Star Fleet – Advanced Rules

Last time we took a look at the forthcoming A Call to Arms: Star Fleet, we concentrated on the differences between it and Babylon 5 & Noble Armada.  This time around, we are going to take a gander at the Advanced Rules and preview another ship…

Some ships, notably those of the Romulan Star Empire, are equipped with cloaks. Once engaged, a cloak will cause a ship to disappear, both visually and on sensors. This allows for a wide range of tactics, from approaching an enemy unseen to launching a surprise attack, to safely escaping after decoying a superior force.

To engage a cloak, a ship must use the Engage Cloak! Special Action at the start of its turn. During this turn, the ship may not move more than 6 inches and may not make any attacks. However, it immediately gains the Stealth 4+ trait.

While cloaked in subsequent turns, the ship gains the Stealth 2+ trait but cannot launch any attacks of its own. It may not move more than 6 inches in a turn and cannot use any Special Actions aside from Disengage Cloak!

Transporters, Tractors and weapons with the Seeking trait cannot be used against a cloaked ship.

To disengage the cloak, a ship must use the Disengage Cloak! Special Action at the start of its turn. The ship may be moved up to 6 inches in any direction and turned up to 45o in any direction before it makes its normal move – the enemy never knows exactly where a cloaked ship is or where it may reveal itself. It loses the Stealth trait but may fire normally.

A ship will automatically and immediately lose its cloak if it enters a dust cloud or asteroid field. A ship may start a game cloaked unless denied by the scenario being played.

The Stealth 2+ trait basically keeps a cloaked ship hidden but, because Stealth is now rolled against every single hit, it allows players to ‘shotgun’ areas of space and get some lucky hits.  The cloaked ship can weather the storm as it retains shields though, as players will soon find out, a lucky hit can still cause immense problems and a cloaked ship cannot attack at all.  The trade off comes when a ship decloaks, as it gains that 6″ repositioning move, which can be very useful.

We noticed in playtesting that players with Romulan ships cloaked all the time.  As they quickly learned, this is not a good idea – cloaks are another tool, one of many that Romulans have, and the rest should not be ignored no matter how sexy cloaking is!

Defensive Fire
A ship need not rely purely on its shields to defend against every attack. Drones and plasma torpedoes can be directly targeted by phasers and neutralised before they strike a ship.

Defensive fire takes place as soon as a ship is targeted by a drone or plasma torpedo and is about to be hit. A phaser may only fire once per turn, whether it is used for attacking an enemy ship or defensive fire, and the owning player must decide which phasers will defend against which attacks if multiple seeking weapons are coming in. Traits such as Accurate apply as normal but Kill Zone will not as drones are engaged beyond this range.

Against Drones: Any phaser with a fire arc covering the attacking ship may be used to defensively fire against drones it launches. Roll the phaser’s Attack Dice as normal. Every successful hit will remove one Attack Die of drones.

Against Plasma Torpedoes: Any phaser may be used against an attacking plasma torpedo in the same way as it can be used against drones. However, every successful hit from a phaser will reduce the Attack Dice of a plasma torpedo by 1. If enough phasers successfully strike it, the plasma torpedo may be nullified altogether.

Using Drones Against Drones: Drones can be used for defensive fire, although they may only target other drones. They are used in the same way as phasers but no Attack Dice are rolled. Instead, each drone launched as defensive fire will automatically nullify one Attack Die of enemy drones.

We tried many variations of this rule and I was initially unhappy with having to traack every phaser used for defence because it is out of sequence for the ship and is more bookkeeping to follow.  In practice it is hardly ever an issue.  Phaser-3s are so short-ranged that they are almost always on defensive duty, so it only becomes a conscious decision to bring the phaser-1s to bear – and unless you are getting swamped by drones or there are no target in that particular arc, you are never going to do this.  The reverse is true too – you tend not to use phaser-3s even at short range unless you know you are safe from drones.  The consequences of not keeping them back from a surprise attack is just too great, even if you have adequate Anti-Drone coverage.

Basically, the rule works, is easy to understand so we kept it!

Most ships are equipped with laboratories, packed with scientific equipment to aid them in exploratory missions. In some scenarios ships are required to gather a certain number of Information Points from enemy ships, bases, planets or anomalies.

During each turn a ship does not perform a Special Action and is within 6 inches of a target it wishes to scan, roll one die for every Lab it has in the End Phase. The ship will gain this many Information Points from the target. If the target is within 3 inches, each Lab will roll two dice instead.

Unless otherwise stated, every ship carries one Probe Launcher. A Probe may be fired in any fire arc in any End Phase and will gather four dice worth of Information Points from any target within 6 inches. A ship may not fire another probe in the next turn as it must reload its launcher but it is free to fire another thereafter.

A cloaked ship may not use Labs or probes.

Fairly self-explanatory, these two.  You won’t just be fighting in some missions!

There are some things I have skipped over for now, either because they reference other rules areas or are fairly lengthy (transporters and tractor beams, for example), but we will come back to them soon enough.  So, let’s round this off with a look at another ship, an old staple of the Romulan fleet – the KR Heavy Cruiser (which will also give Klingon fans some clues too!).

KR Heavy Cruiser                            165 Points
Converted from surplus Klingon D6 hulls, these were some of the first warp-powered starships the Romulans deployed. Each ship mounts two type-S torpedoes, all the ageing frame of the old D6 could carry.

Ships of the Class: Praetorian, Patrician, Kestrel, Shrike, Annihilation, Retribution, Retaliation, Proconsul.

Turn: 4
Shields: 18
Damage: 20/7
Marines: 5
Craft: 4 Shuttles
Traits: Agile, Cloak, Labs 4, Tractor Beam 3, Transporter 5

Weapon  /  Range  /  Arc  /  AD  /  Special
Phaser-1  /  18  /  F, P, S  /  3  /  Accurate +2, Kill Zone 8, Precise
Phaser-2  /  12  /  A, P  /  2  /  Accurate +1, Kill Zone 4, Precise
Phaser-2  /  12  /  A, S  /  2 /   Accurate +1, Kill Zone 4, Precise
Plasma Torpedo-S /   16  /  F, P  /  4  /  Devastating +1, Energy Bleed, Multihit D6, Reload, Seeking
Plasma Torpedo-S /   16  /  F, S  /  4  /  Devastating +1, Energy Bleed, Multihit D6, Reload, Seeking

* So long as it has a Shields score above 0, a KR Heavy Cruiser suffering an attack from within its Fore arc will have the number of hits it sustains halved, rounding up, with the exception of any hits that penetrate the shields. These are treated as normal.

Let’s compare it to the Federation Heavy Cruiser we last previewed, as they are very close in points cost (the KR gives away 15 points).

One big difference is with a Turn score of 4, the KR can make three turns in a move to the Heavy Cruiser’s two.  However, it is also Agile, so those turns can be up to 90 degrees, ensuring the KR can always turn tighter than a Federation ship (and yes, most Klingon ships can do this too!).  Romulans will need this as well, for the KR gives away a little in Shields and quite a bit in Damage, so it is by no means as durable (though the Fore Arc Shield special rule, also applicable to all Klingon ships) helps out a great deal.

There are less Labs, but more Tractor Beams and Transporters, suiting the more offensive role of the KR.  Just don’t expect it to perform as well when doing ‘science stuff.’

The three up front Phaser-1s are nice enough (compared to the four the Heavy cruiser will always be able to get on you, or six if it gets you dead in-between firing lanes), but the phaser-2s will always be relegated to opportunity fire or even defensive work, leaving you to rely on shields most of the time to absorb drone hits.  However, with those two plasma torpedoes up front, you will be looking to swoop in, hit hard, and then retreat.

The latter is made much easier by the elephant in the room, the Cloak trait.  Simply fade out, leaving the Federation to lick its wounds – or, better yet, suffer another attack from your second cloaked ship that is now making an appearence!

Martial Arts in Traveller

By Jacob DC Ross

Whether an alien fighting master or a human mystic warrior, martial artists have long held a place in science fiction. This article introduces new options for players who want to train their characters in the way of unarmed combat. The hard-brawling thug and the wise pacifist will both find ways below to resolve a conflict with their bare hands.

To take a martial arts style, simply choose the appropriate style skill, as listed below, whenever a character has the opportunity to take Melee (any) or Melee (unarmed) by substituting Melee (style). With the referee’s permission, aliens with Natural Weapons may choose one style to be usable with the Melee (natural weapons) skill. A character may know multiple styles, but may not use more than one in a round.

Offensive Style
Offensive styles are based primarily on attacks, although defense and strategy are also factors. Offensive styles include boxing, savate de rue and karate. A practitioner of offensive styles may use Strength or Dexterity as modifiers when rolling to hit or for damage.

Grappling Style
Grappling styles are based on getting close to an opponent and immobilizing them. Such styles include sumo and Greco-Roman wrestling. Grapplers only use Strength for their style. Grapplers add their Strength DM to all damage done during a grapple, and gain a cumulative +2 DM to their Melee (grappling style) rolls made to control a grapple for every round they have controlled the grapple consecutively.

Soft Style
Soft styles focus on throws and other less-damaging strikes. Judo is a prime example of a soft style. Soft styles may only use Dexterity as their relevant characteristic. Soft practitioners double their Dexterity DM for the purpose of winning control of a grapple, but cannot chose the option of inflicting damage equal to 2+Effect, and damage from throws and unarmed strikes is halved. Changing stances from prone after being thrown or knocked prone by a soft practitioner is a significant action.

Defensive Style
Defensive styles teach patience, waiting to strike until the perfect opportunity presents itself while blocking incoming attacks. Jeet kune do is an example of a defensive style. Defensive styles use either Strength or Dexterity when rolling to hit or for damage. A defensive martial artist may dodge or parry in combat once per round without taking the penalty to subsequent actions.

Acrobatic Style
Acrobatic styles stress incredible maneuvers that allow the practitioner to place themselves in advantageous positions. Parkour and capoeira are acrobatic styles. Acrobatics use Strength or Dexterity. As a significant action, a practitioner may make a daring dash or leap, rolling Melee (acrobatic style) 8+ and adding the Effect to their Initiative on the next round, as well as half the Effect as a negative DM to hit them. In order to use this technique at greater than Personal range, a character must move on their minor action before attempting the leap or dash. Any character may use Athletics (acrobatics) or Art (dance) in this manner, but may never use those skills to strike in combat.

Anti-Cybernetic Style
This rare art is taught to combatants who find themselves frequently opposed by cyborgs. Anti-cybernetic styles use either Strength or Dexterity. When an anti-cybernetic practitioner strikes a cyborg with a melee attack, the cyborg must throw Endurance with a negative DM equal to the Effect of the attack or have one of their augmentations temporarily go offline. Unless the cyborg has self-repairing augmentations, the damage lasts until minor repairs can be made.

Psionic Style
Psionic fighters concentrate on anticipating their opponent’s actions and enhancing their own capabilities to attain victory. This style grants the psionic martial artist a new Talent that includes the Enhanced Awareness, Tactical Awareness, Psionically Enhanced Strength, and Body Armour powers.
Cestae: Battle gloves made from leather at TL 1 to high-density diamond thread weave at TL 10. Cestae add +2 damage to unarmed strikes and do not count as a carried weapon. They allow for parrying of most bladed weapons, with the TL 10 version capable of parrying a mono blade. Cost: Cr. 10 for TL 1 and Cr. 250 for TL 10.

Adventure Seeds
What follows are a few ideas for a martial arts-themed tournament adventure, as well as some complications which can result. Players can participate in any of these tournaments and reap the rewards that come with victory or feel the crush of defeat.

The tournament is an assemblage of martial artists, each striving for the championship, in order to prove the worth of themselves and of their styles. Tournaments can take many forms:

1. A one-on-one single-elimination tournament between members of many species, akin to the Olympics of Earth. Combatant NPCs should be of all races imaginable, perhaps many not yet encountered by the players. Players fight in front of judges who assign points based on hits, with three consecutive hits, throws or successful grapple rounds counting as a point. First to three points wins, but must win by at least two points.
2.  A one-on-one single-elimination match in a zero-g cage. Obstacles, both static and dynamic, are in place, imposing a difficult (-2 DM) penalty on all actions within the cage. Combat continues until one player is incapacitated or quits.
3. A tag-team or one-on-one single-elimination wrestling match held in a square ring. Teammates must tag one another via touch to switch out, and teammates cannot act together in the ring against a lone opponent, although the referee can be distracted against penalising cheaters. The match continues until one player is successfully held prone in a grapple for three consecutive rounds.
4. A rare psionic tournament, where psions are allowed to use their abilities. It can take the form of any of the other tournament formats.
5. A simultaneous team-on-team single-elimination tournament pitting equal teams against each other. The match continues until all contestants on one team submit or are incapacitated
6. A free-for-all among all competitors, with victory going to the last man standing.

Not every tournament is as it seems. The complications below can spice up a game or surprise players.

1. The tournament organizers approach the players, demanding they throw a specified match. Acceptance of their demands will gain Cr. 10,000. Defiance will earn Enemies among the local organized crime syndicates.
2. Government agents recruit the players to infiltrate the tournament, suspecting the organizer of being a multi-system crime lord. The players must gain access to his inner circle.
3. As above, but the organizer is a master psionic combatant who plans to take telepathic control of the victor’s body for his own use.
4. One of the combatants is a Rival or Enemy of a player, or is acting on that antagonist’s behalf. The fighter will show no mercy to the player, and will not stop fighting if he has won and the player submits. If he loses, the player had better watch their back…
5. A mysterious, masked competitor is actually a prominent noble. The players are charged with protecting him during the match, by taking out the most dangerous opponents first, depending on tournament format. The noble might be itching for a real fight, or he might take vengeance on anyone who defeats him in combat some time after the tournament is over.
6. It is said that a secret master of a player’s style is going to be present. He may pass on secret techniques to those he judges worthy.

The Battle for Suchenko

A new jump gate has been discovered in a lost system beyond the Known Worlds.  With riches promised, several fleets move in to claim ownership…

Every Tuesday night, the local gaming club hits the Mongoose offices and plays a wide variety of games (consider this an open invitation – they play all sorts!).  A group of us got together and decided to set up a campaign of A Call to Arms: Noble Armada.  For us, it was also a chance to give a last playtest to the Fleets of the Fading Suns supplement.  We drew up a campaign map, and selected fleets.  After much debate, we ended up with the following fleets;

Hazat (that would be me!)
Li Halan
Another Li Halan (sparking an argument about who was the real Li Halan…)

We ended up playing through two camapign turns yesterday evening.  The first turn kicked off and, frankly, we weren’t expecting any action.  This is usually when people just race for territory and set up their starting positions.  However, the second Li Halan fleet took exception to the Kurgan grabbing a gas giant with a hidden base, and a small skirmish kicked off to contest the move.

A 500 point Towering Inferno scenario was rolled up, which the Li Halan cunningly got round by taking a destroyer pumped up with all sorts of upgrades.  This wrong-footed the Kurgan who started off with a single Galliot and then watched as their fleet came on in drips and drabs.  A Mujahidin raider arrived on the battlefield right in front of the destroyer, and was quickly claimed as a prize.  Though they had the advantage in numbers when it came to boarding, the Kurgan could just not bring their fleet to bear, and ended up vacating the gas giant, one ship down.

And that was fine.  However, on the second turn of the campaign, the other Li Halan player had been taking notes on my actions previously. I had sneaked my fleet past everyone and grabbed the jump gate to the entire system, which meant that not only did I get the lion’s share of resources. I was also stopping transports reaching the other players, penalising their earnings!  So, that Li Halan fleet made a beeline for the jump gate, daring any one to make a play for it.  Everyone else scattered about the system but, fool that I am, decided that the jump gate belonged to House Hazat.

We rolled up a Space Superiority match, at 1,500 points.  Considering this was a small campaign where we started off with 2,000 point fleets, this would be a sizeable amount of forces at war and the result would powerfully affect the rest of the campaign for at least one of us.

There was plenty of stellar debris on the table, with a planet in between the opposing forces, and the Li Halan fleet set up in a classic tight broadside formation.  I rather fancied Hazat’s chances, and so set up to attack!

Things went downhill from there.  In fact, I had my rear-end handed to me royally.

What I should have done was delayed my main attack for a turn, using the planet to first shield the majority of my force from Li Halan lasers, then use it to slingshot round straight into his massed fleet.  With four galliots and two cruisers (including the brand new Shamshir strike cruiser) hitting the rear of his force, I could have seized a destroyer, maybe two, and a couple of frigates into the bargain before the rest of his ships could turn round to respond.

Instead, two galliots were blown out of open space before they got within striking range (though it took the combined firepower of the entire Li Halan fleet two turns to do that – gotta love the Close Blast Doors! Special Actions).  Two galliots made it in, diving straight into the middle of the formation (couldn’t reach the back). While they were able to tie up a large amount of his firepower, giving the two cruisers a free turn of bombardment withour real response, they were also immediatly mobbed by the ships travelling in the Li Halan rear, and so the trioops were heavily outnumbered.

The game went on for quite a bit after that, as the Hazat died hard (as they should), but in the end not one Hazat ship left the table alive, leaving me 1,500 points down after the first confrontation.

Yes, that was a mistake!

I will now be spending the next few turns of the campaign trying to make myself look very small while we rebuild and (hopefully) theother players tear each other apart!

At the end of Turn Two, the campaign map looks something like this;

Campaign Turn Two

A Look at A Call to Arms: Star Fleet

We should start seeing some pretty models of space ships in the next week or two (and they will be coming thick and fast!), so now seems right to have a little look at some of the changes we have made to A Call to Arms (whether you are used to Babylon 5 or Noble Armada).  This is by no means a complete list; consider it more a whistle stop tour of the new rules…

Movement Phase
When nominated to move, a ship must be moved in a straight line forward.  No ship can travel more than 12” in a turn, and ships may remain stationary if they wish.

Now that you have your ship in motion, you will at some point want to change the direction of its movement. All ships have a Turn score, which rates how quickly they can turn.  A ship must move forward a number of inches equal to its Turn score before it can make a turn.

A turn can be anything up to 45°.

A ship can turn more than once when it moves, so long as it moves a number of inches in a straight line equal to its Turn score before each turn.  A ship cannot use straight line movement from a previous turn to count towards the distance moved before a turn can be made.

As you can see here, the rules for movement are, if anything, even simpler than before.  The Turn score is no longer how many turns you can make during movement, but how far you must travel before a turn can be made.  A simple change, but far more intuitive.  Also note there is no minimum movement any more – neither needed nor welcomed in the Star Fleet Universe!

Attack Phase
We’ll just look at a few things here…

Fore F – 90 degrees forward
Fore Half FH – 180 degrees forward
Aft A – 90 degrees back
Aft Half AH – 180 degrees back
Port P – 90 degrees left
Port Half PH – 180 degrees Left
Starboard S – 90 degrees right
Starboard Half SH – 180 degrees right
Turret T – 360 degrees all round

If a target lies on the border between two fire arcs, then the attacking player may attack with weapons in both fire arcs.

New fire arcs have been added to cope with the Star Fleet Universe, and the change of rule on what you do if a ship lies between fire arcs makes Federation ships with their FH, PH, and SH phaser banks particularly nasty when they come at you head-on.

A roll of 4 or more on each Attack Dice is a hit.

If a weapon system is firing at a target at greater than half its range, each Attack Dice will suffer a –1 penalty due to the great distance.

Take note: there is no Hull score in this game.  If you can see a ship, it matters little how big or small it is, as the technology is good enough to get the hits.  In fact, with Phasers having the Accurate +2 trait, few of them will miss. Combining this with the new fire arcs means that tactical movement is far more critical in this game, but you still must master the element of chance with the Big Weapons, such as photons.

Every hit will reduce a ship’s remaining shields by one. Any hits that are not absorbed by Shields will go through to the hull.

Shields are not perfect defences, however, and powerful attacks may be able to blast some energy through them.

Every Attack Dice that rolls a 6 will ignore the Shields completely and instead strike the hull directly, rolling on the Attack Table.

Yup, they leak!

Power Drain
Some Special Actions demand a great deal of a ship, so some systems have to be reduced or turned off altogether so enough power remains available to keep a ship flying.  If a Special Action is noted as having Power Drain, then the player must choose one of the following penalties and apply it to his ship.

* May only move up to 6”
*May only fire phasers this turn
*May only fire one weapon system this turn (if the ship only has one weapon system, it may not fire at all)

For a long time in the playtest rules, we had various mechanics that stated if you do Special Action A, then Bad Thing B happens, if you do Special Action C, then Bad Thing B happens, and so on.  A right confusing mess.  In the end, we unified everything under this Power Drain rule, allowing players to decide where their ship’s power would be best used in a turn. For example;

High Energy Turn!
Crew Quality Check: 8
Power Drain: No
Effect: Pushing the ship’s engines to dangerous levels, the Captain orders his ship to turn hard to gain a position of advantage. The ship can increase one turn by up to 180 degrees. If the Crew Quality check is failed, then the ship does not gain an extra turn and automatically increases the Critical Score of its Impulse Drive by +1 for every 45 degrees extra it tried to turn.

Nasty! Moving on, a new universe needs a new set of traits, of course.  Here is a small selection of the new or altered ones;

Agile: The ship can pull very tight turns, allowing it to out-manoeuvre other vessels with ease. This ship can turn 90o whenever it turns, instead of 45o.
Anti-Drone X: Protected by dedicated anti-drone missiles, this ship is all but immune to drone fire.  Roll a dice for every Attack Dice of drones attacking a ship with the Anti-Drone trait.  Each roll of a 2 or more will destroy one Attack Dice of drones.  If any dice roll a 1, an Attack Dice of drones will be destroyed as normal, but the system will then run out of ammunition, reducing the Anti-Drone score by 1. Ships reduced to an Anti-Drone score of 0 will no longer benefit from this trait.
Armour X: Not purely reliant on shields to protect them, some older ships have electro-static capacitors to absorb damage.  The total number of hits from a weapon system against a ship with this trait will be reduced by the Armour score.  Their effects are completely ignored.
Fast: A few ships are specially designed to be faster than normal, trading firepower for increased speed.  A Fast ship may move up to 14” in the Movement Phase, and may move up to 21” if it performs an All Power to Engines! Special Action.
Stealth X: Some ships have superior active stealth systems that can render their ships nearly invisible to their enemies. After an attacker has declared any weapon attacks on this ship, a lock-on must be achieved. For every hit a ship with this trait takes, the owner rolls a dice.  If the dice rolls equal to or greater than the Stealth score, all effects of the hit are completely ignored.

Accurate +X: With superior targeting systems or effects that take little time to travel the gulf of space, these weapons are very accurate and likely to hit their targets. Each Attack Dice rolled for this weapon system adds the Accurate score.
Energy Bleed: This weapon’s power greatly diminishes at long ranges.  If fired at a target over half its Range, it will lose 1 Attack Dice.  If fired at a target over three quarters of its Range, it will lose 3 Attack Dice.
Kill Zone X: This weapon has an optimum range for unleashing its devastation.  Beyond this range its power dwindles but up close, it can be lethal.  If this weapon attacks a target within a number of inches equal to its Kill Zone score it will gain the Multihit 2 trait or, alternatively, double an existing Multihit trait. A Multihit score of D6 will therefore become 2D6.

So, what does all this add up to?  Let’s take a look at a rather familiar ship…

Constitution-class Heavy Cruiser                    180 Points
The workhorse of the Federation, this ship has a good balance of capabilities.  It is more than just a combat ship, as it can conduct research, rescue, and exploration missions, among many other tasks.

Ships of the Class: 1700 Constitution, 1701 Enterprise, 1702 Farragut, 1704 Yorktown, 1706 Exeter, 1707 Hood, 1708 Intrepid, 1709 Valiant, 1711 Potemkin, 1716 Endeavour, 1718 Excelsior

Turn: 6
Shields: 24
Damage: 32/11
Marines: 5
Craft: 4 Shuttles
Traits: Labs 8, Tractor Beam 2, Transporter 3

Weapon  /  Range  /  Arc  /  AD  /  Special
Phaser-1  /  18  /  FH /   2  /  Accurate +2, Kill Zone 8, Precise
Phaser-1  /  18  /  PH /  2  /  Accurate +2, Kill Zone 8, Precise
Phaser-1  /  18  /  SH /   2  /  Accurate +2, Kill Zone 8, Precise
Phaser-1  /  18  /  AH  /  2  /  Accurate +2, Kill Zone 8, Precise
Phaser-3  /  6  /  T  /  2  /  Accurate +1, Kill Zone 2, Precise
Photon Torpedoes  /  15  /  F  /  4  /  Devastating +1, Multihit 4, Reload
Drone  /  36  /  T  /  1  /  Devastating +1, Multihit D6, Seeking

Command Cruiser (CC) Variant (1703 Lexington, 1705 Excalibur)        +25 points
Change AH Phaser-1 to Turret arc.  Add Command +1 trait.

So, what can we tell about this ship?  Well, with Turn 6, it can make two 45 degree turns if it moves at full whack (similar to a Klingon D7, but that ship has the Agile trait, allowing it to turn in tighter).  The Photons and Drones seem to be the ‘sexy’ weapons, but you will quickly find there are several different ways of stopping a Drone hitting you, and Photons have that pesky Reload trait – this time round, not only do you have to skip a turn when firing torpedoes, but you cannot have made a Special Action in the turn previous either.  In practice, Drones are best used to help overwhelm an enemy’s defences, while Photons are superb at the ‘final strike,’ when you have brought down an enemy’s shields completely and are wanting to burn him from stem to stern!  With 4 Attack Dice and Multihit 4, the Constitution-class is more than capable of delivering a death blow to a weakened ship.

That leaves the Phasers, with a mere 2 Attack Dice each.  Don’t sound very exciting?  Well, let’s take a closer gander.  A range of 18 is perfectly respectable in the Star Fleet Universe (you’ll note Photons do not stretch that far), and the fire arcs are pretty wide.  In fact, if the Constitution faces an enemy head on, it can get 6 Attack Dice of phaser on target.  With Accurate +2, you need just a 2 or more to hit at short range; get within 8″ and that Kill Zone 8 trait will kick in, effectively giving the phasers Multihit 2.  That makes an average of 10 Shields knocked down in one salvo, which will halve the shields of a lesser ship or completely strip a smaller one bare (see previous comment about Photons).  Once the shields are down (or even before that, as they do ‘leak’), that Precise trait will bring a good crop of critical hits your way.

The phaser-3 battery is not much cop, admitedly and though it may get used in those ‘kitchen sink’ moments, these weapons tend to be kept in reserve, not fired unless the ship gets surprised by a Drone or Plasma Torpedo – then that little pop gun can make all the difference!

You’ll also notice some other things we have not covered in this preview; with the Labs 8 trait, the Constitution is a serious scientific vessel, able to garner data quickly and efficiently – and yes, we have suitable scenarios in the core book to do just that! It has a good number of Transporters, allowing hit and run boarding actions against unshielded opponents, and a decent amount of Tractor Beams to either cause enemy ships problems, or to be used as a defence against Drones or shuttles that get too close (some of them explode, you know!).

Overall, the Constitution is a good, solid ship, equally at home on its own or within a tight battle formation.  The addition of the Command Cruiser variant is just the cherry on the cake!

Next time – we plumb the mysteries of the Advanced Rules chapter and cast a critical eye on another vessel…

Vehicle Handbook for Traveller

** Disclaimer: These rules are as the current draft, and may change (again) before release  **

Supplement 5-6:  The Vehicle Handbook has changed a great deal since it was first commissioned.  As it stands, the design system itself is currently in the latter stages of playtest, and it is about ready to take you on a walkthrough of how the system works.

This book has become what we call a Christmas Tree Project (where everybody wants to hang something off it), a real magnet for ideas.  When the playtesting started in ernest, those ideas came in thick and fast.  ‘I want to create a high TL rickshaw for a frontier world,’ someone would cry, and we would sit back, smug, knowing that was already possible.  Then someone else would say ‘so what about Jabba’s Sail Barge, but one really driven by the wind?’  Ah. Missed that one.

What has become clear is that we could spend a year playtesting this book and constantly adding new ideas as they occur, but that would do no one any good.  Instead, I think you can expect to see a lot of free material and add-ons for this title after release.

Not that it is in anyway incomplete.  From primitive wood and straw carts pulled by muscle-power alone to high tech pilotless drones, grav rail trains and aerodynes, we have a great deal of ground covered.  Oh, and we threw in a complete Battle Dress design system as well, with possibilities ranging from small and light industrial skeletons that just give a small Strength boost to something just shy of a Space Marine dreadnought (which would actually be a Walker in the design system).

Anyway, on with the showcasing of the system!

The Design Process
We wanted the design system to be comprehensive, but also extremely easy and fast to use.  Designed by Colin Dunn (also behind the forthcoming 2300AD), the new system does exactly this.  After a brief introduction, you will turn the page and be presented with a Crash Course in Vehicle Design, which walks you through the necessary steps;

Step 1: Choose a Chassis Type
Step 2: Chassis Modifications
Step 3: Add Armour
Step 4: Weapons and Weapon Mounts
Step 5: Add Modifications
Step 6: Fill in vehicle roster sheet

And that is all you need to do.  Let’s take a real example (remembering that these figures are from a playtest draft and may change upon release!).  Let us say we wanted to create a nice family sports saloon for the late 21st Century. Let’s build Jaguar’s next car!

We’ll assume TL 8 for this vehicle (and TL is a big factor in vehicle design, as it automatically – and seamlessly – alters the materials and power systems used of the vehicle, along with adjusting how various modifications work).

We have to pick a Chassis Type at first.  This will obviously be a Light Ground Vehicle (it travels on the ground, and is not a big lorry or truck).  We already note in the book that a typical ground car has 5 ‘Spaces’.  This is a Jaguar, so we’ll give it 8 Spaces (Jaguar owners will make some sort of joke now about about only 2 of those Spaces being available for luggage and passengers…).

Consulting the Light Ground Vehicle Chassis page, we can immediatly find out that this will cost us Cr. 9,600 (at this stage, this is also called the Base Cost) and will result in a car with Hull 4 and Structure 4. At this stage, the car will have a top speed of 120 km/h and a range of 400 km.  Clearly, the speed will have to be improved, though the range may be generous!

At this stage, we can also make some changes directly to ther chassis – make it a motorcycle (or mono-wheel!), give it additional wheels, off-road capability, tracks, and so forth. However, none of those are really needed here.

Next, add armour. At TL 8, we have a Base Armour of 3, and I don’t see the need to improve it.  We could increase it to maybe 9 to make it an armoured ‘government’ car, but we’ll leave that for now.  Armour 3 is good for us. And we won’t put any weapons on the civilian model either.

Modifications next, and there are lots of these to choose from.  First off, a great big super-charged engine (Jaguar do have an electric car – powered by gas turbines – in the works, but let’s go Old Skool for this one, and make a ‘proper’ XJR). Let’s increase Speed by 80% for a start – this will take it up to 216 km/h, at a cost of 8 Spaces.  We will then decrease the fuel capacity (we could just as easily decrease fuel efficiency instead, but we need to claw back some space), by 30%, leaving us with a range of 280 km/h.  A little generous, if you ask me, but that gives us 3 Spaces back.

4 Spaces will be taken up by passengers and the driver (we won’t go Double Occupancy on this car, leaving that for the minis driven by students instead…) and, currently, 1 Space left for cargo, or about 250 Kg or thereabouts.  Again, if you have seen the boot (trunk) of a Jaguar, that is probably generous!

This is a Jaguar, however, so we’ll add some toys.  Advanced Controls with drive-by wire steering and brakes, along with a heads-up display, will set up back Cr. 10,960, but increase Agility to +1.

We’ll skip past the fission plants, explosive belts, and life support options, however useful they may be getting to Sainsbury’s on a Saturday afternoon.

A Sat Nav would be standard of course, coming in at Cr. 2,000 and let’s give it an integrated comms unit (mobile phone to you and me) at Cr. 500. Let’s give it basic sensors as well (they already have radar these days), at a cost of Cr. 5,000.

Moving through the options, we’ll ignore modifications for Stealth and ejection seats… However, we’ll take a Cr. 4,000 entertainment system and a Cr. 500 fire extinguisher system. We alos make a note to do a stretched limo version of this car later, with a 3 person hot tub in the back (if you have to ask why a three person tub, you are too young to read this…).

So, we are left with;

New Model Jaguar XJ Cr. 32,060
Hull 4, Structure 4
Speed 216, Range 280
Agility +1, Armour 3

Advanced Controls, Basic Navigation, Basic Communications, Basic Sensors, Entertainment System, Fire Extingusher.

Simple as that! Just start off with a base chassis, and you can layer pretty much anything you want on top. Tanks with steam engines? No problem.  Airships powered by aimed beams of energy shot into the sky?  Already in there. There is a huge range of potential in this book, and much, much more begging to be added afterwards as players come up with some really weird and wonderful designs!

Pop along to our forums if you have any suggestions for vehicles, and if you want to be in front of the queue for this book, simply visit its page!