Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Traveller Tuesday: Missiles

Ah, missiles. Possibly the greatest fly in my particular Traveller ointment, missiles have always given me trouble: they're expensive, they're easy to shoot down, and they take a long time to get to their targets. Why would anyone use them?

Thankfully, 2e has addressed that somewhat by doubling the damage of basic (now called "standard") missiles to 4d6, and making nukes truly scary at 6d6. This answers the above question with "Because they have more bang than energy weapons; the payoff for the wait is increased damage."

Of course, the missiles still need to GET there first, which is still a problem with the current system. This is a problem I hope to fix.

As of this post, I am adhering to neither 1e nor 2e; instead, I am cherry-picking the best from each. You may consider this "1.5e" or, if you're feeling puckish, "Pe" (for Palette edition).

*Cue chainsaw noises*
My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
From a game standpoint, missiles have three guidance types:
  • Internal - These missiles home in on targets via onboard sensors. The actual type of sensors doesn't really matter; what matters is that, once launched, they can independently seek and destroy their target without further guidance from the mothership. These are typically known as "Smart" missiles. 
  • External -  These missiles follow directions given after launch. Usually this is in the form of a laser or other form of EM radiation painting the target craft, but others (such as torpedoes) can be controlled by a comm laser in a high-tech version of "wire guided". These missiles can be given new directions after launch. 
  • Ballistic - These are classic "dumbfire" rockets which travel along a set trajectory until they either hit something and explode, or run out of fuel and explode. Unlike the others, they cannot be jammed because there is no guidance system to jam. 
It is worth noting that missiles built to military specifications can fulfill any of these roles. Before launch, the gunner chooses which targeting system the missile will use, if any. Missiles which are launched "dumb" cannot be affected by electronic warfare.

Chaff, as detailed in last week's post on Sand, affects internally guided missiles. Externally guided missiles are also affected, but can be redirected if the gunner shifts the painting laser to an unblocked target (or directs the torpedoes to divert around the sand)*. Chaff has no effect on ballistic guidance. 

* There ought to be rules regarding when it's too late to shift targets, and how far away the new target can be. Sadly, I don't have a good answer for that now. At this time I am relying upon GM discretion to decide what is fair and what is not; hopefully this can be codified in the future.  

To-Hit Mechanics
  • Ballistic: The gunner rolls Turret or Capital Weapons. 8+ means the missiles hit, but if the target spends thrust to evade then the missiles will miss. This can be used as a great way to bleed off thrust from a fleeing ship that doesn't have the ability to shoot down multiple inbound missiles. 
  • Externally Guided: Do not roll for to-hit at launch. Instead, wait until the turn the missiles will impact, and then consult this chart from first edition:

    Note that any ship with a reflec coating will reflect a painting laser with more intensity, and so missiles will more easily home in on it. A reflec coating gives +2 to hit with external guidance missiles. 
  • Internally Guided: The gunner does not need to make a to-hit roll. Instead, on the turn of impact the missile makes its own to-hit roll. This is a base 8+, modified by the difference between the TL of the missile (or its launcher, if higher) and the TL of the target (use sensor TL if uncertain). This means that lower TL missiles will have a penalty to hit higher TL targets, and vice versa. 
Electronic Warfare
Smart missiles are exactly that. If they have been spoofed off their target as a result of EW, a roll of 8+ means they have re-acquired their target and may make another attack roll so long as they have sufficient thrust. The TL modifiers above also apply to this roll.

Externally Guided missiles are vulnerable to being thrown off-course. It is plausible to assume that some facets of EW involve blinding missile receptors with comm lasers and/or fooling a missile into thinking that another missile is its target via painting laser.

Dumb missiles are immune to EW and must be shot down or evaded.

Universal To-Hit Modifiers
  • Missiles launched at Adjacent range are effectively dumbfire and only do 2d6 impact damage, as their warheads have not reached the minimum safe distance (1 km) to arm. 
  • Close range launches are +4 to hit. 
  • Short range launches are +2 to hit. 
  • Medium range launches are considered default (+0).
  • Long range launches are -2 to hit.
  • Very Long range launches are -4 to hit. 
  • Distant range launches are -6 to hit.  
  • For every missile in the salvo that is not stopped by EW or Point Defense, +1 to hit.
Variable Thrust
All milspec missiles and torpedoes have the "variable thrust" feature. What this means is that they do not have to go at their full speed when launched-- they can be programmed to fly at a slower rate, or to delay full thrust for a period after launch.

This is a useful tool for navies because it allows a ship to create larger barrages. For example, a 10G missile will reach a stationary target at Long range in 4 turns, and a 12G missile will reach a stationary target at Long range in 3 turns. A military vessel with a missile bay could launch its first salvo at 10G and its second at 12, with both salvos reaching the target at approximately the same time. This turns 2 salvos of 12 into a single salvo of 24 -- much harder to shoot down, and more dangerous when it hits!

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