Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Two-Part Traveller Tuesday: More on Missiles

Since I didn't write anything yesterday, I give you two entries today. Both are for Traveller, as it's what has been occupying my mind lately. Part 2 will show up later tonight.

So, back to missiles.  Last year I fixed the issue with thrust and time to target (link to handy spreadsheet here), and now I find myself thinking about their potential additive properties.

Allow me to explain.  In the core book of Mongoose Traveller, we are given three types of missiles for starships:
  • Basic. TL 6, does 1d6 damage, costs 15,000 for 12. 
  • Smart. TL 7, does 1d6 damage, costs 30,000 for 12. 
  • Nuclear. TL 6, does 2d6 + crew hit damage, costs 45,000 for 12. 
My question is, quite simply, Why can't a nuclear missile also be smart?  We've already established that if you can built a smart missile you can build a nuke, and we can clearly see that the price difference for smart-izing a missile is 15,000.  So why not make Smart Nukes that are TL 7, do 2g6 damage, and cost 60,000 for 12?  It only makes sense. 

And that line of thinking naturally led me to consider all the other missiles from High Guard et al (again, found at the spreadsheet link) and wonder "What's keeping me from making a smart, long-range, multi-warhead nuke?"

The answer, naturally, is "Not much."  So here are some quick and dirty rules for getting the most out of missiles in Traveller, assuming you don't mind spending gobs of money on one-use items. 

1)  We start with the assumption that all missiles are Basic (Tl 7, 1d6 damage, 15,000) and build from there. 

2)  We add whatever improvements we want. All additions and subtractions are cumulative. 
  • Making a missile Smart costs 15,000 and doesn't affect payload, range, or endurance. Requires TL 8 and may only be shot from a TL 8+ launcher. 
  • Making a missile Nuclear costs 30,000, adds 1d6 + crew hit to damage. Endurance and thrust unaffected.
  • Making a missile Long Range costs 10,000, subtracts 1 from all damage rolled, and missile now uses thrust and endurance of baseline long range missiles. 
  • Making a missile Multi-warhead costs 25,000, adds "x 1d6" to all damage to represent multiple warhead strikes. It uses thrust and endurance of baseline multi-warhead missiles (unless this is improved with the Long Range addition). 
  • Making a missile Decoy costs 20,000, subtracts 1 from damage, and uses thrust and endurance per baseline decoy missiles. Requires TL 9. 
So if I really wanted to, and had enough money (like the military), I could indeed have a TL 8 Long Range, Multi-Warhead, Smart Decoy Nuke that moves at thrust 5 for 7 turns, has a -2 to be shot down by point defense, and does (2d6-2 + crew hit) x 1d6 damage, and costs a whopping 115,000 per group of 12. 

3) Now let's look at some of the specialty missiles and how they could be upgraded. 
  • Fragmentation missiles may utilize all upgrades, although some of them (such as decoy and nuclear) may be of questionable benefit, while others are pure overkill.
  • Jumpbreaker missiles may be made smart, long range, and decoy, but do not benefit from further upgrades as this missile isn't intended to cause damage in the first place. 
  • Shockwave missiles, because they attack sand clouds, only benefit from being smart, long range, and decoy. 

With me so far?  Okay, now it's time to get mean. Look at the rules for Advanced Technology in High Guard and notice how weapons systems can have benefits like "accurate" or "high yield". 

On the one hand, it seems patently silly that by upgrading the missile launcher one is able to make the missiles go further or do more damage, especially when we already have long range missiles that can be loaded into any launcher of any tech level. (I'm okay with "accurate" as I assume that the launcher is painting the target with a laser or otherwise using advanced avionics to steer the missile to the target.)

However... there's nothing to stop one from upgrading the missiles directly, is there? Well, other than money, of course. 
  • Both missiles and their launchers may be upgraded to Accurate. I imagine the to-hit modifiers would be cumulative. 
  • Easy to Repair  is just silly and should not be allowed. 
  • Both High Yield and Very High Yield* are possible. Yes, you can have VHY nukes. Be afraid.
  • Long Range  and Variable Range both make no sense as I don't see how a launcher could make a missile go further. Besides, we already have a missile add-on for just that thing. 
  • Resilient seems silly until you realize that it creates a missile that must be hit twice before point defense kills it. Combine this with my evil idea from last week and you've got one hell of a party. (Special thanks to one my players for thinking this up.)
I believe that these rules nicely highlight the difference between civilian-grade (what the market can bear) and military-grade (goverments can throw tons of money at something and not blink) weapons systems.

Want a Resilient, High Yield, Long Range, Multi-Warhead, Smart Decoy Nuke?  Sure thing, just fork over 230,000 per dozen. Be sure to listen for that cash register "ka-ching" sound every time you shoot one!

* I can't think of a reason why Sandcaster barrels can't be made High Yield or VHY either. Make the launcher Accurate and you have a very potent, if very expensive, anti-laser system. 

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