Archive for April, 2010

Intercept bundle update

Posted in Design system, Intercept, Rules on April 29, 2010 by Mr Backman

I have made some changes to the rules, mostly regarding Sensors. There were also some changes to the missiles, especially the larger ones. These changes are in the new rulebook as well as the new Data.xls file. Just replace your old Data.xls with the new one and all your designs will be updated. You can download the Intercept bundle here. Sensors had some changes in terminology and how radar works, the integration bonus rule also changed. Missiles now have a -2G penalty for being cold launch instead of the -1 before, and the larger missiles endurance was reduced, the missiles also got longer control range to fit the range bands. The initiative rules was cleared up a bit and a tie breaker for better control stations was added (Bridge stations > Full stations > Limited stations, mostly to rationalise why warships have such large bridges).

I have not made any changes to Ship.xls as such updates are more troublesome for my users. When I get around to it I will add a Very large turret option (taking x10 the Large turret of weapons) and adding a Very small laser of 5 MW mainly for use as point defense against missiles. I should also do something about fuel purifier, skimmer, cracker, and methane converters. These babies would allow a ship to store liquid Ammonia or Methane instead of the usual liquid Hydrogen to pack more fuel per m3. The drawback would be that you must convert it into hydrogen before you can use it for the jump drive. My take on the mysterious Fuel purifier is that Jump drives use hydrogen not as fuel but as matter to build up the jump field, and that Hydrogen that has been purified from Deuterium and traces Helium etc work better. Finally, I should also add some kind of energy storage banks so you can build ships that must power up their banks before they can fire, Attack vector style.

If someone wants anything added, changed or explained please use the Comment feature, I will gladly answer any questions regarding Intercept, I am a bit surprised about the lack of comments given the number of downloads and views. Come on guys and girls, don’t be shy.

Move along, there is nothing interesting here. I am a perfectly normal human worm-baby.

Intercept summary

Posted in Intercept, Rules on April 26, 2010 by Mr Backman

On the surface, Intercept is nothing more than the old game Battleships with vector movement. You take turns asking your opponent if he is In a certain area of the map while moving around with your ship. If you spot him you have one turn of attacks with impunity and then he’ll know where you are turning the game into a dogfight.

Moving your ship is governed by something called vector movement which may take some time to get the hang of. Count out your last move again and mark that square as your Drift position, this is where you will end up if you don’t thrust. Your ship has the same nose direction as your last turn (it does not need to coincide with the direction you travel). From your drift position you turn your ship to the direction you want to thrust (the ships size determine how much you can turn each turn) and then apply thrust. This is your ships new position and it will form the basis for your next turns drift. Easy.

If one or more targets are Spotted there might be combat but early in the game, before any Spotting,  movement is typically directly followed by Sensors. Using sensors simply consist of you choosing a square area on the map that your ship can see and ask your opponent if you see anything. Odd turns you do it first and on even turns he do it first. You tell him the location, radius, Effect and type that your opponent should check against. If his ship is outside the area he tells you nothing (after a suitable pause) but if his ship is inside the area he must check for detection. He adds your Scan (Sensor + Scan radius modifier) to his Signature (based on his ship data) to get the Signal.

Scan = Sensor + Scan radius modifier (calculated by senser)

Signal = Scan+ Signature (calculated by target)

  • A Signal of less than 0 means you see nothing
  • A Signal of 0-2 means Noticed (you know something is out there but not what or where)
  • A Signal of 3-5 means Detected (you know where it is but you cannot track or shoot it)
  • Signal of 6+ means that the target is Spotted. Spotted means the target must, from now on, do its movement before unspotted ships and in plain sight on the common map, it also means that you can attack it.

Spotted is lost only when none of your ships have Line Of Sight to the Spotted target. Before anyone gets Spotted you plot your movement in secret and take turns sensing first or last. When someone is Spotted we use the Initiative rules to determine in what order things should be done in. This is really important in Intercept because attacks and damage take effect directly – shoot someone and he may never be able to shoot back. Spotted ships have lowest Initiative, ties are broken by lowest turn value. High initiative moves last and attacks first given the high initiative ship advantages in both cases.

Combat then. There are two broad classes of weapons in Intercept; beam weapons and missiles. Beam weapons (they all fire pulses despite their name) are lasers, particle beams and so-called meson guns. They all fire pulses of energy in a straight line at or near the speed of light. Missiles on the other hand attack by impacting on the target and inflicting damage from kinetic energy.

Firing beam weapons at a target is done by rolling 2D6 vs a number based on range, target size and various other factors. The degree that the roll succeeded is called the Hitmargin and affects defensive systems, armor penetration and damage.

  • A Hitmargin of less than 0 means you missed the target, no effect.
  • A Hitmargin of 0-2 is a Fair hit. Roll Penetration and Damage with lowest of 2D6, hitlocation is random.
  • A Hitmargin of 3-5 is a Good hit. Roll 1D6 for penetration and Damage and the attack arc determines the hitlocation.
  • A Hitmargin of 6+ is a Very Good hit. Penetration and Damage use the highest of 2D6 and the attacker can choose the hitlocation.

All beam attacks, whether they hit or not, automatically have you Spotted by the target. The attacker rolls his attack rolls and note the Hitmargin, the defender then roll defense rolls if any and his result will reduce the hitmargin of the attack. If the defense get equal or better degree of success (Fair, Good or VGood) than the attacker the attack is stopped, otherwise the attack continues to Penetration and Damage.

Missile attacks must maneuver the missile onto the target location (missiles move after all ships) and then roll to find a hit margin as above. Defenses will try to beat that Degree of success to avert the missile attack but if they fail, Penetration and Damage are rolled for in the same manner as for beam weapons. Missiles have their PEN and DAM affected by the relative vector versus the target; high relative speed and it is harder to hit, harder to defend against, will penetrate better and do more damage, the opposite is also true.

For Penetration one compares the PEN of the weapon versus the ARM of the target to get a number that must be equal or better on a die roll (use the best of 1D6 or 2D6 depending on Degree of success). If the attack penetrated we roll for damage by comparing the weapon DAM versus the DAB of the target. You get a basic damage level and a number that must be equal or better on a die roll (use the best of 1D6 or 2D6 depending on Degree of success). The result is one of the damage levels

  • None Target location is unaffected
  • Light Target location is lightly damaged, generally suffering a -1 to values or die rolls.
  • Severe Target location is severely damaged, generally suffering a -3 to values or die rolls.
  • Critical Target location is critically damaged, generally no longer useable but still repairable.
  • Destroyed Target location is destroyed and cannot be repaired. Destroyed Hull hits destroy the target utterly, destroyed results elsewhere give an additional damage roll for a Hull hit.

Any damage result above None remove the jury rig repairs of the location, if any. Use the highest damage level of the attack and the current level. A new damage of equal level increases damage one step.

  • No damage No effect and keep jury rigs
  • New damage lower Keep previous damage, jury rigs lost.
  • New damage equal Damage become one level higher and all jury rigs are lost.
  • New damage higher Use new the damage, all jury rigs are lost.

Well, this is basically what Intercept is with all the detail removed. Intercept also has its own design system so you can build your own ships at various tech levels to see if your theories on the ultimate design bears out in practice.

Relativistic effects are the Universe’s apology for setting the lightspeed too low.

Intercept Line-Of-Sight tutorial

Posted in Intercept, Rules, Scenarios on April 17, 2010 by Mr Backman

The rules for Line-Of-Sight (LOS) are important in Intercept as they govern when you can be seen and when you cannot. In this post I’ll do a step by step that deals with planet LOS, aft centerline and the sun direction. I will cover these in detail but I won’t bother with any actual sensor signatures, scan radius etc. The basic assumption here is that your ship is undetectable when drifting and automatically spotted when thrusting unless you happen to be on the enemies aft arc (as the enemy will always be drifting he should in reality be able to trace LOS through his aft centerline), on his sun direction row or have the LOS blocked by the planet.

Situational report

Well, you are the commander of a UFO that has just finished its mission on earth (anal probing, crop circling, abductions, the usual boring mission) and now it is time for you to exit the solar system undetected. Galactic law allows meddling in human affairs as long as you are never spotted by astronauts, astronomers and similar creatures and the problem is that the humans have put up a space station, known to them as ISS, that is filled with just such beings. If your UFO get spotted the galactics will revoke your license and your Emperor will be most unhappy. Luckily enough your UFO is equipped with a stealth device that make it invisible to all sensors when it is not thrusting. When it thrusts though, all that pent-up heat is radiated away and makes your UFO easily detectable even with the puny telescopes of the ISS station.

You will start your mission in the same orbit as the IIS but on the other side of the planet. You are then to cleverly thrust away from Earth until you leave the map area and can engage your warp drive. In Intercept terms you will have a 1G ship with unlimited endurance that can only thrust when the LOS between you and ISS is blocked from Earth, the sun direction or the ISS rear centerline (the ISS should be able to scan the aft centerline as it is never thrusting but the silly humans put their urine and feces ejection system to eject in the aft centerline so no one will use telescopes in that direction, out of modesty.

Your UFO is currently 1,0 facing SW and the ISS is in -1,0 facing NE. Your gravity assisted drift will take you to 0,-1 and the ISS will drift t 0,1. You decide to turn your ship three steps right so it will face towards S and you will then thrust 1G so your destination will be 0,-2 facing S. After movement is taken care of we must should look and see if the ISS can see us. It is fairly obvious that the LOS is blocked from the planet but let’s see what the Intercept rules actually say about planet LOS.

Centerline blocks entire opposite arc.
Left half arc blocks opposite right halfarc and opposite centerline.
Right half arc blocks opposite left halfarc and opposite centerline.

ISS is on the N centerline which means LOS is blocked to the entire S arc (and vice versa as we are on the centerline too). Incidentally, we are now in Earth’s shadow our Visual(Hull) sig would be reduced by -6. OK so far so good, let’s see what happens next turn. Drift and gravity will take the ISS to 1,1 and our UFO will have its drift at -1,-3 facing S before we apply thrust. We decide to thrust directly to east to get inside the SW arc.

The ISS is on the NE centerline so the entire SW arc should be blocked because Centerline blocks entire opposite arc. We are in the right SW half arc so the NE centerline should be blocked because Right half arc blocks opposite left halfarc and opposite centerline. Can we keep thrusting with blocked LOS or do we have to drift for the next turn? (keep in mind that our UFO is entirely invisible, very much unlike TOS Romulans whose cloaking device only cloaked vision so the clever mr Kirk could still shoot using his sensors). The ISS will be in the W arc so we’ll do our best to get into the E arc and thanks to gravity we are able to do just that.

As you can see from the image, without gravity our drift would be at the x position and our puny 1G acceleration would never get us into the W arc, thank you mr Newton! ISS is on the E centerline so the entire W arc is blocked, and vice versa. So far so good. In the next turn the ISS will move into the S arc and there is no way that we will be able to get into the N arc with our 1G thrust so we will drift for a couple a couple of turns instead. Note that the Intercept rules dictate that Gravity range = Surface gravity x 6 so the gravity well around Earth is 6 squares, beyond which there is no gravity.

We will not be in an opposite arc of the ISS so let’s drift some more shall we.

When the ISS is in the W arc we should finally be able to do some thrusting to finally break free of Earth’s gravitational hold.

The ISS is finally in the W arc so whatever we do inside the E arc will be our little secret. We turn our UFO around 4 steps and thrust 1G to 7,-3. You should know by now that when the ISS is on an arc centerline the entire opposite arc is blocked for LOS, we just barely made it still inside the E arc. The captain aboard the UFO pats his pilot on the back, careful not to disturb his dflrghm.

We are now free of Earth’s gravity pull and can just coast all the way off the map where we can engage our warp drive and the pilot can finally jkhdga his dflrghm. Here’s a shot of our UFO three turns from moving off the map, notice how our trajectory no longer curves when drifting as we are no longer subject to gravity.

The entire escape off the map took 17 turns or 4 hours and 15 minutes to use Earth time units. When the UFO got back their homesystem the Emperor was much pleased with the anal probings, crop circlings and abductions, the crew were to keep their heads this time too. During the following photosession a young alien reporter went up to the celebrities and ask them why it took 17 geflerms (4 hours 15 minutes) to escape the planet. The pilot just started to answer when the commander hushed him and said: “Well, because it is impossible to do it faster without becoming detected by the primitives in their space station”

Can YOU do better? Send an e-mail with a turn by turn account for how you would fly the UFO without detection giving the same starting positions and vectors as outlined above. Remember that ISS aft centerline and ISS sun direction also block LOS in this scenario. Write your solution to (replace the fnord with your favourite cinnamon-bun like character). There may be a price!

May your dflrghm be jkhdga, always!

Ready made ship designs

Posted in Design system, Intercept, Traveller on April 15, 2010 by Mr Backman

Hopefully, some of you have had time to fiddle around with the design system but judging from the lack of questions in the chat I kind of doubt that. I have whipped together some designs of popular ships in the Traveller universe, you can download them here, they have been updated 2010-05-31.

They are all made with the 1dTon = 5 m3 option so you may have to convert them to regular dTons. Simply edit the values of all dark yellow cells as follows:

  • Change the topleft cell to read 14 or whatever value the dTon is in your version of Traveller.
  • Divide the hull volume value by 5.
  • Divide the powerplant output by 25.
  • Divide the cargo volume and hangar volume by 5.
  • Divide the living space by 5.

The ship designs were quickly made and especially the Azhanti may need some serious rethinking. I have written down some notes for each design so you understand why the look as they do.

Azhanti This ship was just whipped out and it has never been playtested. It requires way too much technicians compared to canon and you may have to add robots to reduce the crew to something more reasonable. Consider the design as a starting point for your own version.

Cutter This is a 50 dTon design with 25 dTon modules. It can do 2G loaded and nearly 3.5 Gs unloaded. The cutter is sometimes used for interplanetary missions so I added large crew stations and enough living area for a cramped one week tour. The cutter has a small turret and that can be fitted with up to 1 m3 weaponry if needed. The fuel scoops allow it to use fuel modules without the need for each and every one of them needing fuel scoops.

Donosev The Donosev is interesting because it has such a vast array of sensors, I gave it every kind of sensor there is and the Visual/IR is huge, with as Scan of +5.

Launch This is the launch for the subsidized merchant. It has only a 1G floater to keep the power requirements to a minimum. It uses its 2G fusion drive for thrusting with enough fuel for 30 GTurns, it has fuel scoops so its fusion drive can cut down on fuel consumption and radioactive exhaust by running in airbreather mode while inside an atmosphere. I gave it a small turret so it can be armed if needed. My youngest daughter has one of these with a missile launcher and IMTU no one has ever heard of an armed Launch so it has seen a fair amount of space battles.

Subsidized merchant I always wondered why it had wings when it obviously (from Keith drawings) also had at least a floater. I figured that the floater was only capable of lifting the ship unloaded. Fully loaded it needs an atmosphere to take off and enough runway to reach its 161 km/h stallspeed. The fusion drive works in airbreather mode when inside an atmosphere to cut down on fuel and to cool the exhaust. The fusion drive has only 10 GTurns of fuel and this should be enough for planet to -> jump point and jump point to -> planet, the reaction mass might need adjusting upwards. I think the oldtimer in Pilot’s handbook that never trusted subs crews was wrong; they are better spacers than any of those lazy reactionless drive softies.

Suleiman scout There is not much to say there really as it has been extensively covered in the DIY starship 1 – 4. Probably the best player ship in Traveller, in my humble opinion.

SDB Burgund The SDB has extreme stealth against Visual/IR, can take a lot of pounding on hits thick hull and can dish out missiles forever. It lacks any kind of stealth against radar, neutrino and mass sensors. The captain is supposed to run popped in, drifting with floorfield off and powerplant on idle. It takes a special kind of person to crew an SDB, more like submarine crews than surface Navy.

Rampart fighter This is also just a quick sketch. The attack tactic is to come at the target with good speed, launch the missiles and as the fighter drifts the pilot/gunner steers the missiles onto the target with enough relative vector to gain that bonus on PEN and DAM, Rocketpunk manifesto calls these kind of fighters for Lancers.  Fighter pilots know they will be eaten for breakfast in a real war with the Zhodani so the Navy give so slack while on base. 45 % of mess brawls are started by fighter pilots.

Well, at least I have given you some ideas on how to do Traveller designs in the Intercept design system. If you want an interesting match I suggest pitting a subsidized merchant with an armed launch against a single Suleiman to see how that fares. The Suleiman has a huge tech advantage but the little launch can spin circles around the scout and the trader can soak up quite a lot of damage due to its bulk.

8 minutes to the sun – is space too big or lightspeed too slow, or both?