Sunday, March 23, 2014

Building Starships For GURPS Third Edition Revised, Part Two

So, back in our previous article, we started to talk about the Concordiat Navy at the TL 10 era.  One of the biggest factors of change was the existence of the two steps of reactionless thrusters, both of them powerful enough to change the nature of the game for starship combat.

And, a few more notes to round out the last points to be made about what happened during the TL 10 and Fourth Frontier War era.
  • The Concordiat Army moves on it's own transports, which are HUGE, lightly armored and armed, and require a lot of landings to land their heavy armor and AFVs.  The Army is mostly a garrison force during the TL 10 era.
  • Shuttles for the various ships have two engines.  The first is a fusion ram-rocket with enough fuel space to make a powered orbit around Earth.  It also mounts (relatively) low-powered reactionless thrusters for orbital changes.
  • Government in a nutshell-the Concordiat is a constitutional republic, with a LOT of authority being given to sector governors and such.  The Kaa Imperium is a hideously egalitarian feudal monarchy.  Since the only way to communicate is by a ship in FTL (FTL communications-on an interstellar level-don't show up until TL 12), the captains of starships have to be able to make critical decisions right there and then.

So, we deal with the Fourth Frontier War, where the Kaa get trounced (again) after the Concordiat gets suprised, there's only one set-piece battle in the form of the Battle of Agrippa (dreadnoughts on both sides), and the Concordiat gets some more worlds as buffer territory against the Kaa Imperium.  TL 11 rolls around, and the Concordiat has some issues.  Namely-victory disease.  They just kept winning against the Kaa in so many battles that they thought it was always going to be this way.  That, and the Liberal Democratic Party in the Concordiat Senate was of the opinion that "war never solves anything" (how much of this was "paid opinions" a'la the Soviet Union-sponsored anti-nuclear movement by the Kaa is open to debate).  Force field technology came into existence at this time, and the Concordiat Navy mounted forcefields on their ships at the same rate as armor.

This lead to the pre-First Interstellar War Concordiat Navy.  Some of the details of the design choices here-
  • The "Patrol/Battle" fleet dichotomy was eliminated.  More powerful thrusters meant that most ships could land on a planet if they were streamlined, and the Concordiat Navy had to fight for every credit in building starship hulls.
  • For the most part, the ships built were "revised" versions of the TL 10 fleet, with some of the quirkier hulls gone.  One big change was that the required minimum for Navy ships was "2/2"-minimum 2Gs acceleration and 2 light years a day in hyperspace.
  • Missiles carried nuclear weapons, as no practical chemical warhead could be mounted to punch through force fields and armor.  Once again, GVB seems to choke on building bomb-pumped x-ray lasers and figuring out how to fire "missiles" built in GVB as vehicles out of massdrivers.  But, that's the core concept.
  • More point-defense, especially for larger capital ships.
  • Pretty much everything but the heaviest of shuttles were pure reactoinless thruster-based.
Unfortunatly, the Kaa Imperium had something going for it-an Emperor that was very much like Justintin of the Byzantine Empire-ruthless, powerful, capable, and not quite sane on a few things.  One of those things was the Concordiat.  He was going to be the Emperor that conqured the whole Concordiat and he had a plan.  And, a great espionage service.  Namely, in the Engali Moot-where he managed to get the information and tooling needed to build TL 12 force fields, power cells, and hypersinks (for the ship's stealth systems).

When boiled down, the Kaa Emperor's plan was simple-
  • Foment revolt and piracy all along the frontier. This included dropping Vern queens onto a number of worlds to keep the locals busy.
  • Lower the Concordiat's will to fight, politically and socially.  Find potential Quislings wherever you could.
  • Build a huge fleet.
  • Attack.  The attack was in three "talons", and they were all aimed to hit Earth.  Planets in the way of the talons would have all their orbital assets destroyed (except for fueling stations for the fleets) and orbital bombardment of anything on the planets that could be used as a military asset.  They could all be formally "conquered" when the Kaa Imperium won the war.

    Raiding fleets would be dispatched as well, attacking merchant ships and engaging in other attacks in the meantime, to keep the Concordiat Navy busy.

    Once you've hit Earth, it's all over (as the Emperor saw it).
  • Bask in the victory over the most hated of foes, enjoy your new slaves, and make sure that any threats to your power base are eliminated as soon as possible when the war is over.
Unfortunatly, the Concordiat Navy got some warning that something was about to happen.  They thought it was going to be another border war.  Not the start of what would later be called the First Interstellar War.

Several things went the way of the Concordiat during the early phases of the war-despite the losses and the casulties and that the "northern" talon got within three weeks travel of Earth before it was defeated.
  • Concordiat battlecruisers showed their mettle-the Kaa had their logistics transports in convoys at the start.  But, the guard ships were light cruisers (most Kaa warships of destroyer size and smaller were battleriders).  The Concordiat's Marathon-class battlecruiser had the acceleration profile of a standard light cruiser (about 5-6Gs, if I recall), a long-ranged and fast-firing particle beam cannon on the spinal mount, and while it only used 350mm missiles, it had a lot of them to fire.

    Within the first few weeks of the war, the Kaa had to detach battleships to guard their convoys, which took them out of the war as effectively as if they had blown them all up.  This weakened the Kaa's raiding strategy, which was dependent upon the battleships.
  • Capturing two of the Kaa's forward repair ships and bringing their data cores back to the Concordiat Core Worlds.  This gave the Concordiat an idea of the new technologies the Kaa were using.
  • The political and military leaders never lost their nerve.  What was supposed to be a hard sweep through the Concordiat got bogged down in a number of locations.
As the Kaa fleets were fought, Concordiat shipyards began to incorporate into current hulls the new technologies.  And, the first products of these new ships will be talked about in the next section.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Building Starships For GURPS 3rd Edition Revised, Part One

I truly do not have a life.

Really, I don't.

Over several weekends-when there was fuck all in terms of movies, TV, etc, etc, etc, about eight years ago (I checked my purchase receipt), I picked up a copy of the GURPS Vehicle Builder for GURPS Vehicles.  This was back in the days of GURPS 3rd Edition Revised, when there wasn't so much fear about superscience technology and the game had math out the ears.

Anyways, I was playing around with the Vehicle Builder and eventually...I built a starship frigate.

It was a TL 10 frigate, all reactionless drives with a hyperdrive.  It had vectored thrust and was streamlined and could take off and land from a planet, and could carry enough passengers to count as carrying a reinforced platoon of Marines.  Spinal particle beam cannon, backed up by four 350mm missile tubes, four light xaser cannons, and six point defense xasers.

From this ship, which I eventually named the Adams-class frigate, I started to work out...a fleet structure.

I told you I had no life.

Anyways, eventually, I built a fleet.  Then, I built another.  I built a third.  And a fourth.

And then, the hard drive on my Windows XP machine decided to cut it's own metaphysical belly open and I lost all the ships (most of my backups were photos-long story).

So, that idea died.

Until about a few days ago, when I read a review on GURPS Spaceships for GURPS 4th Edition.  And, found on an old, old, OLD flash drive the concept notes for the ships I'd built.  Sadly, not the ships themselves (which I might have to do again), but the notes were interesting.

The first part of the notes (in condensed form)-
  • The game universe was built around pretty much bog-standard GURPS tech progression, starting off at TL 10.  Hyperdrives and reactionless thrusters were the norm.  The history I had worked out had gone up to about TL 12 and about 300 or so years (which isn't that long in a human society where longevity treatments can give lifespans of up to 150+ years).
  • The major power blocs are the Concordiat (human, several alien races), the Kaa Imperium (Kaa and slaves), the Engai Moot (Engai territory), and several small "pocket vest" kingdoms.  All the alien races came from GURPS Aliens.
  • There had been a LOT of jockeying for territory and power between the Concordiat and the Imperium.  By the time TL 10 came around, there had been three "frontier wars", and the ships built in the game had fought the fourth.
  • The Kaa Imperium is mostly TL 9, except in drives, stealth (TL 11), and some other technologies.
  • Ship hulls were the "classic" progression for FTL hulls-corvette, frigate, destroyer, light cruiser, heavy cruiser, battle cruiser, battle ship, dreadnought, super-dreadnought and finally monitors.
  • The Concordiat had essentially a two-tier Navy during the TL 10 era-Patrol Fleet which didn't have anything bigger than a battleship, and Battle Fleet, which went all the way up to monitors.
  • All Fleet ships-from the smallest to the largest-are "1/1" capable at a minimum-able to do 1G in acceleration, and l light year a day in FTL.
  • Patrol Fleet ships tended to be more lightly armed, but had more space for small Marine detachments, LARGE medical bays, and anything smaller than a heavy cruiser could land and take off from Earth by itself.
  • Battle Fleet was the reverse.  Destroyers and smaller could land on planets, but they tended to carry more weapons and heavier weapons.
  • No space fighters.  Battle riders-warships that didn't have FTL-were used, but the survival ability of a fighter was non-existent in this universe.  Concordiat battle riders were all sentient AI drones (fifteen years of service meant full citizenship and paying off their creation costs), Kaa battle riders were what filled the destroyer-and-smaller niches in their fleet, and had biological crews.
  • Weapons-the Concordiat was built around spinal particle beam cannons and missiles, with xasers (x-ray laser) cannons as backups.  Concordiat ships had three sizes of missiles-350mm, 500mm, and 750mm.  At TL 10, the warhead commonly used was a HUGE HEAT round, followed by a nuclear weapon.  By TL 11, nukes were common (and, I would have built every single nuclear missile as a bomb-pumped weapon, but the Vehicle Builder tended to choke on that).  I built the missiles as vehicles themselves-power cells with a small nuclear power unit so the missiles could be used as mines if needed.

    Point-defense was provided by a small xaser cannon that had UNGODLY rate of fire...
  • Concordiat ships of heavy cruiser and larger mounted particle beam cannons on turrets, as well.  The heavy cruiser mounted essentially the frigate's spinal particle beam cannon, and it went up from there.  As well, ships that were battleship and larger mounted turret-mounted missile launchers for 350mm missiles as anti-battle rider weapons.
  • Battle riders had a dedicated tender/carrier ship in the Concordiat Navy, and were also carried by ships of dreadnought or larger in eight-ship groups.  They were also docked in huge numbers at anchorages (a term used by the Fleet for orbital elevators that were almost common on every major Concordiat world) for planetary defense.
  • There was a dedicated Marine transport that could haul a single reinforced Marine Expeditionary Unit, and drop it with transports in a single drop.  Built the shuttles (three-a squad-sized lander/gunship, a company-sized lander, and a vehicle transport), tanks, AFVs, powered armor...
  • And, then, we got into quirks...a good example was the Joshua-class battleship, which was built around a TL 10 Heavy Advanced framework (most other Concordiat ships were built on Heavy Very Expensive frames).  Why?  They had partially gone through the first flight run of the ship back when ships were built with TL 9 reactionless drives for low-thrust operations and pulse fusion engines for high-maneuverability combat.  TL 10 drives surprised everyone and they retrofitted the Joshua-class with the new drives.

    When the Joshua-class was retired, the Engai bought the hulls, stripped them down to the framework, and built their own warships on top of them.  In fact, they pretty much built their own TL 13 version of the ship a few decades later.
Next up...the First Interstellar War, TL 11, and how shield technology changed everything.