while the craft fled at 4 Gs.
    2. Sure, and in the 4th Frontier War they were. That was 20 years ago. I figure this will work fine for NPCs, and if PCs want triples they can pay for the upgrade.
    3. Heh. They are rather awkward. Mine are at least a BIT better.

    Thanks for the kind words!

  7. And using the Book 2 Lettered drive system. We originally gave up on Book 2 because the fuel usage was different between the Type A and Type S, even though they use identical drives, straight A's.

  8. But the Type A is double the volume of the Type S. Isn't that the reason?

  9. The old fuel calculation for the drive was 10*pn. So Power Plant 2 was 20 tons, Power Plant 1 was 10 tons. A type A drive in a 100 ton ship gives a rating of 2 and a rating of 1 in a 200 ton ship. So a Type A Power Plant uses 20 tons of fuel in a scout and 10 in a free trader. Even though it's the same unit.

    The book 5 answer to fuel consumption for the power plant was 0.01*pn*tonnage. So both the Scout and the Free Trader use 2 tons of fuel for the power plant. However in Book 5 they end up with different sized drives because those are calculated with a % from the rating then * the tonnage.

  10. Ah, I see. MongTrav has it thusly:

    Fuel needed for a Jump depends on the size of the ship and the length of the Jump and is calculated as 0.1 x tonnage x Jump distance. A single Jump of that distance consumes that much fuel.

  11. Yes, for the JUMP fuel they agree. What about the power plant/maneuver?

  12. Not at all, I stumbled over your blog and now I visit regularly.

    Year the A2 turrets were placed terribly, huge blind arc to the rear terrible when you're running away.

  13. There's a chart that gives "For power plant X you need Y tons of fuel per two weeks of operation."

  14. Yes, I noticed that. This may not fix the rear arc problem but I think it helps. Also, going faster is always a good defense.

  15. The chart solves my original Book 2 objection nicely then.

    But that's ANOTHER change. OG LBB is four weeks of power plant fuel. Playing with the GURPS version of ship construction gives very Book 5ish results, except for the pathetically weak maneuver drives and a total lack of power plant fuel. A GT ship can accelerate for 200 years on a new powerplant assuming you keep making your "I skipped my annual overhaul" rolls.

  16. What a Great writeup - I like your history, and I like the rational for an up-engineered and armed version of an A2 (other than personal mods by some hotshot free trader with authority issues).


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