Merchant Fleets of the Frontier

ExileInParadise's picture
ExileInParadise
January 25, 2017 - 8:51pm
Tom Stephen's article "How Many Ships Are There?" in Frontier Explorer 10 calculated that the SCC's on the Frontier could maintain somewhere between 1200-1700 shuttles, system ships, and starships across the Frontier, with 1500 being a likely number.

This broke down evenly as ~87-88 ships per system or ~67 per planet.

I've been thinking about this a little differently and thought I would share what I've been thinking.

Frontier worlds are graded on population scale of Outpost, Light, Moderate, or Heavy.

I've been trying to put numbers to that and have come with:

 Population
Option 1
Option 2
 Heavy> 1 billion
>1 billion
 Moderate 1 million to 1 billion
100 million to 1 billion
 Light 100,000 - 1 million
10 million to 100 million
 Outpost< 100,000
 < 10 million

Just keep in mind that a planet is a big place and 10 million is something like the population of London.

Thinking in these system population terms, I created a distribution of spacecraft by population code, giving heavier population worlds larger fleets:

 PopulationSpacefleet Size
 Heavy120
 Moderate60
 Light30
 Outpost
10

In the Alpha Dawn Frontier Worlds table, there are the following breakdown of systems:
7 Heavy (840 ships total), 8 Moderate (480 ships total), 4 Light (120 ships total), and 3 Outpost (30 ships total)

All together, that comes to a grand total of 1470 ships which is in line with the "How Many Ships Are There?" article.

Next, I came up with an arbitrary distribution of ship types of 60% shuttles, 30% system ships, and 10% starships in each merchant fleet.

That means a heavy population world could have around 72 shuttles, 36 system ships, and 12 starships.
A moderate population world could have 36 shuttles, 18 system systems, and 6 starships.
A lightly populated world could have 18 shuttles, 9 system ships, and 3 starships.
Outposts would muster 6 shuttles, 3 system ships, and 1 starship.

In all, these distributions and resulting numbers seem okay, but maybe that is just me.

Finally, the real fun comes when adding up systems that have multiple worlds with different populations such as Cassidine:
World
Shuttles
System Ships
Starships
 Rupert's Hole (MIA)
36
18
6
 Triad (HI)
72
36
12
 Totals108 shuttles
54 system ships
18 starships

Thoughts? What did I miss?
Comments:

JCab747's picture
JCab747
January 25, 2017 - 10:41pm
Hi Exile:

Here's an earlier discussion thread for you:


which deals with revising the population codes.

I haven't followed through yet on Jedion's recommendation to look at the other planetary codes yet.
Joe Cabadas

rattraveller's picture
rattraveller
January 26, 2017 - 5:28am
I can agree with most of your numbers except for the system ships. A system with only one inhabited planet would not really need alot of system ships if any. Merchant ships transport goods from place to place. If there is nowhere else in the system to go you would not have an economic incentive to have any system ships. If you are including non-cargo ships such as asteriod mining vessels (the Nostromo) and passenger ships then this might balance things out.

However I do have to ask why are these numbers so low? In the real world their are hundreds if not thousands of merchant ships compared to combat ships. If you are including tugs, ferries, trawlers, recovery ships, small transport boats and the many other types of small coastal vessels as your shuttles and system ships then a light planet only having 18 shuttles or 1 per 5,556 beings in option 1 low end or 1 per 5,555,556 beings option 2 high end is really low.
Sounds like a great job but where did you say we had to go?

Shadow Shack's picture
Shadow Shack
January 26, 2017 - 7:57am
One would also have to take into account oribtal stations that are present to maintain ships. This may be unlikely for an outpost world, whose only ships are HS:3 or less (or the silly HS:5 or less system ship rule in canon) atmospheric capable vessels at a land based starport.
No, I'm not overly fond of Zeb's Guide. Nor do I have any qualms in stating why. Tongue out

My SF website

sevanwint's picture
sevanwint
January 26, 2017 - 9:43am
My gut feeling is that the number is off by an order of magnitude. Tom's math is correct using the cannon; the problem is with the cannon material. I don't think the designers tried to consider how many ships there would be. They were just writing an interesting background . There are almost 10,000 bulk carriers on earth alone. A short drive (for me) to the Houston Ship Channel kind of drives the point home. 

Remember it is the "frontier." Think of the west during the american expansion, and railroads as an example. There were alot of locomotives in the west, but they were all build in Pennsylvania and New York. Perhaps there are lots of ships on the frontier, but most of them were build on the "home worlds." (If you want to go that route). 

Shadow Shack's picture
Shadow Shack
January 26, 2017 - 7:26pm
Considering the prerequisite skills and the high XP expenditures for ship skills, I would say canon intent was to keep the number of ships on the low side. Case in point: ten out of 27 AD worlds had defensive fleets --- be it Space Fleet or planetary militias --- for the Second Sathar War, the other 17 worlds were essentially defenseless.

Granted a GM could hand-wave the defenseless worlds by having civilian ships which would easily outnumber the available warships, if any were so inclined to be pressed into service...which would still be a slaughter against a small detachment of Sathar warships. My handwave rule is permitting one 6 fighter squadron per population rank (with a half-squadron for outpost worlds).
No, I'm not overly fond of Zeb's Guide. Nor do I have any qualms in stating why. Tongue out

My SF website

jedion357's picture
jedion357
January 26, 2017 - 8:54pm
KHs book does talk about some planets having an unlimited number of of ICM available so not all of the planets are defenseless.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

TerlObar's picture
TerlObar
January 27, 2017 - 7:12am
Yes, my article was completely based on the canon rules.  And I agree that it's a bit low.  As Shadow Shack said, I think the intent was to keep spaceship relatively rare.  There are probably a number of other places that ships could be built/maintained beyond the SCCs listed in the rule.  You could take the SCCs listed as the "public" access ones where PC's could get things done and assume there are a number of other government and corporate locations not listed.

Maybe I'll sit down and revisit that article with some possible expansions.  I can see a number of ground based constructions centers for anything HS 5 or smaller and as Shadow Shack mentioned a number of maintenance centers that can't build ships but do the annual maintenance.  That last alone would allow for a much large total number of ships.

I will say that I like the idea of ships being rare in my setting so I don't mind the limited number of ships.  It has a lot of implications for the economics that the rules don't take into account.
Ad Astra Per Ardua!
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ExileInParadise's picture
ExileInParadise
January 27, 2017 - 7:39pm
@rattraveler I am going to have to disagree with you on the system ships - Sol system has 1 habitable planet, yet I can easily see a future of system ships crossing the solar system for commerce, science, and such, not even counting the colonization aspects.

But, for a canon Star Frontiers model - Liberty system only has Snowball, yet had L4, L5 stations, asteroid mining and more not counting the IMPP.

However, I do agree in part with the idea that systems with only one habitable planet probably have more starships in the mix and fewer system ships, while the converse is true for multiplanet systems which can trade with each other.

I would be rather straightforward to have two "mixes" of ships, but I have not gotten that far. My next thought is to vary the mix by +/- a d10 or two for each planet or system just to vary the percentages more interestingly. Not all Heavy pop systems would have exactly and only 72 shuttles each. There needs to be variability.

However, I posted this up more to see what people thought of extending Tom's excellent framework based on population modeled in the canon. And that part seems like folks agree on the principle, but (like all good GMs) each has their own style when it comes to how to exactly implement it.

And, for the raw numbers, I like the HS5 or less groundside construction and maintenance idea - to pull most of the shuttle load out of the SCCs if nothing else.

From the economic model of the canon Frontier I am building, the true limits of the Frontier are in cargo tonnage moved between systems with imports... assuming you use the Tote That Barge numbers as close-enough-for-canon.

When you factor ship mix, ship numbers, and world population, just hauling the cargos does need an order of magnitude more ships... there's only about 20% of the needed ships IF you made the unrealistic assumption that every intersystem cargo hauler packed on 20 hull spaces of cargo every trip.

From my estimations and assumptions, there needs to be at least 5 x more HS 20 cargo haulers just to meet the import demands listed in Tote That Barge.

rattraveller's picture
rattraveller
January 29, 2017 - 8:14am

Sol system might be that way but it is working from the inside to the outside while the Frontier worlds are working from the outside to the inside.

Since these are colony worlds which are barely explored there will not be alot of "going out into the unknown" of space which is high risk while there is plenty of much lower risk exploration and resource exploitation to do on planet then off.

Also there will not be the infrastructure to support any large groups of in system ships. Any space based support would be dedicated to supporting the necessary supply and trading ships the colony world will need for the first few decades of its existance while it is getting started. Using the North and South American colonies as an example, the first colonies did not keep alot of coastal vessels and depended on the ocean going vessels from the mother lands for support until they had established large enough populations and industrial bases to support making there own ships.

Remember a ship is an empty piece of metal (or wood) that must be filled with thousands of specialty items before it can function as a space craft. It would be a great economic investment for a new colony to have a system ship delivered for the limited commerce it could provide when that investment would reap greater rewards on planet.

Sounds like a great job but where did you say we had to go?

iggy's picture
iggy
January 29, 2017 - 8:18am
However, the frontier worlds are no longer in contact with the home worlds.   This forces them to be self sufficient.
-iggy

rattraveller's picture
rattraveller
January 29, 2017 - 9:52am
Yeppers and have less support from the mother lands mean less access to the technology needed for space travel and more concentration on the colony and not the immediate surroundings so less need or desire for system ships on outpost and light population worlds. Thanks for agreeing with me Iggy.
Sounds like a great job but where did you say we had to go?

iggy's picture
iggy
January 29, 2017 - 11:41am
Space is a harsh environment.  Without support form the homeworlds they will need to focus on building ships to replace the ones that stellar radiation is deteriorating.  Also it is wrong to assume that the colonists are less technically capable than their counterparts at home.  And being isolated from your home system(s) is a great cause of desire to expand space capability and seek out home and other backup places to survive.
-iggy

JCab747's picture
JCab747
January 29, 2017 - 3:59pm
iggy wrote:
Space is a harsh environment.  Without support form the homeworlds they will need to focus on building ships to replace the ones that stellar radiation is deteriorating.  Also it is wrong to assume that the colonists are less technically capable than their counterparts at home.  And being isolated from your home system(s) is a great cause of desire to expand space capability and seek out home and other backup places to survive.

Yes, the Frontier would be the "only game in town" for the Core Four colonists.
Joe Cabadas

rattraveller's picture
rattraveller
January 30, 2017 - 12:47am
Technology is based on industrial base. If you are in a Frontier you do not the industrial base on outpost and light population worlds to support ships. They would be a luxury not a necessity. Think in terms of the of the Wild West. Cities along the East Coast of America at that time were electrifying, installing phones in homes, indoor plumbing, street cars etc, meanwhile towns in the middle of the country were just trying to attract population, maybe pave the streets and hoping a rail line would be put in.
Sounds like a great job but where did you say we had to go?

iggy's picture
iggy
January 30, 2017 - 10:30am
Yet the industrial base is there.  Several worlds with heavy population and 200+ years of estabishment without the home worlds has made it so.  Take for example Minotaur, a heavy population industrial world with a city that rings the planet along the equator.  Any city that big means that a heavy population is on the order of Earth now and hence the industrial capadility is fully developed.  The frontier is called the frontier because it is away from the home worlds and free from their politics.  Also with the lifespans of the races being so long they have memory of when it was new.  However the kids are growing up in megacities and studying history as old as any kid in the United States.   Frontier is a mindset to them of freedom not physical condition. 
-iggy

jedion357's picture
jedion357
January 30, 2017 - 12:20pm
According to cannon (not Zebs) the history on Clarion is several centuries deep.

So we are talking about a mature colony with industrial capacity to develope atomic fuel let alone its petroleum industry.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

JCab747's picture
JCab747
January 30, 2017 - 12:40pm
As we all know (I think), the Zebs timeline is deeply flawed. Sorry to repeat myself, but it ignores much of the "history" that the modules gave. Just look at Dark Side of the Moon, for example. The module says that human colonists from White Light came to Kraatar 200 years ago... but, Zebs says White Light was discoverd in 60 PF...

It's rather hard to found a colony some 200 years in the past if the planet that the colonists originated from wasn't even "discovered."

While there are concepts that are salvageable from the Zebs timeline, it seems the original intent of some of the game designers was that the Frontier had been settled for a lot longer than 200 years. Warriors of the White Light mentions 400 years for its royal line alone.

So, there aren't people still around who remember the Frontier's young days.

The lifespans given for the Core Four might be more of a reflection of the Frontier's current technological level on worlds like Gran Quivera. But, whose to say that a Frontier human born in 100 PF had that 200 year average life span? Maybe it was a lot shorter. 

Plus, whose to say a colonist on Laco is going to reach that potential maximum lifespan? Maybe the maximum (or average) lifespan given is for those one percenters who can afford all the latest Frontier medical care.

Anyway, just a little food for thought.  
Joe Cabadas

iggy's picture
iggy
January 30, 2017 - 11:46pm
I follow the Alpha Dawn story that the humans of Star Frontiers are like Earth humans but not related to Earth humans.  Thus I take 200 years to be a normal lifespan for them.  So I see 400 years to be in the societal consciousness like 190 years (2*65) is to us.  A typical American identifies easily with 1827 compared to 1617 because this is within the family, regional, and national relevant history.  1617 is far enough back that the history is not very relevant.  So for a species that lives 200 years a very old settled world is more than 400 years.

I have wondered many times if SF humans have children much later than us?  Otherwise it would be common to go visit great great great grandma and play with her kid your age (great great great uncle).  This is where the White Light royalty could pass the throne every 20 years or so to avoid the issues of passing the crown down four or so generations at a time.  Think of the sovereign receiving the crown at say 170 years of age and passing it at death to the eldest child, or maybe at 160 and retiring ten years before death.
-iggy

rattraveller's picture
rattraveller
January 31, 2017 - 1:58am
iggy wrote:
Yet the industrial base is there.  Several worlds with heavy population and 200+ years of estabishment without the home worlds has made it so.  Take for example Minotaur, a heavy population industrial world with a city that rings the planet along the equator.  Any city that big means that a heavy population is on the order of Earth now and hence the industrial capadility is fully developed.  The frontier is called the frontier because it is away from the home worlds and free from their politics.  Also with the lifespans of the races being so long they have memory of when it was new.  However the kids are growing up in megacities and studying history as old as any kid in the United States.   Frontier is a mindset to them of freedom not physical condition. 

Did you not notice I have only been talking about outpost and light population worlds?
Sounds like a great job but where did you say we had to go?

JCab747's picture
JCab747
January 31, 2017 - 10:35am
iggy wrote:
A typical American identifies easily with 1827 compared to 1617 because this is within the family, regional, and national relevant history.  1617 is far enough back that the history is not very relevant.  So for a species that lives 200 years a very old settled world is more than 400 years.

Gotcha.
Joe Cabadas