Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Traveller Tuesday: Sensors

My murderhobos are currently in a (slightly) de-milled Aegis-class Fleet Scout, and with it comes a truly impressive sensor suite. Of course, this means that the sensor rules in Mongoose Traveller are getting a workout, and naturally I found something I didn't like and that means tinkering was, in fact, inevitable. 

So here's the canonical version of sensors in MongTrav:

My complaints about it can be summarized thus:
  1. Light and Heat are parts of the Electro-Magnetic spectrum. Since they all move at the same speed, the ranges should be identical. 
  2. There isn't enough benefit to using active sensors. 
  3. In space, having the max distance top out at 50,000+ km is pretty pathetic. Just for reference, the distance from the Earth to the Moon is 400,000 km. 
  4. The level of detail given by sensors is pretty pathetic, and again, there's no benefit to going active. 
Unfortunately, I don't know enough about sensors, science and math to fix this problem. 

Fortunately, one of my players is not only a fan of science and amateur astronomer, he's also a former sensor technician. So I presented the problem to him, flailed my arms about in frustration as I tried to describe what I wanted, and he gamely plugged in the numbers and added details.  Therefore, I would like to publicly thank Brook "Tanuki" West, the same fellow who wrote the article on Stellar Classification, for helping me with this project.

And now, I present to you, a Better Sensor chart! (Google docs version found here.)

Some explanations:
  1. So... yeah.  Visual, Thermal and EM are even MORE differentiated. I'm.... not entirely sure why. I think I had it explained to me that while detection is easy, it's the resolution based on the spectrum that differs, and that's what gives sensor detail.

    I think.

    I'm going to tag Brook to answer this in the comments below. 
  2. Level of detail is far more... er... detailed. I like options, they give flavor. 
  3. Active sensors give a benefit! And there's even a difference between using Lidar and Radar! Woo!
  4. If I were being professional, that last range really ought to be labeled "Planetary."  However, I am fond of swearing, and there are two marines (and a fiancee of a marine) in my game, so it just seems apropos.

    PCs: "Can we detect anything more on that distant blip?"

    Me: "At that range?  You can fuck right off."

So, there you have it. Better sensors, expanded range.  The next thing I'm going to do is extend the weapons chart out to those ranges as well  ("Can we hit it?"  "Fuck off.") and then my game will have a nice flavor of We detected it hours ago, but we don't know if it's friend or foe so let's start worrying for however many hours it takes to close the range for better details.

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